Public toilets for non-binary people

Oh God, I’ve just had a nightmare. To begin with, I popped over to the big city for my fourth laser treatment. This part wasn’t the nightmare!

My therapist, Alex, told me that the results after only three treatments were amazing – far better than usual for someone after that many – so that was great. The treatment went well, though it still KILLS on my upper lip!

After that, I popped into M&S, did a little shopping and then realised I needed the loo. Now being a AMAB (assigned male at birth) non-binary person, I sort of use the men’s and ladies’ toilets.

I prefer to use the ladies’ but usually cop out and use the men’s – especially if it’s busy. If I feel brave, I will use the ladies. This is usually at a pub or restaurant after a few glasses of wine for Dutch courage.

So, about an hour ago, I was in M&S. It was really quiet in there, so I thought I’d be brave and nip to the ladies’. I was expecting quite a small lavatory with maybe a couple of cubicles. But it was huge, with a massive bank of sinks and probably six or seven cubicles.

All was well when I got inside – nobody else there. Good, good. I’ve only been “caught” in the ladies’ once – very lucky there, I suppose. That was in an Eastern Europe restaurant when two women came in.

I was in one cubicle and they went in the other two. As I opened my cubicle door to leave, there was a third woman waiting. I made my best Hugh Grant bumbling Englishman apologies and left.

All the other times, they’ve been empty or someone has come in, used another cubicle and then gone again, and I’ve waited for them to leave before I have.

So no real issues until today. I did my business and then someone came in – and then some else and then someone else. It was like Piccadilly Circus in there, women on their own, a mum with her daughter, two elderly ladies chatting about how warm it is today, teenagers rabbiting away and the constant noisy blasts from two hand-dryers.

20160413_111027
I’m non-binary… get me out of here!

And the minutes rolled by. Five turned into ten. Ten turned into fifteen. Fifteen turned into twenty. And there was nothing I could do. I felt completely trapped – like a prisoner in my little cubicle, identical to those in the gents’ apart from the sanitary disposal container and the lack of urine on the seat. Guys, come on. How hard is it to lift a seat, really?

So I had plenty of time to think about my predicament. Why was I trapped? As far as I’m aware, there’s no law that prevents non-binary people (or men) from using the ladies’ in the UK. So there was nothing legally to prevent me from walking out of my stall, washing my hands in front of all the women in there and then leaving, maybe holding the door for a little old dear on my way out. It’s nice to be nice.

But, of course, I couldn’t do that, could I? Oh no, we’re English, aren’t we? Courage goes out of the window and we hate to think that people don’t like us for whatever reason. And I knew that if I walked out of that cubicle and was seen, there would be all kinds of accusations, the M&S staff would be informed and I’d probably be marched out by a security guard.

Even though I’d done absolutely NOTHING wrong! I’d have felt a lot more confident if I was in full-on girl mode, maybe wearing a dress, a wig, make-up, heels, you get the idea. But I was in my usual non-binary attire – so all girls’ clothes, “boyfriend” jeans from River Island, a Batman girls’ T-shirt from Sports Direct, a Tommy Hilfiger jacket and my flowery Rocket Dog trainers. To me, they’re all girly – but not girly enough to raise eyebrows.

To most people, they’d see just a normal “bloke” with receding hair – maybe with girly eyebrows and shoes, but that’s just the way these days, isn’t it?

So this got me thinking about the whole North Carolina thing and transgender people using toilets in general. As I say, I’d have felt far more comfortable “en femme”, as they say. I’d have been a bit nervous, but I’d have happily used the loo and then washed and dried my hands in front of the women.

The worst I could expect would probably be a few raised eyebrows – maybe (shock, horror) a tut or two. But I wouldn’t be marched out of the store by security.

As a non-binary person resembling a man (I am getting soooooo impatient waiting for my estrogen treatment to start!), I would have been. They’d have labelled me some kind of pervert when all I wanted to do was relieve myself, like everyone else, in the toilet that I felt most comfortable in because of my gender, like everyone else.

So back to my little cell in the M&S loos. I couldn’t escape, but I did have social media (follow me at @andiepasdeux). So I tweeted!

rsz_loos

I loved the reply from @rantytrans – it made me smile. Shortly afterwards, the hand-dryers stopped, the cubicle doors stopped slamming and I made my escape, through the tiled room and out of the door. No-one saw me until I walked back on to the shop floor, ironically right into the lingerie section!

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This is the largest lingerie section in the Midlands, I understand…

So, what’s to be done, folks? You can’t expect all shops and other services to create toilets just for non-binary people, alongside the ladies’ and the gents’. It’s just not feasible – it would cost squillions of pounds and wouldn’t be cost-effective simply because we non-binary people are such a rare breed. They might not be used from one month to the next.

So we either go down the route of having all toilets gender-neutral or, better still, we start to change attitudes and educate people that it’s OK for transgender people – including non-binary people – to use the same toilet that you want to use.

So their genitals might be different from yours – so what? When they come out, it’s all behind a closed and locked door anyway, so what’s the big deal? Some argue that rapists would stick a dress on, access the ladies’ that way and then start some campaign of sexual abuse. Really? Come on, it’s just not going to happen!

If it’s OK for a woman to use the gents’ at a  busy concert venue to avoid the massive queues (how often have we all seen that?) then it’s fine for non-binary and other transgender people to use the ladies’. Live and let live, people!

Andie x

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