gender identity

The Gender Politics of Restrooms

Woman Restroom symbol

by Chanel Dubofsky

Let me start by declaring that public restrooms are one of my personal nightmares. It doesn’t matter if there are a million stalls, like in an airport bathroom – I’m perpetually nervous about getting walked in on, and self conscious about the length of time I spend in them. More than once, I’ve moved something (a trashcan, a shelf) up against the door of a single stall bathroom, to make extra sure that no one can come in. A good public restroom for me that locks from the inside (preferably there’s a bar that slides into the lock, so there’s no question as to its locked status), and in which the toilet is close enough to the door so that you could act quickly, should the lock fail.

Now that I’ve established the terms of my neurosis, here’s what happened the other night. Another female friend of mine, R, and I went to find the bathroom in a restaurant. There were two doors, one designated for men, the other for women. There was a line for the women’s bathroom (insert annoying and potentially sexist joke about how long women take in the bathroom here), and none for the men’s room. Because the door to the men’s room was closed, it was hard to tell if how many people, if any, were in there, although in retrospect, it was probably safe to assume that it was a single stall room, because the women’s room was.

So the line was long, and everyone had to pee, and waiting is annoying in that situation. I checked to see if the door to the men’s room was open, and if the room was empty, and it was. The other women in line waved me into it, and when I came out, R went in. Everyone else stayed in the seemingly unmoving line to the women’s room.

Why, if both bathrooms are single stall and contain exactly the same equipment (toilets, no urinals), do they have to be designated for different genders? Can’t there just be two bathrooms? And in places where there are two single stall bathrooms for men and women, why is there still a line for the women’s room?

The act of designating a space as being for a specific gender causes all of our policing mechanisms to kick in. Trans folks face issues with bathrooms every day-can you go in that bathroom that reflects the gender that you are, even if others question or are afraid or confused by your outward appearance? Will someone tell you to get out? Will someone call the police.

I don’t know if men use the ladies’ room in this restaurant, I didn’t hang out to see. Maybe they do, but I would wager that we’re so held hostage by gender norms that going into a space that’s not “ours,” especially if we’re women, is not only unfathomable, but scary. Sexism is at work here, of course, and it hurts everyone, as sexism does. Bathrooms are a big deal. It doesn’t get more real than having to go to the bathroom, and still, we follow the rules and police those who don’t. There was a moment when I felt weird going into that bathroom marked for men, even though there was no reason not to. The other women in line were watching me do it. It felt brazen, taking the space that was not designated for me. I did it anyway, because I could.

Posted on by Chanel Dubofsky in Feminism, LGBT 1 Comment

It’s the Genderbread Person!

Genderbread Person
It’s Pronounced Metrosexual came up with this awesome infographic that helps clarify some gender binary terminology. The cool thing about it is how it shows all these aspects are on continuums – it’s not one or the other. And as the creator, Sam, points out, it shows: “Gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual orientation are independent of one another (i.e., they are not connected).” That means not everyone is stuck on one side of the chart or the other.

For a more detailed breakdown of the chart and the continuums Sam describes, visit the original post here.

-Jarrah

(h/t to A. Lynn of Nerdy Feminist

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism 6 Comments

London, Ontario Farmer’s Market Asks Trans Worker to Leave

The management of London, Ontario’s Trail’s End Farmers Market is drawing bad press and facing a potential human rights complaint after they told a vendor she had to fire a transgender employee because “those people” aren’t part of their “family-friendly” atmosphere.

Via Queerty:

Karen Clarke, owner of True 2 You, which sells candles and aromatherapy oils, left her stall at the Dundas Street market on a recent Saturday afternoon with Dani Dominick, a trans woman and one of her best workers, in charge….“He said it made everyone uncomfortable and it just wasn’t right. This is a family place, a family market and this just isn’t right. I just kept insisting what happened that was wrong and he said you walk up to the person and they’re dressed like a woman and they’ve got big hands, a deep voice and tattoos and it’s just not right. It’s just not a family place he kept repeating that over and over again. And I kept trying to get from him what was wrong, what was so not right, what was it that people were complaining about and there was no details forthcoming that way. He called them ‘those people’ several times.”

Manager Ed Kikkert says he wasn’t being discriminatory, but his attempt at a defence to AM980 only dug him in deeper (You can listen to AM 980s full interviews with Dominick, Clarke, and Kikkert here).

“The issue was there was three men in that booth dressed up as women,” he said, “Why would I be discriminating? I’m not discriminating at all. I’m just asking which washroom would they use? How can you go into a men’s washroom dressed as a lady, how can you go into ladies washroom when you’re a man. That’s the difficulty I have. It’s not discriminating at all.” What is it with “these people” (by that I mean transphobic business owners and politicians) and their fixation on bathrooms?

Ok. Let’s take a look at the definition of “discriminate” and make a ruling on that. According to Merriam-Webster, to discriminate is to “to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit.” Clearly Kikkert did discriminate. His objection against Dominick was based on her identity as a trans person, not on an individual characteristic.

Right now Dominick and Clarke are the ones paying the price – both emotionally and financially – for Kikkert’s bigotry. Dominick is in no way a man dressed as a woman; she is a woman and has the right to use public women’s washrooms just like any cis-woman at the farmers market. This incident is exactly the kind of reason we need a law that will put trans people’s human rights protection on the books.

-Jarrah

Photo via Flickr by Juicyverve

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, LGBT 5 Comments