Trans Mormon Voices
February 1, 2017
An increasing number of states are introducing so-called “bathroom bills,” that require individuals using public restrooms to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender assigned at birth. Recently a number of churches (including the LDS Church) filed an amicus brief in a case that will determine whether educational institutions can force students to use restrooms that correspond to the gender assigned at birth. We’ve asked some Affirmation members to share their thoughts and experience related to public accommodations.
I’ve known I was Trans since I was a little child. I didn’t know the word “Transgender” yet, but I knew I was a boy all along. For whatever purpose God had planned for me, I was born in a body that didn’t reflect who I truly was and am inside.
The realization that this is me and that I needed to transition happened when I was 21 years old. I was depressed, suicidal, and fighting to find the will to stay alive. Since I began transitioning over a year ago, I have never been happier and my emotional health is a million times better. But it hasn’t been easy, and I know it never will be.
I am currently not allowed to use any of the restrooms at my church building. It is so how hard to focus on feeling the Spirit when all you can think of is having to go to the bathroom. I also don’t use public restrooms anymore if I can help it. Not because they’re gross and usually not very clean, but because I’m scared. I’m scared that I’ll go into the restroom and not come out…alive. I fear for my life every time I’m in there alone, and another man comes in waiting to use the stall. What if he hears me and it doesn’t sound like a guy peeing? What if he figures out I’m Trans? Recognizes me from pictures or videos, and then decides to beat me up? What do I do if there’s a bunch of free urinals but a line for the stall? I wait. And wait. And wait. Or I leave and find another place to go. Doing a natural, human thing is now a scary and daunting, stressful task.
I’m not going in there to watch or spy on people. I’m simply going to pee and leave. And so are my fellow Trans brothers and sisters. I hope one day, people will just see me for me. Not for the parts I was born with. Because they never defined me. My soul defines me.
When I’m around someone who brings up “bathroom bills” or “transgenders” I just have to laugh to myself. If they only understood the story of the person right in front of them, they would definitely not say the things they say.
I am very open online about being a transgender person, but when I’m out and about in real life, I don’t often speak up because I’m scared to and often times I know people aren’t ready to hear it. I write this to the people who are ready.
You have met a transgender person before. You have most likely been, at some point in your life, in the bathroom with them. Many just want to blend in and not make a big deal out of the unjust treatment we encounter, for fear of getting hurt both physically and emotionally.
The road to transition is extremely hard, but at the point that someone decides to transition, the pros outweigh the cons. We are only pursuing happiness. Living with the disassociation and the dysphoria felt when living as a female for me got to the point where it was unbearable and I tried to kill myself in multiple ways throughout the years. Feeling this way takes a toll on you living fully as a person; many try to numb the depression in many ways, as I did with an eating disorder. Besides the inner turmoil, we have people telling us that we are dirt, and essentially we don’t deserve this right to pursue happiness. It is no wonder that we have a high rate of suicide, many of us have no support in this pursuit.
Besides invalidating our identity, so-called “bathroom bills” put transgender women at risk of assault. They force transgender men — yes we do exist! — to walk into the women’s restroom. A transgender man with a full beard, muscles and a deep voice thanks to hormone therapy alone, would look really out of place to the typical person who actually identifies as a woman. Some cisgendered people can just be mistaken for the other gender, and this could cause a lot of negative interactions and unnecessary lawsuits and hurt feelings.
Another unintended consequence is that young kids can’t go into the bathroom with their parent of the opposite sex. I would say an unsupervised child in the bathroom is of more risk to harm than a child with that parent. Since children lack secondary sex characteristics, with a transgender child you would likely not be able tell that they are transgender unless you look right at their genitals.
These “bathroom bills” assume that sex is binary, and it is not. Intersex people exist but are not acknowledged in the vast majority of these bills. If you say they should go into the bathroom that matches their ID, I would tell you that in a lot of states, that can very easily be changed and that I personally accidentally got it changed, because the DMV person read me, at four months on hormone replacement therapy, as male. Some do not have all their documents changed, which means some have both identification with “female” listed and some as “male.”
The whole argument in favor of “bathroom bills” draws on fear. Please look past emotions, especially fear, and a very limited amount of cases that are used to support these bills in favor of logic, humanism and compassion.
It was the summer of 2005, while working at Salt Lake Community College. I had transitioned months earlier in the fall of 2004.
At the time I was recently separated, 6 months on hormone treatments and literally alone. I had shown up early to teach my Film Class, as I always did, and was casually conversing with my students. I have always had an easy rapport with students. It just kind of comes naturally I suppose. While I was preparing everyone for class to start, a person showed up at the door to my classroom. He asked if he could speak with me and, as I walked toward him, I said sure. When I got closer to him, he identified himself as a policeman and asked if I could follow him. Not sure what could possibly be going on, and fearing that it might be news of a family member, I agreed to follow him to the office that the police department had on campus.
When we got into the office and I was sitting down, the officer said “I’m sure you know why you’re in here.” I replied, “No. I don’t.” He proceeded to tell me that there had been complaints from students and staff in the building that there was a man using the women’s bathroom and trying to get a peek at the women that were using it. He said that I fit their description.
I didn’t know what to say. Stunned, I sat in silence as he asked me why I would want to “do” what I was “doing”. Confused, I asked what he meant. He said “Why would you want to pretend to be a woman?”. I told him that I wasn’t pretending. I told him that I was a woman, that I had been born into the wrong body and that I was just trying to live my life. I told him that if I had wanted to get a “peek” at someone naked in the bathroom, I could have had done that while I was married. I told him that all I wanted to do when I was in the bathroom was use the bathroom and get out.
After listening to all his questions and judgements about me, I finally said “Maybe I should get a lawyer.” He said he didn’t think that any charges were going to be brought against me but that I should probably use the unisex bathroom across campus from now on. With that I was dismissed to go back to my classroom and teach.
This incident left me terrified and depressed. That night I lay awake in bed and cried. I was alone. There was no one that I could reach out to. What was I going to do? For the next few months I used the bathroom across campus. I didn’t dare do anything else. One night, while I was teaching at another campus (one without a unisex bathroom), I had reached my limit. I needed to go to the bathroom and was damned if I was going to walk home to pee and then back to the school and hope not to be late to my class. I walked into the women’s bathroom. No one batted an eye. And when I walked out there were no officers there to take me away.
I decided then and there that I had every right to use the bathroom like any other woman. I thought about the early years of the previous century and how African Americans had been forced to use separate bathrooms. How they had been made to feel inferior and how they had been discriminated. I leaned on their inspiration and found a new strength. I would never again walk across campus, wait until I got home or live in fear of using the bathroom.
Sometime later I would find other transsexuals like me. Whole organizations of us. And, with the added power of the many, I would hopefully be able to pass on the same strength to others who still lived in fear.
Some background, I am a 34 year old trans man. I am also a Mormon. I live in Upstate New York.
Now, for the question I have gotten several times in my life, what bathroom do I use? The answer is short, I actually use both. It depends on the situation and where I am. It is a matter of safety, or perhaps just a matter of my piece of mind in these cases. On Sundays at church I use the women’s restroom out of respect for the people in my ward. I use the men’s restroom at work, at the grocery store, and when I am out in general. I don’t always pass as male, but I use the restroom I feel more comfortable with.
I am biologically female. If I used only the restroom that was deemed appropriate by my biological sex, I would use the women’s restroom. That is where I have had the most problems. While I don’t always pass as male, I apparently don’t always pass as female either. I have been told I was in the wrong bathroom. I have been directed to the men’s room across the hall. I have children tell their mother that a man was in the girl’s bathroom. I have been on the receiving end of looks of confusion and also of disgust. While, generally speaking, men don’t pay too much attention to the occupants of the restroom, women do. I have been yelled at and sworn at in the women’s restroom. While I have not generally had problems in men’s restrooms, I have questioned my safety in a women’s restroom.
I am lucky I live in a state where we don’t have a bathroom bill. There is no law telling me which bathroom to use. This means I get the choice of which bathroom I use, or if I use one while I am out at all. I am grateful I have the option. Not everyone is as lucky.
This is not just a bathroom issue. It’s daily life. It’s being gendered correctly, it’s having your name, and pronouns respected. It’s being able to go to a store and be treated with respect. It’s being permitted to be yourself. I am mis-gendered almost daily. It wears you down at times. But generally speaking I am permitted to be myself. I have the privilege of being a trans man who has been accepted by my mother, my friends, and my ward. For that I am blessed.
Its been 5 years since I started my transition. Through the awesome miracle of second puberty, I’ve had the chance to have the facial hair grow, loss of some hair on my head and the development of more body hair than I thought was possible, My voice dropped, face became a little more square (and chubby).
I’ve been very fortunate in being able to use the bathroom of the gender I identify with. It hasn’t come easily to find the confidence to use said bathroom. Just as a child has anxiety of learning and using public restrooms, I too, went through a few years of this type of anxiety of being unsure if I was acting as other men do, learning the guy code of the male facilities and wondering if, when I used the stall, that others noticed. Truth be told, I did have a male coworker become concerned about my “stall using habits.” Luckily this was quickly taken care of by management and I was no longer bothered.
The fact that there is legislation that would prevent me from going to the restroom of my gender — the gender that I am in my soul — feels upsetting to me. Why are people so worried about what I might be doing behind a stall door? Curiosity is human nature, but this is pretty extreme. People fear that saying one is transgender to have access to the opposite sex bathroom is in my mind far fetched. On the other hand, if I was forced to use the restroom of the gender that was on my birth certificate, wouldn’t it seem strange to see an apparent male walking into a women’s bathroom? This could create a dangerous situation at a moment we are in a pretty vulnerable position.
I don’t know about you, but when I go to the restroom, I have one thing on my mind. Relief of the Diet Coke I’ve just downed.