if it walks like a man, if it talks like a man, if it smells like a man…

Dear questioner of my vagina’s existence,
It was a fine snowy evening when I walked into the “women’s bathroom” on the second floor of Mary Gates Hall. I had just finished my favorite class, Bioengineering Research, and a 32 oz bottle of Rain Berry Gatorade. Hoping to avoid “spilling my lemonade” on the one hour bus ride home, I booked it “gayly forward” to the closest bathroom I could find. Relieving myself, I reflected on a wonderful week gone by, filled with cute children who like shortbread cookie crisps, an extremely loving fan club composed of the most amazing people in the universe, and no homework. Double checking my fly, I head for the sink, to do my part in the fight against disease, smiling smuggly to myself. It came as no surprise to me, a small voice from across the long, dark, room. I knew I wasn’t alone. But the words you said, caught me off guard, “Is this [the] men’s room?”

It was just you and me: Your confusion and my anger. Your discomfort and my frustration. Your ignorance and my disappointment.

I saw no “culture warrior” behind your need to reiterate the gender specificity of the bathroom we are in because of my appearance. The length of the hair on my head is not an indication of what genitalia I sport, nor does the clothing I wear correlate in any way with my biological sex. I apologize for not apologizing for the confusion; I owe you, a mere bathroom acquaintance, no apology for the way I express my beautiful self. I must have left my penis at home because all I’m carrying with me today is self-respect. Oops!

It’s a shame that public bathrooms are now being used for things other than urination, defecation, and checking oneself out in the mirror. I was unaware of the underground coalition of gender vigilantes, and had someone told me of this strict policing, I would have taken my pee elsewhere… like a bush. Mother Nature has no problem with me, and why should she? I am a human being, original and organic; I am a child of her humbling womb, regardless of what I look like, how I pee, or where I pee.

The biological process of urination is one that is essential to the sustenance of human life. That’s right; I’m a human being, with feelings, who often pees. To deny me the right to pee in “your” bathroom, is to deny my epically full bladder and my humanity. “Public” bathrooms are deemed as such because I have as much right to use it as you or the next cross-dressing, gender variant, vagina wearer. Don’t let the pictures on the signs confuse you. It is not called the “I’m wearing a skirt” bathroom or the “Triangle” bathroom. It has absolutely nothing to do with who or what you look like. It is the public women’s bathroom, meaning 1) as a “member” of the public, I’m allowed to pee there, 2) I have a vagina, a happy one at that, so I’m allowed to pee there, and 3) it’s a bathroom, if you gotta go, you gotta go, and I did, so I peed there! There is no need to guilt me out of the bathroom on the basis that I don’t fit your idea of a “female”. When Whitney said, “I’m every woman” she was talking about me. I should not have to wear a sign that says “legal and official owner of a board certified vagina”.

Regardless, I, a 5’1”, 150lb, teddy bear, pose no threat to you, in a bathroom or otherwise, so why would my genitalia matter? In an effort to create a better world, I will strongly suggest you reassess your definition of diversity and maybe even take safe zone training.

a vagina in the “vagina” designated bathroom

PS A word of advice for future bathroom encounters: piss more, talk less.

9 thoughts on “if it walks like a man, if it talks like a man, if it smells like a man…

  1. Absolutely loving the thoughtful conversation this is generating! Thank you to everyone who is replying, engaging, questioning, everything! That is what this blog is for! And, if any of you wish to be a guest blogger….let us know!!!

  2. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7_sqdkaAfo]

    I told you she was talking about me! Check out the awesome 90’s cross dressers @ 3:58!

  3. My two cents worth…for what it is worth…it might be less than 2 cents. Sasha’s post was about something that happened to her. It was her narrative, her story about her. In truth, I don’t even know if S. would say “her” fits the experience they have most in life. Can we not see the post as transformative? Can we not see that as resistive to the gender binary? I do not understand S to have cisgender privilege. In fact, that is what she was writing about. So..how is it that we do not see her beautiful post as resisting the very thing each of us who have commented here are fighting…gender binaries, gender conformity, gender policing? How is it that we want S to speak for all of us in every possible way? Why do we not take the opportunity that S has provided and say YES, you are right and then add to it? S, like all of us is struggling inside the same gender binaries…and working it through….just like you, me, all of us.

    The writing was vulnerable…telling of a hurt. It was brave, bold, resistant, and so were the comments made here. I just challenge all of us to think about how we can focus our anger and hurt at the true injustices, the true oppressions, gender binaries, gender oppression…and while that certainly happens within our communities. While transphobia, gender policing, gender binaries, etc. has been used against queers to divide and conquer us for many years. Let us refuse to do it to one another.

  4. Snarfle:
    I think you’ve completely misinterpreted the point of the post. In defense of the writer, I have to say that to me, the letter did not seem just directed at the person who asked, “Is this the men’s room?” The letter is intended at the heteronormative society in which we live, and the dominant culture that is constantly policing us in our gender identity and gender expression.
    The writer is in fact questioning the entire society’s conception of what a man and a woman is and is trying to offer a more liberating and inclusive definition, not to mention questioning the need for gendered bathrooms in the first place. The so-called “questioner” is the entire society itself. Even people who walk by and don’t say anything, but merely by the look they give a gender-ambiguous person, they are telling that person that their gender is “wrong”.
    But even if the letter is intended at that specific person, how is the person’s “innocent” question not ignorant and furthermore, rude? If the person who entered the bathroom really doubted that they were in the “right” bathroom, they could have just taken a look at the bathroom sign.
    You ask if it’s really the fault of the questioner that the writer looked male in their eyes. First of all, I don’t think the writer ever blamed the questioner for thinking they were male. Second of all, by asking the question, the woman is making assumptions about the writer’s gender that frankly is none of her business, so yes this so-called “innocent” question is rude. Everyone’s gender and gender expression is their business and not other people’s. Queer, genderqueer and gender-ambiguous individuals especially have to constantly justify their genders in this heteronormative and gender-conforming society. And it is exactly the ignorance of people like the questioner in this letter that is constantly telling these individuals that they are “abnormal”, that their genders are up for questioning, that they have to justify their existence, even if all they want to do is pee. It may seem like a seemingly innocent question, but it’s in fact loaded with gender policing.
    But I would like to go even further. Even if the woman was in the wrong bathroom, so what? Why are bathrooms gendered anyway? Why should that person be “shamed” (as you put it) because they thought they had gone to the men’s and not women’s? Don’t you think if we didn’t assign so much importance to stereotypical gender norms, gendered bathrooms and such, the woman who thought she had walked into the men’s room would not only not ask the question, but would simply go and do her business?
    To me, this is exactly what the writer is trying to accomplish. It is ironic that your post is defending the woman who asked the question considering this post is liberating not only for queer people but for the entire society, even straight, gender-conforming people, even the woman who asked the question.

  5. There is no vagina-designated bathroom… I know you didn’t intend it to be, but this came out really cissexist.

    • I’m sorry it seemed cissexist. “a vagina in the “vagina” designated bathroom” was my way of saying, “This is your idea of who should be allowed in this bathroom, compared to what I am, compared to how I look,” I was referring to the questioner’s assumption that I was male and therefore should not be allowed to be there. It was my attempt to question the ideologies that drive transphobia.

      Again, I’m sorry for the coming across in the wrong way.

      • Re-reading it with this context in mind, I can now see that coming through, but without that context it really does sound like you’re saying, “I DO have a vagina, so there! It’s just a bathroom so who cares, but yeah, I’m allowed.” Which seems to really reduce people to their genitals; quite the opposite of your intention, I’m sure. Maybe all of those parts were meant to be read with a satirical tone. If not, I’m not sure you deconstructed the sense that genitalia should have any bearings on who goes. That obviously has troublesome implications for pre- and non-op trans women. “If you gotta go, it’s just a bathroom, whatever” seems weak relative to the overemphasis on vagina-having. I’m certainly not saying this was your intent. It just read that way.

        (And on the other hand, I don’t think that cis men or transitioned trans men should have access to women’s restrooms; this piece does seem to imply that the latter should… potentially a right entirely unasked for.)

  6. It’s a fault of society that gender norms are such that a woman has to look feminine to be considered a woman. I agree that this is wrong and no one should have to conform to what society deems “proper” simply because of what genitalia they were born with.

    However, I find your tone here to be disgustingly condescending and close-minded. Please remember than a school campus is an international playground of people from many different walks of life. You don’t know their experiences and they don’t know yours. Is it really the fault of the questioner that you looked, in their eyes, to be male? Their experiences shaped their mind into believing men and women should look a certain way. Is it really so wrong to ask such an innocent question? Suppose you had been male and they had walked into the wrong restroom. They would have walked out, shamed.

    Tone is important. This rant is just that: a rant. You neglect to mention something key in your argument: how was that question asked? Were they quiet, honest, and truly believing they had walked into the wrong room? Or were they rude, pointed, and asking only to emphasize in an under-handed way that you didn’t conform to the societal norms of what-is-a-woman?

    If it’s the latter, your anger is reasonable.

    If it’s the former, you should take a step back and see that not every little incident is an attack on yourself; rather, the product of an ill-informed society.

    • I’m sorry you felt this way. I had not meant to attack the person who had asked the question, but rather I’m trying to open the minds of the “ill-informed society”. As a genderqueer individual, as a female bodied person who dresses, acts, and smells like a male,and as a human being I have a right to my feelings of violation. And she, as a, I’m assuming, female identified, cisgendered, woman, had the right to wonder. We all have the right to wonder. Through this wondering comes understanding, appreciation, and acceptance of diversity.

      However, I find it hard to find any justification of her comment. What was she trying to accomplish through her comment? Perhaps maintain her safety? To express her discomfort? To figure out whether she indeed was in the “wrong” bathroom? In reality, I felt as though all the comment accomplished was embarrassing both of us.

      If I had indeed been male-bodied, I still do not believe that her comment was appropriate. I have no malice in my gender expression nor was I acting suspicious or disrespectful. Had I been looking under stalls or harassing someone, a comment would have been welcome, necessary in fact.

      She was merely my interaction what that ill-informed society. I understand that people experience different perspectives, and I’m not putting her perspective down. She has every right to view the world in her way, as do I. I am asking here, begging, for some open mindedness. I am not taking this as an attack against me, but I’m taking this as a misdirected attack toward gender variance. Transgendered people are my people. If I don’t say something to restore our dignity, who will? I was recently send this quote by our brilliant, compassionate, wicked-awesome director, Dr. Jen Self: “When an individual is protesting society’s refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.” – Bayard Rustin. This is what I am doing.

Comments are closed.