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.

signed,
a vagina in the “vagina” designated bathroom

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


My mom rocks

My mom was recently (and is generally always) awesome and I’m really proud of her! So naturally I’m sharing the news. We were on the phone last night discussing a mutual friend who had recently made some weird comments/jokes to the effect of finding the idea of Queer 101, which I am helping to facilitate this quarter, amusing. Apparently this friend had speculated to my mom about what a “straight 101″ might look like.

And my mom went all anti-oppression on her! Even hearing my mom retell it to me nearly made me cry with pride. She raised some seriously awesome points about heterosexism and systems of oppression (not exactly in those words but those were the concepts she was getting at, and she was able to do it in a way that the friend would get). Evidently my mom was able to change the friend’s thinking about the need for something like Queer 101.

I’m super proud of this because I know that my mom’s anti-oppression views have a lot to do with me and how I have changed since coming to the UW. This whole event makes me extremely happy, and optimistic that I can create positive change on a personal level. Next up, I’m going to work on the friend :)

In love and solidarity,

Maggie


the smallest minority

True story: Waiting for the bus one morning, I overheard a mama talking to her 5 year old daughter:
“There are so many different kinds of people in the world, right baby?”
Chewing a mouthful of cold smore poptarts, she nods.
“There are big people, there are little people, there are mama people, and daddy people, and baby people. There are tall people, who play basketball, and small people… There are black people, and white people, and brown people… What kind of person are you baby?”
Still chewing that mouthful of cold smore poptarts, “A cute person!”
Smiling, mama affirms that baby is indeed a cute person.

I too am a cute person (or so I think), but I am also a short person, a chubby person, a silly person, a female bodied person, a gay person, a genderqueer person, a 19-year-old person, a middle class person, and a first generation Indian American person. It might have taken me a long to realize, but I’m definitely a cute person. In fact, it took me a long time to realize who I am. The more I discovered about myself, the more I felt like I was falling further into the minority rabbit hole. I felt more alien than anything. Did anyone else’s intersectionality, intersect with mine? Or was my unique being going to be isolated, alone, and unappreciated?

Intersectionality is a funny thing. It divides us, drawing lines in the sand of humanity, erecting chasms between you and me. And it unites us. And it leaves us solitary. And it creates solidarity. This double edged sword so integral to our being makes us who we are, as individuals and as a human race. There is pride in being the one and only you, celebration and beauty. But what is a celebration without others to share with?! Isn’t there a sense of excitement in meeting someone who shares an experience with you? In seeing someone like you? In realizing you are not alone in your struggles and achievements? This interpersonal connection, this sense of community, plays a pivotal role in self-appreciation and in self-love. In turn, this creates the foundation for the appreciation and celebration of others too.

The branches of our intersectionality all lead to the same trunk, our being. Each branch affects another and cannot exist alone. My race affects the filter with which I view my sexuality or gender expression or class or age or my physical appearance, abilities/disabilities, or the culture I want to create for myself. Finding a balance between the aspects our lives, the tidbits that makes us who we are, can be difficult without affirmation of our existence. It wasn’t until I met another queer, first generation, Indian American that I was able to see how the mosaic fit together. I was opened to a whole new dimension. Realizing that I wasn’t some kind of mistake or freak or monster let me adjust my filters. Apparently the Indian culture is chock full of instances of homosexuality! Gods that are half male and half female, sex positions for lovers of the same sex, even religiously accepted marriages between women! My culture wasn’t as suffocating as I thought, exploring the intersection of my race and sexuality has given me a new appreciation for my mother culture. I’m not a mythical creature, “queer woman of color”, but I am the child of millions, if not billions, of others just like me. There is so much peace in this enlightenment.

Dedicated to gita mehrotra