Toilet Training Documentary - understanding how transgender people feel when in need of a bathroom
June 11, 2001
DEAR ANN LANDERS: Last week, I was at a restaurant and needed to use the ladies’ room. I was washing my hands when a tall, heavyset woman entered. I realized this was a man dressed as a woman.
I am an open-minded person, Ann, but I felt extremely uncomfortable. My daughter said, “If he is dressed like a woman and feels like a woman, it is perfectly OK for him to use the ladies’ washroom.” I say, if he is a male, he should use the men’s room. Will you settle the argument?
- A He or a She in New Jersey
DEAR N.J.: I would be willing to bet that the person you encountered in the ladies’ room was indeed a woman. Tall females who wear pantsuits are not uncommon these days, and with the chic, short haircuts, they DO look quite masculine.
However, if indeed this person was a transvestite, he was not a threat to you. In fact, using the men’s room dressed that way could have been dangerous for him. Because women’s bathrooms have stalls and there is no need to expose oneself, I say let him use the bathroom he is most comfortable with.
Dear Abby: You advised a pre-op transsexual to use the women’s restroom, and I’ll bet you caught heck for it.
Abby, people who object to transsexuals using the restroom for the gender they are about to become may not be aware of the following: Male-to-female pre-op transsexuals are required to live as a woman for one year prior to the surgery. They should not continue to use the men’s restroom.
These individuals are doing everything they can to deal with their new identity. A male-to-female pre-op transsexual has made a permanent commitment and deserves support in this decision - Watched My Ex-Boyfriend Go Through the Whole Process
Dear Watched: I received a slew of mail from women who were outraged at the thought of a male using the women’s restroom for any reason. So I contacted Dr. John Bancroft, director of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction. He said:
"I advise my transsexual or transgendered patients that when they present themselves as women they should use the women’s restroom and vice versa. Women should feel no concern about the occasional transgendered person doing this. What such people want more than anything else is to be seen and accepted as a normal female. I provide my gender reassignment patients with a formal "To Whom It May Concern" letter to carry at all times, explaining that they are in this process of transitioning - and if there are any questions, to contact me."
The restroom issue can be put into perspective by recalling the Southern USA before 1960. There were separate restrooms for whites and “coloreds,” and black people were not allowed in the white restrooms, not because of any action, but because of their status. We have gotten past this obvious racial inequity, and we are now addressing the same issue for transgendered people.
Is it fair to compare transgender restroom discrimination of the 2000s with restroom segregation in the South in the 1950s?
This book “Toilet” discusses how many restrictions public bathrooms place on the general public.
"In Toilet, noted sociologist Harvey Molotch and Laura Norén bring together twelve essays by urbanists, historians and cultural analysts (among others) to shed light on the public restroom. These noted scholars offer an assessment of our historical and contemporary practices, showing us the intricate mechanisms through which even the physical design of restrooms—the configurations of stalls, the number of urinals, the placement of sinks, and the continuing segregation of women’s and men’s bathrooms—reflect and sustain our cultural attitudes towards gender, class, and disability. Based on a broad range of conceptual, political, and down-to-earth viewpoints, the original essays in this volume show how the bathroom—as a practical matter—reveals competing visions of pollution, danger and distinction.
Although what happens in the toilet usually stays in the toilet, this brilliant, revelatory, and often funny book aims to bring it all out into the open, proving that profound and meaningful history can be made even in the can.”
A transgendered person who is reasonably presentable and does not cause trouble rarely has a problem in public. Most other people in the restroom won’t object, unless the person behaves unusually, or uses the restroom different from their presentation.
In the workplace, however, a transgendered person is unlikely to “pass.” People who knew her from the other gender role will know exactly who and what she is. While most people quickly become accustomed to the new gender role and don’t have a problem with the new restroom, it’s not unusual in a large workplace for one or two people to complain.
Fear of offending someone has led employers to very unfortunate solutions. One worker was required to get in her car and drive to a nearby hotel (or go home) to use the restroom. Another had to limit her liquid intake, because she was threatened by both male and female employees that, if she used their restroom, she would be beaten to death. Some employers force the worker to walk long distances to use a single occupancy restroom, or to hang a sign on the restroom door whenever she is in there.