when you're the monster in the bathroom stall
June 3, 2016
Pretty sure everyone, at this point, knows about the ongoing legislative battle in the US over trans women and public accommodations. Lurking in this debate (and in women’s restrooms, changerooms, and all similar) is the spectre of the ‘man in a dress’ waiting to prey upon unsuspecting cis girls and cis women. For the time being, I’m that monster. Worse yet, the restrictive legislation like what has passed in North Carolina could keep me out of the women’s changeroom, since I’m legally female. Now that I have my passport, literally all of my documentation has a nice, fat ‘F’ on it. My entrance cannot be denied. Except that most days, I’m too afraid to leave the house, much less go to a public pool, gym, or anywhere tbh.
A certain radfem lawyer is generally careful to couche her opposition to ‘gender’ in legal terms. Mainly, she wants to avoid people like me and situations that can arise. On a purely legal basis, I’m not sure that even vancouver rape relief would get away with denying me service at this point (remember that in their court case they were allowed to discriminate against trans women bc they are a charity). My existence is essentially a disaster for her.
I mean… if my testostorone poisened, unmodified male body can become legally female, then we really are on the brink of an age where ‘biological sex’ and all the things that go along with it largely become meaningless. Yes, at present I still needed a doctor to sign a letter saying I’m a ~real~ trans woman. But this won’t last. And sure, its totally a hassle to change your sex marker on documentation. But any dedicated enough person could do it.
It isn’t inconcievable that a predatory man could and would go through all of these steps to get an ‘F’ gender marker. I mean. He wouldn’t have to take hormones or do any kind of surgery. Literally slap on a dress and some makeup and he could probably convince a doctor that he’s a ~real~ trans woman too. This is the conservative and radfem nightmare. And this is happening and it will happen even in the US.
At this point, I could decide to go butch again and start presenting in a much more masculine fashion (arguable, based on my current wardrobe this could be said to be already true). If I hadn’t lasered off my beard, I could grow it back. Put my boy clothes back on. And not a single person would have a legal leg to stand on, should they want to restrict my access to a woman’s changeroom (they wouldn’t otherwise but that’s kind of a different thing).
I could do all of this and then go to the public pool just a few blocks away. I could go there, enter the women’s changeroom, get naked and change into my swim gear; no one would legally be allowed to deny me.
Of course, I’m talking in purely legal terms. Even with my current presentation – which really isn’t all that femme tbh – its quite likely someone would stop me. But even if I managed to get in unmolested, as soon as I took off my clothes, it’d be game over for me. I’m generally too lazy (read: lack the spoons) to shave off my body hair. I currently am not on HRT nor have I had any surgeries. In the eye of an ignorant, biological essentialist I am essentially a Man.
I am that monster.
Even the seemingly ‘reasonable’ conservatives who claim that if I’d had all the surgeries then – and only then – would my presence be okay would balk at this. The existence of my body in those spaces is precisely what many people are mobilizing against.
I just read a story about how some lady who worked for the ACLU and her children were traumatized by being in a changeroom (or something) and having three tall, deep voiced women enter. Her kids were terrified! She was terrified!
Won’t someone think of the women and children?
I am that monster.
Except… the flip side of this narrative is generally considered irrelevant to these ppl. I’m actually quite sad that I’ll probably never be able to swim again, unless I get access to a private pool. I love swimming. Its probably my favourite form of exercise. Given my current issues with weight, it’d be great for me to take up swimming again. But I’m too afraid.
Before all of this, I had a hard enough time going into the men’s changerooms. This discomfort, anxiety, and fear has always had an adverse effect on my ability to get exercise (the other form of exercise I enjoy is lifting weights). Now though? It’s unlikely I’ll ever go again.
I’m about to try HRT and I’m getting breasts in a month. So my body will be only ever so slightly less monstrous (or perhaps more, it depends on who you ask). At present I’m not particularly interested in bottom surgery. It seems like a lot of work. But of course, what matters the most is the almighty phallus. Its mere existence is a threat. It is what, ultimately, ensures that I’ll always be a monster.
And that’s kind of the real problem, I think. People like to attribute all this animus against trans women as being primarily about fear. But, in my experience, the issue isn’t fear its disgust. Which is also a far more worrying emotion to illicit than fear. Not that I’m saying that fear plays no role… but that disgust is the primary emotion.
When people clock me in public the look I see on their face isn’t fear, its disgust. That flinch, that grimace, that wrinkling of their nose. And psychology has shown that there is some relationship between disgust and negative moral judgements.
This isn’t to say that disgust doesn’t feed into anger and fear. It does. This is how ppl go from ‘ew, gross’ to ‘must destroy’. And isn’t also to say that disgust is the only emotion that impacts our moral reasoning. What I am saying is that I think it plays a large role in how trans women’s bodies are invoked within these ‘debates’.
The image of a hairy, deep-voiced ‘male’ body amongst the (always white) female bodies is meant to create a grotesque image. Its purpose is to trigger that disgust and moral outrage.
One of my favourite activities is lost to me. I’m afraid to leave the house many days. Having to use a public restroom can trigger a panic attack. I walk around and hunch my shoulders and duck my head, hoping that people won’t see me.
I am that monster.