I am terrified of going using public washrooms. I do not want to go on a free trip to Cuba. What do these two things have to do with each other? Everything.
Fear is the common denominator. I am afraid of your world and I have good reason to be. I am a butchy gay woman. My hair is always cut short, I don't shave my legs and I shop in the men's department. I am not trans, but I thought I might be for some time when I was younger. No, I am not trans, I am just a very butchy gay woman. You may think this is not a big deal, but it affects me negatively every day.
Why I Am Afraid Of Public Washrooms
I have been assaulted in public women's washrooms. I was punched once and kicked once. I have been assaulted twice. I am 35, so perhaps you are thinking "only twice in 35 years? That's not so bad.". Perhaps you would think that, I have been informed of that thought by others, so I know it exists, but if you were to think that you would be an asshole. Never is the correct number of acceptable times to be assaulted for attempting to relieve ones bladder in the very room intended for such a purpose.
What happens more frequently is simple anger followed by either more anger or extreme 'hey lets make sure everyone within earshot knows that you are different and that I am sorry!". Anger is obviously the worse of the two following reactions, but no reaction can make up for the fact that I knew this would happen and steeled myself for it before I even walked in the door.
I would like to take this opportunity now to remind straight women that in my entire life I have never heard of a man sneaking into a woman's washroom for any nefarious purpose. I mean I know we have a bad rape culture, but men are not infiltrating your washrooms to rape you, people. I think you know this. Any man who accidentally walks into the wrong door, immediately apologizes and walks back out. So please, just assume that whoever walks through the door towards a stall is aware that "this is the women's washroom, sir!" and knows what the fuck is between their legs. If you are concerned this 'man' has not understood his mistake, okay I can buy that, but why such an asshole about it then if he hasn't done anything wrong?
This bothers me. It isn't just washrooms. I get called sir and then either angrily dismissed or over the top apologized too every day. Anger is awful obviously (see previous assaults to understand the fear of being outed), but the apologies are not much better. They are worse in a way. You see, I am trying to avoid you most of the time. I speak very little in public in order to not have my voice correct your mistake because it's easier for me emotionally that way. Your massive over the top apology makes you feel better, but for me it only succeeds in making me more embarrassed than I need to be and has the dual purpose of outing me as different to everyone within earshot. So thanks for that. If you accidentally sir someone, the correct response is to quietly apologize and/or simply use ma'am in the next sentence. Please just shut up about it.
People want to be all 'girl power!, ' 'women can do/be anything they want!', but that's not true (when it comes to gender men aren't' allowed to do this either). People can't do whatever they want. If that were true, no one would be getting punched for trying to use the bathroom because they dress the wrong way.
Maybe I should toughen up?
Maybe you should toughen up, asshole. I'm a chef. I work fucking hard and I can carry a 50lb bag of potatoes up your stairs. I'm plenty tough, thanks.
What Have I Done About It?
Why are you asking this question as if there is something I can do or as if it's even my responsibility? Never mind, I know some of you are thinking this because IRL I have been asked this question. It usually comes in the form of critique of my style of dress: "Why don't you grow your hair out? You were so pretty when you had long hair?", "Hey, let's go see what's going on in the women's blouse section, you never know what you might find that you like!".
Here is where I start to have panic on a deep level. My politics do not allow for assimilation to be the solution to racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. If I started actively wearing more feminine markers, it would be strictly to alleviate my acute issue trying to exist in our society on a day to day basis. I would be active against my own politics. I would be assimilating to hide. I would hate myself. It would not work anyway.
Not that I don't think about it anyway. Occasionally I try to do something to maybe hopefully try and be read more as female and get beat down anyway. Remember how I can't do anything without being read as male? Okay, ask your husband/boyfriend/dad/male buddy how fun he thinks it would be to walk into a random drug store and ask about eyeliners. Or buy a skirt that fits him. Then tell him to wear the stuff he bought. He probably looks really sad and uncomfortable. He probably doesn't wear it very well. He probably just looks like a dude in a dress. That's how it is for me.
Now have him go shop for bathing suits.
Why I Am Afraid To Go On A Free Trip To Cuba
What would you wear to the beach if you were me? I'm legitimately asking because I need advice. I don't swim. I can't. I haven't been swimming in public in so many years I don't even remember. Wearing a women's bathing suit in public is pretty much a nightmare scenario for me.
I have been given a trip to Cuba along with all the other members of my partner's family this Christmas. "Wow! Cool! I wish!", you must be thinking. I am not thinking this. I am terrified.
(There is another aspect which is – 'free trips' are not actually free. People have to take time off work and buy hundreds of dollars worth of travel shit they don't have if they are poor. Never mind the laughable aspect of trying to get time off work for poor people. Don't gift your poor friends trip to other countries. It's more of a burden than a gift. That's a whole other post)
I decided to buy a basic black swimsuit and I bought it online. The fastest way was to have it delivered to the closest store to me, so that's what I did. I couldn't even pick it up without running into this problem.
Me: Hi I'm here to pick up a package I ordered.
Her: Okay what's your phone number, sir?
Me: [phone number], it's ma'am actually.
Her: [angrily, gives me a mean look. Storms off to find my item.]
Me: [waits nervously for her to find my bathing suit while others glance over and make it apparent they are watching/inspecting me.]
Her: [returns, takes my card and swipes it, shoves my swimsuit at me angrily, which is in clear packaging, btw] Here you go, sir (creepy emphasis on sir).
Every goddamned day and sometimes twice a day.
So I have decided to wear a bathing suit and shorts. I think it's best. The problem is that I can't wear pants on the beach nor can I cover my armpits. Should I shave? I have not shaved my legs in so long I don't even know how anymore. It's just not me. Do I do it just this once? Can I have a good time for a week knowing I shaved my legs to please and placate straight people (and for no other reason)? Obviously it will be a constant reminder, my legs will feel strange. I will notice constantly and I will be an active participant against my own politics.
If I don't though, I will be leaving myself open to ridicule and increase my fear level. My legs and arms will be visible pretty much at all times in this environment. There is no safe hiding place.
Either way, I cannot simply 'enjoy a free trip to Cuba'. What would you do?