It goes without saying that the abhorrent behaviour that the below article is cautioning you from doing is totally wrong and unacceptable regardless of your gender identity. It goes without saying that the vast majority of readers would never behave in this manner. This article is aimed purely at the tiny minority who do think such behaviour is acceptable.
If you’re not aware of the article India Willoughby wrote for TDoV this year, then you’re doing well. In it she decried the rights of crossdressers and transvestites to use the ladies toilet.
I strongly disagree with her opinion that we should judge people on appearance. I for one benefit from HRT and facial surgery, and I regard myself as privileged to have been able to get both. Not everyone is as fortunate. However I’m not unsympathetic to what I *think* she was trying to say and hopefully just expressed terribly. I’ve been in ladies toilets at the same time as crossdressers who, I sincerely hope, identified as men. We in the trans community know the sort I’m referring to; a small minority within a minority, characterized by a focus on a very sexual style of dress coupled with the social empathy of a concrete bollard. From my observations, I would like to offer the following advice to those people, in a way I believe India should have done on Friday.
Now I’m not going to police what people wear or how they present but I am going to police how they act in female spaces. Crossdressers, new transitioners and those who live non-binary or part-time lives go unchallenged in those spaces very much on tolerance. To repeat the advice I got when first transitioning – go in, do your stuff, wash your hands and then get out. Trans feminine people will know this intimately already so I’m assuming I’m speaking to those happy to identify as masculine.
Like it or not, masculine features will count against you, so your behaviour is imperative. Do not even think about standing up to pee, ever. Get in the habit of sitting so that you never risk pee on the seat or a seat left raised. Don’t speak unless spoken to unless you’re in an LGBT venue or event, or your voice is reliably feminine. Behave modestly, discreetly. If your underwear, tights or stockings need adjusting, the cubicle is where you do it. Check your hair and touch up your lipstick with the mirror if you need, but be brief. If you wear a wig, it stays on, other than for essential adjustment tugs.
Other advice to help go unchallenged whilst I’m here: a hairy chest or breast forms are hidden by choice of clothes – no deep V-necks for you, or did you think women could wear whatever they want? Hairy legs can be hidden by tights, either by black opaques or by several pairs of tan tights. Too hot? Tough, deal with it, as I did at one point in my life. This isn’t fair of course, this is society telling you what to look like and me passing on those expectations, but already masculine looking people aren’t the ones to win this particular fight, sorry.
For trans masculine people using the gents toilet, the tale is a similar one of avoiding interaction but with the option of offering guttural acknowledgements. The emphasis will always be on your own safety, but confidence will be key. Before coming out, I hated using the gents and being in there with other blokes so I held my pee obviously, but eventually you have to go. So counting people in and out is something you’ll have tried I’m sure. Another tip, for those nightmare small toilets with 2 urinals and a cubicle – go in straight after another guy; its then acceptable to use the cubicle rather than stand next to him. Nightmare if the cubicle is busy or broken of course but them’s the odds.
Meanwhile if I’m in the ladies and I recognise another trans person, of any expression, come in, they will get a smile of greeting from me, but if they start to behave in an inappropriate way, then you can bet they’re going to get told to behave appropriately or get out. I will embarrass them if necessary.
Why would I do this? In fact, why am I writing this article that has every chance of winning death by tweet for me? I’m writing it for the safety of those women who don’t yet pass as cisgender, or never will, and for the comfort of all women, both trans and cis. Other women must never have the impression that masculine features equals male behaviour reinforced whilst in the ladies, because male behaviour feels threatening and we must never contribute to that fear. The ladies toilet is a safe space, away from pestering blokes, often a chance to recoup and think and plan a way out. If we abuse that safety, then we play into the hands of those who want to exclude by appearance or genital configuration and cis-written toilet laws will be demanded.
Why should you, part-time-expressing trans person, do this? You should do this because you’re part of the community and our community must exist in this imperfect society that has oh-so-recently just begun to allow us to exist and be treated with any kind of decency. Peoples lives will depend on the outcome of this period, probably not yours, but someone’s.
And I know some people who would once have described themselves as crossdressers or transvestites are nowadays identifying as non-binary, something I leave to their own judgement, but we live in an imperfect world where for the most part there is a choice of ladies or gents toilet. Your choice, depending on how you feel, how you look, how you act , has consequences. Accept your responsibility, please.
So yes I’m criticising, but I’m criticising the behaviour not the person, as any good parent knows 😉