I was thrilled when I went into Starbucks today; it was nearly empty, save for a few people sitting on the far side of the room, their faces bathed in the glow from their MacBooks screens. My favorite table on the close side of the room was available, and no one else was near. So after I got my tea I sat down, cracked open my notebook, and began scribbling furiously.
There was a metric ton of crap I wanted to get out of my head and onto paper, notes for the Max's current work-in-progress, and the solitude of my little corner of Starbucks was perfect for dislodging all of that from my brain. I worked in near-quiet, save the music playing and the sounds of the baristas working, for half an hour. It was the perfect ratio of noise to quiet that I like, and I was getting copious notes written.
And then came John and Jane Doe, who picked--from all those empty ones--the table right next to me, and they began a very not-so-quiet conversation. Granted, they had every right to sit there and do what they wanted to do, but dammit, I was on a roll. Eavesdropping was not on my list of things I wanted to get done today.
I kept trying to work, but everything came to a screeching halt. Their conversation went from admiring their drinks to the weather to what to do about "the bathroom issue."
People...the older I get, the less I care about social convention. I know I need to keep my mouth shut, but I'm rapidly nearing the point where I don't give a shit, and I am going to say something that gets me into trouble. Today was close to being that day.
Jane was sympathetic, a little bit. "I sort of get where they're coming from, but I don't want to share a bathroom with a man."
No, Jane, you do not sort of get where they're coming from. Not even a little. Because if you did, you would understand something very fundamental: that transwoman in the restroom is not a man. That transwoman is a woman, in every way that matters. The junk between someone's legs? That doesn't matter. She is a woman, and deserves to pee in peace, the same as anyone else.
I think that's what's missing from the national conversation. It's not about men using women's restrooms, or women using men's; it's understanding that regardless of biology, some peoples' parts don't match who they really are. Yes, she might have a penis, but she's still a woman. She doesn't exactly have much in the way of testosterone anymore, so she really isn't a threat to you. And yes, that muscle-bound, gorgeous gentleman might still have a vagina, but he's still a he, and is not some goofy chick trying to sneak a peak at your inadequacies.
You've been using restrooms with trans people for years and had absolutely no idea.
And wrap your brain around this: that woman in the restroom who looks like a man but is still obviously a female may be gay, may be not; she may be gender fluid or gender queer, or may be not. She may be on the precipice of transitioning, or might be perfectly happy where she is: completely hetero but still gender fluid.
You may be confused, but your confusion doesn't give you the right to make her uncomfortable.
It certainly doesn't give you the right to eject her from the restroom.
But maybe, if we stop talking about men using the women's restroom and start grasping the fact that the person making you a little uncomfortable is a woman regardless of genitalia, we can get past the idea that it's all right to shove someone out of the restroom in the first place, and it's all right for someone else to be different than yourself and to pursuit their own identity.
You don't have to like it. Just accept it.
And before the Bible-thumpers weigh in with "God doesn't make mistakes and if He wanted that person to be a woman He'd have made him one to begin with" consider this: we interfere with the way people are all the freaking time. We "fix" mistakes of biology as a matter of routine when we think we understand them, and we do it because fixing things makes their lives easier (or we hope it will.)
Consider the kid born with a cleft lip. Are you going to tell him he has to stay that way because God wanted him to have it? How about the kid born with her heart on the outside? Does she have to live with that until she dies? Doctors can fix it, but why bother if that's what God intended?
And you...someone who has undergone mastectomy to rid yourself of breast cancer. God fully intended you to have both breasts, did He not? Or is that all right because it's you and you want to live? What about you, dude? You lost a testicle to cancer, had it removed so it wouldn't kill you. You were clearly born with two, apparently because that's what God intended. Hey, keep both of those disease-riddled kidneys. God wants that.
Ah, but that's different, no? That's life and death.
So is someone's transition. Not being able to, not having access to the health care that makes it possible, drives people to suicide every day. It is most definitely a matter of life and death, and deserves the same intervention that any other hiccup in the process of biology gets.
We play God all the time. We interfere with the seeming order of things because sometimes biology screws up. We do it because to do anything else is unkind. We fix mistakes of biology, because the person affected is not a mistake, but someone living with one, and to refuse is to be on the wrong side of morality.
God doesn't screw up. But the clear fact is that He allows processes to, for whatever Giant Cosmic Reasons we're not yet able to comprehend. He also gives us the intelligence to do something about it all, to reason our way through it, to study and develop ways to cope and repair. He allows the kid to be born with a cleft lip for His own reasons, but he also gave us the smarts to fix it.
This is no different. You don't have to understand why someone needs to correct the gender of their birth any more than you need to understand why the narwhal bacons at midnight.
(That probably doesn't make sense to you, but it does make sense to thousands of people online right this moment. And I'm willing to bet you accept that.)
So maybe just accept, too, that the transwoman in the stall next to your wife is a woman, and nothing else. And truthfully, if you're worried about who's in the restroom with your kid, maybe think about not letting your kid go in there alone.
Frankly, I would be more worried about the men in the restroom with my son if he was still little... statistics and all that.
And if you're that concerned, instead of tossing people out of a restroom and making them feel less than human, direct your energy into something that makes more sense: advocate for unisex, single stall restrooms. Then everyone gets to pee in peace.
Next person to whack me with a purse in the ladies room because they have a knee jerk reaction to the short hair and tattoos is not getting off as lightly as before. I will defend myself, even if it means breaking that little old Asian lady in half, because people? I am tired. I'm done with the crap.
I shouldn't have to worry about it, but I do. And I have it far, far easier than my trans friends, and I know that.