I have been holding on to this story for nearly two months now and initially had no intention of sharing it. Changed my mind after opting not to share a related story that, after some perspective, I believe would highly objectify me as a transgender female. I also didn’t want to come off as an entitled braggart; many (including myself) struggle with self-image issues constantly. With that said, the following is an experience I felt was important to share where my gender identity and human right was, for the first time, put on the line.
I was out as in full girly, night-life form with two close friends at a club. Probably the largest club any of us had ever gone to. Even security was present in the middle of the dance floor. Lots of energy, pretty decent music, and obviously not much lighting.
With music blaring around us and the constant threat of being separated from one another, I eventually needed to brave the large space and find a bathroom and have a drink of water. That, in itself, was a tad daunting as I had no idea how I would ever find them again. Either way, I told my girl friend and we came up with a simple signal with glow sticks in the event I did completely lose them.
This was my biggest concern at the time.
Slipping through and weaving through other people was natural for me and I had reached the women’s restrooms in no time. The outer entrance into the restroom was dimly lit before more fluorescent light would bathe over me. Before I could take another step, I was stopped by a female security officer.
“Where are you going?” she firmly asked.
“…To the restroom,” I said as loud as I could in my trained female voice over the music.
“I think you have the wrong bathroom,” she said curtly.
Though I am acutely aware of my body, mannerisms, and posture, especially my shoulders, I was still surprised she somehow was able to out me with such limited visibility. However, in my heart I was also confused that she would mis-gender me despite my appearance, clothes, and unsuspecting entry to use a restroom. I am always aware of this danger every time I use public restrooms, and on my guard despite having used many in way better lit areas. Even still, this was a security guard – a female one at that – who had somehow discerned I was not one of her own. And I was not prepared to be stopped by an authority figure.
Though I have been outed a few times in the past, it was under less incriminating circumstances or my human rights. I also had not firmly embraced my trans-ness at that time. This was completely different because I knew I was immediately faced with a blatant questioning of who I am in my heart of hearts – my true self – as a transgender female.
If this had been my first time using the ladies’ room, I may have balked and felt the need to explain my life story, which would have, without a doubt, gotten me nowhere but a trip to the mens’ side. I did no such thing. Despite being caught off-guard, the confusion I had in my heart of being denied who I am came out as self-confidence.
“I am a girl,” I said, looking at her in the eyes with as much sincerity as I could in the moment.
The female guard stood there silent for a moment, as if searching for something that would deem me not worthy of being female.
“…Are you sure?” she said with a tinge of doubt in her tone.
It was a very off-beat question to ask. So I could tell she was starting to feel as though she had made a mistake. Neither of us were backing down though.
At that point, I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. I was simply grateful.
All of this happened in the span of about thirty seconds or less, but recalling the experience was as if it lasted forever. As I sat in the restroom stall that night, I tried to figure out what gave me away. I had forgotten my favorite shoes, so I was stuck wearing Converses. Maybe it was that. Maybe it was my shoulders or she somehow caught a more defined shadow off of my neck, accentuating my accursed adam’s apple.
I don’t know and I never will know.
What I do know is that this was a very strong lesson for me in the matters of transgender human rights. Not all trans people “pass” nor do all trans people wait until they have gone through the hormone therapy and expensive procedures to start living full-time. This is not easy and takes years. I have learned, and still am learning, that this journey is different for all who have the significant burden of not falling into society’s self-imposed gender binary. Those like myself who are in transition and having the right to use restrooms with the gender they identify as is a trans rights issue that continues to be fiercely opposed.
In what I felt was a defining moment in my transition, I was able to truly acknowledge myself without question to the point of feeling insulted. I truly wish I had that access to that kind of boldness to live full-time as a girl, but I don’t and wouldn’t be in my best interest to do so until I can feel comfortable with my body and quality of living. That’s okay, despite being confronted with my conflicting reflection repeatedly, which tears away at my self-image and belief that eventually living my life as a woman is right. Myself and many other trans people are finding their way at their own pace. And we should have the right to engage with the gender we align to without needing thousands of dollars to prove it.
Not every trans person will be able to be as bold as I was, and so early in my mental transition. I am also aware that I am fortunate enough to “pass”, which is a blessing. So many others are ridiculed and denied proper rights just for not looking the part, which is upsetting and worth calling people out on. Human rights for transgender people are, in fact, gradually making headway in economic equality, schools, etc. but there is still a lot of work to do as more of us start to go public, especially to protect children and teens of tomorrow.
I hope my experience – a familiar one to many transgender people – will serve as proof that something as simple as using the bathroom faces very real resistance from those who are unaware of how to properly respect and/or accept the existence of trans and non-gender binary individuals. We need to continue to share these kinds of experiences with others to eventually dispel the notion that we are “social deviants/sexual predators” who have a “mental disease”.
In my small way, I want to continue spreading understanding of the transgender community to those who fear and deny us, their fellow man, in the face of ignorance…