You have the right to urinate! (some restrictions apply)
The recent spate of laws limiting access to public restrooms must sound ridiculous to many people living outside of the USA. The bizarre talking points put forward by proponents of these so called “Bathroom Bills” would be funny if they did not create such a serious situation and deepen existing oppression.
My favorite preacher lady sheds some light on this subject as she reveals the sinister side of American bathroom stalls. Well and the silliness of them too.
Driving While Transgender
A friend of mine recently travelled from Florida to Pennsylvania by car. She is transgender and is open about her gender history. The most direct route to PA takes her through theNorth Carolina. Because of the NC law demanding people use public restrooms based on their biological sex as stated on their birth certificate, my friend circumnavigated around the great big state of North Carolina, and went another way.
It took time and gas money. But she wanted to be safe. She also did not want to contribution to North Carolina’s economy. No one wants to travel alone long distances with the looming fear that some great harm will happen when stepping into a restroom.
Broken Justice and Flimsy Stalls
Elizabeth Jeremiah, one of the characters that haunts my brain and my performance work, is an Evangelical preacher woman. She has a completely different take on the issue.
In the comic video above, replete with flushing toilet sounds, she points out,
“I think the problem is not the people; the problem is the bathroom. Because I don’t know about you, but I feel mighty exposed when I am in a bathroom stall.”
Made in America–the See-through Stall
After seeing Elizabeth Jeremiah’s video, Lisel, a friend from South Africa advocates for trans rights got a flashback to her first encounters with public toilets in America.
I remember my utter shock slash understanding the first time in 2008 being in the States and saw for my self these toilette doors that literally just cover from the lower edge of the seat to the height of a medium length-person’s head. Oh, yes and the sides were kinda open.
I was both amused, shocked and immediately understood the many posts and articles, blogs I read by trans* people always complaining or lamenting about how people will see if they stand or sit, even when they are in stalls. I could not really understand the issue (me being used to SA public bathrooms) – I thought they are dramatizing the issue. Until I used for the first time a public bathroom in the States. I already thought way back in 2008 – ‘that is the solution: change the cubicle doors’ – that’s all!
Supporting Transgender Leadership
I am a huge fan of the work being done by the Trans Justice Funding Project. They are a trans run organization that provides grants to trans people and organizations. According to their website:
Over the last three years, we have received 354 applications and given away 174 small grants totaling $400,000. This work has been possible because hundreds of donors have joined us and because our communities have supported us in so many ways. Let’s continue to dream big and fund even more trans justice work in 2016!
There is a lot we can do to stand in solidarity with transgender people as they too work to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Perhaps the best way to help is to support groups like Trans Justice Funding Project–give those American dollars.
Declaration of Bathroom Independence
While American citizens celebrate the declaration of independence from tyrannical British rule, I need to remind myself that not all Americans are equally free. Systemic, legal discriminations against Black Americans, immigrants, and trans people need to be exposed and challenged. Everyone deserves to move freely, to congregate without fear of retaliation, and to safely sit for a nice private and challenged-free pee and/or poop.
And maybe it is time that we question the need for gendered bathrooms at all. There are plenty of people who do not identify as male or female. Enough with putting people into boxes and gendered stalls. Let’s construct proper walls around our stalls and open up the bathroom area so we do not have to maintain two separate facilities.
Oh, and don’t forget to wash your hands.