Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The bog

    My week really hasn't been the best one I've ever had. My mother's in hospital so I've been running backwards and forwards to see her, and my sisters seem to have lost all pretence of sanity in a storm of extreme unpleasantness. With the things they're coming out with in respect to me I'm wondering whether they're making some kind of play for my parents wills or in fact they just are batshit crazy. I know my mother is strictly egalitarian on that matter, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
    That's not really the point of this piece though. The icing on the cake - no, the cherry on top of the icing on the cake - came on Monday morning in the form of an email from a friend of mine. I thought I'd escaped The Toilet Issue because I am lucky enough to work for an extremely enlightened employer and my colleagues have some of the cleverest and most interesting people I have ever worked with  among them but no, it seems some of them are concerned about the Man in the Ladies Menace.
A typical scene in the ladies' loo, yesterday.
    My friend works for a sister institution to ours. She has quite a few distant colleagues of mine among her other friends, and she was sending me a heads-up about some of the things they were saying about me. The usual stuff - that my anatomy means I am a threat, that my interest in using that facility is unhealthy, and that I should be using the men's room instead. My friend characterised them as saying "I've nothing against transgender people but...", that cliché phrase of casual hate language.
    I have to say, I'm disappointed in whoever they are. I'm assuming they're a minority as my direct colleagues have all been extremely supportive. However I'm guessing they are also ignorant. Uncharacteristically so it seems for an institution famous worldwide for numbering some of the most well-educated people on the planet among its staff, but if the dunce's cap fits then I guess they'd better wear it.
    So for the benefit of my less enlightened colleagues I'm going to open the lid on that holy of holies unknown to half the world: the ladies' loo. I think those who haven't been in a ladies loo imagine it to be like the scene depicted in Boticelli's Venus, but the reality is far more mundane. It's just a room with a load of sinks on one side and a row of toilet stalls on the other. Cleaner than the men's room, more mirrors, and of course no urinals. When I use it there seems hardly ever to be anyone in there, I go to a stall, do my business in private, come out and wash my hands, then go on my way. If a colleague is there I don't stop or even make eye contact, I just do what I'm in there for.
    That's it. Mundane, isn't it. Nothing to see here, move on.
    I had a chat with my HR representative about this yesterday morning. UK law is unambiguous on the right of transgender people to use the loo appropriate to their presentation and she admitted she has received some approaches on the subject and had firmly appraised them of the law and sent them on their way. In fact the law does apply to toilets, but not on a gender basis. Under indecency law if anyone does anything inappropriate in either loo they're committing an offence. This protects all: men, women, cis, and trans alike from sexual predators and other miscreants, while allowing all to use the loo for its intended purpose.
    I didn't expect to have to write this piece, I thought my colleagues weren't going to be like this. As I've said above, most of them aren't. I'm going to send this link around work and I hope some of the people I'm writing about read it and realise that as well as letting down my more enlightened colleagues they've turned a mundane part of everybody's day into a very anxious experience for me.

Final note: I'm on a short fuse at the moment and I'm going to moderate the living crap out of any unpleasant comments on this post. Not my normal policy but this time I have little tolerance for idiots.


  1. Hi Jenny,

    Here in Colorado, as where you are, the law protects us and allows us to use the appropriate restroom. In other words...as we present ourselves...but...

    I've been waiting for something like this to happen to me one of these days as I have been using the ladies room exclusively for the past eighteen months (as you say...very mundane). Now, I am not in full transition (just a transition of my own making), presenting as my true self about 99% of the time. It has been amazing the acceptance I have received from not only men, but from women also. I get 'ma'amed and lady' all the time, two very beautiful words!

    I pray everything continues to go well for you concerning this issue.

    Hugs and prayers to you,

    Cynthia XX

  2. I've come to the conclusion that the main reason women have separate loos is because the men (for want of a better expression) 'hang out' in theirs. In our loos there really is nothing to see, and if other women feel offended at standing next to us at a row of wash hand basins, then I feel very sorry for them.

    You'll see far more risky sights on a Cornish beach in high summer, I assure you. Getting out of a swimsuit whilst wrapped in a bath towel is hazardous in the extreme! Or is someone now going to advocate male and female beaches?

  3. Really sad this post. The crazy thing is that drawing attention to myself is the last thing I (or most people) would want in the loo. Very sad that they think you would go through all this just to behave oddly in the loo.

  4. I have found the opposite I have to say. The ladies outside of work are mainly far worse than the men's!

    As for the fascination, I have never understood it. As you say, you go into your cubicle, do your thing, wash your hands and leave.

    The other thing I have noticed is that it is a very American / UK fascination. 100% of the people who have asked me which bathroom I now use come from those two countries. No one from other countries have ever asked me that question. And I just don't get why! (That is why it's only those countries and why they care so much - not why the other countries don't ask ;p )

    When I do get asked I generally just ask, "Looking like this what do you think?" "Oh..." Is generally the answer. Strange.

    Anyway, sorry you are being discussed behind your back - I hope that it settles down for you.


  5. This is all very sad, I am not aware of having ever caused any problems using the ladies' but I do know that some people do still have "issues" I think you are right to stamp n them straight away

  6. I think that you could have used the expression "batshit crazy" in the second half of the post too to great effect.

    The British obsession with toilet humour, none of which is funny, has a lot to do with this pathetic reaction. I don't think that all your colleagues can be as bright as you thought...

  7. I am sorry this is happening to you Jenny. As mentioned, why would anyone go through transition just to play around in a toilet? The whole point about transition is that you identify as a female and naturally wish to have the same rights and normal privileges that any woman expects. If those who try to raise objections really thought about how stupid the whole issue is they might have a rethink. Would they and do they have the same concerns about lesbians using the same facilities as those who are 'straight' females? The whole thing is ludicrous. I do hope those minority few come to their senses and that you have no further problems.

    Shirley Anne x

  8. Love the phrase "batshit crazy" :-)

    I've used the ladies loo at the office I'm normally based a couple of times but only on weekends or at times where I know that there aren't any other women around. HR asked me when I transitioned to use the single person unisex or disabled facilities and as it wasn't a big issue (the unisex are closer to my desk anyway) I was happy with that. At the start of the year I was based at another office and the office manager was happy for me to use the ladies or unisex facilities depending on which I felt comfortable with.

    The silly thing though is that if I was to go to another office or a customer site then I'd have to use the ladies or possibly have to explain why I'm using disabled facilities rather than the female ones.

  9. Agree with Stace, it's an anglo-saxon obsession in my experience.
    Good to get an idea of the limits of peoples education as early as possible. It's rarely wholly pleasant, but it does at least help in finding good teaching moments, I find.
    But sometimes just so, so tiresome.

  10. (((((((Jenny)))))))
    I was told there were "questions" and HR jumped on them pretty fast.

    As other people have said this is the one stupid thing that seems to cause the most objections. It improved for me and I hope it will for you. I went into the "Ladies" confidently and said "Morning" if I met another woman. At first almost all ignored me, then they went to a muttered "Morning" as they left. I marked it as a milestone when one of them started a conversation with me.

    Hang on Jenny, it will improve.

  11. Thanks all, sorry it's bee a while.

    I've heard no more about it, which is good.

    "Batshit crazy", I think that must be a trans-atlanticism I picked up from Mrs. J.

  12. Did you find that it was not in the dictionary?