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Partnering through transition: Bathrooms are a Big Deal

The passage below is excerpted from the Thing's They'll Experience section of Reaching for Hope: Strategies and support for the partners of transgender people.

Bathrooms Are a Big Deal

Bathrooms often aren’t safe. Transmasculine people are at risk of being beaten up or raped. Transfeminine people are at risk of being accused of nefarious intentions and being assaulted by the “defenders” of other females once they exit the facilities.

Safety isn’t the only challenge. As transgender people increasingly embrace their true gender the discomfort of using restrooms aligning with their sex assigned at birth similarly increases. Even if they haven’t shifted their gender presentation significantly, simply knowing they’re in an intimate space with people of the opposite sex who think they’re one of them feels uncomfortable.

In the early days of transition it may not seem like it should be a big deal for your partner to use the restroom they’ve always used. But it is a big deal, and you can help. Non-gendered facilities and family restrooms are becoming more common, and give transgender people options. In our town there are two home improvement stores. One has a family restroom, the other does not. We frequent the one that does. This might be true for the grocery and big box stores in your area, and you can take your commerce there. If you’re planning a night out including dinner, call around to find places that make bathroom spaces accessible and trans-friendly. If you’re going on a road trip, identify gas station and restaurant chains where non-gendered restrooms are the norm.

The simple human need to use a restroom shouldn’t be so complicated, but it is. Bathrooms are a big deal.

The funny thing is that the fear hurts you. It’s the not knowing if something else is going to come up the next time you go to the bathroom, it’s the vigilance that affected me and my well-being more than anything, more than the attacks that never materialized. It was the anticipation of the possible attack. And I still live with that when I go into men’s rooms.

Mitch Kellaway

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