Since Obergefell v. Hodges decided the issue of marriage equality once and for all, no other LGBTQ rights issue seems to have occupied so much of the political zeitgeist as where transgender people void their bladders and change their clothes. For the last two years, battles have raged in state legislatures, school boards, court rooms, and the media regarding where someone like me ought to go pee. This fight has forced trans folks to pour emotional labor into reassuring the wider cisgender public that we have no puerile interest behind our interest in bathroom access — by writing think-pieces, posting on social media, and appearing on cable news shows to defend our rights to simply relieve ourselves in peace in the restrooms appropriate to our gender expression. Quite frankly, I'm really effing tired about talking to the public about my basic biological need to excrete waste.
Of course, the panic about trans excretory functions started years before same-sex marriage was fully legalized, with the first bathroom bills popping up in Arizona as far back as 2013. I was just an anonymous blogger at the time, but I wrote commentary on those first attempts to restrict my toilet habits even way back then. That means I have been writing about going pee for FOUR GODDAMN YEARS. The only thing I want to talk about less than going pee is whatever Caitlin Jenner is up to. (And so help me, don't ever ask me to write about where Caitlin Jenner goes pee, or my head might just explode.)
I hear from people all the time that they're tired of hearing about trans people and where they go to the bathroom. I get that, I really do! As tired as YOU are of hearing about this, I'm easily 400 times more tired of it. Between writing about going pee, being terrified about what happens when I have to go pee in a public restroom, arguing with jerks on Twitter who are way too concerned about where I go pee, and you know, actually going pee (something trans women have to do a lot, thanks to our medication), it's begun to feel like I have very little life that doesn't somehow involve my urinary tract.
Trans people cannot run the race for equality when someone is shoving us down before we even reach the starting line.
The problem, of course, is that there are some cisgender folks who are very very very very worried about where my pee goes. There have now been dozens upon dozens of bills introduced across the country trying to make it illegal for me to use the women's restroom. The State of North Carolina was willing to give up hundreds of millions of dollars in economic productivity just to make a point about where trans people pee. Some conservatives have boycotted Target because they were upset about where trans people were going pee. People have even tried to blame trans people's bathroom needs for the election of Donald Trump.
But, you see, trans people NEVER wanted to have a lot of conversations about our bladder-emptying experiences. For years and years, we were quietly using the bathrooms right alongside you with very little fanfare, and guess what? We liked it that way! It isn't trans people who are obsessed with bathrooms. It's the virulent, hateful transphobic conservatives who have drummed up absurd, unfounded fears of trans women to score easy political points. The facts show that you have more to worry about from a Republican legislator — several of whom have been arrested for misconduct in bathrooms — than you do from trans women in a public bathroom.
So long as trans people have to fight just to not be arrested for using a public bathroom, it means we cannot turn our attention to the far broader issues our community faces.
Here's the thing, though. So long as trans people have to fight just to not be arrested for using a public bathroom, it means we cannot turn our attention to the far broader issues our community faces. The GOP and Christian conservatives have managed to essentially force us to keep focused on this single issue because it is one so imperative for a basic public existence. Using the bathroom is a right that the vast majority of people have never had to consider, and yet, even when trans people are facing horrifyingly high levels of violence and discrimination, we cannot even secure this most basic acknowledgement of our personhood and the legitimacy of our identities. Trans people cannot run the race for equality when someone is shoving us down before we even reach the starting line.
If I didn't have to fend off constant attacks about my ability to relieve myself, there are so many other things I could be talking about. Really really important things! What kinds of things, you might ask? Well…
I could talk about violence. I could spending more time talking about the incredible wave of violence that's killing trans women of color at unprecedented rates. I could write about the extremely high levels of domestic violence that trans women face, and how they have very limited access to domestic violence shelters. I could write about the high rates of sexual violence against trans women, and how those rates are even worse for trans women who are black, homeless, or incarcerated. I could discuss the fact that half of trans people will attempt suicide at least once in their lifetimes.
Or, I could talk about discrimination. I could be putting some focus on the fact that it's still perfectly legal to fire someone for being trans in 30 US states, that 90 percent of trans people have been harassed at work, and nearly half have been fired or not hired because they are trans. I could write more about the high rates of housing discrimination against trans people, especially trans women of color. I could shine some light on the fact that one in five trans people are homeless at some point in their lives.
Or, I could talk about access to health care. I could talk to people about how trans folks have trouble in getting their transition-related medical care covered by their insurance. Or I could discuss how often trans people experience discrimination from their healthcare providers, or how poorly trained many doctors are when it comes to treating trans people. Maybe I could give more focus to the fact that trans women face some of the highest rates of HIV infection. Or, I could give more attention to how terrible the repeal of the Affordable Care Act would be for trans people.
Or — hell — I could even be selfish and talk about some aspect of my life as a trans woman other than my occasional need to use the bathroom in a place that isn't a private home (where all bathrooms are gender-neutral). I could talk about what it was like to navigate a career in biomedical science as a queer trans woman. I could regale you with tales of coming out as a trans woman in the science-fiction convention community. I could share with you the struggles of being both disabled and transgender. I could tell you some of my hilarious horror stories about how awkward and confused doctors are when they're dealing with trans people like me. Or I could warm your heart by sharing my experiences as a mentor to younger queer folks in my new work in higher education. Or, heck, maybe I'd even indulge your curiosities about how exactly gay trans women have sex.
Anything else we want to talk about is completely drowned out by the rising pitch of panic from people whose biggest worry apparently is whether a trans person is secretly excreting urine just a few feet away from where they are excreting urine.
Yes, I absolutely could (and do) write about many of these things right now, and I try to as much as I possibly can. But the fact is, there's only so much bandwidth in the world for talking about (and hearing about) trans people. And right now, that conversation is absolutely being strangled by the obsession with trans people's bathroom needs. Anything else we want to talk about, any other issue we try to address, is completely drowned out by the rising pitch of panic from people whose biggest worry apparently is whether a trans person is secretly excreting urine just a few feet away from where they are excreting urine.
You want to stop hearing me and every other trans person you know yak on and on about micturition? Let us go pee in peace, then we'll talk.