The Truth About Bathroom Harassment

It is shocking to me, how many people in this country are falling for the bathroom hysteria being perpetuated by hate groups such as the Family Research Council and Liberty Council, as well as conservative politicians. This is not about bathrooms -- but lets talk about bathrooms.

I have known since I was four years old that I am transgender. I didn't always have the words for it -- but I knew. And I did my best, even as a small child, to be true to who I knew I was and to express the real me to the world. Because of this, I have had some horrible things said and done to me for most of my life -- including being harassed in public bathrooms and dressing rooms.

I was about 7 or 8 the first time I recall being made to feel uncomfortable in a bathroom at school. We had just come in from recess and I was in the girls bathroom, when several kids a couple years older than me started laughing at me and saying I looked like a boy. They asked me why I wasn't in the boys bathroom since I looked like a boy, and continued heckling me until a teacher came in to see what all the commotion was. We were all shooed out of the bathroom and when I told her what they had said to me, she laughed and simply told me to get back to the classroom. One of many times school officials would completely ignore bullying behavior and either smirk or laugh at me -- giving me the message loud and clear -- no one sees you and no one cares. I would continue to be picked on and laughed at every time I entered that bathroom, whenever other kids were in there.

When I was 13, we moved to a small East Texas town where my Dad had grown up. My Mom thought I would do better in a small town, and be safer, since Houston schools were getting so rough. I was a target from day one. I was tall, with broad shoulders and short spiky hair. I dressed in a way that made me feel more comfortable in my own skin -- which made me stand out. I was laughed at, yelled at, pushed and shoved, and taunted on a daily basis. And one of the scariest places for me -- the girls bathroom and locker room. It was the 80s, and I remember the girls hanging out in the bathroom -- smoking cigarettes by an open window, and the smell of Aqua Net filling the room. My heart would race as I pushed the door open and tried to get into a stall as quickly as possible, hoping to go unnoticed. But that was never the case, and I would immediately be greeted with taunts like "get out of here dyke", "shouldn't you be in the other bathroom?" and "do you come in here to check us out freak?" I even had someone throw a cup of water on me over the top of the stall while everyone in there laughed hysterically. I tried desperately to avoid going to the bathroom at school -- so much so that chronic UTIs and bladder infections became a regular occurrence for me. And because we were mandated to "dress out" for P.E. class - I had to use the locker room to change into my P.E. clothes -- inviting even more bullying. I even had a male P.E. teacher jokingly tell me not to be checking out girls in the locker room. I started faking injuries and illness to avoid having to participate in P.E. I even went so far as to cause actual injuries to myself to avoid it.

When I was 24 years old, I was a student in a surgical technology program, and had just started the clinical portion of my classes. I was so excited to be one of only two students to be chosen to do clinical at St. Joseph in downtown Houston. It was the #1 spot to be picked for. About a month into my clinicals, on the very day I would find out that my Mother had succumbed to cancer, I was verbally assaulted by a nurse in the locker room. In front of a large number of other nurses and staff - I was told that I looked too masculine to be in there. She said that if I was going to use their locker room, I was going to need to start wearing makeup and earrings -- that I needed to do something to look more like a female so I wouldn't freak people out. I was humiliated and devastated -- and once again, it was made clear to me that I didn't belong.

It would be about a year or two after that, that I would start using men's facilities. I hadn't yet started my transition, but just decided that it had to be a better option. The very first time I walked into the men's bathroom, at a movie theatre, and walked into a stall unnoticed, it was amazing. It was the first time I could recall not being stared at or verbally assaulted in a public bathroom. No one looked at me -- no one noticed me. From that point on, I would never use another women's bathroom.

Fast forward to now -- and these hate groups and politicians want you to fear me and people like me. They want to legally force me to use women's facilities. Not because they actually fear me -- or truly believe I am a danger to anyone -- but because they want me put in my place. This is simply a continuation of the bullying that LGBT people have had to endure for most of our lives. These are the schoolyard bullies that taunted us then, in positions of power now. They've found a way to continue their legacy of hatred and divisiveness and they're using their constituents to help them manifest their agenda. The people blindly supporting laws such as Pat McCrory's HB2, are the bystanders in the schoolyard who rally around the bully and get sucked in. They're jumping on the bandwagon because it's easier. Easier than speaking out against the popular opinion and challenging the bullies.

This isn't about public safety, or protecting anyone from transgender people. This is about trying to erase a group of people that aren't easily understood. And in addition to that, it's been a wildly successful smokescreen for the other things laws like HB2 accomplish. Things such as taking away employees right to sue for other forms of discrimination -- such as discrimination based on race, religion, age, military status, disability, pregnancy, etc. In addition to employment discrimination, it also makes it harder to get housing protections and protects the state from being forced to raise the minimum wage. HB2 also makes it much harder to file civil lawsuits. But the majority of people voting for and supporting bills like these don't realize the other insidious language hidden in them -- because they've been sold on the bathroom issue. They've been shown scary black and white commercials with a man following a little girl into a bathroom. They've been told that if these laws aren't passed, men will all of a sudden begin donning wigs and dresses to attack people in bathrooms. They've been told that their privacy is being taken away from them, and that they are in grave danger. It's worked beautifully so far and those politicians are laughing all the way to the bank. While they're getting you worked up over LGBT people, marriage and bathrooms they're gerrymandering at the state level to keep wages low, limit voter access, cut aid to the poorest among us, and lower taxes and increase benefits for the wealthy.

Wake up America -- we are far better than this. We're the laughing stock of the world right now. We pride ourselves in being the "land of the free" and being a world leader, but that isn't the image we're projecting to the rest of the world. We appear weak and oppressive, and we appear divided and afraid. And a divided nation is vulnerable to outside threats, and in the wise words of Abraham Lincoln, "a house divided against itself cannot stand."