This is a guest post by my good friend Hank Doyle. It illustrates perfectly why public accommodation laws are so very needed, and why laws like HB2 are so harmful. Please read this, and share it, and have conversations with people about protecting people who are gender nonconforming and/or transgender.
This is so important.
the first time i saw you, i had just gotten off a plane from denver. in an attempt to squeeze as many moments as i could out of just a few days, i hadn't slept well on my trip. so, i fell asleep, hard, on the plane. you know that feeling, right? when we landed, mostly all i could think about was how badly i had to pee. i was not street ready. my head was groggy from sleep, sad from leaving my sisters to come home, and distracted from that just woke up desperation to pee. you know that feeling, right? i just was not street ready. but, you see, we do not always get to choose.
coming down the escalator to the tram, i spotted the bathroom. the tram was leaving, but i knew another would be there in a few minutes. what did not occur to me was that everyone was also leaving with the tram. but you, i'm pretty sure you noticed before i did.
so, i hooked left to use the men's room. i almost immediately recognized my mistake when as i passed you leaving the men's room, you paused, stared, and grunted at me. i paused, looked as the tram shut it's doors, and the entire area was empty. i paused because i've been trained to recognize that grunt. i have been trained to recognize that danger. i have been trained by people who made the same choices you made. but, you see, i really had to pee. you know that feeling, right?
i continued into the men's room, and took a stall. i fussed with my bag for a moment, to place it on the rack above the toilet. then i dropped my pants, and sat on the toilet. it was at this point i realized you chose to stand in front of my stall. while i peed. you chose to place yourself so close to my stall, so close to me, that your feet were almost under the stall. you were leaving the men's room as i was going in. you chose to stalk my stall.
the words that kept coming to me are, "i wish you knew what it feels like to be alone, pantless, sitting on a toilet, peeing, while someone is essentially stalking you." but, you see, you did know, you chose it for me. because after a lifetime of experiencing choices like yours that people have made in response to me, my first thought is still that it was a mistake. my first thought still assumes you didn't really mean it. my first thought is that my humanity can still connect to yours. since yours didn't connect to mine. but that is not what you chose for me. your humanity never found its way to mine. you chose that.
i want to be very clear that i am not going to talk about you, about who you are in the world, i'm not going to dismiss your entire humanity because of these choices you made. because it's that thinking that allowed you to make the choices you made. without dehumanizing me, you would not have been able to make the choices you made. so, i'm going to talk about your choices, not you. i do not know you. i will never know you. you will never read these words. i understand that. but, i do know the choices you made for me.
i sat, pants at my ankles, in the stall until several minutes after your feet disappeared. i stood up, put myself together, grabbed my bag, and placed it in front of me, to shield me, because i was certain you had not actually left the bathroom. i got myself street ready.
i opened the stall door as confidently as i could. it did not take long to spot you. you were leaning against the wall, next to the sinks. you looked so casual. this is what i cannot let go of. how casually you leaned against the wall as i walked up to the sink to wash my hands. how casually you leaned against the wall as i heard you collect phlegm and spit in your mouth. how casually you leaned against the wall as you shot that wad on my favorite green oxford shoes, as you also picked at your nails. your choices were effortless, comfortable. i cannot let go of that.
it was at this point that i noticed your shirt. you were clearly in uniform, on shift. you work in the airport. past security. in the terminal. this was your home, your turf. and i was not going to report you.
i shook your mucous and saliva off my shoes. i did not choose to clean them there. i did not choose to report you. it was a selfish choice. and i am sitting with it. because i chose to walk away, you may/will do this to someone else. and i am sitting with that. because, you see, i was in the airport because i wanted to go home. so, i continued on my way home. and it was a selfish choice. because i was still not street ready. because it would have been humiliating to tell someone you work with that you chose to spit on me. and i am fatigued with choosing the humiliation of reporting. it was a selfish choice. how was it that i became responsible for your choices? i cannot let go of that.
inevitably, if i had reported you, i would have been asked why you spit on me. let me assure you, i would have been asked that question. more than once. and likely well before you would have been asked that question. but, you see, i do not know why you spit on me. i can only guess. did you know that i am trans? did you know that i am queer? did you just think i was ugly? your choices didn't include letting me know how i had transgressed.
let's just pause for a moment. you spit on me. you gathered the nastiest part of yourself and you spit it on me. part of me still cannot connect to that. you spit. on me. and i actually felt fortunate that your choice was to spit on me. i'm a white, middle-class, educated male. those privileges are currency, that cashes in immediately, and protects me. i aware of that, not proud of that. and it is part of my work to destroy that currency we allow to thrive.
i walked out into the waiting area for the tram, and i noticed one person had shown up. he was a young teenager. but you and i were no longer alone.
i got on the tram. i helped two women figure out how to get where they were going. one of them commented on how much she loved my favorite green oxford shoes. the ones you chose to spit on. she noticed. she said, "oh, it looks like you had a little spill with something yucky, but those will clean up nicely." yes, something yucky. and yes, they will clean up to even better than they were before.
when i got off the tram, i went into another men's room, and washed your bodily fluids off my shoes. i wondered if you knew what it was like to stand in a filthy men's room, in socks, washing someone's disdain from your favorite green oxford shoes. but, you see, you must, because you chose it for me.
i posted on facebook about one of the choices you made. about you choosing to spit on me. it was an attempt to gain some control of the situation. it was an attempt to give myself grace. it was an attempt to have someone bear witness. because your choices didn't allow me any of those things. and i was taking them back. your choices cannot have those things. your choices, they will not control those things.
i believe with everything i have that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. i just as passionately believe that we can amplify those reactions, for better or for worse. i believe the choices you made will ripple. i believe i have an army around me. i have an army bearing witness. i have an army creating grace. i have an army who is redirecting and changing the impact of your choices for me. i have an army amplifying the reaction, so it is not equal, it is exponentially greater, and i assure you, it is opposite.
i have a friend who is a bootblack by trade and passion. becca is going to spiff up my favorite green oxfords. they're going to be better than when you chose to spit on them.
i want you to know that your choices, they were wrong. your choices, they exhaust me. and i was already tired from similar choices people have made, similar choices people make every day. your choices advanced my training in hypervigilance. your choices did nothing to improve the world. i am just more tired. i am just more vigilant. i will only be more fatigued. but my army? my army is sharing the weight. my army is giving me respite. my army is giving me life. and joy. and hope. my army is mighty. and my army is growing, my army will overcome these hateful choices, and their ripples.
it would be dishonest to say your choices didn't leave a mark on me. your choices did leave a mark on me. just like the similar choices others have made have left their marks. i'm seasoned. but the response of my army is also leaving marks. and all of it, all of it, all of it, including your choices, is creating a gorgeous, thriving, protective patina.
you- 0. hank's army- 1.
*i am making this note public. this puts me at some risk, for potential work in the future, for unkind messages, for making me more recognizable. but i believe the gain is worth it. i believe in telling our stories. and i already walked away once. if you want to share, i ask that you do so respectfully. that you do so lovingly (as an action). that you use this as a tool to help folks understand. if you agree to these terms, you are welcome to share.