Last month, my spouse and I attended a graduation dinner and ceremony for her sister who had just finished her masters in social work. It was at a banquet hall in a fancy hotel downtown.
Before heading out, we engaged in our normal, formal, “dress-up dance.” How dressy should we be? Should we be matchy-matchy? Complimentary? Go our own way? In the end, I wore charcoal dress-slacks, a grey chambray button down shirt, and a black and white “fun-pattern” tie. My spouse wore a cherry-bomb red, mid-length dress with a silk, springtime, black bomber jacket.
We were knockouts, knocking it out of the park, easy on the eye, an eye candy duo!
Everything went fairly smoothly, if not for a little bit of aggravation. We had some dietary restrictions and needed some other accommodations as well, as a group. My spouse and I, plus my father-in-law, needed vegan/vegetarian options, and what that meant was we were served a plate of sautéed eggplant, zucchini, and onion. Yum! Also, some of us are in 12-step programs, so we wanted coffee ASAP, and could have cared less about the cash bar. Some of us are navigationally challenged, and the mere thought of trying to find a space in the parking garage, pay the ticket, and figure out how to get to the banquet, was anxiety provoking enough as it were, not to mention the social anxiety of it all. Also at some point, we realized the graduate, my sister-in-law, was paying $30 per person for us to be there to share in her special occasion. What?
Anyway, we were all excited to be there regardless. I felt comfortable enough, which, for me, was no small deal – often I’ll dissociate due to anxiety and/or gender identity issues. But I didn’t! I was sitting right there, in my fancy get-up, cracking jokes with her fiancé, hearing good news about the family, complaining with the rest of us about the poor service or issues with the accommodations.
And then I had to pee.
This was the first time in my life that having to pee posed an anxiety-drenched problem. I have been identifying as non-binary for over a decade, and I would use a unisex bathroom if given the option, but generally I felt perfectly fine using the women’s restroom.
“..I didn’t know I felt that way until I was in front of the entrances to both bathrooms.”
Not this night though. I’ve been on HRT (a low-dose of testosterone) for about 5 months now, and although I look pretty much the same, I sound so much different. Plus the shirt and tie thing – if anyone were to question my existence while I was in there, I would have had plenty of reservations about opening my mouth for any kind of response. Plus, everyone and their mom, grandma, and daughter could be in there – it just felt too risky, all of a sudden. And I didn’t know I felt that way until I was in front of the entrances to both bathrooms. And I said to myself, “Fuck! Is this my life now? Fuck my life if this is how it’s gonna be from here on out.”
I made an active decision right then and there: I could hold my pee for like another two hours, as plenty of trans-people do every single day, or I could just try to free-form a solution.
I started wandering. I went past the elevators, around an indoor balcony over to the other end of the hall where I spotted some escalators. Gliding down those, taking the steps two at a time as I was propelled forward with my own momentum. Up to the front concierge. I asked in a voice full of confidence:
“Are there any public gender-neutral or accessible bathrooms here?”
“There aren’t but I can go ahead and make you a key card for a room really quick.”
I had a look of confusion on my face until I remembered I was in a hotel, and she was making an accommodation. She came back with a card and instructions about how to find my way to room 317. I thanked her, took the elevator this time, did my business, opened a bar of soap, returned the key card, mentioned the soap, and then added, in a loud voice so that the others in line could hear:
“If you have a place for comment cards or customer feedback, I’d like to suggest there be a space for gender-neutral bathrooms in a public space here.”
“I gave her a big thumbs up, even though I felt like my mission right then was ‘falling on deaf ears.'”
She replied that yes, she would make sure that need is taken into consideration when they next do any re-modeling. I gave her a big thumbs up, even though I felt like my mission right then was “falling on deaf ears.” As far as my own accomplishments, I felt like a rock-star!
I just gained access to a hotel room without paying for it! I only messed up one bar of soap, but what else could have I done? I could have spray-painted a giant trans-symbol on the wall, anonymously! I could have left a tirade on a napkin, for the cleaning staff to read.
I kept walking, back on the escalator; no one’s around as I glide. And I say out loud, “Holy Fuck!”
“..I could have organized this thing into a performance piece!”
Because, in addition, I could have organized this thing into a performance piece! What if 10 trans-people came with me, one night, and we’re dressed all fancy, supposedly attending an affair. And we all approach the desk, and we all need key card access for bathroom purposes, everyone at once, right now! And each of us makes a political statement out if it, all together, in this one city. But, what if a dozen US cities did it, over and over again, at different hotels, and then it branches out internationally, and it keeps on spiraling from there?
Okay, this might be getting a little too grandiose. But! It was a cool experience, and even if it doesn’t become a larger activists’ project, progress is being made in many ways, big and small.
Internationally, right now, this app can be a lifesaver for everyone who ever needed to hold their pee indefinitely:
Check it out! Add your own favorite restroom to the ever-growing list. And when you’re somewhere new or unknown, use it to find the best restroom nearest you!