Wednesday, March 25, 2015

3-25-2015 Entry: My Firsthand Experience with Bathroom Policing, a #wejustneedtopee Blog Post





**strong language advisory, read at your own peril** ;)
Oh boy do I have some juicy news for you guys! I probably shouldn’t be happy about this, but I suppose of all the emotions I could feel in response to this situation, happiness is the least detrimental one to my overall mental health. So a few weeks ago I came out to my employer as being transgender and informed them that I was planning to make the transition from male to female (I believe I posted about that here:   ). Overall that meeting went really well, or so I thought. My employer made a lot of comments and promises that they would do everything they could to make my on-the-job transition as painless for me and them as possible. They told me that they really prided themselves on diversity and that me being transgender was just another form of that diversity they found to be so important. Everything felt really good that day and my future seemed really bright here. Sure I was still scared that some complications would arise along the way, as anyone could reasonably expect under such extreme circumstances, but for the most part I envisioned everything going more or less smoothly.


Well, yesterday Emma (transwoman extraordinaire) experienced her very first speed bump along her path to workplace acceptance. Perhaps speedbump isn’t the right word to describe what I ran into. A speedbump indicates a minor delay in progress. What I hit was more like a brick wall with a big “Sorry, vagina holders only” on it! Sorry, I know you are probably like “OMG just tell us already,” but what good would I be as a writer if I didn’t build the suspense a little. If I just blurt it out it makes it less dramatic, right? Well, honey, I have a knack for the dramatic!

Anyways, so Emma hits a brick wall with a nasty sign on it, but what is this brick wall? Where did it come from, what is it stopping her from obtaining/experiencing, and who the fuck put it there? Any guesses? If you are a Facebook friend then you already know but for the rest of you, I was told in no uncertain terms that once I go full time as Emma at work, that I have the amazing privilege to keep using the men’s room! And why was I told that? Because there is allegedly a building policy (more on this in a moment) that states that a person’s anatomy dictates which bathroom they have to use, not gender identity or presentation.

Needless to say I was not well pleased to receive this news from my employer, and I was especially displeased to receive this news from the least trustworthy person in our firm (the HR person; yes, HR is the least trustworthy, let that sink in for a minute) who, when I asked if it was good news or bad news, had the nerve to say it depended on how I looked at it. How I looked at it?! I’m sorry, but what the fuck? How am I supposed to look at this in any positive sort of way? Maybe, I guess, some of my religiously conservative coworkers might be relieved to know they won’t have to tolerate an imposter/sexual-deviant/>insert judgmental words of your choice< in their bathroom, or maybe she felt relief that she didn’t have to take the heat for making the decision about where I get to go potty. The worst part about the interaction, aside from the smug “it’s not in my hands” attitude she had was the fact that she had the gall to compliment my longer hair! “Sorry, we don’t consider you a ‘real’ woman, but your hair looks great!”

So, I left the HR office and went back to my cube dumbfounded. What the hell was I going to do? Was I really going to go through all the pain-fucking-staking efforts to completely transform my body with hormones, train my voice to the female range, and buy a whole new gender appropriate wardrobe to still have to use the men’s room? I sat in my cube envisioning tragic instances of me, wearing a skirt and blouse, touching up my makeup or fixing my uncooperative hair in the mirror while some dude walks in, gives me a “WHAT THE HOLY FUCK” look before reluctantly proceeding to take a piss at the urinal (with a fart, just for that extra gross factor; I’m evil, I know). Or worse still, what if I go into that bathroom, all girl’d up only to have someone accuse me of being in the wrong fucking bathroom! How would I handle that? Would I reply, “tell it to the management, because I fucking agree!”

I just didn’t really know what to do or say, plus I had way too much work to do to dilly-dally in “what if” land too long. A few hours go by, frustration building little by little, until lunch comes around. I go to lunch and tell my close friend what happened, and she cannot believe it either. She then proceeds to ask me what proof of a “building policy” I was shown by the HR person, to which I realize that I was given no proof. I was given just the word of the least trustworthy person at my firm and I was too stunned by the news to ask questions. So, after lunch I proceed to send an email to my HR person asking how she was alerted to this policy and whether or not I could have a look at the specific wording of the policy. I asked if my firm would be willing to change their stance if the building’s policy was changed to a more trans friendly policy instead. I got crickets back all day long and it wasn’t until this morning that there was a response from the HR person saying that she’d been told in an email. That’s it. she didn’t show me the email. she didn’t cut/paste the wording of the email, and she didn’t respond to my inquiry about the company changing their policy if the building changed theirs.

Seems a bit fishy, right? Why withhold the information from me? Why avoid and evade the questions I asked? If the company is so free from liability in this decision, then what is there to lose by giving me the information I requested. If the building says no, and Minnesota law upholds their right to do that, then why be withholding. Now the wheels are really turning for me. My friend alleged that the HR person might be lying and had just made a decision on her own, and now I was starting to think the same thing. So, what did industrious Emma do? Well, industrious Emma approached the building management herself, first in person and then in an email, to inquire about this alleged “anatomy needs to match bathroom” policy.

Just so this post makes sense, I want to explain that everything prior to this sentence was written yesterday, prior to me receiving a response from the building on this alleged policy. Everything that follows is being written having gotten a response back. So what was that response? Well, turns out my HR person, despite her shady method of handling the situation was telling the truth for the most part. She did in fact talk with the building and the building manager did, in fact, give her an “anatomy must match bathroom being used” answer… originally. After my contacting her (the manager) directly and further explaining the situation, she actually changed the tune to her song! Whether my email prompted the change or she’d made the change on her, she wrote back to me explaining that although she’d originally said the aforementioned “anatomy matching” policy stood, she’d spent some time researching the issue further and had come to a decision that the policy should actually be that each individual use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. She explained that she would forward that same information to my HR person just as she had just related it to me. So yay! Victory!! Or is it?

I received this email from the building manager around 2pm in the afternoon and if I read her email correctly she was going to promptly send the updated policy information to the HR person. Have I heard anything back from that HR person? Negative. She has not said or written one thing about this change. Now, she doesn’t work on Wednesdays (must be nice) so it’s entirely possible that she didn’t see the email in time to call me back into her office, but I have a sneaking suspicion I won’t ever receive that call. As of now, she is not aware that I’ve been in contact with the building management or that I know about this changed policy, so from her perspective she has all the power over whether or not I get to use the women’s room after I go full time. She probably believes that she can just not say anything, relying on the previous decision and I’ll never be any the wiser. I am hopeful, however, that when she returns to work tomorrow she will do the right thing and call me into her office again to tell me that the policy has changed. If that doesn’t happen, then I will be forced to take things into my own hands and will go straight to the CEO of the company to alert him to the situation.

I personally believe that my company set a precedent of relying on the building’s policy that they would be hard-pressed to try to deviate from that policy. If, in one breath, they say that they are just following the building policy, and then in another breath say that they are choosing to deviate from the building policy, then I think I might have some grounds to bring an EEOC discrimination claim against them. Minnesota courts have once before said that employers didn’t have to permit pre-operative transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their identified gender, but that decision was rendered several years ago before the advent of what I’ve been terming the trans revolution. Transgender bathroom rights have become a hot topic in the news lately and I’m inclined to believe that under the right circumstances an EEOC claim might be enough to overturn that ridiculous ruling.

We have just as much of a right to use the women’s or men’s room as any cisgender woman or man does, and to deny us access based on a standard that has been all but abandoned by the United States’ federal government (the standard of pre/post-operative) not only jeopardizes our safety and endangers our lives, but also infringes upon our basic human rights by making us out to be lesser than other humans. It wasn’t convenient or comfortable for whites to accept and integrate with blacks (forgive the archaic terms) during the civil rights era, but it eventually worked out. It wasn’t convenient or comfortable for the hetero-normative people to accept and integrate with the Gay, Lesbian, and bisexual community, but we’ve shown that this too can work. Now it’s time to show the cisgender people that they can accept and integrate with transgender people too; they have been all along, they just didn’t know it.

For all my transgender readers out there, I want you to be bold and unafraid of your right to pee where you should pee. If you live in a place where you are told you can’t do that, don’t just roll over and accept that. Argue for your rights! Write letters, post bathroom pictures like the #wejustneedtopee campaign, organize sit in campaigns, do anything besides just accept your oppression! If they see us then they know we exist, and when they know we exist it becomes impossible for them to ignore us. First they ignore us, then they laugh at us, then they fight us, and then we win! Never forget that! The first step is not permitting them to ignore you any longer.

For my cisgender readers out there, you can get involved too. You can start posting bathroom selfies too in the opposite gendered bathroom to show the world how ridiculous these rules, policies, and laws about policing transgender bathroom rights are! Don’t fight the problem, show them their solution so they can see how fucking absurd it is. If you don’t feel comfortable taking pictures, then start writing letters to your representatives at every level of government about this issue asking them to make the world a more equal place for trans* individuals.

Okay, I can put my soapbox away. I hope, if nothing else, I’ve excited at least one rebellious spirit to join the #wejustneedtopee cause. Together we are strong. Individually and in hiding, we are weak. Let’s get up, get out, and show the world that trans lives matter too.

-Emma

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