This Is Not Just a Transgender Concern

By Nadine Spirit, AP Contributor


There has been a growing debate about who gets to use the women’s restroom.  Some people are straightforward with their disapproval of transgender people, regardless of where they go to the potty.  Some people, like Andrea Peyser, are a little subtler:

I’m not transphobic in the least.  I support people’s rights to live, work, date and marry as the genders with which they self-identify.  (I just want any stranger equipped with junk to keep the hell out of my bathroom.)

In general, many people are against gender variant individuals who wish to use the restroom that matches their presentation.  And it may appear as though it is just that simple; if you have junk, stay out of the “no junk allowed” restroom.  By the way, all of these concerns are primarily aimed at male to female transgender people; apparently if you identify as female at birth and personally identify as male nobody really cares what facilities you use.


In practical terms, these restroom ordinances or laws are really against anybody, regardless of what is between your legs.  Who is standing outside of the restrooms performing a pre-potty genital check?  Nobody.  And even if anybody attempted that, the general public would not stand for it.  You may think then that the prerequisite to using the restroom could be some sort of ID check.  But even if you require people to carry around their papers, most likely a birth certificate, not even that can prove without a doubt if people are junk-full or junk-less.  In several states, like California, a birth certificate can be amended to reflect a gender change without requiring surgical alteration of the genitals.

So then, what determines who can use the female potty?  It is whether or not other people perceive you to be a female; in other words to not be a “stranger equipped with junk.”  If you fit the mold of what a female is supposed to look like, then you will receive your potty pass from the potty police and you use the no junk allowed restroom.  But if you are not perceived as feminine enough, well then you too may find yourself barred from the restroom that you think is appropriate for you to use.

Already there are reports of women being accosted while attempting to use the women’s room: a woman at Walmart, a woman at a medical center, a woman at a public restroom, a woman kicked out of a restaurant.  And these are women that were not born with junk.

Clearly what is happening is that people are now judging others on whether they are feminine enough or not.  For transgender women this boils down to you having passing privilege or not.  If you look enough like a woman, then most likely you will be able to use the women’s restroom.  But what about applying the same reasoning to cisgender women?  Should you, as someone who does not possess any junk, be afraid to cut your hair short, be concerned about not dressing feminine enough, be concerned because someone may think you actually have a penis and not allow you to use the proper facilities?


Do not be fooled people.  This is not an effort to protect women from the evil junk possessors.  This is an effort to legalize discrimination.  Discrimination against not being feminine enough.  And who gets to decide what is feminine enough?  Another shopper encouraged to be a vigilante?  A congressman who thinks they are protecting the weak and innocent?  A potty policeman staring at you trying to decide if you are actually a woman by what you are wearing and how pretty you are?

Is this really the direction we want to take?  Are we going to just sit back and accept this pernicious discrimination out of fear of the unknown?  I seriously hope not.


Photo Credits:

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Hi, I’m Nadine Spirit and I have been a lifelong gender non-conformer. I have always understood that I am a bit different than most but it was not until sometime in my thirties that I came to understand that I am transgender. While I spend most of my time presenting as a male I am always presenting in a gender non-conforming manner. 

I started my blog, Unordinary Style, with the idea of being able to show a stylish side to those who identify as transgender. Since that time my blog has evolved into showing my personal style, discussing a wide variety of transgender topics, as well as posts about my personal life. My personal style continues to evolve as I attempt to continually push myself to pick stuff off of the racks, take it into the dressing room, and try on as much as I can. I am a firm believer in ignoring tag sizes, never paying retail prices, and due to a terrific allergy – that nickel should never be in any jewelry!

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9 Responses to “This Is Not Just a Transgender Concern”

  1. Stephanie Hartley

    I had no idea that certain ‘born women’ have even been banned from restrooms! I am all for trans people being able to use whichever restroom they want. I really think it is determined by how feminine you are which is horrendous. Things need to change for sure.

    Steph –

  2. Linda B

    Nadine, what a great piece! It gives voice to what I hope most of us know already–that this is about discrimination and prejudice, pure and simple, not protecting anyone. It’s so sad!

    I got into a big argument with a friend a week ago, because out of huge ignorance (and a big dose of insecurity, I suspect) he cannot imagine that being transgender is anything more than a mental illness so why would we let anyone use a different bathroom. Nothing I said could budge him out of his ridiculous fear-based wrong-headedness. I haven’t spoken to him since; I am trying to come up with the way to get around his closed mind. I think there is a little chance that things I said last week will sink in and make a difference, but we’ll see. We have to keep speaking the truth–that is the bottom line.

    • Nadine Spirit

      The only head way I have ever been able to make with some people is by informing them about people who are born with a physical intersex condition. Some people have the incorrect notion that everyone is clearly born either male or female and this is just not the case. Some may think that “corrective” surgery is the answer to this dilemma but alas it is not as many of those people were not “corrected” in a way that coincided with their self image.

      Thanks for trying Linda!!

      • Linda B

        You are so welcome! And I will see how I can make use of your observation on those born with a physical intersex condition. Maybe that will make more sense to this guy. As I talked it over more with my husband, he observed that this man tends to see everything in “black and white” in life. No grey areas. IMO, it is extremely rare for things in life to be black and white! (Except clothes–I do love that in clothing, lol.)

        So, perhaps sharing about something as concrete as those born physically intersex will help. It is so clear to me that we are not just bodies though–we are unique individualities inhabiting bodies, and that inner self can be as fully intersex as the outward physical nature of a person. I am hopeful that we are living in a time when honoring that is becoming more fully possible. Change is happening, bit by bit, though not fast enough sometimes!

  3. Catherine Harper

    This is an excellent post! I was just having a similar conversation with my husband the other day about these ridiculous laws. How can anyone enforce them and who is going to take up the job of the potty police, as you rightfully call them. It’s absolutely legalizing discrimination and I’m hopeful that the majority of Americans will see through this message of hate that is wasting so much time in state legislatures.

  4. Gisele

    Nadine, this is beautifully expressed and so right on. Thank you!

  5. Veronica

    I really think so much of this fear would be alleviated if US bathroom stalls weren’t so horribly non-private. I don’t care who you are, I don’t want you seeing (even by accident because I know it’s hard to avoid) me pee, or heaven forbid sitting there reading my phone while waiting nature to take its course. Here in Europe, the stalls are private, no gaps and doors that lock well. Why is it so difficult to have a modicum of privacy in the US?

    • Nadine Spirit

      I totally agree Veronica. For a society that seems so concerned with privacy why is this not a priority? Why was it not done this way in the first place??