Of course a major issue for a transsexual is which restroom to use and when to start or switch to using it. For me this issue ranked up there along with ‘pass-ability’ in my decision as to when to start living full time as a woman (starting my RLE – real life experience). And this is an especially important issue to be addressed and solved at the workplace where we spend most of our day!
There comes a point where we have progressed in our transition (hormone treatment) that we can no longer effectively hide our ‘blossoming’ changes and it becomes harder and more difficult to continue using the restroom we had been using but at the same time we are not passable enough to use the restroom of our target gender. What a conundrum!
Let me explain my situation first, as this is a bit unique. A number of events all came together to make this a bit easier for me than what one would normally expect. As they say, your mileage will vary, but some of what transpired here may be of use to others that are transitioning…
I’m just starting my 4th month on HRT and my body has changed beyond where I can effectively ‘hide’ it. The best way to describe the situation at work is to say I am in a department that is somewhat out of place in the building where we are located – meaning we are a bit isolated. I had come out to everyone in my department about 1/2 year ago – but not to others in the building as there is little interaction. That all changed, as recently we had an all building ‘sensitivity’ training during which I was asked to explain the difference between gender and birth sex, gender presentation and sexual orientation (this was planned….). This of course effectively ‘outed’ me and of course that is what I wanted and was the perfect setting (sexual harassment and workplace violence training – with our top lawyers giving the training).
At this same time my name change and gender change documents came through (see “Getting Legal“). I am now officially named and have a gender of female in my state, my drivers license, social security and at my employment and my bank.
All of these events came together: progressing to a point where I needed to present as a woman full time, fully out to everyone in my department and to everyone in the building, the decision to start my RLE and all my documentation is changed – name and gender.
What was left to resolve was the restroom issue! I was counseled to find a way to manage this independently as our HR is on another island. So a couple of the women from my department went around and talked to each women in the building individually, specifically regarding the restroom. I had talked to the different managers at our site to make sure this was ok. I would then go around and say hi to each person and make sure they were ok. All was well …. This was about 2 or 3 weeks ago.
Then last week, one of the women, who is there only part time and usually during the morning when I’m not there, went to one of the managers and requested that the upstairs woman’s restroom be converted to ‘unisex’ with a lock. Last Thursday was the first chance I had to say hi to her and she politely told me she requested this and gave me the following reasons:
– if we didn’t know you ‘from before’ …..
– you (meaning I) might feel uncomfortable if a woman in the next stall is having a period ….
– during public events outside people might be uncomfortable
For one, I’m an elder person – I know/have seen/been there – and how ‘dare’ she speak for me and what I might be uncomfortable with. As far as outside woman using our facilities, I am 100 % presenting now and using public restrooms where ever I am. As for knowing ‘who I am before’ – exactly when do you ‘not know’ and it becomes ok? And finally as for converting that restroom to a ‘unisex’ with a lock – not only is that an inconvenience to others here, but in one way it’s sort of a slap on my face – a denial of who I am. Furthermore, my documentation now states I’m female, I have started my RLE and it would be even stranger if I were to use the men’s room at this point!
Well, independently and unknown to me, the managers she went to, consulted with their higher authorities and came up with a brochure from Lambda Legal regarding a transsexual’s restroom rights and not only posted it on the main bulletin board but hand delivered a copy to this woman!
Now, my recommendation based on all this, is not to handle this internally, no matter what the situation is with your HR. But to ask/demand that HR put out something official stating their policies. Now, I do admit, I work for the state and there are policies that cover this and protect me – so you need to find that out for where you work first. But after that – this is HR’s job, not mine or yours. I am very grateful to the women who stood up for me, that fought for me and for the managers for taking action when they needed to.
I’ll close with a cute story and an explanation of the accompanying image. Back a few weeks ago when I first started my RLE we went down to the federal building to change my social security name and gender. We parked in their garage and took the elevator up. When we got out my partner asked if I had to use the restroom – not expecting what she was up to I said yes. Then before I knew what was happened, she grabbed my hand and yanked me into the woman’s restroom which I had not noticed that we were standing in front of! This was my first use of a public woman’s restroom… It gets better: we are using the stalls next to each other and she moves her foot over to touch mine – under the partition. We played footsie in the woman’s bathroom stalls ! The she asks if I have my cell phone camera and states it would be great to have a picture of this. It gets worse: just as I take the picture, there is a sound as if someone else entered the restroom – then my phone decides it wants to use the ‘flash’ – ack ! So now I’m facing the situation where this is the first time in a public woman’s restroom, someone else might have just come in there, and I just took a ‘flash’ picture —- in the restroom. Geeeesh. Well, no one else was in there except us (must have been some building kind of noise) and here is the picture to prove it !
With much aloha,