When I first started transitioning, I was quite  blasé about the idea of using the gents’ toilets. Frankly, I thought the least of my problems would be negotiating my way into a slightly differently furnished bathroom area.

It’s turned out to be more difficult than I thought. On a superficial level, I hadn’t credited just how filthy a lot of men’s loos would be. Mostly, though, the problem had nothing to do with the state of the cubicle, it had to do with me. I was always terrified I’d be challenged, laughed at, or thrown out. I’ve only just managed to use the gents at Liverpool Street station, despite going through there fairly regularly, because there’s a big tiled expanse of floor between the door to the ladies’ loo, and the door to the gents’. I just couldn’t face being called out by the attendant half way across that gender delineating tiling, and having to explain myself in the face of lots of curious people. So for a long time, I skulked into the ladies.

I’ve now got to the point where I sort of maybe pass, if you squint at me sideways, which has eased up the whole loo issue.  If I look confident, and move fast enough, I can get in and out without the other men (or attendant) clocking me. There’s the added bonus that most men DO NOT LOOK in toilets, so few will register that I am anything but a short, fast-moving man.

I am now the master of near-silent peeing. I know some men pee in the cubicle, but I’d rather not draw attention to myself. My standards of public bathroom hygiene have dropped massively – where once I recoiled in horror at smears and puddles, I am now happy to use any loo that doesn’t have those things on the actual seat.

I may be getting over the toilet issue, but gym changing rooms are a nightmare. I do not use the women’s changing area, as I don’t feel that’s appropriate, or comfortable. At the same time, as I still have breasts, I don’t dare use the men’s changing area. Besides, it’s full of hugely pumped blokes wandering around in the nudd, which I’m not very comfortable with myself. I spoke to the manager of my gym, who said I can use the disabled changing room, but then I have nowhere to put my stuff, as there’s no lockers in there. The one time I tried leaving my things in there, they nearly ended up in Lost Property. Apparently I can leave my bag at the personal trainers’ desk, but there’s rarely anyone sitting there, so it’s not a secure solution. Also, staff turnover at the gym is pretty high, and I really don’t want to have to explain to someone new every time I go why I can’t just use one of the changing rooms.

My solution to the whole changing room dilemma is to change at work, which is just over the road. Not ideal, as it involves changing in one of the aforementioned smeared, puddly cubicles, and I can’t shower til I get home, but OK. On seeing me in my gym kit, a couple of my colleagues and I ended up discussing the problem. I was a bit taken aback when one of them said “Well, at least you can use both the women’s and the men’s if you want to. You can pick and choose”. No. No, I can’t.

The idea that as a transman, I can choose which gender I’m going to be today annoys me. It implies that I’m either messing around, or trying to gain privilege on both sides. People who are transitioning simply need to have access to facilities that are appropriate, safe and comfortable. We shouldn’t have to explain ourselves, or ask permission to use a particular toilet or changing room. In the ideal world which I have all mapped out in my head, it really wouldn’t matter where I got changed, or took a pee, because everybody would be comfortable enough with their own and other people’s differences for it just not to be an issue.

PS: New YouTube video up today!

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