Fear and Loathing in Public Bathrooms, or How I Learned to Hold My Pee

This essay is excerpted from the book Gender Failure by Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon, out now from Arsenal Pulp Press.

I can hold my pee for hours. Nearly all day. It’s a skill I developed out of necessity, after years of navigating public washrooms. I hold it for as long as I can, until I can get myself to the theatre or the green room or my hotel room, or home. Using a public washroom is a very last resort for me. I try to use the wheelchair-accessible, gender-neutral facilities whenever possible, always after a thorough search of the area to make sure no one in an actual wheelchair or with mobility issues is en route. I always hold my breath a little on the way out though, hoping there isn’t an angry person leaning on crutches waiting there when I exit. This has never happened yet, but I still worry. Sometimes I rehearse a little speech as I pee quickly and wash my hands, just to be prepared. I would say something like, I apologize for inconveniencing you by using the washroom that is accessible to disabled people, but we live in a world that is not able to make room enough for trans people to pee in safety, and after many years of tribulation in women’s washrooms, I have taken to using the only place provided for people of all genders.

But I have never had to say any of this. Yet. Once at an airport, I was stopped by a janitor on my way out who reprimanded me for using a bathroom that wasn’t meant for me, and I calmly explained to him that I was a transgender person, and that this was the only place I felt safe in, and then I noted that there were no disabled people lined up outside the washroom door, or parents with small children waiting to use the change table.

He narrowed his eyes at me. Then he said, “Okay, but next time you should …”

I waited for him to finish. Instead, he shook his head and motioned down the empty hallway with his mop handle that I should be off, that this conversation was now over.

(Read the rest of the essay here.)

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2 Responses to Fear and Loathing in Public Bathrooms, or How I Learned to Hold My Pee

  1. ravinj says:

    I’m in that awkward place where I wouldn’t feel safe in the men’s and occasionally startle people and feel like an interloper in the women’s. It sucks.

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