Imagine all the people

I remember the first time I saw this sign at the library for the University of Southeast Alaska in Juneau. I was nervous to go in. Would I see anyone of ambiguous gender? Would there be men? Would there be anything unsettling about the experience ? But then there were just some stalls, I washed my hands, and that was it. I walked out feeling very hip.

Alaska can be slow to arrive at hip; also slow to shed what is unhip (ie. last week my husband suggested I take up rollerblading = $&@%*!?!), so I’ve been impressed with this new idea of how to be a bathroom. Here are some more good signs:

This walk-on-in bathroom movement has been helpful for fathers with daughters, moms with sons, and parents of disabled children, but the root of the idea comes from the transgender community.

Let’s all take a minute to imagine what we think it is like to be a transgender person. Or if that’s an easy one for you, pick something else: beauty pageant winner (you’ve trained your whole life for this?), professional clown (what twisted path led you here?), rocket scientist (so, what do you do for fun?). This, imagining what it is to be someone we don’t understand, is empathy.

Do it now.

As part of this empathy project I also searched for posts about being transgender (use the internet for good!). I encourage you to click below; the images aren’t inappropriate, but they might make you uncomfortable. Your choice (or maybe you’re curious about investment bankers, or tiger veterinarians, or paintball champions…?)

This is what I learned: Transgender includes anyone who doesn’t identify with the gender assigned based on their genitalia at birth. Some “girls” eventually get facial hair and deeper voices. Some “boys” develop very real breasts, or become beautifully feminine. Sometimes the outer expression of a person’s gender is different from what is between their legs.

Which damn bathroom are they supposed to use?

On April 3rd Anchorage will vote on how we/they think transgender people should pee, or at least, in which bathroom.

A no-vote on proposition 1 upholds the current anti-discrimination laws that support the uni-sex bathrooms and the idea that each of us knows best which bathroom we belong in. Leave it at that.

Vote yes if you’d like the legal right to ask a person, in a bathroom, to see proof of their gender as assigned at birth. Because we all carry our birth certificates and enjoy bizarre conflicts with strangers in bathrooms ($&@%*!?!).

I do these mental empathy exercises a lot; there are a lot of people I don’t understand. The only time I falter, and basically can’t get there, is when I try to picture having very little empathy, e.g. some people feel so uncomfortable about the idea of sharing a public bathroom with a transgender person that they’d rather not share it at all. That level of discomfort must feel terrible, but I have a very hard time identifying because don’t you think it’s way tougher to go through life being transgender?

That, and I just hate when I gotta go, and can’t find a bathroom.

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope some day you’ll join us

And the world will be as one.

– John Lennon

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