There’s political turmoil in the U.S. right now around bathroom use. Yes, you read that right. Transgender folks want to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity and conservatives want them to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate. While I have some very definite opinions on this issue, there’s one aspect that strikes me as being more relevant for those who have certain chronic illnesses and other medical issues. Or who just poop when they’re not at home.
You see, the argument from transgender folks and their allies is that this is about a simple right: the right to pee. And it is. But it’s also more than that.
I see a lot of these memes, videos, and arguments. I share a lot of them on social media, too. After all, I fully support everyone’s right to pee in a comfortable, safe space. But the thing is, isn’t it about more than just pee? And I’m not just talking about having a private place to pick a wedgie, fix your hair and makeup, or take off those uncomfortable stockings.
For me, public bathrooms, and even private ones, were about more than just peeing. I had around 20 years of undiagnosed Celiac Disease and other food intolerances, so you can imagine what bathroom use was like for me.
I have an unusually strong bladder. I can often go for 4, 6, even 8 hours without peeing. But when I got *that* feeling, there was no choice.
There was the time I was on the highway, stuck in traffic. I got *that* feeling. I knew it was bad. I looked at the stop-and-go traffic and I wondered if I would have to have diarrhea in the grass on the side of the highway. Thankfully, just in time, I got off the road, into a motel parking lot, and found my way to a bathroom. Thank goodness!
Then there was the time I was seeing a show on Broadway for the first time. I was so excited! Walking to the theater, I got *that* feeling. We rushed to the theater, thinking I could quickly use the bathroom, but the doors weren’t opened yet and there was a line to get in. I rushed to the hotel next door, but a guest card was needed to use the bathrooms. I asked at the desk, but they wouldn’t let me use a toilet. I went back to the theater. The doors were open and my mother was almost to the front of the line. I was desperate. As soon as I was through the door I ran to the bathroom. The line for the ladies room snaked down the hall. I ran to the front and asked if I could cut the line. A woman in front said yes immediately, and others followed her lead. I hate to think what would have happened if she’d said no. Maybe she saw the desperation on my face. Maybe she noticed that I was turning a bit white, or even green. Maybe she was just a compassionate person who always helped others. Whatever it was, I was grateful. I ran into the next open stall, and sat down as I felt what seemed like everything I’d eaten in a week leave my body. I was there for a long time. I eventually made it up to my seat, and was still feeling a bit ill. Before the show started, I got the feeling again. I ran back to the bathroom. It was close to curtain, so there was no line. I sat there alone, in the quiet, grateful for the toilet. I got back upstairs just as the opening number began, thankfully feeling much better.
I’ve had more incidents like this than I can count. There have been times I didn’t make it to a toilet in time. Thankfully, those were not in public places. But they could have easily been.
The point is, sometimes it’s about more than just peeing. I’m cisgender, so obviously this particular issue of which bathroom to use doesn’t affect me directly. (It does affect several friends, many acquaintances, and countless people I don’t know personally but who should obviously have the same rights as everyone else.) Still, I can’t help feeling a twinge at all of the talk about how “it’s just about peeing.” No it isn’t! It’s also about pooping! Don’t forget the pooping!
I want to shout it at the tv, at my computer screen, and at every person who says, “it’s just about peeing.” I get their angle. They want to eliminate the politically-motivated distractions being used to force the issue. But let’s not erase the very real problems that so many others are dealing with. It’s about pooping too!
There are certain things all humans do. I get that most people don’t want to discuss them all. But really, why can’t we talk about poop? If we can wipe a baby’s butt, clean out the cat’s litter, and pick up the dog’s poop from the street, surely we can recognize that trans+ folks will need to occasionally poop in public too. And when they do, they need to be able to do it in a safe place.
Because if I hadn’t had a safe place in that theater, it could have been a very messy experience. And no one should have to go through that.
So for all of you out there with IBD, IBS, Crohn’s, Celiac, or any other digestive issue, and for those who simply need to poop, I support you. Let’s win this thing! #itsaboutmorethanpee
“Everybody poops” as my youngest’s potty training book says. I think if anything, those of us that rely on having convenient and safe bathroom stops as often as needed know completely what it’s like to need to go and really not have the luxury to care who is in the stall to the left. In my own case there has been over a handful of times I’ve snuck into the empty mens room while the ladies had a line down the hall. Not once did anyone ever voice an issue and even if they would have, I would have retorted with something like “well would you rather I gone right there on the floor?” Being able to use a washroom is a pretty basic right, everyone fussing over the details and labels is pretty ridiculous!
I love that your child’s book puts it so plainly, Ms. Mango! And I’ve certainly used the men’s room too. Why not? It’s right there, and sometimes you just gotta go!
I wish that ‘the right to pee/poop’ wasn’t such an issue. I too have nipped in the men’s toilet on many occasions. I too have needed to poop rather urgently in public. I am grateful for any toilet in those instances. In the UK, trans people are legally allowed to use whichever public toilet they feel most comfortable in. In some places e.g. Brighton they have gender neutral toilets as well.
True, Lorna. It’s not like we’re trying to reinvent the wheel, here. Plenty of states recognize the right of trans folks to use whichever bathroom they prefer, also. But at the federal level, well, they like to make things complicated, I think.