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Bathrooms? Transmen? What nonsense.

February 1, 2018

Transmen are used to being ignored. No, that’s OK. In many ways it’s good. It means that we can sneak in and point out all the flaws in anti-trans thinking, which is usually stacked against transwomen, and ignores us completely.

Take the Great Bathroom Debate. The thinking goes thus: If you let transgender people go into whatever bathroom they like, you’re going to get a bunch of people who look like men appearing in the women’s bathroom.

Here’s the problem. If you don’t let transgender people go into whatever bathroom they like, you’re going to get a bunch of people who look like men appearing in the women’s bathroom.

Transmen and transwomen differ a great deal in how transition pans out. The difference is due to the inequality of process between going from male to female, and going from female to male. Shortly put, going male-to-female is harder. Growing up male will tend to give you a bigger bone structure. Thick, dark facial and body hair grows, and voices break; these cannot be easily reversed.

Dealing with the long term effects of testosterone exposure is time-consuming and expensive, and it is not uncommon for transwomen to be “in limbo” for some time (passing sometimes for male, sometimes for female). Testosterone is the hard drug. Oestrogen is the soft one. That’s why transwomen take hormone blockers as well as female hormones. Transmen do not, because the artificial testosterone completely trounces their naturally produced oestrogen.

As bad as testosterone is for transwomen, it is great for transmen. The dramatic effects of taking artificial testosterone come fast, and well and truly override the feminisation of years of oestrogen. Skin hardens, body and facial hair thickens and darkens, the voice drops, body fat shifts – the whole shebang.

We are averagely shorter, with small hands and feet, and we will need surgery for the more obvious bits. But the rest is totally changed. The vast majority of us unequivocally pass for male. Even breasts are so affected by testosterone, they can be bound down to near invisibility with little effort. I had my chest surgery midway through university. No one noticed the difference.

That in consideration, imagine what would happen if you insisted that trans people in general only attended the bathroom of their birth gender. It means that you’d get transmen in the women’s bathroom, and we so obviously don’t belong there.

It’s not just about the body changes, either, it’s the mental changes too. Testosterone does a full job. It makes a transman hornier, more likely to think about sex, more likely to stare at women. It’s a shock and a disappointment to any one-time lesbian feminist to find that, come a short course of testosterone, he likes big butts and he cannot lie. That’s a common story among transmen.

So, we certainly don’t belong in the female changing rooms. With the best intentions in the world, with feminist training and with female socialisation, testosterone is just too strong. We become men. At best we will be awkward and at worse, yes, we might be inappropriate. But even before we transition, we don’t belong there. I was an imposter in the female changing room. I felt it, and the women around me felt it too.

How awkward it was, when women stripped naked in front of me, thinking they were “safe” from the male gaze. I had to make an extra effort to avert my eyes, because I knew it was inappropriate for me to so much as accidentally catch a glimpse. I used to get cramps in my neck from the effort of trying not to see anything I shouldn’t. If these women had known that there was a transman in their changing room, they would have been no better pleased than to discover that a transwoman was in there.

If you see from this that you can’t let transmen roam any which way, but still want to ban transwomen from certain places, you start to see that the odds are stacked against transwomen, and that this is more starkly and obviously discriminatory. It assumes too much about the nature of a transwoman, based on little evidence outside of appearances, which can – evidently – be deceptive.

A transwoman who has been on testosterone blockers and oestrogen is better by far in the women’s changing room than a transman who has been on testosterone for a short while. She has the right “starting mind”, and the unsavoury effects of testosterone are instantly dulled by a course of blockers and oestrogen, well before the physical changes start taking place.

As a result of this time lapse between physical changes and mental ones, you can’t always tell how long a transwoman has been on her hormones. Consequently, she is subject to sizeism and other shallow prejudices, relating to things that don’t change, or don’t change fast enough.

(Because we all know there is nothing more terrifying than a 6ft, deep-voiced woman, and, clearly, there are no cisgender people in the world who match this description.)

Why are transmen ignored in the bathroom debate? It may be because radical feminists particularly don’t realise that transmen are men. Some are inclined to think that we are just confused lesbians. Well, after five years of testosterone, let me assure you that no part of you resembles a lesbian, confused or otherwise. After five years of testosterone, you do not resemble a woman of any kind. The difference really is fairly dramatic, especially over a long period of time.

I can only repeat it: we do not belong in women’s spaces. If shoving transwomen out of women’s spaces and into men’s spaces means by default that transmen have to be shoved into women’s spaces, it defeats the whole idea of “protecting” women from trans people.

If, indeed, that is a worry worth acting on. In my next two blogs, I explain why it is not.



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