I’m running across campus, towards the Center. I think I might wet my pants, but I keep sprinting and sprinting and holding it in. Soon, I burst through the doors and into the fishbowl, and now I can see it; hope is in sight at the end of the hallway. I spot the yellow sign from feet away but as I push at the door, I suddenly realize the lock reads “OCCUPIED.” I push through the crush of students, around the corner and to the other All-Genders restroom to find that it too is in use. I cross my legs and wait my turn. Finally, someone exits and I push into the single stall bathroom for sweet relief. Ah.
Now, someone might ask me, “Loie! You crazy cat! Why wouldn’t you just use one of the bathrooms downstairs?”
The answer is a little complicated and hard to explain, but this piece is my answer:
When I was a baby, like many of you, a doctor decided that I was a girl and then handed me to my parents; from that point on, everyone seemed to go along with his pronouncement. When teachers told us to line up “boy girl boy girl,” I was unquestionably flanked by two males. I was put in dresses at formal events while my brother was put in suits. I was sent away to an “all-girls” school at the tender age of six. People look at me and call me “she,” “miss,” and “ma’am.” To the world, I was and am a girl, whether I like it or not. My whole life, I never understood why I threw temper tantrums about wearing dresses or felt so out of place in my Catholic all-girls middle school, yet still did not feel like a boy. I was existing in some head-spinning limbo, but I had no way to articulate this sensation to anyone else.
After attending the Student Diversity Leadership Conference in December, however, I started to openly question why I was so uncomfortable with people’s assumptions about my gender. I talked to some people who identified as non-binary genders, and started to realize that I felt the same way as them. I was sure that I was not just a girl, but I didn’t feel like a boy either. I had always acknowledged that gender was a spectrum, but this was the first time I considered that I wasn’t living on either end of it.
Since the conference in December, I’ve learned a lot of about gender identity. I learned that my discomfort with being labeled a “girl” and my physically female traits has a name: gender dysphoria. To combat dysphoria, I have asked that people refer to me with gender neutral pronouns (they/them/their). I also use gender neutral restrooms whenever they are available. Without them, I am forced to choose between validating what everyone assumes my gender is or choosing an identity that does not fit me at all. Neither feels particularly good.
So, I am sorry if anyone sees me wet my pants while waiting to use the inclusive restrooms. Gender is confusing. Maybe we need to make more bathrooms neutral. Maybe we could like… just call one bathroom “the one with urinals” and the other one “the one without urinals.” Maybe then I wouldn’t feel the need to validate my identity every time I need to use the restroom.
––Loïe Plautz ’15