Which door? – Taylor Cooper

I Too Am America
Artwork by Jonathan Mayorga

I would like to share a story with you. It is December 7th, 2016. I am still on a sugar rush from my fifteenth birthday the day before. I walk into my language arts class, almost prepared for the day, only having forgotten my highlighter. I sit down, choosing not to talk to anyone as I’m not really friends with the kids in this class. I’m out at school, and as a result I’m not popular with a lot of kids. We are split up into groups to discuss the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, and a student turns to me and says, mockingly, “Oh, I don’t know if I should use the girls or boys restroom, I’m so triggered.” His friends laugh behind him. I sit there shocked to my bones. His friends continue to laugh behind us, and he has a smile on his face. I stand up, walk to my teacher and quietly say that I’m uncomfortable being in a group with him. A few tears run down my face.

It was completely out of the blue. He deliberately picked me, to mock me unprompted, when I hadn’t even talked to him much before that. All he knew was that I had stood up for my community before, and chose to be mean to me because of that. This is a real issue I face every day, and this kid was making it into a joke.

In the past few years, the LGBTQ+ community has made advancements, same-sex marriage on the top of that list, but our fight isn’t over. My story is only one of many, and many of those stories have worse outcomes. A survey in Washington, DC showed that 70% of transgender and non-binary people faced harassment when they used the restroom that matched their gender identity. There is the story of Ebony Belcher, who was forced out of the women’s restroom by a security guard.In fact, my white skin gives me a bit of extra protection that people of color in the LGBTQ+ community, like Belcher, do not get. In 2014, ten out of 11 murders against transgender women were against transgender women of color. Twelve transgender women of color were killed in 2016, out of 21 total transgender murders.

When someone meets me, they either judge me, boy or girl. Using stereotypes they make a decision in their head. Are they wearing a skirt, do they have hips? Girl. Pants and a cap, or a flat chest? Boy. People decide that my biological gender must match the restroom I use. As a genderfluid individual, it isn’t that simple. In fact, for those whose biological gender does not align with their gender identity, this experience can be terrifying.

Imagine this scene. You’re standing outside of a bathroom. You don’t identify as your biological gender. Which door do you enter? You can pick Door 1, which leads to your biological gender. But if you enter this door, you run the risk of being beat up, told to get out, or called a freak. Or you can also pick Door 2. This door might match your gender identity, or it may not, but you enter and face the same treatment. So which door do you choose?

I Too Am America
Artwork by Jonathan Mayorga

People who are forced to make these decisions every day often have deep fears running through them that something will happen. They enter the restroom afraid for the outcome, because this sort of treatment, this discrimination, does happen. And that’s what this is, discrimination.

So which door?

With gender neutral bathrooms this is simple because there is only one door, with many individual stalls.

This may be hard for you to understand, but think of it like this. At one point in your life, you have felt like an outcast. Maybe you were at a new school, or had started a new job. You could simply be a third wheel on a date. It’s hard to fit in and find a group. Trust me; I’m a LGBTQ+ teen in high school. I know that it’s hard. But at that moment in your life, maybe multiple moments, you felt like an outcast, like you didn’t belong.

Now take this and apply this to the LGBTQ+ community. We may fit in with our little community, but much of society doesn’t accept us. It’s being that outcast. But it’s not just being that outcast to one group of people for a small part of your life; it’s being an outcast to the country, to the world, every day and every night. It is knowing that your chances of facing harassment, becoming homeless, committing suicide, or even being murdered have just gone up. These are facts, these are statistics, but what we sometimes forget is that these are also people. I am one of these people. And I don’t want to have to be scared while using something as simple as a bathroom.

That is why I need you to support my community by promoting gender-neutral bathrooms. Although some gender-neutral bathrooms already exist, they are few in number and are only located in specific areas. These bathrooms need to be nationwide to make people like me feel safer and more comfortable with the way they identify.