Passing Privilege, Spring Break and Bathrooms

I told a friend I was going to Florida for spring break with my family and he gave me a concerned look.

“Be careful down there, especially in the bathrooms.”

That gave me pause, because though I’d been reading about and cursing and posting comments about the ‘bathroom laws’ being introduced in Florida and other states, I hadn’t put two and two together.  Oh yeah, the place I’m going on vacation is one of those states.  I’m a trans guy.  I have to pee sometimes.

He was truly concerned for my safety and I took a couple of moments to reassure him.  I was staying with family and bathroom use wasn’t an issue there.  The times it would be an issue – out in public – I’d have to be aware and cautious about my circumstances and the clientele of the place.  But really, any trouble caused would have to be initiated by someone who saw me and figured out I wasn’t a cis-guy.  And in all the time I’ve been using men’s rooms in public – about 2 or 3 months now – I’ve never been challenged.  That means I have enough passing privilege to get by here in Olympia, and maybe enough to avoid trouble in Florida and the airports between here and there.

Ahhhh… passing privilege, that blessing I sometimes curse.  I am grateful when it keeps me and mine from harm, I curse it for erasing my queer visibility.  I acknowledge that not all trans people have this privilege and they are they ones who are most in danger using the bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity. It’s a dangerous luxury that can promote complacency.  My passing privilege led me to minimize the potential risks in traveling across the country to an overtly transphobic state.  There are lots of people who don’t have that option.  For them the prospect of going through airport security can be terrifying, much less pushing open the bathroom door in a place where bathroom policing is the topic du jour.

I have an advantage, most of the time I pass as male.  I can use public restrooms designated for males and not get hassled. I’m going to be mindful of that while I’m in Florida, mindful and open to any possibility to engage people in conversations about why those laws and attitudes are hateful and unproductive.


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