Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Me and gender neutral toilets on Dive's Rainbow Soap Box



There have been three beautiful cabaret nights this year at the Edinburgh Festival that go under the name of "Dive".

https://www.facebook.com/events/1657939987860659/

They are a gorgeous eclectic mix of everything queer you can imagine.

And other things you cannot....

One number is a speech from their Rainbow Soap Box on something political.

Last night I was invited to give it.

And this is what I said:


Dear ladies, dear gentlemen,

Dear those of you who are not ladies, and not gentlemen,

But like me, maybe a bit of both, or maybe something in between,

Or maybe something, or someone, who hasn't been thought of or invented yet and who this amazing queer evening may help bring into being:

I am going to talk about the most political thing I know.

I am going to talk about public toilets.

About 10 years ago, when I was just beginning to live as a woman, I was in New York and seeing a whole week of long operas.

Which meant there were long queues at all the toilets. Or rest rooms, as I was trying to learn to call them.

Nothing restful about these places for me.

The line at the ladies was full of feeling women in dresses and immaculate hair that looked as if it been set in concrete, and I knew I would stand out a mile.

And I was afraid, because I also knew that trans women had recently been arrested in New York for trying to use the ladies toilets. Trying to use the toilets we they had every right to use.

But I didn’t totally believe that then. I was too afraid.

So I joined the man's, and I still stood out a mile.

Men would snigger, and point, and tell me I was standing in the wrong line.

And I couldn't bear it.

So I went up to one of the young women who were working front of house. They all wore pink miniskirts with matching jackets, and  had dazzling white teeth and professional smiles, and were apparently there to help me.

But when I went up to them and said I was a trans woman in the early stages of transition and I was wondering if there was a gender neutral toilet somewhere in the building that I could safely use, the smiles immediately disappeared from their faces and they all said

No.

Until I got to the fourth, or maybe the fifth, and she frowned and thought and said, yes. I think I can help you.

And she went to the phone and made half a dozen phonecalls, and said, come this way.

She took me  right down to the very lowest floor of the building, where was a line at the ladies, and a line at the men's, and in between a door that said SECURITY.

She knocked on the door and behind it was an enormous man with a gun, wearing a policeman's uniform, with his feet on the desk.

And he grunted, and took his feet off the desk, and took out a huge bunch of keys, left the office, and locked the door behind him.

He took me across the lobby to another door that said STRICTLY PRIVATE. NO ADMITTANCE.

He unlocked the door and then locked it behind us again.

We walked down a long dark corridor, and there at the end of it was another locked door that said

MEDICAL CENTRE.

He opened the door and pointed inside where at the far end of the room was another door.

And behind that door was the only gender neutral toilet in the whole of the New York Metropolitan Opera House.

And as I walked back down the corridor, escorted by a man with a gun, I thought:

Gender neutral toilets are obviously very dangerous.

And so they still are.

Because lately in America a chain of department stores has announced that trans-women and trans men are welcome to use the toilets that correspond to our identity.

As a result, they have been boycotted, and picketed, and attacked all over the media by concerned citizens who think this is a danger to women and children.

States all over America are in the process of, or have already passed, legislation that makes it illegal for me to use a women's toilets.

These toilets may have to be guarded by officials whose job it is to check my birth certificate and/ or my genitalia.

And were this legislation to be enacted here and were you, madam, were you to encounter me in the ladies loo next door you would have every right to sue the proprietors of these premises to gain compensation for the fear and the distress my presence would cause you.

The other week, the Pope said to a gathering of bishops in Poland that people like me who wanted to pee in the ladies represent an assault on the wisdom of God.

And that a beautiful queer assembly like this one is like an atomic bomb that will destroy the fabric of society.

Wow.

Clever us.

And I say:

Free the toilets!

Because, after all, the dear man might be right.


And in changing toilets, we change the world….

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