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Bathrooms: Social and Legal

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Bathrooms: Social and Legal Empty Bathrooms: Social and Legal

Post by Lorri Kat on Thu Jul 03, 2014 8:20 pm

Below is usefull information for consideration from Transgender Alliance
"I hate talking about bathrooms but it is unavoidable in our community. Sooner or later the subject always comes up and it can be a very sensitive one as well as one which can involve your personal safety.  Soooo, though I hate talking about bathrooms, I am going to go ahead and get it over with in the hope that maybe we can put this issue to bed. Please note at the start that I am not here to judge anyone or to create some sort of TG bathroom hierarchy.  I am just trying to explain the legal issues involved and how it is that you can navigate this problem with a minimum of risk.  In the end, what you do is your business as you are the one who has to endure whatever consequences may be involved.
First of all, there is no law in this state which mandates that men not use the ladies room or vice versa.  It is a social custom, one which is typically honored by private property owners running businesses open to the public.  Gender segregated bathrooms is not the norm in many other countries but the plain fact is that in the United states, gender segregated bathrooms is what we have and will continue to have in the foreseeable future.
Because there is no law against it, you can't be arrested simply because you are a man in a ladies room or a woman in a men's room.  However, there are many laws against lewd and lascivious conduct.  Peeping Toms (voyeurism) and exhibitionism (flashers) are just two examples.  Historically, the authorities have assumed that if you are in the "wrong" bathroom, you must be up to no good otherwise  you would use the "right" bathroom. Thus, presenting as female and using a ladies room could cause you to get arrested on suspicion of having engaged in some sort of unlawful conduct.  Once you show that you were not using the "wrong" bathroom for an unlawful purpose but solely due to your gender identity, the charges would typically be dropped.  However, though you "beat the wrap", you would have had to go through the embarrassment and stress of having been arrested. 
For this reason, trans folk years ago (and still today), used to get a "carry letter" from their therapists stating that the person was presenting as male/female and using gender segregated spaces matching that presentation as part of a recognized course of medical treatment and not for an immoral or unlawful purpose.  Having such a letter could be used to convince a police officer that one was using a particular bathroom with no intent to commit a crime.  That would negate the officer's "probable cause" to believe you may have committed a crime and if the officer still arrested you, you could very likely press charges for false arrest.
It is very easy to get a "carry letter".  It does require that you have an ongoing relationship with a therapist and that the therapist diagnose you as having some sort of gender dysphoria or other condition warranting your change in gender presentation.  For transitioning transsexuals, getting such a letter is not really a big deal.  They are typically in therapy anyway as a good therapist is needed throughout transition. A number of therapists are willing to write a carry letter from people who are not transitioning but who frequently present in a gender other than that which they were assigned at birth. Occasionally I do hear from folks who have a therapist who won't write a carry letter from them.  In that case, if the problem is that your therapist has not expertise in this field, get a new therapist! If you have an experienced therapist and they won't give you a carry letter, there probably is a reason for it and I doubt it is because you "have a mean therapist". 
Think for a second what that might mean for you if you are in the "wrong" bathroom and you end up having a problem.  You tell the authorities to contact your therapist and the therapist says that you refused to give you a carry letter at this point because of whatever reason. Imagine how suspicious that will make the authorities involved.  The fact is, I don't know anyone, regardless of gender identity or expression who has been unable to get a carry letter.  Some weren't able to get it on day one but eventually, everyone does.
It is relatively easy for transitioning transsexuals to get the sex designation on their driver's licenses changed to reflect their new gender presentation.  You are not required to have had surgery, all you need is a letter from your therapist.  Most therapists would be happy to write that letter once you have had the appropriate amount of therapy and have been on hormones for awhile. Thus, for transitioning transsexuals, getting access to the bathroom which matches their gender presentation is not really a problem.  Their problem is getting fired from their jobs when they come out and/or being denied crucial aspects of their health care.
So who is having trouble with bathrooms? Bathrooms are a problem for people who only occasionally present in a gender other than that which they were assigned at birth and who are unwilling to undergo the minimal amount of therapy required to get a carry letter.
As for therapy, I don't understand how anyone who presents in their new gender so often that they run into bathroom issues frequently would not be in therapy.  There are lots of therapists locally and there are lots of therapeutic options if you have money trouble or poor insurance coverage.  It is none of my business why someone would be so adamant about not being in therapy even long enough to get a carry letter.  My only point here is to give you what advice I can to help you stay out of trouble.
Those who are just starting out, be patient.  You will get a new license and/or a carry letter soon enough.  If you have only just started hormones, it is probably a bit unreasonable to think that you can get everything done now, now, now, now, now.  The letter and new ID happen faster, I think, than it takes to complete the therapy you will definitely need before tackling all the stresses and fears that are going to be triggered when you start going full time. 
Where bathrooms really become a problem are for those whose alternate gender presentation takes place only occasionally, perhaps once a month, more or less.  Those folks often don't bother with therapy and are not now and probably never will consider hormone replacement therapy.  Without a carry letter or a new driver's license, the possibility exists that they could get into trouble in a bathroom. There are also folks who consider themselves to be gender queer or some other stereotype challenging gender identity/expression who have trouble.  For gender queers however, having no all-male or all-female gender identity makes it fairly rare for them to feel that they have to be able to use one or another bathroom.
If you "pass", and that is your judgment call to make, you may choose to take whatever risks you want to take in the belief that no one is ever going to bother you.  The problem is, very few people pass all the time, in all circumstances no matter how closely scrutinized.  If you think you do and want to take the risk, feeling that it is a small one, that is your business. Some common pratfalls in making that call are believing that simply because no one says anything, that must mean you are "passing". We could talk for days on the issue of passing so I will save that for another forum discussion.
If you don't "pass", don't have a carry letter, are not on hormones, don't have a new license and aren't in therapy, then you are taking a risk using a bathroom that doesn't match your identity papers.  In this area of the country, it may be a small risk but it is a risk none the less.  If you are going in the bathroom to use a stall, wash up and get out of there, you have a pretty good chance of getting by.  If you are there of any reason other than to use the restroom for the purpose for which it is intended, you need to ask yourself why it is so important to you to use the that restroom.
If you are not in therapy or any of the rest and only occasionally present in your alternate gender, how often do you really run into bathroom problems? My guess is not very often.  Given your gender presentation situation, you are not, for example, going to work presenting in your alternate gender. You are not really doing anything on a regular basis that would cause you to frequently run into the situation where you have to go, you are in public, in a non-TG friendly space, presenting as female/male and don't have access to a single use "family" restroom. 
Our official advice, not our preference mind you but our official advice for keeping you safe is that, in a non-TG friendly space, you should use the public restroom that matches the sex designation on your driver's license or you should have a carry letter from your therapist explaining your situation. Neither of these things is all that difficult to obtain.
The truth is that bathroom problems are an issue for only a small segment of our community and even for them, it is not a problem they face very often.  And even for that small segment of our community, there are options that are really not all that burdensome.
Okay, this the part where everyone yells at me for being a bathroom fascist. Fire away!"
"One must also consider, when selecting which bathroom to use, the sensitivities of the people you might find in the selected bathroom.  The social compact as it is in this country, provides the bathroom as a safe place.  One must respect that fact.
Before you head out presenting in your alternate gender, make your plan from start to finish.  Just as you determine where you are going to go, determine what bathroom you can / will have access to while you are out.  The bathroom plan is part of the overall plan to keep yourself safe and out of legal problems.
If you are starting out on an alternate gender path, leave the bathroom issue for later, cross that bridge later, or stick with TG Friendly spaces.  If you are in the middle of your new path, PLEASE be in therapy, PLEASE work with your therapist, PLEASE have a plan on how to handle alternate bathroom issues.  Be ready for the common issues related to bathroom usage. 
Using the alternate gender bathroom does not make you the alternate gender.  Just wait until you really have to go and the line for the woman's bathroom is a mile long...... It is not fun to have to wait.
My bottom line is plan ahead, be smart about it, and be safe.  Your plan must take into consideration where you are on the Questioning / CD / TV / TG / TS continuum, consult your therapist - listen to their advise.  There are better avenues for you to support the alternate gender path issues than making a stand at a bathroom."
Lorri Kat
Lorri Kat

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Join date : 2014-06-26
Location : Jamestown, NY

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