Public restrooms have never really been a point of stress or dysphoria for me. I always use the women’s room and thus far have never had anyone react adversely to my presence, though this may be due in a large part to the fact that my life is structured so that I almost never have to use public restrooms. So, up until this point, I have never had “a restroom story” to tell. When I was in Chicago for the NATO summit, however, I had to use public restrooms more often in that week than I have in the had to probably in the last six months, which resulted in this amusing anecdote. Or at least, its amusing to me anyway.
I was walking with my friend S who’s a cis male and my partner E who’s a MAAB trans person (who was presenting as male at the time) and we were all going to the bathroom together. We had decided to stay in groups of three since there we only two phones and two sets of keys between the six of us who had come up to Chicago for the summit. Anyway, S is ahead of me and my partner is behind me. S turns the corner and goes into the men’s bathroom and I turn the corner and head for the men’s bathroom because my brain is still in groupthink mode telling me, “Follow S, gotta stay together.” When I round the corner completely and realize that S is in the men’s bathroom and I’m about to follow him in I adjust my course and head for the women’s room feeling a little bit lonely, but not too bad because at least E is still with me. Then I turn around to tell them about how I almost followed S into the men’s room and they’re gone too. I immediately feel very bewildered and much more lonely before my brain realizes that E has gone into the men’s bathroom with S, because the rest of the world only has two gender categories, unlike my brain, and that I was the only female perceived person in the group.
It was kinda funny and really weird at the time. The experience of having gender categories imposed on myself and my friends externally that, for the most part, didn’t match the ones in my head was just bizarre, because for a minute, I had absolutely no idea why E was gone. The fact that they were in the men’s bathroom didn’t even dawn on me as a possibility, and then, when it did I just felt really silly standing all alone in the hallway looking around for them.