“Oh, um hmmmm,” he looked at the sign on the door and then back at me. “Yes, this is the men’s room,” I said to the confused man staring back at me as I wiped my hands. “Oh, um cool,” he waits for me to leave before he goes about his business.

I am relieved he didn’t ask any other questions, but I feel ashamed for not passing as well as I normally do, for my chest binder was in the wash. I hang my head down and the wave of shame and displeasure in my own body falls over me.

I try not to let it bother me while I sit in class, but that’s never an easy task. As I sit, letting my mind wander to dark places, I am reminded of the time I first used the men’s room, in the worst possible place I could have chosen: WalMart.

My girlfriend and I went there as we normally did when there wasn’t much to do, and being a human, I had to use the bathroom. I walked up and parted ways with my love and did my thing.

As I came out, an older man stopped me at the door and wouldn’t really let me pass. He looked at me closely. I, feeling uncomfortable, looked away. “You know this is the men’s room, right?” he said in a rude and degrading tone. I was already feeling incredibly self-conscious and vulnerable for using the men’s room for the first time, so I just looked at the man. “Aren’t you a girl?” he said to me.

“Yes, this is the men’s room,” I finally said and moved around the man and met back up with my girl. I nearly had tears in my eyes. I didn’t ever want to use the men’s room again. I would rather go through the awkwardness and pain of using the women’s room than be asked if I was a girl.

Asking if I was a girl is like being stabbed in the heart for someone like me; it just breaks down everything you have worked for.

A few months later, it was plastered all over the internet: “The Bathroom Bill!” This was when something as simple as bathroom usage hit the national government.

If someone is lucky enough not to know what this is, it was a bill that made it illegal for transgender people to use the bathroom of their gender; every person had to use the bathroom of their sex on their birth certificate.

So, not only was it scary to start using a bathroom of the gender you identify with, but now you could get arrested for it in some places.

Being the rule-breaker that I am, I still used the men’s room. I am a man after all, I shouldn’t be in the women’s rooms anyway.

I was never afraid of being caught or arrested for using the bathroom, but I knew if someone against me found out, I could be screamed at or even harmed for simply using the bathroom.

Luckily, the bill never fully passed and I can use whatever room I please, but it still comes with the threat of punishment of peeing.

Being at a school so welcoming and inclusive as Keene State College, I don’t have to worry about which bathroom or locker room I choose to use.

I get to use the men’s room because I identify as a man and my transgender girlfriend gets to use the women’s room because she is a woman. We are both lucky enough to go to a school that allows us to use gendered places as we feel necessary, based on our gender identities.

Some people aren’t as lucky and are forced to use the wrong bathroom, and that can really make that individual uncomfortable and not want to attend. All over the country, people are fighting for the right to use the proper bathroom.

It may seem small, but every time you use the proper bathroom, remember there is someone out there being hurt because they can’t or ridiculed because they were caught.

Keene State has a list of all the gender-neutral bathrooms and their locations. You can find this list at https://www.keene.edu/campus/diversity/bathroom-map/. These bathrooms are made for anyone and everyone, regardless of gender identity.

Pan Norkiewicz can be contacted at pnorkiewicz@kscequinox.com

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