I've been thinking a lot about bathrooms lately.
By now you have probably seen the viral video of school employees breaking into the bathroom stall where trans teen Cece Doll was doing her business. And if you haven't seen this yet, be prepared to be filled with rage once you do. Meanwhile, cis people continue to claim that the mere presence of trans people violates their privacy.
And while this is more than enough to be going on with, there's actually another bathroom topic that's been on my mind lately. Compared to the serious violence many trans people face when attempting to use the bathroom, I’ll admit this other topic is... well... completely trivial. However, it’s also one that comes swimming to the surface of my mind each time I venture into a public bathroom.
Recently, when using the restroom at my local gym, I experienced a situation that took my wonder to a new level.
There are two stalls in this men’s locker room. And on this particular day, the toilet inside Stall #1 was almost overflowing with toilet paper, piss, and excrement. In Stall #2, someone had smeared poop on the wall - at least I'm pretty sure it was poop. I didn’t get close enough to thoroughly inspect.
I considered holding it in until after I was done working out, but I knew that bouncing on the treadmill for 20 minutes would make the pressure on my bladder unbearable. So, using my foot, I stretched to kick the flush button in Stall #1 without touching anything else. To my relief, but also my confusion, the toilet flushed just fine.
How many dudes before me just hadn’t bothered to try? Judging from the contents of the toilet, at least 3.
If you hadn’t guessed it yet, this article is about the puzzling and often gross world of men's restrooms.
For those of you who have yet to brave a men’s room, I'm here to report that they are some of the least pleasant places in the public domain. They're almost always some degree of nasty, with weirdly damp or sticky floors and the acrid smell of piss wafting into your nostrils.
Also, I will never understand why men put the whole toilet seat down. I honestly can't think of a single reason to put that top cover down. Does anyone use the toilet that way? If so, there must be a magical creature with special pee that can penetrate the hard plastic of a toilet seat. Regardless, when anyone other than that magical creature uses the toilet next, they have to touch the top lid before doing so. Gross.
Despite cis guys' inexplicable behavior, and the general grossness of their bathrooms, I will continue to frequent the men's room. Because using the restroom that aligns most closely to my gender identity still feels better than any other option out there. At least until gender-neutral bathrooms become more commonplace. For those of you who are only dreaming about the day you will feel confident enough to use one, here are a few things you should know:
1. Be Prepared to Wait
That short line for the men's room? I hate to break it to you, but the fast lane is only for the urinals.
Unless you master the art of standing to pee and are comfortable enough to do so at a urinal, you are actually in for a longer wait in the men's room. Because while fewer people may be waiting for those precious stalls, men spend significantly more time on the tank than women.
In fact, it is completely commonplace for men to treat the public toilet like their private throne and pretend that other people are not (desperately) waiting to use it after them. While not every cis man takes 10 full minutes to do his business, there’s just not the same pressure to move it along quickly that there is in women's restrooms where everyone is using stalls.
Instead, you will stand awkwardly against the wall waiting for one of the stalls to empty while other dudes skirt by you to access the urinals. My recommendation? Go before you need to go. It'll save your bladder from the extra strain.
2. Men's Bathrooms Are Not Friendly Places
Unless you are at a trans-inclusive gay bathhouse, men's bathrooms are about as warm as a Siberian snowstorm. "Men" do not make eye contact with each other in the bathroom. They do not speak to one another - not even to ask their neighbor to pass the toilet paper if their stall is out. They get in, do their business (sometimes very, very, very slowly) and then they get out.
If I'm being 100% honest, this is the aspect I hate most about men’s bathrooms. It’s not that I’m trying to make new friends in the bathroom (ok, maybe I am) but the social regulations in the men's room seem less about managing the awkwardness of doing something private in public, and more about homophobia and gender-policing.
Looking at another man in the bathroom is perceived as "gay" and therefore should be avoided at all costs. This is evidenced by the fact that this rule does not apply in the men's rooms at gay bars. Well actually, making eye contact or smiling at another guy in the bathroom is seen as gay in this context too. But as we have generally established a base level of gayness in the gay bar, you are welcome to do so. (Warning or tip depending on your aims: holding eye contact for longer than 3 seconds may be seen as an invitation to join you in your stall.)
3. It is Completely Socially Acceptable to Fart and Make Grunting Noises
I don't know how to elaborate on this one. It's just true. Grunting and farting are completely commonplace in men's rooms.
4. It's Ok to Sit to Pee
I was recently talking with a cis gay male friend about my bathroom woes when he confessed to me that he *always* sits to pee. Once I did a little research, I discovered there are actually tons of articles from cis men encouraging their cis brothers to sit to pee. What’s more, in many non-western cultures, sitting or squatting is the default for ALL humans.
If your dysphoria is triggered by not being able to stand to pee, then by all means, get you an STP and do your thing. But if not, or if you just can’t get the hang of using a stand to pee device, know that you are joining a huge number of cis guys who sit.
Of course, if you are not fully confident in how you are being read, I can totally sympathize with the fear that people are watching you in the bathroom. If the situation does not feel safe or you feel as though you are being scrutinized, you can always do as Kameron Trumbo of Trans SWAG recommends, and make grunting or sighing sounds to mask what you are actually doing in there.
For more bathroom tips and advice to guys who are just starting to use the men's restroom in public, check out Kameron's FTM Bathroom Tips video:
Got something to say about the men's room? Leave it in the comments below!