When can we start to admit that the more doors we close on people—locking them out—the more ledges we are, in turn, building for them to jump from. This doesn’t need to be political.
I ask my students: Raise your hand if you went to the bathroom today. They look at me, inquisitively, wondering why I would ask such a personal question.
Slowly, they all raise their hands.
Then, I say: How many of you paused at the rectangular sign announcing who gets to enter? How many of you didn’t relate to the word or image announcing a gender you may not prescribe to? How many of you just held it in because a possible urinary tract infection made more sense than entering a room that didn’t include (or welcome) you.
This doesn’t need to be political.
This is simply about a universal human function. In fact, maybe our bladders can be the thread that finally sews us all together, reminding us we are human. We are not the same, but we connect. We all just need to urinate sometimes.
In a recent article in the NY Times, Janet Mock wrote, “When trans students are told that they cannot use public facilities, it doesn’t only block them from the toilet. It also blocks them from public life.”
If you’ve ever gone camping, I mean, without the nearby showers and stalls, real wilderness without wifi signal, simply stars and moon and occasional bear sightings. You’d know that there are no separations. The earth doesn’t care about what gender you identify as. The soil does not lean toward a particular political party. It exists for you to dig your fingers into. To squat over and pee. To dig your hole and…well, I think you get it. Maybe this is why I love camping so much. Because I can be my loudest version of wild. Be naked (at times). I am not woman or man or ma’am or girl. I am just flesh. Wild and free.
I wasn’t supposed to still be here; I think this thought almost everyday about all the ways I have tried to erase myself. And all the ways government and others have tried to do the same.
I just want my students to remain. To feel embraced in a world where walls are replacing welcome mats. It is difficult enough to exist without all these question marks growing inside a body and mind.
For me, it is not UTI or bust. Though I linger at times and wish for more options, I walk into the F room. Women’s. Ladies. The one wearing the dress.
I try not to make eye contact with anyone, circa 1990s high school gym locker room.
I walk into a stall and squat. Try not to make eye contact with my vagina because we are so often not on speaking terms. I just need to pee. Wipe. Pants up. Flush. Wash hands without engaging in mirror contact.
We all do this. We all go to the bathroom. So, why not make it just a little less stressful and offer more options. Take the signs down. Or add another one like: FOR ALL.
I’m not interested in starting a campaign to investigate the obscene amount of urine splattered on toilet seats. I just want people to feel more welcome nowadays.
And I only want ledges to be homes for pigeons, not humans who’ve been pushed out, whose bodies have become politicized. Perhaps we need to take the time to ask: Who are you (today)? How do you feel? What do you need in order to be who you are for even just one more day?
Read more Aimee Herman in the full-length collection, meant to wake up feeling