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The Idea of "safe spaces"


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I had a rather depressing, but very understandable discussion with my sister last night that revolved around transphobia. 

We were talking about access to toilets and that evolved into communal changing areas at a local private gym.

My sister admitted that she would be uncomfortable if she knew I, or some other pre-op transwoman was changing in the same place. She is a survivor of very physical and emotional abuse and attacks by men and she said that her reaction to seeing a male body part would be abject horror. She likened it to the reaction she would have if she saw a spider.

 

She also feels uncomfrotable with male children being herded into the changing areas with their mums, so admitted that a lot of this was her personal comfort levels.

 

Intellectually she knows that trans women are not a threat, and in fact, (because I told her) are just as worried about being attacked, and understood that statistically there is literally no grounds to support trans women as predators, let alone the fact that taking estrogen is tantamount to chemical castration - but she just wants to feel safe.

I said, "so do I".

The thing is, I also understand her perspective.

When I went away with my lady friends I used the disabled loos at a rest stop on the way to the place, I worried about sharing a bed, and getting in and out of the hot tub with them, precisely because I am pre-op and I referred to having an outie rather than an innie, to make light of the very real issue that I did not want to put anyone into an uncomfortable situation.  For my friends it was a non issue and on the way home at the same rest stop I used the ladies room, along with all the other ladies and I did use all of those spaces as just another one of the girls.

However, as we were talking about trans women entering womens spaces (and trans men using mens spaces) I also pointed out that legally, in order to become post op here - which is not something every trans woman can or will do, we are legally required to have lived for 2 years, full time and using womens spaces. Even if we did not want to we are legally required to do so. 

I also know that the bulk of this safe space conversation centred around trans women and not trans men - though the issues for pre-op are still the same.

At the end of our discussion I said that for me she was still transphobic. It boils down to the fact that while I see myself as a woman with too much testosterone, she still sees me as a man, using my male privelege to access the medical drugs and services I need (electrolysis and E patches) while women with hormone defficiencies and PCOS cant access the same services I am and have to fight for treatment. I never wanted, never felt like I earned, nor have I tried to take advantage of my male privielge, but I recognise I have had it, I have not dealt with the same levels of gendered abuse that she has suffered through. Even though she messages me as Dee most of the time, and has no issue going out with me dressed as Dee; it was hurtful, and eventually I fled through to my study after confirming that we still loved each other, just to not show how upset I had become. 

 

We both know that realistically, even in a shared changing area no one would be likely to flash their bits and any predator would not go to the effort and pain of transitioning in order to abuse others. We both have fears about being attacked and just want to be safe when we are out, we both want to simply live our lives, and we both think that realistically non gendered facilities are the best compromise, but most importantly we both also agreed that the problem is not women, but men, and the freedom society has given them to act inappropriately without consequence, and that culture is what needs to change.

 

I am glad we had the conversation. I had already picked up on her reticence sometimes, while she does talk to me about things she would not have dreamed of doing before I announced I was trans. I do see my sister as someone with a genuine phobia, and not just someone who is bigotted and thinks I shouldn't exist. Hopefully over time she will find these things easier, but the whole point of phobias is that they are irrational and do not make logical sense, so part of me wonders if I will ever be woman enough for her or if I will always be her brother.

I know it hurt because it's taken me almost a full day to get to the point of being able to try and write about it. I guess I want to know how do we get to a point where everyone feels safe?

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I agree with you on most of what you said, @Dee Dee.  There is an understandable and rational basis behind the fears and reticence most cis-women have about sharing changing spaces with trans women.  Knowing that, I would never (being non-op) change in an open locker room even if, as in California, it is perfectly legal.  I have no desire to make anyone uncomfortable or fearful, whether or not I personally consider it rational.  Why force an issue you don't have to force?

 

Restrooms are another matter, because you're exposing nothing and threatening no one, and I would fight tooth and nail if anyone threatened my restroom access.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

 

Carolyn Marie

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My personal solution when I was pre-op was to use the toilets, but that's it. Nobody needs to see my bits. Especially if it might make somebody uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are some private areas where I used to change where I could go to do what I needed to do. The last thing I would ever do is make one of my sisters uncomfortable on purpose.

 

I legit worry about pre-op trans men in bathrooms and changing rooms though. There's a certain flavor of toxic man... well, fill in the blanks. They tend to get worst in groups and egg each other on.

 

Hugs!

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My GF is a survivor of abuse and assault.  I know exactly what her reaction to seeing something unexpected in a restroom would be, and I wouldn't wish that on her.  She actually avoids public restrooms because she doesn't trust their security. 

 

Although it is more expensive (and more maintenance), I suspect the ultimate trend will be toward more individual spaces.  Unisex/Omnigender, single-occupant restroom and changing facilities.  That at least solves the majority of the restroom/changing issues. 

 

However, I used to be a member of a female-only gym.  I haven't gone back since I got out of the habit while it was closed for COVID, but at least in those days it was for cis-women only.  I can see both sides of the issue, but I wonder with my gender/identity/etc questions if I'd still be welcome there if I changed how I present myself. 

 

I always feel sad that decisions (even made with good intent) seem to end up hurting somebody at some point.  😢

 

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