In the past two-and-a-half years,
I’ve found that while there are an infinite number of personal rewards in
being transgender (like comfort, joy, and knowing myself), there are very few
“privileges” for those who exist outside of society’s rigidly enforced gender
binary. But there is one special right I’ve had in the workplace so particular to
me that I refer to it as trans privilege: I have my own private bathroom.
On the floor above mine, in the hallway near cubicles for a tech team I
do not work with, there are two “shower rooms,” each also containing a toilet,
sink, mirror, and lockers. There is a sign inside stating that these
bathrooms are only for use when showering: “No Exceptions.” Unless, of course,
you are me.
When I first told HR I’d be going by “Nick” (I wasn’t planning on taking
hormones then), they permitted me to use these individual shower rooms. I even
got my company to replace the signs that unnecessarily qualified each room as
“men’s” or “women’s” with “unisex” since they were exactly the same inside.
I realize that many trans folk would simply want to use the public
restroom correlated with their gender identity. But I wanted to wait until every
last “she” slip, every little “Nina, I mean Nick, I’m sorry” comment was
out of my coworkers’ systems before I had to walk past them holding their
peckers as I entered a stall.
Plus, who wouldn’t want their own private bathroom at work? Not only was
mine a place where I could do my business in solitude, but it became a safe
haven. Inside my own little sanctuary, I engaged in long text message
flirtations, jerked off, gave myself a T shot (necessary for logistical
reasons), and once, battling a panic attack, I lay down on the floor and put my
feet up the wall in viparita karani.
Years passed. Employees left and new ones who didn’t know I was trans
arrived. I no longer needed my own bathroom.
I started to feel like I was taking advantage of my trans status. I
imagined the people in the cubes by the shower rooms didn’t need to hear the
toilet flush while checking their email, so I began alternating which unisex
one I used. I also became concerned I was drawing extra attention to myself by
using these rooms, so if I were walking up the stairs with a coworker, I would
stop in the café first and lose them. I started to drink less water, time my
pisses to go at the gym during lunch (where I have
been fine showering in the men’s locker room for a while), and hold it at
the end of the day to avoid an extra visit upstairs. What had once been
my refuge now gave me anxiety.
But I was afraid of change and uncertainty, and still attached to my
privacy. I was also self-conscious, afraid of what the guys would be thinking
and dare not say, “Oh, hi, Nick, you’ve finally decided to join us here.” Even
if these people had not noticed my absence, my arrival would surely highlight
it. Growing up in front of people made me feel vulnerable. I might as well have
tagged a ribbon to my chest that said, “I’m 33, and I just potty-trained
When I did eventually start using the common men’s room at
work, it was after a vacation to the East Coast. The week off,
the distance, helped to sever my last bits of attachment.
The first couple weeks I couldn’t get in and out of there fast enough. I
often washed my hands in the kitchen after I left. The first time a coworker
said hello, I stuttered out my greeting. Men’s room etiquette is eyes down, no
talking. But I guess “hi” in front of the sinks is different from discussing
project status while sitting on adjacent toilets, as sometimes happens in the
I’ve come to realize that this move is symbolic of more. By
letting go of one of the last vestiges of outwardly expressing that I am trans,
I now blend in with men, a category I do not desire to fully join. I’ve
noticed that many of my friends seem to think I’ve passed through genderqueer
or trans, that I’ve arrived at man. But I was the same person before transition
as I am now — a dirty, androgynous, urban hippie poser. And I am more
trans than ever before. But maybe it’s time to let go of constantly enforcing
how special or oppressed this makes me.
A question is emerging from this new space, one that
I hope to investigate: How can I live my values for gender equality,
trans rights, and freedom from gender expectations for everyone, now that my
daily experience no longer holds a spotlight on my identity?
A native of New York, Nick Krieger realized at the age of 21
that he’d been born on the wrong coast, a malady he corrected by transitioning
to San Francisco. His writing has earned several travel-writing awards, has
been published in multiple travel guides, and has appeared in numerous outlets
including 365Gay, Original Plumbing, Velvetpark, The Rumpus, The New Gay,
and Curve. His new book, Nina Here Nor There, is a
gender-bending exploration of the land between man and woman, a coming-of-age story,
a family dramedy, and a tale of first love. A personal journey filled with
candor and humor, this memoir brings readers into the world of the next
generation of transgender warriors.