Scroll To Top

Op-ed: My Bathroom Transition, and Letting Go of Trans Privilege

Op-ed: My Bathroom Transition, and Letting Go of Trans Privilege


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 cafe 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 myself!"

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 women's room.

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.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Advocate Contributors