“Which bathroom do you think I should use?” – a transman’s plea for support for Virginia’s transgender youth
Editor’s Note: Brian Rawcliffe spoke at a combined ACLU/Equality Virginia event last week and his words were moving to say the least. Below is a copy of his speech. Have a read and think about folks like Rawcliffe when someone starts talking about transgender bathroom laws.
If you are moved by their words like I was, consider contacting your legislator here to show your support for inclusive legislation, and express your concern for the many anti-LGBTQ bills currently before the 2016 GA.
Good morning. My name is Brian Rawcliffe, I am 21 years old. I have been a resident of Virginia for over ten years. I spent the last 11 years living in Stafford County. Recently, there were controversies surrounding a transgender child at an elementary school located near me. I am here today to convey to you what I conveyed to them.
Let me start by asking you this question: “Which bathroom do you think I should use?”
It’s not a very easy question, with all this transgender activity emerging into the public eye, is it? Many people think they are able to pick out those who are transgender as easily as they would pick out a white flower from a bouquet of red ones. The reality is, it is not that easy. Many biological men and women carry characteristics of the opposite sex that are noticible. I myself have quite a difficult time figuring out who may or may not be transgender. The fact of life is that everyone is different. Everyone has flaws and quirks. Everyone is human.
I have been invisible for most of my life, trying to stay out of the line of controversy and hatred. I wanted to conform and continue living a comfortable life. Seeing the events taking place all over the nation, including my own state, I now know I must come forward, out of the shadows, to help educate the public about my community. This is not a story that reflects the experience of all trans* individuals, but it is mine.
I have known who I am since I was 3 years old. For those of you thinking that is just not possible for a child, I ask you this: When did you first realize what gender you were? I knew very little about the sexual characteristics of boys and girls. And yet, I have always identified as male. For almost twenty years I have known exactly who I am. I am currently 6 years into my transition.
I publicly began dressing as my identified gender in 2010, my Junior year. My struggle was long. It was hard. And, at the time, most of my support was held in the hands of 1 friend. She was the first person I ever told. She never fully understood it, but she accepted it, because she realized that only I knew exactly who I was and how I felt. The outcome? Nothing, really. My friends accepted me as who I was in school. My parents eventually began to see how much happier I was after. No one came after me. No one said anything to me. I realized that people just didn’t care. It was as normal and as simple as if I were born with the anatomy of my identified gender. The summer before I started my Junior year summer was when I began using the men’s bathroom.
It was the most terrifying experience of my life. Not because I was using the men’s restroom. No, I was afraid that people would single me out. Listen to me. See that I wasn’t standing, or using a urinal. I was afraid that everyone constantly monitored others who entered and exited a bathroom. I quickly learned that, again, no one cared. No one cared when I walked in. They said nothing to me. They simply noticed I had entered, and returned to their own business. When people use the bathroom, they are generally only there to use the toilet, wash their hands, and leave.
If I had been forced to continue to use the women’s restroom, I would have been embarrassed. I would have felt like I was plastered on a wall for the world to see. So that everyone could see the most personal thing about myself. I would feel like I had nothing, not even the most basic human activity, to identify myself for myself, and not for what others want me to be. Most people don’t even think about it. They stroll into a restroom, use it, and leave. Most people don’t have to think about something as simple as a bathroom, or a changing room. We do. I did for about a year. I have been using the men’s bathroom for six years now, with no incident. No one pulled me aside, I didn’t attack or spy on anyone. I just used the bathroom, and everyone else did the same.
If I were to have walked in the bathroom yesterday with any of the men in here, none of you would have taken a second look. Because it is not as important as it seems to be right now. There is a fear of people like me. A fear of what, I am not sure. But we are different. Strange. It’s hard to understand what we go through, unless you have had a similar experience. You don’t have to understand someone or how they feel to accept that their feelings are valid, and to understand that there is no one in the world who understands a person besides that person themselves.
It’s easy to sit there and think about these situations with a certain image in your mind. It’s another thing completely when you see us in person. When you hear our stories. Hear our words. See that we are human beings. Human beings that deserve as much respect as other human beings. Human beings who want nothing more than to enter a bathroom we feel safe in, use the restroom, wash our hands, and go about our day. Human beings who don’t deserve to be placed on a billboard and our personal health displayed for all to see each time we want to satisfy a basic human need.
We don’t want to infringe anyone’s privacy. We just want our own to be respected.
It’s a bathroom. Not a sex shop. And not many of my peers, if any at all, care. Don’t just listen to those who speak against my community, for the sole fact that it is complex and confusing. Listen to the stories of our community. There are none more knowledgable about the situation than us. This is our life. We just want to live it.
I could go on for a long time about my personal experience throughout my transition, and the impact I have had on others and that others have had on me. But, I have little time, so I will leave you all with this quote:
“Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself; nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” –Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, 1932
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