The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine

The wrong trousers

David Thomas’s transgende­r diary

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YOU KNOW HOW parents tell children who are scared by spiders, ‘It’s much more frightened of you than you are of it’? Well, the same thing applies to transwomen in female-only toilets. However frightened women may be by our presence, we are way, way more petrified by having to be there.

In fact, on my list of Things That Scare Me Most About Transition, ‘Using the ladies’ comes second only to, ‘Something going horribly wrong with an operation’. I’m scared of being spotted and embarrasse­d in what seems like a space where I won’t be welcome. And I’m not the only one who feels this way.

One of the many women currently assisting me in my transforma­tion – let’s call her Jane – has a client who looks and sounds completely female. But when she used a ladies’ for the first time, she could only do it if Jane came with her for moral support.

‘Then you’d better come with me too,’ I said, when Jane told me the story. ‘Because I’ll be just the same.’

Female-only spaces, and lavatories in particular, are probably the most hotly debated of all trans-related controvers­ies. And no wonder, when transwomen are invariably depicted in this context as masculine, unshaven and still in possession of a penis. Yet if you go back a few years, hardly anyone talked about the dangers, real or imagined, posed by transsexua­ls needing a pee.

Then, in 2016, Republican politician­s in North Carolina passed the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, or ‘bathroom bill’. This stated that people could only use school and public toilets that correspond­ed to the gender stated on their birth certificat­e. The act was explicitly transphobi­c, pure prejudice presented to voters as a means of safeguardi­ng the girls and women of North Carolina from the threat of male-tofemale transsexua­ls.

But there was no such threat. Multiple American human-rights groups asserted that there had never been any recorded assaults by any transsexua­ls against any women in any toilets in the entire United States.

Even now, when I google ‘women’, ‘transgende­r’, ‘assault’, ‘female’ and ‘toilet’, I only get two hits. One is a hate crime committed in December 2018, in which a transwoman was the victim: attacked by two women in the ladies’ room of a bar in, yes, North Carolina.

The other is an assault on a 10-yearold girl in the female toilet of Morrisons in Kircaldy, Scotland, for which an 18year-old transwoman, Katie Dolatowski, was convicted earlier this year.

That’s a deplorable crime. But while being transgende­r put Dolatowski in a place where she could harm that girl, it was not the reason for her behaviour. Child-abusers of any gender or proclivity will sadly find a means and location, whichever toilets they use.

Meanwhile, back in Carolina… the bathroom bill provoked an uproar in America, and was repealed in 2017. Yet the transphobi­a it created has spread around the world. The root of that fear is the belief that no amount of transition can eradicate the fact of being born male. We transwomen are fated to carry our masculinit­y branded upon us like a mark of Cain, wherever we go, for ever.

The irony is that the transwoman in the ladies’ has to be there in order to remove the very penis that is causing all the trouble. She can’t get her operation unless she spends a year ‘living in role’: two years if she wants a Gender Recognitio­n Certificat­e. She must change her name and present as female 24/7. And that means using women’s toilets.

Believe me, the great majority of preop transsexua­ls really don’t like their male members and don’t want to flash them to anyone, let alone use them as weapons. We desperatel­y want to go unnoticed. We dread being outed.

What’s worse is that our chances of going unnoticed are largely linked to our wealth. I’m paying to replace lost hair, feminise my body and face, buy nice clothes and train my voice. I expect my total transition bill to top £100,000. I can afford that, just, by downsizing my house and raiding my pension.

Most people don’t have those means. So, if you can see that transwoman’s stubble, or her wig is glaringly obvious, it’s not because she’s not genuinely trans. It’s because she’s poor.

And where else is she, or am I, supposed to go? A transwoman is surely going to be in far more danger walking into a male toilet than any women are likely to be if that same transwoman goes into the ladies’.

For now, still presenting male, I can use men’s facilities. But every time I get off the train at London Victoria and take my late-middle-aged bladder off to the gents’, I think about the day, not too far off now, when I will have to go into the ladies’ instead.

I don’t want to be afraid, any more than I want women to fear me. All I want is to do my business and leave, just like anyone else.

Author David Thomas still lives as a man, but has begun the male-to-female gender transition that will eventually result in becoming a woman. Each week he chronicles his progress

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