Talking To My Cis Kid About The Trans Bathroom Issue
We talk about bathrooms a lot. We celebrate when we find a family bathroom. We cringe at the binary. We talk about North Carolina and Massachusetts. We talk about being kind and that some people aren’t. She tells me she wants family bathrooms at her school. She tells me she doesn’t want to line up as boys and girls. She gets mad at gendered language about toys at McDonalds. She tells me it doesn’t make any sense. Because to her? It doesn’t make any sense.
Me: People keep talking about bathrooms and gender do you know what the problem is?
Riley: Some bathrooms only have girl and boy signs on them and some have family bathrooms. The problem is that not all of the bathrooms are family bathrooms.
Me: Why is that a problem?
Riley: Because it makes neutral people feel bad because they might not know which bathroom to go in.
Me: And what about trans people and cis people who don’t quite look like a clear boy or girl?
Riley: Apa, that’s not how you spell cis.
Me: Yes it is.
Riley: No it’s not, why is it underlined then?
Me: Because my computer doesn’t think it’s a word. But it is a word. What happens if someone who identifies as a girl, and is cis, but looks gender non-conforming goes in the girls’ bathroom?
Riley: I would just ignore it because I don’t care who goes in which bathroom. I do care that some places do not have family bathrooms. Our teacher asked what we wanted to change about our school and I said I want our school to have family bathrooms.
Me: That’s a good idea. The best thing about all gender bathrooms is that they’re for everyone. I like things that are for everyone. Do you think that a person who looks different will be made fun of when they go in the bathroom?
Riley: Well, I wouldn’t make fun of them, but other people I think would.
Riley: Because some people think that what people look like is what they are, except you can pick how ever you want to be.
Me: What would you do if someone came into the bathroom with you who looked super different than what you expected?
Riley: I would say, “Hi I’m Riley, this is a bathroom and this is where we go to the bathroom. What’s your name?” And they would say their name.
Me: So you would just be super nice?
Me: Are you ever allowed to tell someone they don’t belong in a certain bathroom?
Me: What if one of your friends tells someone they don’t belong in a bathroom because of what they look like?
Riley: I would say, “Stop teasing them because it doesn’t matter what bathroom you go in and what you look like.”
After posting this Facebook status in a fit of rage, I realized that I had never had any kind of explicit talk with my own kid about bathrooms. She knows that trans kids are welcome, but what if she thinks their gender presentation isn’t right? I realized that talking to her about trans people and gender wasn’t enough. Yes she knows the difference between cis and trans. She knows about the binary and the patriarchy and internalized misogyny. But does she have expectations of what people should look like when they show up in the bathroom with her? What if she does? What if the person doesn’t meet those expectations? Sometimes you have to get real specific.
Because I don’t want it to be my kid who makes someone else feel awful. Now or ever. I don’t want it to be one of her friends either. I hear so much that kids are assholes, but that has never been my experience. Kids are smart and kind and they can do this. They can support one another. They can welcome one another. They can change the world, thankfully, because we adults are doing a terrible job at it lately.