Coloreds & Transgender Bathrooms: What’s the Difference?


by Chris Cotton  

It all begins with a bathroom selfie. It begins with an image of you that only those like you can fit into without any room for those who are different. It is the privilege of washing your hands in security and safety, and in the comforting thought that no one will harm you or anyone you care for. It was just 50 years ago that “coloreds” were segregated into their own separate bathrooms in the South (the same region that’s creating anti-LGBT legislation today). But for what reason? Because they, “colored” persons, didn’t fit the ideal mold of the bathroom selfie. Some white people felt the need to protect themselves from the dirt, filth, and uncleanliness that they assumed people of color carried. They clung to the attitude of, “I don’t want to smear my picture. I don’t want any black people to saturate it with blemishes.” Isn’t that the current battle today with transgender persons and public restroom facilities? Privilege? Privilege of feeling no harm with people who are like you but with those who are not, from those you need to be “protected” against? The notion that transgender identities are not credible or real, so why even consider their rights to use the bathroom of their choosing? It is the spitting on the concrete of saliva masked as personal conviction.

Some people feel that these policies, such as the one at Target allowing people to use the bathroom of the gender that they identity with, are a gateway for pedophiles and child molesters to have easy access to innocent children. LGBT activist and media pundit Dan Savage recently said on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, “A child molester doesn’t need to put on a dress to go into a bathroom.” In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, children are more than likely to encounter a sex offender as someone they know 93% of the time. So we can have concerns about men dressed up in female clothing coming into restrooms, but it sounds like we need to be more concerned with those living within our homes and who are tied to our families. People of trans experience have existed using public restroom facilities just as long as everyone else and we have no cases of pedophilia based upon these premises.

From an educational standpoint, our history books have submerged biological sex and gender identities into one expression. We’ve been taught that male genitalia always equals “It’s a boy!” and female genitalia always equals “It’s a girl!” But in the complexities of life, transgender persons help us realize those two characteristics are not one in the same. They are bringing to the surface that there’s much education we are ignorant to in reference to how we develop as a human species in the expression of our gender with no direct reflection of the genitalia we were born with.

This whole world has been based on people telling us who we are and who we are to grow into. Society finds it uncomfortable when brave individuals step forward and claim themselves one way, breaking the construct of “how it’s supposed to be” in the dull box of sameness it seemingly wants to perpetuate. Have you been there before? Have you had people desire something for you other than what you wanted for yourself? We all know what it’s like to transition. We may also know what it’s like to do so without the support from people we love solely based upon not fitting into their box of who they feel we should be. Imagine how many white people in the South said, “this is how it’s supposed to be” in regards to the separation of bathrooms because “colored” persons did not fit into their box. Presently speaking, imagine people asserting what your gender identity should be and on the inside not feeling aligned with that assertion.

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As for the biblical box surrounding those that are concerned about God’s design of male and female, it’s interesting. Generally speaking, most Christians are fine with cosmetic surgeries to enhance the body, except for our “private parts.” Those are the same areas Adam & Eve covered up in shame which makes me wonder, is it the uncomfortable conversations around sex that people are afraid of? Does this issue remove the fig leaves people want intact because they’re not willing to be fully seen? Are Christians still not ready to publicly have the sex talk? It’s kind of a paradox to want your sexual life to be private yet insinuate that you want gender security guards holding penis detectors at the entrance of public bathrooms in order to feel safe. Hopefully, we can grow up to the point where we won’t have to use our “private parts” to define our manhood or womanhood, but rather define it by our character and abilities with how we handle the trials and blessings in life. To be a man or woman is tied to our accountability of responsibility, not our genitalia. This is apparent by the fact that some will refer to grown men as boys because they lack ownership of their obligations.

Let’s be awake to who we may quietly say, “you’re not allowed in my selfie,” because we think people of the trans experience aren’t like us, don’t fit into our image or standards of being human. Just as women are still creating an image to be seen as equal to men, black people are still creating an image to be seen as equal by our justice system. Gays and lesbians are still creating an image to not be seen as wrong in lifestyle by spiritual definition. Immigrants are still creating an image to be seen as welcomed by our legislative system. And people of trans experience are just scratching the surface in creating their story that they are real and exist. We’ve been in the biological sex battle. We’ve been in the racial battle. We’ve been in the religion and sexuality battle. We’ve been in the ethnic battle. But now we are realizing we have a gender battle on our hands. Hopefully, America will become a winner in all of these areas.

I truly believe some people may be put on this earth to force us to find a more authentic image of viewing each other beyond our bodies. If you cannot find a lens to view others as equal to you with love, then you’ll only be stuck in your own bitter privilege to keep spitting until you find a better taste, even when you find that out by taking a selfie in a public restroom.

Chris Cotton is a Creative Visionary from PG County, MD. He currently resides in Los Angeles, CA & is working on unfolding his literary career.


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