Pee Fright, Gender & Apologizing for Myself

Recently I was having dinner with my brother, and I had to use the washroom. For most people, this would be an insignificant detour, but over the years I’ve acquired a debilitating affliction that I refer to as “pee fright.”

I’ve always just accepted this condition and catered to it like a temperamental toddler. It’s a foreboding sense of anxiety I get in anticipation of the comments or looks I know I’ll receive. Somehow, I had just become uncomfortably comfortable with being called ‘Sir,’ or having people apologize when they entered the bathroom, saw me, and assumed that they were in the wrong one.

That particular night, as I was hurrying to the sink with my eyes down, and washing my hands trying to get out as quickly as possible, I realized that even if I wasn’t verbalizing it, I was apologizing for myself.

I was exuding guilt and behaving as though I didn’t deserve to be there. This was further substantiated by the eye roll that I got from the woman who was reapplying her 1987 shade of lipstick. With the new discriminatory legislation trying to rob transgender people of their rights and safety fuelling my fire, this interaction at my favourite sushi joint made me livid, and sad.

I have never been a feminine girl. Truth be told, I have never identified with being a “girl.” I’ve just always been me. Me, using the women’s bathroom. It’s taken a long time to feel comfortable with who I am. I own my appearance, and I take responsibility for how I present myself. Now, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Since I was young, I’ve been mistaken for a boy. I’ve been called male pronouns and have had visible cues that strangers were confused as to what gender I was. This has always bothered me. Not because I’m uncomfortable with being assumed a man, and not because I have an issue with being referred to as a woman. It’s how these people have made me feel–as though I didn’t belong. That time when the cashier at the grocery store called me ‘Sir’ when asking how I was going to pay, and then realized I was a female, and gave me a dirty look like I was trying to trick him–he made me feel like I was trying to get away with something. Something as simple as going to the washroom is transformed into this ugly act. So sneaky I am, with my ball caps and Airwalks.

I have always been conscious of how I look, but more than that, I have always been aware of how other people have felt about how I look.

Acceptance is a funny thing. You can be the best version of yourself, and you still don’t have any control over whether or not people accept you. I will never apologize for how someone else perceives me, because I know that when I go out on dates with my Grandma, I never let her hold a door. I tell my mom and brother every day that I love them. I pay my bills on time, I work two jobs, and when my cat had a tooth pulled, I cried. I have had friends lose everything for being brave enough to be their true selves. And now–in my mind–using a public bathroom has taken on a whole new importance. I will no longer feel shame. From now on, whenever I have to use the bathroom, I’m going to take my time. Perhaps use some complimentary scented lotion. Reapply my Chapstick. But I will never rush out of necessity. And I will not avert my eyes. This is me, and I will never apologize for who I am.

Move over ladies, because this guy has got to pee.

Sarah Bertrand is a Toronto-based writer who enjoys delicious sandwiches, tattoos, her cats, and robots.

3 Comments

  1. KristianWiddlesons
    May 1, 2015

    Excellent article! Spot on and would love to see more from this author!

  2. ohpeckme
    May 1, 2015

    Awesome. Today you made me feel more comfortable in my skin as well. Thank you!!!!

  3. SamanthaLauzon
    May 2, 2015

    #WOW Sarah this is a great article. It speaks to the discrimination that we ourselves often impose on our own thought processes. I’ve always had high anxiety. I fear someone looking through the door just as I’m tucking and screaming some homophobic/transphobic slur at me as I leave. I am constantly in fear at nightclubs (straight and gay) of the stall doors not being locked, I check it like a maniac at least three or four times. It’s hard on me, especially when friends/lovers and sometimes family don’t understand my anxiety. They try to normalize it by saying “Everyone goes through that” and that actually hurts even worse. Because NO! Not everyone feels a debilitating pressure so strong to not use the bathroom for fear of being outted and ridiculed.
    And I also understand “the looks” ugh my health card still has “M” as the gender marker. Sometimes when I show it people just stare blankly at me. I’ve even had a healthcare professional look me dead in the eye and say “Well you fooled me, good for you” yes asshat that was my intention my entire life to fool you and everyone else!

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