Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The sky didn't fall in Chicago


Dear Let Us Pee,

I work just north of Chicago in a building that houses a number of arts organizations. I regularly work for two of the arts organizations in the building, and had been out to both of them as trans for a while. I was impressed with their responses (the artistic director of one said, "Great! So, what shows have you been working on lately?" and the other said "Well, if people have a problem with it we can say 'fuck off.'") but, as I wasn't ready to transition yet, it didn't really change my interactions with any of them, or their conduct around me at work.

When I did finally transition at work, my full-time employer didn't have a problem. The building is city-owned, and Illinois has gender identity as a protected class, so it wasn't really their "problem" which bathroom I used in the first place. However, I work with kids in my job at my part-time employer. The board member I was working with to figure out how/if I should come out to my students and their parents really wanted to include language about bathrooms, saying "That's going to be every parents' primary concern." She even went so far as to say that I could use (and tell parents I would use) one of the private bathrooms.

I told her, in no uncertain terms, how humiliating it was for her to even ask me to do that, as well as how illegal (by my admittedly non-lawyer reading of "access to public accommodations" in the Illinois non-discrimination laws). I was particularly hurt because she has known me since I was a young child, had been completely unphased when I came out to her, and I thought she 'got it.' We went back and forth for a couple of days, and it looked like we weren't going to be able to come to an agreement, when the chairman of the board finally interjected and said "Screw the parents' 'comfort,' take the bathroom language out."

Since then, I have transitioned at work (both at my full-time employer, my part-time employer, my students, and the building at large) and no one has given me any problems. Indeed, a number of fellow employees, students, and parents have told me that I have their support. Obviously, it would be nice to live in a world where that was expected as the norm, rather than the exception, but I'll take what I can get.

To make a long story short, I've been using the women's bathroom for almost four months now and have not had a single 'incident' with other people who work in the building, with parents, with students, or with coworkers. Indeed, building employees (the only ones who could really make trouble for me) were really happy for me when I came out to them.

Sincerely

Peeing happily in Chicago

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