Growing up in Delaware, going to school in Mississippi, and currently living in New York City, Femi Redwood has a unique perspective on the gender and racial divide in the LGBTQ community.
Ever since I was a child, I had always been a tomboy. I cut my hair short and I was rarely seen in anything other than a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.
When I was 10 years old, I thought that being mistaken for being in the wrong bathroom was for this reason only. It was only as I started to get older I realised actually, I don’t really look much like a girl, nor a boy. I’m 5’8″, I’m very slim, about a size 8-10. I don’t have much shape and I don’t really have many feminine characteristics.
Facially, I don’t think I clearly resemble either. I don’t wear make-up, partly because I don’t think I need to but also because I wouldn’t have a clue where to start. I would hazard a guess at 65% of the people I meet will say “hello love” and the remaining 35% will greet me with “alright mate”. And that’s not an exaggeration either way.
During my early twenties this created many problems for me as I was an extremely shy person. If someone was to mistake my gender I would literally run in the opposite direction too embarrassed to correct the culprit. Work life was a problem too, with not enough self confidence to go out and get a job I’m more than capable of doing, through fear of receiving that strange look or being judged.
Now I’m heading fast into my 30’s, my outlook has changed somewhat. I am a lot more comfortable in myself than I was in my twenties.
I embrace the way I look rather than be embarrassed about it. I am comfortable with using terms to describe myself such as ‘andro’ or ‘androgynous’ and that confidence has done wonders in allowing me to date some absolutely beautiful women, so it cant be all bad!
However there has always been one thing that has remained an issue in my life and I think always will. Public bathrooms.
Public bathrooms have become almost a phobia. I will go in them when I absolutely need to, but if I can avoid using them I will.
A packed out restaurant on a Friday night or a busy motorway service station is like an anxiety-ridden nightmare. If I can see the toilet door I will find myself watching how many people go in and come out before I think its safe to casually get up and go. But alas, 50% of the time it is inevitable that I will meet another woman in the public bathroom.
Some say nothing, perfect! probably because they are very well aware that I am female and so why would they say anything? Some, give me the look up and down as we cross paths, and unfortunately for me I doubt this is in the way that I would be hoping for. The best ones though are when I’m about to open the door to leave and almost bump into someone with an “oh, sorry” as they glance up at the door signage to make sure they’re the ones heading into the right bathroom. Sometimes to lessen my own embarrassment I say “yes, you’re in the right one” with a smile 🙂
When I went down to Brighton a few years ago one of the gay clubs had changed their toilets to all Unisex, and I know of a couple of other gay clubs that do this too.
In theory I think this is a great idea, although don’t get me wrong, I think there should still be separate men’s and women’s facilities available. I also understand the issues surrounding safety where public bathrooms are concerned.
However, in this day and age, where people are so individual, should there not be the option for those who are gay/lesbian/transsexual/transgender/gender-neutral (the list goes on) or simply just uncomfortable in their own skin, to be able to use a public bathroom without being second glanced or commented at for being in the “wrong one”?
We’re allowed (pretty much) to be whoever we want in this life and express ourselves however we feel comfortable- until it comes to toilets. You can be whoever you want, but when you need to use a public bathroom you are still segregated; MAN or WOMAN, you pick.
Just a thought..
A Maine court has awarded a Transgender Student, Nicole Maines, $75,000 in a settlement of her discrimination lawsuit against a school district where administrators made her use a staff, not student, bathroom.
Maines won her lawsuit against the Orono school district in January before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled that the school district violated the Maine Human Rights Act. It was the first time a state high court in the U.S. concluded that a transgender person should use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify.
A lower court awarded her the financial settlement last week. It will go to the Maines family, the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and Berman Simmons, a Portland law firm that represented Maines, said GLAD spokeswoman Carisa Cunningham.
The Penobscot County Superior order, dated Nov. 25, represents the conclusion of the court case that began in 2009 when the Maines family and the Maine Human Rights Commission sued the school district. The order prohibits the district from “refusing access by transgender students to school restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity.”
School administrators across the country are grappling with the issue.
Nicole, now 17, is a biological male who identified as a girl beginning at age 2.
Nicole was using the girls’ bathroom in her elementary school until the grandfather of a fifth-grade boy complained to administrators. The Orono school district determined that she should use a staff bathroom, but her parents said that amounted to discrimination.
On 4th November, 2013, San Francisco High School student Sasha Fleischman was sleeping on a public bus on the way home from school, when their clothing was set on fire, in an vicious attack. Fleischman suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns and had to spend over a month in a hospital.
His attacker was teen Richard Thomas, said he was ‘allegedly’ provoked by the sight of someone who looked like a boy wearing a skirt. Richards has since been charged as an adult with two felony counts and a hate crime enhancement.
Thomas this week pleaded no contest to charges of felony assault and inflicting great bodily injury – but as part of a plea deal, hate crime and aggravated mayhem charges against him were dropped.
He was controversially tried as an adult in the case, and is expected to be sentenced to up to 7 years behind bars as part of the deal, when he is convicted next month.
Researchers have discovered that those who live as neither male or female suffer the most from discrimination and violence in the LGBT community, their determination to remain undefinable seeming to provoke those with gender norms. However, for people like Fleischman, it is important to be who they are, even in the face of intolerance and personal risk.
“When I wear a skirt, it makes them think about gender and not jumping to conclusions.”
[tweet_dis]According to statistics, the average woman makes just 78 cents for every dollar that a man makes[/tweet_dis]. In fact, if you’re a woman of colour the disparity is so much worse. The statistics also show that African American women in full-time employment make just 64 cents to a man’s dollar, while Hispanic women earn a much lower 56 cents.
And why should women earn less because they’re women? In a woman’s lifetime she will lose almost half a million dollars to the wage gap, for no other reason that she identifies as a woman. That figure varies across all professions but the fact is that there’s no valid reason for it.
Attempting to highlight the ridiculousness of it all, comedian Sarah Silverman has taken to YouTube to make a skit about the wage gap. Or, more specifically, she’s going to ‘get a sex change’ (well she will for the duration of the video) in order to get the pay that she’s deserved.
Having teamed up with the National Women’s Law Centre, the aim of the video isn’t just to raise awareness, it’s to try and get people to chip in and donate money to their cause. Silverman and the NWLC say that women are owed $30 trillion and so they’d like to raise that much money, or, failing that, they’ll take what they manage to raise and use it to fund the NWLC’s effort at getting rid of the gender pay gap.
The video, while admirable and important, is somewhat concerning. A person’s genitalia doesn’t dictate their gender! Women with penises are still women if that’s how they identify and vice versa. Furthermore, trans* employees are some of the most discriminated people in the workplace. It’s still legal in many places across the globe for employers to fire people based on this and so to make a video that highlights gender-based discrimination but also manages to be transphobic in the process seems rather ironic if not downright offensive.
Alas you can visit the project’s website to find out more or donate to the cause.