By Lindsey Danis
This summer, I prepared to visit North Carolina by growing out my hair for four months. I hoped this would help me, if not pass for straight, at least look more female—and thus forestall violence.
This would not be my first trip through the South. But it would be my first time since the passage of HB2, the North Carolina bathroom bill requiring individuals use the bathroom that matches their gender assigned at birth.
Normally I use the women’s restroom, because I’m generally read as female. But with my short hair, androgynous attire, and lack of makeup, jewelry, or other feminine markers, I worried I’d face harassment in North Carolina. When a viral video of a lesbian getting yanked out of the bathroom by police officers surfaced, my stomach clenched in fear. This could happen to me.
I’d gotten bathroom policed before. In a baseball cap, hooded sweatshirt, baggy pants, and sneakers, I looked masculine enough to frighten an airport employee. As I walked toward the ladies’ room, she called out, panic rising. “I’m a woman,” I yelled back without breaking stride. She relaxed and I got to pee in peace.
My North Carolina vacation was in honor of my mother’s birthday, so not a trip I could cancel. As the departure date drew closer, anxious thoughts kept me up at night. Would I have to get my mother to accompany me to the bathroom in case anyone challenged me? Would I get verbally or physically abused trying to pee? Should I buy some mace to make myself feel better? Or take along one of my wife’s pink tee-shirts so I could conform to gender norms?
The worst part wasn’t the fear that stole my appetite and my sleep, it was the total lack of understanding I received when I spoke up. “I’m really afraid of someone harassing me, because of this bathroom bill,” I said. Continue Reading…