Behind stall doors
A transgender man enters the men’s restroom.
A transgender woman enters the women’s restroom.
What happens next?
This question and other real-life stories were exposed in Sheila Cavanagh’s play, “Queer Bathroom Monologues,” performed at Towson’s Mainstage Theatre Monday, Nov. 12.
“Monologues’” script was created through Cavanagh’s 2010 academic journal, “Queering Bathrooms: Gender, Sexuality, and the Hygienic Imagination,” a text that illustrates the past and present history of restrooms and other stigmas associated with the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender community.
“This play is based off 100 interviews with LGBT people throughout major cities in Canada and America to show their experience in public bathrooms, particularly gender-segregated bathrooms,” Cavanagh said.
Cavanagh said her hope for the play was that people become more thoughtful about issues facing the LGBT community and not regulate others based on sex and gender normalities. Cavanagh said that something as mundane as choosing a restroom can actually become an obstacle for some people.
Mickey Dehn, a faculty adviser to the Queer Student Union and fellow actor in “Monologues” said he identifies as transsexual and is transpositive, or comfortable with being a transsexual.
“This play is something that was definitely needed,” Dehn said. “We can now openly support each other after being properly informed by becoming transpositive. Actually supporting those who are ‘trans’ and the more people talk about this problem, the more it will be known about.”
Transsexual, transgender and gender nonconforming individuals can often face bigotry simply for their appearance when using public restrooms, Cavanagh said, because of how society perceives an individual as male or female.
“Transgender encompasses a range of identifications whereby people negotiate their sex and gender identities differently than conventional wisdom would have us,” Cavanagh said. “Gender nonconforming is a way of nonconforming to standard gender roles. It refers to those who might not see themselves as transgender, but nevertheless organize their femininity or masculinity differently.”
Katie Simmons-Barth, a full-time staff member and director of “Monologues” identifies herself as a cisgendered female, an individual whose self-perception and presentation of their gender matches the behaviors and roles considered appropriate for one’s sex.
Simmons-Barth has always had difficulty with identification and representation, even on campus.
“During my first year at Towson I was harassed by another faculty member in the women’s bathroom. She screamed and forced me out of the bathroom because she thought I was a man,” Simmons-Barth said. “I thought if I’m not safe at this University, what will this be like for a student?”
Despite Simmons-Barth’s encounter on campus, she said she wasn’t a stranger to that happening as she had been taunted and mocked all her life for using the women’s restroom.
“The trouble that comes along with gender-assigned bathrooms is not ignorance,” Simmons-Barth said. “The fight comes from people who have their own ideas of gender and it does come from fear. People need to hear the importance of how our society genders things, not just restrooms.”
Towson University does offer several gender-neutral bathrooms throughout campus, which Cavanagh said is a “fabulous” step forward for Towson students and faculty members.
“While I support the initiatives to make gender neutral bathrooms available in all bathrooms, I am certainly not arguing that we should do away with gendered bathrooms,” Cavanagh said. “I’m just arguing that we should not police bathroom patrons on the basis of a bathroom sign, as the sign itself should be read openly.”