ADVENTURES OF A
The University of Miami has 17,000 students and 15,000 faculty and staff, mostly based on its Coral Gables campus. There are exactly zero locker rooms/showers on the Gables campus that are not explicitly gendered as male or female. I understand that there aren’t a lot of trans students/staff/faculty, but there are some. I personally know at least 10 trans students/staff and I honestly don’t know very many people.
There are 16 gender neutral restrooms on the Gables campus. On the one hand, 16 is a lot. On the other hand, 16 restrooms spread across 239 acres and servicing a total of about 30,000 people is nothing. I don’t use the gender neutral restrooms very often because they are hard to find (9 out of 16 are not on the first floor), sometimes closed for events (why is this a thing???), and frequently occupied. I’ll use them when I happen to be near one, if it is not occupied.
As a graduate student, I have to pay fees that go towards things like my access to the campus pool. And since I love swimming and I’m obligated to pay the fee, I am going to use the pool. But, there is nowhere for me to shower and change. I used to change in the women’s locker room until I was asked to show my ID to “prove” I was a woman. The men’s locker room doesn’t work well since I am very clearly not a man once my pants come off. Recently I have been wearing my swim trunks around campus, paired with a nice shirt and sometimes with dress shoes, and I change back into “real pants” in my car before heading to my evening tutoring. While it’s not awful, it doesn’t seem right that I feel more comfortable getting naked in my car, in a busy parking lot with untinted windows than in any locker room.
My primary campus is on Virginia Key, where we do 2 gender neutral restrooms/showers for a few hundred students/staff/faculty. I only use them if I’m showering, because they are all in a single building which is not the one my office is in. But I do appreciate their existence, and use them when I bike to campus, and I think it’s a somewhat appropriate number based on campus size and population.
Mostly, I just want to be able to pee and to shower when I’m on campus. Recently there was a survey about campus culture at UM, and how included we feel. It’s difficult to feel included when my best option is to walk around campus dripping wet and then change pants in the parking lot.
See Gables campus gender neutral restrooms map here.
Non binary fashion post swim
I wrote this at a Reading Queer event. Thank you to Reading Queer and please support your local queer and arts groups.
At 19 I pierced my belly button.
Rode the El to Belmont, paid in cash, watched a needle pass through my skin. It was the first in a lifetime of needles to gradually take back my body.
These days, I put the needle into my thigh. There is no visible mark, unless you count my voice, my muscles, my facial hair, my hunger, my Adam's apple, my desire, my lack of anxiety, my happy trail.
And so when I'm asked about being a man with a belly button piercing, I smile.
So I promised a lot of people that I would tell them how men treated me differently once I started passing as a man. Which is basically that they respect me as a human, and they are very nice. As a female passing/visibly gender non conforming person, when a dude approached me in public, 99.9% of the time it was to ask me for money, hit on me, or go into some homophobic "you need Jesus" type thing. And if I tried to say no, they would often get very aggressive. There was also the occasional yelling of dyke/tranny/lesbian (that one confused me because "lesbian" isn't a slur?). Now, men mostly talk to me to ask for help connecting to the wifi, to tell me they like my shirt, to start a conversation about how the movie version of The Black Panther didn't live up to their childhood dreams based on the comics, etc. And if they are hitting on me or asking for money and I say no, the response is usually something like "ok, have a nice night man". What surprises me most is that I'm not particularly gender conforming man, but men still seem to respect me even if I'm in a crop top and heels. Maybe that's just acceptable gay mens attire in Miami?
I've been thinking for a while about the various ways that organizations that do not really care about sexual harassment set up rules about sexual harassment that end up hurting vulnerable people and furthering the gender binary. Some examples:
Since coming out as trans and medically transitioning, my life has become utterly absurd. People have no idea how to deal with someone who is transitioning, especially when you aren't clearly transitioning from male to female or vice versa. The most absurd thing to happen to me was when I ended up in a meeting with the Dean about the appropriateness of my nipples.
I frequently swim at the campus pool, and I had been swimming topless for a few weeks without any issues. But, I decided to email the Dean of Students to find out the rules on (legally) "female nipples". At the time, I was the TA for a course where I was ostensibly female: the professor called me she, my emails sent from my feminine legal name. And after running into one of my students in the men's bathroom, I thought I should know the rules in case one of them saw me topless at the pool.
So, I emailed the Dean of Students explaining that I was legally female but on testosterone and wondering if I could swim topless. He responded immediately, asking me to meet with him ASAP. I set up a meeting the following week and was prepared for him to have serious issues with my toplessness. Note that this is a 6'5 white man that I've never met before. I go to his office, he closes the door, looks at me, and goes "yeah your nipples are fine. Florida state law is a little ambiguous so if someone calls the cops you could have trouble but personally I don't care what you do on campus". I asked him for that statement in writing and went to the pool later that day.
So, I got what I wanted and I've tried to be happy about it. I do swim topless about once a week. But it bothers me that I'm not sure I would have gotten the same answer if I were another race/less masculine/better endowed. Why did he need to see me in person, in a closed door meeting, to say my nipples were fine? Why not issue a campus wide statement? Why is this rule applied on a case by case basis? But, the absurdity of it all keeps me laughing
sorry mom I'm topless on the internet