“I don’t want people with penises using the ladies’ toilets”

I’ve seen this a lot today on social media, and it’s clear that many people don’t realise that not only have trans women been peeing peacefully in the ladies since before many of us were born, but that trans women must use the ladies.

It’s not just about our safety, although of course that’s important.

Trans women who haven’t yet had gender reassignment surgery use the ladies because if they don’t, they may be refused gender reassignment surgery.

And trans women who haven’t yet got a Gender Recognition Certificate use the ladies because if they don’t, they may be refused a Gender Recognition Certificate.

Let’s start with that endlessly fascinating subject, The Surgery.

Here’s NHS England.

You [must have] socially transitioned to your preferred gender identity for at least a year before a referral is made for gender surgery

And here’s the Nuffield hospital in Brighton, a hospital Scots trans women are referred to for their gender reassignment surgery:

Patients will have the following that confirms the eligibility and readiness criteria for gender reassignment surgery:

…6. Has completed at least 12 continuous months of living in a gender role that is congruent with their gender identity.

Social transition, or “living in a gender role that is congruent with their gender identity”, is when you live as your correct gender, so if you’re a trans woman you have to prove you have been “living and functioning” as a woman in your work and personal life for at least a year.

That’s just for a referral, which then puts you on a very long waiting list. While you’re waiting for your surgery you must continue to live and function as a woman.

But of course, not all trans women can have major surgery, or want it, or satisfy the eligibility criteria (for example there are weight criteria; if you don’t meet those criteria, no surgery for you). But those women still have to use the ladies too, not just because it means they’re less likely to be attacked or abused but because their legal gender recognition depends on it.

To get legal gender recognition in the UK, you need to demonstrate that you have lived full time in your correct gender without interruption for at least two years.

That specifically includes using the ladies. I know this because the gender recognition panel asked me for evidence of that very thing, and I have had to produce a number of witness statements to prove that I have indeed been weeing in the right toilets for the last two-plus years (and yes, it’s pretty humiliating having to ask people to write statements about where you wee).

Trans women have been peeing peacefully in the ladies for decades, and the only reason people are even talking about it now is because of poisonous propaganda created by the US religious right. That propaganda is already threatening our safety and the safety of women deemed “not feminine enough” by self-appointed toilet police. And it also threatens our right to legal gender recognition and our ability to get gender reassignment surgery.

And that – making life hard for trans people, gender non-conforming people and anybody who doesn’t correspond to the stereotype of a white, stereotypically feminine housewife – is exactly what the bigots want.