All of the sudden, my eyes widened. The incident I had worried about had arrived—a bowel movement, that rumble in your tummy that says you have to go right now.
Problem was, I was on UNC–Chapel Hill's campus, and though I'm a woman, my birth certificate lists my sex as male. And under North Carolina's new House Bill 2, it is illegal for me to use the women's bathroom at public entities like the one I was in, no matter what I look like.
I had done everything possible to avoid this situation. I made sure to go to the bathroom as soon as I woke up and just before leaving for UNC. I paid attention to what I had for breakfast, taking care to not eat anything that might upset my stomach. During lunch on campus, I took similar care. Alas, biological processes beyond my control came calling.
As far as I could tell, there were no single-stall or gender-neutral bathrooms in the building. That left me with options for men or women only. I told the folks I had come to meet—and who knew I was transgender—that I was going to the bathroom, the women's bathroom. I knew I was breaking the law, but I couldn't force myself anywhere else.
I'm pretty lucky in that I "pass" incredibly well. From looking at me, you wouldn't guess I had been born with a penis, which makes things like using the women's bathroom far less risky. And if someone who knew my history saw me and, goodness, reported me, at least I don't have a penis anymore. (The law isn't nuanced enough to recognize that, once you get that surgery, your birth certificate isn't automatically updated.)
Others aren't so fortunate. Perhaps transgender people who work for UNC don't want to risk their jobs. Some students may not pass easily in their time attending school, making it hard to use the correct bathroom stealthily. Depending on the state, a few may not meet the legal requirements, like needing certain surgeries, to alter their birth certificates because they can't afford those procedures or simply don't want them. Changing your birth certificate is rather arduous. What is one to do in the meantime?
Although I had dreaded this bathroom dilemma, I'm glad it happened early. I'm a rising graduate student at UNC. I start classes this August, and I now know that, law or no law, I won't hesitate again to use the women's bathroom.
I'm a woman, after all. As much as the North Carolina General Assembly or Pat McCrory might try, they can't ban that part of me.