Peeing is something we all have to do, but it brings with it it's own dangers and anxiety for me as a trans man. I try to avoid using public toilets whenever possible, especially if I'm in a new or unfamiliar place, where I don't know the lay of the toilets. I will hold it until the last possible moment, and only go if I really have to.
I often get sideways glances when I go into the men's toilets, some of which I'm sure is my paranoia misinterpreting, but some of which are very real. I've had passing comments such as isn't that a girl and been challenged by attendants and men using the facilities. Usually it takes one of two forms, either they inform me that this isn't the ladies, or they question whether they themselves are in the wrong toilets.
Mostly when either of these happen, I'm able to reply No, I'm a guy, they apologise and we all get back to what we were doing. Although it's upsetting and makes me feel uncomfortable and anxious I can usually deal with it and focus on what I've gone in there to do, use the toilet.
Last night I had an incident which made me scared for my safety in a way I've not been before. I was washing my hands when a guy came up to me and asked if I was a boy or a girl. I replied that I was a guy. He then proceeded to insist over and over that I'm a woman and looked me up and down in a way that made me feel quite intimidated.
I was fearful that he was going to try finding out and get physical with me. I dried my hands and left in a hurry after, in my drunken state, having a small argument and swearing at him. I noticed him, once I was back with my friends, hanging around the door to the toilets, almost guarding it for a while.
Reflecting on it now I feel I was incredibly lucky that it didn't escalate and I was able to leave, the outcome could have been a lot worse. However, it's definitely put me off visiting the club where it happened in the future. There are already certain clubs and events I have found I don't feel safe at and will not visit, even if it was just a few individual patrons who made it that way.
I do feel fundamentally more safe in queer spaces, and I thankfully haven't had any issues in the toilets in the gay bars I frequent.
Now, some may say that I should not be using the men's toilets in the first place. If I don't want to be harassed then I should use the women's toilets, or the disabled loos.
Firstly, I identify as a man, and so therefore I have a legal right here in the UK to use the men's toilets. Secondly, I would feel just as uncomfortable, if not more so, using the women's toilets, and that is not without danger for me either. And finally, despite the option of using disabled toilets not always being there anyway, I feel it is disingenuous to use them when I do not have a disability that requires me to.
It takes a certain amount of boldness to walk into a toilet where you know you could be challenged, and I'd just like to be left alone to pee in peace.
I have recently realised that I'm bisexual. I feel like I've come full circle to the point where I'm attracted to guys. It feels strange.
Before I transitioned, I only very occasionally found guys attractive, and I could never see myself being with a guy. I was almost exclusively attracted to women and only desired a relationship with a woman, so I called myself gay. I was uncomfortable with the word lesbian and for a while I wasn't sure why. I began to realise it was because I felt that calling myself a lesbian, also implied that I was female and I was becoming increasingly aware that I didn't identify as a woman.
When I transitioned, I found it strange that I was supposedly now straight. I often preferred to call myself queer, because I still didn't feel straight, and I definitely had some attraction to guys. I began having more and more fantasies about men after I'd transitioned, alongside continuing fantasies about women.
It wasn't until I came to uni that I properly kissed my first guy (discounting pre-teen kisses). It was a one off drunken thing, and I was in a relationship with a girl at the time so it never went further. When my relationship broke down, and we split up, I allowed myself to consider my attractions to men again. I was open to something happening, but not really looking for something with anyone.
Then I met this guy on a club night at the SU, he seemed nice, we'd already spoken at predrinks so he definitely knew I was trans. That took some of the anxiety away, but I still remember being quite terrified that night; I was bringing a guy home for the first time ever, and it was to be my first ever experience with penis. He was very considerate, and I ended up really enjoying it. I realised that I would just be in denial if I continued to resist calling myself bisexual.
I've only ever seriously dated girls, but that may well be something that will change in the future. I'm now open to pretty much dating anyone, trying not to obsess too much about labels and letting myself go with the flow a bit more.
However, labels have always been quite important to me, and at any given point I can and do enjoy being able to precisely define my sexuality, even going as far as to put percentages on it. My mind just works that way, and I completely respect those who's minds are different from mine. Not everyone is comfortable labelling themselves, and that's okay too.
Last summer a friend introduced me to an organisation called Diverse Church. It's a group for young LGBT+ Christians aged 18-30 to get to know and support each other. Our biggest way to connect has been via a private facebook group, which is very active with people posting prayers requests, links to articles and worship songs. There is also a public twitter, where every friday a member of DC shares their story. It's always extremely moving and definitely worth following for. In addition to this there is a public facebook group called Diverse Church Friends, for supporters of DC.
Last week we had a national meetup here in Sheffield, with people travelling from all over the UK. It was absolutely amazing. I've spent so long feeling like I don't quite fit into any community, either because of my gender identity or sexuality, or because of my faith, and at times it's felt very isolating. To meet so many other people like me who have also felt this isolation and even rejection from churches, really helped and I felt so at home.
We spent a great afternoon at the Cathedral, where we were welcomed by the Dean and two other canons. I was quite amazed by this, they knew we were gay and they served us tea, and listened to our stories. They showed us love in a way I've come not to automatically expect from churches.
Often in church sexuality and gender identity are not spoken about, and ignored, leaving it unclear as to whether I would still be completely welcome if I were to disclose that information. Or when I do talk about it, it is often met with uncomfortable looks, and swift moves onto other topics. When these topics are discussed it's usually not in a positive light, for instance advertising petitions against gay marriage. I think it's important to break the silence, to let people in your church know that you love them, and that they can talk about their lives in the same intimate way everyone else does. Mentioning partners and everyday struggles, and asking for prayer. It's important to let everyone know that they are as much a part of the community as everyone else.
I've not had a terribly awful experience of church, and there have only been a few occasions when I have felt extremely uncomfortable. I'm generally quite open and honest, and have an attitude that I am beyond caring if people have a problem with it. I think it also helps that I don't really feel massively called at the moment to serve in church, and I may face more problems if and when I try to get involved more fully.
Hearing other people's stories last weekend was absolutely heartbreaking. Stories of secrecy in order to continue serving in their church, and stories of extreme rejection when they were honest. Stories of people doing their utmost to live a celibate chaste life, and it still not being enough, and stories of people who had vicious rumours spread about them.
I can only hope that the church continues to grow and change, to live up to the gospel more and more, showing love to the marginalised. Society has definitely changed for the better, and now the church needs to as well. Diverse Church is a great place for people to be themselves, and completely open about who they are, without fear. It is a mixed community of people from all different traditions and I think I'd struggle to find anywhere so loving and accepting.