Thursday, 23 August 2007

Public Inconvenience

This is the launch of the new column Butch About Town. Today’s top topic is Public Toilets.
OK, so I look like a man. That is both a style and a lifestyle choice on my part. I am what I am, and down with being butch. But what to do when a boi is out and about and nature calls? What choice is there, for a butch like me, between the Ladies & the Gents?
Tha Ladies: Nothing gets my palms sweating faster than a hot femme in a short skirt. Whoops, did I say that out loud. I meant to say - Nothing makes my palms sweat and my heart beat more than the prospect of pushing open the door with a little picture of a silhouetted woman with strangely square shoulders and a very triangular skirt.
Why? Because women in the Ladies ask me to leave. Worse, there’s a moment of fear, and I never want to see fear in a woman’s eyes.
I’ve tried smiling. I’ve tried a hearty “Hello!” I’ve never resorted, as a butch friend of mine used to do, to flashing my breasts. (She never got arrested but she did get a few phone numbers). Strangely in this situation I’m embarrassed. Having been asked to leave often, redirected occasionally and once hauled out of a cubical by a male bouncer and marched to the Gents – my top tactic is to scurry straight in, wait till I can’t hear anyone at the dryer and dash out again (washing my hands first).
Tha Men’s: I don’t feel any happier going into the Gents. There’s something of a hygiene difference. I have not yet felt unsafe, though it lurks in the back of my mind that I could be. As it is, straight men don’t seem to stare at a guy dashing head-down into a cubical. I get out as quick as I get in. I’m butch but don’t feel like embracing the masculinity of the Gents. I rather like the women’s toilets. It’s like sitting round the kitchen table with all your aunts while they put on make-up and share their most intimate confidences.
Hurray for train toilets, plane toilets, gender-neutral disabled toilets. Can we have more unisex toilets like on Ally Mcbeal please? I don’t even mind line dancing to Barry White tunes if that’s required. For women’s safety and while male hygiene remains dubious we still need the Ladies, and the long queues that accompany them. Men are truly welcome to their urinals and the strange disinfectant blocks that float in them. But please please please, can’t we work something out so us poor butch bois can go in peace.