I'm back at Harvard where I was an undergrad this week, doing some research for a book of personal essays. As I was walking around, I found myself at the Science Center, where I spent many evenings writing papers, because I spent most of my undergrad without a personal computer and using the common facilities there. Then I found myself needing to use the bathroom.
It's strange to have the many years of memory of going to the men's room at the Science Center, but finding myself being compelled to go to the other side. This is also because the Science Center men's rooms have been the subject of a lot of police activity over the years, because it has been known as a cruising spot where men engage in sexual activity, which has resulted in a number of arrests over the years.
I myself have never observed any illicit activity there, though by the time I went to Harvard the stall doors had been removed to make this more difficult. But I always found that space to be charged with the memory of people who came before me, exploring their sexualities in ways that may not have been accepted in their daily lives.
This is something gay men and trans people have in common, the way that our activities in bathrooms become the subject of scrutiny. Part of me wants to honor my memory and go into the bathroom I'm used to using, though I know that this would probably result in pointed stares or worse. Yet I also remember a time when going into the women's room was seen by others as an affront, and the simple act of going to the bathroom or other sex-segregated areas was a regular, fraught occurrence.
So I went into the women's room at the Science Center for the first time. A perfectly ordinary room, fluorescent and unremarkable. Yet even though my body has changed, the accumulated knowledge of it felt like it should be on the other side. This was one time when my gender and the memory of my gender were at odds.