This isn’t going to be a long post. It’s just a description of a moment I experienced today - but sometimes a moment is all it takes.
I went to a restaurant/bar for lunch with my mother and grandmother this afternoon (which was lovely, by the way). It happened to be during the Ohio State football game, so the place was filled with people eagerly watching the event and screaming each time OSU scored another touchdown.
As fragile masculinity and sports tend to go hand and hand, I shouldn’t have been surprised by what I experienced when I went to the bathroom. I wasn’t, really - I rarely am anymore.
I walked in to an empty restroom and let out a small breath of relief at not having to deal with the prospect of navigating men and their fragile egos as I attempted to go about my business. It's an anxiety I've always struggled with as a gay man in public restrooms, and I doubt I'm the only one.
As I always do when I enter a public restroom, I scanned for the place I could relieve myself in the most peace, despite the fact that the room was empty.
There were two urinals on the right side of the room, with no divider in between them - my worst nightmare. Peeing in the open, next to straight men that will probably take one look at my outfit and assume I want to have sex with them and then get awkward about it? And sometimes even refuse to pee until I am done, despite the fact that there’s an open toilet right next to me - a common occurrence in open urinal situations such as this? No thank you!
Thankfully, there was a single stall in the restroom as well, which happened to be open. I happily closed myself into the stall and went about my business.
As I was standing there, two men came in - one right after the other, with about 20 seconds between them. It was clear they did not know each other.
Since I had already taken the only available stall, they had no choice but to use the two urinals. There was a moment of silence, and then came the inevitable release of the tension built up by fragile male egos.
“Wow, bold of them not to put a barrier here, eh?” said one, using that loud I Am A Straight Man Talking To Another Straight Man voice that straight men love to use on each other.
“Yeah, I can only imagine the type of people these urinals attract,” replied the other, in the same tone of voice. They both laughed. My stomach sank.
“I don’t even want to imagine the type of nasty shit those people do to each other in here,” said Man #1, to more uproarious laughter from both of them.
"Too nasty," agreed Man #2.
Meanwhile, I had frozen in the stall. Knowing that I was coded as Very Gay in my Taylor Swift t-shirt tucked into black skinny jeans, I felt trapped. I was done using the restroom, but didn’t feel remotely comfortable opening the door to two men who had just had a brief conversation about how nasty “people like me” are. And found it hilarious.
I stayed in the stall until they left, then for a beat longer. Just in case.
Was I in danger? It’s very unlikely. Will I cry about this? Absolutely not. Would these men openly discriminate against me to my face? I doubt it.
And yet. It’s these little moments that tend to haunt me. They’re just reminders - reminders that no matter how far society progresses, it’s still common enough to hate gay people that two strangers can bond over it in a public restroom.
One day I’ll be confident enough in myself to strut out of that stall in all of my homosexual glory - or, better yet, the world will evolve to a point where I won’t have to. But until then, I’ll remain the nasty little gay hiding in the bathroom stall - and you won’t make me feel any less proud of myself for it.
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