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This trans woman explains why the bathroom issue is so important to her

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"Rape is still illegal in all 50 states. Being a creepy person and acting like one is still reason enough to have the cops called on you. Me sitting in the stall three doors down with my flats facing the right way is no cause for concern."

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I remember the first time I realized I was going to have to go into a locker room with a bunch of other people. I was in seventh grade at Bernal Middle School in San Jose, Calif. I was a scrawny kid - pale as a ghost and pipe-cleaner thin. That first day of school I wore a royal blue tank top under my school uniform because I didn't have any other under shirts and I was embarrassed about what other people might think about me when I took off my shirt in the middle of the locker room.

Fast-forward to high school and playing football and just the thought that I might have to shower with other people - I don't have anxiety, but that thought still gives me a queasy stomach.

You may be able to recognize these emotions and remember what it felt like for you the first time you had to consider stepping into a locker room with your peers. You might remember the anxiety, the nervousness, the fear. Do me a favor and multiply that by 30. Imagine barely being comfortable and settled in your new body and then having elected leaders and part of the general population call you names and tell you that you're not worthy, that you're a freak, that you're a pedophile just because you want to be able to handle business while you're out handling business instead of waiting until you get home to do so.

By now you have heard ALL about the bathroom bills and the states that are taking away from LGB, but especially T rights in those states. You have heard the rhetoric that it is for the safety of the women and the children in those bathrooms. That transgender people are the downfall of modern day society. That grown men will pose as transgender women to gain access to public restrooms that are currently without guards or locks or any other form of resistance. I wont try and sway your opinion. I understand people will buy into that convoluted and unfounded logic out of fear - out of a certain unwillingness to allow everyone to be equal when we are talking about something as simple as relieving pressure on bladders and colons.

So let's talk about some facts real quick.

1. There have been zero accounts of any transgender person attacking or harassing people in the restroom in any of the 18 states or 200 cities/counties that afford protections to transgender folks. None. Its never happened.

2. As Sarah McBride so eloquently put: 

If a man is going to put on a dress and pretend he's trans to gain access to a women's room, then why would he not forego the dress and just stay in the mens room?

3. If a transgender person chooses to undergo hormone replacement therapy (blocking testosterone and introducing estrogen in order to allow their body/mind to more closely resemble that of their desired gender) things start to change and they change quickly.

I'm 6-foot-2. I'm not overly concerned with my own safety because I haven't been given a reason to be.

However, I have spoken with many trans women who haven't been so lucky. I was speaking with a young lady last week who told me five men in New York City attacked her. Do you think there would have been any less potential for that if she were forced to go into a men's bathroom when she needed to pee? Do you think she would not be harassed if she were playing in a recreational sports league and was forced to use male facilities?

I play in a co-ed softball league on Wednesday nights in Las Vegas; I haven't started playing as a woman yet. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the biggest fear I have is that there will be some backlash when I decide to run into the women's restroom after drinking my Red Bull and Gatorades in between games. I'm not in there looking at women or getting my jollies. I am seriously trying to empty my shrinking bladder (hormones can shrink your bladder) as quickly as humanly possible so all my teammates don't yell me at because I am holding up the game.

I have breast development from the hormones. I can't exactly walk around the locker room with my shirt off and I look pretty silly walking out of the shower with a towel wrapped around my chest.

But if I had to go into the men's room? If I had to walk into the men's bathroom and pee? If I had to walk out amongst some of these guys who take their Wednesday night softball wayyyyy too seriously after I made a play against them the game before? Talk about uncomfortable. Or what about walking out of a stall in yoga pants or capri tights, makeup done, and a wig on and three or four guys just drank their championship game loss away...and I'm standing there washing my hands or fixing my hair.

How is that possibly a safe situation for me to be in?

I currently choose to use the men's locker room at my gym because I don't wear a wig to work out (it seems pretty silly to put on a wig just to sweat through it and have to come home and wash it) and I don't wear makeup to work out (nope, not one of those girls), so it would be pretty awkward and uncomfortable for me, not presenting as a female, to walk into a women's locker room. That said, it is equally awkward for me to walk into the men's locker room. I have breast development from the hormones. I can't exactly walk around the locker room with my shirt off and I look pretty silly walking out of the shower with a towel wrapped around my chest.

Let me be clear, none of these issues have presented themselves, but these are the things that I think about and I am capable of taking care of myself. What if we are talking about a trans woman who is smaller? What if we are talking about someone you know and care about? What if we are talking about a trans woman who is lacking confidence and then gets berated by a roided out asshole and goes home and commits suicide? Seem extreme? It happens. Transgender women get murdered all the time.

I know, I know..."hahahahahaha. Well, that's what she gets. I bet she didn't even tell the dude she had a dick! Serves her right!"

If any of you thought that, stop reading and go get help. Seriously. Get help.

We are talking about people here. We are talking about real people with real feelings and real emotions and real hopes and real dreams. And we are talking about legislating, spending millions of dollars, to legislate against a group of people that makes up less than 1% of the population based on an irrational and unfounded fear. A fear that is based in absolutely no fact at all.

I know I am biased - I am transgender. Here's the thing you need to understand - If you sat down with me or any other trans person and had an actual conversation about what makes us tick, what drives us to get out of bed in the morning, what our hopes and dreams are, you would realize it's not all that different from you.

The reason this is so so so so SO important is because until this election cycle, it has basically been a non-story. Until some ass backward bigots in North Carolina and a few other states decided it was important, this wasn't a concern for anyone, nor should it be. Let me ask you this - have you ever had a negative experience with a transgender person in the bathroom? Have you ever had an issue with anyone in a bathroom? If you answered yes to either of those questions, I assume you're using the bathroom for something other than its intended purpose.

Rape is still illegal in all 50 states. Being a creepy person and acting like one is still reason enough to have the cops called on you. Me sitting in the stall three doors down (I don't care how much bacteria there is in the handicap stall, I use three seat liners and get as far away from everyone else as possible) with my flats facing the right way is no cause for concern. Me touching up my lipstick, washing my hands, tousling my hair, and flashing you a smile is in no way a threat to you.

These are just a few of the issues that face me as a trans woman. I don't have all the answers to the questions being posed to our country. I don't know if I am doing all these things the right way but I'm damn sure trying and I am trying to do it with the best intentions. I am often told to stop worrying about everyone else and to take care of myself but I want to be the best type of ambassador for the trans community. I want to be available for discussion and to help educate people on these divisive issues - to be a source of information direct from a trans person instead of people getting information from people who are dead set on spreading hate and fear for no reason other than making sure there is at least one group of people perceived to be beneath them so they don't have to take a look in the mirror and change anything on their own.

"You can't hate someone if you know their story."

I don't remember where I stumbled across that, but it rings pretty true for me.

I acknowledge and accept that there are people who don't understand trans people. I understand they may have been raised in an area where this is nowhere near the norm and maybe in an area that is intolerant of such things. What I refuse to accept is the unwillingness to become educated, to learn why people are different, and to accept those differences.

You can find Jamie Neal on Facebook, or on Twitter @TheJamieNeal. You can also email her at jamielynnneal@yahoo.com.