Afraid to use the Bathroom

1971, and I moved back to the town where I was born. But was new to the neighborhood, new to junior high, new to having to get to school and back (elementary school was a block away and I walked or biked there up hill and back, new to all day school (I was a walker and came home for lunch before moving).
The junior high had grades 7, 8 and 9. So we were the youngest and most vulnerable. I was trying to figure it all out, trying to fit in, trying to feel safe. In the halls people sometimes pushed me. Once someone jabbed me with a sharp needle or something similar. I held tight to my macrame purse and sometimes a passing student tried to yank it off my shoulder.Sometimes people would knock into you to spill books onto the floor. I was scared making my way from class to class.
But the most frightening thing was the bathrooms. You only had a minute or two at the most to use one, and I heard things about girls being followed by boys and forced into sex acts, being attacked by strangers if they were alone, that there was smoking and drug use, and unknown possible violence.
It seemed like the most terrifying place to me. i didn’t have a friend I could ask to go with me. I didn’t know what was true but assumed it was all terrible. So I decided not to use them. Ever. I decided to be the junior high student who never had to pee.
And I didn’t. We started school sometime around 7:30, dropped off in a car pool. We ended around 2, and I walked the two miles back home. And never used the bathroom at school because I was too terrified. All through 7th grade, all through 8th grade – which only lasted a semester for me. I may have used the bathroom once or twice from desperation, but day after day I waited until I was safe at home. If I had a guitar class after school I waited until I walked the mile to State Street. Using the shared bathroom next to the head shop with adults and hippies and other strangers felt safer – it was a single room no one else could enter once I locked the door behind me.
Junior high survival to me meant staying dehydrated and with a full bladder I learned to ignore.
There was some small truth to the dangers of the junior high girls bathroom. A few girls were attacked by boys, in the high school there were even a few reported rapes. But it was a decision I made on my own, based on exaggerated stories, and I never considered telling anyone else how much I suffered every single day of junior high because I couldn’t pee. I never considered finding out what the real danger might be.
This memory comes to mind now that people are talking about how dangerous bathrooms may become if we allow women and men, boys and girls, to use the bathroom that matches their gender.
I am strongly in favor of just letting people pee. Remove the obstacles, remove the fears, give everyone a safe place to pee. We know that transgender kids are more at risk than anyone else. It’s not hard to make them safer without major disruption.
Here is my proof that those early teenage years can be strange and difficult and fear can take over even a biological necessity. Let’s show some compassion and make it safe for everyone to pee when they need to, and where they can. There are so many real dangers and fears. Let’s not create more.

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