Friday, February 4, 2011

Changing In The Car...or...The Women's Locker Room At The Gym

So many things got me thinking this week that I don’t know what to write about first.  My PTSD associated with the women’s locker room at the gym, hearing a past love say she made a mistake when she broke up with me and I will forever be the one that got away or the simple, yet complicated, dichotomy of being a butch woman and what that means to my existence in the world in general.  (Holy long sentence, Batman!)

I think I’ll start with the women’s locker room at the gym. 

Now, there are lots of times when I am more than willing to ‘fight the good fight’ as far as being gay or butch or a woman is concerned but there are other times when all I want to do is get through something or, in this case, change into my workout clothes or just pee.  This is where the women’s locker room at the gym comes in.  As you may have already read in one of my previous posts regarding public restrooms, I have sort of a hate-hate relationship with them.  It’s something that’s very hard to understand unless you’ve had to deal with it.

This past Monday I decided to stop at the gym on my way home from work.  Since I normally change at home then head to my workout, I needed to find some place to change out of my jeans and into my warm up pants.  After realizing how upset I was getting just thinking about going into the locker room to change, I decided to just change my pants in the car after parking in the lot.  I parked far enough away from everyone and figured that if anyone did happen to walk by they probably wouldn’t see much since it was dark. 

After changing I sat there for a moment thinking about the situation and decided to share it with everyone by posting a status update on my Facebook and Twitter page.  “My relationship with the women’s locker room at the gym is so bad that I would rather change my pants in the car.  Which is what I just did.”

The responses to that post are what got me thinking about it even more.  Everyone was very supportive of my predicament and no one thought it was ok for me to feel the way I do about this.  As a matter of fact, one of the 24 Hour trainers that my buddy is working with had a fit over it. 

As more and more comments were posted I began to feel this sense of duty.  Self inflicted, mind you, but the feeling was still there.  That feeling of ‘if I don’t do this, who will?’ sort of thing.  As one of my friends sort of put it, my going in to the women’s locker room would be some sort of ‘exposure therapy’ for the women who frequent the place.  The more I use it to change, the more they see a woman who looks like a guy and wears boxer briefs in the locker room, the more ok with it they’ll be. 

I understand the theory behind it.  Honestly I do.  It’s a lot like being out of the closet and a big theory behind gay pride.  As a butch dyke I feel like I should be doing just this.  Using the women’s locker room without hesitation.  Walking in like I own the place and fuck them if they just can’t get over themselves. 

I’m almost ashamed but I’ve got to say it. 

Sometimes I just don’t want to fight the good fight.  Sometimes I just want to go work out and be left alone and not worry about whether or not the gym has a unisex bathroom so I can pee or change without encountering some wacked out woman who wants to attack me because she thinks I’m in the wrong locker room.

Is that wrong?  Am I slacking in my duties as a butch dyke?  What do you think about all of this?


  1. You are not a slacker. You are a wonderful woman that doesn't always want to fight.

    I admit that I take advantage of the privilege my ability to pass as straight/femme/gender conforming person affords me, just so I don't have to fight.

    I also admit that it bothers me that my peeps have to find themselves in a situation like yours, just because people in the world can't pull their heads out.

    If you decide that you want to make a point of it, I will borrow Jays boxer briefs (they are damn comfortable) and change with you in the locker room. However, I want you to know that it is not always your responsibility to "fight the good fight" and I support you in your decisions, no matter which choice you make.

  2. I think you should just change in the women's locker room...I see plenty of butch women doing so at yoga, the spa, etc. Who cares? I don't and I'm straight. I know they aren't in there to check me out - they're there for the same reason I am (yoga, spa. etc.). I vote you own it.

  3. You should definitely be able to change in the locker room. On the other hand, if your mojo just ain't there, you certainly don't owe it to butches the world over to prove a point.

    My girlfriend, who is much more butch than I, also is not a fan of the locker room. I'm not sure if it's for the same reasons that you are talking about. I have a completely different feeling about locker rooms. I was on a sport team in high school and loved the locker room time. There was a lot of camaraderie and good times when we were hanging out in the locker room. And, except for the fear of foot fungus, I don't mind showering at the gym either. I'm not ogling other women, I just feel comfortable and safe in the locker room.

  4. Most 24 hour fitnesses have a family changing room. They were my saving grace before and during transition and surgery. If anyone gives you crap, just ask them which locker room you are supposed to go in. Honestly though, I never had anyone confront me about it though. Walk in, change walk out and don't make eye contact w/anyone. Wow, my blood pressure rises thinking about it a little. I have had someone in an airport call security on me pre-transition.
    Suck ass people for making you and all other butches go through this hell.

  5. I say you are a strong proud voice for everyone including yourself. This does not mean however you have to spend every single moment of your existence being that voice. Sometimes it's quite okay to just want to be you, enjoy some time not thinking about having to be that voice. No matter what you decide, decide whats right for you and know your friends will always support your right to speak or just have some quiet time for yourself. Like Molly I have no problems slapping on a pair of my daughters boxers and coming to speak right there with you, or sit here and applaud you for wanting time for you:))

  6. I understand what you're saying though our situations are not identical. There's a sense of obligation to yourself and to others to constantly be forging ahead, setting an example and clearing the way for those that come after so that they might have a bit of an easier time of it all, at least that's what it is for me. I was shut down several times in my life, told that what I am is wrong, to stop dressing like a man, stop acting like a man, act like a woman (phrases that boggle my mind even today). I've reached a point in my life that I know that I am not wrong- I am simply me and I am proud of who I am.

    I live in the Southeastern US, a place that, for the most part, people like me try to lay low and then pack up and move away from as soon as they're able to. It's a place that it would be much easier for me to either move or to just be quiet, not rock the boat and pretend to be a good little cis-female wife to my husband and call it a day. That's not me, though, and I feel that if I don't do something, to stand up for people like me- to show that we are not bad people because we are different, we are beautiful because we are different- no one will. That if I don't carry the banner it will lay in the mud. But you know what? I have friends that fight for me when I grow weary. Some of these are friends that have never known a genderfluid person before me, never known a queer other than that one kid they thought might maybe be 'a little funny' but they never talked to them, they just looked at them distrustingly out of the corner of their eye. I see the difference I have made in their lives that's now being passed on tho their children and that sometimes makes it even harder to rest- I've seen the change one person makes and it's hard to let that go, even for a minute.

    But, as my husband reminds me, I have changed the perceptions of more than one person. They are walking beside me, a show of solidarity, support for me to lean upon when I grow tired of fighting the good fight and want to be left to just be. I find that after a bit of rest, even a few short minutes, I am able to go at it again, renewed.

    You left a job and a life that made you miserable because your value and self worth is more important than a dollar at the end of the day. Right now you're making a big impact on people, both those close to you and miles away through this blog, just by choosing to live your life true to yourself. I would imagine that you're already so far outside of your comfort zone that most days you can't even see it from where you stand. If changing in your car as opposed to the locker room is the lesser of the two evils then so be it. All warriors need rest, Wendi, you can't fight every battle at once. Be proud of what you're doing instead of condemning yourself for not doing more.

  7. Shit, sorry! I didn't realize I typed that much! :)

  8. I know it's rough. I don't shave, I wear boxers, and quite often I forget to trim my toenails and they can look quite long and not at all feminine. But I pay my dues, and I want to use the damn locker room, and sit on a bench, not twist around in my car. It takes repetition, and it helps if you smile at people when they stare. I found it also helps if I first of all pull my shirt off so they can see the sports bra.
    I figure the worst thing that can happen is someone runs screaming for security to get 'the guy' out of the locker room but when security comes and finds me in my sports bra it's going to be the idiot who ran for security who is embarrassed, not me. I've been dealing with this all my life. I quite High School due to not wanting to go in the girls' locker room and it has to stop somewhere. I say it stops now, in my 48th year. I have decided to lose the fear. I just don't give a crap what they think anymore... but give yourself a break, it's ok to feel awkward. And yes, eventually you will be ok with it.

  9. Sometimes you have to pick your battles to stay sane and well adjusted. I work out at a community center and dont bother to use the locker room. Some times I get weird looks from mostly older femme het women but shrug it off and smile back. Most of the time I dont have issues with it. Basically I behave as if I belong there and ignore anyone who gives me strange looks cuz I look tomboyish. Mostly though , my experience at the Mt. Scott Community center has been positive. Besides, I hate public locker rooms. I'd rather shower and change at home. If Im coming from work, I change at work then go workout, then go home. Just act as if it doesn't matter and CLAIM your space. You can't change how some people choose to react ,negatively, but you can change how you choose interact, positively. You have a right to be. Just claim it. Work out , be graciously friendly, claim your space. There will be enough people who support that. Just believe that.

  10. Late to the discussion here, but I think you get to change where you feel most comfortable. It's one thing to decide "OK here is where I want to make a statement" but it's another to acknowledge that you simply don't feel safe, based on past experiences. In the second case, you get to go where you feel safe. If you decide you want to find a way to feel safe in the locker room, then you can move in that direction - slowly.

    I'd like to note that I find locker rooms horrifically embarrassing and for reasons other than the ones you have, I'd opt for changing before I went or in my car as well - if I ever considered darkening the door of a gym. That's a whole 'nother issue, heh.

    There are plenty of battles to fight. There are plenty of people to fight them. You can take off of one if you want. There are other places where you probably feel perfectly comfortable and where another person might feel incapable of functioning. So it's OK.

  11. I'm awfully familiar with this subject, and I go back and forth on how I feel. Some days I think, "I'll do what I want, and screw people if they can't handle a butch in the locker room!" But I definitely have my days when it's just exhausting, and it feels like a battle I just don't want to fight. That sometimes leads to the guilt that I SHOULD be fighting that fight, for everyone who feels uncomfortable in that space. But the reality is that some days, I just can't. Don't beat yourself up about it; do what you need to do.

  12. I can totally relate. I hate using public restrooms and locker rooms. I get looks. I hate it. I am an LGBT activist, on the front lines of the fight. I fight the good fight every day. But there are days I get tired and don't want to fight. Just do what you feel you have to. You don't have to carry the banner for all butches. Just by being ourselves butches are fighting the fight. I hate that you have to change in the car, but I totally understand. Sometimes it's just easier to avoid BS.