What 'Bathroom Bills' Mean for Transgender People With Chronic Illnesses

I am writing this after using the very clean Panera Bread men’s restroom to puke. This my story.

My name is Dani and I am a transgender guy. I am an 18-year-old high school senior. Though I was born a girl, last January I decided to start living as my authentic self and came out as a transgender boy. I went from being depressed to loving my bow-tie, LGBT support group, LGBT-youth-councils-filled life. That that’s the good news. The bad news is on the anniversary of my coming out, my digestive system decided it hated itself and I got super sick. I was diagnosed with gastroparesis.

Gastroparesis is a rare, incurable disease in which your stomach muscle doesn’t work properly so it empties your stomach extra slow. This doesn’t sound painful, but it is. Also because of this, I have eaten tiny, frequent meals. And because eating a small meal is too much for my stomach sometimes, I have to vomit. Correction — I vomit a lot. And sometimes (“sometimes” being most of the time), I have to vomit in public. I vomit in the bathroom if I feel it is transgender-friendly. However, if I can’t find a men’s or gender-neutral restroom I feel I can use safely, I must try to vomit outside. If I can’t, I have to vomit on the floor. This has never happened, but if bathroom bills become bathroom laws, that might become my reality.

So ultimately, I am going to break it down like this: If we don’t protect transgender people there will be transgender people who have a chronic illness such as Crohn’s disease, gastroparesis or irritable bowel syndrome all running around, desperate, and without dignity because some people feel “uncomfortable” with them using the bathroom.

It may sound amazing that someone can be transgender and have a chronic disease “because both are so rare.” While it may seem uncommon, transgender people, people who have chronic illnesses, and transgender people who have chronic illnesses are all common enough for people who fit in those categories to exist in your community.

Your co-workers, favorite nurse, janitor at your building, favorite cashier at the grocery store, the person who held the door for you: All these people are capable of being transgender. All of them are capable of having a serious disease that requires unfettered bathroom access. Including me, who for the foreseeable future is going vomit in public at least once a day.

To put it simply: People with serious medical conditions will suffer because of bathroom bill that are made to make other people feel “comfortable.”

So my warning is this: If politicians continue to pass anti-transgender bathroom bills and end protections for trans youth in school, there is a chance I will vomit on the floor of Panera Bread and you will lose your appetite for an organic steak arugula sandwich.

And no one wants that.

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Thinkstock photo by jpkirakun

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