Changing rooms

I want there to be women’s spaces where men cannot go- and I want to go there. Especially I want admitted to women’s changing rooms in shops. Here is a woman who thinks I should not have that, discussing a case where a branch of Topshop refused access to a trans woman.

I go into women’s changing rooms regularly. Like any other woman, I try on the clothes, look at myself in the mirror and decide whether to buy. It would be inconvenient not to. However, unless there are rules to prevent me, she claims in a comment, What is to stop a man who is a sexual predator, upon hearing that men can now gain access to female changing areas etc purely for stating they are transgender, donning a dress and a wig and claiming to be transgender? My convenience does not matter, because I am a threat. She will not feel safe in a changing room if she sees me and reads me. If she sees me, she will fear that I am a violent pervert who may assault her. In fact, unless there is a definite rule that no trans woman may enter a changing room, and this is known and enforced by all staff and customers, she fears that a man may assault her.

The possibility that one pervert may enter a changing room and molest a woman is enough, for her to require that no trans woman ever enter a changing room. That is transphobia: we produce a grotesque overreaction of fear in her.

She writes movingly of her experience of mania. I do not think her opinion on changing rooms shows she is mentally ill- instead I compare hers to the mindset of someone who opposes gay marriage. Unless there is a framework of laws which make the only life-partnerships recognised in law heterosexual ones, the opposer does not feel he is safe- even though there is no threat to his marriage, to society, or to the children brought up by gay people.

Similarly in the lesbian bar. I might have poor dress sense and look a bit ridiculous- but does no-one else in the bar have poor dress sense, and would she not oppose patriarchally judging them on their appearance? She might not like me, but is there no cis lesbian you do not like?

It is a phobic reaction. Here am I entirely harmless, and just the imagined possibility that I might go into the bar starts her mind on thoughts of male violence against women.

Just as I advise with arachnophobes, start small. For example, read this blog before meeting us. We are harmless, really.

She was mobbed on Twitter, and whines about it. Rather than the some of my best friends are trans line, she discloses that she more or less rubbed along with two “transvestites” in a situation where she could not do anything else. Then she talks of what most folk already know: when people respect each other, when people treat each other how they would like to be treated themselves, the world is a much nicer place. Well, yes.

My question to these soi-disant “radical feminists” is, why are you so obsessed with trans women? This one is a case in point, four articles in her first three weeks on this blog.

10 thoughts on “Changing rooms

  1. I like this post, which is light and well argued, the soul of reason, gentleness and compassion. Thank you for not going into rant mode, which would just have been a reaction, perhaps one your phobic writer was looking for, in order to further justfy her extremism.

    Bless you, Clare. Have a wonderful day. British Summer Time starts tonight, and here it is still snowing.

    XXXX :-))


    • It was snowing as we left the dojo this morning. Snow from the last fall mostly thawed, but patches in depressions and to the north of hedges lay for days.

      Thank you. They can affect the soul of reason, sometimes, using the term “trans woman”, forsooth, but still insisting anyone who looks like a man in the women’s changing rooms should be expelled. Which means that those of us who “pass” as women are “better” than the rest of us. Thank God there are so few of them, though they are noisy.



  2. Hi Clare,

    Interesting dilemma. Perhaps a heterosexual man should tread carefully here. You say you would like admittance to women’s spaces, and I can understand that, since you identify viscerally as female. I too like the idea of sexual partition under certain circumsances – big stores in particular I think would benefit from “men only” seating areas where weary husbands might play with their iPhones, while our wives browse, oblivious to our presence.

    However, I was in a charity shop today, browsing DVD’s. There was one changing room, a crudely curtained cubicle – unisex, I presume, and a lady changing into something, not four feet from where I stood. (I presumed female by the painted toenails) My reaction? Slight embarassment, and a move over to the book section, a more respectful eight feet away. I think I would have felt the same if it had been a bloke (hairy legs or something?). It was a question of space for me. Could the answer then not be more of a desexualising of space – a curtain, or a locked cubicle door for personal modesty within a more general asexual “changing area? Then it wouldn’t be of any consequence who was heterosexual or LGBT?




    • Have you tried coffee shops? There would be advantages in parking ones man in a coffee shop rather than having him tag along like a bored toddler. Or, you go and have a look round Halfords?

      You are right. There are feelings and inhibitions and taboos around taking our clothes off; though the cubicles are bigger and the curtains heavier and I would not expect to see someone’s toenails. I have been in swimming pools with a unisex changing area with large cubicles, far easier than those with none: I found taking my wig off to put on my swimming hat in front of a class of Welsh-speaking children embarrassing, though their teacher was with them and they had their own concerns.

      Perhaps you have hit on a better argument for “UK Feminist”. If she says I am a threat, most people will laugh at her. If she says she does not like me there, that is more difficult to attack. Though where else am I going to go?


    • I agree with your idea on changing rooms.
      I liked this article, but in this context, I have to disagree with the sentiment “I want there to be women’s spaces where men cannot go”. In it’s inverted form, it applies to male changing rooms as well, and I know the embarrassment of being refused entry to these. Especially when they are not labelled men-only, but an attendant sends you away.
      Unisex changing rooms would be far more convenient. It’s unlikely that someone would arbitrarily make the trek from the women’s section to the mens, just to use their (smaller) changing rooms.


      • Hello, Mel. Welcome. I am sorry to hear you were refused entry to men’s changing rooms. I had the problem of buying women’s clothes when I was presenting male- I mostly bought in charity shops, and was not prevented from using the unisex changing room. I never had a hostile reaction, actually: strange to think that my weirdness was within the tolerance levels of most people.

        At least one Top Shop has allowed transvestites or pre-transition trans women in out of hours, by arrangement, to try on and buy clothes. You might find an accommodating clothes shop.

        I am uncomfortable with unisex changing areas. I am not saying that my discomfort should trump other’s rights, and I recognise that a few are uncomfortable with me in the women’s areas- and I am still uncomfortable.


  3. A couple of unrelated comments.
    a) I thought the blog post was boring (not yours! the link)
    b) I really don’t care who sees me naked or semi-naked or have ever done
    c) you’ll obviously know there is a huge dispute in the rad feminist world about transgender women and how they still have inbuilt privilege blah blah

    There is a difference between accepting someone sharing a changing room (no problem for me, neither are nudist beaches) and the privilege issue. I really don’t care what gender someone is, not my business, it is theirs only, my only point is when transwomen start weighing in about feminism. We all experience discrimination, transwomen, and transmen experience a totally different (and normally qv above) discrimination to women. The normal gripe from radfems is that transwomen born as male experienced privileged from birth, so therefore they can’t comment experientally about radfem issues. Equally so, I would say that women can’t argue about the discrimination transwomen and men endure.

    Either way, you can always share a changing room with me.


    • Thank you. Actually, I do care about people seeing me naked, certainly people looking at me naked. Sharing a room with other women is fine, if I can trust them not to stare as I undress at night. So I have some sympathy with discomfort in changing rooms, though hers seems out of proportion.

      On privilege, well. I had the message young that “big boys don’t cry”- my expression of my emotions was frowned upon. I withdrew because I could not express my innate femininity: that does not seem privileged to me. OTOH I was encouraged to study, and I am 5’10 so do not have the same vulnerability as more petite women. But generally privilege is an ongoing experience, not just a childhood experience, and it is not my experience now.

      In what women’s space does one “comment about women’s issues?” Even in a political discussion, I think deal with the problem when it arises, rather than have a blanket ban on trans women. A blanket ban on trans women is a ban on me. I have given no cause for such a ban.

      Even in such a political women’s space- if I trigger someone, reminding her of vile treatment by men- introduce her to me. Let us work together on our recovery. A simple ban treats me (yes, again me personally) as less than human.


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