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Film: Toilet Training

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Something as simple as having a place to answer nature's call can derail careers, or even lead to violence or arrest for transgender people, says the film Toilet Training.

Made in 2003 by Tara Matiek and produced by the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the 30-minute documentary interviews transpeople, educators and social-service professionals about the difficulties gender-segregated bathrooms can cause for people transitioning between genders. It will be screened locally Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health, sponsored by a newly formed transgender study group and Pitt's Rainbow Alliance student organization.

"If you think trans people aren't in your workplace or school, they are," says Noah Lewis, a facilitator of the transgender study group. "It's important that all bathrooms everywhere be safe for trans people."

Lewis hopes the screening, which is free and open to the public, will educate non-trans people about encountering trans folks in "their" bathrooms: "People know what bathroom they're in; you don't have to ask them."

In the movie, attorney Dana Turner says that "even before transition, as an effeminate gay man, I was attacked in bathrooms" by men who objected to his presence in the men's room. Now, as a trans woman, Turner says she's gotten some quizzical or nasty looks in ladies' rooms.

Macauley Elmer, who dropped out of high school and works in food service, recounts that she was born a girl but used the boys' room in first grade because "that was where all the people dressed like me were going to use the bathroom." The next year, a teacher demanded that she use the girls' room. "I recall not using the bathroom much that year," he says.

The solution put forth by the movie, and by Lewis, is that all single-stall bathrooms should be gender-neutral.

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