Arts & Entertainment
1 min

Queer Bathroom Stories

An upcoming play explores problems queer people face in public washrooms

Queer folks talk about their difficult experiences in public washrooms. Credit: Cassandra Silver

For many, public washrooms are not safe havens where they can take a break from the day’s travails to bid their excreta adieu, but stressful places where they face difficulties because of their sex or gender. For instance, transgender people often face a lack of necessary amenities, feeling unwelcome or even being physically assaulted.

To explore the problems that queer people sometimes face in washrooms, York University professor Sheila Cavanagh conducted a vast number of interviews across North America, one hundred of which became the basis of her book Queering Bathrooms: Gender, Sexuality and Hygienic Imagination (2010).

She then adapted the book into a play called Queer Bathroom Monologues. Whereas the book focuses on issues faced by transgender people in gender-segregated washrooms, the play explored other issues that came up in the interviews. “What didn’t make the book was a host of other really fascinating stories about life in the bathroom that seem to really lend themselves to theatrical production because they were so intense or emotionally laden,” she says.

In May 2014 Cavanagh will take her play to Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, this time with the title Queer Bathroom Stories. “This is actually going to be a professional production, whereas the amateur production was at the Fringe, and I have rewritten the play, although some of the more successful monologues from the Fringe are still in this version,” she says.

To fund the production, she is taking advantage of Fringe Toronto’s new national crowdfunding platform, Fund What You Can (FWYC). The platform allows artists working in all areas to raise money for their projects.

The site features several other queer projects that folks can donate to, including the musical The Common Ground, based on the experiences of Ontario teens with lesbian, gay or bisexual parents; and Come to Fitzzburg, Trevor Campbell’s travel guide to a fictional city.