Breaking the Bathroom Binary

Alex Smith, a San Francisco-based queer/transgender artist and activist, tells Curve about the "trials and tribulations of a boi's bathroom". His large-scale, oil-on-steel, five-piece series (one shown here) shows us gender-benders how to avoid getting cr


Photo: Amy Snyder


I hear you made the queer pilgrimage to San Francisco from the country. How does that influence your work?

Growing up on a farm, I have an appreciation for rugged and raw mixed-media artwork. Here, incorporating graphic painting with unpolished steel reflects the mixed-media of queer identity itself.

Why bathrooms as your site of activism?

[Bathrooms] are gendered and for those of us that live in the gray, they are one of the larger issues we deal with every day. For gender non-conformists, bathrooms can feel inaccessible, as you have to learn-by-observing, in a place where it is taboo to do so.

While your work deals with these serious issues, it’s also quite cheeky. Why is that?

I want to make our inaccessible, taboo-filled experience accessible to those who have never had to stop and look at the signs, the man and then the woman, and decide, which one do I look most like today? Hopefully humor takes the edge off a hard-to-digest subject.

Your paintings give some good tips, but do you have any more suggestions on how to navigate the ol' squat-or-stand?

1. Practice your aim in the bathtub at home first.
2. Drop trow to your knees. Pants down all the way to the floor draws attention.                                                                                                      3. If you find yourself without a stand-and-pee contraption, get your lean on with a sturdy stance.
4. Be ready to switch angles, as streams change without warning!
5. Experiment with what works for you.

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