Written by Frida Silva.
Graphic by Asiyah Saeed.
“Since bathroom graffiti is done neither for acclaim nor money, it is the purest form of art. Discuss”
I’ve always considered bathrooms to be an odd space. They uniquely exist in the wavering border between the public and the private, with only a flimsy stall door to divide the two. People come into bathrooms expecting to both give and receive privacy while they’re at their most vulnerable. Not only physically, but emotionally as well. When you need to hide from the world, bathrooms provide a quiet, safe haven to collect your thoughts. The second you close the door behind you, you are completely alone in your own universe. You are briefly suspended in complete and total anonymity. Nobody can see what you do, and once you leave, nobody will know that it was you who had been there. In this cloak of anonymity, graffiti blossoms. Strangers leave remnants of themselves for others to encounter, interact with, and think about for the rest of their day.
Not a semester has gone by while I’ve attended UT, where I haven’t regularly found myself in Waggener Hall. Whether it’s due to classes or club meetings, I cannot seem to escape the ammonia scented stairs or the overwhelmingly large amount of straight, white, male philosophy students. My only reprieve has been the women’s second floor bathroom.
“What kind of philosopher are you?”
“a bad one tbh”
These sound like messages left behind in a pretentious coffee shop bathroom, and with the building being home to the philosophy department, it’s not too far off. But in the top left corner of the last stall door, a heart with two initials inside it stands out. In the same handwriting, “we’re gay” is scribbled with an arrow pointing back at the heart. In a different stall, the lesbian symbol is crudely scratched into the wood. Somewhere else, “CHICANA POWER” is carved in big, bold letters.
“as long as love exists”
As a chronically ill Latinx lesbian, it’s not often I see myself represented in the world. Let alone in spaces where my identities and lived experiences are often considered “hypotheticals” for the sake of constructing an argument. Whether I’m in a philosophy class or going about my day anywhere else, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the rest of the world. The stigma and the dangers surrounding my various identities make it hard to connect with others in public spaces, and so private spaces have become sacred grounds for connection and community. This can take the form of clubs or organizations catered around certain identities, friend groups, and sometimes even bathroom stalls.
“lesbians are the true lovers of the world”
Two years ago, I realized I was a lesbian and the writing on the walls took on a new meaning. One year ago, I stood in the second floor bathroom laughing with a girl as I dripped fake blood down her neck for our last minute matching Halloween costumes. The entire time, all I could think of was how poetic it all seemed. The subtle notes of romantic tension, the intimacy of the warmth of her neck on my hands, all enhanced by the semi-privacy provided by the bathroom. I thought of all the people that had once stood in the same space and immortalized their love and affection. When the rest of the world seems dangerous and cold, it’s comforting to know that there are pockets in the world where you are seen and understood. Even if it’s by complete strangers. Even if you and the strangers never share the same location at the same time. The remnants they choose to leave behind of their own feelings and lived experiences serve as a reminder that you’re not alone.
Recently, I went back to Waggener Hall’s second floor bathroom, and I left my own remnant behind. While it’s nothing bold or overtly poetic, I hope one day it brings someone else the same comfort I’ve experienced.