Tag Archives: washrooms

Here We Go Again…

Sheila 1As I walked into the washroom, I was talking on the phone with barbara. I was so relieved to be back in Vancouver. It was hard being in Ottawa, where I was never, ever identified as a woman.

Fortunately I had no occasion to be using washrooms so it only came up in the constant “sir,” “man,” “pal,” and even one “dude!” that followed every interaction, no matter how brief. It was wearying mostly since, as I said, they weren’t occasions where I really had to correct the person.

One day, I helped an old lady with a walker who was trying to reach something in the store. Her gratitude and obvious surprise went with a rave about what a gentleman I was. I really hated giving them such an undeserved good name, but nor did I want to make her feel stupid as part of my favour. And I didn’t want her to suddenly turn on me, not like she had that vibe about her, but I find, after all these years of pretty consistent mistaken identity, I still can’t always tell how they will react to having made that mistake.

So I’m heading into the women’s washroom in the Vancouver airport, phone in my ear, looking just like about half the travellers, feeling so at home and glad to be here and so like I belong I don’t even look  around as I enter the washroom and I hardly hear the “Hey, wait. Stop !!” or feel the kerfuffle behind me.

A woman grabs my arm and wheels me around and says, “You’re in the wrong washroom. This is the women’s,” just to be perfectly clear. She’s pretty pleasant about it really—perky and indulgent all in the same breath. Silly man, right ? I’ve noticed that women are nicer to me while they are still thinking I’m a man, disconcerted but “nice” about it.

The women in the washroom, or going into the washroom, stop or turn to hear me say, “I’m not a man. I’m a woman and I’m not in the wrong washroom.” (Being very thorough and clear myself .)

At the sound of my voice, the rest of the gang jerks to a stare. My challenger recoils and mutters, “Oh, sorry,” but she looks angry, not sorry. The stares of the others stay fixed and wary with disbelief.

I see an empty cubicle and head for it. When I exit, moments later, they are all still there, arranged in a hostile phalanx of maybe ten women and girls (girls shrinking behind their mothers…classic !) “I’m not a man,” I say again as I exit, scanning the whole row to make eye contact, but they don’t let that happen, though they keep on staring toward me.

I’m tempted to flash my breasts at them, but the presence of children makes me afraid I’ll be seen as more of a pervert and maybe it would be legal abuse or endangerment. Really I don’t want to freak these little girls, who have already been terrorized by their mothers, though I know everyone else thinks it was me who scared them.

I quickly wash and dry my hands and head out of the washroom, no longer bothering to try and make eye contact. I am shaken.  I’ve experienced this orchestrated exclusion in other washrooms but not so much for years. These days, women still blame me for their mistake, but their inclination is to at least see it as THEIR mistake in the end and not a deliberate trick on my part to threaten them.

Why the change?

Maybe there are more of us “have to look twice” types. Transgender visibility and their victories of inclusion have made my life so much easier and less defensive. Mistaken Identity still happens—I correct nicely—they apologize—I am gracious and see it as a “teachable moment” and it’s no big deal. So this experience was a throw-back. And in Vancouver! not even awful old straight-laced Ottawa.

related: Gender Games

Flash and Dash

This is the second story in my book Mistaken Identity, part of the free sample available from e-book sellers at the right.

washrooms mistaken identity lesbian gender identity One time when I was visiting Deedee in San Francisco, she took me to the Museum of Modern Art. We drank in the art and culture till we both had to pee and headed for the washroom.

We got into cubicles without incident, but when I exited the stall, there at the mirrors and sinks, and between me and the door, were two women. They were thin and starchy and brittle-looking, and made up with everything sprayed in place. They were busy applying more makeup when they caught sight of me and literally gasped in unison. And horror.

One said, “What are you doing in here? This is the ladies’ washroom.” Continue reading

A Tip For Allies

When I entered the change room at my pool the other day AquaFit had already started, so it was deserted.  Before i even got my jacket off, a woman entered. As I turned to say good morning she abruptly  froze in her tracks, the complete double-take, her whole face scrunched up in horror and fear. I was about to speak, when a woman who I do know to see, and who knows me, came round the corner and threw me a friendly good morning as she went to her locker. I watched the furrowed lines of the other woman smooth before my very eyes.  The  horror faded and she even smiled, was shy but friendly, though it was clear she didn’t know the other woman, and she and I didn’t speak the same language, but she KNEW the second woman belonged and so her acceptance meant every thing. Continue reading

Solidarity

This is the first story in my book Mistaken Identity.

Once, Dorothy and I were on the ferry to Salt Spring Island. It was the weekend so the boat was pretty jam-packed with travellers. We were heading for the women’s washroom, very engrossed in conversation as we went.

As we turned into the washroom, suddenly a loud male voice bellowed, “Hey! I kept making my point to Dorothy, hearing the commotion sort of but not thinking it had anything to do with me, till the same angry, by now guttural, voice yelled, Get out from the women’s washroom! Then I knew he was talking to me. Continue reading