It seems Walmart is a significant trouble spot for me as a transgender…last week, I was running errands, and one of them took me into Walmart. So, I trot up to the door, throw a donation at the Salvation Army bell ringer, and dive for the bathroom first thing, before acquiring a cart.
And I carefully checked before I went in the bathroom to be sure that I had the one that matches the “F” on my driver’s license. This is after all, the store that I used the Men’s room by completely accident and got away with it entirely…So I always check. Yep, right one at least for the societal perceptions. I went in, and of course, all stalls full. So I am waiting my turn, lingering hopefully near the back handicap stall, because it’s easier on the arthritis. The first stall door to open, however, was the one right in front of me. A woman in her fifties, I would say, came out, and we bumped into each other. She looked at me, got this *look* on her face, and said “…oh my…OH MY GOODNESS!...OH! OH!” and ran out of the bathroom, yelling loud enough to clearly carry back through the walls. “THERE’S A MAN IN THE WOMENS REST ROOM!!!”, repeatedly. Meanwhile I am standing there, speaking to her back on its way out the door, saying, “No, ma’am…ma’am, wait, I…MA’AM! HOLD UP!”
Too late. She was loose on the unsuspecting Walmart. I stood there for a moment, empty stall forgotten in front of me, and said out loud, “Oh boy…” Because the next thing that was very likely to happen was a Walmart security guard (probably male) would stick his head in and demand to know what was going on and possibly check my driver’s license. Just then a *snort* was heard from the behind the last stall door, and a woman emerged – a very regal, lovely black lady – who looked me up and down and said, “She’s a twit…*I* can tell you’re a woman!” and went out the door. Which then also, left me standing there, thinking, “Well, actually, I’m NOT, exactly…” *sigh*
At this point, hydraulic pressure was interfering with brain function, so I went on and used the bathroom, washed up, and cautiously stuck my head around the door to go out. Sure enough, next to the women’s room a big Walmart Security guard (male, 1, generic) was waiting for me - all nice and official, with the keys to the bat cave and everything. I groaned and walked out the door, and stepped over to him. “Sir, I can explain…” I began, thinking just HOW am I going to explain and what do you say to explain this. At which point, he looks me up and down, raises his eyebrows, clears his throat and says “The other woman that came out said you were a girl, so I waited just in case.” He eyed me some more, with a rather puzzled, disdainful look, and continued “its fine…go on.” Whereupon, I nodded and headed on to do my shopping. And I kinda thought to myself, ok…whatever I am, Cyndi loves me and so do all my friends. And that’s what matters.
To be fair, in the midst of the unseasonably cold weather we have been having in the south, I was wearing several layers of shirts, a black leather men’s jacket, and a hat…my favorite hat, which is a men’s brown fedora, with a spray of feathers on it. (It’s a really good quality wool fedora, which I managed to acquire for an insanely low price at a rummage sale – there is also a wonderful story behind it which I must post about it sometime.) I undoubtedly looked like a guy very easily, with the layers covering up any betraying curve of figure, and then the masculine jacket, hat, and short hair…so I can see why the first woman made the mistake, although I can’t account even now for her reaction. (If I encountered a guy in the women’s room, I would simply say “Um, sir, do you know which restroom you are in?”) My voice however is light and feminine, and the second woman very clearly heard me speak…so she knew I was physiologically female, even with all the clothing screaming otherwise. It was not a deliberate attempt at “passing” for a man on my part. It was a deliberate attempt at staying warm in subzero temperatures! And I was wearing clothing that l liked and felt comfortable in. I am used to being called “Sir, I mean, Ma’am, I’m sorry!” several times a week, but this reaction was off the scale.
And it left me feeling very confused. I mean…going into gender specific restrooms always twinges a little – it’s like a subtle, low grade reminder that I don’t fit with societal expectations and boundaries. But I REALLY got mistaken for a man that time – and the only thing I had on my mind initially was “Need to pee” so it caught me off guard. And somewhere out there is a poor flustered woman who thinks she collided with a man in the woman’s bathroom. By now she probably thinks I came on to her, since I did politely smile at her when she came out of the stall, initially. It’s distressing. It is rather enjoyable to be called “sir” by mistake – it feels affirming of being a transgender guy. But this put me in the position of having to very loudly assert that I was indeed a female – for all the good it did me – and that felt very uncomfortable. I felt like I was denying my true inner self. Then we have the other woman, who listened to my voice from the other stall, caught the main clue that does give me away, was not in the least fazed by the mixed signals of my clothing…and firmly pronounced me a woman. Which, female body notwithstanding, I am not. And while I am grateful, profoundly, that she set the security guard straight before he walked in and accosted me, that also very much left me feeling very strange…because in my head, I am a guy. *sigh*
Walmart is just getting too weird. But somehow I don’t think it would be any better at Target…