This is an excerpt from Bumbling into Body Hair that I may strike out entirely as I get my word count down to more publisher-attractive levels. But I thought I would share it here out of the goodness of my heart, and because it was a troubling moment within the LGBT community. One of the places I had the hardest time transitioning was among my queer peers, which shouldn’t have been the case.
Jeffrey and I were late to bowling. By the time we got to the alley, there were only five minutes of practice left. This was also annoying because in each of the previous weeks in this new league we’d joined, they ran behind schedule on the practice and start of play. Not so this week.
No sooner had I sat down to put on my shoes than the president of the league was sitting next to me. Buddy was a round, older, very smiley man who was every bit as laid back as the last president of the other league was over-engaged. I liked Buddy.
Buddy looked serious. “Everett, can I talk to you about something?”
He commanded my attention because his tone was so off. I focused on tying my shoelaces. From the corner of my eye I could see that Jeffrey was listening in.
“What’s up,” I asked.
“Well, someone saw you in the men’s restroom last week, and came to me with a complaint.”
At this point I flashed back to last week. I’d washed my hands in the men’s room at the end of the evening to get the lane grease off of me. I’d also gone into a stall once and adjusted my binder, which presumably nobody could see. I hadn’t done anything objectionable like killing a kitten, I was pretty sure.
“He said he was uncomfortable with you in there.”
“He what?” I was somebody’s problem?
“So the officers and I got together.”
I wondered if they were going to ask me to use the women’s room.
“We decided that you should use the restroom that’s off of the meeting room. It’s got a single stall in there. If you were later in your transition, it probably wouldn’t be a big deal, but for now, let’s handle it this way. Okay?”
“Are you serious?” I had a million questions, but that was the first one. I saw that Jeffrey had come over and put his hand on my shoulder.
“What about me made him uncomfortable, anyway?”
“I don’t know,” said Buddy, now looking down himself. Seeing him I spy my shoelaces, I figured he knew this wasn’t acceptable. At least I only stared at shoelaces to be avoidant. It must have sucked to be league president.
“You didn’t even ask him? And you made this decision based on that?” In fact, he hadn’t talked to me, either, before deciding where I could wash my hands.
“Look, I’m not happy about it. I didn’t really know enough about transgenderism to know what to say to him.”
“Transgenderism,” I asked, trying not to shout, “This is a cowardly decision, Buddy. And very disrespectful toward me. I haven’t disrespected anyone here. I’m not comfortable using ANY public rest room, but you don’t see me complaining.”
“Look, I’m trying to make everyone happy here,” he began.
“I’m not happy,” I said.
“If you were just further along.”
“And then what happens? Everyone starts pretending I have a penis?”
“I’m just trying to work this out.” He really looked like a cornered rat on a sinking ship.
“Well, you failed. I’m gonna get a practice shot in now if I’m still allowed to play.”
I stood up and walked away, picking up my bowling ball, and throwing a couple of practice balls down the lane. I half-hoped they’d hit someone in the face. Any of the people around me could have caused the fuss. We could have declared open season.
I saw Jeffrey getting ready for a practice throw. He was stiff and frowning.
We bowled out the evening, figuring the team we were playing deserved to get to play and not go home early with three forfeits. We bowled well above our averages, and we took all three games for the week. Maybe we were concentrating on just playing more than usual.
I packed everything up, and Buddy motioned for me to come over to him. I presumed he wanted to make himself feel better about the whole situation. I ignored him and walked out of the bowling alley, never to return.
Getting in the car, I ranted.
“I am so sick of privileged people who use whatever oppression badge they have to be bastards to other people, I may seriously knock the next asshole in the head. And how much more work do I actually have to do on myself because other people suck?” Tingling in my fingers told me I should loosen my grip on the steering wheel.
“I just can’t fucking believe it,” Jeffrey said. “stupid white men. I want my money back.”
I got home that night, grateful for the affection of my cats, and called Susanne.
“You are fucking kidding me,” she said. “Someone’s not comfortable because you’re washing your hands, and you have to use a special rest room? Virginia sucks.” Most of the DC-area gay bowling leagues were there, as were the ones we’d been bowling in. She told me to come over.
Sitting on her futon, otherwise known as the couch of graduate students, I wrote a letter to the officers who oversaw all of the gay leagues. I caught my anger and played reasonable, saying people should be entitled to use the bathrooms that agree with their gender identity, and that bowling members who are ignorant about transgender issues don’t have a justification for their intolerance, and that as gay people, we should be sensitive to people who call us not man or woman enough. Then I shut off the computer, and sighed. I would miss bowling, but I couldn’t be humiliated on a weekly basis. So much for tacking on the T at the end of GLB.
I was grateful I had an appointment the next evening with my therapist. I had a lot of news to relay to her.
She was livid about the bowling league.
“No offense,” she said, “but men are so weird about their penises.”
I laughed. “No kidding. I think the only people with actual penis envy are men. Is that what this is really about?”
“I think so,” she said. “He wants only men born men in his space.” She shrugged.
“I think I’m ready not to be in the beginning of transition anymore. I feel like I’ve been beginning for forever.”
“Well, you’ve been coming here for more than two years, Everett. I’d say you’re not beginning transition anymore.”
I had to think about that. And relay the point to Buddy, since clearly, the news flash hadn’t quite made it to him yet.