Trust me, I know I’m a man.
I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and sometimes the urge to find a toilet overrides my higher reasoning functions. The other day, my stomach told me I had about thirty seconds to take care of business, so I bounded into the nearest restroom.
I entered the stall, did the deed, and as I went to wash my hands, I noticed the wall tiles were turquoise. I knew the bathrooms in this building quite well, and I realized that turquoise was not the right color.
Then it hit me. I’d gone into the women’s restroom.
I dashed across the hall as fast as I could—unobserved, fortunately—to wash my hands in the navy-blue-tiled men’s room. As I soaped up, I thought through what might have happened, had I been accosted for entering the wrong restroom. I could have said it was an honest mistake. And, as life has taught me, I have the right gender, skin color, and demeanor (usually) to be taken at face value and sent on my way. I know that if any of those factors had been tweaked, it likely would not have gone so well.
I’m a man. This is not to say, though, that I am always taken to be a man. Despite my barrel-chested build and eternal five-o’clock shadow, I have a high voice that over the phone is almost always taken to be that of a woman. And every time I’m called “ma’am,” I cringe. For a while, I told myself that my reaction was rooted in subconscious misogyny, that I somehow thought it wrong to be a woman and thus bad to be mistaken for a woman. But thinking on it further, I realized that my unease rested on a much deeper foundation.
When someone says I’m a woman, they essentially say that I don’t know who I am, that everything I know about myself is wrong, that they have authority over my identity. They may not mean to do it, but it’s difficult for my subconscious to interpret it otherwise.
I know I’m a man. I know this better than my mother knows. Better than the doctor who delivered me. Better than the schoolyard bullies who called me a girl. Better than the random operator who refers to me as “Miss.”
I know I’m a man. I know which bathroom to use.
And I assume any other adult knows which bathroom they should use, too.
Photo: Sam Howzit
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