My Week 273: Positive Spaces and Two Vignettes

Recently, I did the training to became a Positive Space Champion at work, which means that my name gets put into a database of people in a variety of different workplaces who support the rights of LGBTQ people, and also that I have an identifier on my office door that tells people I’m someone they can feel safe going to for support. It’s very important to me, so last week, I also did the training to become a Trainer, which means that I can help other people at the secret agency become Positive Space Champions too. My vision is a sea of Positive Space posters everywhere, so anyone who walks into the secret agency knows they’ll be accepted for their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or what have you— and homophobes will know they can immediately f*ck off.

Anyway, at the training, we were discussing the bathroom issue, more specifically, how did we get so weird about who goes into what room, and why are we so hung up on it? It’s almost the second decade of the 21st century, and people are still aghast at the notion of all-gender bathrooms. And I laughed, because the week before, this happened to me:

Ken and I went to a concert, and I had a VIP pass to meet the band and hear the sound check. Ken didn’t care about that, so he went shopping until the Meet and Greet was over, then we went to a restaurant nearby for dinner before the concert. The restaurant was a Moxies, a fairly well-known chain here. I had to go to the bathroom, so I asked the waiter where it was, and he said, “Go to the front doors and then turn right.” So I did. I came to a corner where there was a door. Directly next to the door were two signs: a male figure in a square and a female figure in a square. “Cool,” I thought. “Milestones has all-gender bathrooms” and I went in. When I finished doing what I needed to do, I came out of the stall, and there was a guy at the urinal, also doing what he had to do. He was facing away from me, which was just fine, so I washed my hands, and went back to the table. When the manager came over, I said, “It’s so great that you have all-gender bathrooms.”

Manager: Pardon?
Me: The bathrooms. They’re gender neutral. Very cool.
Manager: Um…we don’t have gender neutral bathrooms. The Men’s is right on the corner, and the Women’s is further down the hall. Which one did you go into?
Me: The one right on the corner. That would explain the man at the urinal.
Manager: THERE ARE ARROWS.
Me: I didn’t have my reading glasses on. Meh. Whatever.

Then we all laughed, and I was super-happy that the man at the urinal hadn’t seen me, because I would have been fine with it, but who know how HE would have reacted, like “Get out of my space, woman!!” Then again, maybe he wouldn’t have—I asked Ken if if he’d ever been in a men’s room with a woman:

Ken: It happened once. I went into the bathroom at work, and there was a woman standing there, looking at herself in the mirror.
Me: What did you do?
Ken: I went over to the urinal and used it.
Me: Like, right in front of her?
Ken: We didn’t make eye contact or anything. What was I supposed to do? I went in because I had to use the bathroom, so I did. I didn’t know why she was in there, and I didn’t really care. I just wanted to pee.

In retrospect, I should have known Moxies didn’t have an all-gender bathroom—I mean, the urinals were a dead giveaway—because a couple of nights ago I was out with my team and the restaurant actually DID have all-gender bathrooms, which was just a long hall of single stalls with their own doors and sinks inside, which makes perfect sense. At the end of the day, we all have the same bodily function needs, so stop worrying about who’s in the stall next to you. Just make sure you wash your hands.

2 Vignettes

1) On Friday, I was on the subway and a woman got on at the same time as me. She stood in front of some other passengers, and then randomly, she said this to another woman sitting there:

Where’s Waldo is a lousy audiobook. ‘There he is!…There he is!…There he is!’ That’s all it is.”

And then we got to the next stop, which took about 45 seconds, and she went to get off, but not before waving and telling the entire packed car, “May the force be with you!” I was still laughing at the Where’s Waldo thing, and I still am. I will be on my deathbed, surrounded by my loved ones, and I’ll start giggling, and when they ask me what’s so funny, I’ll just whisper, “There he is….”

2) When I had my book launch, the local Heritage society gave me a bouquet of flowers. Last week, Ken and I went to their Christmas banquet, but I was running late, so I asked Ken to choose a thank you card from our box of “cards for all occasions”. When I arrived, I asked him where they were, and he said, “They’re in my bag over there. I brought two so that you could have a choice.” I pulled them out. One had a bouquet of flowers on it with the words, ‘Thinking of You’. The other had two champagne glasses clinking with the slogan ‘Cheers’. So, a sympathy card and a wedding card. Neither seemed appropriate under the circumstances, but then I looked at the notes on my phone later and realized that instead of “Ken Thank you card”, it had autocorrected to “Ken Thanos card”, so maybe the sympathy card wouldn’t have been too far off. For half of the people there anyway…

By the way, I’ve decided to stop using My Week… for my posts as of next week. There will just be a full title. I’m doing this (unless there are some serious objections) because I have the feeling sometimes that people who don’t know me don’t read my posts because they think it’s just some weird-ass diary of all the mundane things that happened to me during the week, like:

Monday: I went shopping. I bought eggs.
Tuesday: I watched Netflix. The weather continues charming.
Wednesday: There he is…

There he is…

My Week 82: North Carolina vs. Bracebridge, Ontario, Big-Ass Clock Crisis

Wednesday: Weird bathroom laws versus weird noise laws

I was talking to a friend last Wednesday who happens to be gay, and whose girlfriend is very androgynous-looking, and she was up in arms about the bizarre law that North Carolina imposed regarding transgender people having to use the bathroom of the gender they were at birth. That in itself sounds complicated enough, but more perplexing to me was the fact that the law is called HB2. In my world, that’s a type of pencil, with the H standing for “hardness” and the B standing for “blackness”, so my first thought was that it was also some kind of racist law, but in fact, it’s just a moronic law, and the HB stands for “House Bill”. And that in itself is ironic, because it has nothing to do with the bathroom in your house, but with PUBLIC bathrooms. Then my friend showed me a picture on her phone of a guy who was very muscular, sporting a goatee, and who was covered with tattoos. “Wow,” I said. “He reminds me of Adam Levine.”

“He was born a woman,” she responded. “In North Carolina, he would have to use the same bathroom as you, or he’d be breaking the law.”

“What?!” I exclaimed. “I don’t want that dude in a bathroom with me. I’ve had to CLEAN men’s bathrooms—they definitely need their own space!”

Now, this might sound sexist, but it’s based on empirical evidence from two sources. First, if you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know that I worked in a donut store when I was younger, and the worst part about it was having to clean the men’s room at the end of my shift (I describe it in full detail In My Week 67: Disturbing Trends in Men’s Fashion, where I reveal the origins of the “poo beard”). Second, which you don’t know, is that a few years ago, I worked in a school which converted the 2 staff bathrooms in the main office into “gender-neutral spaces” to accommodate any transgender students we had. It was a great idea for the transgender kids, who never caused any consternation—the staff whole-heartedly embraced the idea of giving them a safe space—but the office ladies were aghast by the end of the week for quite a different reason. Apparently, there was at least one male administrator who couldn’t aim well, and the constant urine on the toilet and surrounding floor was freaking them out. Also, the men were in LOVE with the expensive hand soaps that the ladies had specially bought, and were using them in copious quantities. I was just impressed that they were at least WASHING their hands, but I recall one woman crying out in frustration, “It used to be such a NICE bathroom! Now, it’s just gross, and there’s never any soap!!”

And this is why the North Carolina law is so ridiculous. Well, one of the many reasons. It seems to me that they’ve suddenly entered the Dark Ages, when people believed that tomatoes were poisonous, that demons caused illnesses, that education made women infertile, and that autism was the direct result of childhood vaccinations. But that’s House Bill 3, which I believe the intelligent North Carolinian politicians are working on right now. Then I got to wondering what the underlying agenda might actually be, because I can’t believe people are stupid enough to honestly care what birth-gender the person in the stall next to you might be. Honestly, when I’m performing a bodily function, that’s really not on my radar. So it occurred to me that there might be a hidden rationale for this irrationality:

1) It’s a special infrastructure project designed to increase employment rates. Obviously, NC will have to hire special “inspectors” who will ensure that people are going into the right bathrooms. What KIND of inspection that will involve will probably decide the pay scale. Also, the birth certificate industry will spike, as people will have to carry those with them all the time, in case they need to pee. It’s tremendously forward-thinking—well done, Pat McCrory, for trying to improve the North Carolina economy. The whole world is proud of you.

2) It’s a secret plan to make all bathrooms “co-ed”. Think about it. If you make men who look like women use men’s bathrooms, and women who look like men use women’s bathrooms, then it’s a f*cking free-for-all. Also, it’s very confusing, and just writing that sentence took me three minutes because I was trying to make sure it was logical, and I’m still rereading it to make sure it’s correct. Which makes me think that if I’m having this much trouble with the logistics, then maybe the whole Bill was just a huge misunderstanding, and that it was passed because the General Assembly thought they were just CONFIRMING that men’s bathrooms were for people who looked like men, and women’s bathrooms were for people who looked like women, and no one was worried about transgenderism at all.

At the end of the day, no matter what the reasoning, the whole thing is outrageously stupid. Does anyone REALLY believe that a person would undergo years of therapy, hormone treatments, and painful surgeries just so they can spy on people in public bathrooms? Like there’s a whole crew of guys waiting for “Sally”, who used to be “Bob”, to come out of the ladies room, ready to pepper her with questions like “Was it clean? Was there fancy soap? Did you see any boobies? Did a pillowfight break out?” And women? There’s no way IN HELL that a woman becomes a man just to use a men’s bathroom. Trust me on this.

I asked Ken if he’d ever been in a men’s room with a woman:

Ken: It happened once. I went into the bathroom at ________, and there was a woman standing there, looking at herself in the mirror.
Me: What did you do?
Ken: I went over to the urinal and used it.
Me: Like, right in front of her?
Ken: We didn’t make eye contact or anything. What was I supposed to do? I went in because I had to use the bathroom, so I did. I don’t know if she was a cross-dresser or transgender or whatever, and I didn’t really care. I just wanted to pee.

So there you go, North Carolina—take some advice from a man who lives in the 21st century and stop worrying about 15th century problems.

transgender bathroom sign

In contrast to the backwater ways of North Carolina, recently the town of Bracebridge, Ontario came into the new age when it repealed an old noise bylaw that banned “hooting and hollering.” Yes, it’s now completely legal to hoot, holler, or make other “human noises” in this Northern town. At least until 2 am, when you could be fined for “drunken singing” or other disruptions to the peace. These are the things we worry about in Canada. Use whatever bathroom you want, but be considerate about where and when you hoot. Here’s the link to the full article, because honestly, I can’t make it any funnier than what it already is. My favourite line is “Stakiw [the Chief Bylaw Officer] said his department hasn’t been dealing with a hooting “crisis,” but had received some inquiries about kids and summer camps, which prompted the town to look into updating its current laws.” Oh, Canada—it doesn’t get better than this. http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2016/03/23/hooting-and-hollering-now-legal-in-bracebridge-ont.html

Friday: I have a big-ass clock crisis

Last weekend, I saw an ad on a local buy and sell site for an antique clock. It didn’t work, but the price was right and the case was pretty. I decided it would make a really great little jewelry cabinet, so I contacted the guy and arranged to come by on my way back from Toronto to pick it up. When I got there, right on time, he was like, “What? I thought you were coming tomorrow. I’m just going out for a ride on my motorcycle and the clock is in the basement.” He said this like it made absolutely logical sense. Then again, the weather WAS charming, and riding a motorcycle is like smoking crack for some people, so I said I’d come by the next day. After a series of confusing messages (at one point, he said, “I’m here” and I thought he meant outside my house, so I spent ten minutes waiting for him to come to the door, but he meant HIS house), I drove to his place to pick up the clock. It was sitting in his garage, and it was WAYYY bigger than I thought it was. I had pictured it as being less than a foot tall, but it was, in fact, over three feet tall, and much too large for a jewelry cabinet, unless you were a member of the Royal Family. Still, it was beautiful, so I put it in the car, and brought it home. It weighed a TON (I discovered later that it still had the original lead weights inside), and I struggled to get it up onto the kitchen counter, where it has stayed until last night. Mostly because I have NO IDEA where to put it. Ken said I should sell it for parts, but here’s the issue: it still had the original paper label inside it, and after doing some research, it turns out it’s a very rare “Chauncey Boardman” American clock from the early 1800s.

Me: I can’t gut it for parts, Ken. It’s 200 years old! There weren’t even PEOPLE in Canada back then.
Ken: Um…I’m going to say that’s incorrect.
Me: Well, fine. Maybe there were people, but they couldn’t tell time.
Ken: Well, obviously they could tell time, but there were no Canadian clock manufacturers during that period. There would have only been individual watchmakers. I saw this documentary last week about…

I have no idea what happened in the documentary because I tuned out, and started mentally going through rooms to see where I could put the clock. When I tuned back in, Ken was talking about ANOTHER documentary about pygmy goats, or Shakespeare’s skull or something, so I started physically walking around the house to try and figure out where a 3 foot high clock could possibly go. On Thursday night, I promised Ken on my honour as a woman that I would find a place for it, and get it off the kitchen counter. Last night, it was still on the counter…