Stories

I Just Had to Ask: “Are You a Woman?”

Woman in Red

Anyone who lives in Toronto might know a major historical event just happened at the end of the worst year ever in human history. Yeah, last year I’m not gonna say the name, it’s a curse word for me now… let’s just call it The Year Prince Went on Tour of the Stars.

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At the end of December, one of Toronto’s most venerated, well-loved, and historic institutions shut down at the corner of Bathurst and Bloor. It was the wonderful, one-stop, low-price, household-item emporium called Honest Ed’s.

Before the mad dash rush to buy the gaudy and colorful signs and hilarious memorabilia was the random cool thing for Torontonians to do, I went in there to get a few doo-dads and knick-knacks for myself, and to remember a place that always held a spot in my heart for the amazing $10 Wu-Tang Clan slippers I bought there. Priceless!

I’m digressing. The point is: when I went in there this last time to shop, I was walking around the whole store and was a bit dazed by the barren space and weird architectural layout. Lo and behold, I had to eventually relieve my bladder of the lemonade it hath accumulated whilst perusing the goods and merchandise.

When I reached the bathroom and was caught off-guard by the obnoxiously over-done advertisting, history-capturing and self-congratulatory signage all over the place on every surface, I didn’t notice I was walking into the Women’s bathroom instead of the Men’s. And when I got in there, before I could think, Hey, Ed is so cheap he didn’t even buy any urinals, an older black gentleman who was apparently a custodian said to me:

“Excuse me, but this is the Women’s washroom. Are you a woman?”

I replied: “Oh, my bad! I didn’t see the sign. Sorry!” I really wasn’t trying to be a creeper. I genuinely did not see the sign that noted Women’s loo.

And he exploded my mind with a jewel of truth with his subsequent reply: “That’s okay. I just had to ask if you were a woman or not!”

And with that very simple sentence, he showed me a level of awareness that was very compassionate and evolved!

I was definitely presenting like a man that day, I had a big puffy winter coat on, and I had facial hair like more men than women do.

But maybe I WASN’T a man, per se. Maybe I was transgender! And he made the correct assumption to not assume anything!

This very old and wise gentleman not only had the courtesy to help me, but was very neutral and respectful in his questioning of my gender.

He had no malice in his words when he said “just had to as if you were a woman,” and I could feel his genuine concern and respect, even if my answer would be “actually I AM a woman, and this IS the right bathroom for me!”

It was a simple moment, but it really dawned on me how much most of us in society probably assume people’s gender simply because of what they are presenting to us. It’s not the most intelligent activity our mind can undertake, but we do that job daily. It’s like assuming all Asian people are Chinese, when you could be dealing with a Japanese, North Korean, Taiwanese, or person from the Philippines, if not some other part of Asia!

We should never really assume we know someone’s gender until they tell us what their sexual identity is, and stay respectful of their humanity otherwise, regardless of what or if or who they are or whatever the hell!

The moral of the story is: after he said that one little brain-exploding sentence of wisdom, I kinda wanted to kiss this janitor, TBH. True story!

In love,
Addi Stewart

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