It was a sunny Tuesday afternoon and I was out for my daily walk. Naturally, I had my bag of peanuts for the squirrels and a small bottle of birdseed.
Meandering at a casual pace, my heart suddenly fluttered upon one of those sights of summer that can cause a healthy man to wander straight into a post.
Further ahead, a long-legged woman with black sheer stockings and high pumps was bending over. The lady wore an incredibly short, black mini-skirt and my wide eyes drank in a white flowery blouse which barely concealed her fulsome bosom. Long brown hair flowed beautifully and concealed her face.
My pace quickened as I approached this angel. How could I have lived here so long and not noticed this raging beauty? I pondered several opening lines to begin an anodyne dialogue.
I was mere feet away and I opened my mouth to comment upon the gorgeous day when she turned away and quietly said hello without looking. The wiring in my brain short-circuited. I thought I could smell smoke. It took several seconds for the information from my cerebellum to traverse the corridors of nerves, muscles and tissue to my jaws where upon it finally opened and I replied in a low testosterone-filled voice, “Hello!” I marched off.
In that instant I felt not so much embarrassed but guilty for trying to portray myself in the most masculine light. You see my good reader, that stunningly wondrous woman was actually a man. It wasn’t until I heard his voice and caught a glimpse of his facial features that I realized the gender.
I strolled into the park as a myriad of questions raced through my skull. I sat on a bench and a squirrel waited for his daily feeding. “You are a squirrel, aren’t you? Maybe you’re a rabbit,” I said to the rodent with a laugh but then scolded myself.
I must be honest, I was initially shocked because of my encounter and yes I guess I was embarrassed for both of us. Truthfully and obviously, I was embarrassed because I had been admiring what I believed to be a woman and there was a self-perceived immediate threat to my masculinity. I asked myself why? I’m heterosexual so how could I be intimidated when the man didn’t make a pass at me? So why did the encounter rattle me?
After the initial shock of the meeting more lucid ideas filled my mind. I was shaken simply because I witnessed something one doesn’t often see. I supposed that if transgender individuals were as common as the air we breathe none of us would give it a second thought.
Perhaps it is that common acceptance the transgender community is striving for. I then asked myself, why was I embarrassed for him? Was it because I thought he looked foolish? That couldn’t be the answer for he looked pretty damn good when I first saw him. Was it because I thought he was mentally ill? Again I excoriated myself for grasping for straws to justify his actions. And therein lays the answer- he doesn’t have to justify his actions because he is who he is and it is my responsibility to either accept him or not.
We all tend to measure others against our personal scale of what we believe to be normal. But what is normal? I have reached the conclusion that normal is whatever makes you happy as long as you don’t hurt others. If the masses do not approve then it is a problem of their own making.
I finished my walk but the encounter persisted in my brain thanks in large part due to Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. I can understand how Jenner’s publicity can help others but the cynic in me believes much of the circus atmosphere can be attributed to television ratings and the promotion of a new program. The reason Jenner’s story seems disingenuous to me is because of the man I had just met. My transgender neighbour isn’t looking for the limelight. As a matter of fact he seemed very shy and never looked me in the eye. That is quite sad for perhaps he is fighting within himself his natural desires as well as a world that cannot look him in the eye either.
The next day on my walk I saw him again. He was dressed as a man. I stopped, said hello, offered my handshake and remarked about the weather. He seemed surprised and finally made eye contact with a barely perceptible smile. In that instant he knew it was okay as far as I was concerned and best of all, I had conquered some of my own prejudices.
Ben Guyatt is a stand-up comedian and a published author. Visit his website at www.benguyatt.com and follow him on Facebook. He also hosts The Ben Guyatt Show every Sunday at 9 pm on AM 900 CHML.