Gender Versus Sexual Identity. The Transgender Bathroom Dilemma!

The transgender topic has been trending for some time now and since most of us understand and learn best if relating to real life situations, here’s a true story I’d like to share. It is not an opinion, but simply a story which I hope it might clarify the debated topic and the difference between sexual and gender identity and how the two could intersect.

A few years back, I needed to get a house-mate for reasons that are so obvious, I will not waste your time explaining. At the time, I was a middle-aged woman, and my children were adults. Our family also had three dogs and a parrot. It was a busy household. The room I offered had a separate entrance and bathroom.

I searched for a roommate using all the traditional and modern channels and carefully interviewed each person who replied. On a first meeting, the person was asked to fill out a form and agreed to criminal and credit background checks and to give three character references.

They say first impressions don’t lie.
The door bell rang, and here he was, standing in the doorway, a frail, blond man. His lips, but not his eyes, smiled.

During our first meeting he explained his place of employment was close by and convenient. He told me he had two small children and his wife and him were going through a divorce. I was touched by his honesty when he admitted the reason for the divorce was his infidelity: He connected with another woman on the internet, cheated on his wife, but after he moved out with the “woman of his internet dreams,” real life kicked in and surprisingly:) didn’t match the illusion. After three days she kicked him out of her house and the dream! His story perfectly matched my first impression and after running both a criminal and credit checks, he moved in!

He was a very respectful, reserved housemate and our first two weeks of co-habitation were uneventful.

At the beginning of the third week, as I was sitting at my computer, he came in and asked if I was happy with having him as part of our household. Of course I was, and we chatted for a while, until the conversation slowed down in a strange kind of way… and he blurted out:

“I haven’t been totally honest!”
“Oh?”
“Could you go on My Space (that long ago it happened) and type in Jane Doe (the real name was much sexier)”

Jane Doe’s My Space profile was HOT! A provocatively dressed woman laying on a fake fur, stared at me with gleaming eyes. She was raising a glass of liquid, presumably alcohol… She had long, beautiful, red hair and perfect make up. She smiled.

“Do you like her?”

Thoughts raced through my rather bewildered mind… my roommate probably thinks I am interested in women… I wish I were, but… I am not.

“Why are you asking me? She is nice…but…”
‘Well, is she nice or is she VERY NICE… attractive?!!!”

Okay… I thought, I must be very clear:

” She is nice but as a woman, I am not looking at another woman… that way,” I blurted out.

“I hope you like Jane, because SHE is ME! I am transgender!”

“Let’s sum up: You are a man who was married, have two kids, left your wife for another woman, but you are transgender. In other words, you feel you are a woman, you identify with the female gender?”
“Exactly!” he confirmed.
“Help me understand … are you sexually attracted to women or men?”
“I am still sexually attracted to women.”

I was on a journey of understanding and discovery:

“Would it be a correct statement that you are a transgender lesbian?”

“Yes, you got it!” he confirmed and the smile in his eyes matched that on his lips.

Now that all the cards of this complex human situation were on the table, we continued our house mate relationship as we did before. However, what the outside world saw, were two people, a man and a woman coming out of the house at different times.
In the morning, a man in suit and tie left for work. At 5:30 PM, he came back home, and at 8:00 PM a beautiful woman went out to party. On weekends, the business man of the mornings brought his kids to visit… Real life has many facets and we might think we know…

What is the “lesson” of this story?

I hope there are several lessons and a lot of food for thought:

1. Refrain from judgement. What you THINK is the truth, might not be!
2. Educate yourself. Sexual and gender identity are two separate topics. As illustrated in my story, my roommate was identifying with the female gender, but his sexual identity was lesbian, he liked women as sexual partners, even when being a woman.
3. Respectfully ask questions to uncover the layers of another person’s reality if it affects you directly.

When I first heard of the transgender bathroom issue, as much as I tried to stay non-judgmental and open-minded, I had difficulties because in real life this is not a problem! Here it is why:

Let’s take my roommate. When she went out in the evenings, she used the Lady’s Bathrooms in public places. At his place of work, he used the Men’s.

Let’s think further. Is this the real issue?

Perhaps, the root of “our fears” is lack of education and the truth that “the danger” many people perceive is fear of possible pedophiles. The story of Jerry Sandusky, the Penn State coach who abused at least ten boys comes to mind. He was using the same gender bathrooms!

In my opinion, the transgender and sexual identity are not the real issue. If we re-think the many layers of reality,our emotional responses and the truth, we might reach a different conclusion.

What do you think? Please share your opinions.

Rodica Mihalis, M.S. Counseling and Clinical Psychology
Life Crossroads and Wellness Coaching

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