Way back in the very early 80s, Mom took me on a day trip to hang out at a beach town with friends of hers. The memory has faded, but we had fun, and on the way back home, I said or asked something about the women we’d hung out with that made my mother say, “They’re a couple.”
I was a kid, and this news took me by surprise. What? The two women were a couple?
Of everything I’ve forgotten about that day, what I do remember is the basics of my mom’s reply: “Sexuality is a spectrum. Few people are 100% this or that. It may take you a while to figure out where you are. That’s all perfectly normal.”
In any case, my mom taught me not to freak out about other people’s sexuality, and since she also told me other people’s sex lives wasn’t none of my business, I learned not to worry about it.
In the late 80s, I was working at Disney, and one day while at my employee locker, Winnie-the-Pooh toddled up and hit me. Someone was, of course, in the Winnie-the-Pooh suit, and I had no idea who. I certainly didn’t know anyone who played any of the characters.
So Winnie-the-Pooh hit me a couple more time with those stubby arms and refused to speak. I threatened to knock Winnie-the-Pooh to the ground and leave him there if he hit me again, and he toddled off. (Note that if the actors fall over in those suits, especially the big round Pooh suit, they can’t get up without help. Knocking him down and walking away would essentially be like putting a cartoon turtle on its back and leaving him to flail helplessly.)
Yes, I threatened Winnie-the-Pooh.
Needless to say, I was confused and unsettled by the whole exchange, and I never learned who was in the suit. And one of the things that bothered me was that I had no idea if the person in the suit was a man or a woman. Most likely, it was a guy. Right? (Never assume the gender of the person in those Disney character suits matches the gender of the character.)
Now, I wanted to know if the person dressed as Winnie-the-Pooh was a man because I wanted to know if I was safe. (For the record, I was never troubled by Pooh Bear again, though there was an incident with Geppetto…that’s another story.) Was some guy going to be waiting for me in the parking lot? Not an irrational fear.
But one thing that I ruminated on for a long time was how when Pooh Bear first hit me, I didn’t know how to react because I wasn’t sure if Pooh Bear was a man or a woman. I tried to talk to a few friends about it, but usually they were too amused by my threatening a Disney character to take up my question. But it bugged me. Why did it matter? Obviously I needed to consider if the person was a real threat, but I was more bothered by this realization that not knowing the person’s gender had triggered an anxiety that baffled me. And I didn’t like being unsettled by something that shouldn’t have mattered.
I decided I was going to work on not being bothered. Basically, I wanted to continue on with my mom’s philosophy–don’t freak out and don’t be nosy. Do learn something.
Maybe it seems like a weird leap from unknown person, probably a cis male, dressed as Winnie-the-Pooh to thinking about trans rights, but I want to say, however unartfully, that sometimes things bother us, and we just need to look at why, and we find…no reason other than assumptions or ignorance or no substantive reason at all.
There are many ways to live your life. May it be happy one. And may it not detract from the happiness of others.
I’ll be serializing my sci-fi fairy tale soon on Patreon. If you like an ensemble cast traveling through space, it might be for you. Oh. And you could get tiny art in the mail.