Another transwoman once asked, when I was openly female, “Are 100%?” I’d no idea what metric to use to answer, but I said, truthfully, “Well below 100.” Now, I can say, based on the ratio of female-to-male underwear I wash, I’m over 90% but still not that elusive 100 that ciswomen effortlessly, unquestioningly live 24/7/365.
One reason for the shortfall is that I donate blood, and the Red Cross knows me only by my dead name. Therefore, I dispense with shaving and makeup, pull my hair into a low ponytail, put on boy underwear and jeans, and, braless, shrug on a t-shirt. Though I wince when the officious nurse rotely asks me my gender, they never notice my hesitation when I lie, “Male.”
After spending the required 10 minutes post-donation, eating cookies and drinking apple juice out of a kid-sized wax-paper box, I stand and put on my mask, the threat of COVID still hovering, a persistently menacing specter. Feeling the tug in my bladder of the liquid I just consumed now settling, I ask the elderly cisfemale volunteer, who checked in me under my dead name just 30 minutes before, for directions to the bathroom.
“End of the hall on the left,” she replies, as rotely as the nurse repeated the litany of screening questions, then thanks me again for my donation.
I march down to the last door on the left, which leads to the assessor’s office, not the restroom. I backtrack and find a bathroom entrance on the left side of the hall and nearly step in, until I look up and notice the sign above the door: “Women’s.”
I cross the hall to the right side and the Men’s Room. When I emerge, I encounter another elderly ciswoman and her friend, making their way down the hall to the donation check-in. I stop to let the elder go by. Instead, she pauses for me. When her friend asks, “What’s the holdup?”, the woman gestures in my direction and says, “I’m waiting for her.” Glancing over my shoulder, I see no one else.
Another transwoman once asked, when I was openly female, “Are you 100%?” The requisite calculus still baffles me.
Toni Artuso (she/her) is a transfemale writer from Massachusetts. Recently retired, she’s now transitioning. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in "All Worlds Wayfarer," "The Literatus," "Penumbric Speculative Fiction Magazine," "Pennsylvania Literary Journal," "quip literary review," "Fiction on the Web," "96th of October," and "The Broadkill Review." Twitter: @Taltrina.