I saw a transgender woman in my gym locker room recently. There were so many things I wanted to say to her, all of them positive, but I couldn’t say anything because I didn’t know how it would be received.
She was standing fully dressed in front of one of the larger lockers. Her workout clothes and other belongings were spread on the bench running along the center of the room. She was well dressed, unlike me, and I got the impression that she may have come from work based on her classy office attire.
This woman was so many things that I can never aspire to be. She was tall and statuesque, elegant and well-dressed. I have none of those qualities, and I wanted to applaud her as a fellow woman on her yoga body, her sense of fashion, her stylishly coifed hair, or her manicured fingernails.
I wanted to tell her that she was beautiful and that she was brave, but I didn’t because I was afraid of being inappropriate. I didn’t want her to feel stigmatized, singled out, picked on, or embarrassed, even though I knew my intentions were pure and I was firmly on her side.
Would it have been rude, or even creepy, to tell her she was beautiful? I think so. That’s why I didn’t do it. Women — all women — should feel safe and supported without being made to feel threatened or uncomfortable, and I was just a stranger in a gym locker room.
We are living in the era of the #metoo movement, and that’s a good thing. It means we all need to be responsible with our words and actions. That includes me. I couldn’t risk making another human being feel uneasy. I wouldn’t risk making another woman feel like a target. So I didn’t.
Maybe I could have found a different way to forge a connection. I could have said, “Hey, that’s a cool scarf,” or “Where did you get those shoes?” But I didn’t say anything at all.
As a woman, I enjoy the occasional compliment, but I also enjoy my privacy in places such as the gym locker room. I’m not sure how well I would receive an overzealous stranger making a well-meaning, unexpected, and potentially unwanted display of amity.
I think it would make me feel uncomfortable and self-conscious, and that’s the exact opposite of what I wanted. So I kept quiet. She didn’t ask my opinion, and she certainly didn’t need my approval. So I offered neither, and I think I made the right decision.
To the transgender woman in my gym locker room: I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that you’re beautiful, but you are.