Seeing No Gender ID, and Keeping Quiet

gender

On a busy Saturday night at a restaurant, I was waiting to use the ladies’ room. (The place has two single-occupancy bathrooms: one for men and one for women.) A minute later, a young man in his 20s came out of the ladies’ room. Annoyed at his entitlement, I said, “Excuse me?” To which, he (in regular men’s clothing) responded, “I’m transitioning,” and kept walking. I found this rude. I don’t believe for a second that he was transgender. My husband suggested I let this go. I disagree. You?

BETTY, WESTPORT, CONN.

Even I am forced to agree with husbands occasionally, Betty. And if a third is, indeed, the charm, we could probably get Senator Ted Cruz to confirm that it’s a bad bet to place all your chips on birth-gender bathrooms. Sensitivity is the better play.

Your instincts may be right. The young man may have been glib and used the ladies’ room because he didn’t feel like waiting for the men’s room, delaying your use of the facilities by 90 seconds. Or, this young person may, in fact, be transitioning. Let’s assume she is. (Note: She is not required to wear a Chanel suit or conform to any of your ideas of femininity to be doing so.) Her gender identification is none of our business.

Worse, would you risk being wrong? If you were, confronting the young woman at her table (or even reporting her to the manager) may end up hurting her feelings and embarrassing you (not to mention your poor husband). When there is room for doubt, apply the test of lesser evils. It points to keeping quiet in this case.

An Offer He Can’t Refuse?

My husband’s brother and wife converted from Roman Catholic to Episcopalian a few years ago. They’ve asked my husband to be the godfather of their new baby, their third. We asked if it was O.K., since we are Catholics, and they told us it was no problem. But we checked canon law, which says it is not O.K., since the whole point of being godparents is to ensure that the baby is brought up properly in the faith. Is there a way to respond that won’t betray our religion or threaten family relationships?

M.L.

I have enough godchildren to field a (pretty lousy) production of “A Chorus Line.” But I’m fairly certain that none of their parents imagine that I will board their children or take them to church (shout-out to Hozier!) in the event of tragedy. To me, it seems as if dear friends invited me to join more closely in the celebration of their family. It’s been my privilege to accept, and I love these kids — or most of them.

This is not to belittle your religious concern. But in the 21st century, your husband’s brother and his wife probably have a separate plan for custody of their children in the event of their death. They won’t be dealt out by dint of who gave which child the requisite Tiffany rattle. But even if the worst-case plan is for you to take custody (and oversee the religious education) of the baby, is it so hard to envision Sunday school at the Episcopal Church?

They are expressing love for your husband. I’d encourage him to accept it. Now isn’t the time for playing “what if?” games with tragic outcomes. Life has a way of meting out enough of those.

A Friend’s Betrayal

My family is friends with another family. My husband works with the wife, and we go on vacation with them one weekend a year. Recently, said wife threw my husband under the bus at work to achieve a professional goal. (She doesn’t know that my husband knows.) It wasn’t a major disaster but unpleasant enough that we no longer want to be friends. Unfortunately, I had already reserved the condo for our long weekend and invited them to join us. Are we entitled to disinvite them?

ANONYMOUS

Treachery trumps travel plans. Just be direct about it. It will save you bristling at future overtures and whines about “We never see you anymore!” Say: “We were disappointed by Sally’s behavior at John’s expense. We’d prefer that you not join us in August.” Now, Sally may apologize (or try to talk her way out of it). And depending on her sincerity and your affection for the family, the ball will be in your court. But a clean and honest break minimizes the going-forward drama.

No Callback Expected

A year ago, I was friendly with a woman I met through a mutual friend. We were new in town and had a few dinners together. But over time, she began canceling our plans, saying, “Tomorrow doesn’t work, but let’s reschedule.” She has canceled every rescheduled plan for eight months. Recently, I ran into her at yoga. She said, “Let’s do drinks,” but never followed up. How should I respond to these empty requests?

KATHERINE

Smile and say, “Call me” (which will never happen). There’s no upside for you in scolding a semi-stranger over her social insincerity, and even less so in wasting time chasing after her with your datebook.

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