So, this is a conversation that actually took place between myself and one of my coworkers.
Myself: I’m in my early thirties. I’m transgender, MtF, but I haven’t transitioned to presenting fem 24/7. I’ve only in the past month come out to my boss, after getting earrings for my birthday. I’ve told one other person in the office, and there’s one person who’s known for a while. I don’t know if any of them have talked about it with anyone else: I didn’t make any kind of office-wide announcement, but I am not hiding it, either. On this particular day I’m wearing my weekend “uniform” (male tailored clothing). In this case, that consists of cargo pants and a tee shirt. I’m also wearing some distinctly fem items: my pink keds and my sparkly pink heart earrings. I have blond hair that’s slightly longer than shoulder length which I’ve left unbound.
My Co-worker: He’s a portly fellow, a bit shorter than me. Somewhat awkward, balding; in his fifties or very early sixties. He’s a lot more conservative than I am, and some of his observations on things like the military, police violence, political parties, etc have left me a little uncomfortable around him. I don’t have a problem with him professionally, but I would not like to hang out with him socially, and he does like to chat a bit too much when I am working with or near him.
The Scene: The office. It’s the weekend, a little before mid-day. We’re the only ones working. I’ve been helping him with computer issues all day; I’ve finally returned to my cubicle only to find that I am out of work of my own and will be able to go home early by a couple of hours. I’ve just told my computer to shut down, and am leaning back in my chair with my feet up on a set of drawers, waiting for the computer to actually turn off. I have a blanket wrapped around my legs because I’m always cold and my cat has trained me to always have a blanket on when sitting in case she decides she wants a kitty lap basket. Since I’m leaning back and not wearing my usual layers (tee shirt, male office dress shirt, sweater vest; sometimes a jacket as well), the tee shirt isn’t doing much to obscure the curves I’m starting to develop.
Co-worker, suddenly appearing outside my cubicle: “Hey, I’m getting ready to head out. Thanks again for all your help.”
Me: “Sure thing. I’m about to head home early, myself.”
Co-worker, suddenly grinning: “Yeah? Or you could blow hot air up your skirt.”
Me, trying to figure out if I’d heard what I thought I’d heard: “…”
Co-worker continues to grin as though he’s inordinately pleased with what he just said.
My mind, picturing an iconic scene with Marilyn Monroe: What did he just… that’s so inappropriate! …shit, does he even know I’m trans? Double shit: Does he know I’m trans?!
Co-worker, still grinning.
Me, staring blankly, still unable to form a response: “…?” (That’s my mouth opening and then closing because, frankly, I’m too dumbfound and I don’t know if I should ask what he means or if he knows I’m trans or what’s going on.)
Co-worker, grinning bigger: “Oh, I think you’re getting a little excited by the idea.”
My mind, whirling back up to panic mode: What the..?! Am I being harassed? Holy shit, what conversation are we having here?
Co-worker, possibly starting to realize I’m not responding the way he wanted me to: “…”
Me, desperate to derail this conversation before he can say something else, but not knowing if I’m actually being harassed or just dealing with god knows what kind of bizarre pop-culture reference that I’m just not getting because I’m dense that way: “…um?”
Co-worker, uncertainly: “..?”
My mind: Well done, me. How eloquent. Pardon me while I continue freaking out a bit.
Co-worker, starting to look a bit less confident in himself: “Because, you know, you’ll be the only one in the office. So you can plug in an electric heater…” (Note: we aren’t supposed to have those) “…and it won’t overload the circuit breakers and start a fire. And then you can just hide it in your locker when you’re done and no one will know.”
My mind, almost dizzy with relief: Oh, thank god. He was teasing me. Because the blanket is like a skirt, I guess? Still inappropriate, but I guess at least it wasn’t some weird lewd come-on? Shit, should I say something to him? Try to explain why this wasn’t particularly funny — and why it wasn’t funny to me in particular? No. No, what am I thinking? We’re the only two people here. Just smile and nod and get the fuck home.
Me, trying to smile like I’m not a little sick inside: “Yeah, no. I think I’ll just go home early, like I said.”