In the May 5 edition of the Times a woman wrote a Guest Appearance describing her experience of being uncomfortable when a partially transitioned transgender person was in the women’s sauna at the YMCA.

I’m not quite sure how I’d react to having a transgender/transitioning person in the men’s locker room. It hasn’t happened to me yet. But knowing me, I’d more than likely be curious as to what they were experiencing.

I find people that walk a different path than me enriching to talk to. Whenever I’m approached on the street by a stranger asking for help, I more often than not ask them what led them on the path to meet me and ask for money or food or whatever. I’m not inferring one equals the other, but I’m just finding an example that I’m aware can make some folks uncomfortable, and how I find the positive in the experience.

I do understand that people have their own set of boundaries where they decide what is acceptable to them and what describes their own comfort zone. I also know those vary from person to person.

I’ve also discovered in my life that when the majority gets to rule on social issues that are new, that the majority are historically the last to see the light. Think lunch counters and rest rooms. And schools. And mixed marriages. And gays in the military.

The person in question in the guest piece also was not yet old enough to be in the adult locker room.

Which is also an issue. My first thought would be: Maybe the younger folks in the children’s facilities made that person feel awkward, and maybe they thought the adults would be more tolerant.

I understand that someone who is partially transitioned may make one uncomfortable, and as was stated by the writer, once they have fully transitioned it would be no big deal.

But what if the males were uncomfortable too? This person would be in limbo. A no man’s land of social identity, not welcome in either men’s or women’s facilities. How horrid to be unwelcome by all.

When I land in Europe to visit my mother, which is, unfortunately, on the infrequent side, I invariably end up in the men’s room to freshen up. I’ve never seen them here, but over there one can not only use the toilet and shave, but showers are available also.

And in most instances there is a matron in the room handing out towels.

And no one cares.

Sometime in the distant future we will all be within a shade or two of each other in color and appearance, and we’ll most likely be beyond the worries of our current social mores. We should keep that in mind when we encounter someone who makes us question what we’re accustomed to, and whether what we feel will stand the test of time.

Pete Mitchell is a regular columnist for the Times. His “In America” usually appears every other Monday. He lives in Geneva and can be reached at He also is a member of the Geneva Family YMCA board of directors. He did not write this on behalf of that board, however; they are his personal thoughts.

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