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The Towel Dispenser as Turning Point

It all began at Music Week.

Music Week, for the uninformed, is a week-long choral music camp featuring choirs at all levels of skill and achievement, held at Naramata Centre in the beautiful Okanagan region of British Columbia. It was a wonderful musical experience, and this year it was a seminal one for me. It was the first time I’d attended as Stephanie.

I sang tenor in the Grand Choir, 160 voices strong. What an amazing musical experience! The musical quality, the expertise of the clinician, the choice of music all combined to make the week musically wonderful and educational. The unconditional acceptance of me as just another woman was truly amazing and affirming, and truly helped cement my identity in my mind.

We camped, of course. There were five of us: Lorraine, me, the twins, our nephew from Toronto and myself, so staying in walled and roofed accommodation would have been prohibitively expensive. The camping faciltiies were nice, with walled and roofed hot showers and all the comforts of any well-appointed campground. I soon found a way to get presentable even if other women were in the washrooms, so it worked out just fine.

One evening I arrived in the washroom to a crowd of women gathered around the towel dispenser (you were wondering where that came in, right?). It had run out, and although there was a new roll available, no-one could get it installed properly so it would automatically tear off as you pulled. The directions had been stuck on the inside, behind where the new roll would go, making it impossible to follow anything more than the first step. They were also half torn off, so there was only a minimal amount of information to go on. Not only that, they had also been all around the Pacific Rim in translation, so what we were all faced with was a document that required advanced cryptography, a degree in linguistics, exceptional spatial skills and a good deal of clairvoyance to successfully interpret it.

It took a little while, but after the flapping and frustration subsided, and after a good deal of trial and error, we were able to piece the solution together. The roll unwound when pulled, the menacing teeth chopped it at the right length and the counterweighted rollers rewound it to precisely the right length for the next person.

For some reason, I was accorded the credit for finally getting the thing to work, even though we were all in there poking and prodding and giving helpful suggestions. I got a round of applause! Yes, for helping to fix a towel holder!

That moment of unconditional acceptance, of being one of the girls, clinched in my mind that I could no longer live with a secret. I could no longer be in their trusted space, their company, their closeness as it were, without completing my own journey. Transition, including surgery, was as of that moment not an option, it was a necessity.

Isn’t it strange what helps you through a difficult decision?

And it all began at Music Week.

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