Malcolm’s wife was worried about him. He hadn’t been the same since he’d had his Equality and Diversity training at the council last year. She wouldn’t have minded so much if he’d come out as gay or bisexual. She was very open-minded and the physical part of their marriage had faded a long time ago, so she wouldn’t have begrudged him a new pastime if it made him happy. Homosexuality might actually get him out of the house a bit more and it’s far less dangerous than hang gliding, which his brother had recently taken up. She could have even handled him going transsexual. Maybe it would raise a few eyebrows amongst the neighbours but at least it would stop him leaving the toilet seat up all the time. But Malcolm’s new found identity was…well, quite odd.
Malcolm identified as a mushroom…
“You just don’t understand, Dear,” protested Malcolm.
“What is there to understand? You’ve lost your mind. That’s all there is to it,” Malcolm’s wife said.
Her harsh words were belying her deep felt concern for her husband of thirty years. She had read “The man who mistook his wife for a hat” by Oliver Sacks and so she was acutely aware of how a neurological disorder could confuse the human brain. If a man could mistake his wife for a hat then what is to stop him mistaking himself for a mushroom?
“It wouldn’t hurt you to have a brain scan just to be on the safe side,” Malcolm’s wife continued.
“That’s just the kind of narrow minded viewpoint that the Equality and Diversity training warned us about!” retorted Malcolm angrily. “Fortunately the LGBTQIA+ movement exists to protect minorities from those old fashioned and bigoted ideas,” Malcolm retorted angrily.
“LGBTQIA+? Since when has LGBTQIA+ represented people who want to be mushrooms?”
“It’s what the ‘plus’ stands for.”
“The plus stands for mushrooms? You’re clearly off your head!”
“Not mushrooms specifically – just other identities.”
“Other sexual identities! Mushrooms do not have a sex life.”
“It’s not just about sex. Most trans people aren’t sexually active anyway.”
“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.”
“You just don’t understand! I may have the body of a man but I feel like a mushroom inside.”
“You’ve certainly got the brain of a mushroom.”
“There you go again – trying to ridicule me for how I feel about myself.”
“Even if mushrooms had feelings, which clearly they don’t, how on earth could you know how they feel?”
“I know because I am a mushroom.”
Malcolm’s circular reasoning could not be argued with and his wife was completely losing patience. She stormed out of the room in disgust.
To be fair, Malcolm was beginning to look a little like a mushroom. He had been spending several hours a day down in the cellar and the lack of sunlight was making his skin turn a kind of whitish-grey. He felt more at home in the dark, breathing in that musty air that can only be experienced in damp buildings and basements. His hair was quite grey too but it was still very thick for a man of fifty-five and he had recently had a perm, much to his wife’s horror. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t help when he explained to her that it was to make his head seem bigger so he looked more like a mushroom.
Malcolm opened the cellar door and trundled dejectedly down the steps to stand in his favourite corner. He would have sat down but he had given up sitting as he felt it was an inappropriate thing for a mushroom to do. This had caused quite a kerfuffle with regards to his desk job at the council. He had brought up the issue with the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion officer who took it to the Personnel In Safe Spaces (PISS) team and they in turn collaborated with the Transitioning Action Knowledge and Education (TAKE) team. PISS-TAKE decided to hire an expert in species dysphoria who, at the end of her two month contract, came up with the brilliant idea of raising Malcolm’s desk a few inches. Standing for such long hours was beginning to take its toll though. Malcolm’s varicose veins were worsening and his legs seemed to permanently ache. It wasn’t easy being a mushroom.
Malcolm had always felt like an outsider but in joining the LGBTQIA+ community he thought he had finally found a place where he belonged. No-one had waved their rainbow flag with more pride and vigour than Malcolm had but now there were little doubts beginning to creep into his head. There was indeed something he found very uplifting about a community of misfits clubbing together to change people’s perception about things but as a mushroom he wasn’t sure if the rest of the community took him seriously. He was the misfit amongst misfits. Perhaps he wouldn’t have been so out on a limb if he had become a homosexual instead of a mushroom but that just wasn’t Malcolm’s cup of tea. In fact, even though Malcolm could recite all of the one hundred and seven different genders he wasn’t particularly interested in having sex with any of them. As for becoming a trans-woman, although very supportive of it in principle, he felt dressing up as a woman to be a little too glamorous and showbizzy for him personally. Becoming a furry was another option he considered but he just wasn’t physical enough to be running around like a dog all day or leaping on top of things like a cat. But being a mushroom seemed to suit his personality. It was the obvious choice for him. What if his wife was right though? What if he was just deluded?
Malcolm’s cognitive dissonance was completely tearing him apart. His self esteem had reached its lowest ebb and he crumbled to the floor in a state of existential angst as tears welled up in his eyes. “I’m pathetic!” He angrily spat the words out at himself. “I’m a failed mushroom!” He lay in a heap on the floor of the damp cellar for what seemed like an eternity considering whether to slit his wrists with a Stanley knife that he had grabbed from his toolbox.
In his state of nervous exhaustion Malcolm momentarily lost consciousness and then, in what can only be described as a religious experience, he opened his eyes to see the most beautiful rainbow forming before them. It only lasted for a brief moment (maybe it was the light playing tricks) but it was the glimmer of hope he needed. “It’s a sign!” he thought to himself. What did it matter whether he was a mushroom or not? As long as he could see those magical rainbow colours everywhere he walked – at work, in the supermarket, in the banks, on the television, on buses and on trains – then he could rest assured that it’s okay to be an individual.
He went upstairs to talk to his wife.
“You’re right, Dear. I’m not a mushroom,” he said to her, smiling serenely.
Malcolm’s wife was filled with immense relief and joy as she gave him an enormous hug. Malcolm felt a closeness to his wife that he hadn’t felt for years and he was ready to be himself. He was ready to be brave and tell the truth.
“I’m an adult baby,” he said proudly.