Saturday, April 4, 2009

You Got "Sirred"

The other day I walked into an unnamed establishment wearing a purple shirt with a gun on it, some superbly rad sunglasses, a little bit o' makeup, tight jeans and some tennis shoes. I was kindly greeted at the door by a young man who immediately and politely said,

"How can I help you, sir?"

What a nice guy right? I mean, he asked how he could help me. He smiled. He had a cheery voice. Because of his kind demeanor, I replied


Immediately he was apologetic, covering his tracks with "I'm so sorry." It was definitely genuine. Why then, did it bother me so much? After all, he just made a mistake.

This is why it bothered me. I was wearing some makeup (which I hardly ever do), I do not have many physically masculine features, and I have these lumps of flesh on my chest called breasts that were not exactly lost in my t-shirt.

Why would someone look at me and think man? What is it about our culture that sees short hair and thinks boy? How can obvious signs of femininity get bypassed because of a brief look at the very top of the body? Why must someone even greet a person by saying "sir" or "ma'am?" Isn't it enough to say, "Can I help you?"

This is not the first time this has happened to me. A few years ago I shaved my head after having hair past my shoulders for most of my life. For me, it emphasized a fierce feminine beauty that I had not seen in myself. I had relied on my hair to get me by as "sexy" or "woman" or "feminine." Shaving my head made me see what I was hiding behind all that hair.

The other women I came across in public restrooms did not quite agree. I started getting double-takes and scowls. People walked back out the door to look to see the strange stick figure woman with no curves but a definite dress, sure they were in the right place, but more importantly that I was in the wrong place. I was experimenting with gender expression at the time, and although I still identified as female, I expressed as masculine/androgynous. This helped these women stare at me or tell me that I needed to leave. They're lucky I didn't point out to them that the woman on the door didn't have any hair at all, and that they weren't wearing dresses, so technically I belonged there more than they did.

Ultimately I would hold my head up and pop my chest out to let them realize that I in fact was a woman and had every right to urinate in the stall next to them.

I don't completely blame people for making mistakes with gender. I have made the same mistakes and have felt like a jerk while I rushed to apologize. My point is, that we should be more aware of people and not be so quick to assume that what we see is what's really there.

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