03 December 2009

As long as it's sir with respect...

So it's been a few months since I got my haircut and it's been at the decidedly shaggy stage for a couple weeks. Usually I just let it grow all through winter, style be damned, because I hate it when my neck is cold. This time, however, I just wasn't feeling the shaggy.

With coupon in hand and mid-fifties weather, I decided to roll the dice at SuperCuts. The lone black man in the shop threw me a bit since I'd never seen a man working there before, but he was friendly so I signed in for my cut. His accent made me think of the Caribbean, but I really couldn't place it for certain. Besides, he said he'd lived in Brooklyn so he could easily have lived in the US all his life and still have an unusual accent.

As I sat down in the chair, he said, "When you first came in, I thought you were a boy. I'm sorry."

I shrugged and said, "That's OK."

I've been mistaken for male numerous times over decades. I'm tall, most of my clothes are masculine (I like dark colors and usable pockets--what of it?), I don't wear makeup, and I don't have a big rack to tip people off. Doesn't seem to matter if my hair is pulled back in a barrette or down. If someone calls me "sir" out of politeness, I'm not going to make an issue of it. Often they soon realize the mistake on their own and apologize.

When I've told family and friends about various mistaken gender encounters, they regard me in disbelief. They just don't see how someone could that mistake which is sweet but clearly biased.

What was unusual in this instance is that he made the assumption and realized his mistake before saying anything to me but then felt compelled to tell me anyway. I don't know what the point of that was or what he expected me to say. I'm not going to apologize for or justify the clothes I wear, or my lack of makeup and earrings. I think he was just saying what crossed his mind, but with a different inflection it could so easily have been mean or come across as an attempt to embarrass me.

I do not fit your expectations; I get it and I'm good with that.

A year ago on TTaT: Prop 8 - The Musical


  1. It would be great if we could get away from gender stereotypes in general and both men and women could dress however they want... I am not asking for a role reversal, but think people should be free to express themselves as they see fit.

  2. Well said, kilax! Dismantling gender stereotypes would be beneficial across the board, I think.

    Just saw an interesting article in a recent (latest?) Consumer Report about drug store items for men and women. Across the board, though the products are identical or close to it, men's products cost less than women's. I've known this for a long time regarding several products I use, and I find the disparity depressing.

  3. When I can't figure out what gender someone is, I try to figure out what gender they're presenting as. Even if the person in the tux (I guess I'm somewhere fancy in this hypothetical) with the short hair has XX chromosomes, she's still trying to broadcast some sort of male vibe and won't be offended if I "sir" her. I could be wrong, though. Some people (most people?) have really complicated gender identities.

    I think all that, but usually I just address people as "you" and wait for clues.

  4. "I try to figure out what gender they're presenting as."

    It's a sound approach but it's also tricky. I probably do present a masculine vibe most of the time but it's because I don't want to be fucked with not because I want to be mistaken for a man or identified as one. To some extent, it's the cost of doing business. (Ironically, the people who want to get a rise out of me for whatever reason never seem to have any trouble discerning my gender.)

    I'm not thrilled when people get it wrong; I let it go because to make an issue of it would strain the introvert in me and make it embarrassing.

    I do feel for sales/restaurant folk though. When I worked retail in northern FL, sir and ma'am were standard. It was part of the culture there.