A recent comment from a friend got me thinking. I know .. I shouldn’t do that.
She was bewildered about how she’s treated when visiting a particular city. You know, the “sinful” city in the US desert southwest. I’ll paraphrase her comment. “I get all dressed up, makeup, hair and they refer to me as “sir”. Back home, I do much less appearance prep and am most often referred to as “ma’am”.
I’ll separate out the part of her comment that related to “dignity and respect” because I find that particularly troublesome, and will address it later.
But for now, I think most of you would agree that gender perception is a basic human function and doesn’t change when entering a particular city limits. Yes, some people will “make” us and will address us as the ‘wrong’ gender to be insulting or to show disapproval but, for the most part, I don’t think people put that much effort into a casual, public encounter.
I wanted to tell her to just look in the mirror. When moving outside our normal circle, it’s not uncommon that we do things differently. Behavior and appearance often change to suit what we determine are the circumstances. Look .. in .. the .. mirror. It’s all there.
But what do I know? I learn by observation and work hard to be addressed as the gender I appear but have no delusions that I’m fooling anyone, and am okay with being referred to by the wrong pronoun. And frankly, being “ma’am’d” when I’m in guy mode would just never happen to me.
And to her comment that being called “sir” failed to treat her with “dignity and respect”, this attitude, in a nutshell, it’s why we continue to struggle for acceptance. We need to “get real” if we expect others to take us seriously.
People are visual creatures but their abilities are not so well honed that they can see the gender we feel in our hearts. For that, we need to provide some solid visual clues. And accept responsibility when we fail to do that.