Androgyny and manners: when sir/ma’am is not black and white

Are you one of those guys/gals that tend towards the androgynous side? Ever been addressed by the wrong sex and just tried to flow with it, but the other person-the one committing the faux pax- just won’t let it go?

It used to happen to me when i was younger…a lot. Of course, i was young, skinny and had really really short  hair. As a butch, I wore my hair proudly shorn to stubby spikes and i stomped through life in my cowboy boots with more attitude than one young dyke should be able to muster. Then it stopped, until I went crazy/silly with exercising again and I got skinnier and brought those high cheekbones and androgynous looks back to join the ever present short hair and attitude-all the way down to an ancient pair of comfy cowboy boots.

Now, here is the problem. Our society is programmed for male/female…boy/girl. We say ma’am and sir to be polite…I have to admit I do it. I am from the south, after all, it was how I was raised. The problem is, sir and ma’am is a part of the either/or equation that we are also fighting so hard to get away from.  Somehow, being polite is now getting people flustered, like the other day.

The checkout lady accidentally called me sir, then ma’am, then sir…she couldn’t figure me out, and she just couldn’t let it go.  It was embarrassing for the both of us as everyone else in the line turned to listen to her and look at me. Now, the question I would pose would be how do we address someone respectfully without making these mistakes? Is a new form of address going to be needed, one that is gender neutral? I don’t know.

All i do know is that I do appreciate those who make an effort, and are trying to have a more open mind as to who gender and sexuality are being expressed. Especially when it is done without malice or delight at trying to figure out the “odd one.”

I have had other experiences, some bordering on the hilarious, while others have made my blood boil. I mean, i know what i look like, but i am by no means graced with the dulcet tones of a 60 year old smoker who rasps like a drill Sergeant in a gas chamber. If I tell you I’m a girl…I expect you to believe me, not go running out of the bathroom and freaking out like someone was in their playing with their garden hose. Jeez.

I would like to hear from others. I know there are many, many examples of stories like mine. And, I would love to hear if they are getting better, or at least more interactive as the times have changed.




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