being sir in 2011

December 23, 2011

I regularly get called sir or am regularly otherwise assumed to be a guy. And, actually, I like it (probably no surprise there), except that it often leads to an expression of embarrassment or some other awkward or uncomfortable feeling from the other person, who feels like they’ve made a mistake, which I understand, even though I don’t feel it’s mistake. The gender binary really does suck.

Nothing this year rivals some of the classics from the past, like the time I was asked to show my ID as I started walking into a ladies changing room or the time at the SF airport when I was walking into the women’s restroom and this women behind me told me I was wrong place or the time RU and I were walking around our neighborhood park and this kid who had climbed up in a tree asked me if he could ask me a question, which was: was I a girl or a boy. Still, I thought I’d recount a few of the more memorable incidents from 2011

  • A TSA guy working the security line at the PDX airport waved me forward with a “Next, sir.” I handed him my ID and he quietly looked at it and my ticket for more than a few uncomfortable seconds. (I have an irrational fear that I’ll be strip searched to prove who I am.) Finally he said to me “I guess I need to start wearing my glasses.”
  • While walking around the NYC’s lower east side with RU this fall, we passed a guy on street who yelled out at me “What are you anyway?” And then the guy said something about my haircut and was a guy or not. I don’t remember his exact words about my haircut because I was fighting the urge to tell him to go fuck himself.
  • I was shopping at Food 4 Less and check out lady called me “sir” about 5 or 6 times in a row even though I was using my debit card, which has my name on it.
  • I was checking out the sale rack at J Crew in downtown Portland and this very cute gay guy who worked there came up to me said , “Are you looking for anything in particular, sir?” I told him “no,” and looked around for a few more minutes, but then I got started feeling awkward and left, but then I came back because it felt stupid to feel awkward. Plus, it was a good sale and I’ve been obsessed with trying to find good wool sweaters. I picked up a bunch of sweaters I wanted to try on and headed to the men,s dressing room and the same guy who called me sir came over to help me and we started talking about the holiday shopping madness. As he opened the door to one of the tiny changing rooms he waved his hand torward the room me and said “Oh girl, just leave whatever doesn’t work out for you.”
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