Can I Help You, Butch?

a-butch-worthy-loaf-of-breadNo, I’ve never been asked that question. Today I was “Sir’d” while I was waiting to buy a loaf of bread at Bien Cuit. I did not correct the counter-man, and he did not apologise. Mostly I am read as female but several times a week I am read as male. I answer to either.

I realize that it would be easy to be consistently read as female. That it is completely in my control.  If it bothered me to be “Sir’d” I could be “Miss’d ” or “Ma’am’d” in an instant. It isn’t that strangers don’t pay any attention when they look at me. They don’t see obvious female clues, so they default to male. I don’t do any of the things that women are supposed to do to look like a woman. Some people get confused because they see my gender, but they don’t see my sex. Some people get angry because they think I should be easier to read. They don’t like having to think. Some people hate ambiguity.

In theory, I could wear earings that dangled. Or I could wear glasses that are feminine. I could carry a purse. I could tweeze my eyebrows. I could shave my legs. I could wear make-up. I could wear a scarf like a woman wears it. I could style my hair differently. I could wear jewelry (other than studs in my ears). I could wear women’s clothing, or a woman’s winter jacket, or a woman’s hat, or women’s gloves. I could color my hair. I could show cleavage. If I did just one of those things, if I gave just one visible clue, I would automatically register as “Miss”. But I am never going to do any of those things. I am never going to make an effort to look like a girl for anyone.  I make an effort to look the way I look.

I am so far down the butch bunny trail that I couldn’t even remember the word that went with eyebrows (shave? thin? thread?) and I started to write “wear a purse” because the phrase “carry a purse” is not in my vocabulary. I have to accept that it is no accident when I am “Sir’d”. I have to accept that when I look in the mirror I want to I read myself as “not a girl”. I have to accept that whichever way you read me, by sex or by gender, you are right.

3 thoughts on “Can I Help You, Butch?

  1. DapperZ

    I got told I was a ‘good lad’ a little while ago when I held the door open for an older lady in my local town. I actually was really pleased- it was said in such a tone of surprise, like the idea of a ‘young lad’ holding the door open for a lady was really unusual. I was the ultimate gentleman that day!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I was proofed buying beer (had to show ID proving I was 21) up until I was in my mid-thirties. The clerks were always embarrassed to see that I was an over 30 female who looked like an underage guy. Eventually, my hair got enough gray in it that they stopped asking!

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      1. urbanmythcafe

        It is funny that gender ambiguity is frequently read as youth.

        A few years ago ( I would have been 42) , I took my parents out to eat when they were in town. They were amused to no end that I was carded for a glass of wine. I tried to explain to my mother that the waitress was just confused about my gender, but my mother just couldn’t understand that.

        Well, for a few days I got a little bit of a big head about “passing” for 21.

        A few mornings later, however, another restauraunt gave me the senior discount.

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