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!


    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!


      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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