Who are you calling ‘sir’?

SneakersI was shopping for a pair of sneakers for our oldest son’s birthday today.  Upon entering the shoe store, I made a beeline for the DC Shoes and that’s when I heard it.

“Can I help you, sir?” said loudly and confidently.

Usually, the sir rolls right off my back.

Sometimes I take great pride in being viewed as a man, and I play along.  Sometimes I find it amusing.  Other times, it’s annoying.  It all has to do with what I’m wearing and where I’m going and who I’m with and my state of mind at the time.

Butches are awesome like this.

Butches are awesome like this.

Never forget that butches are complex creatures like unicorns and writers.

Today, the sir made me angry.  I’m not sure if it was because I was having a bad day or because I was tired.

I turned around to face the shoe store worker and responded politely with a “no thanks.”  I’m sure that’s when she put two and two together.  The two being my voice, which does not sound like that of a husky lumberjack, and those other two things that sit in the middle of my chest.

What I wanted to say was: Maybe you shouldn’t be throwing around gender-specific words like “sir.”  Everything isn’t always black and white, boy and girl, cut and dried.  Think before you speak.

Of course, it wasn’t her fault.  I was wearing a men’s T-shirt and men’s cargo shorts and men’s sneakers and looking at men’s shoes.  And anyway, you can put lipstick on a butch, but she’s still a butch — a fantastical creature that falls somewhere on the gender binary between male and female.

When I went up to the register to pay for the sneakers, the worker addressed me as “miss” very loudly.  Apparently, she thought that if she screamed “miss” loud enough it would negate the “sir,” and we’d be even stevens.

Well, we’re not even.  I haven’t been a miss for more than a decade, and even then it would have been a questionable call.

The bottom line is that she just couldn’t win.

I can relate.

13 responses to “Who are you calling ‘sir’?

  1. Okay, so the museum is me… I’ve set up a site for work and keep forgetting to sign out between the two. So… bonus like?

  2. Funny and insightful, as usual!

  3. The line that rings of truth here is the “loudly and confidently” of the mis-gendering person. That is always how it is. The trully observant person will avoid using any gender specific labels, and in the end always be more polite than the overconfindent underobservant misgenderer.

  4. Wow- yeah. I go through this all the time. and it’s so true– how can anyone win?

    I loathe being called ma’am and miss and all that, but i cringe when called sir because I know its only a matter of time before the awkward “I’m so sorry!” follows..

    I guess the best case is when they don’t use gendered terms at all– but even then, I can tell by their face that they dont know “what I am” and so thats the only way they feel they can address me– and that doesn’t feel good either.

    • It is a no-win situation. I guess that I feel best when I’m out and about and feeling very confident and then get a “can I help you, sir?” Guess it’s all a state of mind.

      By the way … nice boots.

  5. I can relate to this. My partner is definitely butch and she wears all men’s stuff. She does it for style but she also does it cause she’s a broad shoulder woman with large feet. So men’s stuff works for her. We go shoe shopping and I can’t count how many times she’s been called sir. We both laugh about it and just look bright eyed at the store clerks and smile saying thank you. It usually causes them to realize and turn beat faced red. We both love making people blush at their assumptions or mistakes. Well written! Love and Light ~ Lena Rai ~

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