Miss Gendered

| Oct 26, 2015
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No one enjoys being mis-gendered.

When I was younger, working in broadcasting and playing in a rock band I had longish hair. One evening when I parked my car where I shouldn’t have a man from the business who owned the parking lot called out “Miss, you can’t park there.” I was dressed as a male and three thoughts went through my mind; “Did this guy know my ‘secret’” — “Oh boy! I passed as a girl,” and — “How dare he call manly me ‘miss.’”

The desire among most crossdressers is to be able to cross the gender border, pass as a woman, and then go back to their male life with no vestige of their femme persona visible, at least none that could make their friends and associates question their manliness. So for crossdressers being mis-gendered can happen in either gender. As a woman they don’t wish to be addressed as “sir” and as a man they would get paranoid about being “read” if anyone called them “miss.”

Among trans women being mis-gendered is always a result of someone noticing a masculine characteristic and using that to make the instant judgement we all subconsciously make about the gender of the person we are interacting with. Unfortunately often times trans women do have masculine characteristics that are hard to modify and tend to overshadow their feminine cues. They can be large, both in height and weight. They may have body hair that is hard to remove or facial hair that has left rough textured skin where it has been removed. Their hands can be large. Their voices may not sound like a woman’s and due to their size they may not move with feminine grace. Good manners would indicate that it would be polite to not make any statements about gender but detection of these masculine cues are all that’s needed for he rudest among us point out that they can tell they’re not looking at a cis-woman.

News flash! This kind of deliberate mis-gendering happens to cis-women, too.

Years ago I had a female pal who was six feet tall. She was lovely and feminine but she confided in me that because she was so tall she often got people making comments like “Is that a dude?” behind her back. The rude among us will always have to make a comment and they should just be ignored.

When people are making a point of mis-gendering they will give you a clue that they know “the truth” about you and they want you to know, so they add emphasis to their “sir.”

If someone calls you “sir” when you are trying to project a femme image they don’t necessarily mean to insult you. They may just be ignorant of trans people and use “sir” to show respect as they would to any male. If you care to bother you might educate them that you prefer “miss” or “ma’am” and make them aware that if they see male characteristics they should not assume the person wants to be identified as male.

I was shopping in a Nordstrom Rack store in the past couple of months and one of the sales associates said, “Are you finding everything, sir?” He added a little bit of extra emphasis on the end of the question to let me know he had “spotted” me as a male in women’s clothing. I told him I was doing fine and left it at that. While it is nice to educate people it’s not my full time job.

How about the use of words like “guys” and “dude,” particularly by young people. I have heard members of the trans community get upset about being with a group of people at a restaurant and a waiter or waitress asks “Are you guys ready to order?” Rein in your dismay. “Guys” has become a generic word that substitutes for “folks.” “Dude” has also gone generic. It is often used by young women to refer to their female friends. Remember, if they’re mis-gendering you on purpose the word will have more weight.

If you are projecting one gender and someone mis-genders you evaluate the context before you get upset. If it’s intentional disrespect deal with it in you own way. Educate them, hit them upside the head, or let it pass with dignity. If it’s due to ignorance either educate them or ignore it. Don’t hit them upside the head. Someday if we work at it long enough the masses may come to understand that there are many genders and people who display characteristics from all over the spectrum. Then no one will be mis-gendered. Until then carry on and don’t let the rude people bring you down.

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Category: Transgender Body & Soul


About the Author ()

Angela Gardner is a founding member of The Renaissance Transgender Association, Inc., the former editor of that organization's newsletter and magazine, Transgender Community News. She wrote the Diva of Dish column for TGF in the late 1990s and was the Editor of LadyLike magazine until its untimely demise. She is currently the Editor of TGF. She has appeared in film and television shows portraying TG characters, as well as representing Renaissance on numerous talk shows. In her idle hours she keeps busy producing her monthly TG parties, Angela's Laptop Lounge.

Comments (1)

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  1. JosyC JosyC says:

    Great article. The problem is that most folks think in 2 genders.I have lesbian friends who constantly get call ‘sir’ and laugh about it later.

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