Feature image by mikroman6 via Getty Images
When it comes to gender, I opt out. What am I? I don’t know, nor do I care. But other people care — a lot.
No matter which word(s) I’ve used to describe my gender in the past, one thing has remained consistent throughout my adulthood: I’m a masculine-presenting person. I’m not a towering beefcake with a gravelly voice, although that sounds like a fun body to live in. I’m more like a boyish dirtbag. Picture Peter Pan in jeans and a hoodie or a young Leo DiCaprio with a buzzcut. That’s me, whatever I am, until I enter my Silver Fox Era, and sometimes moving through the world in this way can be awkward.
In about half of my interactions with new people, I’m read as a 30-something butch dyke (accurate). The other half of the time, I’m read as a man — well, more like a “young man,” and I get it. When strangers assume I’m teenage cis boy, I’m never offended — because, buds, I can see myself! I’m 5’2” with a hint of upper lip peach fuzz. I don’t have much going on in the “womanly curves” department. I wear men’s (or, more often, “big boys”) clothing. If I saw me on the street, I might think I’m a teen boy, too.
Sure, there are times when confusion around my gender and age has led to situations that are scary or just inconvenient. Other times, it’s funny as hell, and that’s why I tell great stories at parties. But I’m not going to parties these days, what with this unremitting global pandemic, so please allow me to regale you on the world wide web. Here are eight hilarious times when strangers misread my gender, ranked.
8. “Did you know this is the women’s locker room?”
I hear this one all the time in gender specific spaces, and at this point, it’s almost too boring to include here — but I must say, I love when people frame their gender policing as a question, because what do they expect me to say in response? My goodness, I must have missed the sign on the locker room door (you know, the one that says, “WOMEN” in big, bold letters), and I had NO IDEA that there have been WOMEN (gasp) UNDRESSING (gasp) all around me for the past several minutes!
7. “Aw! Are you getting these tampons for your sister or for your girlfriend?”
A Walgreens cashier thought it was so, so sweet that I was buying tampons for someone else. She looked pretty shocked when I said, “They’re for me.”
Sometimes the response to my assumed gender is just a straight-up scream, and honestly, I respect the efficiency. This has happened a number of times — most notably, in the women’s bathroom at two different wedding receptions. I guess most straight cis women don’t expect to see a suit-clad studmuffin in the powder room. I’ve since learned to use the men’s facilities any time I’m in formalwear.
5. “Are you brothers?”
When I was in my early twenties, strangers would often ask if my trans guy friend and I were brothers, even though we look nothing alike. Straight, cis folks seemed to recognize a similarity between us, but instead of thinking, “Ah, yes — two masculine-presenting queer people with a shared lived experience,” they’d think, “Ah, yes, of course — SIBLINGS!” Once we were riding the bus and a passenger started giving us dirty looks (maybe she was bothered by our political buttons, or maybe she just hated our hairstyles). “Are you brothers?” she asked. We both said “yes” and immediately kissed on the mouth.
4. That time Fred Phelps himself told me to “turn away from men.”
When I was an undergrad, the Westboro Baptist Church protested at my university for some unknown reason. I attended the university’s counter-protest and when I got up close to the haters, Fred Phelps himself decided to point at me and yell about my “lifestyle”…but he didn’t quite get it right. Yep, Fred Phelps thought I was a gay man (and, yep, he used some choice slurs, too). No problem, Fred (may you rest in misery). I’ll be sure to have lots of sex with women, as your god intended.
3. “Young man, what’s strapped to your chest?”
You knew I’d have a tale involving the TSA, didn’t you? I was going through airport security while wearing a sleeveless shirt. I guess part of my sports bra was showing. That’s when a TSA agent stopped me, demanding to know what was “strapped to my chest.” “My boobs,” I replied.
2. Any time I’m assumed to be my partner’s son.
Before you think, “Your partner must look much older than you and that’s why this happens,” you would be incorrect, because strangers have assumed I am the son of at least THREE DIFFERENT PARTNERS over the course of ten years. Here are just two examples of times when this has happened:
a) My former partner and I were applying for an apartment. The property manager looked at my partner and said, “So just you and your son will be living here?” Boy, was he surprised when he learned I had a full-time job.
b) Two years ago, a man in an elevator looked at my girlfriend, gestured at me, and asked, “How old is he?” I said, “I’m 30.”
1. “LIL’ BOY, I CAN SEE YOUR VAGINA!”
Allow me to provide some context. Last year I was biking down a busy street when an old man sitting at a bus stop rose from the bench, pointed at me, and shouted, “LIL’ BOY, I CAN SEE YOUR VAGINA!” with his whole entire chest. I’m going to assume best intentions here, because he really didn’t seem angry or hateful — he was making an observation that he wanted to share with the neighborhood. At the time, I was wearing an oversized hoodie and loose-fitting athletic pants, so I doubt he was actually able to identify my genitals. I think this was his way of saying, “That person looks like a little cis boy, but they are not a little cis boy!” And, yes, my guy, that is 100% correct, so maybe he didn’t “misread” my gender after all — although he could have chosen his words more carefully.
Do you have a hilarious tale about a time when you genderfucked a little too close to the sun? Tell me about it in the comments!