I Have No Idea

So I ran some errands with my wife on this rainy morning.

First, we had some paperwork to fill out at the bank. The interaction was all very pleasant and businesslike, yet there was not a single title, ma’am, sir, Mr., Ms, or Mrs. There were no pronouns used of any kind.

Second, we stopped at the supermarket next door to the bank. As I approached the checkout, the cashier loudly exclaimed “And how are you today, sir?”

Last, we visited our favorite Vietnamese restaurant. We lingered over lunch and looked out on the puddled parking. When the server picked the check up at the table, she confidently said “Thank you, ladies.”

Three different experiences in three hours. Add the experience of being aggressively stared at and sometimes stalked, and you get the story of my life.

A few days ago, Jamie asked, “Is there a universal difference in being in the middle depending on which end you started at. What are the similarities?”

To which, my answer is a confident, emphatic, “I have no idea.”

I have been thinking on this question all week. The more that I think about it, the more that I realize that all that I know is my own personal experience (which I know to be heavily distorted by my own unrealistic self-image), and my own philosophy (which probably has no basis in the empirical world).

My own experience is that I started somewhere in the middle, and 46 years later I am still somewhere in the middle. At home, I experienced an upbringing largely free of gendered expectations. My mother was thwarted by the limitations of growing up as a girl in the 1940’s and 50’s. She let us know it. (I am glad for those lessons in homespun feminism. ) The 1970’s were full of anticipations that things would be different now. Equality of the races and sexes was here at last. Helen Reddy sang “I am Woman.” Ziggy Stardust sat in a tin can. The Jeffersons were movin’ on up, and Archie Bunker was a soon to be extinct Jurassic species. The naivety was almost comic, with 40 years of hindsight.

In school, I was labeled “boy.” I resisted this label, as much as I could, and spent most of the next many years of my life fleeing all things male. By 4th or 5th grade, I was sure that I was actually “girl.” To others, I was “different”, “artistic”, or “gay guy”. “Gay Guy” became a comfort zone for me. All things considered, it is a fairly socially acceptable version of “middle” (perhaps the social equivalent of “butch lesbian”? ). It took a long time for me to realize that “gay guy” was holding me back. ( I am not primarily romantically attracted to males. But others saw me as a gay male, and I was comfortable with that. )

Now, I am more middle than ever. Because of my “butch” attributes, I think that people are as likely to think that I started as female, than that I started as male. But I really don’t know, and I really don’t know how others see me. But, that shouldn’t matter. None of us can ever really know how others see us, or even control how others see us. It is really just a matter of our own lived experience.

(My neighbor calls me “David Bowie” when he is drunk.)

Jamie’s question perplexed me, the more that I thought about it. Maybe we can hammer out some better answers in the comment section.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jamie Ray
    Sep 27, 2014 @ 19:32:37

    In my mind I was picturing it as if you start building a bridge over a river by having two engineers starting from each side – what happens when you get out over the river? Do the roads meet? Or are they off by 10 feet? Are we on the same road/do we intersect?

    It is a tough choice whether gay guy or butch lesbian is a more socially acceptable position. If you have style and are arty, I think gay guy is preferred (more fun to be around) compared to sober and practical butches. On the other hand, I think culturally it is more accepted to start female and move towards male (rather than start as male and move towards female) because we (royal we) value men/maleness/masculitnity/penises more than women/femaleness/femininity/vaginas.

    After I read your post, Donna and I went to the farmers market. At the Hawthorne Valley Farm stand I got Sir’d, then an apology, then I responded that I’m ambiguous and hard to read. The person who sir’d me turned out to be a 35ish old FTM just starting transition/hormones. Using ze pronouns. Ze then asked if Donna was my mother (ugh) and I said no, she is my long term partner.

    So, I got sir’d and Donna (the invisible lesbian) got Mom’d by a trans* person stuck in a binary and heteronormative view of life. Ze is on zir way to being in zir own words “a handsome straight dude.”

    Liked by 1 person


    • The Final Rinse
      Sep 28, 2014 @ 09:55:34

      H. is very sensitive to the fact that hormones have had the unintentional side effect of youthening my face. I don’t think that she has ever been mom’d, but we are both a little hypersensitive to it, and if she does get mom’d when we are out in public together, the mom’er is really going to get an earful!

      Your words “stuck in a binary and heteronormative view of life” explain my problem with your original question. Asking how people perceive us gives too much credence to the validity of those perceptions. Being trans, to me, involves a great deal of saying that the existing rules are a lot of baloney. Many individuals can easily blend into the opposite gender from the one which they were assigned at birth. Many, because of whatever physical features, cannot. The transgender concept says that gender is a lived experience, and that we give respect to others lived experiences, and that man, or woman, do not always look like we think they should.

      “Do we intersect?” is such an individual question. People have many starting points, and many destinations.



    • Ellen Hawley
      Jan 25, 2015 @ 13:02:28

      Damn, the world’s a complicated place. I’m a 68-year-old lesbian, and I know I’ve baffled enough people in my time, but I’m still struggling to wrap my head around the complications of transgender issues.



      • The Final Rinse
        Jan 26, 2015 @ 08:38:42

        Yes, the world is complicated.
        Now, here comes all of us folks to break all of the rules that were invented to make the world an uncomplicated place!
        Once you open the box, there is no cramming it closed again. So, humanity is going to have to get its act together real quick and realize that the rules of the sexes, the genders, the castes, the classes, and the races are not the important rules.
        (insert paradoxical smiley emoticon)

        Liked by 1 person

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