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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Clearing My Name

Seriously, only the most boring of gender confusing events have occurred in my life lately. Which has been both a reprieve for my soul and a major downturn for my blog. I'm super grateful to all the gender-line-walkers who have graced Turns Out He's A Lady with their stories, but I've been waiting for something to write about it and it finally showed up last Friday.

So, sad story: my back is a pile of useless spine bones and nerves and puny muscles at the moment. It hurts to sit, it hurts to stand, it hurrrrrts. I complain a lot to people, so I'll spare the blogosphere the boring details. The point is, I decided to give myself a treat and go get a massage after work and before sitting through a 4 hour long opera.

Along 5th Avenue there are signs written half in Chinese and half in English advertising their 35 minute for $30 massages. I've gone one other time to this kind of venue for a massage and it was easy breezy. No ceremony or chit-chat of any kind occurs, you just strip off your clothes and plop on their table. The women who aren't working at the moment watch TV and gab right outside of the massage table curtain. I like the casualness of it, though I am terrified of the possibility that I might hear a happy ending in the curtained "room" next to me.

It had been over 6 months since I had gotten a massage along 5th avenue, so I forgot where I had gone the last time. I ended up just walking up the stairs of the first place I saw and rang the doorbell to get in. The door was half frosted and half transparent. I woman's face appears and she says nothing and walks away shouting: "He's very young!"

Suddenly, another woman's face emerges above the frosting and she immediately waves her hand at me and screams: "NO! You must go! You are too young! Too young boy!"

I'm scream back: "WHAT?? I'm nearly 30 years old!"

As she walks away from the window she screams again: "No, you are too young boy! You must go! You come here every Friday! Not this time! Go!"

I scramble in my bag for my driver's license to show her my age and gender and clear my name (well, really my face). "I'm a girl! And 30!"

She's gone from view and I'm so embarrassed and angry. I fume up and down the street, not sure what to do. I want to go buy a frilly shirt and put a barrette in my hair and then go back and show them what's what. I want to write a hundred bad reviews on yelp. I want to sit outside of their massage parlour every Friday and wait for the boy who looks like me and then bring him in there by his ear and show them how different we are.

Instead, I continue down 5th avenue and find another massage place that hasn't heard about my bad reputation and they laugh when I take off my clothes and surprise them with my girl parts. But I still get a massage.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

High Holiday Special

Dear He's A Lady Reader,

You didn't even know it, but you've been waiting for this story for a long time.


P.S. It's written by Hannah.


My dad tells me that while I’m in Budapest I should go to the Dohány Synagogue, where he thinks my great grandparents were married.   It’s a very beautiful synagogue, with lots of nice geometry on the outside and two large black and gold minarets, so I want to go inside to see more.  They want to charge me fifteen bucks for the pleasure, which is not acceptable to me, so I enquire whether there is a time I could come for free – for services, perhaps? (“You cheap Jew,” I think to myself)

Yes, Friday evening. 

Do men and women sit separately at this synagogue? 

Yes.  (“We’ll get through this, Hannah.”)

I suddenly realize that I have not been to a gender segregated service in a long time, not since I gave away the bulk of my dresses, not since strangers regularly began addressing me as “Sir.”

A friend and I come back to the synagogue a few days later.  The one dress I brought to Hungary is not long enough to get me into a synagogue, and I’ve gone the route of no compromise and worn what’s most comfortable for me – pants, collared shirt, vest.  Leaving my apartment I have a moment of guilt and throw a long cotton scarf into my bag, in case I feel the need to sport a feminine accessory. 

My friend is late.  I watch the door to the synagogue anxiously.  Sweet-looking old couples are being wished a good shabbes and shorts-wearing tourists of all genders are being turned away.  Are they admitting women in pants?  I think so.   I do a trial run.  I approach the door.  “My friend will be here soon, and then we would like to come to services.”  In halting English he responds, “All right, but no cameras.”  Ok.  My friend arrives, and the guard tells her that the sleeves on her dress are too short, so she can’t come in without a shawl.  I give her my scarf, and while she goes to lock up her bike I walk into the synagogue unaccessorized and unaccompanied.  A man hands me a kipah, the head covering worn by Jewish men and sometimes women.  The kipah is a sign of humility before God (who is above you). 

I sit in the center aisle, where men and a few women are milling around.  Without comment.  My friend comes in and pulls me to the side, and upon reflection, and as services begin, this is in fact where all the women are.  It turns out that every person sitting in our row is an English speaker, from London, Westchester, and Long Island.  We chat, as we cannot understand the Hungarian inflected Hebrew or discern from the melodies where we are in the services.  After a few prayers, a man comes to our row and speaks to me in Hungarian.  “I’m so sorry, do you speak English?”  (In my head, “I’m sorry, I will not continue to disrupt your services with my idle chatter”).  “Please take off that kipah.  You cannot wear it.  I’m very sorry.”  “Ok.”  “Would you like a different head covering?  I can give you a piece of lace.”  “No, thank you.”

And with that, I can stop worrying.  Whatever gender situation there was has been resolved, for me, for now.  I’m in.

After services, several groups of women approach me.  “Why did he take the kippah away from you?”  “Well, why do you think?” I say.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sunset on the West Side Highway

Wow. I'm very sorry for how long it's been since I've posted. Here's a good one from Jesse to make it up to you:

SO... I'm biking home to Washington Heights along the West Side bike path. It's around dusk. The rolling hills of Jersey are to my left and the West Side Highway is to my right (see figure 1). Just south of 125th St, I look up and see what appears to be a naked woman on the side of the bike path. I'm thinking: this cannot possibly be a naked woman, but then it IS! Framed by the sunset and concrete bucolic Jersey, there is a completely naked woman with cartoonish porn star proportions. As I get closer, it becomes clear she's in some kind of photo shoot, complete with seductive lip poses & the works.

I keep biking and maybe 20 feet past her, there are about 8 men who have stopped and are leaning against the railing leering at the naked woman. The most skeevy looking of the men (see figure 2) looks at me and grins a skeevy grin and gestures with his chin for me to stop and gawk. He may have winked. I'd slowed down because the path is narrow and I didn't want to hit anyone so we get a nice, extended moment of eye contact in which his complete skeeviness and his glee at the photoshoot are fully communicated. And then--he realizes I'm a woman.

He starts. Pauses. Looks down. Looks at me again. Looks horrified. Spits over the railing to reaffirm his manliness--and then I'm gone.

I did not stay to watch the photoshoot.



Friday, July 29, 2011

Staten Island Rules

How I manage to get such great guest bloggers - I dont' know.

Here's another one from J.L. Mecum:

I used to regularly volunteer at the Manhattan LBGT Center a few years ago. I was working an emotionally exhausting job and was looking for a queer community outlet that didn’t involved getting shitfaced and having drinks spilled on me while I waited for the bathroom at Cubbyhole, crushed up against the jukebox awkwardly. Serving pizza and manning the popcorn machine while a fabu drag queen called bingo seemed like a good change of pace. I became friendly with the volunteer coordinator at The Center (probably because I was always available on short notice) and he began asking me to help with other events.

When June rolled around, I agreed to help The Center hand out information (and apply temporary tattoos to sexy revelers!) at the various borough Pride celebrations. I mean, when else was I going to go to Queens? (Hint: um, NEVER. BK. All. Day.) I even agreed to help with Staten Island Pride, mostly because I had a friend who had been living there for years and hadn’t convinced me to actually make the trek out to his ‘hood. Thinking I’d kill two birds and all that, I made a plan for my buddy Paul to meet me at the Pride site so we could go to his favorite restaurant-slash-dive bar on the island post-Pride. I was excited.

June in New York City = hot as balls. The gymnasium hosting Staten Island Pride predictably was air-conditioning free, so there I was, in my Birks, cargo shorts, and Center t-shirt with sleeves sheared right off. Completing my Dyke in the Summer uniform was the comfy sports bra underneath it all. Gimme a break, okay? It was Staten Island in 2008. I was…younger than I am now. Go easy.

Paul came to meet me. The first thing I said was, “dude, it’s 90 effing degrees. Long sleeves and jeans? You crazy.” He just shook his head (I’ve never seen him in shorts…) and led the way to Book By Its Cover Restaurant and Bar*.

BBIC was a divey dive, with a parrot painted on the side of the building to rival Jimmy Buffet’s trailer. In what I can only assume was a flimsy attempt at “classin’ up the joint,” a hand-lettered sign was posted on the door: NO SHIRT NO SHOES NO SERVICE. NO BASEBALL HATS. MEN MUST HAVE SLEEVES. I chuckled as I glanced through the window and saw an overweight middle-aged man with his sleeveless Champion-brand sweatshirt shooting pool with his also-sleeveless tween son.

The petite bottle-blonde hostess stopped us in our tracks. “You can’t come in here like that,” she said. Like what? Brunette? Sweaty? LIKE WHAT? Paul asked her. She stared at me, then at Paul, then back at me. “You have to have sleeves. You can’t come in here like that.” Now, Paul’s a very traditional guy. He started to step up for me, his friend who happens to be, very much in his mind, a lady, and I don’t think he fully understood what was going on. I knew. I knew from the moment she laid eyes on me: MUST HAVE SLEEVES.

You could almost see the wheels turning in Paul’s head. He looked at the riffraff at the bar. “Those women are wearing tank tops,” he countered. The hostess glanced over at the deflated barflies, “Yes, those women are wearing tank tops. But your friend has to have sleeves.” I told her that the only other shirt I had was a ribbed tank top. Even after speaking to her in my decidedly unmanly voice, the hostess did not change her position. During the course of this awkward encounter, she never used a male pronoun. I fully believe that she felt she just needed to stand by her original judgment and not back down, though by this time she was clearly questioning her appraisal. I have to say that this is a poor life choice and I sincerely hope it
bites her in the ass someday.

Finally, exasperated, she decided, “It’s fine, it’s fine,” and seated us. I am not exaggerating when I say that not one other soul was having a sit-down meal in that establishment. She handed me my menu without making eye contact. In fact, the hostess never looked me directly in the eye again. Paul was livid. He couldn’t understand how anyone could mistake me for a man. I couldn’t understand why, if I was indeed a man, I would be singled out over other bar patrons. It felt very much like “we don’t want your kind here, whatever it is.” Which is lame and so un-New York is makes me sad.

The food was unimpressive and the mood was a sour. The conversation finally started flowing until I had to ask Paul, “Um, uh, where is the bathroom? Should I just use the men’s room?” Without hesitation, he replied, “The men’s room here doesn’t have a seat on the toilet. Don’t use the men’s room here.” I glanced around and made sure no one saw me steal away to the bathroom. But wait, what? I had to make sure no one saw me HEAD INTO THE BATHROOM? This was just ridiculous. No one should ever be made to feel ashamed of getting up to use the bathroom in a restaurant. I was angry at the hostess for her cursory judgment; I was angry at myself for allowing her to affect me; but mostly I was angry at the hostess’s clearly sheltered idea of stereotyping: if I was fitting into any mould, I was ripped from the pages of How to Spot a Lesbian 101. Psssh, get some culture, Improperly-Prejudiced-Hostess-with-Dumb-Hair-Nobody-Likes-You.

I haven’t been back to Staten Island since. I wonder if that make me better or worse than that hostess.
*the establishment's name has been changed to a more fitting moniker.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cutting It All Off

In high school I got really obsessed with a Team Dresch song called Growing Up in Springfield. These are the lyrics:

when i was fourteen i fell in love with her in metal shop she said kaia come pray with me we sat on her bed and we held our hands together she told me i needed god i told her i just needed her when i was fifteen i liked to start fires and i drive my parents truck to the jasper store things were out of control i couldn't stop to see others the ones like me were not far from reach when i was sixteen she said to me you have a demon possession i said what the fuck does that mean she said she couldn't be my friend those were the worst days of my life and all the hick boys loved to harass me so i flaunted my hatred of the flag my mother cried when i shaved my head

Honest and unfiltered like most Team Dresch songs, I especially fixated on the last line about her mother. Instead of writing my first name and a boys last name all over my binders, I would write that lyric. But, no one cried when I shaved my head. There were critical reactions far and wide, but never tears.

My mom was not happy about the news that I was rejecting compulsive straightness, she was not happy that I was starting to dress more and more masculine, she was not happy about my hair being short on my head. Her unhappiness was unselfish and in regards to safety and family. But I was still offended and outraged at what I took to be fake liberal ideals and a lack of support in what was already a difficult and confusing situation. But parental disapproval of queerness is generally expected, so I complained to my friends a bit, listened to Team Dresch as if I could relate to religious indoctrination, and then hunkered down to wait out the likely evaporation of motherly disappointment.

I can't remember the first time I shaved my head. I think my friend Abbey may have done the dirty deed since her excitement and support for my changing self was eternal. I could always count on her for a mohawk or a tight buzzcut, but mostly for the encouraging words that went with such a dramatic haircut that asked for at least a little bullying and snickering. Her goodwill overshadowed what could have been pure mess.

There was a day when my hair was starting to grow back into a wavy blob of ugly and somehow it was decided with my mom that I would go to a hair salon for a professional cut. She was hoping I would get a haircut that promoted a less radical look and somehow I felt guilty enough to agree.

We went to a place called The Yellow Balloon that was definitely for children and for children only. I was 17 and way too old to be going to a place that had a Claw Crane game and literally handed out yellow balloons to their patrons for being well behaved during the haircut.

The hairstylist was talkative and dismissive. She sat me down, threw the cape over my body, and asked me what kind of cut I wanted. Just a trim, I said. And that was that. No further questioning, she just took out her shears and went to work while chatting with my mom. Minutes later, she unbuttoned the cape and I met my mother's eyes as we reviewed the haircut. Something was off. It was too short on the sides and too long on the top. My face was unflatteringly elongated.

Unfortunately, my mother and I both lack the natural instinct (backbone) to demand customer satisfaction. But after our shock dissipated, we briefly discussed the issue sitting on my head and concluded it was too bad not to try and fix. Shamefully walking back to the hairstylist, my mom told her that I looked too much like a boy. Which, wasn't exactly the issue, because I didn't mind looking like a boy. It's just, some haircuts for men don't suit my womanly facial features. And this was one of those haircuts.

Now it was the hairstylist's turn to be stunned. She stammered: Oh, I thought she was a boy. It was awkward. Everyone was embarrassed and all for different reasons. My mom came up with a solution: Shave it all off, she said. That was her idea and THAT was how bad this haircut was.

After this happened I couldn't even possibly conceive of re-telling this story to anyone, much less of having a blog to laugh over these types of incidents. But now, I know why this happens and I'm prepared for it. I give specific instructions to people who are going to cut my hair, buy me clothing, or point me in the direction of the restroom.

The hairstylist obliged, and for what Abbey could've done in five minutes and for free and with love and affection, my mom paid $20.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Shamrock and Fuschia

Guest post from J.L. Mecum!

I am a law student, a Godfather, an only daughter, and a queer. Bieber-doppelganger-extraordinaire. I've been asked if I was trans, had a girlfriend, had a boyfriend, if I'm Native American, if I'm Jewish, if I'm lost (in a public bathroom), if I'm lost (in the little boys' section of Daffy's). Just like Lauren, the proprietor of this blog, I live at the intersection of Sir Street and Ma'am Avenue.

Recently, I had been asked to be in two upcoming weddings for two very dear friends. I was given the gilded title of "Jen of Honour" in one; a happy bridesmaid in the other. Jen of Honor was asked to wear her smartest suit and sharpest tie, and to simply be "comfortable." The bride-to-be, Alexandra, knew my eyes would light up as soon as she said "summer suit." Visions of cotton and linen danced in my head. Maybe even a madras tie?! Perchance to dream!

Amanda, on the other hand, had a plethora of bridesmaids and groomsmen lined up. "Sorry, dude, but Rick's already got seven guys walking with him. If you don't walk on my side and wear a dress, we'll be uneven." I could've balked or complained or begged off, but this isn't about me, it's about my good friend, her marriage, and quite frankly, her wedding album. So I said sure, I'll wear the shamrock and fuschia
dress. Whatever you want. It's your day.

But wait - hold the phone. I haven't worn a dress since the late '90s. What's an andro-butch-boi to do without her trusty knit tie, a sparkly tie bar, those patent leather wing-tips that look strikingly like Gene Kelly's tap shoes? WHERE WILL MY POWERS COME FROM? I took a breath and reminded myself that this day was not about me. Then I took two trains to Church Avenue in Brooklyn.

The dress had been ordered and now it was in. I had returned for the fitting. Being June and the swell of wedding, the place was packed. I sauntered in, alone, with my swoopy short Beatles bangs and my chinos rolled up to my calves, showing off a prominent boat shoe tan. A gaggle of preteens (where are your parents?!) was gathered in front of the dressing mirror, generally being obnoxious, pre-hormonal, and as terrifying to 29-year-old me as they had been in the fifth grade.

The saleswoman expressed her complete disappointment at my inability to produce my receipt; I countered with a glower at their non-computerized record keeping system. "She's going downstairs to find it. It'll just be a minute," she said.

Then I was completely alone.

The preteens stole glances that became less and less stealthy. I shifted my weight back and forth, sweating into my Brooklyn Industries shirt and wishing I were somewhat invisible, or at least translucent. A shadow, perhaps. Peter Pan's shadow would be a dead ringer. They whispered and stared and pointed a little. I dissolved from the inside out. I mean, where the hell was Wendy when I needed her?

After an eternity, the saleswoman reappeared with my dress. I could see the shamrock mocking me through the plastic covering. I slipped inside the changing room and stepped into the glowing green puddle of the dress, drawing it up around me. The long zipper closed and I was snuggly inside my costume.

My emergence from the dressing room must've been like a butterfly from a cocoon, judging by the look on the preteens' faces.' "That's a pretty dress," one said. "Do you want to stand up here?" offered another as they all made way for me in front of the mirror.

I stepped up on to the fitting pedestal. The first preteen made sure I knew just how lucky I was: "That is a pretty dress," she repeated. "Thank you. It's for my friend's wedding." The second piped up, "Are you a bridesmaid?" "Yes," I said, "I'll tell her you think she made a good choice."

The girls stared at me. No more sniggering; no more whispers; just open-mouthed admiration. I've never felt so pretty in all my life. And I owned it. It was possibly the only time I've ever been happy to feel like a princess instead of having one on my arm. But why? Because I'm still me, in a dress or a suit or a
cowboy hat or a banana costume. Those preteens knew it, too. They did not point and laugh at the awkward girl-boy in a dress; they wished they were me.

Now, I know not everyone feels good, or confident, or even comfortable in feminine clothing. I know I usually do not. But I've finally gotten to a place in my life, my identity and my sense of self that I am wearing the clothes, the clothes are no longer wearing me.

Photo by Mary Lou Quillen

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Welcome to Boston, Friends.

I guess since I continuously mystify other people with my gender presentation, I deserve a little confusion now and then myself. Maybe someone can help interpret what was going through this man's mind when he said and did the following:

My friend Cody and I decided to take a trip to Boston to visit Rickard. We get on the Chinatown bus and after 4 hours we arrive at the South Station Bus Terminal. I love this part of the trip because after a long bus ride it's a quick hop on Boston's sleepy subway system (called the "T") to Rickard's place.

Now. I have to admit, I'm pretty sensitive to people staring at me. I'm not as bad as my ex-girlfriend who nearly got us in fist fights with kids from Nepal and big men from Brooklyn. But, I also don't enjoy getting looked at for longer than is polite (Two seconds? Three seconds?). I will usually get up and move away from incessantly or aggressively staring people. Or sometimes, if I'm feeling particularly frisky I'll say: WHAT.

Anyhow. Cody and I are sitting on the T, chatting excitedly to each other, closing in on our destination. I begin to notice a guy sitting across from us and staring. He's maybe 25 years old and wearing your typical fraternity gear. I try to focus on Cody, but this guy just won't quit it. Finally, I look up and stare back, daring him not to look away. He doesn't flinch, and he grins at me - a smile that is maybe drunk or maybe flirting or maybe it's just a smirk. I can't tell. He wins the staring contest and I look up at the train map to see how far away we are from our stop.

Suddenly, The Guy is sitting right next to me. He managed to stealthily make his way over to my side of the train without me noticing. I brace myself for some sort of confrontation and make that half smile/half grimace thing at him hoping to appease whatever interest he has towards me. I look away, turning to Cody for some support and The Guy slurs in my ear: "You guys make a cute couple."

Um. What? I look over at Cody to make sure I'm not holding his hand or fondling him in some sort of couple-like manner. Maybe in our excitement to see Rickard we unknowingly embraced or made eyes at each other, but I'm pretty sure we didn't. I'm pretty sure my dude friend Cody and my strangely gendered self were sitting like friends, not touching, on the T.

So, what, exactly was The Guy trying to say????? And why can I not help but think this is a Boston thing?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I'd Go See This

A short film about gender idenity, bullying, and self-empowerment needs some funding love:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nursing School Highlight

A SUPER guest post from Andie:

I am in nursing school. Every weekday in the early morning I put on my purple nursing school embroidered scrubs and leave my big queer house full of sleepy queer ladies to enter a peculiar gay/straight twilight zone. My nursing school is composed of 10% gay men and 90% closeted lesbians (I wish). We sit in a big room and are taught a curriculum about diseases that .01% of people have, but void of content specific to the gay 10% of the population.

I am used to fluid weekend conversation about tops and bottoms, butches and femmes, shes, hes, theys and then at school the conversation changes to engagement rings and birth control pills and I forget altogether that gender and sexuality is ever a question. I am "out and proud" at school and while it's fun being the go-to person for my friends for all questions about queer sex, and to see how exciting they think it is to tell me that they are so sick of men they think they'd like to try a lady, it gets lonely wondering if all your friends are just worried you're attracted to them. (Yes I am just trying to turn this blog into a forum for discussion of the nuances of the femme experience.)

Thus I wanted a hand to squeeze so bad when I met Brittney (name changed from something equally girly) who works as a wound care nurse at Miscellaneous Private NYC Hospital. Just to clarify: Brittney is really, really butch. And she wasn't fooling ME by trying to hide her hips under those ill-fitting Dockers Khakis but she did ALMOST make her boobs go away under that plaid button-down. The exposed high-necked, V-neck undershirt and gold chain were a nice touch.

Brittney was, however, doing a bang up job of fooling the aging Russian, Jewish, and Hispanic patients and their families that populated this hospital. No one was as excited as me from my purple blob of a cohort to shadow Brittney around the hospital, popping in from room to room, and being asked by the bedside yenta vigilantes, "Who's He??," and that wasn't just because we were changing bone and muscle-exposing Stage 4 pressure ulcers. I love watching her explain care to impatient family members who look at her name tag that I.D.'s her as having a seemingly-genderless ethnic name on it and then the confusion on their face when she tells them her name is Brittney.

My favorite experience with Brittney was the final pressure ulcer we dressed together. The patient had an infection called Clostridium difficile (oh god so appropriately named) that causes the patient to produce the most foul smelling stuff imaginable. To protect myself I just curled up next to Brittney as close as I could without being inappropriate and sucked in intoxicating smell of her Acqua Di Gio. I wanted to find any way I could to give her some kind of knowing, empathetic look that said I am queer too, but I succeeded only in looking like an overeager 12-year-old brown noser, with all-white sneakers and the mandatory ponytail.

I tried to talk to my classmates about how awesome, and sexy and bold she was and they talked about lunch. There are lots of queer women in health care, I know this much is true, but finding them, and trying to give them knowing looks in their place of business is usually just creepy.

Not Brittney:

Friday, June 10, 2011


Hannah said I couldn't turn this brief He's a Lady encounter that happened today into a story because there was no moment where they realize he was a lady - BUT I am here, blogging it, to prove her wrong.

Now I get to riff on the way I feel about people calling me Sir:

It's usually not worth it to correct people when they call me Sir or refer to me as He or Him. If you've read my posts so far, you would've noticed this general inaction. I just tend to let people make their assumptions and see if I can't live around them.

Maybe that sounds pathetic - but I don't really mind those pronouns. It doesn't offend my sense of self or degrade my feminine sensibilities. Since I walk this strange genderline, I think it makes perfect sense that I get called He now and then. I welcome it. Or I would welcome it if I thought that it had no negativity attached to it.

50% of the time, people call me Sir and then I open my mouth and out comes this feminine voice and they look back up and say Oh I Mean Ma'am. The other 50% they either don't hear the girl in me or they are far too embarrased to correct themselves.

Today Hannah I were sitting on the steps of the Grad Center for lunch and two tourists stopped by our "lunch table" and interrupt "our meal" (protein smoothies) to say: "Sir! Where is this?" One of them pointed down at his map that had the Empire State Building circled with the acronym ESB next to it. After he finished attempting to pronounce "ESB" as if it was a word I pointed to the building in front of him. We all laughed together, them because it was right under their noses (hilarious! it's a tall building!) and us because there was no point in correcting his Sir and yeah, it was funny they were so close and didn't even know it.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Okay, this is not a story about me being confusing. It's not even a story. Or it is - but I didn't write it and it has a soundtrack. I was recently exposed* to this insanely strange, but really incredible gender-bending Kate Bush music video.



Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ultimate Defensiveness

I decided to join an Ultimate Frisbee league this Spring so I could get in shape and be trekkable (which means: ready to trek at any given notice and what I consider my peak physical condition). I've always been pretty mediocre at Ultimate; decent at catching and defense but not as talented when it comes to tossing or hucking (ooooo, fancy Ultimate vocabulary).

My quick and dirty Ultimate history recap goes like this: I learned how to play Ultimate in an undergraduate physical education course. Then I joined a league during a difficult summer in Alberquerque NM where the team became my saving grace. Then a short-lived experience in a Berkeley CA league where one day I tried to catch the disc, it smashed into the bridge of my nose and I exploded blood and embarrasment everywhere.

Ultimate in NYC turned out to be a pretty disappointing experience. The majority of my teammates were unrelatable* (supporting gentrification, using inappropriate slang about women and people of color, happily marketing big pharmeceuticals, etc) and the field was located a hefty 20 minute walk from any train. Plus, it was on Friday nights which, turns out, are evenings when people want to do things.

This NYC league required at least two women on the field during play and that meant that at lot people were confused when I was one of those women. Most of the other women understood what I was, but oblivious men would try and guard me aggressively as if they were making up for (what they understood to be) the unfairness of me guarding their female teammates.

I saw this confusion turn into mean-spirited frustration during the last game of the season this past Friday. I was guarding a girl whose temper was short - and she was especially unhappy to be losing to my pretty pathetic but more skilled team. There's a pass to her in the end zone and we both go up for the disc. Neither of us catch it and as she runs away she does this weird, unnecessary, angry-helicopter move and smacks me in my chest with her open hand. All the air in my lungs is gone and I'm on the ground attempting to breathe anyways. She looks at me with 0% concern as she continues down the field. Her teammate who caught the scene says: "Looks like he got in the way of your hand."

A perfect end to a perfect season. THANKS!

*To be fair, there were a few people that were totally rad and to them, if they are reading this blog somehow, I apologize for the generalization.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mistakes in New York City

My first birthday in New York City was a pile of horrible disasters. All I wanted was to go dancing and I did the stupidest thing ever: had high expectations. Since I was new to the city I looked up some places on the internet. A crew of a lovely people showed up at my apartment and we set off to the East Village to find music and people moving to it. Big surprise: We only found expensive covers and bad vibes.

My hopes had not been entirely destroyed just yet. Nearby was a Mexican restaurant where seemingly happy people had extremely large margaritas in front of them. The place was called Senior Swanky's. They sat us outside and a jovial waiter came up to us to take our order. He looked at our table and noticed something peculiar about our group. He exclaimed to me: "Look at you man!! You get to be the only guy with all these ladies!"

I looked around at all my friends and thought about how to handle this. Were they embarassed for me? Was this super awkward? Probably, but it was my birthday and I wanted to be entertained. "It's true!!" I said. "I'm such a lucky guy!!" I jumped up and put my arm around him. I urged my friends to take a picture of us.

Then it started to rain and that concluded the night. People begged off and I probably cried some margarita tears on the subway ride home.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Knowing Look

I would really like to make it socially acceptable for me to loudly announce when I see other gay people. I want to take a bullhorn and proclaim, for all people to know, that I have located another queer and that we may or may not have made eye contact.

Instead of being a total lunatic (and more important than that, maintaining my reputation of imperturbable - hahaha), I've invented a system to satisfy this urge: if I'm lucky enough to be holding someones hand, I may squeeze that hand twice to indicate the observation of a gay person. Sometimes I lose my cool and will squeeze a few extra times when I see a couple, especially a young pair of sweethearts who could care less if anyone is watching them love on each other.

I'm super aware that this involves immense amounts of judgment and crude assumptions on my part. I'm sorry if I've squeezed my partners hand in regards to you and you weren't actually the gay. I take that squeeze back and instead give it to the millions of queers who would loved to be visually identified.

I know I'm not the only one who freaks out upon seeing gay people walking and talking in real life. I asked a friend I super respect for some advice on this blog post and she wrote me back confirming that I'm not alone in this: "Actually I also want to hug basically every lesbian and queer person I ever see on the streets."

I love those moments when I'm walking on those streets, holding hands with some fine girl and I get a look or smile or nod or wink from a stranger. Those signals could mean a million different things: "I'm happy that you found a partner" "I also hit for the other team" "I think you should leave that person and come with me" "My daughter slumps her shoulders to hide her breasts too." I call those signals The Knowing Look. I gave it a name because I cherish The Knowing Look. I try extra hard to make eye contact with strangers just for this look.

Recently, I've started squeezing my own hand. Two light pumps as a reminder to myself that I am not the only queer in this world.

Friday, April 29, 2011


Just to set the scene: I work in an office. I crunch numbers. I wear business-casual clothes even though the rest of my co-workers are dressing business-fancy. I have a boss who is overworked and genuinely cares about his clients.

I've worked here for over three months, and only in the last week has my boss been sending me to client's offices to do work. Maybe it's because he wanted to wait until I understood how things worked or maybe he wanted to see how his clients would react to his strange not-so-female not-so-male employee. So far, no one has ran away screaming.

The first time I went out in the field, the office manager of our client pointed to me and asked my boss: "How long has this young man been working for you?" My boss ignores her outright, and I literally respond with this stupid quip: "Close!" And what I mean by that is: You almost guessed my gender, but you didn't. You were sooooo close, try again.

The other day I went with my co-worker Matt to another client's office. I was going to prepare him for the inevitable confusion, but I wimped out and the receptionist asked who the gentleman with him was. Close! I shouted in my head. I interrupted Matt's speechlessness and said: "We work together."

Here's where things go in a different direction. Matt introduces me to John, our point of contact at this office. A tall man with a soft, awkward demeanor, he shakes my hand and shows us to our work space. Three hours later, John returns and hovers over me. I look up and he says: "Hey, I have to show you something." I turn to Matt, perplexed why he's not being invited to check this something out with me. Matt gives me a blank, unhelpful look. "It's important" John pushes. I'm confused and actually a little nervous. Unable to delay any longer I get up and follow him. He leads me to: The Women's Restroom. In explanation he says: "I forgot to show you this earlier. You might need it."

We laugh together. Him, over this hilarious prank he just pulled. Me, with relief but newfound confusion. I go back to my desk and look to Matt in hopes that he'll shake his head in disbelief over what just happened. Matt is disinterested and unamused.

My guess: John wanted me to know that he understood my gender. He knew that I was a woman and one way to show me that was either to refer to me as "she" (the less complicated and freaky option) and the other was to direct me to a place where only women can go. Maybe he wanted the benefit of having a longer interaction with me and thought we'd have some sort of meaningful conversation on our way to the restroom.

I really don't know what his intentions were - but if I give him the benefit of the doubt, I think he was just trying to connect.

Or maybe he just wanted to show that he knew my trick and wasn't fooled.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fear To Tread: The Bathroom

I'm tired of people telling me that I'm in the wrong restroom.

"This is the laddddies room."

Negotiating the bathroom is probably the most common problem among us gender non-conformers. (That, and getting called sir). Because, unfortunately, this is one of those places where you truly have to identify your gender. This is where everyone goes with a clear idea of who will be in this space and I'm immediately identifiable as not fitting in that box.

In response to the Bathroom Gender Police, I've gone through these very specific phases:

1. "I'm sorry I'm in here, please forgive me for looking like a dude"

2. Don't make eye contact, just fade into the background and maybe they won't notice you

3. "If you even fucking look at me strange, I'll rip your head off"

I really enjoy the times when I'm exiting the bathroom right as a woman is walking in. She'll notice me leaving and then adjust her course and walk into the men's room. The confusion she must feel when she notices a bunch of menfolk or urinals must be so jarring. Wrong again lady!! That's only happened a few times - usually they'll re-check the restroom sign and I'll see them look over their shoulders to give me a squint-eyed stare as I walk away.

I do have sympathy for people who are confused by why I'm in the women's restroom. But it's the cruel responses that drive me crazy. Do they think I'm making out with someone in the bathroom? Do they think I look drunk and made an intoxicated mistake? That I don't see all the females in the bathroom and know where I am? That I haven't been educated to understand that men go in one room and women in another? Or that I literally just made an error and need to be re-directed.

This is why safe2pee exists and there are campaigns at various Universities to create gender neutral bathrooms. Because of folks who can't take one moment to look at me and notice my tits or child-bearing hips or weak chin and most of all, the fact that I look like I know what I'm doing in there.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

When Queers Go To The Mall

From my friend and bandmate Turtle:

Last week, my mom generously offered to buy me a suit for my 26th birthday. What a nice present, now I can look cute at my cousin's wedding, way to go Mom! So, on Friday, April 8th, I cajoled my friend gina kathleen into accompanying me to the Filene's Basement in Union Square, because I heard they had a vast array of relatively affordable suits. And they did! Rack upon rack of discounted quality name brand suits, in a wide range of sizes. Call me a consumer, but I was psyched at the prospect of finally owning a suit from somewhere other than a thrift shop, that had some hope of fitting me well, or at least being close enough to tailor. I grabbed a 40S jacket and a 34x30 pair of pants, and went into the fitting room.

There were no customers in any of the stalls in the fitting room. Despite this fact, the employee inside the fitting room informed me that I would have to use a different one, upstairs. I told her that I was trying on clothing from this section of the store, I was definitely in the right place, and that I would prefer she quit calling me "Miss." She smirked and repeated "Miss, women aren't allowed in this fitting room," (then what the fuck was she doing in there?) so I asked to speak with the manager.

The manager told me that I would not be allowed to try on this suit or anything else without going up an escalator to an entirely different part of the store he deemed the right place for me. I told him I'm not comfortable in the women's try-on room, and that I should be able to try on the fucking suit next to the other suits, in the suit section. What if I needed a different size? I would have to put all my clothes back on, get on the escalator back downstairs, grab a different pair of pants, and then trudge back upstairs and try them on? He said "this isn't about clothes, it's about your gender." No fucking joke, dude.

The same exact thing happened to me the last time I tried to buy a suit, in 2007, at the Burlington Coat Factory in Atlantic Terminal. In that case, I was given a little number tag for the number of items I was going to try on, then moments later had the number snatched out of my hand as the woman in the dressing room put herself between me and the stall door, demanding that I use the ladies' fitting room on the other side of the store.

I've also been ejected from the hallway of a Victoria's Secret fitting room, which I feel somehow further illustrates this idiocy.

The right to buy shit is obviously not the most important fight for queer & trans people to be fighting. The attitude of gender policing that exists in every corner of our existence, in situations that so many people take for granted, is pretty huge, though. No one should have to leave a shitty discount department store in tears for any reason other than the fact that shopping sucks.

SO! I cordially invite you, your roommate, their helper monkey, etc. to join me this Friday for a little shopping trip. We'll try to try stuff on, in any and every dressing room, and see how that goes. Maybe they had a staff meeting about the sad, sad queer they humiliated last week, and have revamped their policies, and this will be totally anti-climatic, and we can just have a department store fashion show for a few minutes until we get bored. You can help me pick out a suit! I could actually buy it this time! Or maybe they will be total douchebags, again, and we will tell them what's up. Either way, the potential for scene-making is high, and really what could I possibly want more for my birthday than to make a big queer scene?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Massages in Kathmandu

If you knew me when I lived in Nepal for a few months then you probably heard this story or read it on my travel blog. But, I think it deserves its moment in the sun on this blog too, since it was quite a He's A Lady moment. Here's the post, reproduced as I originally wrote it:

About five days ago I started getting the same awful cough that Meredith has had for a while. She was still pretty sick and was going crazy from the dog barking and metal grinding that surrounds our house 24/7. We decided that we would move to a hotel for a few days for some peace and quiet. We found a place called Kathmandu Peace Guest House which is just outside of Thamel (the really touristy part of Kathmandu). Then we went to do Meredith's favorite thing in the world: get a massage.

I've only gotten three professional massages in my life prior to traveling to Nepal. One was free at a pole vault meet and the second two were from massage students in Alburquerque and Los Angeles. I had gotten a massage in Kathmandu at a resort near our apartment, so I knew that the Nepali massages included a "breast massage." Meredith enjoyed me squirm as the female masseuse lightly tapped me and said: "Breast massage?" Errrr...I struggled for an answer and then asked the masseuse if Meredith was getting one. Meredith shouted at me: "Yes, just get one!" So, I did and it was fine.

Anyhow, we went to a spa to get another massage and this time we were in separate rooms because I was getting a 90 minute massage so Meredith could get do 30 minutes of sauna. My male masseuse entered and gave me a damn good massage (including the infamous "breast massage" - not as fine this time but whatever). Near the end we started talking and he asked me if I was married. No, I wasn't I replied. We chatted some more and then he asked me for my phone number. Since I was naked, I said "okay, but I'm naked - let me put some clothes on and then I'll come out and give it to you." As I was dressing I realized that he probably thought I was about to put on some girly clothes. Oh man, I hope he dates dykes. Well, turns out he doesn't:

Him: Oh, I see you wear boys clothes.
Me: Yes, yes I do.
Him: Only today or everyday?
Me: Every day.

He was totally heartbroken. He didn't even have the heart to just pretend he still wanted my number. No more breast massage for me.

Okay, just a quick clarifying comment on this post - I hope it comes across as sarcastic when I said "I hope he dates dykes" because I wasn't actually hoping that.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Brothers and Sisters

Let me just start by saying this:

That's my brother Eric and me. And our beloved family dog, Bodhi.

And now we can rewind to my junior year in high school when I was gradually switching from nondescript frilly tank tops and long hair in buns to over-sized shorts and (the unfortunately named) wife beaters. I asked my friends if I should cut my hair and they all said No. But I cut it anyways down to my chin and it looked like a poofy triangle. I cut off the bottom parts of the triangle and it became a top-heavy poof sitting on head. Finally I took some clippers and the hair and poof was gone.

My parents saw my aesthetic changes and probably knew what was happening better than I did. But I never really wondered what my younger brother thought until I came home on spring break from my first year in college. My parents showed me an essay my brother had written about me for school. It talked about how I defied socialized gender and sexuality norms and bucked the mainstream ideals in favor of a unique identity -- but in 13 year-old words: "My sister doesn't care what people think about her and I'm proud of her for that." I appreciated his pride, but believed I didn't deserve it. I was just trying to fit in with the queers I knew and was willing to take the shit that went along with that preference.

Despite the fact that he wasn't the one who had made any decisions, my brother has to deal with people's perceptions and reactions to me. Eventually he probably got sick of being made fun of for something he didn't have any control over and developed less pride and more frustration. I don't know if he still does this, but one time he told me that he would carry around a picture of us and show it to his friends and ask them if they could figure out which one was him. I know I should be super offended by this (and I am to some degree), but I'm also just happy that he brings me up to his friends.

Before my parents moved away from my childhood home, I would go visit and run into my old neighbors who would shout to me from across the street: "Hi, Eric!" I would wave back enthusiastically, not wanting them to think my brother was rude.


(HEY. This blog post was kind of a downer, hasn't anyone been mistaken for a dude in a funny way recently? Please submit before I make everyone depressed.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Angel On The Train

If you need a private detective, I know one. I met him on the train. His name was Angel.

If you live in New York City, you have your crazy train stories. People throwing up, starting fights, cat-calling you or your girlfriend, the offensive preachers, talented buskers, the pretty girl you swear was making eyes at you, the old woman who had a stroke and the people who just watched and did nothing, ETC ETC.

One night I was on the C train riding from Manhattan to Brooklyn. I sat down on one of those two seats that faces three seats. Here's my crappy diagram, I'm not an architect:

Those little blocks are seats.

Anyhow. There I was, reading A People's History Of The United States. The train doors open at 14th Street and in walks my story. Two inebriated men. The first guy is small in stature and loud in voice. The other is the opposite. Small in Stature (SIS) is just itching for a fight. I could tell the moment he entered that car. He's shouting and laughing really loud and just asking people to look at him for too long so he can start some shit. If I could, I would've moved cars, but I didn't want to draw attention to myself.

So, SIS and Large in Stature (LIS) sit down here:

And I think to myself: Fuck.

And that was an appropriate thought because SIS starts spitting the largest spitwads man has ever known into the seats right next to him. He took his time gathering all the spit he had in his small body to ensure that the entire seat was covered. Nothing that Howard Zinn was saying could distract me from large pools being created. I was terrified.

The strangest part, well one of the strangest parts, was that when new people got on the train and would almost sit down on the Spit Seats, SIS would warn them against sitting down. He would put his hand up and say "Don't Sit There" and then he would shake his head in digust as if some other psycho had spit on the seats and he was protecting the innocent.

I knew it wasn't long before SIS got bored of his seat watching duties and turned his attention to me.

That's when he looks at my book and asks me what I'm reading. I can barely speak, so I just show him the cover. He says: "Naw, don't read that shit." My defense against aggresiveness is to giggle quietly, so that's what I do. But he's serious: "No seriously, put that shit away. Don't Read It." He wants to start something with me, and I have no idea how to get out of this situation. So, I close the book and look at my phone for a second, acting busy. Not wanting to look like a complete chump, I start reading again after a few minutes. He notices.

"What did I say? Don't read that! You can learn that shit on your own. You don't need no book."

I'm kind of startled by the fact that he has some reasoning behind his command and as if he's capable of more reasoning, I say: "I didn't learn about this in school, I have to read it now." SIS is not convinced by my argument and he pushes my book closed and reminds me "Don't Read That Shit."

LIS, who has been silent up until this point, tells SIS not to bother people. "I'm not bothering this guy." He turns to me "Am I bothering you?" I just giggle quietly. "See I'm not bothering him."

"Her," says LIS.

SIS doesn't hear this, and I turn quickly to LIS, catch his eyes, and shake my head, pleading. Let's not get into this territory, my book is already making things really difficult. LIS doesn't push the issue. We start chatting and I'm granted a short reprieve from SIS's troublemaking. LIS tells me he's a Private Detective and gives me his card just in case I need someone followed. We shake hands and he introduces himself as Angel.

I guess in the midst of our conversation, SIS realized I wasn't a guy. "Oh, you ain't a dude" he exclaims. "No" I say. "You think I'm sexy?" He asks, very seriously. I giggle quietly, while inside I'm crying. He asks me again, this time louder. More giggling. He looks around to see who's watching this interaction and catches some dude staring at us. He stands up to confront the dude. The train pulls into my station. I rush out as I thank Angel for his card.

Friday, March 11, 2011


I'd love to say that it's only the straight world that gets confused by the combination of my clothes and my body, but that's just not the case. Especially in certain cities, like Los Angeles, I will go to queer clubs and be confused for a dude. Once, I went to a frighteningly packed bar and this gay guy bumped into me, winked, grabbed my crotch, found no guy-junk, and angrily scoffed at me. Sorry?

I went to a bar in Brooklyn a few months ago with two really good friends K and S. My heart stinging from a recent breakup, they decided I should make out with someone. K narrowed in a girl dancing with a very cute twink of a gay guy.

You Have To Dance With Her, I'm Not Taking No For An Answer, K said.

Nervous and awkward, I gradually danced closer and closer to them with K and S by my side. I couldn't believe it, they started inching towards me too. Could this happen? I'm never successful at these kinds of things. But K is the master of dance-floor hook ups and she pushed me even closer and encouraged me.

Be A Man And Just Dance With Her! K said.

Before I knew it, they were both facing me and our knees and arms would graze each other as we danced. K and S faded off into the distance. I looked over at them, my eyes saying: This May Happen. They looked back at me and said with their eyes: Great Job! And then, someone made a move: the guy put his hands around my waist, his leg between mine and smiled at me. I looked at him and saw those familiar words written across his face: I think you are guy.

Do you think I'm a guy?

Aren't you?


And then we danced a little more and I felt good that someone thought I was attractive, even if it was the wrong someone.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Turistas Go Home!

Here's a story by Andie, about an incident during our trip to South America:

Lauren's favorite stories seem to mostly be about children who are confused about her gender but the child in this story wasn't confused at all. She knew exactly what Lauren's sex was: male. That was not up for debate. A nine-year old girl (read: 18 year-old frat boy) approached us in a small tourist town in southwest Bolivia and wanted to play our ukeleles. While manhandling the ukelele as Lauren cringes, we shoot the shit about mini-guitars and life in Bolivia. I refer to Lauren as she or, "ella," from time to time and she corrects me. No, "el es un el, no ella." He is a he, not a she. I assure her she is mistaken, but she had collected all the evidence she needed. She pointed to Lauren's over-sized hipster sunglasses as the first piece of proof and then to her chest. "See. Flat." This is where I start to get a little offended because frankly that is just not true. Lauren flattens her shirt out (I was kind of surprised she did this) to show her how wrong she was, but even so, the gender police was unimpressed. Sad.

Something in our interaction led a light-bulb to go off in her little girl head. "Oh. Lesbianas... Well if you are Lesbians then KISS." Meanwhile two other little girls have accumulated and it's starting to feel like that awful summer after my sophomore year at BU that I don't really like to talk about. We really threw this little angel for a loop when our male friend we were travelling with who likes to bend his gender very slightly the other way strolled up with his tall blonde bombshell fiance. He's got long hair, and PURPLE glasses. Umm will the real lesbianas please stand up? She pointed at Carwil and called him a girl, citing the purple glasses, asserted that he and his girlfriend were lesbians, not Lauren and I, and then insisted that they kiss...which they did.

No we are not gonna make out for this girl, but I get distracted and after a few minutes of us making fun of the situation amongst ourselves inevitably Lauren does something adorable and I kiss her. Frat boy (read: closet baby lesbian) wants more. We say no so she decides to remind us that we will not be able to have children. I ask her if she is aware of how babies are made and she says yes but that it is too dirty to talk about. I told her I can get the "materiales" needed for baby production from a man and then have a baby at my leisure and on my schedule. Knowingly she exclaims, "that's true! You should just get a boyfriend and then get the baby and then LEAVE the boyfriend!" FULL CIRCLE! Somehow this girl is now batting for our team. Needless to say I don't think her mother will ever let her hang out anywhere near tourists ever again.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mr. Mister

Guest post from Ez:

Every first year law student takes torts, a class that has nothing to do with pie, and everything to do with personal injury lawsuits. My torts professor, Mr. H, had been tenured since 1970. He was about as psyched to be teaching an 8 am class as we were to be taking one, an achievement considering that on the average Friday morning at least 50% of the class was hungover. So there you have it.

Anyway, in the first month or so of school I was minding my own business in the back row of the 80 person class when the Mr. H says “Mr. Cukor, can you explain. . . blah, blah, blah liability ”

I open my mouth and I start talking and halfway through I notice Mr. H is turning bright red. I think to myself “poor guy, he’s embarrassed he pronounced my name wrong” - but I don’t want to go through the whole “Cukor is pronounced like its spelled ‘Sukor’ ” spiel, because this was the first time in law school I’d had the right answer. So I say “don’t worry- we’re cool” and keep talking. I hope Mr. H was as amused by the whole thing as I was.

Monday, February 28, 2011

She's a Dude

This story comes from Rickard:

My "he's a lady" experiences are usually pretty ordinary: awkward bathroom confrontations, being called 'sir' in front of my boss and my grandmother. But my favorite was the time I got "she's a dude"-ed.

My girlfriend and I were out at a bar with a guy friend of ours, when we were approached by a Navy bro in his dress blues and a nametag. He was no Maverick, but he did his best to be smooth. He looked me and Sarah up and down, and gestured back and forth between us, asking me, "Can I get in on this?"

I paused, looked him up and down, and said, "Well, we actually have a rule about that." His eyes lit up. "You'd have to take it." His smile turned to confusion. "From behind."

He paused for a really long time. I awkwardly continued, "Think about it and let us know." Then he looked right at me, hard, and said, "Wait, REALLY?!" Having no idea what he meant, I responded, "Uh, yeah. So think about it and let us know."

His face fell, and he shook his head, saying, "Oh, I can't do that." He started to walk back to his buddies, but then turned around, grabbed me on the shoulder in this heartbreakingly earnest way, and said, "Dude, I'm so sorry. I thought you were a chick."

Thursday, February 24, 2011


There was a moment where I had some money and I decided to use it to travel to South America.

The people in foreign countries have about the same track-record for determining my gender as they do in the U.S., but the difference is that I usually don't have the language to defend myself abroad. Maybe I don't even know how much it happens because I don't understand what people are saying around me, but I think I've gotten pretty good at discerning whether the whispers and stares are "strange-looking-foreigner" or "strange-gendered-human."

When I'm abroad, I'm already kinda freaky by virtue of wearing a ball-cap, holding my Lonely Planet, being white, talking in another language, asking for directions every fifth block, etc etc. It seems like women in bathrooms tend to ignore the fact that I look like pictures of their exchange student's younger brother. On the other hand, sometimes it means I decide to sit with the men at the orthodox Jewish temple in Rome, since explaining in whispered Italian during intense services that "I'm not a dude" to a bunch of really religious woman sounds like more trouble than it's worth.

I went to Argentina and Bolivia this winter. Not that it probably matters to you, but I had an incredible time. Maybe it's because they are one of the gayest travel destinations in the world, but I really had no big gendered mishaps in Argentina. It's certainly not because their are a lot of butch people there, I saw maybe two (yes, I WILL be the judge of their gender identities) at a gay club and they had long hair and tight shirts emphasizing their chest.

Bolivia was kind of a different story. There was less "Señorita", more "Señor". The men I met avoided kissing me on the cheek because men don't kiss men when they are introduced. Learned that the hard way.

I found out how confused people must of been when I was shopping in Cochabamba. I was in an antiques shop, trying out my infantile Spanish when the shopkeeper's 8 year old son came up to me and we had this conversation (in Spanish):

Shopkeepers Son: Are you a boy or a girl?

Me: What do you think?

Shopkeepers Son: Boy!

Me: Why?

Shopkeepers Son: Because you have short hair.

Me: And?

Shopkeepers Son: (pointing to my nose area) And booger!

So, booger? I quickly make sure my nose isn't snotting all over the antiques. But I didn't feel anything there. Is this kid totally messing with me? Why does he use the English word for booger when he's been speaking in Spanish the rest of the time? Why isn't he discreetly informing me of my snot? I leave in a hurry (way to cost your mom that sale, little boy) and decide that I should go find out if there's a word in Spanish that sounds like booger. I find Andie, the girl-of-my-dreams/travelling companion who speaks fluent Spanish and when I tell her the story and ask her what this little man could've been saying, she starts laughing and says:

Bigote is the word for moustache.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Not All Bad...

I've been graced with another guest blogger! This story is from Ayla:

A few years ago my ex-gf and I were walking hand-in-hand into the 1st Ave subway station. I'm femme, she's butch, and we're both really blond. In short, we were the cutest lesbian couple ever. Our relationship was pretty much based on our awareness of this fact. We were one of those brother-sister looking pairs and strangers used to come up and tell us how cute we looked together. We spent roughly half our time posing for photobooth pictures on my laptop or doing arm-outstretched-cellphone (ie Myspace-pose) portraits together. This is us at the height of our ill-fated romance:

Anywho, as we enter the subway station we see a very intoxicated homeless man walking in our direction. He fixes eyes on us, and gives me a VERY exaggerated googly eyed once-over. He lets out a little whistle and then starts to say to my ex-gf, "Dammmmmn boy, you a lucky ma..." and then stops dead is his tracks. He does one of those stunned/confused cartoon character blinks in front of us, and just says, "OH! Two ladies! ... You have a good night, ladies," and keeps walking. It was by far the most good-natured and strangely polite, "turns out he's a lady" experience I've seen.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Turns Out.

My first guest blog post by my dear friend Ali:

When I got engaged last year, one of the first things that came to mind when I started thinking about the wedding was that I HAD to have my friend Lauren play her guitar and sing a song. She's got an awesome voice, great taste, and she's one of my best friends.

Fast forward... The wedding was great, Lauren's song was beautiful. Our most distinguished guest was my husband's 90-year old grandpa, who made the trek to Northern California from Florida. Now, Grandpa's an interesting guy. First off, he's huge. Secondly, he has an intense southern accent... think Foghorn Leghorn, but giant. And really old. Did I mention he's 90?? And Southern?? When we called Grandpa to ask what the highlights of the wedding were for him, he said "Well, I started talking to this guitar playin' fella... TURNS OUT, HE'S A LADY!"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

When Zombies Only Attack Women

I think it's super fun to mess with and question the newly forming perceptions of gender that children are developing. I've learned that despite their short time on this earth, they have extremely strict ideas about what a man looks like and what a woman looks like.

Most stories about children and my gender are a boring story like this:

Child: Are you a boy or a girl?

Me: Guess.

And then they either they are totally freaked out and walk away or they venture a guess. Usually girl. Because actualllllllly, they do know my gender, they just are confused by my aesthetic choices.

Anyhow, this my favorite child confusion story. It happened when I was at a big marching band festival in Boston, Massachusettes called Honk! I was there with the radical marching band I play sax with and a kid (Oscar) of one of the low brass players was there with us. Some people enjoy entertaining Oscar and got him into pretending he was a Zombie. Our interaction went like this:

Oscar: Rwarrr, I'm a Zombie who eats brains!!

Me: I'm so scared, don't eat my brains! (Ugh, I never know how to play with kids)

Oscar: But don't worry, I only eat girl brains!

And that's how I still have my brains today. Look how happy I am about that.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

That Kid

First post! Here's a blog dedicated to all the times I'm mistaken for a 15 year old boy, or a man, or a dude, or a boychildmandude. And this is blog material, because I'm really a woman in my late twenties who happens to just look far better in clothing made for men. For example:

Was in Duane Reade today trying to buy my expensive Herbal Mist White Tea with Yerba Mate. Went to the counter to purchase said drink and all three sales representatives were helping a highly agitated woman. The woman looks over at me and says to the sales reps: "I think that kid wants to buy a drink."