Please Contribute!

---> Do you have a similar story to share? Make me feel less self-indulgent and less alone. Please email me:

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?