I have mixed feelings about people using male pronounce or calling me “Sir” even though I’m basically a girl.
In their defense: I realize that, during puberty, I had way too little of the right type of hormones (estrogen) and way too much of the wrong type (testosterone). The imbalance shaped by body in a way inconsistent with how my brain structure is. So, yes, I have a male-structure skeleton including being tall and having large hands and male-looking facial bones. I also have a male voice box.
To make matters worse: for most of my life I tried to sound, look, move etc. not just “male” but because I felt so inferior relative to “be-a-guy” standards, I tried to come across as “extra-super-macho male.” And if there’s still a large residue of that left, and it’s highly visible to strangers … then perhaps that should not be surprising to me.
If I sound “male” to random strangers (such as over the phone or at a drive-through) then, well, dangit, I can avoid that by trying harder and eventually sounding more female. I’ve made good progress as such. I get treated as the girl I am, based on purely verbal cues, maybe 95% of the time. Yay!
As to my looks, perhaps the same reasoning applies. If I look “male” to random strangers then I can avoid that by trying harder and eventually looking more female than male.
But, there’s a difference: visually, I offer are a vast amount of potentially-helpful social cues. My nails are bright red or purple. I wear clothes, jewelry and shoes that are clearly female. You don’t have to guess whether I’m wearing “girl jeans” or “boy jeans” — I don’t wear jeans. I wear dresses — typically long flowing dresses. I have long black eyelashes. I have long blonde hair in a female style. I have a voice that is either female or a 95% decent facsimile of that. I have huge boobs, but you’d have to do some pretty intense investigation to see that.
So dammit, even if I had a jaw like Arnold, and a forehead like a Neaderthal (not that I do, but even if I did) then really there are enough social cues that hello, folks, pay attention, there’s something unusual going on here. Only a person who is totally ignorant of social cues could miss that. Or, someone trying to make a point … the point being that regardless of what gender I think I am, he presumes to know better.
In a personal context, I don’t care if someone misses or ignores the social cues. I’ll just avoid that person and focus on the millions or billions of people who wouldn’t do so.
However, I do take issue with such behavior in a commercial context. When I’m spending my money, then if one of the people I’m dealing with is an ass, I’m gonna be a lot less inclined to remain a customer.
Example: last night I checked into a Hampton Inn in a very Bible-Beltish town. The desk clerk had the kind of smile that could sell toothpaste. Better yet, his niceness was sincere. No problem there. I explained: I have a lot of stuff that I don’t wanna leave in my car and that I preferred to lug into my room. And so, I would like a room that is a) on the ground floor and b) near an exit door.
Good news! This was possible. There was such a room available, yay! But … it was way nicer and more pricey than what I’d booked and prepaid.
Fortunately, a manager showed up and without even being asked, he offered me that awesome room at the same price. He smiled at me with what seemed like sincere benevolence. Then, he explained what he’d done to the desk clerk, referring to me in the process as “he” and referring to my room as “his.” Whoa!!
I could see that the desk clerk was uncomfortable with it. So was I. Anyway, I appreciated the discount but the male pronouns ruined the otherwise positive experience for me. A few minutes later, the desk clerk mumbled a male form of addressing me when he said good night and handed me the key. Grrr.
I pondered my options, and then later, I went back to the desk clerk and showed him my official driver’s license … which has an “F” as the gender classification. I explained to him that indeed, I’m a mix of parts, but I’m basically female and the manager had referred to me as if I were basically male, and I wanted to clear things up. The desk clerk got the message, and I felt better about the world.
Perhaps it’s time to write a nice letter to Hampton Inns’ top management, explaining the issues.