To some extent, I get it: I live in a very binary culture in which people like to classify other people into neat little boxes because it makes them feel safe. And although my identity is very mainstream (cisgender, heterosexual female), I'm tall with broad swimmer's shoulders, I like short hair, and my clothing style is not deliberately androgynous – I wear what's sporty and comfortable – but I could see it interpreted that way.
|a few moments before being called a boy|
Those words were spoken by an old man who was clearly ignorant, out-of-touch, and unobservant – and who probably had rigid sense of gender – but he has not been the only person in my life to call me a man, nor the only person to call me one since I've been visibly pregnant.
I can usually laugh off other people's ignorance about my gender. I mean, I guess there are worse things to be accused of than being a boy. But this really pissed me off. I mean, really. And I've been trying to figure out why I'm so angry, especially considering I've often been called a man or a boy and because it was just some random, insignificant person who said it.
Part of it was that I was already at my capacity for bullshit from another incident that day, so that escalated my anger. Part of it was that my body is so different now from what it had been pre-pregnancy – or even just a few weeks ago – that it seems ludicrous that someone could look me head-on and not see that I am clearly a woman. Part of it may be that I'm grappling with this new identity of being a "mom," so someone else's confusion over a related part of my identity was too much.
And also part of it is that some people need to learn to think about what they say before they say it. I mean, seriously, he didn't even address me as a "you" but as a "that," not only stripping me of a significant part of my identity but of my humanity entirely.
Maybe I did look boyish that day. But so what? What business was it of his to verbally investigate my gender? Why do people feel so much better, safer when they can classify men and women into separate categories? Why do we have to have so many gender signifiers in our language?
Language matters. What we say and how we say it matter. Pay attention to it. My family and friends who will read this don't need this lecture – I know most of you are modern and tactful people. But maybe you will remember this and help others use more appropriate language. And maybe you can do it with fewer expletives than I did when I told that random stranger in no uncertain terms that his words pissed me off.