Saturday, December 28, 2019

Mistaken for a Boy while 6-Months Pregnant

My whole life I've regularly been mistaken for a boy or a man, and I've reacted with varying levels of amusement and annoyance.

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
But when some random stranger looks me right in the face  with my basketball-sized, 6-month pregnant belly and breasts the size of melons pointing right at him  and says, "I can't tell if that's a boy or a girl. Oh, definitely a boy," that is unacceptable. Whether I was pregnant or not, that was unacceptable.

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.


Unknown said...

He's lucky I wasnt there. Plus I hate calling 911 after beating someone that deserved it. Nice writing by the way.

Allison Hitchnet said...

Glad your baby will have a kick ass "Mom". My almost 4 year old usually calls me by Allison!