Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gender Policing at its Finest

I work in a bookstore at a big, busy international airport and, thus, encounter many bizarre people. Bizarrely normal. The past two days, two irksome incidents occurred and they are more similar than may appear at the surface.

The other day, a straight, white, middle-aged, upper-middle-class man came in to the bookstore. He browsed around, then bought something by John Grisham or Vince Flynn or someone else along those lines. While I was ringing up the book, he rambled about the author; I was politely maintaining my end of the conversation "ok...yeah...uh-huh" He told me with an awed grin "you're very agreeable. That's rare in a woman." ...I'm sorry, what? I clamped my mouth shut as he left, not wanting to spew out what was on my mind. Like, maybe he's the disagreeable one!

Yesterday, a couple of the same mold as that guy fought in the bookstore. They made up by talking about their money. Yes. Then they checked out the magazines stacked next to me. Cher is on the cover of Vanity Fair, the text beside her saying "Cher on her daughter-turned-son, Chaz." The couple talked about how Chastity was turning into a man, had a sex change, etc. Not the most p.c., but not that bad. Then, they began referring to Chaz as "it." As politely as I could muster, I interrupted "excuse me, he is not an it." The husband acted like I wasn't there and the wife said "sorrysorrysorrysorrysorry" until I stopped talking. I look very androgynous myself, so they walked away muttering about me.

Had just one of these encounters occurred, it wouldn't be such a big deal. But the two in a 24-hour period are symptomatic. These three people of the same age and class, probably unknown to themselves, work as gender police. They probably had no idea that the messages they were conveying were that women should be agreeable and that transpeople are "it"s. They probably have never thought about it. Under different circumstances - the couple shut down immediately, especially - a simple discussion could have planted a seed.

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