NOTE: This is a transgender-related entry. If you are confused by any of the terms used here, check out Ronen’s Trans Glossary.
I haven’t posted for a week because my Vegas trip was last weekend – then after I returned, life got busy for a few days.
About the trip in general: long story short, it was something of a bust, but it got salvaged. What was supposed to be an awesome, epic weekend wound up being pretty good, which wasn’t the worst that could have happened by a long shot, but wasn’t so great either.
At the very least, what I got out of the weekend was a unique experience and a few blog ideas. The first idea came to me quickly on the first day, when something happened to me that had never, ever happened before: I got read as male not just once, but three times in a single day.
“Getting read” is just the same as passing: it means “to be perceived as.” It usually becomes apparent how someone is reading you when they address you with an honorific like “sir” or “ma’am” or “miss,” or you might overhear them refer to you to someone else as “that guy,” et cetera.
I got “sir”ed three times my first day in Vegas, which is a new personal record. In two of those situations, I spoke to the person after they approached me (Example: one was the attendant in the Hard Rock Cafe store – “Finding everything alright, sir?” Me – “Yup, just fine.”). That so-called voice test has a tendency to make me cringe. My voice usually “gives me away,” and that’ll be the time they start apologizing and “miss”ing, but in these cases? That didn’t happen, and it never seemed like it was even close to happening. The people in question didn’t even blink, just kept on talking until the conversation was finished and moved along. That, I suppose, was the real surprise.
I hadn’t thought of Vegas as a terribly trans-friendly town: certainly not hostile, exactly, but not really trans-conscious either. So either I’m wrong in that assumption, or these people were honestly reading me as male, and their perspective didn’t change even after I displayed some (typically) female gender markers.
Which felt, honestly, pretty rockin’. It also got me thinking about how I feel about that kind of experience.
I don’t identify as a man. There are days when I feel that may be where I’m headed, but it’s a big “may,” and in any case, whatever label I’m slapping on myself, I will probably always be non-binary at heart. So why does passing as a man make me so happy? Isn’t it just as wrong as being read as a woman?
Not quite, because I’ve been passing as female almost my entire life. It’s the default, it’s what’s expected. In some cases – not all the time, but when I’m in certain moods or on certain days when I’ve just run out of spoons – getting read as female can make me feel like a failure for not successfully communicating my inner identity with the world. On the other hand, I definitely don’t expect the average person to read me as non-binary, since in the eyes and minds of many people out there, that kind of identity doesn’t even exist. To those folks, if I’m not being read as female, the only other option is male. So for me, what does hearing that “sir” set off in my head? A great big happy flashing neon sign reading, “GENDERBENDING ACCOMPLISHED!!!”
And yeah, that’s a great feeling.
The cherry on top of the Awesome Sundae came later that evening, when I went dancing at the queer club FreeZone. Two people were dancing with one another, and one of them was quite clearly checking me out. I heard them lean over to their dance partner and ask, “Is that a boy or a girl?”
The dance partner came over a moment later and complimented my hat, and I thanked them – voice test? Most likely.
In that case I didn’t mind the voice test, because I don’t believe there was any judgment in it. It was a dance club, and some (most?) people have a very specifically defined sexuality – that person was probably just trying to figure out whether I was someone they’d be interested in. No big deal. And when I think about it, I suppose successful genderbending outside in the straight world is more impressive than genderbending in a queer club, where the lines are expected to be more blurred. But after passing multiple times in the past day, it was a nice little cap.
Coming up on my next post about Vegas: the other side of club culture…