Yesterday, my family and I went to the Bangor Comic Con. It’s the second year of its existence and like last year, we have a good time gawking at some of the famous people (Nichelle Nichols!), but even more fun “ooo-ing and ahh-ing” over the folks in cosplay. Deadpool, Captain America, Batman, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Pikachu and other creatures that I couldn’t identify were there and I loved them all.
I’m one of those attendees the comic con probably hates, because I don’t typically buy anything. Except for comic books. Some of the vendors have sales on comic books so I like to buy a dozen or so of random titles for myself, my husband and my boy. As I was looking at the boxes of comics with my head down and my hair hanging down so it covered part of my face, a thirty-something man stood beside me and leaned over in front of me to sort through one of the boxes. “Excuse me, man,” he said.
Man. “Excuse me, MAN.”
Look. I get it. I’m over 6 feet tall and I was wearing clothes that were not really gender specific–jeans, t-shirt, dark jacket. But….couldn’t you just say “excuse me” without adding any kind of noun after it? Were you really THAT sure I was a guy? Was it just my height or was it also my non-existent ass in those jeans? Was it because my hair wasn’t particularly tidy and I looked too unkempt to be a woman?
But I know. It was the height. Men, women, boys and girls have assumed I was a man countless times over the years (although men are more likely to do this than anyone else), and each time it happens it wounds me just a bit. It’s not horribly painful, but it always makes me pause and worry. Is something wrong with me? It makes me wonder why people can’t see who I really am. I often want to press my breasts in the person’s face and say, “SEE?!? I am no man, honey, nor do I ever want to be one. So get your eyes checked, jackass!”
I won’t go so far as to say that I know what any transgender person feels or thinks, but this weekend really got me wondering. Is this what it feels like when someone looks at you and they see a man, say, wearing a dress and heels, but you know in fact that you’re a woman wearing that same dress? Does it make you feel invisible or misunderstood? Or both? Does it anger you or just make you feel sad?
Whenever I have one of these encounters, I stop and really look at myself. Try and see what others see. I am not particularly feminine, or rather society’s definition of feminine. I rarely wear dresses or heels (ok, I NEVER wear heels) and I love jeans, t-shirts and running shoes. I have longish hair, but so does my brother-in-law. Although I doubt he’s ever been called a woman. (His mustache may have something to do with it.) But I do have breasts. They’re pretty awesome, too. I used to think that if you looked at me face on, you could never mistake me for anything but a woman. This theory went out the window last year when a kid in the grocery store line asked her father what that man was buying. The father glanced at me and said, “It doesn’t matter what he’s buying.” Really?!? These people were looking directly at me! I actually laughed out loud because the situation seemed so surreal. I didn’t think anyone could misinterpret these C cups, but I was wrong.
Back at the Comic Con, the thirty-something man did redeem himself. Sort of. After he said, “Excuse me, man” I looked up at him without saying a word. He looked at my face…and chest…and smiled, “OH! Really excuse me! I’m sorry.” I tried to smile (probably looked like a grimace) and nodded. He leaned close to me and said, “You know, I should know better. My wife is six feet tall.” I looked at him with wide eyes and loudly exclaimed, ” You SHOULD know better!” He laughed and smiled while I bought my comic books and got out of there.
At the Comic Con we were surrounded by people in costumes and drag and very often you had no idea if the person was a woman or a man. And did it matter? NO! It was awesome! Yet a man who was used to being around a tall woman, still assumed that a person with long hair who was just slightly taller than his wife, was a man. Un-fucking-believable.
So…how about leaving out any kind of gender specific nouns and pronouns in that setting…or even everywhere? Look, I’m not going to get all politically correct on you because I know how batshit crazy that can make people. And I don’t hate this man who thought I was a guy. He apologized and that was fantastic. But the fact that he made such an assumption with his experiences made me step back and think, “What is wrong with this picture?”
Maybe we all just need to put some of our assumptions, beliefs and expectations on the back burner for a second. It’s ok to not understand something or someone. It’s ok to be wrong in some of our assumptions. But we need to be willing to accept we’re wrong and apologize if need be. Maybe if we all replaced our assumptions with just acceptance, I wouldn’t have the urge to press my breasts in people’s faces when they call me a dude.
Seriously. This is going to get me in trouble one of these days.
Remember last time when I told you how much my son was dreading getting glasses? Well, two days later, that all changed. “I’m excited now, Mom. I can’t wait!” Huh.
He still doesn’t wear glasses all day, but when I made him wear them while watching a subtitled anime episode, he exclaimed, “WOW! The words seem bigger with glasses. And I can see their faces better!” Imagine that. 🙂