I say it all the time. You never really realise how often we encounter the issue of gender until you’ve stepped outside of the “traditional” gender roles. Simple mind-sets and actions can actually make a gender non-conforming person feel extremely uncomfortable or unwelcome. Here are some of those situations.
Phone Calls. With the work that I’m doing right now, I spend a lot of the time on the phone either making or receiving calls. When I receive a call from an unknown number I have to try my hardest to make my voice slightly deeper. Otherwise they get extremely confused. I’ve been asked “can I speak to David Beattie please?” I’ve had to pretend to walk away and get him. I’ve had to ask “can he call you back?” I’ve had to explain that this slightly high-pitched voice actually is David Beattie only to hear a laughter on the other end of the phone.
Many people would want me to be grateful for this. Most people have the opposite problem after they’ve transitioned. I’m already being mistaken for a female while I’m currently identifying as male. This should be a reason to feel happy.
What if people just didn’t always expect a male name to match a male-sounding voice
I’ve spoken before about bouncers and their habit of looking me up and down with surprise when they discover that my name is David. There’s always a second when you have to hand over your ID where you wonder whether bouncers are going to question you. You wonder whether the Lidl shop attendant is going to raise their eyebrows when you’re stocking up on four-euro wine. You wonder whether the security at the airport will ask you uncomfortable questions. I shouldn’t have to feel guilty for simply looking how I want to. I shouldn’t have to worry whether I’m going to be made a joke of. I shouldn’t have to grit my teeth when people can’t hide their shock.
Bathrooms. In “Who Cares?” I spoke about my experiences when using the male bathroom. But since publishing it, I’ve now started using the female bathroom. Truthfully I’m still not 100% comfortable in the female bathroom but there’s no reason for this other than what’s in my head. I’ve never been made feel uncomfortable other than a few surprised stares. But it’s nothing like what I used to get while using the male bathrooms. I do believe that every business should make an effort to have a non-gendered bathroom but I don’t think this will happen anytime soon. Until then, I’ll have to keep reminding myself that an Adam’s apple is not a factor that should prevent me from being in the female bathroom.
Roles. You’ve probably encountered gender roles at some point in your life. A time when you’ve been cautioned for stepping outside of what’s expected of you because of your gender. But it’s rather bizarre to experience it from both sides. I grew up with people constantly reminding me of how a boy should behave. Now, after repeatedly overcoming and defying those expectations, I have people telling me how to be a girl. People are confused about why I don’t wear make-up. I’ve been asked whether I get disheartened at my slightly deep voice. I’ve been told that I should wear dresses. That I should style my hair a certain way. That I have a better body than most girls. And a number of other things that I don’t need to hear. I’m sick of constantly being told things by cisgender people who frankly do not understand what I’m facing at all. When you’re considered to be oppressed, people who aren’t oppressed seem to believe that their words should mean a huge amount to you. But I’m not really seeking validity from people who don’t have any idea what my life is like.
Forms. When the only option on a form is for male or female, it can be quite uncomfortable. There should most definitely be another option because honestly, it can’t be that hard to add one. Just recently, I was filling out a sex survey for a magazine. I had no idea whether to tick male or female with my current situation. Also, shouldn’t they want to have information about the population of “others” out there?
Shopping. If you ever want to discover how obsessed our society is with gender you should look at all of the products that are unnecessarily gendered. We place genders on perfumes, shower gels, shampoos, clothes, even colouring books. Why is this necessary? I know plenty of girls who spray their Dad’s cologne on their tops and love the scent of “male” perfumes. I’m sure that there are boys who are the same with “female” perfumes but I’ve never found one who would admit it.
Gendering really isn’t necessary and I know that’s an alien concept to some people but all it does is oppress people. It’s really not even necessary to gender clothes if you really think about it. We’re all so used to men’s and women’s sections but why? If you like an item of clothing and it fits you, shouldn’t you be able to buy it? There shouldn’t be a gender put on any item of clothing. I know that some people may roll their eyes at that concept but it’s true. We are so used to being placed into these boxes that we don’t even question why they are there in the first place.
These are just a small number on a long list of situations that exclude or upset gender non-conforming citizens. One must also remember when I write such a list that I have it easier than most because I generally “pass” more than others. Obviously things are changing all the time but my advice to people reading this is to consider your words and actions more. How are you placing gender expectations on people? How is your mind-set exclusive or unfair towards gender non-conforming people? How can you improve on this?
Here’s an example. In my school there was an amazing, understanding guidance counsellor who we all adored. She taught me for a few different classes and she always said “ladies, gents and whatever else you may be” when addressing us. It was a really simple gesture but it used to please me. Because, even though I was in denial about not being male, some part of my brain used to hear those words and just relax. This is the effect that a little bit of consideration can have on a youth who’s struggling. And who wouldn’t want to be responsible for that effect?
Read about my experiences of being aggressively gendered here.
Watch my poem about my experience as a transgender citizen below: