Undercover

In the post-piny quoting me (swoon!) days, I’ve been thinking about a different kind of gender relief, and I wondered if it might be the sort of thing anyone else had experienced.

There’s a man who asks for change pretty regularly outside the CVS I used to frequent, and he quickly became my favorite panhandler in the square. (I feel like I might be a little insensitive referring to him that way, but I don’t know what better word to use. There are quite a lot of people, mostly men, in the area who I’ve seen in more or less the same place for going on five years now, always asking for money. I don’t want to call them homeless because I have no idea if that’s true, but I feel like even ‘panhandler’ sounds like I’m making a value judgment. I’m not–I just can’t think of a better word.) I try to make a point of giving him change when I see him, particularly when the weather’s getting colder.

Now, he’s a really polite, friendly guy, always upbeat and pleasant. But that alone isn’t why I enjoy seeing him. It’s because more than a few times he’s used a unique approach with me. He certainly recognizes me at this point, and at first when he sees me–particularly if I’m with someone else–he addresses me as “champ” or “big guy.” When I get closer, however–either to give him some change, or apologize for not having any–he quietly says something along the lines of “Thank you, beautiful.”

This isn’t simply a case of someone on the street who’s asking for money initially thinking I’m a man, then correcting when he sees his error. That happens all the time, and it has a very different flavor–there’s usually something apologetic in the tone, or a hesitation and then a rush to talk to someone else. No, this man definitely recognizes me, and he definitely reads me as female throughout the encounter. The conclusion I’ve come to is that he’s trying not to blow my cover.

I’m not really sure how exactly to explain what I mean by that, but that’s the best description I can give of these encounters. I guess it’s entirely possible that he’s this way–complimentary, polite–with everyone who gives him money. Still, I think it’s significant that he’s always very discreet about the way he compliments me. We’ve actually had a few conversations–once he gave me advice on dying my hair–and in more than one of those it was clear he’s family. That, combined with the persona he allows me to have when I’m with other people–the champ, the big guy–leads me to believe that he recognizes something in me. It’s like he’s saying hey, I see who you are, and that’s beautiful.

I wish I were explaining this better. It’s just a very different kind of gender relief than the kind I experience when a professor refers to me by female pronouns before being introduced, or a grocer addresses me as “miss.” Here, a man recognizes two truths–the butch persona and the female identity–and acknowledges them both.

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10 Responses to Undercover

  1. “I wish I were explaining this better…”

    I’d say you explained it just fine. Awesome awesome post.

    Nobody ever mistakes me for any other sex than my own, but the feeling of relief at being ‘seen’ is an easy enough one to relate to 🙂

  2. pandanose says:

    Thanks, defenestrated! Nice to see you here. (Coming to internet doings late this week, ’cause my mom’s visiting…)

    When you say relief at being ‘seen,’ what do you mean? I’ve always wondered if people whose gender isn’t regularly misread still feel any kind of relief when their gender is correctly read. (My suspicion is no, but I’m still curious.)

  3. Alyxmyself says:

    Hi Panda,
    Just came across your blog a few days ago, researching gender identity for my women studies class…here, I’ll quote my theses for you…
    “I’d really like to discuss the issue of gender identification and bias, such as what identifies an individual as “feminine” or “masculine”, while addressing personal empowerment. I’d like to argue about why humans instinctively perpetrate gender identification as part of our underlying social structure, and if we can evolve past that instinct.”
    I am using a small quote from a piece you did here and wanted to seek approval, rather than forgiveness 😉
    Of course you are cited. Hope that is okay, if not email me and let me know. I really just liked the hell out of some things you had to say, and felt you summed up the entire issue, which is why this quote opens the essay :
    “Of course, we do judge the authenticity of identities like these–often identity groups to which we ourselves don’t even belong–every day. We distinguish between “normal” Muslims and violent ones, women who kiss each other at parties and dykes, “real” bisexuals and gay men in denial. But every time we make judgments like these, we imply that we are better judges of authentic identity than those who live these identities. https://pandanose.wordpress.com/tag/butchfem
    me/

    Amazing! Spot on.
    A.

  4. pandanose says:

    Hi Alyx! I’m flattered, and of course you may quote me. Based on your thesis statement I’d be really interested to hear about why you think identification is instinctual rather than socially conditioned.

  5. pandanose says:

    (Also, if you need/want a name rather than a pseudonym for your citation, let me know.)

  6. Alyxmyself says:

    Aren’t you the nicest? I think the link is sufficient, if not my Prof will let me know…I am not a University student, just going for my AS in Web Development, so it’s not a theses in the sense of a Bachelors or anything.
    If you want to send me your email address I will mail you a copy when I finish it later today. I am interested to hear what I think, too, there are all these concepts trudging around in my brain hoping to be obediently ordered 🙂 so now you’ve granted permission here I go to make them behave.

  7. I mean…i think i mean the same thing I’ve been sorta babbling about at my place, about Blog As Performance. i really can’t tell you how much of a wakeup call it was to me to have you notice my selfconsciousness, rightup next to seeing that someone I used to work with thought of me as self-assertive. in the Blog as Performance paradigm, you, virgo, are the astute audience member – I guess by “beeing seen” I mean a combination of that (being “read” correctly) and not getting any sort of sense that “self-conscious” meant ‘stupid and overly-edits-herself’ and thus a reason to hate me(& my blog).

    I think this kinda gets to the other thing I’ve been rambling on about, about left brain/right brain and etymology. I’m wondering if our “left” brain isn’t where we go to get mental images and our Right brain isn’t where we ‘look to’ for the words to name it.

    At least, that’s my best hypothesis right now as to why I’ve always gotten along better with people older than myself, up til I got old enough that “older than me” stopped necessarily meaning “knows lotsa stuff i don’t.” to Me, “sees me” means ‘gets who I am or who I seem like, and doesn’t Hate me for it;” replace “me” with “my blog,” and “hates” with “stops reading,” and that’s sorta where I’m going with it. I really hope that sorta made sense ;D

    Actually, here’s a good example from upthread!: pretend the “quoted part” is My Idea and the ‘part with the smiley face’ is my Self-Editor, and you might see why I’ve spent my whole anesthetized(postsurgery)fog feeling extremely schizophrenic:

    “I’d really like to discuss the issue of gender identification and bias, such as what identifies an individual as “feminine” or “masculine”, while addressing personal empowerment. I’d like to argue about why humans instinctively perpetrate gender identification as part of our underlying social structure, and if we can evolve past that instinct.”
    I am using a small quote from a piece you did here and wanted to seek approval, rather than forgiveness 😉

  8. hmm…weird. see, this is what happens when I don’t pay$ attention to what I’m saying or who I’m talking to. I haven’t been up long and I just sorta decided that you, Pandanose [my mental image: nose of a Panda(gon.net)], were the same person as virgotex [my mental image: a Virgo/texT], and blurred y’all together. That blurriness might well be exactly what I’m talking about with left/right brain self-consciousness, I think!

    ok, Somebody clearly needs some coffee…..

  9. little light says:

    This is beautiful. Just beautiful.
    Thanks.

  10. pandanose says:

    Thank you, little light! High praise from a writer of your caliber.

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