I’ve always liked watching people: in the street, at school, in shops, at parties, and at work… I don’t always like what I see, nor do I always understand what I see. Watching people doesn’t help to like, or understand them. Still, it’s interesting.
The less interesting part was always letting people watch me. I’m quite shy, and whenever I felt I was being watched, I used to squirm and mentally call out: “Oh, this is sooo uninteresting, can’t you just stop?”
For some time now, I’ve been experiencing more of that than ever since I cut my hair short. It probably sounds ridiculous in itself, so I’ll add that I’m a kind of “girl” who doesn’t have much trouble passing as a boy when she cuts her hair short. And with some people, this deserves special attention.
This attention comes in various shapes and colours. More often than not, it’s elderly people regarding me with suspicion, or shop assistants calling me “sir”, and then apologising as if they’d said something offensive.
I’m not very good at understanding people, but I guess this behaviour means they’re afraid they might have misgendered me. Aaah! Misgendering! This scary word! Are you afraid already?
Because I’m not. I’ve probably misgendered more than one person in my life, but I’m not sorry about it. I would be if I did that purposefully, but I don’t see the point of apologising to someone for making a mistake. Cos that is a mistake, and nothing more, on the part of those who misgender you[*].
And anyhow, for a person like me — not much attached to the gender that’s written into her ID — being called a man is really no offense. In fact, when I don’t see that apprehensive face (“oops, it’s not a guy”) in front of me, it’s enjoyable. But more about that later.
I need to first pour out my frustration with the ever- and omni-present lack of respect. People don’t respect each other in various ways, which is interesting, but may also be heart-breaking; and I’ve learnt that, in some magical way, writing about it prevents you from heart-break.
Some of that unexpected, appearance-related attention people have started paying me verged on verbal violence: once, some idiot shouted at me and my boyfriend because he apparently couldn’t get past what looked like a guy stroking another guy’s hair.
A different, equally depressing situation was when I stood waiting for the said boyfriend in a corridor and another (drunk) idiot approached me, stared at me for some time muttering to himself, and when he finally decided: “A woman,” he asked straight off if I’d have sex with him.
I hate people so much at times like these! I so much cherish the fact that all of them will one day die! I would even speed up the event!
But those are dark moments, and dark thoughts that sometimes come when you watch people, and let them watch you. More often, people-watching results in unexpected gifts. Wherever you are, you can sometimes see a stranger smiling at you in a friendly manner. Or you can find some other thing about people to enjoy.
For me, the enjoyable part has for some time been getting called a boy, or “sir”, with no apologies afterwards. I like it when people say “sir”, then realize I’m not exactly male, but then just smile and carry on because they know it doesn’t really matter.
“Could either of you, boys, open the door for me?” asked a woman on a bus a couple of days ago. “Sure,” I beamed. I don’t even know why it feels so good when people do that, but I’ve no doubt there are people out there who can relate.
Or if I was to guess the reason, my (shy) guess would be that such moments bring me closer to living in a world where I’d like to live: one where gender doesn’t really matter.
[*] And this applies in all cases, regardless of how you identify.