Post-Gender-Mistake Etiquette: Friendly Advice From Women Who are Often Called "Sir"
My buddy C and I enjoy exchanging stories about the funny, traumatic, or improbable "sir"-ings bestowed on us. We began talking about manners surrounding the incidents; what do we want people to do after they mistakenly refer to us with male pronouns, then realize their mistake? Here's our advice:
Things to do after you make a mistake about someone's gender:
We'd love to end this post here, but unfortunately, personal experience suggests that a second list is warranted.
Things NOT to do after you make a mistake about someone's gender:
10/21/2012 09:58:25 am
I once got a lift home to my boat with a rlly heavy bag of concrete tHat I was going to have to take on the bus when I got sir'd now that's what I call an apology!
10/18/2012 09:45:47 am
Too funny. I've had all of the above happen except for #7.
10/18/2012 01:07:44 pm
I think the funniest time for me was when I was in Las Vegas, in a casino going to restroom and just as I was walking in this woman was opening the door coming out, and literlly SCREAMED in my face!! LOL..i've been at fast food restaurants, movie theaters, regular restaurants..basically anywhere and had them look me in the eye and call me "Sir"..I also work on the phone, and I get it there too! Maybe I am really a Sir? LOL
11/3/2017 07:46:01 pm
It had happened all my lige
10/18/2012 01:11:26 pm
Great post and LOVE love love Tig!!
10/18/2012 03:01:35 pm
10/19/2012 02:43:32 am
I was recently in a coffee shop and a man was talking to his daughter and said "Honey move to let this..." He audibly paused and looked straight at me and then proceeded with "lady go by". It was priceless.
10/21/2012 06:02:40 am
I got the same thing when working in a retail shop years ago (pre transition)! A man and his young daughter got on the elevator with me. The little girl said, "Dad, where is the kid's section?", and dad says, "Let's ask this [turning to look at me] uh... this...", followed by total, mortified bafflement. He never finished his sentence, just embarrased-ly scuttled off of the elevator when we reached our floor. I still laugh every time I think of it!
10/21/2012 06:11:57 pm
He couldn't think to say "person"?
10/19/2012 03:13:27 am
I get sir'd constantly at my job. I'm a flight attendant with very short hair who happens to wear pants, shirt, and tie. I shrug it off because I realize the flying public isn't expecting a female flight attendant that looks like me.
10/19/2012 03:46:52 am
I get the bathroom looks all the time, recently i was at a hotel and even though the guy was holding the driver license in his hand with my pic and info still called me Sir constantly. what gets me though, is that you never EVER see a man go into to the ladies room, but chicks always invade the men's bathroom. that is what bugs me
8/6/2018 09:28:59 pm
What do you say when you get called sir it’s kind of embarrassing and I don’t want to correct them.
Even when my hair is shorter than it is now, most people can figure out my gender -- they see a small person with breasts and make their assumptions. But once when I was leaving a restroom in what a woman assumed was an aggressive manner (I was leaving and didn't see her coming in, so I nearly bumped into her), she deliberately called me "Sir." I'm sure she'd also assumed I was a lesbian because I was wearing a lavender Provincetown sweatshirt. She was really nasty about it. I decided discretion was the better part of valor and didn't call her something unpleasant. What shocked me was that this was in an "art house" movie theater in overly-educated, multicultural Amherst, Mass. I guess ignorant homo-hating knows no bounds...
10/20/2012 03:36:46 am
Great points. I recently was staying at a small hotel in Germany and the first one to appear at breakfast. There was only one woman still preparing the buffet. She was in the kitchen when I came in and passing the door to the kitchen I said Good Morning to her and went thru to the porch as she was not all set up, yet. She came out and saw only me and still looking at me said - I heard a woman speak, where is she? - which I answered with - Here I am - she stared at me - her mouth dropped open - she slammed her hands in front of her face - screamed a loud OMG and run off. To me it was just funny and if she would have showed up again I would have told her that I am not bothered by the misunderstanding, but I guess she was to ashamed to come back and rather send her colleague to finish the breakfast preparations.
10/25/2012 09:08:40 am
I've gotten this all my life. For years I figured I wasn't acting girly enough and tried everything including growing my hair long. Never quite happened and this past weekend I actually had my hair cut short with a fade!lol Seeing as now I'm a Drag King I'm just more comfortable being who I really am. :) I'm loving the site. ;)
10/31/2012 07:22:30 am
This happens to me so often that I've ceased to be angry. Now it's just amusing and kind of sad. Sartorial cues help -- I've experimented and carrying a purse instead of a backpack definitely cuts down the gender mistakes by about 30%, and there are definitely a lot of situations where I'm more than willing to carry a purse just to proactively prevent incorrect assumptions. It does leave me kind of sad about the narrowness of people's perceptions that 70% of the mistakes still happen anyway.
11/15/2012 06:02:44 am
This "mistake" has been a norm for me since I was 13 yrs old. Didn't matter if my hair was long or short. Didn't matter if I was having a good boob day. If I put on a dress, I'd look like I was in bad drag (no offense to anyone). Now I feel I need to explain that last comment a little. I'm 6'3", 280. Yes I'm a big 'un.
11/16/2012 06:17:00 pm
Once I had a garage attendant refuse my credit card as he thought I had picked up my wife's card by mistake !
2/3/2013 09:36:14 am
I would prefer if people stopped using gendered titles in the first place, refer to us all as people or folks, and recognize that not everyone fits the gender binary. But I know when I travel to the US people do use titles more. So my advice would be - don't assume that it's an insult to be called a sir - just stop and carry on. Personally being called sir validates that I'm looking the way I want to look (masculine), so I kind of like it, I just don't like the way people falling all over themselves afterward to apologize, like the way they perceived me is such a terrible thing! I *do* know what I look like :)
2/3/2013 09:38:50 am
Can you delete my above comment or remove the sir name? Auto-complete put my name in when I didn't mean it to. Thanks
3/6/2013 05:00:09 pm
Hilarious examples from this year alone... I was recently asked "how does it feel to be an older brother?" while out with the children I nanny and their mother. I also got handed a pair of shoes and asked if I'd like to try them on first when I went shoe shopping with my mother, for my little brother, after she said she needed shoes for her son to match his high school uniform. So not only do I apparently appear male, but also juvenile. I'm 25. To those who say I should look more like a woman, I maintain that I do look like a woman. I am a woman, so clearly some women look like this. :) Love this blog.
11/10/2014 03:20:22 pm
I am a cisgender (first time using this term hope I'm doing it right) hetero lady and I just stumbled on this page by googling "Mistook woman for a man what to do." I was recently at a formal dinner with some acquaintances and strangers and the table was full of women, except for my husband and (I thought) one other guy at the other end of the table. I loudly noted that both the guys at the table were outnumbered and flanked by so many ladies. Then after a few minutes, I realized that the guy at the other end was really a butch woman. I was embarrassed, and went over pretty soon afterward and apologized. I did complement her on her suit, she looked amazing and dapper - it was after all a formal dinner. She had a sweet tie clip! I now realize it was stupid of me to do that, but I felt awkward and wanted to express something positive after doing something stupid. I was ashamed for behaving in such a heteronormative or cisgender-privileged way, and I hope I didn't make it awkward by over-apologizing through my compliment. All this to share what this situation is like from someone who is figuring out how to show the respect that I have for the brave folks who are challenging the status quo, someone who now realizes how easy it can be to be unwittingly disrespectful or to make things awkward for others for whom society makes life more difficult. Thanks for this post! I will try to do my best to be supportive and less awkward in the future, and to check my hetero/cisgender privilege.
1/7/2016 10:53:07 pm
im a female, not butch, and get constantly called a man, anything i can say to those blind idiots?!?! im constantly called a tranny, crossdresser, shemale and mtf. like ive had 2 kids, the pics they used were 5 years old and i was 5 months pregnant in the main one they chose to call me a man.
9/18/2016 01:49:58 am
I'm 14 I recently had a volleyball tournament. We were in the first rounds of playoffs and I was serving the first point of our game. Right before he blew the whistle he hesitated and asked my coach to come to the middle of the court with him. The crowd was confused. The ref asked (loudly) "is THAT a NORMAL player?" Everyone watching, my team, the other team, people I know all saw that. My coach immediately saw what u was feeling on the inside and said to the ref "start the dam game." I immediately just wanted to be benched because that was emotionally too much for me. That's the fifth time a situation in questioning if I was trans or a boy. Later that night I cried myself to sleep. ( I have short blonde and brown hair, a little bit longer than Megan rapino) everyone on my team was staring at me ;(
6/13/2019 07:44:55 pm
I was @ work (restaurant) today when I called out “sir” to a woman sitting across the way for their food order. As soon as her and I made eye contact I realized my mistake and immediately turned purple - eyes watered intensely and apologized immediately. She told me, “If you call me sir one more time there will be a problem” and stormed out. I feel absolutely awful and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Hence why I’m here. I’m google searching how I could have handled said situation better hours after my shift. Ugh.
6/13/2019 07:56:54 pm
Hi! You rock for actually caring enough to Google this. As a woman who gets called “sir” a lot, I sure appreciate it. Most people don’t care half as much. But I’m really sorry this happened to you. It sounds like she was having a terrible day, and for whatever reason, the mistake made her snap. Or maybe she has been called “sir” in the restaurant before, by someone else. You sound lovely and it made a totally honest mistake. In my opinion, you did the right thing by apologizing and moving on, and she was simply frustrated (and rude as a result!). BW
My internet search took me here. I couldn't seem to find any suitable other place to comment, so sorry for commenting on a site that is not exactly of my interest. It's just that I get called Sir, too, but I am a straight female. I don't get it. I was even wearing a pink mask. Maybe it was the flannel shirt, but one, it was cold out, and two, it too was pink. My voice doesn't even sound like a guy and I have visible boobs, and out of all that, they still call me sir, (they as in, like fast food employees, etc.) which frustrates me. People seem to get the idea, I guess that because I don't wear makeup hardly ever (I'm too old, tired, busy, etc. for that), (also I don't believe in following all the norms just because everyone else does something, after all Eve didn't need to wear makeup and she did just fine) and that I wear pants to hide my varicose veins, fat, eczema, and cellulite, they somehow get an impression in their head that I'm either a guy, or gay or who knows what else they think. I guess I just need to accept that my husband knows who I am and am not and maybe I should stop getting so offended. I guess I can say, I kind of understand what you all go through. Even if I was gay, I wouldn't want to be called sir. I wonder if there are any other straight women that have this problem.
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