Here's another one for both the "Cases of Mistaken Identity" and "Your Unsolicited Commentary is Annoying the Shit out of Me" files. We were at the Washington Capitals game last Wednesday when I was approached by a complete stranger apparently very committed to doing his part to enforce the drinking age. I had bought two alcoholic beverages and was carrying them back to our seats when I realized I'd forgotten my ticket at the cash register. I turned around to retrieve it and some guy got in my way and insisted on knowing if I was old enough to drink. Still focused on getting back to my accidentally abandoned ticket, I said, "Yes, thanks," and tried to continue on my way. He fell into step beside me and said, "Because you look younger than me and I don't think-..." I cut him off and said, "I'm twenty-nine, actually. Thanks." He still wouldn't leave me alone, though he expressed surprise at my answer. I couldn't tell if he was trying to recover from his obvious first assumption that I was a teenage boy, or that he still didn't believe me. Either way, he looked genuinely shocked at how short I was with him.
Seriously. WTF. One, I had obviously been sold the alcohol already, meaning someone whose business it is to ask whether I am of age had already determined that I was, in fact, plenty old enough to purchase drinks. Second, what was this guy planning to do about his false assumption that I was underage? Make a citizen's arrest? I'm just not certain what the point of this conversation was. It felt like harassment.
I have no doubt that this entire situation transpired because the guy in question had read me as male and could not seem to re-calibrate to read me as female when I informed him that I was an age that wouldn't make much sense if I were male-bodied (namely, my voice). To me, this indicates, as I've said before, that people just aren't looking for queer folks. People see males and females and expect these to be two (and of course, only two) easily distinguishable categories. Being able to see people who bend the binary, including adult masculine-presenting female-bodied folks, requires expecting those people to exist. I've found that many people do not have this expectation. If I see someone who looks like they could be a boy or young man, but who is exhibiting signs that are incongruent with that assumption (i.e., wearing a wedding ring or using the women's restroom or openly carrying alcoholic beverages in a manner that indicates she or he is confident in her or his legal right to purchase and consume such beverages), I would not continue to assume that such a person is a teenager. I'd assume this person is queer or otherwise gender non-conforming. I'm still not sure that my "friend" at the hockey arena understood what I was trying to convey to him - that I'm an adult female, not an underage male. And if he did get the message, he seemed offended that I hadn't provided this information to him more compassionately. I'm so tired of this. Can we revive the old "We're here, we're queer" slogan, perhaps adding the addendum, "And some of us are not teenagers. So stop bothering me, you irritating asshole." Yeah, I know, it doesn't rhyme. I'll keep working on it.