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To Sir without thinking, Ma'am.

Field Notes In/On Transition

To Sir Without Thinking, Ma’am

I have spent most of my transition so far being very forgiving on people getting the pronouns wrong etc, calling me Sir, Buddy, etc. This of course still goes on, no matter whether I’m wearing a pretty dress or jeans and a tee shirt, lipstick, big eyelashes. I still get Sirr-ed all day. Usually without the hesitation involved for those trying to get my name right. In those cases you can see the wheels turning as they get it right and feel good about remembering, which in turn makes me feel good that people are consciously making some kind of effort.

The Sir thing, though seems to be much more of a subconscious polite form, in that even those who will mostly call me Josie, and even she, instead of he, still say Sir. It has alot to do with working in a store I think. We have certain almost unconscious etiquette that we maintain when making transactions for goods and services. Ma’am and more so Sir are used without much thought. Ma’am tends to be reserved for older ladies, thus some of the indignation you may receive silently or otherwise from Ladies who don’t feel old enough to be in Ma’am territory. 

I don’t hear any of my female co-workers being called Ma’am, in fact, but I may be listening only for my own. Sir is used more ubiquitously, and despite the ever girlier mode of dress I’ve been adopting as I get more comfortable with being Josie, I still talk and comport myself in a fairly masculine voice and manner, I guess, as I really don’t think any of the Sirs I get are some kind of dig, or that people are purposefully trying to make sure I know they think I’m a dude. There have been a few exceptions, people with a snarky sounding “Sir.” That’s only a few times in several months. 

I’m really starting to react badly, the more I feel comfortable being a trans woman, and am almost ready to be somewhat confrontational in regards to this issue. I am wary though, as I don’t want to seem strident or well, confrontational all the time. 

Most people who say it, really are just being polite without noticing that I’m trying to be noticed as a lady. They still hear, and see a dude. I’m not sure if more make-up and a more lady-like manner will really change this. It seems more insurmountable to me than the actual transition itself. You cannot not force change in others. You can only change yourself.

I also am not good at being confrontational. If people react to me with anger, they get anger back in their faces. I can be patient as Job, if people are polite, and it seems they are actually listening to me. But people who get all superior and righteous with me, get incoherence thrown back at them, as my brain shuts down into survival mode at that point. I don’t feel like I’ve ever won a heated argument, no matter how clearly I made my points. It just makes me feel bad, inferior, making the feeling superior type feel they’ve “won”.  I can also get snarky when I feel cornered or put down. 

My acid tongue is unconscionably sharp, honed by years of hanging out with genius Winnipeg put down artists all through University. And by living with many of them, here in Vancouver as the search for work that was the 90’s exhausted us all, driving most of them back to Winnipeg to nest and whatever it is people who start families do. 

Part of my theatre minor, I think included a heck of a lot of practical experience in the caffeine induced “gotcha”... If you weren’t preying on your friends’ foibles, you weren’t part of the crowd. It was all in good fun, however and rarely crossed any “big lines”. Irony was also still a valid response to awkward situations back in those heady days of the 1980s. These days, not so much, as most irony I toss at folks sails right over their heads, or directly into their hearts, as they think I’m being serious.  

Thing is, I don’t feel like I am that snarky person anymore. I really have come to grok the influence of hormone levels in regard to emotional states. Just like I don’t have that huge male sex drive any longer, I also feel that my reaction to events happening around me is more thoughtful, and even tempered. I still get pissed at things like getting “Sirr-ed” all day, but there isn’t that hard edge to my anger, it’s more frustration, than anger in fact, I realize as I write this. 

I’m frustrated because it seems to me an impossible and exhausting task of correcting some 2 or 3 dozen (low ball guess of how often I get called some sort of variation of Sir, Man, Dude) people a day, many of whom, I’m sure would be understanding, if I explained myself, or they looked further than their memory of who I have been presenting as the last 6 years working in the same place doing the same thing. It took some people years to notice the 80-100 lbs that I’ve dropped since 2008. It may take them even longer to notice that I’m no longer “that Video Guy”...?

I’m just putting one foot in front of the other and trying really hard not to get wrapped up in insignificant details of my daily struggle to be come some sort of woman. 

I really need to remember that saying from one of my Blog Posts last month “Let Go Or Be Dragged”. Today even, I saw another koan, also attributed to the Buddha, 

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” 

Then In the Third Act...

I wrote the stuff above before work today. Today, which interestingly enough was nigh on Gender Neutral, except a few interactions with ladies of a Certain Age (close to my age), who seem to grok what I’m doing, or are at least comfortable, ID-ing me as female. The chit chat was markedly improved today, from the last few,maybe the last week... as far as feeling properly gender ID’d goes. 

In fact I would put today in the Woman/Win Column. 

One of my few (yes they are coming more often, but still not with regularity) Lady Days, where I felt really like people saw Josie almost all of the day. Children say all kinds of weird shit to start with, and well, they’re kids. 

This was exactly what I needed today. 

Yesterday the “Sirs” were relentless; today however, they stayed home, mind you, no “Ma’ams” came out, either, but they didn’t need to as I felt good all day with being seen as Josie. 

I think this outfit helped a lot. 

It’s so awesome to be able to blog about this stuff, or like yesterday, I moped a bit on Facebook, and get so much love, and positive, thoughtful feedback on my process. I’m in awe of all the thousands of Trans Folk who did this thing before the internet. 

I feel so blessed to have people who seem to grok me, at my fingertips, if I want to talk, or vent, or just see pictures of their cats. 

I know that I’m going to have bad gender ID days again, and maybe more often than not for a while yet, but like every other time I’ve stumbled a bit on this journey, my friends have been there for me, and I know they’ll be there for me then too, if needed. Also by writing this blog, I feel I’ve become more thoughtful and I’ve learned how to find the positives hidden within the negatives. 

I feel more myself everyday, I really do. 


  1. Hello dear Sister, you look fabulous and don't let anyone tell you different. I am eleven years post op, and this life is a constant test of our personal integrity. I think anger is an appropriate response to oppression. I write about the same things you do, and invite you to read me [] or FB me at April Rose Schneider and stay in touch. Don't worry about passability. Things will change for the better. You are beautiful. XXOO

  2. Thanks so much for the support April!. Checking out your blog now. well done! xox ps will try to find you on FB. - Josie.


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