I got ma’am’d today. I couldn’t tell if the person who did so thought I was a cis woman, or thought I was a trans woman and was humoring me. I get both, and the same for sir.
There are times where I attempt to influence people’s perception of me in a particular direction by mean of my presentation. If I’m interpreted in a way that aligns with that, great, generally. But the question remains of whether I’m being perceived as a cis or trans person within that interpretation. Part of me wants to be proud of being trans and recognized as such, but part of me wants to be read as cis and not have to deal with the complexities of navigating social situations as a trans person.
Some of that is internalized transphobia on my part. That’s something I still struggle with. But a much larger portion is the fact that people treats cis and trans people differently even when they’re supportive or allies. Part of the reason it matters to me is because the way others interpret and interact with me affects me. So, if the person who ma’am’d me today did so to politely humor me as a clocked trans person, that doesn’t feel great. They may choose to humor me today, but not tomorrow. The validity of my identity in that social context is dependent on the whim of the person who is perceiving me. And that feels precarious.
On the other other hand, this is the same kind of argument I have with myself about clothes (and other presentation choices). The clothing I am wearing today is definitely intended to be feminine in presentation. But also it’s just bits of cotton fiber, and that doesn’t really have a gender. It’s stupid that clothes have gender, or that gendered presentation stereotypes exist. It shouldn’t be an issue if a cis man decides to wear a dress. But if wearing a dress isn’t gendered feminine anymore, then I lose the ability to present feminine.
A society without gender stereotypes has a lot of advantages, but those stereotypes are also a language provided by society for expressing gender, and removing them would take away my ability to express myself and be seen as who and what I am.