My girlfriend gets called sir a lot. Every time a stranger refers to her as a guy (sir, buddy, "him"), we give each other a smirky look, and can't help but feel bad for the person once they realize their mistake, as they most often do, once she opens her mouth.
There are still times, however, they just can't tell the difference, either because they don't care to look beyond a customer if they're serving us in some way, or they would rather assume she's my boyfriend than believe we're lesbians. I look "too straight" and she, apparently, must be a guy in a T-shirt and shortly coifed haircut. (I call it the lesbian triangle.)
Today at brunch, it happened again. Despite living in a large city, dining at a popular spot in a liberal neighborhood gentrified by hipsters, our 20-something male waiter barely glanced at my girlfriend before asking "And for you, sir?" We immediately talked about it after he left the table, about how we always end up feeling bad for the person. He might be embarrassed, he could feel silly or let it get to him in some way. We feel bad that there is a possibility a stranger feels bad for making a mistake. Is that wrong?
When people assume I'm straight, I become frustrated, as if they are saying I'm trying to pass. When I'm out with my girlfriend, it's more apparent, I'm sure, that I'm elsewhere on the Kinsey scale. So I've really been wondering if these two ideas (my girlfriend passing as a boy, myself passing as a straight woman) will ever become instinct. Fighting for equality and marriage and basic human rights are important, of course, but I am personally curious as to when sexuality and gender will stop being assumed so freely. Is there something that myself or others in my predicament can do besides hold our girlfriends' hands or wave a rainbow flag around to proclaim our queerness? And should butches or studs or any woman who wants to wear her hair cropped and men's jeans be forced to feel empathy for those who give them an incorrect pronoun?
I'm not sure if I react correctly in these situations, which happen more frequently than I would ever have assumed. Perhaps there are those who think I should be happy to "pass" in situations otherwise deemed "unsafe" for queer girls like me, but I'm more of the in-your-face "That's right, she's my boo" type, and I'm going to stop trying to feel bad for those who think otherwise. (I'll still forgive them eventually though, because I'm also that type of person.)