There’s nothing like venturing far from home to make you realize how difficult it is to be outside the gender binary in more conservative areas of the United States.
Sure, you hear about it plenty. You read the news articles and blog posts and your skin crawls at how awful people can be. You can try to empathize and put yourself in those shoes all you want, but until you have personally been on the receiving end of ignorant vitriol, you’ll never really down-in-your-bones know.
When a friend and I made plans for a cross-country road trip this past August, I did a lot of mental preparation for how an odd character like me would be received in more conservative areas of the country. I have no illusions; what I ultimately experienced was mild compared to what some of my non-cisgender brothers and sisters must endure. And I had the luxury of moving on right away and ultimately returning home from my road trip. The privilege I have in that respect is something I fully acknowledge and don’t take for granted. Still, what I experienced definitely left me a bit shaky at the end of the day.
I’m used to getting called “sir.” Generally speaking, women who are able to grow facial hair usually choose not to let it grow out, whether for their own aesthetic preferences or due to social pressure. So between my curly muttonchops and propensity for presenting as butch, I get that it’s an easy mistake to make at a glance. Most of the time when it happens, I don’t feel compelled to correct the speaker; I’m not likely to ever see them again, and being unintentionally misgendered every now and then doesn’t–to me–warrant the discomfort for both of us that correcting the speaker usually entails.