Stop Gender Policing

I started my day with an email asking me for an interview. The student addressed his email to “Mr.” I was nice enough to respond to him anyway – though I’ve been known to ignore someone who didn’t take the time to check this. I actually couldn’t help him (not an expert in what he was looking for) so there was no harm done. I got a nice apology note – though I didn’t call him on it.

Then, a little later in my day I had a conference call. It’s me, another legal beagle (“Kim”) and the woman on the other side (“Hillary”). When Hillary answered the phone, I said,

“Hello Hillary. This is Tristan (I can’t use Butch here because it will confuse you), and Kim from Blah Blah Corp.”

And Hillary says, “But not in that order, right?”

Kim and I are confused and I reply, “What?”

Hillary says, “Well, you said Tristan and Kim. Tristan first, but you’re Kim, right?”

“No. I’m Tristan.”

“But Tristan is a man’s name and this is a woman’s voice.”

“No. I’m Tristan and that’s Kim over there.” I point in wonder to Kim across my desk. We both look shocked as we realize what’s happening.

Hillary starts to sputter and apologize profusely, “But I thought – Oh I’m sorry – I didn’t mean to -”

Didn’t mean to what? Imply that my parents are idiots for naming me Tristan? Didn’t mean to imply that only a man can have a traditionally male name? What exactly didn’t you mean, Hillary?

Of course I didn’t say any of this.

Now, Kim and I laughed. Kim knows I’m a good sport. I joked to Hillary that at least we know she didn’t Google me. Ha ha ha.

This interaction left Hillary embarrassed (rightly) and befuddled (natch). Even though I’m a good sport, that’s not going to stop me from (anonymously) putting Hillary on blast.

I mean. What the hell? What on earth would lead a professional woman to be so desperate for gender conformity on a professional phone call that she would behave this way? It’s not a call set up by It’s a professional meeting. To discuss contracts. And indemnity. And licensing provisions. Boring stuff for most of the world; not me, of course, I love that stuff.

Who the hell cares whether she is talking to two women, a man and a woman, a woman and a Butch, or – two aliens, for that matter?

Is she going to defer to the person she thought was a man? Is she going to ask me out on a date? What was she doing being so concerned? Maybe the man should be doing the speaking and if he’s not, then he’s clearly not on the call yet. Should we wait?

I’ve been on conference calls before with a bunch of men. I’ve no issue asking the people to announce themselves so I get a chance to place the voices. Occasionally, I ask if the person who just spoke was soandso. But, to get absolutely tripped up over the fact that I’m speaking and my name doesn’t match my voice? It’s a new level of gender policing.

Though I despise the bathroom double takes and mistaken Sirs, at least those have an explanation – however feeble or rooted in ignorance they may be. This one left me perplexed. Shaking my head, as it were.

News flash Hillary: Not all women are named womanly names and not all men are named manly names. Sometimes, a woman is named Pat, or Hunter, or Michael (grrrowl). Sometimes, a man is named Kelsey, or Michele, or Shannon. And sometimes, a Butch is named Tristan. A big ol’ woman-identified Butch. Get over it.

Have any of you ever experienced this kind of crazy policing on the phone?

It’s Butch to stop gender policing. Be Butch.

About Tristan Higgins, aka Butch Jaxon

I am a butch. This blog is about what I think. If you do not know what butch means, you are probably on the wrong blog. In the interests of inclusion, though, I can tell you that “butch” means a lesbian that is big, strong, tough, more macho, less girly. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules – which is an ongoing theme in my blog (and in the comments), but those are the basics. A butch will most likely not wear makeup. A butch is often referred to as “sir” by someone who is not paying attention. What else? I am, after all, not just a butch. I am happily married to the most amazing woman ever, and the mother of two fantastic kids. I am also a lover of, in no particular order, beer, bow ties, breasts, movies, hiking, bookstores, travel, dogs, geocaching, polar bears, the gym, music, gadgets, and more. By day, I am an intrepid corporate entertainment lawyer. Although I try hard not to be labeled as such – sporting a bleached Mohawk, for example. Think more entertainment and less corporate. By night, bring it all on! In my blog, I talk about things from a butch perspective, but this is not just for butches. We all love our femmes. Please do not let me offend femmes, mine in particular! If you like what you read here, I hope you will comment and let me know what you think. If you do not like what you read, well, what the hell do I care? Start your own blog. Be Butch. View all posts by Tristan Higgins, aka Butch Jaxon

21 responses to “Stop Gender Policing

  • middleagebutch

    Kim can also be a dude’s name. There’s actually a website called “Guys Named Kim.”

    Both my first name and last name are traditional male first names. When I make a phone call, I often get called “sir.” I usually just lower my voice and roll with it. Sometimes it’s easier that way.


  • Evan

    ARRRGHHHHHHH THIS IS SO MY ONGOING EVERYDAY!!!! I was named Evan by parents who decided that having a mixed female baby in the 80s meant she needed to not have to endure racism and sexism at least on paper. As a masculine of center lesbian I have the constant issues of the “sirs” and “misters”. I also get irate in my own community because there is the immediate jump to conclusion that I am a transman. Which being a transman is fine and dandy, if that is in fact who you are…. It is not who I am. I have seen people be talking about me in a group discussion using female pronouns and be CORRECTED by someone else to make pronouns. So frustrating. A community that can embrace gender fluidity and gender non-conformity but still defers to names holding gendered space as well as taking someone’s name to be indicative of their pronouns makes me so grouchy. This piece at least let me know that I have solidarity in what is a minute but annoying issue.


  • BrickTracy

    I get called “Mr. ” on the phone all the time. I’ve started saying, “There is no Mr. in this residence.” LOL It always confuses the caller but they generally catch on very fast. 😉

    I’m with the person above, I have a first and last name that could be either/or, and my first name could be either/or.

    I worked with a guy named Kim.

    I agree – that woman was confused – but, maybe she came from a work environment where her “heads” in the company treated her like this so she got used to it – corporate men can create quite the unhappy environment when it comes to women and what they should expect, sadly.


  • Bejai

    My name is not identified either way so I try not to get offended…much. I do toss unopened any mail that comes to Mr. Bejai ___ though 🙂


  • tmjimmy23

    First off, I am sorry to hear that this happened to you. You were in a place of business. You were ready to work and be in control. Someone took that away from you. It was not about work but instead about you and your gender presentation. That is truly awful.

    I am all for stopping gender policing. In whatever way that it happens. I’m a genderqueer person and definitely don’t follow certain “rules” and “social cues” that society looks for when figuring out my gender.

    It is an awkward and hard conversation to explain to people about gender roles, pronouns, and how I might not fit in certain boxes. It might be useful in those situations to explain what pro-noun you prefer. Whichever it may be. I know that you are at work so that might not be feasible or the best answer. I also understand how exhausting that it can be to have this conversation.

    Asking and requesting people’s preferred pro-nouns is a way to make everyone feel better. You don’t offend them and you don’t make yourself look like a fool. It is hard. I find it hard and I want to request a different pro-noun.

    Also, don’t assume that people in the queer community are exempt from gender policing. Many of those amongst our group are sometimes the worst at it. It is a sad but true occurrence.

    I hope for a day where bathroom visits, doctor’s offices, meeting rooms, or any other place on this Earth is safe for all people who don’t fit in a certain box. If we work on talking about gender and leaving it open for explanation when our children are grown then that world might exist.

    Much love,


  • Tristan Higgins, aka Butch Jaxon

    Oh my gosh you all. These are such great comments! Thank you for taking the time to share so much. It is nice to know that we are not alone. :o)


  • Lydia H

    I love the name Tristan. It suits you. Strong.

    When I was younger, it was extremely difficult to deal with gender policing. I still remember being called “half and half” by kids, having boys run from me when we were forced to dance in PE, being asked if I was a boy or girl…. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a really supportive family. My mom’s take is if I was more “feminine” I wouldn’t get teased. So the “solution” was to try harder to be someone I am not.

    It took me until I was in my thirties to figure out and accept my gender and sexual identities. I’m still only partially out. Although, most of my friends know.
    I’m asexual and gender queer. I don’t identify as either male or female in my mind, heart, and soul. I am a bit of both but yet neither. I tend to like to dress in a more traditionally “masculine” way. Externally, I guess I present more male than female… Sort of.

    If you’re familiar with Mercedes Lackey’s books: I think of myself as a gender neutral, neuter Kyree. lol


  • Toni (@TVanD18)

    I was saddled with first and middle names that are very “girly” and always hated them. My bunkmate in bootcamp re-named me (an abbreviated form of my middle name) that suits me far better but with it being a more masculine name I had to deal with the “Yes, but what’s your real name?” hassles all the time. It took quite a while for me to get comfortable with being firm with not going into big explanations. After all nobody questions Roberts who go by Bob, so why is Toni from Antonetta so hard to understand? I still find myself defending or being put in uncomfortable positions by my name. More so by other people’s reactions to it.


  • Jesse MacGregor-Jones

    I’ve gotten to the point I just tell people that I’m human and that is all they need to know. It largely depends on my mood. I was recently accused of hating men, by a man who doesn’t know me. Why? Because all butch lesbians hate men, according to him, because we are jealous of their muscles and strong jaws. I informed him that I bench pressed over 200# in HIGH SCHOOL and have no jealousies of over anything he may think that he has that I don’t. SMH. The world annoys me…


  • Khai

    I’m definitely experiencing some of this as I interview for jobs, over and over. I’ve watched quite a few hiring managers do a double take as I walk in, after a phone interview or a phone conversation to set the interview, proudly wearing my shirt and tie, no heels (heels are the devil, except on a femme because then yum, but that’s just me), with my short hair.


  • Alex

    My name is Alexandra and I have never been comfortable with that name. Since 6 years I ask people to call me Alex, I like that name very much, it suits me. Alex is a boy’s name in Holland and it has led to very confusing situations. Especially if I agree to meet someone over email for work or something private and they expect a man. I never explain why I use that name even though the combination of my body (boyish looking) and my high voice is getting a lot of people even more confused. In the beginning it really annoyed me, but now I sort of enjoy to see their anxiety, because I know they want to put me in a box, but which one? It’s good for people to be confused sometimes…and in some situations, I had very interesting conversations with people who were genuinely interested in genderstuf and who took the trouble to question their own binary thinking.


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