Monday, March 30, 2015

Problems of a "Passing" Female in Jobs and the General Public

I was asked by a few readers to write a bit about issues Butch lesbians/Women who pass, deal with in the general public and specifically the workplace.

If you are a woman who is routinely mistaken for male, you have obviously dealt with this issue since toddlerhood. So being sir'd in public is nothing new to you (you dont bat an eye) and dealing with the odd looks, remarks etc in public Lady's rooms, you are well (annoyed with) used to. But getting a first job or a new job can be difficult, as well as dealing with new employees on a current job.

If you are seeking employment for the first time, unless VERY lucky you may have to go through many interviews before being hired, regardless of qualifications. After some experience, you can spot a there is no way in hell this guy/gal is going to hire me look as soon as the interviewer lays eyes on you. There is this cross between a deer caught in headlights and mind racing that takes place as soon as you walk in. By the female name they used when they first contacted you and the female voice who answered/returned their call/booked the interview, they assumed they would be interviewing a female (female in their mind being the only kind of females they have been exposed to, which probably doesnt include the kind of female you are). So when they first see what THEIR limited varied female experience tells them is a man, and the fact that they know they booked an interview with a woman, they will likely be flustered.

Do NOT let their uneasiness fluster you, simply act like their is no issue (for you their isnt), shake hands, be polite and sit down for the interview. The important thing is to be yourself, no matter how THEY react, if you are comfortable it will put them at ease and if it doesnt, this isnt someone you would want to work for anyways! Treat the situation like you have a thousand times in stores or public bathrooms, do not bat an eye. You are there seeking employment, if they have a problem with a woman comfortable with herself, comfortable in a nice suit or button down and trousers sporting polished comfortable shoes, then thats THEIR problem, NOT yours. Do not beat yourself up for other peoples narrow Gender Straight Jacketed minds. Just realize and take it in stride that not everyone is going to be okay with the kind of female you are, and they dont have to be. If you do not get called backed for a seconded interview or hired, so be it. Shrug it off and keep looking and interviewing, you will find more people okay with you than not.

If hired, whether a first job or a new job, when incorrect pronouns are used toward you, simply correct them as you would to someone of the general public. Do it in as matter of fact way as possible, that usually diminishes embarrassment, establishes your self acceptance thereby opening the door for theirs. You will find this approach often builds a protectiveness from co-workers who tend to explain us to new confused co-workers going forward. Same goes for the bathroom at work, if you dont make an issue out of it, neither with others. Go in, do your business, wash hands, leave. In a new job you will likely run into most women in the bathroom within the first week and should be fine after that. Treat initial reactions no different than you might in a public bathroom, identify your sex if need be and keep moving. No big deal.

Again I stress the importance of you being as comfortable with you as possible. This opens the door for others to treat you with a greater ease and even friendliness in a new job situation.

If there is something I didnt cover, comment and I'll do an addition to the post.



  1. Hey Dirt, really good post. I've been ridiculously nervous going for interviews wearing a suit, tie, etc because I know that, although I look amazing, I look a lot different than what the interviewer(s) is/are probably expecting. I also get the other side of the coin, where, since my name is ambiguous as is my voice, sometimes they will see me (even in a suit) and get confused because they thought I was a man. Interesting either way, seems to be that at least for me people take their gut assumption and run with it.
    But yes, I've found the most important thing is to exude an air of self-acceptance and like what you look like is no-big-deal-at-all. Play everything cool, and you will likely be met with the same in most instances.

    I really love it when you post things propping our Butch sisters up.

  2. Though I don't try to look "feminin", I hardly pass. Must be my soft face. LOL
    My American friends tell me that I look very butch, but I'm not familiar with the butch/femme dynamic.
    I never noticed they looked different at me at job interviews, but maybe they did. I'm self secure and pretty much never worry about what others think of me.
    And the few times people called me sir, I coulnd't care less. I don't respond at all and just let it be.

  3. I am looking to get back in the workforce after a hiatus and have been very worried about this. It only takes one glance at me to know I'm as queer as a 3$ bill. I am not as confident as I should be and need to grow thicker skin.

    Thanks for the tips. It's nice to know others are going through or have gone through the same thing.

  4. My thoughts on this question are closest to Big's. It's been a long time since anyone visually misidentified me as female (age makes butches of us all, your homework this week: a fourteen-line lament on this tragedy), but I still regularly get addressed as "Madame" or "Señora" on the telephone. I only ever correct people if it's material to the subject under discussion, and if so, try to do it in a way that minimizes their embarrassment over their "mistake".

    I've never worked in a job that brings me very much into direct contact with the general public, but both my partner and my stepson work in catering, and there, the rule is to use (grammatical) female gender to address any person whose sex you are unsure of. Even heterosexual men whose appearance is "feminine" enough to give rise to doubt are rarely offended by this (though they do correct it). The only people who get (quite extravagantly) angry at this supposed "offence" are F2M transsexuals.

    It worries me a little that I am, more often than before, assumed to be heterosexual (for example, saying "mi pareja", gender-neutral Spanish for "my partner", and getting questions about "ella" - "her"). But coming so late in my life, the presumption of heterosexuality is no more than an annoying little buzz-fly. Young people (almost everybody is younger than me) cannot afford to take such a laissez-faire view.

    If you've read this far, thank you. As a gay male, I know my contribution can only be a side-light on this question. I know that "passing", intentional or accidental, has a very different meaning and history for lesbians than for gay males. But voilà!

    In solidarity,