Passing as a boy is highly dependent on context. Adult restaurant – not a boy. Coffe shop alone with my laptop – not a boy. Macy’s boy’s department – boy, until I pull out my credit card and am asked for ID. Regular clothing store – half and half, until the sales clerk realizes why those jeans he offered just don’t fit me quite the right way.
My all-time favorite is the airport. I never fail to elicit the pitiful glance of a security guard, thinking, poor kid, travelling all by himself. Sometimes my ID is requested, and my stomach cringes as the look of unexpected surprise glides down their face. Just recently, coming back from my surgery, I was scolded when I showed my airline card because I “did not look like a [insert feminine real name].” I guess people with that name are supposed to look a certain way? Needless to say that the continous stream of apologies from the guy behind the counter after I showed him my real ID and credit card did not make up for the initial rudeness.
I’m getting younger everyday
An interesting concept that keeps cropping up here is age. When I pass as a boy, I’m usually passing as that, a boy, not a man. A very young boy, with the usual guess hovering around the magic number of 14. I used to think it was context – back home I’m always with my parents, so naturally they’d assume I’m younger. Turns out this is not necessarily the case; I can pass as a young boy even alone in an adult setting. The exception does not disprove the rule, but certainly renders the hypothesis unstable.
There are rare occasions when gender surpasses age, but they’re so rare I can only think of one at the moment. It was at one of those networking-to-get-a-job-and-schmooze tech startup parties here in San Francisco (that I sadly only attended for work-related reasons). There were no teenagers here – ID’s were checked at the door, you had to be 21 to get in, so everyone in there was at least that. Curiously enough, I got hit on by a few gay guys, and about half the time people I introduced myself to either avoided gendering me, or straight up referred to me as he.
I was smiling on the inside – I had passed as a boy AND an adult. Furthermore, it proves that I can be perceived as an ambiguously gendered adult. It’s actually possible! All hope is not lost that one day I’ll stop being the weird teenager who confusingly has a credit card, or the (very handsome) dyke, and start being whatever I’d like to be – the young man, the old boy. Or better yet, the confusing ambiguously gendered but awesomely spunky person over there.