There once was a time one could ascertain whether another individual was a male of female based solely upon his/her clothing. Women wore skirts/dresses and men wore pants. While I am supremely grateful the days of having to wear a dress all the time are behind us — I love my jeans and my pantsuits — there are days when this causes, um, confussion.
More often then not, the mere act of wearing pants does not create confusion for the observer. After all, I’m hard-pressed to say I’ve ever seen a man in a suit — or even jeans, for that matter — that look like mine, and I’m pretty certain no one has ever called me “sir” because I had on a pair of pants. Additionally, there is usually a shape difference that gives it away, even when the wearer’s attire includes something that is pretty gender-neutral, like jeans and a sweatshirt. Sometimes, though, it’s a tough call. (By the same token, I have encountered a few skirt-wearing men in my time. Usually, it isn’t hard to tell, but every once in a while…)
I remember a day in court several years ago when a now-retired judge got bent out of shape at a criminal defendant who appeared before him because the defendant was wearing small stud earrings. This person had on jeans and an orange polo-style shirt, had very short, closely cropped hair, and earrings. The judge in question got a case of the ass and told the defendant not to appear in front of him wearing earrings again. Imagine the judge’s chagrin when he learned that the defendant was not a male, as he presumed, but a female. Oops!
This week in court, I watched as the judge summoned a defendant forward. It was not my case, and I was seated off to the side talking with another attorney who was present. All the sudden the attorney I was speaking with said, “That is a female?” I’d scanned the room for blog-fodder, but had clearly overlooked that individual thinking she was a guy. I immediately reached for my phone and went into covert-photographer mode. These are not the best photos I’ve ever snapped, due in part to the attorney whose arm is stretched across them, but I think they clearly convey the “Pat-esque” nature of the subject.
Although you can’t see them, the defendant had on a pair of black jeans in a decidedly unfeminine cut and a black belt that was very androgenously styled, to go with her shapeless, black button down shirt. She had a slight spare tire around them middle, and nothing about her shape that would have caused me to guess she was female. Those of us in the peanut gallery looked at the docket after agreeingwe would have called her “Sir” or “Mister”, and saw immediately how the judge knew the difference: her first name was decidedly feminine. (I’m not going to tell you her real name, but it every bit as much of a “girl name” as “Angela” is.)
Look, I am not knocking the girl for how she was dressed. I’m not. It’s not a look that I would go for by any stretch of the imagination, but she has the right to dress however she pleases since her outfit didn’t violate the court’s dress code in any way. (Note: As evidenced by my other posts, dressing as one pleases does not in any way exempt one from being photographed for this blog. Just sayin’.) I don’t know the girl, I don’t know her background, and I don’t know why she dresses the way she does. All I know is this is how she appeard in court. Stick a gender-neutral name on her like “Pat”, and what looked to be a pretty smooth court appearance could have been far more interesting. Granted, if you are a female and you have a figure that honestly could go either way, and you dress in a manner that completely obscures your femininity, you are probably accustomed to being called “sir”. But how awkward is that for those who are dealing with you? And why do you want to look like that or put others in that position?