Author Topic: Addressing a man dressed as a woman - she or he?  (Read 5529 times)

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MorningGlory

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Addressing a man dressed as a woman - she or he?
« on: December 11, 2011, 01:36:55 PM »
Hi everyone!  I have a question regarding the above connundrum.  A friend just posted on Facebook, asking whether she made a gaffe by addressing a man dressed as a woman as "she".  My friend didn't get many helpful replies - most were lame jokes.  So I thought I could ask you nice folks here, because I know you won't make silly remarks or tease.  Do you think it's okay to refer to a man dressed as a woman as "she"?  My friend seems to think that she offended him or her by saying "she".  I'm of two minds about it - if it were a man just in a dress, I would probably say "he" or "him".  But if the person is in women's wear, a feminine hairdo and make-up, I would feel it proper to say "she". 

What would you do?

Hillia

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Re: Addressing a man dressed as a woman - she or he?
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2011, 01:41:08 PM »
I would say that you should address this person in the feminine; regardless of her biological status, she identifies as female, and that's how she should be addressed.


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Shoo

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Re: Addressing a man dressed as a woman - she or he?
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2011, 01:43:14 PM »
If someone is dressed like a woman and looks like a woman, I'd address that person as a woman because I'd assume it WAS a woman.  I have known some very masculine looking women, so I wonder how your friend knew for sure this person was a man.

RingTailedLemur

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Re: Addressing a man dressed as a woman - she or he?
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2011, 01:47:48 PM »
When the person is dressed as a woman, address and refer to as "she".  To do otherwise is very rude, as it is clear the person is presenting and identifying as female.

Unless this person does it for a laugh/fancy dress (costume party).
« Last Edit: December 11, 2011, 01:49:33 PM by RingTailedLemur »

Yvaine

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Re: Addressing a man dressed as a woman - she or he?
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2011, 01:48:20 PM »
I've generally been told to address the person in the gender they are presenting--so your friend did it right according to what I've heard. My own experiences with the topic bear that out too. If the person is trans, she will want the pronouns she identifies with--and if the person is dressing up for other reasons, addressing that way is still unlikely to go awry (i.e., if the person is a drag queen with a stage persona, even if he's a he the rest of the time, he may want to be she while dressed up). But it sounds like your friend may have found a person who prefers otherwise, based on the reaction she received, so if she is close to the person then maybe just asking about the preferred pronouns is best.

Miss March

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Re: Addressing a man dressed as a woman - she or he?
« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2011, 01:49:36 PM »
When I see a man who has dressed to appear as a woman, then I refer to that person as "ma'am."  One time, and one time only, I said "Sir" in that situation, and I really, really hurt that person's feelings and I felt terrible, because I did not mean to.
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Slartibartfast

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Re: Addressing a man dressed as a woman - she or he?
« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2011, 01:49:58 PM »
The biggest thing is to look at the things the person can control about themselves - are they wearing makeup and a skirt, are they speaking with an artificially high voice, are they referring to their "girlfriends?"  Just judging by bone structure is a bad idea, because there are plenty of women with masculine builds and men with feminine builds and that doesn't indicate anything about their gender identity.

Failing that, though, I think addressing a man who is dressed as a woman as "she" is the most appropriate thing.  If that person identifies as male and happens to prefer women's clothing, he's got to accept that people will call him by the wrong gender (just as a parent dressing a baby girl in blue overalls and a John Deere coat will have people assume the baby is a boy).

mechtilde

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Re: Addressing a man dressed as a woman - she or he?
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2011, 01:51:01 PM »
She is the correst  mode of address- even if the person is just wearing a dress or similar female clothing and isn't wearing make up, or high heels or whatever.
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Re: Addressing a man dressed as a woman - she or he?
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2011, 01:57:47 PM »
When the person is dressed as a woman, address and refer to as "she".  To do otherwise is very rude, as it is clear the person is presenting and identifying as female.

Unless this person does it for a laugh/fancy dress (costume party).

ITA. I would always address a person as a woman if they are presenting themselves as one.
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Cosmasia

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Re: Addressing a man dressed as a woman - she or he?
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2011, 02:10:22 PM »
Actually dressing in traditionally female clothing, make up/hair etc does not mean the person identifies as female.
There are many varieties of gender identity and they don't always have anything to do with your physical sex or appearance.

If you're (general) confused about how to refer to someone, the best bet is to just ask them politely what they prefer.
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Yvaine

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Re: Addressing a man dressed as a woman - she or he?
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2011, 02:23:03 PM »
I'm really surprised that my answer seems to be a bit of an outlier here (dress alone suggest cross dressing, additional methods of presenting suggest transgendered)!  Maybe it's because I live in San francisco so more people are comfortable dressing or acting outside gender norms here?  Not arguing with anyone here, just trying to figure out why my answer seems to be so diff than the agreed response.

I just keep imagining how annoyed I'd be if I went to the store in men's jeans and a men's tshirt, but otherwise looking like a girl, and the clerk called me "him" :)

Well, but I can't even tell the difference between men's and women's t-shirts and jeans, so in the absence of any other cues, I would look at you and think "female."

It's hard to define "cues," because it's not necessarily makeup; one of the three transwomen I know closely is absolutely not a girly-girl, and the other two are. But you can tell all of them are women. I'm not even sure exactly what combination of characteristics adds up to the perception. In fact I have more trouble remembering to use "she" with the girly-girl ones, because their transition occurred years after I met them, while the more "tomboyish" one was introduced to me as a woman from day one.

So, no, I wouldn't call you he if you wore men's jeans and t-shirt. If you shaved your head and introduced yourself as "Bob" and pitched your voice low and maybe other factors as well, I might think I was supposed to do so.

jpcher

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Re: Addressing a man dressed as a woman - she or he?
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2011, 02:29:29 PM »
I'd like to hear more about the conversation. Because if Friend was talking about this person as "She" then friend wasn't talking directly to the person.

Maybe that's why he/she was offended. Not saying that Friend said anything rude, it could have been a side comment like "She's wearing a pretty dress."

But I would think that cross-dressers would be a little bit more thick-skinned or understanding and not take offense to such confusion. I'm sure this is something they face all the time.



When addressing the person directly, I think Cosmasia gave the best advice:

If you're (general) confused about how to refer to someone, the best bet is to just ask them politely what they prefer.

It's the same as asking someone if they prefer Ms. Mrs. or Miss.

Slartibartfast

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Re: Addressing a man dressed as a woman - she or he?
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2011, 02:55:13 PM »
I'm really surprised that my answer seems to be a bit of an outlier here (dress alone suggest cross dressing, additional methods of presenting suggest transgendered)!  Maybe it's because I live in San francisco so more people are comfortable dressing or acting outside gender norms here?  Not arguing with anyone here, just trying to figure out why my answer seems to be so diff than the agreed response.

I just keep imagining how annoyed I'd be if I went to the store in men's jeans and a men's tshirt, but otherwise looking like a girl, and the clerk called me "him" :)

If you live in an area where wearing a dress isn't a sign of being "female," then a dress isn't as much a sign of gender.  Same way jeans are no longer a gender signifier - fifty years ago, a woman who wore jeans could very easily have been mistaken for a man (or at least looked at oddly).  In the part of the country where I live, unfortunately, you would very possibly get beat up for wearing a dress if you're not also clearly female  :-\

Other factors come into it too, of course - haircut, makeup, nails done, shoes, purse, etc.  We as a culture have a lot of things which are "only female" but very few things which are "only male" - and the taboo is much greater against a man who dares to dress "female" than against a woman who chooses to get a short haircut, wear jeans, wear work boots, and not wear makeup or nail polish.  It also means people who are biologically male but who wish to present as female have a much easier time "looking the part" than people who are biologically female but wish to present as male.

ACBNYC

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Re: Addressing a man dressed as a woman - she or he?
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2011, 03:04:57 PM »
I would definitely politely ask how s/he wants to be addressed. I agree with gollymolly that if it's just a guy in a dress, who is masculine in every other way, I would probably refer to him as "he" unless told otherwise. Someone who is actually going through a gender change will present very differently from someone who is a cross-dresser. If I know it's a male but his hair, makeup, clothing, walk, etc. all present as female I would use "she."

But asking is the best course of action. I can't imagine someone taking offense to that, to me it wouldn't be any different from someone asking if I prefer Ms. or Mrs.

I think of RuPaul as a "he" but I believe he is a cross-dresser for entertainment and not transgendered, but I could be wrong about that.

RingTailedLemur

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Re: Addressing a man dressed as a woman - she or he?
« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2011, 03:05:48 PM »
Actually dressing in traditionally female clothing, make up/hair etc does not mean the person identifies as female.
There are many varieties of gender identity and they don't always have anything to do with your physical sex or appearance.

If you're (general) confused about how to refer to someone, the best bet is to just ask them politely what they prefer.

At the time they are wearing those clothes etc, they do.