It wasn’t the first time. It was the third, actually, when last week another transmasculine person told me they’d originally identified as male—and then revoked the gender when they didn’t see any male roles that fit them.
And then, they met my sweet gay ass.
People sometimes assume I’m nonbinary, always because I’m wearing “women’s” clothing. Other times people assume I’m transfemme for the same reason. “Sir,” a little old lady at a grocery store said to me as I walked past recently, stopping me to ask if I could reach the buns she wanted on a high shelf. When I turned to face her, she saw my earrings and gasped: “Ma’am.” She took me in for a second, beard and stretch pants and midriff sweater, trying to figure out how to honor who I am in this world and finally pointing at me when she decided, repeating more firmly: “Ma’am.”
“What can I do for you, Boss Man?” a mechanic once asked without missing a beat when I pulled up in my RV and hopped out. It would’ve felt like a dagger through my heart if I were transfemme, which is the problem with making assumptions, but a bro (I assume! tsk tsk!) calling me “Boss Man” in that much ladieswear was too affirming and genderfucky for me to not swoon. “Is that an offensive pronoun for you?” a manicurist in a small town in Oregon asked me last week after calling me “he.” “No, that’s right,” I responded, as she applied one of 170 rhinestones to my nails. “I’m male. This is just how I think men should dress.”
“I didn’t know you could be trans and wear so many dresses,” the second man who thought he couldn’t be trans and a dude and gendery multitudes said to me. “I didn’t know men could be like this,” said the first, my boyfriend at the time, in a time I was wearing “men’s” clothing to balance out what hormones and surgery hadn’t yet. He was referring to softness. He was talking about sweetness. That’s what the third person meant, too, when they told me last week that while they initially came out as male years ago, they hadn’t seen any role models for the good and feminine power of maleness.
Until they did.