Midpoint on Gender Reassignment Surgery-Sir or Ma'am?

I, litterally, bumped into somebody at the airport the other day. I said either “Excuse me, brother” or “Excuse me, ma’am” (can’t remember which). So, the bumpee was, it appeared to me, midway between male and female. At any rate, I wasn’t sure which way they were going in their transition, but I suspect M to F, just because of the semi-long hair. Of course, the person was mid-20something, so it may have been just a punk/goth hairstyle.

At any rate, is there a preferred designation for persons at the midway point?
Do they become offended at the wrong one? I can’t remember which one I used, as I noted above, but, then, I tried to correct it, which was, of course, impossible.
How does one get out of this conversational quandary if stuck with the person for some length of time? (I just acted like I never said it, and it was such a quick exchange that I made a smooth exit.)

You call them whatever they present as, or whatever they ask to be referred to as. If you don’t know, stay neutral. The surgery is irrelevant, it’s what gender they identify and present as.

I’d say that if the person is androgynous enough that you really, truly can’t tell, and you don’t know them to be able to ask, then either way isn’t fatally rude. Best guess, basically. As you said, it may not even be a transgender thing but a fashion thing. You just don’t know and can’t really be blamed for not knowing, since it’s a total stranger.

If it’s someone you know is transitioning, they’re their preferred gender at all times after they “come out” to you, regardless of whether they’ve gotten any modifications done.

Definitely addressed as the gender they are aiming for.I’ve known girls who we addressed (M to F trans people), as she/her even though they were still not changed or even in treatment. At the very least it flatters them and who doesn’t like flattery!

You’re under the mistaken impression that it changes after the surgery. It changes at the point they decide to present as their preferred gender, which usually is well before the surgery.

Everything else was clearly covered by others.

That person may not even have been someone who was in transition, but someone whose looks are androginous enough to faze you. It’s not as if the range of “natural” looks comes with John Wayne and Jane Mansfield as the only options.

As a member of the Offenderati, I heartily endorse the responses so far.


This person *was *in transition. I flatter myself that I have a level of comprehension that accounts for the fact that uberbutch and ultrafeminine are not the only types of people extant.

The rule is “you address them how they present.” Simple and easy. If they present as completely androgynous…you may have to ask, or use gender-neutral adjectives. What I do sometimes is ask them what time it is - voice is one of the absolute hardest things to change (sadly) and it often is a “tell.”

However, there is a caveat where you have a transperson in stealth mode and you also know that’s the case. In that circumstance, I always call them by the gender I know them to be, unless it’s mixed company - in which case I’ll whisper to them “how do you want me to address you?”

I’ve never knowingly offended any transperson by politely asking, and I’ve now met hundreds.

I believe the correct remark in this case is, “Excuse me.” Why gender it up?

While true, isn’t that irrelevant? If someone whose voice indicates that they were born male speaks in an affected feminine voice, isn’t it a usually good idea to refer to them as female?

I meant it in the context of if one was talking to a truly androgynous-presenting person who gave no other clues. It’s likely better to just ask.

This is only for two or more ambiguously-gendered addressees. Try “cuz” or “cousin” if “you” is inappropriate.

Yup. After years of call-center work, I’ve learned to never say “sir” or “ma’am,” because you can never be 100% sure whether the old dude you’re talking to is actually a chain-smoking 73-year-old woman. There’s practically zero risk in leaving it out. Whereas there’s very little more embarrassing than to get corrected. The ONLY time I use a gendered honorific is when a caller’s vocal timbre makes their gender blatantly obvious. And even then, only when they’re getting testy and I think it will calm them down. In practice, this happens less than 1% of the time.

And oddly enough, people with androgynous voices never seem to get mad enough to warrant an honorific anyway.

As someone with an apparently androgynous voice and who used to appear pretty androgynous (I can’t count the number of times a guy walked into a bathroom, saw long-haired teenaged me washing hands, walked out to check the sign on the door, and walked back in wide-eyed), thanks for this. Eventually I stopped minding when folks got my gender wrong, but I never stopped minding folks getting all embarrassed and apologetic and making a big deal out of it when they realized what they’d done.

Leave gender-specific words for when there’s absolutely no doubt, or when they’re absolutely required.

Still, I bet you got offered lots of drinks when sitting at the bar, amIright? :stuck_out_tongue: