Saturday, 17 January 2009

male, female, e-mail

I was picking up some camera stuff from a local shop the other day and after I'd paid the assistant called me 'sir', twice. A small act of disrespect, I guess, but I didn't respond. These days my guard is down because I don't want to be constantly on the lookout for this sort of thing, because that's no way to live.

(At one time, I was constantly at the receiving end of nasty stuff, and it took a while to get over it; on the platform at Cardiff station a couple of years ago, a nice old lady stopped and said how much she liked my hat. I thanked her. She looked again;

"Are you a woman?" she asked

"Yes", I said; "Are you?"

She looked hurt. "Well, it's a nice hat, anyway", she said and walked on, and I wished the ground would swallow me up)

Still, the shop incident bugged me, and I figured if it bugged me then I should do something about it. So I sent an e-mail to the manager.


I am a photographer and illustrator. So I buy things from camera shops sometimes. I am also a transsexual woman. This is not usually a fact that I broadcast, because it is not usually necessary. I get on with life, and life usually gets on with me these days. It wasn’t always that way; in the past, I’ve had some fairly serious grief from people, and dealt with it.

Nowadays I am more relaxed, and am not constantly on the lookout for insults. So when they happen, as every now and then they do, they take me by surprise.

On Wednesday afternoon I came into your shop and bought £40 worth of things for my D70. A fairly normal transaction, but when it was completed the assistant addressed me as ‘sir’, twice.

As you no doubt realise, good practice in retail is to address customers in a manner appropriate to the gender they present as. Gender neutral language is always a simple option too. Calling me ‘sir’ is a sure fire way of guaranteeing that I shall take my custom elsewhere.

I wish I had confronted the assistant directly, but, as I say, I was rather taken aback. So now I write to you instead.

Yours sincerely,

Ms Dru Marland

...and he replied:

Dear Drusilla,

I have spoken to the member of staff who served you on this day, and he has assured me that at no time does he recall referring to you as 'sir'. He has always been a polite and cordial member of staff, and I have no reason to doubt his integrity on this matter. I apologise wholeheartedly for any misunderstanding that has arisen, and I hope you can accept that there has been no malice of forethought. ... I sincerely hope you continue to shop here as I assure you that we always try to treat our customers with the utmost politeness and respect.
Hmm. Well, I guess the lesson learned is to respond immediately when this stuff happens. Or not let it bother me, of course.