I’ve noticed something since things have reopened and I’ve started going out and about more. I’m being misgendered. A lot.
It’s not like I’ve never been misgendered before. It used to be somewhat common, back before I started wearing more fitted clothes – I’m a D cup, and tops that accentuate Häagen and Dazs do wonders for female identification – but at neither the rate, nor the consistency of location, as today.
See, it’s only happening in restaurants. Back in the old days, it happened anywhere. But since the big reopening, I’ve not been being misgendered in the grocery store or at the post office or at the mall. It’s always been at a restaurant.
I’m unsure why it’s only restaurants. After being closed for so long, people are out of practice and have slid back into bad habits, maybe? I dunno.
Regardless of the reason, whether I’ve been eating in or picking up takeout, in the last six months, every time I’ve set foot inside a restaurant, I’ve gotten some form of male greeting, like ‘sir,’ or have heard staff referring to me as ‘he’ between themselves.
They always apologize when they realize their mistake, but even that’s more out-of-control than it used to be. It’s never just a simple sorry before moving on. (Tip: If you misgender someone, please just offer a simple sorry and move on.) No, I’ve heard some spectacular, generally stuttering, reasons as to why they’ve made the error – everything from being dehydrated to the sun being in their eyes.
Now, I’ve always just shrugged it off. I get that I don’t present in a traditionally feminine way, so when people make mistakes, it doesn’t much bother me. But when it happened three times in a row at the same restaurant? By three different staff members?
It was time to address it.
So I sent an email. Rather than paraphrase, here’s what I said:
The last three times I’ve visited, I have been misgendered. I am a cisgender female, and my cisgender male dinner companion and I have been greeted all three times as “gentlemen” or “gents.” (It was a different staff member each time, all of them servers, not the hosts who take people to their tables.)
Personally, I don’t mind the error – although three times in a row is a bit much and I have to say it’s getting a little off-putting. But for some people, being misgendered is quite devastating. The staff has always been apologetic, which is nice, but I question why they’re using gendered terminology at all.
I’ve been going to your establishment for many years, and it’s only recently that I’ve been faced with this kind of terminology. Due to the sudden onset of its use, and the fact that it’s happened with multiple staff, it feels like perhaps this is something they’re being instructed to do by management. If so, I’d suggest that the requirement be dropped. And if it isn’t a management directive, and is instead just a coincidence, a refresh with all the staff as to why it’s important to avoid gendered terminology seems in order.
I did receive a reply from the manager, which was nice. But it was … it was … Well, it was this:
I want to take the time to apologize for how you were greeted and how it made you feel.
I will certainly use this email as a teaching tool for our staff and managers to try to make sure that we are using the proper terminology when greeting guests at our restaurant.
Donna, if you like, I would like to send you a gift certificate to use the next time you are in, and hope that we do better in the future.
Is it just me, or is that reply a bit wishy-washy? There’s a lot of ‘trying’ and ‘hoping’ going on, but no real sense of urgency or commitment, and the offer of a gift card seems more like a way to get me back through the door than anything.
It’s corporate speak. Which I suppose shouldn’t surprise me, considering I’m dealing with a corporation, but I have to admit, I was hoping for more. I think my message was respectful enough to warrant a more specific reply, and detailed enough to provide several openings for one.
Instead, I find myself settling for the fact that at least it wasn’t a non-pology.
I’m so very tired of settling.