I’ve been called ‘mate’ quite a lot recently, which is rather nice, as around here the word ‘mate’ is a sort of universal shorthand for recognition of masculinity. Or a way of registering that the person you are calling ‘mate’ wishes to be recognised as male.

I live in a small city in a rural area. The area surrounding my city is often the butt of jokes about country living, funny accents and doing unspeakable things to the local sheep and/or your sister. It’s not a place you’d normally think of as cosmopolitan. The city itself is a lot more liberal than many places in the UK, and one reason we came to live here is because overall it’s a place where difference seems to be accepted. Not all the time, or in every part, but generally we’ve had less abuse hurled at us here than where we’ve lived before.

For all my home city’s liberalness (liberality?) I’ve sometimes thought that maybe, as a queer transguy married to a lesbian, I should consider moving to London or Brighton  – somewhere where queer culture is more recognised. Again, don’t get me wrong – I’m fully aware that in some parts of each of those places, people like me are given a very hard time. In my fantasy moving plans, though, I’m focusing on the good bits.

However, I’ve discovered a very strange thing. I seem to be recognised as male a lot less in supposedly more accepting communities. In Brighton recently I was called ‘she’, and Will and I were referred to ‘girls’ (as in ‘goodnight, girls’ when leaving the pub) much more often than I ever encounter here at home.

The only conclusion I can come up with is that in places where there is more general acceptance of same-sex couples, people are far more likely to look at me and see a lesbian, particularly when I am with Will. On the other hand, where that sort of acceptance is maybe a few years behind, people are more likely to do their gender maths differently, and ‘read’ me as male.

I read somewhere, and I’m sorry that I can’t remember where to quote properly, that one woman on the Indian subcontinent had challenged local clothing conventions by dressing in trousers and a shirt. She reported that she was almost universally addressed as a male when dressed in male clothing. Not because she looked particularly masculine, but because the gender equation that went on in people’s heads led straight to the conclusion that dressed in that sort of clothing she *must* be male.

I mentioned the problems that are created when my identity endangers my partner’s identity, and vice versa in Lesbiaaaans! and I in no way want to upset the delicate balance we have created. I do get a buzz from being called ‘mate’, though, and being recognised as male, and each time I am included as one of ‘the girls’ it does hurt. Quite apart from the fact that we love living where we do, maybe living in a less cosmopolitan, metrosexual place works in my favour after all. We’ll keep the bright lights for holidays and special occasions…at least until I have a big pirate beard of my own, or get round to knitting one.

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