Pal-Love-Pal-Love

Posted: March 7, 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

So let’s talk about something that allies and writers tend not to notice very much.

Endearments are very often gendered, but…pretty subtly. So what even a stranger calls you in a friendly, informal setting can often reveal what gender they think you are.

I don’t know about America too well, but in Britain, loads of random endearments are gendered, but not necessarily all the same way. ‘Love’ is typically something everyone calls women, but can also be something older women call men. ‘Mate’ and ‘pal’ typically refer to men, and is used that way by both sexes, but ‘pet’ changes from bloody estate to estate in Newcastle, and ‘duck’ seems to refer to anyone on the planet whose name I may or may not know.

Very often, you’re reliant on knowing the area to know whether or not someone just effectively called you a man or a woman.

But sometimes, they give themselves away.

I’ve just returned from a long weekend visiting friends in Gloucestershire. On Sunday, my lovely host and I went for a roast dinner at a Toby Carvery. For those of you who don’t know, this is a chain carvery where you basically go and get your meat carved by a bloke in a hat, then wander off to the buffet table to pile the rest of the food on, then eat yourself to death at your table.

When I got to the counter, having not been speaking to my friend loudly enough for the chef to hear, he said, “What’ll it be, pallove?”

That was how fast he changed his mind. Pallove. He started to say ‘pal’, a term in that area only really applied to men, then twigged I might not actually be a man halfway through and tried to change it to ‘love’, a term that when it’s used by men is almost always going to be referring to a woman.

The result was pallove.

My friend started smirking. I struggled to keep a straight face, and just asked for the turkey. When we got back to our table with our soon-to-be-food-comas, we both started sniggering.

But just look at how gendering crept into even having dinner. I was gendered by the chef serving me food. We went shopping the next day, and a sales assistant asked if he could help ‘you ladies.’ In the next shop, I got ‘palled’ again and nobody seemed puzzled by us wandering into the menswear section; in the one after that, I got a distinctly funny look for looking through the men’s swimming trunks on the sales rack.

I would say that someone effectively remarks on my gender, via casual endearments, every time I leave my house. I get ‘mate’ a lot in my town. One of my colleagues has a tendency to ask me to ‘be a gent and make us a cuppa.’ I got ‘pallove’ at dinner, and ‘what can I get you ladies’ at the bar.

Does it bother me? No, not really. My dysphoria is well over 90% physical, rather than social. Does it bother others? Yeah, sometimes. An agender friend can get very upset if we both get ‘how can I help you, sirs?’ in a public place. I heard of a trans guy recently who blew his lid when a waitress called him ‘miss.’ Hell, when I’m grumpy or low, even I pull a face at the confused, ‘Um, and…what’s your date of birth?’ when I’m ringing my doctor’s surgery to try and get an appointment, because the idea of a female voice belonging to a patient recorded as Mr. blows the receptionist’s mind.

But whether or not it bothers us, it’s something to bear in mind when writing transgender characters.

Because whether they mind or not, there’s just about no way they haven’t noticed.

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