The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Gender Confusion

"We were trying to work out if you were her mother," said one of the visitors to Maggie during Spring Fling.

They were not talking about Meg - they were talking about me.

They had seen that Kim Ayres was sharing the same studio space as Maggie Ayres, so presumably I must be her daughter, or perhaps sister, or maybe they wondered if I was her wife.

However, I'm not even sure that Maggie pointing me out across the room and saying I was her husband – the one with the beard – would necessarily have cleared up any confusion.

Dad, Daughter, and Mum... or is it?

There was a time when being called Kim created a pretty straightforward mistake of assuming I was a woman instead of a man. However, upon seeing me most people would then be able to dredge from some part of their memory that on rare occasions men could be called Kim too.

Indeed I wrote about my lifelong experience of dealing with people's assumptions about my name on this blog 14 years ago in a post called "A Boy Named Kim"

However, in more recent years there has been a rise in the number of letters placed after LGB, and debates on Trans rights and gender fluidity.

While for some, their opinions are strong enough to instantly unfriend anyone with them who disagrees (or hesitates too long before agreeing), for others there can be just a sense of awkward confusion where they are terrified of inadvertently causing offence.

So the fact that a bearded person with a deeper voice has what they perceive to be a female name means it's no longer a given that I'm definitely a man and they need to adjust their definition of what counts as a "girl's name". 

It's just as possible that I was previously called David but have decided to self declare as a female, or I was born female but have had a certain amount of surgery and/or FTM (female-to-male) testosterone therapy.

On LinkedIn there is now the option to have he/him, she/her, they/them next to your name to clear up any confusions as to how you wish to be addressed.

It has certainly helped in reducing the number of times I'm addressed as Ms, but I've definitely seen an increase in the mental gymnastics behind a person's eyes when they meet me face to face...


savannah said...

Good Lord! *in my best Captain hastings voice* xoxo

Kim Ayres said...

Savanah - :)

neena maiya (guyana gyal) said...

To be honest, I've known you so long, I don't even think that Kim is also a female name.

As for gender...a person is, for me, their present self, not who they used to be.

I take it you're amused by people's reaction, Kim? :-)

Kim Ayres said...

Neena - when I was younger I was always bothered by people's reactions. However, after a lifetime of dealing with it, I realise the problem is theirs, not mine, so am more likely to be amused. :)

neena maiya (guyana gyal) said...

"...the problem is theirs..." is a good way to handle many who bring 'stuff' with them!

Kim Ayres said...

Neena - for many years now, I've realised (and mostly managed to remember) that if I'm not doing anything to actively harm someone else, then any problem they have with me is their problem rather than mine - unless they decided to make it my problem.
I am aware though, of my privilege of being a white male in a country that is dominated by white males.
I do not live the experience of ethnic minorities or females (or LGBTQ etc).
As a child I spent a large chunk of my upbringing in Wales, where I was regularly bullied for being English. This has given me a great deal of empathy for those on the receiving end of abuse for being something they have no control over.
However, I accept and understand that my day to day living is not one where I live under threat, so I am more privileged to be able to dismiss other people's opinions of me.

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