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During work one day, I turned from my cash register to help a customer and momentarily froze. I immediately wondered whether the person was a boy or a girl.
I saw the long blonde hair, but she had such a strong jaw, and I saw her cute clothes, but her hands…those were man hands.
I had only been exposed to one transgendered person before in middle school. At first, she classified herself as lesbian. She was nice, I considered her a friend, and I had no problem with her sexual orientation. Then after a year she cut off all her hair, and when she came to my house for my fourteenth sleepover birthday party, my parents pulled me aside and asked me if she was a boy. That was when it became very clear that she was more than just lesbian, she was a he.
I accepted it wholeheartedly and tried very hard to start using the correct pronouns when referring to him and using his new name. It was a lot easier for me to accept that transition because it was gradual; I was prepared and aware of that change.
This customer caught me off guard. I wasn’t mentally prepared to see a transgendered person at JCPenney. Of course, I shouldn’t have to be mentally prepared. I should be used to it right off the bat and be completely cool and calm about it. It made me ashamed that I wasn’t.
After my initial reaction I was afraid that I would stare at her too much and didn’t want to offend her, so I fixed my gaze on the clothes I was ringing while small-talking with her and her grandmother. The more I talked with them, the more comfortable I became, because they were both super sweet people. The girl was actually close to my age, and she was wearing a simple sweater and jeans, with a barrette in her hair. Nothing over-the-top, nothing crazy, just a normal girl. She even helped me pull a garment bag over all their clothes.
After they had gone, I was left to ponder at my behavior. I’ve always thought of myself as a person who accepts everyone without hesitation. I found it slightly disturbing that, though I was not mean to the customer, it took some time for me to be comfortable with her. It may be due to the fact that, while gay and lesbian people are much more present in my day-to-day life, transgendered people are not. Regardless, it is inexcusable for me to act differently toward any one person over another. At least now I know there is something I need to work on, and I can be more aware from now on.
I hope that with time and exposure I don’t always think, “Are they a boy or a girl?” and instead wonder to myself, “Who are they?”