I frequent a retail establishment where an employee appears to be transitioning from male to female. They have always been polite and done their job well, and I regard the apparent transition as their business. Recently another customer asked me in line, “Is that a man or woman?” I wasn’t sure what to say, so I gave this nosy stranger an unfriendly shrug. My gut response was to protect the employee from a scene, since I’d had a retail co-worker 20-plus years ago on the hurtful end of a very inappropriate tirade regarding her transition. But I have no idea what this particular customer’s intentions were, so I decided to be rude to shut it down and regret that. What should I have done?
—Retail and Transition Etiquette