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Wedding Woes

Your shrug was fine

Dear Prudence,

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

Re: Your shrug was fine

  • banana468 said:
    Shrug is fine.   Or be pointed and ask, "Does the gender of a person affect their ability to assist you?" 


    Yup. 

    “Why does that matter?”
    OurWildKingdomOliveOilsMom
  • CharmedPamCharmedPam Chicagoburbs member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary First Answer
    Shrug was completely fine.  Is she asking for Prudie’s advice in case it happens in the future?  I don’t think she’ll ever see this person again.

    OurWildKingdom
  • I feel like LW was asking for going forward if people ask again, since it's a transition.

    I would guess shrug was fine, but would it be a bad idea to talk to coworker and ask what they'd prefer at the moment? {and mention you can continue using they're preference until they opt for something else} 
  • VarunaTTVarunaTT member
    Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    I feel like LW was asking for going forward if people ask again, since it's a transition.

    I would guess shrug was fine, but would it be a bad idea to talk to coworker and ask what they'd prefer at the moment? {and mention you can continue using they're preference until they opt for something else} 
    I think, in a co-worker situation, it would depend on your relationship. 
    Generally, I was taught to introduce myself with my pronouns, to indicate safety and if they want to offer their pronouns, you've given them the safe in, if they choose to take you up on it. 

    If that ship has sailed, I would probably use what I was introduced to them as, until they tell me differently.  And even if they do tell you, you'll need to ask (if it's not offered) if that's how they want to be addressed in public.  Just b/c you have been trusted enough to share, doesn't mean another co-worker can be trusted, so you might have to switch back and forth.
    MissKittyDanger
  • VarunaTT said:
    I feel like LW was asking for going forward if people ask again, since it's a transition.

    I would guess shrug was fine, but would it be a bad idea to talk to coworker and ask what they'd prefer at the moment? {and mention you can continue using they're preference until they opt for something else} 
    I think, in a co-worker situation, it would depend on your relationship. 
    Generally, I was taught to introduce myself with my pronouns, to indicate safety and if they want to offer their pronouns, you've given them the safe in, if they choose to take you up on it. 

    If that ship has sailed, I would probably use what I was introduced to them as, until they tell me differently.  And even if they do tell you, you'll need to ask (if it's not offered) if that's how they want to be addressed in public.  Just b/c you have been trusted enough to share, doesn't mean another co-worker can be trusted, so you might have to switch back and forth.
    This is true.
    M's cousin came out publicly as trans a little over a year ago {after already starting the meds} and they understand that it's a change for everyone. We try to refer to them as their new name to reduce confusion in conversation - or neutral ones as I stated above.
    They don't mind as it's a process, but stated would prefer "she/her" at some point
    VarunaTT
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