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Please don’t call me “Sir”

I chose to go flat and had zero push back from my surgeon. Mine choices were limited – either a single or a double mastectomy. I am two years out, super healthy – best decision ever!

I have always been tall and thin. I am 6'-0" and around the 160 lb mark. I was raised by a mother that didn't wear makeup – so it was never a part of my routine. To this day, at 54, I do not wear makeup (one more thing I don't miss). My body type would lean toward masculine along with having "shorter" hair. Always very competitive and athletic. Always, very much – a female.

The one thing that has bothered me over these last 2 years is being addressed as "Sir" in addition to going into the ladies' room and getting a double look. This has happened over the years, but I would aways stick my "girls" out (size D). I have been known to correct an associate that calls me "sir".

I think a large part of it has to do with my overall height and the associate (or person) simply not paying close attention. All is fair. I understand. I'm just tired of it.

I literally wait at the airport to go to the bathroom on the plane versus going into the ladies' room and risk getting stares. My dress is always business casual (nice), but certain days, I do have to wear a company uniform. When I am traveling for work, the anxiety is at an all-time high! Being called "sir" happens at least 2-3 x week.

Have you ever had a situation like this? If so, how did you handle it? If not, do you have any suggestions?

This has been heavy and each time it happens, gets heavier. I do have a Rx for a prosthetic, and I may end up going that route (although it is not the route I want). I want to be able to stand tall and proud, just not be called "sir".

Thanks for any feedback.


  • spookiesmom
    spookiesmom Member Posts: 8,081

    I had bmx. I’m short 5’4””. I also have very thin, short white hair. I wear purple glasses. I also get called sir frequently. I growl back that’s ma’m. I get sooooooo annoyed. But I growl, and keep going. Will be interesting to follow this thread.

  • maggie15
    maggie15 Member Posts: 549

    One of my flat chested friends has this problem. She has broad shoulders since she is a competitive masters swimmer and worked as an engineer in the communications field long before there were many women in the profession. She keeps her hair very short for swimming and her former job and often had to wear boots, jeans and a hardhat. The people who knew her were fine but she hated going to conferences and other places where everyone assumed she was one of the guys. She got a tasteful necklace with her obviously female name on it and wore it when she was in a situation where she knew she would constantly be called "sir." She never wore any other jewelry (didn't bother with a wedding band) but figured that necklace made her life easier.

    This is something that people should not have to worry about but I understand how annoying it could be when assumptions are made based on your appearance.

  • sarahnh
    sarahnh Member Posts: 103

    I have had the same concern cross my mind in public restrooms, with my short post-chemo hair and flat post-mastectomy body. Which is weird because when I was young, with a short haircut and non-curvy body, I was sometimes called "sir" by mistake, and found it hilarious.

    Were you ever called "sir" before your mastectomy? Or did this start after the mastectomy?

    I feel like gender perception, for women, relies on signaling. Most of us need to use fashion (hair-style, makeup, and/or clothing). It sounds like you were lucky in the past because, as you explained, you could just use your breasts!

    maggie15 gave a good example of a device to convey gender without having to sacrifice too much comfort or personal integrity. I've thought about this kind of thing too -- maybe a necklace, or something silly like a pink rubber bracelet (plenty of those around), or decorative pin/brooch, etc?

  • spookiesmom
    spookiesmom Member Posts: 8,081

    While doing chemo, and bald from it, I wore a pink baseball hat that said no hair day. Sitting at a traffic light in the sun I took it off to wipe the sweat. The ass next to me yells FAGGOT at me. So pink isn’t the solution.

  • sarahnh
    sarahnh Member Posts: 103

    spookiesmom I am so sorry that happened to you. I hope you gave him the finger. Ugh. Maybe I should rethink my post.

    Maybe the best advice is to say, anybody who has a problem with flat women (whether by nature or by mastectomy), deserves to be corrected, ridiculed, or shunned.

    My own post-mx strategy has been to stand up straight, wear what I want, and not try to cover up my lack of breasts, at all. But I'm lucky (maybe?) that I live in rural New Hampshire, where at my age, regardless of gender, everyone just wears fleece outdoor clothing and looks generally schlubby.

    I know it's tougher elsewhere, especially if you have a professional job. I wish the world were different.

  • jh40
    jh40 Member Posts: 134

    I recently had the experience of being called “they" by a younger person at a restaurant. I am small breasted and have had a single mastectomy, post-chemo short hair. I'm a little youngish at 41, in breast cancer land.

    It wasn't as much offensive as it was frustrating. Rather than have my gender be “undecided" in the public eye, I would rather be visible as a person who is going through breast cancer treatment. I'd like to think that visibility might help someone who thinks this can'thappen to them.

    I used to be that person before it happened to me.

  • bethso
    bethso Member Posts: 1
    edited July 12

    I have just had a single mastectomy, do not plan to have reconstruction, given my age. I have always been very small breasted anyway, in my 20s I used to complain that I looked like a 12 year old boy. My breasts got slightly larger after breastfeeding, which is the opposite of most women. I told my doctor that I felt like a dog, because I only got breasts after having babies. I live in a city where there are many trans gendered people and when we are not sure we avoid gendered terms or use "they". It seems best to signal gender with clothes, jewelry, makeup and hair, maybe shoes too. I'm allergic to metal, so no jewelry, and I really don't like the fuss of makeup. I bleach my chin-length hair quite blonde, and with my short stature, I don't have problems, even in jeans and hiking boots. Of course, if I have chemo, that might change. I would never confront anyone in a public bathroom. There's just no way to know what is going on with gender sometimes. If you feel uneasy about anyone in the public bathroom, just leave and come back later. Better than a confrontation, and better than hurting someone's feelings. The less confrontation in life, the better off we'll all be.