The other day, I had my flu shot. As a health worker I’m required to have one, and they are administered in the clinic at the org that I work for. Nurses and trainees were brought in for a two hour block of shots for staff.
As I waited my turn in the hall, a white woman with an English accent came out to fill in my form with me. I spelt my last and first name clearly and she carefully printed SHEILA, and then circled the M with a great flourish and asked me my birthday.
“I’m not an M. I’m an F,” I told her.
“Oh, sorry,” said she, crossing out the circled M with a very forceful dash, and circling the F.
We move along so there’s always a person in the “shot” chair and always a person in the “on deck” position.
As I slipped into the “shot” chair, a man took my spot on deck.
A different nurse picked up one of the two waiting forms, then returned it to the table and picked up the other, and said, turning to me, “Okay, Darryl, are you ready for your flu shot?”
“I’m Sheila,” I said.
More apologies, and I got my flu shot.
What interests me is: What are the things about me that seem to trump all other clues?
Besides my name, which can be tricky cross culturally. I don’t always know which are women’s and men’s names in other languages either. Though this wasn’t the case the day of the flu shot.
As to the washroom dramas, the biggest “clue” should be that I have chosen
that washroom. And I’m not left in surprise when I realize I am in the “ladies.”
When I speak, the reaction is almost comical if only for its exaggerated double-take, but it’s also the part that screams “freak” the loudest…that look of “What do I look like? Some sort of idiot to you ?” Ironically, the tension that generates lowers my already deep voice.
Even if it’s in the change room and I’m in my swimsuit by now, the incredulous wariness often persists, even when they come up with a reluctant apology–which is maybe half the time.
They are often rude in ways very at odds with our polite Canadian society.