Monday, January 07, 2008

Just when I thought I'd heard it all...

While collecting tickets on my train on Saturday, I came upon a dad and his two young children. The kids, a brother and sister, seemed very excited to see me. This is pretty common especially since the popularity of The Polar Express movie. I think they half expected me to serve them hot chocolate, dance around and maybe a do a few back flips. I didn't want to totally disappoint them, so when I took their tickets I punched several holes in them just like the conductor in the movie. The dad smiled, pulled out his wallet and showed me his monthly commutation ticket. Being the trained professional I am, I noticed he had strategically placed his finger over the gender icon on the face of his ticket. Monthly passes are non-transferable, meaning that a ticket holder can't let anyone else (including their spouse) use their pass. A lot of passengers think that conductors are stupid and instead of paying for a ticket, they'll hide the M (male) or F (female) icon on their tickets and try to get a free ride.

"Sir," I said. "Can you please remove your finger so that I can see the whole ticket?"

The dad squirmed in his seat and reluctantly removed his finger. Sure enough, there was a big fat "F" printed at the top.

"Is that your ticket?" I asked.

"Yes it is." He said.

"Okay. There must have been an error when they printed your ticket. It's marked with an "F" for female. If you hand me your ticket, I'll cross out the "F" and write an "M" in its place."

"No," he said. "You can't do that."

He stood up and gave me a beckoning wave toward the vestibule. He then climbed over his daughter and stepped out into the aisle.  I followed him into the vestibule area, which was just out of his kid's earshot range. I expected him to give me one of the same old tired excuses.... something like, I picked up my wife's pass by accident or I took the wrong wallet or I just got out of jail and..etc....etc. But this guy surprised me.

"Conductor," he whispered. "The reason my pass is marked female is... I only dress as a male when I'm with my children. I usually dress as a woman."

I think my jaw hit the floor.

"Okayyyy!" I said, not knowing exactly what to say... "Have a seat."

When I relayed this story to my fellow conductors, they all burst out laughing. I, on the other hand, had to hand it to the guy. When you think about it, it took a lot of courage to admit that he was a cross dresser. I think if I were him, I would have just paid. Maybe I should petiton the railroad to add a new icon..."T" for transgender.


Anonymous said...

Unreal! That is a new one.
Pretty Funny.

laser72 said...

Not to be too nitpicky, but I don't think it was accurate to call him/her (hereinafter, I'll use the feminine pronoun) a crossdresser. I think it would be more accurate to call her a transgendered woman. A crossdresser is a man or woman who dresses up as the opposite gender on a more temporary basis, usually just for fun, or as a sexual fetish. A transgendered person is someone who dresses and lives as the other gender on a much more permanent basis, usually full time, or as in this woman's case, as full time as possible given that she likely doesn't want to expose her children to something they might not be able to understand at this point in their lives.

laser72 said...

Adding, I would like to thank you for your sensitivity regarding that woman's situation, though I don't think "neuter" is an appropriate category for transpeople. It is a tough situation because she paid for the pass to use as a woman, but she had to take the train as a male. If I were her, I probably would have paid also, but it's good that you reacted kindly enough.

Bobby said...

Thank you laser72. I stand corrected.

grvsmth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
grvsmth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
grvsmth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
grvsmth said...

(I want to redo this comment - for the third time - since the links didn't come out the way I wanted them. Sorry about that.)

Let me add to Laser72's thanks for your sensitivity.

I do want to point out that the terminology issue is nowhere near as settled as Laser72 claims, though. It's almost impossible to talk about transgender issues without offending someone, so I'd just stay clear of the more extreme one. "Neuter" is such a term, but don't ask me why. "Cross-dresser," well, let me just say that anyone who's offended by that has got to be pretty prejudiced.

I have a genderqueer friend who rides the LIRR and winds up confusing the conductors. She posted her story, and then an update, on her own blog.

Anonymous said...

thanks for letting me ride with my wife's pass

Anonymous said...

just kidding. that was a great story bob

Bobby said...

Anonymous (and I think I know who you are),

That was one of the funniest comments ever.

laser72 said...

to grvsmth if you're still reading, I'd be interested if you thought my (very basic) description of the issue was inaccurate in any way, besides just being incomplete. Don't worry, I won't be offended... Obviously I'm aware there are many types of gender expressions beyond just "normal" and transgender. I'm sure there are tens if not hundreds of authoritative books about the issue, but I think my description was appropriate to correct the idea that the person in the story was a "crossdresser", when that most likely was not accurate.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bobby,

Life for transpeople can be complicated when we are forced to disclose sex and gender information - especially when there is no good reason for it. Why a train pass needs to indicate the sex of the person is beyond me. Personally, I'd like to see the sex designation removed. It really is no one's business what I do or don't have between my legs.

I have to say I appreciate your understanding in this situation. Regardless of 'dads' flavor of gender variance - crossdresser, transwoman or whatever - it sounds like you treated them with respect... Which is all we ever really want from other people.

And for what it's worth, I'm Andrea's (Hi Hon!) genderqueer friend she metioned in her comment here. I usually get punched 'female' these days - but on the odd occasion, the conductors really aren't sure and just punch my pass in the middle... which suits me fine. :)


grvsmth said...

Laser72, "transgender" is best used to describe someone's feelings, and there's nothing in Bobby's post to indicate how his passenger felt about gender. "Cross-dresser" is best used to describe the action of wearing clothes of the opposite gender, and therefore it's an accurate description of what Bobby's passenger does at least part of the time.

I've posted a more detailed explanation on my blog.

laser72 said...

thanks for the clarification, I agree with you at least for the most part... I have a few more thoughts I'll try to post on your blog

Bobby said...

I'm amazed by how many cross- dresser/transgender/transvestite
passengers ride my trains (I'm giving up on labeling) and I'm only talking about 6ft women with Adam's Apples and 5 O'clock shadows. I'm sure there are many more (insert label here) that go undetected.

CB said...

I know who anonymous is too. I'm a friend of his, and this sounds just like him. heh heh.

Great post.

Anonymous said...

"transgender" is code word "serious peronal psychological problem pretending it's society's fault." We all have issues. For some it's sex. Others its drugs or alcohol. Others it's pride and vanity. It's whether or not you have the courage to face your issues. Most men don't dress like women when their kids aren't around...nor should they because it's abnormal. Let's not judge the person, but let's not excuse the behavior either.

Anonymous said...

"transgender" is code word "serious personal psychological problem pretending it's society's fault."

I love it when people anonymously post crap like this.

There is nothing to 'excuse' here - people are who they are and quite frankly, we aren't looking for anyone's 'permission' or approval... Just some respect to be who we are and allow us to live our lives with some dignity.

It's clear that Bobby's passenger was quite mindful of his children, why disrespect him? And Bobby treated the person in question respectfully and recognized that this was a difficult situation for him.

Is there a reason that you, posting anonymously, cannot afford the same consideration - especially when this person has no impact on your life?

I'll tell you what I tell my daughters: "Treat other as you wish to be treated." I suspect you wouldn't want to be the target of bigotry and intolerance. Please don't be the source of it towards others...

Especially when you have no understanding of their situation.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this story. I'm trans, and will probably soon be doing the monthly Metro-North thing. Knowing how to navigate the monthly pass gender thing, and how conductors might react, really helps put my mind at ease.