Exploring Gender Perceptions on Airplanes, Part 2

Hi again.

As I mentioned in part one, I took a couple of trips in sort of “semi-femme” mode in which I wore relatively androgynous clothing and a wig but no makeup, padding, or other clearly feminine “indicators.” The clothes were a simple woman’s patterned t-shirt and jeans. The shoes were ankle boots but without much a heel and little overtly feminine about it. I wore my wig in a simple manner, pretty much straight with just a little curl. My goals were to “dress” but without the associated stress of trying to “pass” and also to see how people would react to me, given a somewhat androgynous look. I tried this out on two cross country flights. I wrote about the Miami trip last time, now I will cover the Boston one.

The t-shirt I wore was a “daisy fuentes” brand bought at Kohl’s. I really like the style and colors of this brand and have bought lots of them. They are mostly patterns of one kind or another. This one was blue, black, and white in sort of an abstract pattern. It was long sleeve. The jeans were black Gloria Vanderbilt ones I bought at my other favorite fashion place, Costco. The boots were black with really no heel at all.

The trip from SFO to Boston was generally uneventful. I got one ma’am (again at a food place in SFO), a couple of “sirs”, but mostly genderless responses. The only really interesting test is when I picked up my rental car and had to present my license. My picture had short hair and I had long hair but the Avis counter person did not say anything.

The trip home was a lot more interesting. I was fortunate enough to get an exit row seat with no seats at all in front of us. I was a little late getting on the plane and so I rushed on with my suitcase and computer bag. I knelt in front of my seat and was unpacking things when a flight attendant came up to me and asked “Miss, can I help you with something?” This was a really nice surprise (especially the “miss” part). I looked up and smiled at her and responded in my best femme voice, “thanks, but I think I have everything under control” and then sat down. I figured she would discover her error shortly but I was in for another surprise. There was a woman sitting next to me and soon the same flight attendant came back to give us the “exit row” speech and ask for our agreement that we would help in an emergency. She looks at both of us and says “Are you ladies prepared to help us in an emergency by opening the emergency exit doors?”. I was really, really surprised. How could she not notice??? I could understand making the mistake when I was kneeling and looking down but to do it again while looking straight at me, unbelievable (but really, really nice). I smiled at her and said I agreed and she moved on to the next row. For the rest of the 5 our flight I made sure to demonstrate female body language and voice whenever I interacted with her. I also went in the bathroom and applied a little light foundation to hide whatever stubble might appear during the rest of flight. I did not want to embarrass the nice lady.

The experiences on the two flights really made me wonder what are the cues that people rely on to decide whether whether the person in front of them is male or female. I really thought I was presenting far more male than female. The clothes were slightly feminine, but not overtly so (i.e. no florals, neutral colors, pants not a skirt/dress, etc.). Many guys have longish hair and so that was not a definite signal. My face and body are not very feminine, although my height is within normal bounds for women. My body language was more feminine than male (partly naturally, partly by intent), in particular the way I stood, held my hands, and played with my hair. Maybe there was enough clues suggesting female for people to draw that conclusion. I am still very surprised at the reactions from the various people.

I will try again on my next flight.

Robin

Playing with gender while flying

Hi

This is Robin and I am an occasional poster to Denae’s blog. I have not posted for awhile but Denae asked to post some of my more recent adventures since she thought they might be interesting to others.

I travel a lot on business and its usually to the East Coast, either Boston or Miami. These are long, boring trips and one can only do so much work. As I have written about in the past, I have gone “en femme” on some of these flights and have had no problems with the TSA or with airlines. When I go en femme, I tend to go pretty casual (t-shirts and jeans) but with lots of female “indicators”, such as wig, makeup, breast/hip pads, purse, jewelry, etc.. I want people to take a quick look, see all sorts of things normally associated with women and assume I am one. I have found this all works and so I have no troubles with anyone.

On a couple of recent flights, I wanted to see what would happen if I went with a more androgynous look. I also wanted to have the fun of “dressing” but with a lot less work. My clothes were pretty much my normal t-shirt and jeans with ankle boots. The ankle boots don’t have much of a heel and so are not overtly women’s boots. The t-shirt had a pattern but was also not overtly feminine (e.g. not floral). I wore my normal wig which goes a little beyond the collar and is mostly straight. It has a little wave to it but not much of one. I did not wear any makeup, padding, jewelry, etc.. I carried my normal computer bag but did not have my purse. About the only overtly thing was my wig, but even that was sort of androgynous.

I tried this on two round trip flights, one from SFO to Miami and the other from SFO to Boston.

For the first flight, I went through security without any problem. My hair was longer than my picture ID, but that is probably true for lots of people (I think my picture is 15 years old anyway). I stopped at a lunch place so I could eat before getting on the flight. As I stood in line, the person at counter looked at me and said “I will be with you in a moment, ma’am.”  I was sort of surprised at her remark, so surprised that when she got to me, I ordered in my male voice. She sort of did a double take but took my order without any further ado. I got a “thank you sir”. If I wasn’t so surprised, I would have used my female voice and played along. This was my first indication that things might be more interesting that I thought.

The trip to Miami itself was pretty uneventful. I did notice that the flight attendants and others seemed to avoid using gendered references when speaking to me, but I may have been a little too sensitive about it (though I usually get “sir’ed” from them normally). When I got to Miami, I checked my rental car without incident. For the flight home, I dressed pretty much the same way. The TSA was its normal neutral self. When I ordered food, I got a “ma’am” and this time responded in my female voice. The trip home was without incident although I did get some longer than usual stares along the way.

The trip to Boston was a lot more interesting and I will write about it next time.

Robin

Exploring Gender Perceptions on Airplanes – Part 1

Hi

I travel a lot on business and its usually to the East Coast, either Boston or Miami. These are long, boring trips and one can only do so much work. As I have written about in the past, I have gone “en femme” on some of these flights and have had no problems with the TSA or with airlines. When I go en femme, I tend to go pretty casual (t-shirts and jeans) but with lots of female “indicators”, such as wig, makeup, breast/hip pads, purse, jewelry, etc.. I want people to take a quick look, see all sorts of things normally associated with women and assume I am one. I have found this all works and so I have no troubles with anyone.

On a couple of recent flights, I wanted to see what would happen if I went with a more androgynous look. I also wanted to have the fun of “dressing” but with a lot less work. My clothes were pretty much my normal t-shirt and jeans with ankle boots. The ankle boots don’t have much of a heel and so are not overtly women’s boots. The t-shirt had a pattern but was also not overtly feminine (e.g. not floral). I wore my normal wig which goes a little beyond the collar and is mostly straight. It has a little wave to it but not much of one. I did not wear any makeup, padding, jewelry, etc.. I carried my normal computer bag but did not have my purse. About the only overtly thing was my wig, but even that was sort of androgynous.

I tried this on two round trip flights, one from SFO to Miami and the other from SFO to Boston.

For the first flight, I went through security without any problem. My hair was longer than my picture ID, but that is probably true for lots of people (I think my picture is 15 years old anyway). I stopped at a lunch place so I could eat before getting on the flight. As I stood in line, the person at counter looked at me and said “I will be with you in a moment, ma’am.”  I was sort of surprised at her remark, so surprised that when she got to me, I ordered in my male voice. She sort of did a double take but took my order without any further ado. I got a “thank you sir”. If I wasn’t so surprised, I would have used my female voice and played along. This was my first indication that things might be more interesting that I thought.

The trip to Miami itself was pretty uneventful. I did notice that the flight attendants and others seemed to avoid using gendered references when speaking to me, but I may have been a little too sensitive about it (though I usually get “sir’ed” from them normally). When I got to Miami, I checked my rental car without incident. For the flight home, I dressed pretty much the same way. The TSA was its normal neutral self. When I ordered food, I got a “ma’am” and this time responded in my female voice. The trip home was without incident although I did get some longer than usual stares along the way.

The trip to Boston was a lot more interesting and I will write about it next time.

Robin