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OpEd: ‘Excuse me, sir?’


My partner surprised me with tickets to the “Sugar Water Festival” for my birthday. There were some awesome acts on stage: Queen Latifah, Floetry, Erykah Badu and my favorite, Jill Scott. We arrived looking our best in our white outfits, hoping to reflect some of the heat from the sun that was pounding down on the amphitheatre.

It was a long walk to our seats.

Along the way, a woman walking behind us wanted to get my partner’s attention.

“Excuse me sir…?”

We stopped in mid-glide and turned around to find surprised eyes and dropped mouths.

“Oh, I am sorry ma’am.”

My partner politely told the woman, “Excuse me, I’m a woman.”

Seems the woman’s boyfriend was coveting my girl’s shoes — bad-ass as they were — and her man was too uncomfortable to ask what he perceived to be another man.

Talk about gender dysphoria!

Why is it that there is so much emphasis on gender identity? There are women who feel more comfortable in baggy clothes and Timberland boots or linen slacks and men’s dress shoes.

My friend who has a low hair cut and also dresses more masculine has the same problem at times.

“It seems like people are looking at me and trying to figure out if I am a woman or a man, so I just answer to them even when they say sir.”

What happened to being judged by the content of our character and not what we have on?

Women who appear to be more masculine should not have to resort to trying to fit the model of what society thinks a woman should look like. It’s ironic, though. When a woman chooses not to conform to the stereotype, they’re usually viewed as a lesbian or feminist, which to most people go hand in hand.

Okay — back to the concert.

As I looked around I saw so many beautiful people of color.

Dreadlocks, braids, afros, weaves, retro clothing, skimpy clothing and cultural garbs filled the place. So much diversity was represented in the audience. Why did it have to be such a big deal that my partner had on linen slacks and men’s dress shoes?

On stage, all of the women were so beautiful in their own way — with flawless makeup and eclectic fashions. At the end of the show they all came back out to pay tribute to the late Luther Vandross. Everyone looked the same, except Queen Latifah.

The cute pony tail that she had in the beginning became a bun, the flawless makeup was gone, her brightly colored shirt and pumps were off and instead she was wearing baggy cargo shorts and an army green T-shirt and flip flops.

“Excuse me sir?”

After teasing the audience with her glamorous ensemble at the beginning of the show, Latifah returned looking like the butch rapperwe all know and love (well, a slimmer version with smaller breasts, anyway).

Speculation about her sexuality has been floating through the community for years, though she remains tight-lipped on the subject. There’s no denying the fact that she played the role of a butch gangsta dyke in “Set it Off” with such expertise you’d think she was born for the part.

So why all the flip-flopping? I understand that versatility is important, but she looked a lot more comfortable rapping in her shorts and T-shirt than she did in her “church clothes” (for those of you who don’t understand that means her dress-up clothes).

It’s important to be comfortable in your own skin. No matter whether the package you put it in includes stiletto heels and diva clothes, or loose-fitting clothes and boots. And no matter if you’re male or female.

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