Transgender woman shocked at being called maam

I’ve been meaning to write about this for months now. Ever since that day waiting in line to mail some return some Christmas gifts we bought for ourselves that didn’t quite fit (I told you it’s been a while…).

It was a crisp Seattle December morning, and I was waiting in line at the local UPS store. I don’t recall exactly what I was wearing, but it was decidedly feminine – complete with makeup and accessories. Naturally, being a few weeks before Christmas it was packed, so while waiting patiently I played with something on my phone. I left myself just enough attention to move along in line as I wound my way to the counter. Lost in thought I heard someone say, “I can help you here ma’am”. I prepared myself to move along in line as the cashier helped the woman in front of me. Except – there was no woman in front of me. He was talking to me.

I had been so lost in thought that my reptilian brain had reverted back to the many years of conditioning as a man. While distracted, with only an inkling of awareness I wasn’t expecting someone to refer to me as “ma’am”. Usually when I’m treated as a woman I feel a warm glow of validation – my soul vibrates in time with the universe. That day I felt … shock.

I had been shocked out of my masculine mask by one short phrase – “I can help you here ma’am”. For a long time afterwards I was pensive. I kept wondering, “What does this mean? Is it a sign I’m not meant to be a woman? Is it a window into my true nature?”. I’ve since come to the conclusion that this was a demonstration of the power of habit – I have been conditioned my whole life to respond to “sir”. It’s not an indication of my inherent femininity. In the same way that we’re trained to hear the softest mention of our name across a crowded, noisy room we’re trained to watch for familiar indications of attention.

Our senses light up when we hear a greeting, “Hello!”, or a call for notice, “Excuse Me!” or a cry for help, “Help!”. We’re not as attuned to random fragments of speech – I don’t turn my head when someone says “peccadillo”, or “peanut butter” – though my ears might perk up if I hear “crossdresser” – even when I’m not dressed – since this is something at the forefront of my consciousness.

Have you had a Ma’am Shock? What was it like for you?

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26 Comments
  1. Brenda 8 years ago

    I went into my local state liquor store dressed in shorts and light jacket over my blouse. I had my nails done up in a nice vibrant blue-green and my jacket was fully open..  The clerk asked may I help you find something madam ..  very nice indeed

  2. Danielle 8 years ago

    My first experience of being recognized as a femme presentation of myself was subtler than that and didn’t involve the word ma’am.  It was having a door held open for me and a decidedly masculine protective gesture toward a woman by a man placing his hand at my elbow and guiding me through the entrance.

    My first “ma’am” shock was on a bus when a polite young girl offered me her seat.  I think at the time I was more shocked at finding myself  of a sudden at an age where I could be addressed as ma’am — rather than by the shock of the gender association.  Retrospect was a giggle, in either case.

    • Vanessa Law 8 years ago

      Delightful dear, thanks for sharing your experience! It must’ve felt like quite a turn about to have a young lady offer you her seat 🙂

  3. Al 6 years ago

    While on vacation I often dress in womens clothing mostly because I find a lot of casual clothes comfortable. Some times it will be all womens clothes, sometimes all mens, but most often a mixture of the two, just whatever I am comfortable wearing at the time or in a mood for. I have been referred to as ma’am several times. On a recent beach trip I was called ma’am 3 or 4 times. The funny thing is, only once was I called ma’am while wearing womens clothing. I find it amusing to be referred to in the female gender when dressed as a woman, but hilarious when dressed as a man.

  4. Monika Sweet 3 years ago

    During my trip to Milan, I got to dress up in the evening as I was not expecting any acquaintances around… So every evening I would dress up and stay like that until next day in my man look for business. I came across a booth where they were showcasing Face Detection Technologies…

    To my utter surprise, the software detected me as Caucasian Woman, aged around 34… I was amused while the attendant apologized by saying it is still work in progress and we are optimizing the recognition software. Damn… The camera and Software knew more than the humans around me…!!!

    • Rosaliy Lynne 3 years ago

      oh how terribly cute !!!! i am still laughing – great experience

  5. Rosaliy Lynne 3 years ago

    My first time wasn’t about being ma’am either. It was great though.
    I went to a local gay bar as a blonde – my very first time out publicly – and as I sat at the bar the bartender, a man of course this time, asked, “what’ll you have little lady?”

    Sure made my night until he asked me my name and I gave it. He was the first to publicly address me by that name. Can you say ‘heaven?’ That’s where I was.

  6. Olivia Faye Marie 2 years ago

    I get called Ma’am or Miss on the phone all the time. I have one of those borderline voices that could go either way. I’ve stopped correcting people now.

  7. Janine 1 year ago

    Last summer I drove to Key West dressed en.femme from where I live. It’s a six hour drive and by the time I reached Ft Lauderdale I stopped at a service plaza on the turnpike for gas and a much needed bathroom break.
    I used the full service island to get some gas and the male attendent called me Miss when he asked me if I wanted him to fill my car
    That was my first time being called miss and I was pleasantly surprised and glad that he thought that I was a young woman.
    After parking my car I went inside of the building and went into the ladies room where I went into a stall and sat down to urinate.
    After finishing in the stall I went to the sinks and washed my hands and brushed my hair then touched up my makeup.
    I went to the food court and got a sandwich and a soda. When I got to the end of the line to pay for it there was a girl who was about my age that was working the cash register.
    She glanced at me and took my money then handed me my change saying
    Thank you ma’am to me.
    Twice in fifteen minutes I was referred to as a female and it made the rest of the drive to the Keys a much more relaxing trip knowing that I had passed as a female.
    I stayed in Marathon at a Trans friendly motel and spend the whole time I was there dressed en.femme and didn’t have any issues with anyone .I was treated as a female and referred to as miss or ma’am by everyone who I met or bought anything from.
    What a wonderful experience it was and I’m looking forward to going back there this Memorial Day.

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