“You should have come with me.” He sits down and takes off his jacket, placing it gingerly across the back of his desk chair.
“Why? Did everything go ok?”
“Because the manager was a lesbian. I didn’t expect that.”
I’m confused. I’m not sure what he’s getting at. “What did you expect?”
“Well, I was walking over there, thinking that when I asked for the manager, I’d probably be talking to a gay man…maybe a straight man? I don’t know. I didn’t expect for it to be a lesbian.”
I don’t miss a beat. “Sounds like you need to examine your gender assumptions.”
The guy in the desk next to me looks up sharply at me and coughs like he’s choking. He’s got a smirk on his face, and his eyes are dancing. I’ve only known him ten minutes, but I think this is a sign he likes me. Or he just finds this conversation fascinating.
I look back to him. I can see the wheels turning. He’s not sure if that was a challenge, a reprimand, or a simple statement.
I break his silence. “You’re sure she was a lesbian?” I’m curious to see how deep his gender assumptions run.
“I think so…” He looks hesitant now. He doesn’t want to get called out again.
“What was she wearing? What did she look like?”
“Short, cropped hair. She was short, I guess. Shorter than me. Had a nose ring.”
“Did she have on a polo?” I smile. I’m sorta fucking with him now.
“Probably a dyke.”
He is not at all sure what to do with my use of that word. “Well, I mean, I think so. At least, that was my first impression…” He trails off, but picks back up quickly. “But I try not to assume. I never can tell down here, because people don’t seem to fit gay or straight when I think they do, and I just mess it up. New Orleans is so confusing.”
I laugh. I don’t find it so difficult, but I like it when people don’t fit in boxes.
“Like you.” He looks down at his desk. “I mean, I never would have thought you were a lesbian. Or queer, whatever you identify as.” His statement is simple, almost exploratory. It’s not an insult. It’s not personal. I’m not going to shoot him down, because I’ve already challenged his understanding twice – once with my own identity, once by calling him out. This is a form of education, and I want to be careful with the lesson.
“Yeah. I know. I’ve heard that at least three times this week.” Eye roll. “Sometimes I just have to tell them. Ask me in a bar, and I'll get vulgar about it. But that's my life. You know, someone told me once that feminine women are often more vocal because they can't be visible, and butch women will always be more visible, because they don't get an option.”
He looks at me, cocks his head to the right side, thinks about this. “I guess that makes sense.”
I want to add, "But that would change if people would stop conflating gender, sex, and sexuality long enough to realize how you look has little to do with whom you fuck,” but instead, I put my headphones back on, pull up my window with fifteen tabs, and go back to work compiling LGBT resources in Louisiana. Must be nice to be skinny and cute and white and male, where all you have to do is flip a pinky and walk in a gay bar and no one questions the legitimacy of your sexuality.