Tuesday, April 9, 2013


I know what most of you are thinking.

No, aside from that.

Those Characters are Chinese for "Gender Roles" according to Google translate.

Yesterday, in my drab guise, I went to lunch with a female University co-worker (J) and my former academic advisor, who is also head of the department for my degree at the school (D).  Yes, I'm being vague on purpose.

 In any case, this professor is one of the Leading Minds of our field.  She holds multiple doctorates from top universities and her theories are canon.  She is a immigrant Chinese woman in her fifties, married, with a son.

My colleague and I helped D's son with his College Application Essays.  We edited the essays for grammar and suggested some content changes.  This son was accepted into the Ivy League school of his choice (and every other school to which he applied.) 

Today's Lesson: Chinese Gender Roles and Male Privilege

D was very grateful for our help.  She took the two of us to lunch at a really good Chinese place on the Main Line.  (That's one of the richest areas in the US, BTW.) 

And this is where it got weird.  Remember, this is my drab life.  And they don't know about my being Trans.

We were seated in a booth.  D said "You man.  You sit there.  We sit here."  This meant I got one side of the booth to myself, and the two women sat together opposite me. 

Tea was served in a porcelain pot.  As I am a former bartender (and I was taught "Ladies first.") I reached for the tea and asked if anyone wanted any.  D said, "No, I pour.  You man.  I pour."  And she proceeded to do so.  I looked at my colleague, who is in her mid twenties, and she was as stunned as I was. 

I felt awkward.  I wanted to ask her not to do this, but I didn't want to insult her.  Especially since the whole reason behind this lunch was her expressing gratitude.  Never mind telling her that I was really a woman.

After she initially poured, I refilled my cup myself.

It was fun watching D order for us in whatever Chinese dialect the waiter spoke.  She speaks five languages fluently.

As we were finishing, D asked if I'd had enough (I ordered General Tso's chicken).  I smiled and said I was all but stuffed. 

"That all you eat?  You a man!  You should eat more!"  D said.

"I'm watching my girlish figure," I said.  D and J both laughed.

During the lunch, D discussed some "new research' which indicates that brain development isn't homogeneous.  That if someone is building up one area (say, Math skills) then something else will be left behind (say, social skills, writing, etc).  This makes sense as there's only so much time to learn, etc, but apparently it also relates to neuron development, etc.

She then said "(Drab name) You are brilliant in so many ways, so few of them standard..." then the food came.  I wonder if any of these ways is marketable.  I mean, I've always known that my skill set, etc, was "different..."

Maybe I should ask her about that.

In any case, the lunch ended, and we headed back to campus.  From there, I went home briefly to let the dog out, etc,  before reporting back to campus for my usual shift.

So, I really had Male privilege shoved hard into my face.  I really didn't like it.  It was giving me "honors" for nothing but an accident of birth (in this case birth defect.)

That said, it's nice having the gratitude of one of the leading minds in one's field.  if only it would translate into a job.


And the Beat goes on...


  1. Living that duel gender life must be hard at times. You certainly had enough reminders during that meal that you were the man.

  2. Over my career I have had many business and social meals with Asian (Japanese, Korean and Chinese) people. When at an ethnic restaurant of their choosing they will always pour the tea. This seems to be a custom whether the host(ess) is male of female. Often the food is served family style and the host(ess) will also act as the server of the first tasting. After that you are on your own.
    I understand your position but if D poured for both you and J it may have been primarily cultural.