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It's not polite when you get it wrong

I've talked about voice issues before, for many of us in the trans community it remains a major source of frustration and irritation. This is especially true on the phone.

Nothing sends me sideways faster than a hearty "sir!" from the other side of the line when I answer the phone. It doesn't matter how much I try, the fact is that the audio quality of the telephone system is brutally bad, it's basically designed to be good enough and it shows.

As bad as it is from a pure audio quality perspective, it is made substantially worse by the use of salutations and honourifics. The history of these terms go back a ways and are rooted in the appearance of politeness and respect, but also they are from an era of very rigid gender roles. Fast forward to today and it really comes down to the fact that you don't know and using voice as a cue, amongst others, is a bad choice. It's an assumption that adds little value, if any, when you get it right and really detracts when you don't.

People get it wrong, a lot, when I use the phone. A problem I see happen in call centres as well, because we have trained people to think using terms like "sir" or "ma'am" is polite. However, I'm really not seeing how "thank you ma'am" and "thank you" are all that different in politeness and the latter is most certainly not going misgender someone. 

As I like to say: It's not polite when you get it wrong.


  1. I have just this minute taken a call, where the (probable fraudster) operator at the other end asked for Mr Goodwin, these days I just tell them "Mr Goodwin is no longer with us" ~ I think I just killed myself off again

    1. LOL, I should do the same. Mind you, I don't generally get a "Mr..." as it's more after I answer that I get the "Sir" from the caller. I'm considering just hanging up.

      (Sorry it took me so long to publish, I didn't realize your comment was in the queue!)

  2. Thank you for sharing. My transgender daughter recently told me she's transgender and will most likely face this. I'm trying to learn as much I can, so that I can provide her the best support I can. Your courage in being who you are sharing who you are will make her journey (and others) a little easier and less lonely. Thank you!


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