I showed up at the drive-in vaccine clinic at 1140, originally not planning to go that day, since I was leading a hike up Spencer Butte for the Club and would not be finished when the clinic started. I checked before I left, however, and discovered that my wife was one of only two people doing registration there, and they needed three.  I couldn’t cancel my hike, but when I got up to the top of the Butte, had a good view of the snowy Cascades, I asked the two who were last to arrive if they could deal with the rest of the hike by themselves. I knew they could, and I said I really needed to help out at the clinic, which had just started.

I hiked back down in an hour, had half my lunch in the car on the way over, and on arrival saw a long line of cars with people waiting for vaccination.  Fortunately, the lead person knew me and that I was coming, and immediately put me to work in lane 3. I knew what I had to do, which was to greet the people coming, confirm their birthdate, confirm that their last shot was more than 6 months prior, check the registration for legibility, confirm what shot they were getting, confirm the signature on the vaccine administration record (VAR), put a sticker containing the lot number and expiration on the form, and tell them what to give to the vaccinator and what to expect back. I then took the clipboard and pen, putting the pen in my back pocket and the clipboard on a nearby table, if I didn’t carry it around with me. Today I had someone expecting a Pfizer booster, and we were only giving Moderna. I discussed the issue, and the person decided to get Moderna, rather than go somewhere else for Pfizer.

I see a lot of interesting people, maybe a dozen or so companion dogs, birthdates that are in December, which mine is, when I say “good month to be born.”  The day before, I had two with my birthday, and the woman who was turning 65 asked me a lot of questions about Medicare. She thought it was cool that we had the same birthday. I also saw one who was born 5-7-57 to go with 6-8-68 and 9-4-94 which I have seen.  

I also do a lot of directing traffic to the three lanes, to keep everything moving and organized. I like directing traffic. I did it for years at the bicycle Tour of the Tucson Mountains. At the clinic, I needed to check to see not just how many vehicles are; note that if there were four in one vehicle, that will slow down a lane; being aware of walk-ins, who go to lane 1, so at times I need to briefly stop putting vehicles there. There isn’t a lot of room where we split into lanes, so I want to get people lined up efficiently.  In addition, I or someone else in the other two lanes needs to collect the clipboards periodically and take them back to checkin for reuse, along with the pens. We were busy, and after hiking more than 6 miles, I was tired. It was 30 minutes before I found time for another part of my lunch.

I approached one vehicle, where what appeared to be a young man was driving. The individual asked me for a new vaccine record card, which we have, and fill it out. 

“I have had a name change.”

That would have stopped me cold, except I was focused on getting the person a new vaccine card, so I did, so it would match his name on his VAR. I left to check on someone behind him in line, and then came back. The name I saw on the record was “Jeanne,”, and while I don’t remember the name the person arrived with, it had clearly been masculine. My assumptions of gender were wrong, and I had refrained from calling or referring to the person by any gender specific pronoun. When I wrote the above, however, I originally used “he,” because “he” looked like a “he.”  But “he” was transitioning to Jeanne. 

I have had some issues with the idea of stating pronouns. In my defense, I did not grow up in an era where people transitioned; men were men, and women were women. About 98% of the time, that is correct.

Today, I saw an example of the two per cent. I wonder how many other times I have missed it. Probably a lot.

Back when I grew up, we assumed men married women, too. Gay was the last word on the poem “Monday’s Child,” stated for the child born on the Sabbath Day (I was), “is glad and wise and good and gay.”  That word transitioned as well. I miss the original, for gay is not just happy but a special carefree, light kind of happy, with youth, flowers, spring, and a lovely world. The language—indeed, the world—changes.

Jeanne reminded me of my learning about Magnus Hirschfeld, a German LGBT pioneer, whose books and research were destroyed by the book burning in Berlin on 10 May 1933.  I stood at that spot on Bebelplatz in 2015, and looked down into the “empty library.” It was there I learned that Dr. Hirschfeld believed that human sexuality was a continuum. I never forgot that. If human sexuality were a mathematical function, it would be a density function, continuous, and not a mass function with two definable points and nothing else.  That was a huge revelation to me. Hirschfeld was easily 100 years ahead of his time, and the loss of his research was devastating to the world.

Jeanne had another lesson. Each day, at the vaccination clinic huddle before we get started, we are told to respect each person and not make any distinction that might be troublesome to that individual.  There should be no assumptions made regarding the person’s gender, color, or background.  Several of the staff members have their pronouns on their name tags.  I now know exactly what that means.

I am still going to be slow in changing, because of decades of thinking of gender as binary. Specifically, I do not want to remove “Sir” from my repertoire, because it is one of the most powerful words in the language and a big part of my life. Sir is a superb word when there is only one “you” for familiar and formal. Sir works well in the military to show junior or senior. Its intonations may show politeness and simultaneously  disagreement or dislike, to which every enlisted man in our military can attest, and if many haven’t served in the military, perhaps they should add it to their bucket lists. When I left the Navy, I have continued with shorter hair, which would remain with me the rest of my life, lining up my buttons on my shirt with my zipper on my pants, and the use of Sir to male strangers, and lawyers who were deposing me. The word flows from me, and I don’t want that to change.

When I am greeting people at the clinic, I frequently use sir. Additionally,  I have an acute awareness of when it is used with me. I noted that every Black football player on the UO football team, months ago when they got vaccinated, called me “Sir.”  That didn’t mean that whites didn’t call me “Sir” (three did today) but the disparity in percentages was large, and many Blacks learn to do it early when dealing with people of authority. It’s safe.

Sir will disappear if, as one of the leads said, we simply call the others “people” or “humans”. “Stand next to the human wearing green over there.”  I’m not ready for that, and I don’t ever want to be ready for that.  “Sir” is a perfect way to address a person who looks like a man, is elderly, and I want to talk to him. I am NOT on a first name basis with him. I can’t use “Du” “tu” “tú” or “Tы”. I need to use Sir.

I learned a huge lesson from Jeanne. I wish her well knowing that life is not easy for those whom Dr. Hirschfeld classified as being neither male nor female as society defined the two, but in 1930, and in most places 2030, too, that definition will remain. I hope we can change.

I need to address ageism. Perhaps I will do that here soon.

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