What Do I Know?

I was in Cliff’s Variety hardware store in San Francisco, talking to a salesman about hand-held shower nozzles. I knew the salesman was gay. I knew because he was delicate and feminine and had the gaunt cheeks typical of a man with HIV/AIDS-related facial wasting. And I knew because we were in the Castro, a predominantly gay neighborhood.

I knew it like the flight attendant knew, while we flew back from Washington, DC recently, that my son and daughter were both girls.

“What would your daughters like to drink?” she asked.

“Ginger ale,” I told her.

I knew it like the guy walking by our house the other day knew Sam was a girl. We were coming down our front steps, Sam looking completely dapper in a white button-down shirt, black dress pants, and maroon tie, his long hair flowing out from beneath a black bolo hat. The man stopped and looked at Sam, grinning big.

“What a great outfit! She looks like that girl from…from…that show, you know?” he faltered. He couldn’t remember the name of the show, but he knew Sam was a girl.

I was unsure which nozzle to buy, given all the options at Cliff’s.

“My wife likes this one best,” the salesman said.

I looked up at him, startled, and paused a little too long before saying, “Well, I’ll take that one, then.”

While waiting in line, I thought: so the salesman I assumed was gay is actually straight. Or maybe he’s gay and his long-time partner is transgender. Or…

What do I know?

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