I Misgendered a Little Boy at Target Last Week

And then listened to his mom clean up my mess

Sheila Tracy
2 min readApr 2, 2024
Image created by the author using DaVinci

I like to toss out drive-by compliments to young children about whatever is happening with them at the moment. I’m careful to not fall into gender traps like telling girls that they are pretty and boys that they are strong.

  • “I love your glasses! They make you look smart.”
  • “Those are great shoes! I bet you can run fast in them.”
  • “Your hair looks cool! Did you style it yourself?”

So when I saw a young child walking through Target with a puffy ponytail and wearing a shirt with bats on it I said, “Cool shirt Bat Girl”.

“He’s a boy.”

Dammit!!! — said my thought balloon.

I made a feeble attempt at recovery by saying something like “love the bat shirt” and kept walking.

As I slinked away I listened to Mom doing a cleanup in Aisle 5.

“It’s okay. You’re a boy, and you look like a boy. She just made a mistake.”

I looked over my shoulder and saw a 10-year-old child wearing neutral clothing. Except for the bats, of course. There was nothing particularly girlish or boyish about his attire. He had facial features that were also neutral. The singular…

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Sheila Tracy

I ride motorcycles and I drink wine, but not at the same time. I’m not a writer by trade but sometimes I have something to say.