Despite being male (both genetically and self-identified), I sound like, as a friend once stated, "an 8 year old girl". My voice is very high pitched and child-like due to brain cancer.

This is usually not a problem in person: I have a giant beard and people deduce I am male. On the telephone, however, people will call me "miss" or "madam".

That shouldn't bother me, but it does, as it reminds me of my struggle against cancer in my youth. (I am prone to think, at times, there is also a "male ego" problem involved, but I am not the macho kind, so that is probably not the main reason I am bothered).

What I have tried so far:

  • Starting the conversation with a "Hello, my name is [blank]...", given my name is undoubtedly male in my culture. People will still refer to me as female, usually not immediately: I used to think they had simply forgot the beginning of the conversation, but as my culture is somewhat conservative, they could be thinking I am genetically a female that identifies as male, and refusing to address me as such.

  • During one specially long and tense phone-call, after having been called "madam" in a condescending tone several times, I exploded and shouted something along the lines of "It's SIR, I sound like this because of brain cancer, you a****le!", what led to the other person immediately ending the phone-call.

So, both methods failed terribly. I would like a way of letting people know they should call me "sir", without making of it a huge deal, as I tend to be very non-confrontational and shy. Maybe using humor, with which I am slightly more comfortable, but preferably with no reference to my disease. And, above all, I want it to be natural.

  • @Mister Positive No, no, but this usually comes up when I need to phone a call center.
    – GVT
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 17:16
  • Would your title remain the same or should it go on the lines of "How to correct people who mis-assume my salutation on a call? "
    – anki
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 17:17
  • @ankii I would prefer to avoid the mistake, rather than correcting it. So I think my title is still more precise.
    – GVT
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 17:21
  • 4
    I just want to say that you are absolutely allowed to be bothered by that and it has nothing to do with "ego", "male" or otherwise.
    – M i ech
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 11:26
  • @Miech Thank you for the support!
    – GVT
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 15:38

2 Answers 2


I have a stutter. It's a small one, so people don't really realize I'm stuttering. It comes across more like I'm insecure about what I'm saying. So even though it's a bit awkward, I just tend to announce to people that I stutter, often right after I did.

Ah, FYI, I have a slight stutter, don't worry about it ! Anyway, what I was saying is...

(It doesn't help that my name starts with a letter that I tend to have trouble with...)

It's a bit awkward, but by being matter of fact and not lingering on it, the awkwardness goes as soon as it came and I am much more at ease the rest of the conversation. So although I agree with scoh001 that there's no non-strange way to prevent people from making assumptions, I think it's okay to be a little strange.

Hi, my name is GVT. Before we start, I want to mention that despite how my voice sounds I am a man, please treat me as such. [act how you would have started the conversation]

I also want to add what some downvoted answers have touched upon : if it's something you're not doing now, it might be worth on working on this on a intrapersonal level.

I understand that this is linked with your cancer and is a sensitive subject, but the reality is : you're the one living with this hurt, and there's sadly no way to prevent anyone from misgendering you ever again.

Even with the tips and scripts you got today, some people will just not pay attention and/or be distracted and misgender you. They will go on with their lives after the call, even the one you blew up at, and you're the one in pain afterwards.

My brother had leukemia when he was a child and his growth got stunted because of medication. He was very sensitive about anything that might have to do with his height, and became a much happier and content person once he dealt with unresolved feelings linked to his cancer and his height. I don't want to put additional pressure on you that you have to be okay with how people misgender you, my hope for you is that you can lead a less painful life.

  • I like your answer: it addresses the fact that a perfect solution probably doesn't exist (as scohe001's answer does), but also points out I will probably need to learn how to live with it. And just for the record, I don't feel terribly bad when the problem I described happens, just slightly uncomfortable, so I guess I am already as okay with this I will ever be... People have been addressing me on the phone as madam for 20 years now...
    – GVT
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 14:35
  • @GVT Glad to hear that you're less upset about those instances then I thought :-) If being upfront about it doesn't work for you, try maybe scohe001's approach, see what is working best for you. I'm sorry people can be thoughtless or jerks.
    – MlleMei
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 14:43
  • And about your brother, I also know how it feels to have my growth stunted: I am roughly the same height I was when I was 8 (although I was a rather tall 8 years old). But that never bothered me a lot!
    – GVT
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 15:37

I don't see a nice way to preemptively prevent this. The only ways I can imagine would, to me, seem awkward or come off as strange to them.

Instead, I'd do as you've done by announcing your name to give them a hint of your gender. And then, if they do assume incorrectly, politely but firmly correct them:

OPERATOR: This plan will offer you 154 channels. Let me tell you, ma'am, this--

YOU: It's sir, actually.

Short. Simple. No need to make a big deal over it. They messed up. It happens.

This works to give them the benefit of the doubt while also not making a huge deal, so they can recover easily.

I can't say that I've been in this situation specifically, but I have had people mis-attribute things to me. Interrupting with a quick correction seems to do the trick for me. I had something like this happen with a new friend recently:

HIM: Since your birthday is in October, I thought--

ME: It's September, actually!

With my friend, I may follow up with "don't worry, you were only one off" or some other simple humor to make it clear no offense was taken. If you find that the person is a little taken aback, I may add something similar for you like

Meh, you had a 50/50 chance of getting it right (chuckle). But anyways, about those 154 channels...

  • "I don't see a way to preemptively prevent this that to me wouldn't seem awkward or come off as strange to them." I was afraid of that...
    – GVT
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 16:58
  • @GVT doesn't mean one doesn't exist! Only that there's not one I can think of :)
    – scohe001
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 16:59
  • "Instead, I'd do as you've done by announcing your name to give them a hint of your gender. And then, if they do assume incorrectly, politely but firmly correct them" The second part would be hard for me, since I find very hard to be even slightly confrontational (even for something as simple as that). But suppose I try and people still refer to me as female, maybe because, as I hypothesize, they think I only self-identify as male: would you have any preemptive advice?
    – GVT
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 17:04
  • 2
    @GVT Hmm I have a feeling you could write a whole other question on how to deal with someone not accepting your choice of pronouns, so that may be a bit of a large assumption to cover in this answer. As far as being assertive though, I feel that this method is the least assertive I could come up with (I'm in the same boat as you there). But if they're addressing you wrong, the only way I can see to correct them is to assert that they're incorrect (albeit gently, with a joke thrown in at the end).
    – scohe001
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 17:16
  • @scohe001 I agree, the subject of choice of pronouns is vast enough to deserve its own question...
    – GVT
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 14:27

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