DEAR HARRIETTE: My job involves selling medical supplies. I travel to nursing homes, speak to various people and then report to the building supervisor what employees or elderly people want.
There are times when I'm speaking to elderly people or seeing someone using a product that I can't tell if that person is a man or a woman. I know people can choose to identify as whatever gender they choose, but I cannot find a way around this dilemma. I have tried saying, "I saw a person using such-and-such equipment," and I'm always asked if it's a man or a woman (for clarity reasons).
I understand the need to collect data on which supplies are used where, but I could never imagine myself walking up to someone and asking what gender they are. I feel like that would cause offense! How can I navigate around this gender question? I genuinely cannot tell the gender of the people I interact with sometimes! -- Gender Bender, Pikesville, Maryland
DEAR GENDER BENDER: I can see how sensitive this could be. One potential way to gather information without offending anyone would be to strike up a conversation with the people you are observing and introduce yourself. You can follow by asking them to share their names. Often, you can tell someone's gender based upon his or her name. This will at least give you more data for your company. Under no means should you ask someone to clarify what gender he or she is. That would be rude and disconcerting.