How She Became a White Male
Copyright 1985, 1986 by Gregory S. Swann. All Rights Reserved.
Direct inquiries to CIS I.D. 75115,1341.
How She Became a White Male
Something about him just didn't seem right... How many numbers
can your mind add up at once? For instance, his chest was just too
deep for his height and weight. And his knuckles were hairless. And
his fingers tapered too much. And the only hair on his face was a pair
of tufts beside his ears.
We were trapped under an awning, exiled by one of those
thundershowers that poets always leave out of their rhapsodies of
Spring and weathermen always say are headed for Connecticut. The
well-dressed young 'man' beside me looked like one of the black
businessmen you sometimes see in Wall Street.
Except that 'he' was a she.
I said: "You're a woman."
"No," she replied matter of factly. "I'm a man." Her voice was
deep, almost gruff.
I shook my head. "Nice try. You could fool nine out of ten.
But it's just not right." I told her about the knuckles, the fingers,
the beard. I don't like to talk about breasts, so I gestured, saying,
"And some things you just can't hide."
"You're wrong. I'm male."
I tapped my toe three times. I looked at my watch. I craned my
neck out to see if the storm was letting up. It wasn't. I said:
"Listen, if you want to pretend to be a male, I won't quarrel with
you. Would you rather talk about something else?"
"But I =am= a male!"
"Lady, saying so doesn't make it so. You're female. Probably a
very good looking young black female, if you'd let your hair down and
put away that three-piece suit."
"I am not a black female. I am a white male."
When in doubt, say nothing...
"Look," she said, "you can talk to me. It's an unwritten rule
that we white males can mutter to each other about things we'd never
say out loud."
I pulled a cigarette out of my pocket. Before I could blink,
she was beside me with a book of matches. She struck the match toward
herself, then reached out with both hands to cup the cigarette while
she lit it.
She said: "Do you prefer to analyze it...? All right, tell me
how you came to be a white male."
Deep breath. "My mother and father are both white. They got
married, made some babies, and I was one of them. Model number such
and so hyphen M. Equipped with certain optional hardware that I don't
talk about in mixed company."
She looked this way and that. "'Nobody here but us
"That's not the point. How did =you= get to be a white male?"
"I checked that box on the form."
"Checked what box on what form?"
"The immigration form," she said. "When I came to this
country, they gave me a form. It said I should check the box that best
described myself. So I checked 'white male'."
"You can't become a white male just by checking a box on a
"Well," she mused, "you may have a point, biologically. My
mother and father are both black. I was born as model number hyphen F
and all that. But when I was growing up, I always heard that in
America you can be anything you want. So when I came here, I became a
"But it's just not that simple..."
"Oh, but it is! On the form it does not say 'supply a skin
sample taken from your sex organs'. It says 'check the box'. I checked
the box, and now I'm a white male. It's so easy to be what you want in
"I don't believe I'm hearing this..."
"A lot of people have that reaction...." She examined her
nails; her fist was half-clenched and she looked at the nails upside
down. "But you have to admit, if you want to get anywhere in business,
it =pays= to be a white male."
"...I suppose so."
"You better believe it! Why, if I were female, I couldn't play
squash at the Athletic Club. I wouldn't be invited to those late-night
smokers where so much gets done. I wouldn't be able to cajole a
secretary into getting coffee for me."
"Do you mean you actually have a =job= as a white male?"
She smiled. "Fast track. Rising young account executive for
Stuffie and Fowle."
"And you told =them= you're a white male?"
"It was a very persuasive argument. I said, by hiring me, you
get what =looks= like a black female, for the benefit of the Feds and
other snoops. But what you =actually= get is just another one of the
"And they bought that?!"
She shrugged. "I got the job..." She stuffed both hands deep
into the pockets of her trousers.
"Okay," I said. "I can see how you could make it stick ninety
percent of the time. You've got all the moves down. But you =still=
lack that hardware designated by the hyphen M..."
"Fast track," she said.
"Fast trackers don't have sex. It's against the rules." I must
have looked as puzzled as I felt. "The idea is to demonstrate your
total committment to the company. Fast trackers don't do anything
"Is it worth it?"
"You bet it is!" Her eyes were ablaze. "Why, in five years I
could be president of the company."
I said: "Just think... If you were still a black female, you'd
be the first black female president of Stuffie and Fowle..."
"If I were a black female, I could get a job on the cleaning
crew at Stuffie and Fowle."
"...you may have a point."
"You bet I have! Given a choice, it's much better to be a
white male." She looked out toward the street. "Looks like it's
letting up some. Buy you a drink? You look like you could use one.
C'mon, I know a great place right up the block." She grinned. "Beat
ya' at arm wrestling!"
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