Sue, meet Drew

By Drew Lash

“I tell ya, life ain’t easy for a boy named Sue” sang country singer Johnny Cash. His hit song, “A Boy Named Sue,” tells a story of a young man’s lifelong quest for revenge on the father who left him and named him “Sue.”

While life isn’t so hard for a girl named Drew, growing up with a typically male name has made me highly aware of the oh-so-subtle differences in the treatment of girls and boys because I often get both. Most of the time, it’s a case of a mistaken identity rather than the teasing and bullying Cash’s Sue had to endure.

When I was little, I was always invited to boys’ birthday parties when mothers went through the class list inviting all the boys in their son’s class. But that was the whole point of my name.

My parents grew up in a time when women were just beginning to chip away at the glass ceiling.

They thought that by giving me a boy’s name, it would give me an advantage in the professional world… until I showed up for an interview, that is.

Because my sister has a similarly ambiguous name, Ryan, we are an interesting pair. In fact, a friend of ours is a college professor and she uses us as an example in her class on gender roles and discrimination. She starts her class by saying that a family she knows has two children named Drew and Ryan.

“Are they two boys, two girls, or a boy and a girl?” she asks the students. No one has ever correctly answered that Drew and Ryan are sisters, showing that gender roles begin as soon as someone hears the name, something I’m sure Sue could attest to.

Of course, there are times when having a boy’s name allows me insight into Sue’s anger. Sue was treated differently because of his name as soon as anyone saw he was a boy. And on occasion, I am treated differently too.

Every once in a while, I find people have expectations about me and my behavior that are thrown when they discover I’m not a boy.

I was recently exchanging e-mails with an adult I had never met before and it was clear (through his use of pronouns) that he thought I was a boy. When I found out later that he would have worded his e-mail in a more delicate tone, as opposed to the slightly harsh one I received, I was infuriated.

While the context of the e-mail wasn’t particularly hurtful, the additional information I discovered was painful. The point was clear—I was being judged by my gender rather than as an individual person.

Then again, the bad comes with the good. Because of it, I have learned a lot about other people and society’s gender perceptions during my initial interactions with people.

I’ve gained a lot of insight: that even in a society that tries to focus on equality, boys and girls are still treated differently. I don’t resent my parents for naming me Drew. As a matter of fact, I actually love my name.