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The Hardware Store Proves We’ll Never Erase The Sexes From Our Language

gender at the hardware store

You see, I needed a self-centering hole locator to finish a rim joist on the deck we were building, and a pipe nipple, ballcock, and pipe dope for some plumbing repairs. I also needed to buttress a groin vault.


“I think my gender changer is lost in the mail.”

My wife looked at me with a face I had never seen in our 19 years together.

“Is there something we need to talk about?”

I had discovered that my autocorrect (a misnamed item if there ever was one) had screwed up the “ship to” address on an online order from an electronics supply house. I’d ordered a DB37 parallel cable adapter to change a male connector to a female one for a project I was working on. It’s called a gender changer.

“It’s for that electronics project at work. It’s called a gender changer,” I explained, redundantly.

“Well, it sounds pretty creepy. Haven’t we heard enough about this stuff in the news?” she replied, paying more attention to her iPad than our conversation.

“You don’t understand,” I mansplained in my best Cliff Clavin. “The DB37 connectors come in two types: female and male. The male connectors have pointy things that go into little holes in the female connectors. If you try to mate two males or two females, you won’t get a — er, connection. This is my dilemma at work. I have two males that need to — um, mate.”

Actually, I already have a DB37 male-to-female gender changer, but I couldn’t make it work no matter what I tried. Turns out it identifies as a DB25 female-to-male. I even tried affirming its feelings, but to no avail.

“Two males can’t mate,” she added. “Everyone knows that. Why are you talking about this weirdness? Are you going Caitlyn on me?”

It occurred to me that her offer to pick up some things for me at the hardware store later that day might be problematic. You see, I needed a self-centering hole locator to finish a rim joist on the deck we were building, and a pipe nipple, ballcock, and pipe dope for some plumbing repairs. I also needed to buttress a groin vault. I could imagine this was going to get ugly.

Just recently, I learned the Purdue Online Writing Lab is discouraging the use of “man” in words such as mailman (even if your mail carrier also carries a Y chromosome), mankind, and man-made. Assemblyman, sportsman, anchorman, and other terms that might refer to a person of either sex or any gender should be laundered to become gender neutral.

Rumor has it a second wave of suggestions (read: bannings) will include — ironically — manuscript and manipulate, and others such as mangle, manufacturing, management, Manchester, maneuver, Isle of Man, manners, and manganese (personganese?).

Next, I suppose, the trans community will go after “his,” as found in histrionics (will they “hers” this the way they did to herstory? Herstrionics?), Hispanic, histamine, and hissy fit. Genderqueer photographers will check exposure on a zir-stogram.

Eventually, these protected and pampered victims will leave academia and enter “real life.” That’s when I think they are going to be triggered and microaggressed on a scale unimaginable on campus.

When these people start maintaining their first tiny homes, The Helpful Hardware Folks® will need to be versed in CPR. The first time the Tiny DIYers are asked how much “head” they require in a sump pump, the store clerks will need to be ready to catch ’em as they fall.

Still, I needed a hardware run. Cringing, I handed my wife the list. Also included was a moisture meter to check cross-grain shrinkage, a tongue-and-groove router bit, a box of jam nuts, a dozen butt-splice terminals, a hand reamer, two jack studs, a jamb extender, a belt sheath, and a blow bag.

We also needed to rent a spreader for the lawn and a Wacker industrial vibrator for the new porch slab.

“You actually expect me to ask some guy at the store for this stuff? It sounds to me that you have some serious issues. Do we still have the number for that therapist?”

“Maybe I should go,” I offered. To the hardware store, not the therapist.

“And have you talking to another dude like this? I don’t think so, pervy. That would be even worse. Besides, I’m running errands anyway.”

She grabbed her purse and jacket, gave me a large dose of furrowed brow, and headed for the door.

“Oh — I forgot,” I blurted. “Stop by the tool department and see if you can put your hands on a stud finder and a pair of dikes.”