When M comes out at work accidentally, he’s forced to grapple with choosing a pronoun, troublesome co-workers, and the deeper question of gender identity.
I came out at work by accident.
Well, sort of by accident.
At my interview for a job as a carer, I was given an “anonymous” Equality and Diversity form. If you don’t know what one is, companies use them here in the UK to prove their hiring practices aren’t racist etc. They had a box for gender, so I added one for “agender” and ticked it. I figured that would be the end of it. I wasn’t brave enough to correct anyone on pronouns when they called me she, even though I wore (and still wear) a binder whenever I leave the house or see other people, and have short hair, and wear “men’s” clothes.
But during training, the head of HR and my new manager came to talk to me. They wanted to know if there was anything they could do to support me at work. I didn’t get it at first, but then they explained that they meant in terms of gender. How should they refer to me? What should they call me if a client asked if I was a boy or girl?
I hadn’t been expecting any of this and I was all mixed up, but I asked for they/them/their. (I actually liked Elverson pronouns more – ey/em/eir – but that seemed unfeasible.) I know she did call me they, because I saw her use it on a text to another carer, but it soon settled down to he. It seemed easier with such a large number of people, most of whom, I knew, wouldn’t know of trans people at all, never mind non-binary ones. I decided that I’d get the carers to call me he, and let the clients assume whatever they would.
For the most part, this worked pretty well. I never had a bad reaction when I asked a carer to call me he, and I later learned that the manager had had a word with them all about me – though I’m still not entirely sure what she said. Clients assumed all sorts of things – several thought I was a cis guy, many thought I was a cis girl, and one client (I’ll call her Irene) asked me outright. I didn’t want to lie about it, so I told her neither. I told her I was agender. Irene asked a lot of ignorant questions which I answered at first, but then the questions got a bit inappropriate. I eventually managed to stop her by refusing to engage. To every question I would say, word-for-word, “I don’t want to talk about this with you.” She got the message in the end.
And then That Carer started. I’ll call her… Toni. Why not.
To my face, she seemed fine. I worked with her for a weekend. She asked which pronouns she should use. She seemed to have no problem with the answer (he).
But then it all kicked off. She talked about my gender with and in front of clients – Irene said she’d heard I’m a girl who wants a sex change. Toni said I’d always be a girl. She speculated about my sex life in front of a client and her two young children. She refused to use he pronouns for me.
Luckily, one of the other carers reported her, and so did one of the clients. I wrote down everything I’d heard, right back to Irene’s questions, all dated, and took it to management.
It was a pretty amazing meeting. My manager is a lesbian woman. The head of HR is a gay man. The other administrator there is a woman of colour. They all said that if Toni attacked me, Toni attacked them, and they were taking it all very seriously. The manager said that if she had to sack every carer in the area and just keep me, she would do that to keep me safe. They made me feel safe. They stopped sending me to Irene until they could arrange for social services to speak to her about her behaviour towards me, and they said that Toni would be disciplined at the very least – and probably sacked.
Lo and behold, a couple of weeks later, she was sacked.
Things improved a lot after that, but work was still hard sometimes. The clients who thought I was a woman were very difficult to go to, especially since old men have little issue with saying mildly inappropriate things about the carers who visit them. But the few who thought I was a man were so nice to go to – and, happily, they were the ones I saw most often.
My gender has evolved since I first started working there. I started as agender, just agender. Now it’s a little more unclear, but I identify with terms including: agender; trans guy; genderfluid; non-binary man; and agender boy. It was at work, in a break during which I sat in my car in a supermarket car park, that I felt a very abrupt switch from genderless to male. I stayed male for about 4 days, which was unprecedented at the time. I got stuck in male mode more and more, though a non-binary sort of masculinity, until the point where I managed to ask my family to call me he. They’re quite bad at it, but they’re trying, so that’s something.
I used to struggle so much with disclosing my real gender, but at least that job gave me a lot of practice at it – and in a reasonably safe environment. I have more words to ask to be called he now, though it still scares me. I’m heading for T and top surgery when I finally get to the top of the gender identity clinic’s waiting list, but until then, even when I “come out” as male, I’m putting myself in a binary closet. I’m more comfortable being seen as male, although my actual identity is as an agender, non-binary, genderfluid guy.
Just don’t ask about my sexual/romantic orientation. My head might explode.
M is a mysterious pixie. He loves nature and growing things and is currently pursuing those interests. He has to disclose A Lot. He also likes reading and writing and one day will fill the world with queer characters.
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