Kameron had a plan for coming out at work. However, he hasn’t followed through on it. Maybe he’s learned to listen to his inner voice, and that voice is telling him to slow down.
I am an elementary school janitor, which means I’m a government worker – I’m in a union and have job security. It means I work a job that is physically demanding, mentally unstimulating, and emotionally invariable (for the most part). I never have to be in “customer service” mode. I only interact with others in mutually friendly ways. I have plenty of time to absorb media: I listen to podcasts and music, I text people, I read books. I am generally alone and have a lot of flexibility in the pacing and structure of my work day. I work a B-[night]-shift, which throws me out of sync with the majority of our society’s time frames.
One thing that really stands out about this profession: It is not considered odd or antisocial to be extremely reserved and private. It’s actually an asset to do your job without overly engaging teachers and staff. This suits me well. Maybe a little too well… I’ve taken this to such an extreme that no one even knew about my partner for over 6 years. As we were gearing up to get married, I finally started coming out about my relationship. It was kind of implied that it’s a same-sex relationship; nowadays I’ll drop my partner’s name or talk about “my spouse.” It feels good.
What about my gender though? For years, I’ve had this idea of the path I would follow for coming out as genderqueer at work. First, I would tell a few people in person, including the principal and my supervisor. Then I would talk to the principal about my plan for coming out to everyone else, and make sure that it was fine by her. This plan entailed writing an email to the school requesting male pronouns and a name change, and a brief explanation about how I feel about my gender. Then I would try to be alert and correct people in the moment so that the adjustment period would move along quicker. Maybe I’d actually feel closer to fellow school staff at the end of the process.
I made it through quite a few of these steps. Each time, I’d feel an urgency to move ahead, then relief and pride for disclosing more about myself. Yet paths often diverge into other directions, or gradually end, or loop back around.
A little over a year ago, I came out to the principal of the school where I work. I dropped into her office, and within the context of filling her in about some other things, I let her know that I identify as trans. I went on to specify that most people who ID this way transition from one gender to the other, and I don’t feel that – I feel like I am in the middle. That I’ve been in this process for years, and work is the last place to know about the process. That I’m on testosterone but such a low dose that my appearance has not and won’t be changing. That I prefer male pronouns and plan to change my name at some point.
She listened intently and asked what I needed. I responded that I just needed time to talk to other people within the school and come out on my own terms. Maybe at some point an email, but nothing right now. Eventually a name and pronoun change. As she nodded, I felt very supported.
For the next six months, I didn’t really take any other actions around coming out. Until I came out to the head of the kitchen. We had a rare moment of just sitting drinking coffee together. In the past, I had told her about feeling like neither a man nor a woman, once. The conversation organically wandered towards the topic of time off, and with that my plans for top surgery. Her reaction was positive; she said that I just gotta do what will make me comfortable.
About a month later, I came out to my co-worker, whom I’ve told the most about myself, by far. I explained what name I go by outside of work, and that I go by male pronouns. I told him about hormones and surgery, and about being neither male nor female, and about bathrooms. He has a step-daughter who is trans, and although he stumbles with the pronouns and terminology, he seems totally open. He’s awesome.
Most recently, about 3 months ago, I came out to my supervisor. I told her about surgery (because I have to, for the time off I need) except I didn’t specify what the surgery was for. I also told her about changing my name in the future, and even told her my new name, Kameron. I left it at that. Once more, I received another positive reaction, without further prying. This was the best outcome I could hope for.
I thought my supervisor would be the major road block, and that once I came out to her, the rest of my plan would quickly and effortlessly ensue. It seemed to be what I had been wanting for years. I wanted to tell all these people, I thought, only so that I could move on to the next stage. But now I’m starting to think differently. I’m wondering if maybe I wanted to tell these people because I actually wanted them to know this thing about me, not just as a means to get to the next thing. Because as soon as the euphoria of telling my supervisor wore off, the urge to move forward surprisingly died down. Currently I feel no desire to follow the next step(s) in my plan.
I could speculate as to why that is: The rest of the plan is too scary. I’m tricking myself into believing I don’t really want it. This seems unlikely; emailing the rest of the school and then replying in the moment doesn’t feel daunting to me. Doing that stuff is so much more hands-off and low key compared to coming out to someone face-to-face, especially if you don’t know how they’ll react, which I’ve already done.
Here’s another guess: I’m worried that people won’t understand. I haven’t legally changed my name yet, and I do not plan on changing my gender marker on legal documents. I also don’t plan on using the men’s room. (Luckily there are 3 gender-neutral “staff” restrooms within the school.) Will people be confused by my “partial” or “selective” transition? I’ve talked a lot about this in therapy, and I keep getting reassured that people will take what I say at face value, that I don’t need to over-explain. I always thought of using a quip about bathrooms in my mass email: “Although I use the women’s restroom, don’t worry – I will continue to clean them all.” If people don’t understand that I am not transitioning into manhood, then so be it, right?
But that’s not it either. I could be so focused on my upcoming top surgery right now, that other gender-related issues are on the back burner. Possibly.
Or: Maybe, I’ve actually reached the balance I’m looking for. Maybe I don’t actually want to be called by my new name and male pronouns in all areas of my life because my gender is not that binary. Maybe I actually need a little bit of both.
Only time will tell what I want, and why. Above all, when following any transition path, whether it’s laid out in stories in mass media, or the WPATH-SOC, or a therapist, or within each of us, it’s essential to listen to that heart/gut combination. Not the voice of peers transitioning. Not the voice of medical professionals. Not the voice inside your head (ok, maybe a little bit, sometimes that voice has important things to say). Rather, that voice that says, “this feels right,” or “this does not feel right,” or “I’m not sure about this yet so I’m going to slow down and/or try a different path for a while.”
This voice always has a simple message, and it’s always there, even if it seems buried by other, less important voices. Sometimes it’s a complex process to try and figure out what you want to do with that little whisper, but the message itself is simple and straightforward.
My voice unexpectedly told me that it’s not time to come out to everyone at work, not right now, maybe not ever. At a time when I expected my heart to pump “full speed ahead! You’re almost there!” it actually did a 180. And, although a part of me wants to just complete a task that has been on my mind for years, it is much more satisfying to listen to this voice than to check off one more thing on my transition to-do list.
Speaking of to-do lists, here’s one version of my transition to-do list, from almost 2 years ago: Gender identity related “to-do list” There have been many, many versions of this, with lots of revisions…
Kameron is a genderqueer janitor in his mid-thirties who writes at Janitorqueer. He is also a radio DJ, and he lives in a house with his spouse and two cats.
Off the Beaten Path
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