Tall Non-Fat Extra Foamy Gender
I knew I’d never have the courage to make an actual coming out announcement at work, so I used to rely on spaceships to get through the day. I could handle incorrect pronouns well enough, but when my fellow baristas got into the habit of calling each other “lady” and “girl” I knew I had to say SOMETHING or my customer service smile would get all stiff and curt. So I started responding with nonsense.
“Hey girl, how’s it going?”
“I’m not a girl, I’m a monster. Rarr!”
“I’m not a lady – I’m a spaceship.“
Doing this worked pretty well for changing people’s behavior without revealing anything about myself – people caught on that they couldn’t call me “girl” without getting contradicted, but I didn’t have to bring up gender or ask them to believe anything new. And in my head I got to slam the airlock on anyone who misgendered me and fly away safe inside my mental spaceship.
Then one day a trans dude friend of mine said he found ridiculous gender claims offensive because gender was Serious Business and people shouldn’t joke about it that way. I didn’t want to hurt my friend, so I gave up the ol’ spaceship defense.
Things got tough for a while. I wound up settling for treating my work persona as some kind of weird roleplaying character who made coffee all day instead of fighting dragons or whatever proper roleplaying characters are supposed to do. This made it difficult to interact with my coworkers as people, but it seemed like the best solution I had at the time.
I’m not sure of the exact catalyst for everything getting better, but I credit some combination of perceptive new hires and social media. I’m not an activist and I try not to bring up gender all the time when it’s not already a topic of discussion, but I don’t actively hide either. So when Facebook expanded its options to include non-binary people, I listed my gender publicly for the first time.
Now the information was sitting there in a readily accessible format for anyone who cared to check, and occasionally someone would have reason to check. I’ve gotten my name legally changed, and a few years ago I requested off work for a few weeks so I could get top surgery. I didn’t mention the kind of surgery I needed in my request, but I’ve always enjoyed costumes and bodypainting and it wasn’t long before I started taking advantage of my new shirtless options.
I remember the first time a coworker really acknowledged me. I’d climbed on the counter to reach a high shelf and one of the supervisors commented on my strong, independent womanhood. The new hire had recently friended me on Facebook and he took me aside, “But wait,” he said, “You’re not a woman, are you? Do you mind when he calls you that?” I was shocked. I mean, I didn’t exactly become a barista to get respect, but here he was – seeing me and respecting me. I was so grateful that my brain stopped working and I had to go to the back room and wash dishes for a few minutes.
While I was washing dishes, I figured out that maybe blankly staring and running away wasn’t the best response to rare and much-desired respect, so I decided on a policy of encouragement. I didn’t want to be a difficult or argumentative employee, so I wasn’t ready to stop people who got things wrong, but that didn’t mean I should ignore people who got things right.
We have comment cards in the back room that we can give out when we see exceptional behavior from coworkers, I started submitting them for situations like this:
Customer: Oh, she always makes the best tea.
Coworker: Yeah, they do a good job.
Thank you correct pronouns coworker I would like to find a leprechaun and steal all his gold and give the gold to you.
More and more people have been getting things right lately. So yeah, I’ve still never made an announcement or corrected anyone on my pronouns, yet somehow here I am: mostly out to my coworkers. It’s pretty awesome.