Blog Series, Transition, Work

Trans Tuesday: Being ‘Stealth’ at Work

I have done a few trans related posts on here, but never really had much stability behind it. Well no more. Today is the first in my Trans Tuesday posts, and from henceforth I will aim to write a post every Tuesday on something trans related. I will ask again at the end, but if you have any suggestions for posts, or if there is something you’d like to know about my life as a trans person, please do suggest/ask (as long as it isn’t you being a douche).

For those of you who don’t normally read my blog, I am a transmasculine non-binary person. I was Female Assigned At Birth (FAAB) and I take they/them/their or he/him/his pronouns. I am bisexual. I also work as a carer for mostly elderly people in their own homes (my clients average age range is around late 70’s). You need to know these things to understand my story today.

Today I am going to address my feelings of being ‘stealth’ at work, and by that I mean being seen as a cisgender male. In this case I am also extending it to mean a cisgender straight male.

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I love my work, my clients are largely amazing. But I do struggle a little with the gender roles assumed daily. I can’t work with a lot of clients, purely for the fact that they see me as male. This can be for all sorts of reasons; issues with men, thinking men can’t care for people, women (and men) not wanting men to do personal care, and more. They are archaic ideas (except for obviously legitimate issues with men), but they are still there. I have had clients before where the men are unable to do personal care and there have been off the cuff comments made about how they don’t want a man seeing down there. I laugh internally as I kind of want to turn around and say how shocked they’d be by what I have in my pants (or rather, don’t) and explain I have cleaned a ‘female’ part more than a ‘male’ part in my life. Unless you count sticking my packer in the sink to be cleaned that is.

I have a client who has made comments to myself and another male carer before about how she doesn’t trust men to do things such as doing the washing (including hanging it out), of doing general household activities. I remember standing there in shock. I forget that a lot of people still have those gender roles stuck in their heads. She told us she didn’t think a man would do it as well. She seemed surprised when I said my mum had taught my brother and I, almost like she shouldn’t have taught us. It was puzzling but I went with it. At the end of the day, I was there to do what she wanted and if that meant not doing the ironing I wasn’t going to complain (hey, I don’t like ironing, doesn’t mean I don’t know how or that it is because I am more male, I just don’t like ironing!).

I also get a lot of clients who assume my sexuality as straight (as for most people outside of Brighton, it is ‘natural’ to assume such) and I have to hold back laughter. I stand there talking to them about musicals, but they still say to me about my ‘girlfriend’ when I say partner and use they for Tyler’s pronouns. I can’t correct them either, unfortunately due to my client base, I have been told by my bosses not to mention my gender or sexuality, for fear of upsetting them, or worse actually for me to lose clients because they don’t want someone ‘like me’ caring for them.

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So accurate for me, I don't think I scream straight!

I also encounter bi erasure at work, with my colleagues, I mention that I was referred to as straight and they laugh, saying how amusing it’d be if they found out I didn’t swing that way. I correct them awkwardly, saying that I am bi, and I just get the awkward right okay shrug and it goes on.

Of course, with my gender being non-binary, it throws another spanner into the works. I am quite open in Brighton and online. I feel it is important to raise awareness. But since starting this job I have to be more careful. I haven’t even made a point of talking to the office about it as it would make things more confusing. I am not even out to coworkers about being trans, let alone non-binary as my bosses said how gossipy the staff and clients are, it would spread like wildfire.

It is one thing to understand the reasons, it is another to be able to cope with it emotionally. I am usually fine with being called he, it is a preferred pronoun, but I still have days where it is too much. It can be a real drain and generally exhausting, keeping up a facadé. I remind myself that I like the work,  I know it is rewarding in other ways and I need to breathe.

If you’re struggling though, don’t feel like you have to hide it from your boss, it is down to them as your employer to make you feel safe and able to perform to the best of your abilities.

I hope you enjoyed my post. Are you in a similar situation? Tell me, how do you cope? What gets you through tough times? Do you have any topics around trans stuff  for me to discuss every Tuesday? Let me know!

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