You hear stories of people being confronted by hateful people, because of their gender, sexuality or race. Reading and hearing about these occurrences always made me emotional; either angry or sad. However, luckily enough I had never experienced this myself, until now.
I don’t believe in making my life story about being transgender, it’s a part of who I am, but I try hard not to surround myself with this label. With that in mind, being transgender and having a job can be challenging. It’s probably one of the hardest parts of my transition because when you’re in work, you’re there for an 8-hour shift, there’s no running away from anything that can happen.
Usually, in my day to day life, I’m not misgendered, and I think I pass as male 100% of the time until I open my mouth and speak, but even then, very rarely am I not taken for a guy. In work this seems to differ, I don’t know if it’s the green ASDA uniform, or the fact I have to talk to every person I come across, but I am misgendered a lot – despite the name badge. Not in a massive way that I cannot recover from, the occasional man will call me love, sweetheart, something like that. In the beginning, I had to stop myself from turning bright red and crying, there have been a few times where admittedly, I’ve hidden in a toilet cubicle on my break to pull myself back together.
I can handle it better now, I tell myself that it’s them, not me. Work has been going pretty good, I use the urinals, I joke around with the guys I work with now and again, something I was always too nervous to do before. Last Sunday that changed.
It was a great day, I hadn’t been misgendered once, I couldn’t wait to get home to my girlfriend. I was feeling cocky confident, maybe that’s why I was knocked down so far. Working on the kiosk (the cigarette counter) has a fair share of interesting people, when a middle-aged woman with four kids came around, her grandchildren it seemed, I thought that she was one of these interesting people, but didn’t think anything of it.
I asked her if she wanted anything else, she said that I had a feminine voice, then looking at my name badge, declaring “it’s a boy,” while laughing hysterically. I felt like I was holding so much anger in, keeping it tight within my chest, biting my lip, I knew I couldn’t retaliate. So I just bluntly said hilarious, with no emotion in my voice. I could have said nothing, but just because I worked there didn’t mean she could talk to me like that, no one should talk to anyone like that. When she handed her money out I took it, not in my usual courteous manner I admit, she started shouting and swearing, saying she would report me to my manager, to which I bluntly replied okay. I handed her the change, robotically said to have a nice day. When she walked away I heard her shouting but didn’t register what she said, I turned to look at her and she spat…
“Maybe he is queer.”
I was so angry I didn’t know what to do with myself, I couldn’t even move, I just glared at her, I wasn’t going to break eye contact, if she wanted to say that then she could look at me when she was saying it. I was frustrated, I wanted to yell at her, an older guy who works in a different department told me she wasn’t worth it, to keep my cool. I don’t know what I would have done if he wasn’t there. When I’m that angry and I can’t let it out, I know I end up breaking down. I tried to keep serving customers, I just kept tearing up, I was bright red and angry, upset, I felt sick. The man must have told my manager, he came to let me pull myself together in the stock room. I kept thinking that I must look like an idiot, that men don’t cry, even though that’s ridiculous, I just couldn’t stop thinking it.
This post, I’m writing it so I can explain, to myself, if I don’t write it will spin round and round in my head every night like it’s been doing since Sunday. I was angry for myself when she laughed at me, she was a spiteful woman. But when she called me queer I was angry for everyone, which was a peculiar emotion for me, because I’ve never really considered myself in the ‘community’, I live stealth besides a handful of people knowing. I was angry that she spat out the word queer like it was a disease. I personally identify as straight, so her words did not affect my sexuality, I was just so frustrated that we live in a world that house people like her. Not to mention I was angry for those kids, how she could show that kind of hate in front of them, how if they ever questioned themselves they would have nowhere to turn. I felt like I could feel all the hurt I had read about, all the hatred people had faced, I was hurting for everyone.