So, a few weeks ago I posted a note in the break room at work:
“Dear friends and co-workers:
Your co-worker Eli is transgender. Being transgender can mean many different things for many different people. For Eli, it means he would prefer male pronouns when referring to him.
Thank you for your support.
And it was up on the board where the schedule is posted, so many people would see it. It was there for a few days.
I still get pretty consistently referred to with female pronouns. And I want to be patient. And I do understand, that it is (for many) just a matter of breaking an old habit. Some people, who knew me before the name change, sometimes slip and call me by my birth name. They usually correct themselves immediately. And I understand, really, I do.
But sometimes it just irks me, ya know? Sometimes I just wanna say, “look, I went to the trouble to learn your name and call you by your pronoun preference, I would appreciate the same courtesy from you.” Sometimes, I just wanna ask them to be a bit more mindful, and acknowledge that there are more than cis- people in the world. I am not going to apologize for the space I take up on this planet. And I am not going to apologize for being myself, finally.
They can now thank me for not requiring gender-neutral pronouns, or the much-lauded, grammatically-troubling “singular they” in place of “she.”
So, I get to have, in a very busy and loud grocery store, daily conversations about my gender, just to get the goddamn pronoun right. I get to correct people who may or may not have read the note. I get to correct people who have told me they “think [they] will never get it right.” And I hate doing that. I hate feeling like I’m being picky or up somebody’s ass all the time because I don’t know when I should or should not correct someone, so I just better do it all the time and what an ass I must sound like, patrolling everyone’s pronouns usage.
Ahem. Ok, I’m done bitching.
Actually, the people I work with are great. They want to do this the right way, and are trying. I am just feeling a bit impatient, and a bit unnerved at the fact that I have to keep talking about being trans at work. It’s not exactly the most comfortable subject to discuss in the check out line. So I get a bit testy–because no one likes to feel exposed like that. No one likes to discuss their personal gender shit at work. But English does come with gendered pronouns, so I have to muddle through these shitty conversations, again and again, until everyone is on board.
And I hate it. I hate that I’m the only trans person at work. Why couldn’t there have been one to come before me, so I could just stroll onto the scene and be like, “Yeah, me too, see what that guy had? I’ll take one of those: proper gendered pronouns and complete understanding of my singular experience to go with it. Thanks.”
I am thankful that my co-workers are good-natured about it, and do want to do right by me, and are trying. I suppose the least I could do would be to give them the benefit of the doubt and allow them a few “she/her” get out of jail free cards. And I do allow them the space to fuck it up: in fact, I usually don’t correct them, because I know many of them slip-up and realize the second it leaves their mouth that “she” was wrong.
But some of them don’t know, some of them were on vacation when the note was up, or didn’t see the schedule board during those few days, or whatever. So as they refer to me with female pronouns, on the sale floor, surrounded by customers, I get to decide on the spot: do I just cringe and take it in the hopes that they figure it out, or do I correct them on the floor and have that “Um, you just called me by female pronouns and I go by male pronouns now” conversation punctuated by “Excuse me, where is the cream cheese?”
I think this would be easier for them, for my friends and co-workers, if I was on T. Right now, they look at me and I look the same (minus the tits) and I sound the same as when I was going by my birth name and using female pronouns. But they don’t realize that back then, in that body with that chest and those pronouns, I didn’t see myself the way they saw me. I was always a guy in my head, and so nothing has changed for me. I have had all this time, over 30 years, to see myself as male, and many of them have only had a week or two. So how long does it take? Some are calling me by male pronouns and using Eli really easily, and some have even told me that this makes more sense to them, that referring to me as male is easier for them than it was to refer to me as female.
So, trans friends out in internet-world, tell me about your trans-related work woes: did you come out? How did it go? What advice do you have for me?
Or, cis-folks and work friends, tell me, how can I make this transition easier for you?
Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli