Navigating new situations is nearly always a tricky thing, gender-wise. The past two weeks at the new job have been a bit mixed. Overall, it’s going well (more occasionally awkward than actually bad). I’m out, I think, although not in so many words — I haven’t directly said that I’m trans (no one’s asked), but I have stated that I prefer masculine pronouns in front of my entire training class.
The job starts with five weeks of training; I’ve just finished week two. There are almost thirty other people in my class, and we started by introducing ourselves (our names, where we were working prior to this job, and something we want to share). When my turn came, I said that my name is Ryan, I interned with the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois in Chicago, and I use masculine pronouns — so, he/his/him — and, of course, I’m a Pisces. And then it continued on.
It was pretty much exactly the opportunity for which I was looking. I’m never sure how to bring up the pronoun thing if I haven’t been specifically asked, but that seemed like the perfect time. Plus, the name/pronouns/astrological sign format felt comfortable to me, and I didn’t really see a reason to deviate from it. No one made a fuss about it, and for the most part, people have been using masculine pronouns for me. So, that’s gone surprisingly well.
On the other hand, one of the things about the job that makes me most uncomfortable is that we must refer to callers as “Mr.” or “Ms.” (whatever the last name is) — it’s basically non-negotiable. If I don’t, the call will be failed, and if that happens too many times, I will be fired.
This is a big deal. Honestly, I cringe every time I hear someone call a caller “Mr.” or “Ms.” — I can’t help it. Personally, culturally, that’s just not something I’m comfortable with; where I’m “from” (my circles of queer, trans people), we do our best not to use gendered terms for people without their consent. It’s just not part of our culture (well, culture of sorts).
I know that most people will likely not have an issue with the gendered terms used for them, but I’ve upset by being misgendered on the phone far too many times to be okay with potentially doing the same to others. And beyond that, it’s the principle of the thing. I believe that we should always ask about preferred pronouns, not just in trans circles — constantly and unnecessarily gendering people, and referring to them thusly, just goes against everything I stand for. I don’t always succeed in that, but I really try, and it’s distressing that keeping true to my values in that way would cause my employment to be terminated.
On a more positive note, I brought up my concerns with my manager when I had a brief introductory meeting with him. Although he hadn’t heard anyone voice similar concerns before (no surprise there), he was receptive and respectful. I don’t think there’s anything I can do to avoid the calling people “Mr.” or “Ms.” (short of quitting, which is not really an option, not over this), but I appreciated that he took my discomfort with it seriously and didn’t just tell me to get over it.