At school yesterday, I was waiting for a colleague to finish talking to another teacher. She turned to me and said, “Yes, sir.”
And then died a little.
It was clearly one of those it’s-Friday-and-I’m-fried things, a simple slip of the tongue. She was mortified. She even mentioned it to the next person who walked by–“I just called her ‘sir!'”
And I laughed along, and was greatly amused by the whole thing.
But then suddenly it struck me: I’m not out at work.
I have this tendency to assume that I’m out by default–I present as a big butch dyke, and I don’t pussyfoot around that at all. So I generally figure everyone just knows I’m a lesbian. But my gender identity is another matter entirely.
I applied for this job with my full name, which is distinctly female. I do this as a default for professional settings–it’s my legal name, after all, and I like to make it clear that I’m a woman. Even though I quickly transitioned to my preferred name (my initials), the faculty and students are very clear that there’s a Ms. attached to my name. (Or a Mrs. in some cases, though it’s inaccurate. Have other people in education noticed that some kids seem to have difficulty with the whole Ms. concept? But I digress…)
So no one here knows that many public restrooms strike fear in my heart. No one knows that I used to get misgendered on a daily basis. No one knows how near and dear trans issues are to me.
What does it mean to work in an environment that is blind to my gender journey? Will I grow close enough to anyone here to even bring any of these issues up in conversation? I’m actually worried enough about being (so it seems) the only visible queer in a small-town faculty. I feel guilty about not outing myself more explicitly. I feel uncomfortable with what I’m already assessing as very heterosexual work norms, the way men and women flirt and tease subtly in the course of the day.
Who am I here?