Just Man Up

I’ve been struggling with coming out at work. 

I hate being in this weird limbo stage. It kind of fucks with my head a little, being one person at work and someone different everywhere else. I have started coming out slowly to more people. I came out to a woman yesterday and she seemed supportive. But I know that she is a lesbian, so it felt like a safe bet. It’s the macho straight cis-guys that sit in the cubicles on either side of me that I would like to share my status with, but I am a little apprehensive to do so. I also almost came out in my team meeting on Wednesday, but I just could not get the nerve up.

I was talking about it with a younger woman I work with who knows. She stopped by my desk the other night to say good-bye. I was finishing up a phone call with a customer. She was telling me that she just couldn’t believe how much my voice has changed, but that she noticed it was significantly more feminine when I was on the phone. I explained that my ‘phone voice’ has always been that way, and it’s a really hard habit to break. Also, it’s been a little bit of a struggle to train myself to speak from my chest instead of my throat. Sometimes the rattling/vibrating feeling I get because my voice is much deeper reminds me that I’m doing it right, but out of habit I always revert back to my throat. I explained this to her, but she didn’t seem to understand. After 26 years, old habits die hard. We were also talking about my facial hair because I had shown her how well it was growing in. She asked if that was just me letting it grow and I explained that I shaved a few days ago, but that it’s coming in very quickly now and I’m just waiting for it to fill in. She told me that I just need to let it grow and see where it goes. I explained to her that since it is so visible, and since I don’t pass I am concerned with looking unkempt and it drawing people’s attention more. She told me to fuck what they think and asked, “But it’s that what you were going for? Didn’t you want facial hair?” I explained to her that I do, indeed, want facial hair, but that at this point in time I need to be careful. I am in this in-between faze and I am concerned for my safety and I am tired of being stared at, that the last thing I want is to draw even more attention to myself in general public. She said that she understood, but I realized she didn’t when she told me:

Just man up and do it.

This was really concerning to me and I realized that even people in our own community don’t understand. This more than ever makes me want to fight for education in our own community as well as with the general public. How can we expect the straight and cis-gendered community to see, understand and accept us if the people ‘most like us’ (if you will) don’t. I brushed it off at the time, and tried to explain once more my view, but she still didn’t seem to get it. The more I think about it though the more it bothers me.

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5 thoughts on “Just Man Up

  1. It sounds like your workplace might be pretty big, or at least more than a handful of people. Do you think there’s any chance HR could help? If there is any kind of “diversity coordinator” or the like in HR, they might be the person to talk to. Work is hard. But it’s worth it. I work with mostly guys, all straight (though very geeky), and forever I’ve been pretty much the only out queer person, and I’m definitely the first trans person any of them have known. In my case, HR did a brief training for my colleagues (basically they outed me, telling them they really did have to get pronouns right eventually, answering generic questions about trans people that would have been annoying for me to answer over and over). It did help. Good luck.

    • Thank you for commenting.
      Yeah, my work is huge. Giant communications company. There’s like 500 folks in my building alone. I came out to an old supervisor last May and she talked to HR for me to try and get them to let me change my name. They told her that unless it was legal there was nothing that they could/would do.
      I’ve been feeling kind of dysphoric at work, but actually this comment from you and my new intense need to make changes in my life gave me the nerve to speak up yesterday again. And good things came of it…

  2. Yeah, she sounds pretty clueless. To me, this sounds like a mix of cissexism/ignorance and sexist social expectations of men. The notion that a guy should “man up” and act tough is really pervasive. In my experience, a lot of people who have “feminist” views of women still hold these sorts of views about men.

    For what it’s worth, I have the high phone voice too, haha. The only time I get misgendered is on the phone. I take comfort in the fact that my phone/polite voice sounds just like my dad’s. He gets ma’am’ed on the phone from time to time, too.

    • I think you’re right. I was surprised because she is a lesbian, but I am finding that does’t mean anything any more. People are ignorant, no matter what.
      That is actually really comforting. I find when I’m on the phone or being really respectful (i.e. talking to old people) my deep voice goes right out the window, haha.

      • Transition really changed my views of cis LGB people. Unfortunately they are often just as sexist and cissexist as many cis straight people. Many others are awesome trans allies, of course. What still surprises me is trans people who are sexist and/or homophobic. They’re out there!

        For awhile I tried to change my polite voice but then I was like, wait–I don’t give a shit. Haha. Sometimes when it happens now I just say “Oh, I’m a guy.” People fall all over themselves apologizing.

        I actually think many cis people get misgendered more than they realize and they just don’t notice. As a trans man I am EXTREMELY tuned in to the minute sound difference between someone calling me “man” vs “ma’am.” But when this happens to a cis guy, he probably just assumes they said “man” and never gives it a second thought.

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