Be a Man!
My Experiences Involving Workplace Harassment as a Transgender Individual
First things first: Let's rip off the band-aid. I'm transgender—female to male—and have been passing for a little over a year now. If you're unfamiliar with the term "passing," it simply means that I resemble the gender that I feel is most right for me. In this case, I look like a male and no one questions that I am one. Mostly this is an excellent thing because I have been wanting this for many years and finally I don't have to deal with people mistaking me for a woman. It's awesome.
Unfortunately, this creates problems sometimes. In American society, a man is expected to act a certain way. By no means am I your average Joe guy. I am not loud, particularly muscular (though I used to be) or hairy. My walk does not have the typical manly swagger and I use my hands to express emotion when speaking. I used to have shame in this, but this is simply who I am. However, recently, this caused me some trouble at a place I used to work.
Back in July 2017, I was hired as a dough production worker at a bagel place near Seattle, Washington. Working conditions were highly industrial, meaning that I had to "toughen up" if I wanted to keep up with the type of work. It was extremely manual labor; we're talking lifting fifty to one hundred pounds of raw dough, bags of flour, and being quick with loading stuff from a conveyor belt. It was fast paced and I was heaving giant globs of raw dough for eight hours, five days a week. Since I had a strong history of hitting the gym two years prior, the actual work wasn't as hard as it could have been. The real trouble came from my coworkers.
There were four of us who worked in the "dough room," as the establishment called it. One of the guys was a little off-putting and at first, I didn't know why. Over time, though, I learned that he'd cause me some discomfort. For the most part, I'm very easy-going and friendly, so this guy would chat it up with me. Harmless conversations at first, but after a while, he started poking me with a knife every so often, which is when things started to get weird.
At first, I thought he was playing. The knives weren't sharp—most of them had blunt edges but were serrated for cutting dough. I saw him poking or lightly punching the other dudes, sort of rough play, and figured it wasn't that big of a deal. I'm not too sensitive, so I brushed it off. Then, he would come up behind me and poke me with other knives with sharper edges. The line between play and harassment became blurred and I noticed he did it to me more than he would the other guys.
It was creepy to the point that I didn't want to say anything. Looking back now, I should have had the self-respect to tell him to back the f*** off, but I was a timid guy back then and sort of let it happen. Also, I was afraid of rocking the boat. So this continued for a while and I wasn't sure if it was because I was smaller or that I carried myself a certain way or what.
One day we were talking about names and he told me that my name sounded fake. My name is pretty strange, but it's one of those names that are old and haven't been used for centuries. I didn't think much of what he said, but later on, when there was a lull in the workload, he was talking to the other workers. All the other workers were there and he was saying that he was checking the roster for his schedule and said that there was a woman's name on the list when he knows there are only four men working in the dough room.
Now, at that point, I hadn't changed my name legally, so my ID stated the name I was given at birth, which is an extremely feminine name. My employer apparently puts the schedules up with everyone's name for everyone else to see. I never checked the schedule because my boss constantly told everyone what their hours were on a daily basis so I figured I wouldn't need to check. I also figured there was a lot of workers on the schedule since this was a schedule for the entire factory and thought that the name would get lost in the crowd and no one would question.
At that point, though, I knew that I'd been found out. The sneaky little jerk had looked me up because my name was "weird" and put two and two together and decided he wanted to share it with the rest of the dough room. I thought at that point he would out me and call me some anti-trans slurs or stuff like that, but he didn't outright call me out. But he did say my birth name very loud and insinuated to me that he was going to do that, but no one really questioned who this "girl" was and we left it at that. Fortunately, the guy quit. My biggest regret was not reporting him to the manager. Still, I'm glad nothing extremely dangerous happened and that now I'm safe.