Working in an All-Male Environment

I have a temporary job at a factory near my house that lets parents order their child’s christmas card design as actual cards. It’s a really neat idea. I work at the end of the production line checking that the packaged orders are complete before sending it on to be sealed and shipped. There are so many temporary staff there right now, probably 30 of us working in different sections of the business, and there’s a really interesting divide. Upstairs is where the scanning of artwork happens, and touching up/editing of the pictures. Downstairs is where the cards get printed, packaged and shipped. Upstairs has more girls than guys based on who I see in the staff room in breaks (maybe like a 60:40 ratio), downstairs there are 7 guys and me.

I didn’t notice this at all for the first few days that I was working there, I felt comfortable where I was- granted they’re not Manly Men, being a mixture of gap year students and middle aged dad types- but when I noticed the people coming downstairs at break times it was weird. I get uncomfortable around feminine girls, and the majority of those upstairs are just that. I wonder what they think, if they pity me for being the only one working with a bunch of guys, or for being stuck on a production line while they work in an office but then I’m like…that really doesn’t matter. I like it. I feel more comfortable than I would surrounded by them.

I do feel kind of excluded though. Not in a nobody-talks-to-me kind of way, because they do and they’re very nice, but more of a they-treat-me-like-i’m-delicate type way. Its little things, I’ll get a smile and a thumbs up as my boss walks past or the people I work with will look concerned when I go towards them to ask them a question- which they don’t do for anyone else. I wonder if they feel weird with me being there.

Some people have a job that needs them to move around the room carrying or preparing boxes, so its easy to have conversations in passing. If our machine jams (which it does a lot), while its being fixed we have nothing to do, so the guy working next to me tends to wander about and chat to other people as they work. He went home early today and the machine jammed for an unusually long amount of time so we were told to take 5. I wandered over to other people, exchanged a few words. The general feeling I got was friendliness from the ‘dads’ and wariness from the students, like I had an ulterior motive and didn’t just want a chat.

Its nice now I’ve been there for over a week that they’re starting to include me in their banter. I think the combination of me being shy and knowing (or at least thinking) that they see me as the odd one out has made this harder than it needed to be in terms of holding a conversation. Also I haven’t been talking much because of my voice. Being surrounded by voices of a lower pitch than my own has made me far more conscious of how it sounds, which in turn makes me nervous and causes it to go higher (which is so counterproductive, thanks self).

Overall I’m pretty happy, the people are nice but I think I might be making myself the outsider by thinking that they think of me as one. A couple of people are leaving this week and I’m sort of hoping that they aren’t replaced by girls because they make me uncomfortable in a whole different way.

 

That Moment When Your Gender Finally Hits You

I’ve been identifying as not-cis for a while now, unsure of where exactly to place myself but knowing that it isn’t at Girl. There’s been this weird kind of disconnect though, where I’ve known it but not known it- if that makes sense. Like I’ve been seeing pictures of more androgynous/masculine people and thinking ‘hey I wanna look like that’ but not really taking myself seriously I guess? I don’t know, I don’t even understand it so its hard to explain but I’ve got to write this out because I have so many feelings right now.

I think the main distinction is that I forget that other people don’t see me as I see myself, and when I realise that difference its always a weird feeling. I just feel like a person. Not a girl, not a boy. A person. Who wants to look like a boy. I think.

This morning seeing my dad only wearing boxers was a kind of zap- like hey I want to look like that. He’s not got a perfect body, and so much body hair (which I don’t really like the idea of but at the same time I do?). Then I had to get dressed and nothing seemed to look right on me, not how I wanted it to.

But the real moment, the real tipping point was when I went on Facebook this evening to send a link to a friend and seeing as I haven’t logged on in a while decided to scroll down and see what my friends had been up to. What I was confronted by was pictures of them and their friends (unsurprisingly) and when I reached a certain one of a guy I knew at school something just clicked. I want that. I feel no connection to the girl pictures at all, even the ones that aren’t dressed up with makeup and such, in fact I feel uncomfortable imagining myself in the same room as them.

And when that something in my brain clicked I just stopped. My heart was racing. My palms were sweating. How should I react? Will this change how I feel about myself?

It feels like I’ve been drawing something through foggy glasses these past few months and now they’ve been wiped clean. Everything fits together. It makes sense. And it’s terrifying.

I Don’t Know Which Bathroom To Use

Last weekend I went with my mum to visit my sister at uni. On the way we stopped at a supermarket to pick up some shopping for her because she’s ill and hadn’t been out to get food in a while.  As a general rule I try to avoid public bathrooms because it gives me so much anxiety but there was no way I was going to make it to my sister’s so I didn’t have much of a choice in the situation.

Heading towards the toilets, the disabled cubicle was on my right, female toilets in front of me and male to the left. I almost went into the disabled one, but I have only done that once and felt so guilty because there may have been someone who actually needed it waiting so I hovered between the male and female for a couple of seconds, trying to decide which was less intimidating.

I darted into the women’s bathroom in the end, grateful that there was nobody in there. While I was in the cubicle though a lady and her young daughter came in. I waited until what I thought were two doors shutting so there’d be nobody to see me as I left, but when I emerged the daughter was standing against the sinks instead of in a cubicle. She stopped talking to her mum when she saw me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw her look at me for a couple of seconds before sliding away from me to stand at the other end of the bathroom.

I decided not to dry my hands, that I just wanted to get out of there, but as I went to leave the door opened in front of me and the lady coming in just froze in the doorway looking at me. I hate that look. The expression that’s a mixture of shock and disgust. The almost glare as they try to figure out why I’m in their space. The confusion as they wonder if maybe they’ve made a mistake.

My main problem is that I encounter this kind of situation almost every time I use the women’s, but women (on the whole) tend to read me as male more often than guys do. Also, I’ve never used the men’s room so the idea is terrifying because I don’t know what to expect, and I don’t feel fully like a guy so I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of going in there. I feel like it might be the better option though. That or using the disabled loo, but that feels wrong.

I hate gendered bathrooms.

 

Joining the Ace Community

Written for the October 2016 Carnival of Aces

As I mentioned in my previous post for the carnival, it took me a long time to start identifying with the label of Asexual after the first time I came across the term. Seeing as I mostly covered my journey to identification in that post, I think I’ll cover my thoughts and experiences with the community in this one.

It’s getting pretty close to 3 years since I took the label as my own, wow time flies. My first experiences were on tumblr, probably around Ace Awareness Week looking back on it. I just remember a whole lot of validation posts being reblogged by the people I was following. This in turn led me to do further research until I gradually ended up following several ace people and feeling a connection to them when they made comments, either on posts or in the tags, about being ace- although I never spoke to them. Reblogging ace-positive content was my way of being a part of the community even though I didn’t know anybody.

When the Ace Penpal Project was started I watched from the sidelines, being too nervous talking to people (and having an incredible inability to hold a conversation). I think it took a good few months before I actually put my name down and was matched with a fellow ace person. She was lovely, we chatted, but like all of my online conversations it tailed off after a month or so which was a shame. But I mean, we didn’t have a lot in common so it makes sense. I think that’s the problem with being matched with someone at random, but it was a nice experience.

Shortly after (for unrelated reasons) I mostly stopped using tumblr and started spending more time on WordPress where I came across other members of the community, those who were writing about their experiences which felt extremely validating to me- more so than short posts on tumblr telling me I was valid- and was part of the reason I started this blog in order to do the same for other people.

Until recently I hadn’t met any openly ace people in person, until my aunt came out to me a while ago and one of my friends recently updated their tumblr profile (something that I’d had a feeling about for a while based on the way that they seemed very uncomfortable when sex was mentioned like I did).

I don’t think I really feel like I am part of the community, I just identify the same way as other people who are. To me, being a part of the ace community is about self-validation and pride. About finding a group of people who have similar experiences to me and knowing that if I ever need to vent there’ll be someone there who gets it (because as much as my non-ace friends can offer words of comfort its not the same). And even though I feel like I’m right on the edge of the community, its where I want to be.

Etsy is My Outlet

I didn’t realise how soothing art was until recently. I knew that people used it as a form of self therapy but I never really got it. If I don’t have the focus to read, I’ve been watching tv and knitting to give my hands something to do, and damn its comforting.

I can knit with no background noise and it just calms my thoughts, completely neutralises whatever was happening in my head beforehand. It’s funny because I think of a guy knitting and my thoughts immediately jump to how other people would see that (hello internalised gender roles) but when I do it it feels natural- I find it hard to think of anything, I just get absorbed by the motion and the fact that my hands take it in turns to move and this thing is created in front of me.

The same when I model with clay. The tedium of making multiple near-identical blobs dissolves as soon as I start adding detail, it becomes soothing instead. It’s probably partly the physical motion of it, having to move my hands in order to achieve my goal, and the feeling of the clay/wool being shaped as I want. As well as that the feeling of achieving something at the end of it when I don’t feel like doing anything is pretty good.

It may only be temporary and fade when I stop, but I like it. It makes me feel like my job reducing its hours doesn’t equate to me wasting all of my free days.


My Etsy can be found at here. Any orientations not in my shop are going to be in there eventually, but I have no plan in terms of order of priority so am open to requests 🙂

Choosing a Name is Hard

At some point last year my friend said (for some reason, I can’t remember why) that my male name would be Jasper. That’s stuck with me and I’ve been thinking about it a lot the past couple of months. Recently I’ve adopted it as my name. First because I like it as a name, and it feels right. And it doesn’t feel too masculine to me, it feels like a name that allows me some femininity- if that makes sense. That’s my main reason for liking it I think. As well as this, its also a gemstone (the only male gem name!) which matches my birthname. That’s less important, more of a factor of like “hey that’s neat”.

I messaged this friend before I went to sleep one night last week with a simple question: boy names that suit me. They did not disappoint- sending me several long messages (starting with the fact that Jasper is their go-to name for me) and then so many name suggestions, each with a little comment or explanation, or whether they thought it would fit me or not. I’ll be honest, I read it all through several times before replying, and went back to it several times, just because I was so touched by the amount of thought that had gone into it. At the end of the message stream was a question- was I thinking of going by a different name or was this for something else?

Boy, did that question give me anxiety. I sent a reply back with my thoughts on the name suggestions and that yes, I was considering using a different name but am still figuring stuff out so just looking for ideas at the moment. They replied that they get the figuring out taking time, that its been years and they still don’t know. They offered to send some example sentences with my name/pronouns, to skype if I wanted to hear it out loud and I returned the offer. It was nice to come out and be come out to at the same time, its good to feel that I have someone I know that I can talk to if I need to.

Someone I was at uni with who tried to befriend me but I was kind of an asshat to them and ignored them a lot because I had a lot of stuff to deal with has recently been tagged in several pictures/posts on Facebook by someone called Jasper. Who is also trans. I know its silly but when I see these posts I just feel horrible, like I don’t want to take a name of someone that someone I know knows (is that grammatically correct?! I feel like it makes sense. I hope it does). It’s like…I don’t want to somehow be seen as copying, because I’m doubting myself enough as it is and having them there makes me feel like an impostor, or like I’m imitating others.

But I get an awful lot of comfort from my name if I just repeat it over in my head when I feel like people are misgendering me mentally, so I think I’ll keep it.