Rumors flying around the kindergarten classroomPosted: March 7, 2014 Filed under: Janitorial work, Passing | Tags: androgyny, gender identity, genderqueer, janitors, lgbt, lgbtq, non-binary, passing, trans, work 9 Comments
A couple of days ago at work, I was passing by 2 kindergarteners who were putting on their boots, getting ready to go home for the day. One whispered to the other, “Is she a boy? She looks like a boy.” I thought it was super cute – it’s cute how kids think that if they whisper, there’s no way you can hear them. It’s cute how kids’ gender categories are only “girl” and “boy,” no matter how old the person they’re talking about is. It’s cute how kids are so curious.
Then tonight, a book fair was going on. A mom and her daughter arrived a little early and the mom asked me where it was being held. We were about half- the-hallway’s-length away from each other; I gave her directions to the cafeteria. She said thanks and I started to turn the corner when I heard her say, “Oh, I was just wondering?” I turned to face her again and she continued.
“What’s your name?”
I told her my name, which is a slightly androgynized version of my very feminine name.
She said, “Oh ok, sorry, I thought you were someone else. My apologies. For my daughter.”
“Sure, no problem.” She then told me her name (I forget now) and, “Nice to meet you.”
I walked away from that having no idea what motivated those questions or who she might have thought I was. No one ever mistakes me from someone else. I don’t mean to be boastful, but I’ve been told that I have a very distinct face so many times that it’s become a source of internal pride.
As I thought it through, all I could imagine was that this was a kindergartener here with her mom (she looked to be kindergarten age). The kids had been increasingly wondering whether I am a boy or a girl, and this one kid even spread the word to her mom. And her mom was helping clear it up for her. I’d rather it not get cleared up!
This is why I’m seriously considering going by a masculine-sounding name.
All through the 90’s, up until 2002, I made most of my living performing in elemenary schools, and at public events. I got very used to kids outright asking “are you a girl or a boy?” At that time the whole thing was still a big secret, but it always made me feel good when kids would ask. I had several evasive answers, but would never commit to anything.
Outness in a school, especially an elementary school, is a way complicated thing. And, outness about being trans is way more complicated than outness about being gay. And, outness about being non-binary is way beyond outness about being trans.
I have an unfortunate habit of posting advice that I think is helpful but is possibly just nosey. So here it is: under the assumtion that you will be more and more out as time goes on, make sure that you establish a network of supporters in the school. For myself, I have found that “in-ness” is no longer an option. I can’t imagine working in a school, where the opinions of hundreds of parents is an issue. Make sure that the principal at least is on your side.
Good luck, and sorry about the nosey opinion.
I find your comments to be thought provoking; not at all nosey! You are so right about ontness in an elementary school being a complicated thing.
Even though I think about it quite a bit, I wouldn’t actually move forward with coming out at work until I have A, B, and C lined up (and convo. with principal is definitely on that list). I’m an overthinker and like to plan things out ahead of time whenever possible… Some aspects/outcomes might end up being outside of my control though, and I have to remember that…
“I’d rather it not get cleared up!” Hehe. I can relate. I’ve wanted the in-betweenness and felt like a sellout once when I declared “I’m a girl” to a defensive little girl who was doing gender-bendy things that could get her hurt (somersaults on the bleachers, climbing trees etc.).
yeah, it’s easy to find myself not being true to how I feel, with the pressures of day-to-day life. I just try not to be too hard on myself about it and consider asserting myself next time, if it feels right.
At least the lady was nice about it!
*you def look like that person
very true. I have not felt disrespected in regards to gender by anyone while at work (only uncomfortable for not speaking up, not knowing what to say, time after time), and for that I am grateful.
(sorry for commenting on such an old post but i just had to say)
I’ve been working at an elementary school for six months. The other day i heard a child with their parent (waiting for their older sibling / child) asking in a very audible whisper “Is that a boy or a woman?” and i was very pleased with this. That choice of words made the perfect sense. Like i look either like a schoolboy or an adult woman. Sadly, I dont know how the parent replied.
Oh awesome! That must have felt good. In what kind of capacity do you work at an elementary school? I really like that type of environment.
Also, you can comment on any posts! Old and new! Haha
I am an intern? Or something. I mostly help 9-12 year olds with math and arrange afternoon activities for younger kids. It is so much fun!
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