I keep thinking I’m bigger and more masculine than I actually am

I’m not complaining; it’s not a bad thing!  My surroundings sort of facilitate this, which is fine by me.  As a janitor at an elementary school, I spend most of my time, during the work-week, with women and children (if I’m with anyone at all).  Every teacher I interact with regularly is relatively feminine in her attire, mannerisms, and speech.  (There are a handful of men who teach / work at this school; I just don’t happen to see them on a regular basis.)  Every child running around me getting ready to head home for the day, is tiny.  I wear a work uniform which is super masculine by default.  (Like, we don’t have “women’s uniforms” and “men’s uniforms.”  We just have uniforms.)  In addition to the uniform, I wear men’s pants and men’s hiking boots.  I imagine my movements are relatively masculine.  I’m working, I’m using big, sweeping motions.  I saunter around slowly, sometimes with my hiking boots untied.

I am surrounded all day long by tiny furniture.  The classrooms I clean are for kindergarteners through 2nd graders.  (My co-worker cleans the bigger kids’ rooms.)  Some of these table tops are seriously 2 feet off the ground.  I have to essentially bend in half in order to spray and wipe them all down, daily.  (My poor back!)

Not an actual room I clean, but a good representation.

Not an actual room I clean, but a good representation.

I’m only 5’4″ (or maybe a little shorter than that.  I like to think I’m 5’4″ – I’m at least that with my hiking boots on!) but I feel like a giant!  Sometimes I sit down in the teeny tiny chair at the teeny tiny table and just catch my breath / think / relax.  It’s sorta like I’m in a fun house, where my self-perception is distorted because of my surroundings.

It's tough to get your knees to fit under the table.  Again, not actual school/teacher/kids, but good representation.

It’s tough to get your knees to fit under the table. Again, not actual school/teacher/kids, but a good representation.

I like this feeling a lot.  It helps me feel more like the way I see myself.  The only tough thing about it is when I get a glimpse of myself in the mirror (this happens at home too, it’s not just a work thing) and I realize how tiny and feminine I actually am!  I seem to especially hone in on my neck, for whatever reason – it’s so dainty and slender and like it could snap right in half so easily.  My wrists too; it feels like my hands could snap off at any time.  These feelings don’t really translate into me feeling like I should be taking more testosterone and becoming more masculine.  They’re just sorta… fleeting, at least for the time being.

Another thing that’s going on at work that’s somewhat related is:  age.  The kids stay the same; the parents stay the same.  (Not really of course.  Kids grow up.  I just mean I’m perpetually surrounded by kids and parents around the same ages, they cycle through, while I get older and older.)  I used to be the youngest person who worked at the school, for years.  Now, there’s a teacher who is younger than me. When did that happen?!  (It happened last year.)  Also, parents keep looking younger and younger.  Many of them are, in fact, younger than me now, which is a shift.  In fact, just yesterday, a parent recognized me from high school.  She was in a grade below me.  It was super weird!

It’s just not the same as it used to be:  kids and parents these days!

10 Comments on “I keep thinking I’m bigger and more masculine than I actually am”

  1. rimonim says:

    I feel you on the neck/wrists thing–one of those subtle-yet-critical gender cues that dysphoria reveals. Weirdly, in my experience, having a thicker/more square neck is one of the most powerful visual gender signs; really tips the balance in how people read you.


    • janitorqueer says:

      Yeah, the neck! Aargh! This is why I sport a mohawk/mullet hybrid. Having longer hair framing my neck really helps to hide it / obscure it. I used to have short hair, and I looked much more feminine (at least in my opinion.) So, that’s why I’ve been rocking this hairstyle for over 10 years now!


  2. PlainT says:

    There’s nothing like working with other male janitors and being around little kid tables and femme teachers to make you feel alternately big/manly and small/feminine.


    • PlainT says:

      Oops meant to add this.

      You do touch upon something really interesting here that resonated with me: we always compare ourselves to our surroundings, and if our surroundings are extreme in some sense (i.e. I am surrounded by really smart people or really athletic people) we see ourselves in opposition to that extreme. In reality, our truth may be somewhere in the middle, but the extremes of our surroundings make us feel like we need to push ourselves out of the middle and towards the extremes. This is what makes the “middle” such an uncomfortable place.

      Liked by 1 person

      • janitorqueer says:

        Yeah, I think this was exactly what I was getting at! Thanks for crystallizing the idea so eloquently! It’s important to keep in mind how we might be comparing ourselves to others around us, especially if it’s causing a negative self-perception.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. George Davis says:

    Have you ever taken judo or karate? It might make you feel big in a different way.


  4. dexxwizard says:

    This was very interesting to read and thought provoking on many levels. I too have the glimpse in the mirror syndrome!


  5. We were talking about kids TV shows at work a few weeks ago. I recognized all the shows but they were ones I’d watched with my own kids when they were little… meanwhile my coworkers had watched them as small children. It’s very disconcerting to realize a good number of my coworkers are the same age as my kids.


  6. karenmcl says:

    Interesting to hear my own thoughts reflected back at me, only from the viewpoint of a man who happens to be trans, rather than my own, female perspective. For me, it’s been a curious process, this whole business of transition, standing (at times) outside myself and watching my own thoughts and reactions. Sounds like you, and most of your commentators have found the same thing to be true, too.


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