Work Stressors

Today I worked an 8-hour shift that felt as if it were more like 10. Nothing really of note except near the end of my shift, a customer stopped me and said “Excuse me… sir? Miss? Ma’am? I’m sorry, I’m not really sure what you are…” I responded with a smile and waited for the inevitable question about a certain product’s location. Once the customer realized I wasn’t going to answer the question about my gender identity and which title I go by, they asked the question and I was able to help them find what it was that they were looking for. I felt flustered at the time, and reflecting on it, I feel somewhat angry, which I find interesting because I typically enjoy when I cause people to second guess their assumptions gender. However, upon further reflection, I think part of my anger stems from the fact that we have this seemingly needless gendered title as part of our engrained greeting custom and I just feel like it’s so pointless… why? Why do we have to address someone with a gendered title? Why couldn’t it just be “excuse me”? That seems just as effective to me… Because I don’t go by sir, miss, or ma’am, so it’s not like the inclusion of any of those titles is what caught my attention, it was the “excuse me” and the look of inquiry upon the person’s face…  I think the other part of my anger stems from embarrassment. Because as much as I like making people question their assumptions about gender, I recognize that in front of other people, who may or may not hold the same assumptions about gender as the person who is questioning me, I feel vulnerable when my presentation is being questioned. I don’t know if the people who are witnessing the event are going to join in with the questions, which at times can feel like demands for answers about my gender identity, or if they are going to feel like the questions/demands are ridiculous and come to my aid. So I am left feeling vulnerable, awkward, frozen, stuck, panicky, anxious, scared, and embarrassed. And that feeling, after it is left to stew in my head for a bit turns into anger. It all sounds/feels a bit irrational to me now that I write it down, but then again, emotions and gender aren’t really all that “rational”… and come to think of it, where did I get this sense that rationality is the end all be all? I smell hegemony. I feel like it’s probably related to the way dominant discourse values science and scientific thought above other “lesser” forms of viewing/thinking about/processing the world such as religion and religious thought or art or community processes etc. which, of course, are all valid, valuable ways of viewing, thinking about, and processing the world. Humph.

After that incident, it was mostly all I could think about and I worry now that I may have ignored or avoided other customers because I was stuck in my own head, replaying that scenario and trying to figure out how I felt and why… which is especially worrisome today, and for the rest of this week because my position is temporary/seasonal and this next week is when the last round of lay-offs are happening, which means the pressure is onnnn.

That incident rekindled a cyclical worry for me that maybe the company is going to fire me simply because of the way I look, without factoring in my performance at all, because perhaps they don’t want to have to worry about customers potentially feeling uncomfortable with an employee whose gender identity is not immediately obvious to them…

Ughhhh if I were to lose this job, my partner and I will have a really hard time paying rent.. not to mention for food, vet bills, medical bills (I have to go see if I can get my broken tooth fixed and she had some medical bills come up that she thought she had already paid!), etc.

Well, for now I’m still employed and we are still keeping our heads above water. Fingers crossed I make it past next week!

Until next time…

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