So I’m at work, and my boss is making tranny jokes again

I’m at work, and my boss is making tranny jokes again. She’s sitting at the bar, drunk, and over the general commotion of a busy restaurant, I keep catching fragments of her conversation. Stray phrases drift over to the corner where I stand, polishing the cutlery – comments about chicks with dicks, about men in dresses, about traps, about trannies.

Tranny, tranny, tranny. I have such mixed feelings towards that word. As a genderqueer person, it took a long time for me to think of myself as trans, a lot of evenings spent reading about trans rights and trans activism and thinking, this isn’t for me, I don’t count. I don’t count.

But whether or not I can consider myself trans, if I did transition – and I do want to transition – to other people I would be a tranny. It’s bizarre to have spent so long struggling to accept that a label applies to me, only for other people to throw a bastardisation of that label at me as an insult.

The boss isn’t making these jokes at my expense, I must add. I’m not ‘out’ at work. I tell people the male name on my passport was chosen by hippie parents with a weird sense of humour, make jokes about the lesbian stereotypes that I, with my men’s clothes and barbershop haircut, fulfill precisely. I am not even brave enough to wear a binder here, a fact which twists my insides into circles every time I walk through the door. I clear plates, painfully aware of my awkward, obvious, tumour-like breasts, of the aching voice inside me which whispers to me constantly. Disgusting. Disgusting.

And there’s my boss, at the bar, cackling at the idea that some women have cocks and some boys have cunts, that people like me exist.


What do you want me to say? That I threw a drink in her face? Came up with a stinging retort? Quit on the spot?

I didn’t.

I’m sure some of you will be reading this and wondering why I didn’t just leave and get another job. I’m equally sure most of you will know that it isn’t always that easy. My boss might not be okay with me being trans, but she doesn’t care that I’m gay – which is more than I can say about other people I’ve worked for. My coworkers call me by the right name, the customers are nice, we get our tips. And in the state I’m in, sometimes even doing the job I have is hard enough, let alone finding a new one.

So when customers are rude, obnoxious and picky, I smile. When they shove into me or knock things out of my hands, I smile. When they make comments about my body, I pretend not to hear. I smile.

And when table 19 spend an hour loudly discussing how unnatural it is for gay couples to raise children, I swallow against the tightness in my throat, ask if they need a dessert menu. Smile.

I am not ashamed of my job. People often assume I am – as if the fact that I serve people for a living means that my life has gone wrong somehow. But if you think that earning a living on minimum wage is something to be ashamed of, that standing on your feet for fifty hours a week doesn’t constitute hard work, then I’m going to assume you’ve never had to do it. No job is inherently degrading. In my books, a cleaner and a CEO are equally deserving of respect. My job does not make me ashamed. I work my ass off, and I refuse to be anything but proud of that fact.

But when the man from table 19 stumbles up to me at the end of the evening and presses a ten pound tip into my hands, I feel humiliated.

Big smile. Oh, sir, you’re too kind. Thank you very much indeed.


I’d like to transition. The idea that one day my body could be something I’m not disgusted by is miraculous to me. I am not a man or a woman, and being big and bearded would be as crushing and as unnatural to me as being curvy and feminine is for me now. But that doesn’t mean transitioning isn’t a thing I can do. Give me a body that is somewhere in between, and I’ll be happy. It won’t be perfect – but then, I don’t think anyone’s body is. At home, I stand in front of the mirror and press my breasts flat, imagining a straight-line waist, a deeper voice, maybe even the shadow of stubble around my jaw.

Then, with a little internal shiver that feels like glass shattering, the thought comes.

How will I get a job?


Some things give me hope. The older trans lady who comes into our restaurant on weekdays to type away on her macbook – she gives me hope. So do the gender-ambiguous folk who run our local soup van, who look me and my partner in the eye, slip us extra portions of bread. The fact that there are other visibly and vocally trans people in the world, living and working and laughing – that gives me hope.

But just now, I’m at work, and my boss is making tranny jokes again. I pass her on my way to the tills, look into her stupid, drunk, sagging face, and imagine taking a baseball bat to her precious fucking bar, visualise glasses shattering against the floor, whiskey gushing from smashed bottles.

But I have bills to pay and books to buy and studying to do, so I just smile.

Hi, guys. Can I get you any more drinks?

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