TOO TALL FOR A WOMAN
Have you ever built a house?
It sounds exciting right?
It is! It’s one of those dream come true moments! You get to choose all the finishes. Have everything exactly like you want it. With in reason, like you know, within the 5 options available to you plus a splurge on a upgrade or two here or there. I was drunk with power!
Maniacal laughter!!! Delight!!! I chose the paint colours! I chose the dishwasher! I chose the stove and the backsplash and the counters and how big the rooms were and how big the garage was and which hood fan we have!
God I was out of control FUCKING THRILLED ABOUT THE HOOD FAN!
Its shiny stainless steel, its sharp angles, its to the ceiling stack that meant I had finally made it!
THAT’S RIGHT! MY HOOD FAN WAS MY SIGNAL TO THE WORLD THAT I HAD ARRIVED
This all meant a lot to me because I grew up broke as a joke. And somehow in my mind, like filling your gas tank all the way full not just $20 at a time full, and using parchment paper made me feel like I had “made it”, so was a fancy hood fan. It was this ridiculous thing that rich people had. Or at least they had the one that wasn’t the plain old almond coloured one with the one black switch that toggled left for low and right for high that graced my very dishevelled childhood kitchen.
(Let me just tell you for a point of reference that when I was 19 I thought potatoes were served best out of a can. This is true. I remember the moment I served them to someone and they said “but why would you buy them canned to begin with?” and I was mortified and vowed never to be so embarrassed ever again. This is when I taught myself to cook my watching hours of The Food Network. You’re welcome wife! You can mostly thank Chef Michael Smith of “Chef At Home” based on PEI, taught me all the cooking foundations. )
Anywho! So there I was, 23 years old and living the dream of picking out my own fancy hood fan. I was the lead on all this house building stuff. My husband was off at work and I cared more and I was home during the day and well I’m still me even though I was presenting as a woman at the time.
But then that fancy hood fan that I paid ALL THE DOLLARS to upgrade to so it would be so shiny and so up to the ceiling, like a real sign of my success was installed, and it was…. just not quite right.
No problem, I thought. I paid the dollars, I’m the customer, just a little mistake, we’ll get this fixed no problem.
ENTER THE PATRIARCHY
The hood was crooked, and had a 1/2 gap between the stack and the vent. Now I know I’m not a contractor. Just a dude operating in girl mode for the rest of the world to see, but I know when there’s a gap between two pieces of metal.
I explained to the large man with the bear paws. “See when we use a level, how it’s crooked? See how there’s that gap there?”
“Hmmmmm no, I don’t think it’s that big a deal,” he responds.
I push a little more. “Well it feels like a big deal to me, and since I bought it and paid you to install it, I think that it should feel like a big deal to you too. So let’s just humour me and say that it is.” I said it charmingly. You know, how women do, so as not to piss the man off but still get what they need.
And he doesn’t like that. So he tinkers a bit. “There, better?”
“No not really, we paid extra to have you install this properly….”
“Listen lady!” he cuts me off. “You’re pretty tall for a woman!” The words cut deep in a way I won’t understand for a decade later. “What are you, like 5’9 or something? Dudes don’t care about this stuff and women, most of them won’t even be able to see this. So….”
then I gave in.
He left. I felt small and wrong and stupid.
Over and over in my life I’ve watched this pattern play out between men and myself.
Every time I’ve defaulted to believing I’m the wrong one.
I asked for too much! I was too big.
I wanted too much respect.
When I first transitioned, the thing I noticed most was:
The more I was being read as male, the more I was just naturally being treated with dignity and respect in a way that I wasn’t used to.
Most men have no idea the lens the world sees them through JUST FOR BEING MALE.
It’s not their fault. They’ve never known anything different. But I do.
Back then, I wasn’t quite strong enough to stand up for myself on my own. I needed help, and I’m grateful that my then-husband gave it to me.
When I told him what happened he was pissed. His indignation showed me how silly it was that I had allowed someone to treat me like that and think that it was my fault. It allowed me to see the situation with me removed from it. Would he have dared to speak to a man that way. Would he have told a man he was too tall for his own good? Absolutely not so why was I so quick to make this about me being wrong rather than him. With this new found moral high ground and outrage, I called his boss and had him fired. Because I didn’t back down. I didn’t take just an apology, and let it roll off my back. I paid thousands of dollars for the professional I paid to treat me less than.
That’s when I decided never again.
Instead I was kind, but unwavering “that bitch that got Tony fired!” I know because another trades person told me the “bitch” part. And for the first time I felt thrilled with being that bitch instead of ashamed.
Because no one lets me pay them thousands of dollars, treat me like shit, and then get away with it while telling me that I’m the crazy one. And yet. This happens day in and day out to women everywhere.
Two years have passed since the last time I was misgendered as female by a stranger, and as the time zooms past so does my ability to notice when I’m being treated “better” because I’m being seen as male.
The water we are steeped in is a powerful one, and although I have the first 31 years of socialization that have set my responses to things like getting in trouble, or being yelled at or being wrong or being emotional or so many other toxic things that we gender.
I am being steeped in a new water now.
In water where I have privilege. Where my words mean more than they should and one where my masculinity is always in question, where I fight hard to not put on a different type of mask, to not harden under the pressure of masculinity.