I started my new job last week and I came across a new situation.
How do I refer to my husband to my new coworkers since he hasn’t begun to transition yet?
In my prior job from over a year ago, they knew Jello as a her, and while I am sure there would be gossip behind my back, they would accept the transition without hesitation. He was always “a little odd” and they were never surprised by the stories I would tell. However, I don’t know about my current job.
My first day at work was scattered, nerve wracking, having a three hour commute I wasn’t used to, it all just added up to an overtired spouse. I got to meet my coworkers and they all seemed incredibly nice. We made small talk that included previous jobs, experiences, school and finally family. They of course all asked me how my wife was doing. This was the first time this had ever been asked of me by strangers and I was stumped for a moment.
My original contact with my new coworkers was during my initial interview. When I first met them Jello had not fully decided on transition (he was considering if he could live in-between). Because of that I maintained during my interview that Jello was my wife (plus I wasn’t sure if there would be repercussions. So by the end of the interview, as far as they knew Jello was my wife of 21 years. When the question came up on my first day of work I just panicked and told them that my wife was doing great. They seemed happy to hear that and moved onto other subjects.
Inside I felt a pang of regret immediately. I idly wondered if Peter had felt that way when he denied Jesus three times (ok, that is hyperbole, and I don’t necessarily follow religion, its just an example). The whole day I was wracked with guilt, I kept wondering if I had really screwed up. I am proud to be married to him, but for some reason the panic erased my normally combative attitude towards anyone who doesn’t except Jello as a him. I wish I could say that my answer to them was anything but automatic panic, but it wasn’t.
I got home, feeling a little guilty, and I confessed my sins to Jello. I knew he would be understanding and it turned out I was right. He laughed at me when I told him, having thought it very funny that I was uncomfortable. He then turned around reassured me that it was ok. He said that he didn’t mind that I had panicked and referred to him as my wife. After all we had been married for 21 years with that understanding. Jello then clarified to me that he isn’t expecting official recognition until he is on testosterone. He also indicated that it probably was better I didn’t jump the gun before the actual transition started (hopefully December 3rd). After all we don’t know if there would be any blowback at me because I would be in a homosexual marriage (and most of the staff are older ladies). I don’t think there will be, but because it is our only source of income maybe he is right.
After my guilt passed, I realized it wasn’t a big deal. In fact I think what bothered me most is that I didn’t stand up to them. My self identity is very combative and unafraid of pushing people. I almost never back down and to find myself backing down upset me a lot. It feels like weakness, and that is not acceptable with how I grew up.
It was eye-opening to realize what bothered me most in the end wasn’t telling my coworkers that Jello was my wife, but that I showed what I grew up with thinking as a moment of weakness. It means I need to work not only on how I handle introducing my husband, but also of ridding myself of internal misogyny.
p.s. I apologize for the lack of posts recently, new job got in the way. Hopefully that will change now.