Below is a description of what it’s like to be trans as a young mechanic, which was written for Racing Pride by a trans woman in the automotive industry in her mid-20s who prefers to remain anonymous. She also has experience of participating in motorsport. She isn’t out as trans to people in her workplace and feels lucky that she is able to pass on a daily basis (to be taken as being a cis woman). In this piece she explains why that is, and why the actions of allies can make a huge difference to the experience of trans people like her.
Being a female mechanic isn’t easy. Being trans on top of that can make it quite challenging at times. I started my transition well before applying for my current job and got to a point of passing [being seen as female] nearly 100% of the time as well, so I luckily have the option of “not being out” at work. Let me explain why this option seems like the best one at this point in time.
Coming into this industry as a trans person was certainly an experience filled with anxiety right from the start. Even just applying involves additional concerns such as making sure your online presence is kept to an absolute minimum, to avoid HR finding out stuff about your past in case they do some background checks. I’m not entirely sure if it would have made a difference, but I felt it was better to be safe than sorry – I do need a job after all. Working in a new place always comes with expectations. In this case: rather conservative opinions, dark humor, and always having a comeback ready. All of those were true, sort of.
I want to start by mentioning here that I generally like my colleagues. Most of them are fun to be around and do manage to make me smile on a bad day. When it comes to LGBTQ+ topics though, it often gets complicated. The L, G, and B already get some jokes that cross the line from funny to insulting. I seriously doubt the ones making these jokes even notice the difference sometimes. The T gets dragged into absurdity quite quickly, oftentimes being invalidated in terms of “actually existing”. The Q+ is usually something they haven’t heard of and gets met with a response along the lines of “Ohh did they make up some new genders again? I’m just gonna claim to be a vacuum cleaner next week.”
The really sad thing about all this is that I don’t know how much I can challenge their claims, without them realizing that I am trans myself. With some of those jokes about lesbians being directed at me I can’t begin to imagine how insensitive comments would get from some people if they knew about my transition. I simply don’t want to end up as fair game for harassment and insults, so this leads to me being careful when to stand up to those things, checking about once per hour if there are any visible signs of remaining facial hair, if pores in these areas got dirty or oily to give the same effect, and reminding myself to absolutely keep the pitch of my voice on point, especially if I’m slightly sick etc. If there’s a post-work party, I have to smuggle in a razor and find a safe space to shave without someone noticing.
It’s difficult to communicate to people who aren’t in the LGBTQ+ community themselves how much open support can mean sometimes. I still get really happy when I remember that time when out of nowhere a colleague stood up against one of those uncalled for tirades about “not being able to say anything anymore these days”. When this happens I sadly can’t really thank them for it, but they are certainly much appreciated! So please DO show your support and acceptance. You never know if one of the people on your table is in a similar situation to me.
The general level of acceptance has improved a lot in my opinion over the last few years, especially among younger people. That being said, there is still a lot of work to do in terms of equality, education, and awareness about all the issues some of us have to face every day, with, or in my case without, our peers knowing about it.
Finally to everyone who already accepts and supports us: Thank you ❤️