First Boi In: On Being a Masculine of Center Woman in Corporate America

Tux

I’ve heard it said that lesbian femme women come out everyday, in reference to their having to constantly inform people that they are, in fact, lesbians. At this point, the offending party usually states, “You don’t look gay…,” prompting the femme to roll her eyes and retort, “What the hell does gay look like, anyway?” before she walks away.

I humbly submit that Masculine of Center woman have their own version of coming out everyday… at least in my world, I do. And such was the case when I started working at a place I’ll simply refer to as the Company. For the purpose of this blog, think of the Company as your run-of the-mill corporate office. It’s a pretty large corporation with many different people in the office, comprising an employee base of different ethnicities, genders, and communities. But despite the diversity at the Company, I don’t think they ever counted on having a person like me coming in and turning their whole view of gender on its ear.

Now, I’m pretty un-assuming.  Catch me on a regular day, and I will probably have on some jeans, a tee, and sneakers. Nothing at all really gender defining (unless you pay closer attention to how my clothes are being worn ). They have had a business casual dress code at most places where I’ve worked. So, I could usually get away with simple Dockers and a polo shirt. No fuss, no muss. But the day I walked into the Company and was told that we had an “all business, all the time” dress code, I have to be honest: I panicked.

In my mind, it should have been simple. I have never had any problem being very out. But it felt like this was about to be an incredibly defining moment in my own journey as a Masculine Of Center woman. Turns out, this moment would prove significant to the straight female corporate trainer as well, because when I raised my hand to clarify, “So, anytime we wear a dress shirt we must wear a tie as well right?” and the room went silent, she stared at me for a good 2 to 3 mins and finally answered hesitantly, “Yes, the men do, yes.”

The very next day I came back into work and did all the dapper bois proud. Black slacks, white dress shirt with a pink-black-white silk tie. Hair freshly twisted with shades on. And yes I turned many heads. I walked in and saw all the ladies in the office look over to watch me walk down the aisle. I finally got to my group and nobody said a word. And then finally one of the female supervisors said “Ooh I like your tie.” My journey as the first boi in the office had begun.

You never really forget the day you realize that not only are you a stranger in a foreign land, but you are the first of a species that those around you have never witnessed. I had to get used to the stares daily. The interested glances of some and the disdain of others. I had to tow the line between curious women and distrustful men. And I had to do it all while maintaining who I was and making sure to carry myself in such a way as not to fall prey to the pre-conceived notions that people around me had just because I wore a tie instead of a dress.

People around me were scared because they thought that because I wore a tie and had a “masculine” demeanor that I was going to be this super aggressive person that they couldn’t communicate with. I was told that I walked in everyday a bit cocky like I owned the place. That people were unhinged by me because not only did I dress like the guys but I OUT-dressed the guys. And all I was doing was consistently being me.

It has been interesting to watch the change in attitudes since I have been with the company. I understand that part of it is me being ME. Always being the happy, talkative, sometimes act a fool, charismatic person that I am. I had to continue to be me. Keep smiling, keep laughing, keep being the positive person that I am. I don’t think my purpose was ever really to change anyone’s mind. I never felt that I needed to because those that are true and genuine would feel that coming from me. The more they saw the positivity running off of me the more they wanted to understand me.

I see the people whose attitudes have totally changed about me and in a sense MOC women as a whole, who have become so much more open and open to all of the interesting twists that I have brought to their day. The girls who love to talk to me and, yes, still love to flirt with me. The men who no longer feel threatened but have kidnapped me and made me the unwilling boi in their boys club. In good fun as well. There have been losses too. I won’t be a fool and say that I don’t notice the ones who can’t get used to having a person like me around. The women who are too scared to talk to me because of course I’m going to try to pick them up. And who make sure to draw attention to any woman that I talk to more than twice. Yes I notice.

But sometimes, I wonder if I’m getting a pass BECAUSE I am so easy to swallow? Will it really be that much easier for the next MOC woman that walks through those doors? I have no idea. But I’m certain I will never forget my experience as the first boi in.

  • Justa Notha

    Thank you for sharing this! I don’t think that femmes (such as myself) who complain about “always having to come out” are at all saying that we have it harder than bois–just different. It’s true that we do real like we’re always having to come out, but that also means we get to “pass,” choosing when and where to reveal our sexuality, which let’s us avoid a lot of casual homophobia. (Not that men who don’t take “I’m a Lesbian” as a valid reason for turning them down are much fun to deal with, but I’ve heard plenty butch women get that too.)

    As a femme, I understand that although we live overshadowed by our closet, yours is made of glass, glass which becomes more clear the more you show your masculine side.

    You could have chosen the route many kind-of-passing masculine-of-center women go, and bought slightly masculine women’s suits–but you chose to take it to the next level. Good for you!

    It’s true that you having a pleasant personality probably did make it easier, but isn’t that true for anybody?

    Your making a difference by opening people’s mind to the beautiful variety of life.

    • http://www.facebook.com/soulaquarian Carolyn Wysinger

      Thanks! And I definatly hear you about femmes sometimes having the option of passing. Its so interesting all of our experiences in daily "coming out" are as vast and varying as our different gender identities. Its interesting to see how we handle these situations going outside of our box because we are often so insulated in our queer community.

      I definalty consider the lady suits and there is actually one 40something at my job in upper management who i watch daily in her lady suits. But I figured if Im gonna do it I just as well do it 🙂 Its somewhat interesting to note, at least in my experience, the younger the MOC woman the more likely she is to express her masculine identity at work. So perhaps its a generational thing. Now THAT is defiantly something to explore…hmmmmmm

  • http://www.facebook.com/BoiMeetsPlay Shae Archer

    Great article! As a boi looking to start her career I find your experience really helpful in knowing what to expect out there in the business world. Thanks for sharing your valuable experience!

    • http://www.facebook.com/soulaquarian Carolyn Wysinger

      Thanks Shae! I know it is sometimes a challenge being comfortable expressing our MOC self in a space thats already juding us on so many levels when all we are just trying to do our jobs. But I think if we continue to enter the coporate sector dressed as we are and continue to be the fierce, intelligent, well articulated, passionate individuals that we are we can move mountains and soon it wont even matter.

  • Towanna

    Excellent, excellent, such insight. Thank you for sharing this experience with us, I look forward to reading more from you.

    • http://www.facebook.com/soulaquarian Carolyn Wysinger

      Thanks Towanna! I look forward to sharing more of my experiences!

  • http://rainbowgenderpunk.wordpress.com/ mx. punk

     i love this article!  i’m a CAFAB non-binary trans* person (it’s a mouthful, i know) and i work at weddings.  i wear suits and i get a lot of stares, sometimes.  i think i know what you mean about being “the first of a species…”.  it’s great to read about someone who has experiences similar to mine!

  • http://twitter.com/HumanLikeCell Jah’fiki Irie

    Never have I had a story match my own. Lol. It feels good, I always wonder who in MOC community experiences the exact same thing.

  • GreenLantern

    Not all MOC women are lesbians so its a myth about passing, no one needs to worry about passing as straight all that needs to be done is have more straight or Bi MOC women come out and change the image.

  • GreenLantern

    I personally wish i could dress butch and not get looks of any kind from women, and not have women assume im a lesbian because to be truthful im not into women at all, infact i cant stand them. It would be great to not have men assume i dont like them just because of how i want to present.