This is an article I wrote for the LGBTQ+ newsletter at work.
Never assume – I’m not a Tomboy
When I was a kid I had short hair, I liked climbing trees, I played with my Transformers, mostly wore trousers and I liked gardening with Dad. When I went on holiday other kids often thought I was a boy. People called me a tomboy. I’ve never considered myself a tomboy, I also liked playing Sindy dolls with my sister and I’d sometimes wear a Sunday best dress to church. I’m just me – but people like to categorise – it makes them feel safer, people like to make sense of the world in a way that suits them.
However, we are all different and I’m yet to meet anyone who 100% matches the expected categorisation of female or male. The dictionary definitions of female and male denote sex organs, as such, I would be considered female – and I appreciate those who choose to define themselves this way. However, I believe that gender has become more than sex organs. When the media, historical and cultural values come into force, people are seen differently because of their gender. It becomes natural that people use the words female and male to categorise people and as a result treat them differently. I do not want to be treated differently because I have a vagina and I do not associate myself with the cultural norms of female despite my sex organs. In my opinion I believe everyone should be treated equally – but differently – as individuals and not because of their genetics or gender.
This is why I associate myself as non-binary. Few people would guess this from meeting me, in fact a lot of people don’t know the term. If you feel the need for categories, ask people the question, you might not get the answer you’re expecting.
Non-binary, also known as genderqueer, is a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or exclusively feminine—identities that are outside the gender binary.
These days, when I wear a dress or a skirt, people often feel the need to tell me. Yes, I do choose to wear dresses and skirts sometimes, but most of the time I feel more comfortable in trousers. For me they are more flexible and less hassle, but I don’t need to be told on the days that I’m not wearing trousers what I am wearing. I chose my clothes and put them on – I am aware. Let’s try not to make judgements about the way people look and what they choose to wear or make it a part of our daily commentary. Come on, there are more important, more interesting and more fun things in life.
With regard to diversity, Royal Mail are getting involved. Royal Mail encourages employees to bring their whole selves to work and this has helped some to feel more able to come out and be open with their gender and/or sexuality. Royal Mail is also proud of its association with Pride, encouraging attendance, providing a Pride striped postbox at events and covering Pride both internally and externally in media. However, what more can we all do?
At work I have been accused of being bossy, would these managers call me this if they saw me as male? Or would I be considered a confident and strong individual with leadership skills? What affect do these ingrained assumptions have on the lack of non-males climbing the career ladder and pay scales?
Women are called bossy in the workplace more often than men. Women were twice as likely to be told they are bossy (33% of women, 17% of men).
I consider myself to be someone with strong opinions and a confident manner. When I am called bossy, I question it, whoever suggests this. But not everyone feels able to do this – so people, especially, but not exclusively, at work, need to think about what they say. We all make mistakes, but be aware of them, consider them and next time – don’t do it!
The Fire Brigade Union said it had not used the term ‘firemen’ for decades and has “consistently complained to print and broadcast media and programme makers for using this archaic term that no longer represents our modern fire and rescue service”.
In our line of business, I’ve heard and read the term ‘Postmen’ being used regularly, sometimes in the context of Postmen and women, but not always. As the second largest employer in the UK with Postie’s being one of our most common jobs, should we look at re-naming this role? We used to have Policemen and Policewomen, we now have Police Officers. We used to have Firewomen and Firemen, we now have Fire Fighters. How about Delivery Officers? Or Postal Fighters? 😊 Royal Mail has a huge majority of men across all levels of the business – what can we do to improve this? In the gender reporting, where do non-male and non-females sit? What is the official term for a non-female and non-male postie?
I have a lot of questions and I’m eager to learn more. But there are things that we can all do to address inequality in the workplace:
- Kindly pull someone up when they use genderised or inappropriate language
- Treat each other equally and with respect
- Don’t judge, invite discussion and listen – learn from others
- Get to know people who are different from yourself
This last point is interesting to me.
Without contact with people outside our comfort zone, it is easy to fall victim to stereotypical thoughts and misconceptions. Until real life experiences are had with others we can easily lose site of our innate human similarities.
A company that can successfully manage a diverse workplace has a solid advantage over companies that don’t embrace diversity so readily.
If someone is different from you, get to know them and why they are different. You may be surprised at how similar they are when you get to know them, perhaps you’ll learn more about the world around you and other people’s perspectives. When a kid chooses to wear trousers and play with Transformers, maybe they’re just that – a kid. When an adult doesn’t conform to the stereotypes and categorisations that you’re familiar with, perhaps they are simply a person. I by no means claim to know it all, I’m learning all the time, but let’s do it, let’s stop making assumptions and make Royal Mail and the world a better place for all people.