Friday, 8 December 2017

Knowledge

My boss sends e-mails to me almost every day. I rarely see her any more; my timetable has changed, along with my rôle, and I'm perfectly okay with that, as she makes me a little nervous. My other colleagues, and clients if feedback from them is genuine, have no problems with anything I do; the job does, however, involve a large amount of paperwork, much of which can't be done without clients present. If they don't turn up, I can't do the paperwork.

I became abundantly aware of this during a 15-minute window yesterday wherein I gave a form to a client to fill out.

"Fill that out, please," I said. "I know it's a headache, but it needs to be done. I'm so sorry."

Which is how I act at work. If I apologise constantly, nobody else needs to do so.

I turned back to my task at hand and eventually forgot all about that client and the fact that she was filling out a form that needs to be submitted or I don't get paid for November. Fortunately, half an hour later she was back with a question.

"What does this word mean...?" she asked, pointing to the word "heterosexual" under the "sexual orientation" section of the form.
"Uh..." I started. "That's a bit of a loaded question. So, if you're attracted to the opposite sex, which in your case would be men...? I mean, maybe? Do you identify as female? I mean, I don't want to assume..."

A blank stare.

"Okay, let's start again. Do you know the term straight?"
"Why not ask her if she's gay?" suggested another client, who was both listening intently and threateningly close.
"Well, that suggests it's a binary system," I replied. "I mean, she... they... could be anything. Here we have bisexual as an option. There's also an 'other', which isn't really enough, but maybe if they are queer, or questioning, or undefined, or pansexual, or heteroflexible, or intersex... although maybe that's a gender, some of the terms are unclear..."


More blank stares.

"Tick that box," I decided upon, pointing to the "I do not wish to say" option, as I could sense both time slipping away and myself getting higher and higher onto my horse.

She ticked it, and then marked herself as "female" under the "gender" section. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and started to return to what I was doing in the first place.

I'm absolutely sure that my boss, were she present, would not approve of any brief discussion of sexualities and sexual identification, especially as I'm fairly sure she's a homophobe (although she has hired openly gay people, so maybe not that discriminating a homophobe. Still, it's no excuse.); I, however, feel it's important. I've held whole sessions with clients while discussing sexuality in quite a lot of detail. People sometimes ask if I've ever met a bisexual person - which is an odd question, since not only have I met many people of any and all genders, I'm in a relationship with a queer bisexual girl (which also gets the blank stares).

"Why is it so important?" asked a third client, who had joined the ever-increasing gaggle of those eager to listen.
"Because it is," I said impatiently. "It's something that affects us all. Love is love," I added, "and love wins. Just look at what's happened in Australia."

Another blank stare.

"Okay," I said, "I could talk about this for hours, but I haven't got hours, so if we could all move along, let's all finish what we need to do and then go home."

There was a very uncomfortable silence, during which a sudden and very vivid memory of writing down all the non-binary pronouns for a curious client who was unaware that there were any presented itself. Copy and file under my previous boss being an outspoken homophobe who referred to gay people getting married as "bastards", and my current boss believing sexuality should not be discussed in mixed company. Neither of whom were present. And I was suddenly in a room with several silent people all looking at me.

I gave my halo a spin and managed a broad smile.

"Any questions?" I asked.

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