I was in charge of a team and I got an instruction from leadership group which we basically couldn’t fulfil, and I was going to have to try and push back on that. And I was thinking about how to do that and discussing it with a colleague, and I was saying to her, ‘You know, I’m very worried. I don’t want to come across as being difficult.’ And she said to me, ‘Well, only women are difficult. Men are assertive.’ I went to go and buy a car with my friend Simon who gave me a lift, because I didn’t have a car. The salesman wouldn’t even talk to me. He would only address my friend Simon.
He was showing us around, and it was as though I didn’t even exist, and then we decided to leave because this salesman was awful. When we went to leave the salesman ran afterwards us just shouting, ‘Simon! Simon!’ On more than one occasion I’ve been in situations where people have expressed surprise when it’s become apparent I’ve been quite emotionally hurt by something that’s happened. And it’s transpired that the only reason they’ve thought that is because I was a big man. I’m the sole breadwinner for my family. I’ve got two young children, and my husband is a stay-at-home dad. Even though I’m the one who works full time, I’m still expected to be the one who does all the social things.
And, you know… I’m on the WhatsApp group, I’m the one who turns up to children’s parties, I’m the one who coordinates a lot of that stuff because I’m the mum. The domestic kitchen is the domain of women, and then you go to restaurants and hotels, and actually chefs are men. That’s really surprising. Why is that? I identify as non-binary. The sort of things I have take into consideration are what toilet I’m going to use if the building I’m in, or wherever I am, doesn’t have either gender neutral or a unisex facility. What I get a lot at work is, ‘Hiya mate, you all right?’ And then, ‘Oh, sorry love!’
[LAUGHS] I have to then make a decision about whether or not I pull that person up and correct them. I know that some people think that, yes, I should pull them up every single time and correct them. Otherwise we’re potentially not going to progress with the awareness side of things. But, again, if I pulled every single person up who said that to me or decided to refer to me in a binary pronoun, I think it’s all I’d talk about. I was recently a passenger in a car with my wife. We were in the back seat. The two other passengers were ladies.
They were friends of my wife, I didn’t particularly know them, I’d only met them a couple of times previously. We set off on the car journey, and within a few minutes it began to behave erratically. It was juddering, et cetera. The lady that was driving the car pulled over, jumped out, jumped back in, and immediately announced, ‘Oh, I’ve got a flat tyre!’ Everybody immediately, the other three ladies, looked at me with an expectancy that me, being the only male in the car, would automatically change the wheel. Wasn’t even my car, but there you go. Can you fix a tyre? Yes. [LAUGHS] Yeah. Did it, yeah. But you did do it? Yeah, I did do it.
Yeah, because we were stuck otherwise so, you know, I had to do it. Speaking to other women in my life who, have walked home at night on their own perhaps, and have had a man walk behind them, and how that made them feel uncomfortable. And taking the time to either cross the road if a can, or make sure that they’re aware that I’m there, and I’m going to walk past. Like I’m a bit of big horror fan, and I often get people saying that I don’t look like I like horror films. And then I ask, what does a horror fan look like? And they don’t know.
I don’t know if it’s common in Western countries, but it’s quite a common phenomenon in China, in a romantic relationship boys are more likely to compromise, no matter who is wrong, when arguments happen. Me and my husband did some backpacking around South America, and we often ended up in quite a peculiar situation where I would approach a member of staff perhaps at a hotel, or if we were taking a tour, to try and arrange something. And I could speak Spanish, so I would be putting on my best Spanish accent, and trying to communicate. And they would just look directly at my husband, and just direct their response back at him.
And I ended up in a peculiar position where I was acting as a translator so that the men could talk. So I recently went on holiday to Thailand travelling on my own, and before I went I felt like I had to justify myself to several people that I wasn’t travelling there for the sex trade. And people kind of made that assumption. The reality being that one of my best friends has lived in Bangkok for the last three years, and I was going to meet up with them. It can be hard to be a man sometimes when you know nothing and care very little about football, because men, it’s their default method of making small talk.
It’s like a common language, and if you can’t speak it sometimes you’re seen as a little bit strange, a little bit other, and can even have your sexuality challenged sometimes. I have a three-year-old who loves dressing up, loves wearing dresses, loves doing roleplay, is really, really into ballet dancing at the moment and watching ballet, watching dancing. And that 3-year-old is a boy, which most people think when I’m describing him will think that he’s a girl. Men who get incredibly competitive if I overtake them on my bike, or if I’m out running, and feel need - of some of them - to try and overtake me just to prove, obviously, that they’re better than I am.
Even if it means that they physically overexert in doing so. OK, so it was my first week at university. Really excited. Freshers’ week, everything was brand new. And I went to a club with a group of friends and, as you do, got separated. I was on my own on the dance floor and everything was fine, when a guy came up behind me and put his hand under my skirt. And at the time I just froze because I wasn’t expecting that. And I turned and I just gave him a big shove to get him away from me, and nobody asked me if I was OK. Everyone just stood around and cheered the fact that I’d given him a push.
They acted as if this was something completely normal, and something perfectly normal to happen in that sort of setting. And it was only after a period of months, years, that I realised that really wasn’t OK. That was not an OK experience. That was assault, and that took me a lot of time to get my head around.