Ever since coming out at work, I have had to deal with people around me being overprotective of me. At first, this was a minor inconvenience, something I figured wouldn’t last very long. This defensive behavior started to relax a week after coming out, but it has never disappeared completely. In fact, it has started to get worse. In the last couple of weeks, I have experienced a trend of managers and coworkers being overprotective to the point that it is patronizing and frankly infantilizing.
This overprotectiveness has manifested in many ways, but the most evident is a fear of me getting into any sort of disagreement or conflict. At the slightest hint of any sort of tension in an interaction, I have people jumping in to check if I am alright. Someone will interrupt a completely normal conversation with “Is this person bothering you?” or “do you need me to come over there?”. If this happened once or twice it would be irritating but not a huge deal, but it happens at least once a week if not more. It isn’t even the same person every time, it is multiple people across different departments and levels. The general fear seems to be that people will be transphobic towards me if I speak with them alone, which I have not found to be the case. Instead, it just shows a lack of trust in my ability to handle a routine conversation both to me and the people nearby.
While these events were grating, the most egregious event happened this week. My department had a holiday party at a local restaurant, one where you had to go to the counter to order. I had never been before and didn’t know this, so I sat down without ordering. Someone told me that I had to go up to the counter to order and before I could get up to go order, one of my coworkers says “Don’t worry Natalie, I will go up with you and help you order.” I was livid. I am an adult, I don’t need your help to order food. But I also didn’t want to make a scene so I didn’t say anything. He goes up with me to the counter and proceeds to tell the server, “SHE will be on the holiday party tab”, with an awful amount of emphasis on “she”. I wanted to die of embarrassment. He stood with me the entire time I ordered and while waiting for my order. The icing on the cake was going back to my table and having a different coworker ask me if the server “had given me any trouble”. How incompetent and fragile does everyone think I am?
The unfortunate aspect of these events is that the same people treating me like a child were also the most accepting of me coming out. These are the people who switched pronouns and name flawlessly and even correct others when they misgender me. Sadly, they are also my biggest hindrance at work. It is humiliating to be coddled because people are afraid I will be mistreated. I am just as capable and competent as I was before coming out, but it is difficult to prove it when well-meaning allies jump in to “protect” me. I don’t want special treatment because I am transgender, I just want to be treated like any other woman. Right now, overprotective allies are the biggest impediment to that happening.