The first crew I worked with when I started my electrical apprenticeship job back in September was a bit odd. At the time, I thought my two coworkers were typical of what I’d be experiencing in the company, but after being moved to a few different crews, I realize now that they are exceptions: Silent, reserved, and socially-awkward, whereas the other dozen or so folks I’ve met are friendly, engaging, and interesting. So, I didn’t come out as queer, with those first guys. There simply wasn’t an opportunity, because they didn’t talk much.
From there, I was sent to a giant condo development for a day, where a large crew was working on the initial construction wiring. Two old classmates from tradeschool were there, and it was great to catch up. They, of course, know I’m queer, because I was pretty vocal in calling-out the rampant homophobia in our classroom. No one mentioned it that day, but the journeyman I worked with implied that he knew, with some funny (and otherwise completely non-sequitur!) comments making it clear that he was cool with “teh gays”. I really liked him, and was sad that we only got so brief a time together.
After that, I was sent to the mall construction site where I was for two weeks. On my second day, I arrived to find that the foreman, the other apprentice and myself had been joined by another worker: My buddy Astro. We bear-hugged, and then just grinned at each other. The other guys thought we were nuts, because we just couldn’t stop smiling.
Astro is the brother of my friend Starling, who is pretty much the QUEEREST PERSON EVER. Well, in my life, anyway. Starling is genderqueer, polyqueer, sexqueer, foodqueer, litqueer, cuddlequeer, bikequeer, lifequeer, just so so so queer. We first met at the womens’ centre at the university many years ago, then both worked at the organic farm, and just generally have had overlapping lives for a long time.
Astro was actually at the hospital construction site where I first worked two and half years ago, but we never talked until we both got laid off and happened to be at the union hall on the same day. I mentioned working at the farm, and Astro said that his sibling worked at an organic farm, and we quickly realized it was Starling. We became friends on a social networking site, and he ended up coming to my birthday party a couple months later. That’s when I found out he’s an artist, a painter with a Fine Arts degree… He and Oats spent a part of the evening talking about her paintings, which cover the walls of our apartment. I soon found out that Astro also shares my love of post-apocalyptic daydreaming, food preservation, dumpster-diving, and traveling, and has a similar push/pull relationship with academia. He is soft-spoken and a little nerdy-looking, and more than a little weird and spacey, in all the best ways.
So anyway, to suddenly be working with Astro was an amazing gift. Not only because he’s hilarious, but because I felt so safe. I hadn’t been consciously tense about my situation before, but just knowing that I had a solid ally was a huge relief. Also, it provided the perfect opening to come out to the other two guys, because it was natural that Astro and I would talk about Oats and her dreams of doing an MFA.
As easy as that: At break one day, sitting in the food court, Astro and I started discussing the challenge of getting a gallery show, and so I told him about the small art gallery that Oats and I booked for our wedding last spring. He laughed about how the owner confessed she wasn’t too into the paintings of spring flowers that happened to be on display during our rental, but thought that at least they’d be nice, non-complicated backgrounds for our wedding photos… Like Oats and I, Astro is not a fan of “nice, non-complicated” art. Our other coworkers listened and ate their snacks and eventually when the conversation turned to a broader topic, they joined in. No big deal, really… But enough of one, to make me feel better.
With my next crew, the one I’m with now, I came out to my primary coworker within five minutes of meeting him: He commented on how professional my flashlight looked, and I told him that it had been my partner’s, from when she was a security guard many years ago. Apparently, I told him, it’s the heaviest flashlight allowed without being classified as an actual weapon. “Wow,” he smiled, amused, and asked to hold it, then it gave some swings through the air like a club before handing it back.
Again, no big deal… But enough of one.
After this, I’m sure word will travel fast. Apprentices move from crew to crew throughout the company on a pretty regular basis, and everyone always asks who you know, who you’ve worked with, what you think about them… And I’m guessing my being queer will be a little factoid tacked-on to the things people say about me. Of course, I’m hoping that they’ll also say I’m a fast learner and an easy-going, friendly co-worker, with a good sense of humour. And they probably will, because I seem to be well-liked. But I’m pretty certain that as one of very few women in a large trades company, my sexuality will be of interest. Whatever, I’m over it. I’m just glad to be out.