What It’s Like To Be A Trans Person Working In A Restaurant Kitchen


Philadelphia A black-and-white image of chefs in a restaurant kitchen taken as a photo from behind. Shutterstock

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  • Eater Voices

Working as a cook, I’ve experienced countless instances of transphobia, misogyny, and homophobia. I’ve had enough.

In most restaurants, the stereotype is that men work in the back of the house and women work in the front of the house. The archetype of loud-mouth male chefs running the kitchen while polite, friendly women take orders and host is prevalent not only in movies and on TV but also in our preconceptions. But life doesn’t always imitate art. I am a cook. I’m also a masc-presenting AFAB (assigned female at birth) nonbinary person. My presence on the line is often confusing for some people and sometimes, myself.

As a trans person, my identity usually lives in a liminal space. I look and dress “butch,” but my body often doesn’t align with people’s expectations of my gender expression. I don’t identify as male or female, which can be confusing or frustrating for some. I often feel I straddle the line between being seen as a woman, which feels invalidating, or being seen as “one of the guys” which, while validating my gender, often opens me up to a whole host of other issues.

A dynamic that has played out in many places that I’ve worked is that some of my male coworkers find out that I’m queer and a trans-masculine person, so they accept me as part of the group. This validation of my gender expression is euphoric. The feeling of being accepted by my peers in the kitchen as a masculine person makes me feel like I belong. Unfortunately, this comes with its own issues: Being accepted into the clique means that I’m privy to the things that other people — especially the women at work — don’t usually hear. In being validated as a masculine person, I am exposed to the things men in kitchens say only to each other. I am, after all, one of the guys.

The assumption is often that because I’m queer, I must think of and interact with women the way that some of the more misogynistic and transphobic men do, regardless of the fact that being queer and masculine doesn’t make me automatically objectify or disrespect the women in my life the way that misogynists and transphobes do. Because of this assumption, I am subjected to their so-called locker room talk. Despite my standard “masculine” work outfit of stained Dickies, a backwards hat, and Doc Martens, I also still experience misogyny, sexual harassment, and gender-based discrimination in many facets of my life, like riding the trolley or going to the store, just like the women I work with. When speaking up, though, I instantly have that acceptance revoked and am treated like a woman again. When I object to sexist, homophobic, and transphobic comments, I often get told I’m too sensitive, and that’s just how guys in kitchens talk. Suck it up.


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Written by Nicole


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