I am a lawyer, a corporate lawyer to be exact. One of those high heeled, tight skirted, ironed bloused, tight-lipped woman, who spends her days sipping diet coke in her glass-paned office overlooking the city. I smile at the older white men I am largely surrounded by and let them ask me if I have a boyfriend. I shave every inch of my body and dutifully apply red lipstick when we attend cocktail events. Right?
I am a lawyer, a corporate lawyer indeed. But I wear my mother's old jeans jacket and my favourite converse to the office, and my unshaven legs and armpits confuse even the smartest lawyers I work with. My nose piercing glistens in the sun as I eat my lunch outside on the grass, and the nipple piercing on my bra-less breast usually pokes out just slightly from underneath my shirt.
Every day I walk into an environment where the assumption is that I am a straight, conservative, demure and hard-working woman. Only one of those assumptions is accurate. I work hard, that much is true, but beyond that, I feel like a jellyfish floating outside the boundaries of the stereotypes that have been cast onto me in the office.
I love women and men. My sexuality doesn't define me, but the blindness and possibly even intentional stifling thereof can feel minimising some days. Because my sexual fluidity pours into other parts of me and fluidity isn't exactly synonymous with corporate law. Because some days I wear bowties and loafers and others I wear vintage high school uniforms that once belonged to French school girls. I identify as a woman but I dislike how gendered and subsequently gender rigid my daily work environment feels.
And while I have willingly embraced the role of the bulldozer that bludgeons the proverbial wall of corporate illiberalism, sometimes it does get to me. There are days when I feel self-conscious about my hairy legs when I am sitting in a meeting and all the other women seem to have just popped out of their mother's womb because how else can you explain their hairless bodies. There are client dinners that exhaust me, largely due to the fact that every question about my personal life is framed with the notion that it must revolve around (or at minimum involve) a man. There are the countless days where my wardrobe choices must come with an invisible balloon that hovers above me at all times and reads "please give me unsolicited feedback about my fashion style."
But, I keep pushing. I keep pushing through the stereotypes associated with my profession and gender, and along the way I allow myself to have days when I feel a little less than courageous. On the days that I feel 7 feet tall, fluid like a cuppa, and connected to the original (wo)(man) I am, I celebrate. And the other days…I let those exist too.
Because my identity is what reminds me of why I love myself. But their stereotypes are what helps me remember why it's so important to love everybody else.