A bit of an introduction, because I’m kind of new here. My name is Hez, and I’ve been in the industry for about a year and a half now (HI HEZ!). I’m nonbinary and use they/them pronouns. More often than not, I’m told I’m my coworkers first brush with transness. I’ve heard multiple times from other budtenders “I’ve never met anyone like you before”. And maybe that’s true. And maybe that’s also true for you. But chances are, I’m not the first queer person they’ve encountered before, I’m just the first one to hold them accountable.
I’ve been in workplaces where my identity has been ignored and disregarded by the people around me. I’ve had managers refuse to call me by my chosen name, and supervisors who have refused to use my correct pronouns. I’ve had customers refuse to be served by me. I’ve even had one customer ask why I had “they/them” written on my name tag, and when I explained about my pronouns, their response was “oh, I thought you had *multiple personality disorder* (D.I.D) and those were your personalities” and then never came back to be served by me again, even though he was regularly in the shop.
But it’s not always like that. I currently work somewhere where my queer identity is recognized and celebrated. Where all of my coworkers use or actively try to use my pronouns (and correct one another or themselves when they slip up), and where my managers and supervisors supported me in having top surgery earlier this year.
I’ve had coworkers (at multiple places) be open with me about also being members of the LGBTQIA2+ community after seeing how open I am about my identity. I’ve seen customers go from anxious to at ease when presenting me with pieces of ID’s that may have different names than the one they prefer to go by. There are guests who see me and gravitate towards me because they feel safe and seen by another queer person - some of them have even brought their spouses in to meet me.
And that’s why visibility is so important. It allows for love and compassion and understanding and empathy. It speaks both to the cannabis experience and to the human condition. And truly, the end result is something we’re all seeking, queer, straight, cis, trans, anyone and everyone in between - acceptance. We’re seeking to erase the stigma around queer and trans people the same way we’re trying to erase the stigma around cannabis. And the answer lies in visibility.
Being a queer budtender obviously comes with its ups and downs. I still get misgendered by customers often; but it seems to hit a little bit lighter in a place where everyone else sees exactly who I am.
Don’t be afraid to be who you are, friends! Happy pride!