“There’s no place for identity” for gay chefs in most kitchens

(Photo: Robert Bredvad)

(Photo: Robert Bredvad)

“HAGS is a restaurant of queer people, for queer people and everyone,” 35-year-old chef Telly Justice says of the queer-sharing inspired restaurant she recently opened alongside her romantic partner. and commercial Camille Lindsley earlier this year. To put it simply, the duo hope to highlight issues plaguing the LGBTQ+ community in the culinary world while simultaneously trying to offer solutions to them — while reaching out to other communities.

In this voice in food story, justice tells Anna Rahmanan on the issues inherent in kitchen uniforms, the importance of gender-neutral bathrooms and more.

On working in “non-affirmative” uniforms

I think one of the biggest problems we face in the restaurant community is that it’s a very utilitarian, blue-collar industry. People are expected to wear these uniforms which are created in certain shapes and sizes which do not necessarily reflect how queer people like to feel in clothes or like to look in clothes. From a very practical point of view, we are talking about the classic chef’s outfit and other very masculine uniforms. They tend to create an almost genderless experience, but in a non-affirmative way.

At HAGS, we seek to find ways to enable people who work in uniform to personalize them in a way that they feel affirmed and their identity and personality are welcome in the space.

Standard industrial kitchens and dining rooms are hyper-masculine spaces. There’s no room for identity there – especially a non-straight or male identity. Security is not discussed seriously and security is generally not very well protected.

From a very practical point of view, we are talking about the classic chef’s outfit and other very masculine uniforms. They tend to create an almost genderless experience, but in a non-affirmative way.TV Justice

In industrial kitchens, there is a feeling that queer people must somehow be the pioneers of the spaces. We must fight for fair labor practices. We are the ones who have to speak the loudest to ensure that, for example, the use of pronouns is handled sensitively and taken seriously. There’s no end to the amount of emotional labor that comes with being queer in these spaces.

I think small businesses, especially those progressive small businesses that have created space for intersectionality and identity, are often left on their own and struggling to find some kind of path to financial solvency. There’s the classic Conservative slogan, “Go wake up, go broke,” and it’s not entirely wrong. It is very difficult to find the financial support to include so much space for workers and laborers, but we really should.

On policy changes and inclusivity

There are things I would like to see in terms of protecting people’s use of pronouns, which seems to be a very speculative gray area in current policy. I don’t know if the continued abuse of personal pronouns is specifically considered in place of workplace harassment.

There is also a need to have some sort of pathway in the policy to bring all public restrooms to a state of gender neutral or at least focused on gender expansion. I think gender-neutral bathrooms in dining rooms are increasingly becoming an important feature, but we want to make sure that they’re actually practical and that the spaces are equally usable for all genders, including people broad genus.

In New York, one of the things that opened my eyes while developing HAGS was that we worked so hard to bring the space up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards, and it was very expensive. So I think it would be nice if the government adopted some kind of policy or at least a system that benefits people who open respectful guidelines rather than just penalizing those who don’t. After all, if you’re queer and wheelchair bound and can’t enjoy HAGS in the same way as someone who isn’t in a wheelchair, then we’re not really that inclusive of all queer people. .

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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