Non-binary mechanic gives traditional garage culture a 21st century twist


Mechanic Kai Dean, 36, is not binary. Dean started The Roaming Ratchet after hearing that some people in the queer community felt uncomfortable going to more traditional garages. (Francis Ferland / CBC)

A mechanic from Merrickville, Ont., Launched a mobile garage service with a twist: In addition to tune-ups and oil changes, Kai Dean’s business, The Roaming Ratchet, also promises a safe and welcoming space. for the region’s LGBT community.

“I’m a non-binary human, so that means I don’t identify as a male or female. Yes we do, ”said Dean, 36, who has worked in the auto business for over a decade and knows some people are uncomfortable in a traditional garage.

“There are a lot of people in the queer community who find it difficult,” Dean said. ” [They’re] not… OK to be called “sir” or “madam”. They’re gendered based on how they present themselves, and that’s a very old way of looking at it. ”

Non-binary mechanic Kai Dean offers a mobile garage service that is also a safe space for Ottawa’s LGBT community. 2:00 p.m.

Dean, who uses the pronoun they / them, has been the victim of sexism and misconception by employers, colleagues and clients. Once, as Dean was sweeping the store, they heard a coworker say, “Oh, someday you’ll make someone a great wife.” Another time it was, “You lift well enough not to be a guy.” ”

“People were yelling at me from the waiting room,” Dean said. “I have had older men angry that a non-male person is working on their vehicle. “

I am happy to be visible to those who cannot.– Kai Dean

Dean’s speech on The Roaming Ratchet Facebook page promises “pronouns, name and gender [will be] respected. ”

“Some people who are not binary are fine with using their pronouns. Personally, I trust them / them pronouns so I get it wrong almost every day of my life. But it’s part of the world we live in now, “Dean says.

“Usually, if I call, my voice is a little higher. Then someone will say, ‘How can I help you, lady?’ Today, I was collecting oil… to change the oil. I was called “sir” at the office to get parts. I’m used to it. ”

Dean prepares to do an oil change on a vehicle in Vanier. Roaming Ratchet’s Facebook post offering a “gay-focused” auto service has gone viral. (Francis Ferland / CBC)

The idea for The Roaming Ratchet came to Dean after chatting with friends in the queer community and realizing there was a need.

” I shared [the idea] on my personal Facebook page. I thought I could get 30 likes… and have a few jobs before winter, ”Dean said. Now the page has over 2,100 likes and is growing.

Dean finishes after an oil and filter change on a car in Vanier. (Francis Ferland / CBC)

“People have contacted me from all over North America. There are people who hope that I am actually in Ottawa in the US, and not in Ottawa, Canada, ”Dean said.

“Some of their stories are about negative experiences, whether it’s a sex error or… a discussion in a garage,” Dean said. “A lot of trans and non-binary youth… are really grateful to be represented in the community. This is the part that attracted me the most. I am happy to be visible to those who cannot be. ”

And it’s not just non-binary or LGBT people who are reaching out. “A lot of cisgender people [are] be incredibly supportive, or [perhaps] have someone in their life who is trans or queer, ”Dean said.

Ratchet roaming was inundated with work requests. Now there is a waiting list and Dean refuses business.

“I’m so glad I was on the right track,” Dean said. “I’ve never been there to… make money. I just wanted to fill a niche… This is not a marketing ploy. I try to help people who need it.

Dean is happy to work with allies who are not transgender or non-binary, but reserves the right to refuse clients who do not respect the community. “I will not tolerate hate speech or fanaticism. Anyone who is respectful, I am happy to help. ”

And there were hate messages on The Roaming Ratchet page. “A handful,” Dean says. “Little things. There always is. “

“It’s been a long journey of self-discovery, and I’ve always identified with the phoenix,” Dean said of this tattoo. (Francis Ferland / CBC)

Earlier this week, while Dean was performing an oil and filter change on a small car in Vanier, the t-shirt they wore revealed a large, colorful phoenix tattooed on one arm.

“It has been a long journey of self-discovery, and I have always identified with the phoenix. A 10 year gift to myself, ”Dean said of the tattoo. “I hope I don’t mess around working on cars. ”

At a minimum, Dean hopes to help raise awareness of neutral pronouns.

“When you’re… supposed to be something you’re not, it takes its toll psychologically,” Dean says. “It depends on the day if I feel like saying, ‘Hey, I’m not binary and I go through them / them’ or ‘Please don’t call me ma’am’. Some days I’m ready and some days I just don’t have it in me. It’s just life for a lot of people. ”

Ottawa morning6:09Non-binary mechanic launches mobile garage service

Kai Dean, a non-binary mechanic from Merrickville, has just launched a mobile garage service that promises a safe space for LGBT customers and their allies. The response has been overwhelming. “I’m happy to be visible to those who can’t,” Dean said. 6:09


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