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

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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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