BY JESS CLAWSON
Throughout my career with horses, I’ve known dozens of farriers with bold personalities. They’ve spanned the range from homophobes that I’ve ceased to involve with my horses’ care, to the most wonderful human beings I’ve ever met.
Today, I’m sharing with you a conversation I had with a farrier who definitely falls in the latter camp, Tatum Standley. He is not only a fun person and great farrier, but he’s part of the queer equestrian community.
I’ll let Tatum tell you about his identity in his own words, but to make sure we’re all on the same page, a trans person is someone who identifies with a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth; a cis person is someone who does identify with their gender assigned at birth; a transition is the process by which a person claims their trans identity; and a queer person is someone who is not straight and/or is trans. “Misgendering” refers to the act of using the incorrect pronouns for a person (she/her for someone who uses he/him or they/them, for example).
So without further ado, Tatum tells us what it’s like to work in his field while being the incredible person he is.
Tell us about your life with horses. What role do they have in your life?
Animals in general are by far the biggest aspect of my life. I have been involved with horses since I was a young kid, starting off with English riding lessons, which quickly evolved into working student positions. Every job I have had in my life except for one has been horse related, from training, to grooming, to instruction, and eventually farriery. The majority of my everyday life is spent with either my own horses or client horses. These days I rarely ride, but I’m living every horse kid’s dream: having my horses literally in my front yard so I can fret about their well-being from the comfort of my home.
How do you identify as a human? What details about your life would you like us to know?
I am a queer transgender man and intersectional feminist. I’m married to an amazing person who has helped me build a dream life, surrounded by animals and nature. I believe strongly in the fight for justice and civil rights for all, and I do my best to treat everyone, human and animal, humanely.
How out are you in the horse world, and what influences your decisions about whether to be out in different contexts?
Many people who know me in the horse world knew me before my transition, with a few exceptions. My clients have largely been wonderful to me about my transition, though I did ask them not to disclose my queer/trans status to other people when I initially came out to them. While I feel no shame about who I am, I work in very conservative, rural areas most of the time. The current political climate makes me tread cautiously, so for my safety I often choose to get a feel for new people before I decide if they need to know that I am trans or queer. Despite my desire to come out on my own terms, misgendering from people who knew me before often outs me anyway.
Do you think being a trans person in the world of farriers is different than other professions in the industry might be, and why?
When I held training and instruction positions, I knew and worked with many other out lesbian, bi, and gay people (unfortunately no out trans people). Those details were often common knowledge, but those people were also the punch line of homophobic jokes on many occasions. So while many people were safely visible and usually tolerated, their lives were also a source of humor for the white, straight, cis population of a lot of the horse industry. I do think this has changed a little over the past couple decades.
Farriery was a boy’s club for a very long time, which is thankfully changing, though it still can be intimidating for anyone who isn’t a white, straight, cis man. Stereotypes about people who aren’t burly cis men can automatically put those people at a slight disadvantage. Frankly though, I am unaware of any other trans farriers or even queer ones, so I have no reference point but my own. Surely others exist, but I think it’s telling that I can’t name even one who is out and willing to talk about it. I don’t think many other farriers know I am trans, but I like to believe that the quality of my craft would outweigh any prejudices other farriers might have about a queer trans person in their midst.
What do you want to say to other queer people in the horse industry?
Let’s be friends! I want to see and get to know more LGBT+ people in the horse world. It isn’t always safe for people to be out, but if it is, I hope they shout it from the rooftops. We’re stronger in numbers, and we need to pave the way for a younger generation to be out and proud in this industry.
What do you want to say to straight people?
Your actions and words matter. It isn’t enough to call yourself an ally and display the rainbow flag. If you are supportive and accepting, prove it. Listen carefully to LGBT+ people. Stand up for us when you hear hate speech or see discrimination. Use the language people ask you to use, and don’t use the words that hurt them. Understand and respect the journeys of people different than you, and let people come out when/if they want to.
In your entire queer life with horses, what are you most proud of?
I always put the welfare of the animals in my care above my ego. I am no longer afraid to change my mind when something isn’t working as expected. I’ve changed course many times throughout my career when there is clear evidence of a better technique, product, or practice.
Tell me the best thing about being a trans guy.
Since I was raised in a way that was different than many other men, I have a unique perspective. I can use that perspective to chip away at the walls of toxic masculinity that keep many men from being genuine, kind human beings. Whether I’m out to someone or not, I can challenge people’s ideas about what it means to be a man.
Tatum is located in central Virginia. You can find his website here: https://greathoofcare.webs.com/.
About the Author: Jess is a professional historian and educator who lives in northwestern Virginia. They completed their undergraduate degree in English at William & Mary, and did their masters and doctoral work at the University of Florida. Jess is an event rider with a passion for thoroughbreds, and has extensive experience in community organizing around queer identities, racial marginalization, and labor.
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