If you’ve ever met a queer former pastry chef who works on an oil rig off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador and likes making TikToks on her days off, then perhaps you don’t need to read our interview with Jennifer Cross, because you probably met Jennifer Cross. We guarantee there’s no one else like her. Read our interview with her below, and get started planning your vacation to Canada ASAP.
TomboyX: Tell me about your extremely unique job.
Jennifer Cross: I'm a deck operator on the Hebron oil rig, which is one of the most technologically advanced oil platforms in the world. We deal with all the cargo that comes off of the boats, and the passengers and cargo from the choppers. I’m also on the firefighting team. I've been doing it for five years, and I'm currently the only female in Newfoundland doing it. I'm working towards being a crane operator offshore. That's the highest I can go in my occupation, so I want to do that and be the only woman that does it.
Right now, I do a rotation of three weeks on, three weeks off, and we do twelve-hour days for the whole three weeks. Then when I'm home, like right now, I like to do nothing and enjoy my time.
TBX: What are you doing with your time off?
JC: I tried to make plans, but our weather is very unpredictable. Yesterday, we had sunny blue skies, and then all of a sudden, it was dark skies and a snowstorm. Then 10 minutes later it was blue skies again. Then we had another snowstorm. It's very hard for us to plan because you never know what you're going to get in an hour.
TBX: How did you end up in your current job?
JC: The oil and gas industry is one of the main sources of employment here in Newfoundland. I studied Pastry Arts in school, and I'm a trained pastry chef. I started out in catering and the kitchens and then just saw that job being done and met the guys that do it, and there were no women, so I wanted to be the one.
TBX: What’s it like growing up in Newfoundland?
JC: It’s a very blue collar farming town. No big shiny things, no big buildings. Basically all we have to do here is go for hikes. Our province fixes up a whole bunch of hiking trails and parks for us to use in the summertime, and then they clear them in the wintertime so we have places to go skiing and snowshoeing.
I came out when I was 24. I'm 32 now, so I've been out for a few years. Growing up in a small farming town, no one identified as anything other than straight and cisgender. It was very hard to understand what I was feeling, because there’s no one to ask questions of, you don't really see it portrayed in the media, it was not very popular. I graduated high school and then I moved to Nova Scotia for a little bit, and the culture there is way more open and accepting. There's just so many more people. I found a queer group of friends there and discovered who I was and came out and never looked back.
It's still hard here in Newfoundland. We have a lot of people that don't accept anyone other than straight, cis people. Everything else is taboo.
TBX: Are you out at work?
JC: Well, it's kind of hard not to be– I wear rainbows everywhere, I have rainbow masks for Covid and stuff. But nobody really put it together until this past year, when they asked me if I had a husband. I was like, “no, but I'm looking for a wife.” A lot of them live in small outport communities, so I'm probably the only out queer person they've actually met in real life.
TBX: Did your look change when you came out?
JC: I always felt like I had to look girly, with long hair and typical “girl clothes.” Once I came out, I chopped off all my hair and went to the men's department and bought everything I could. I found TomboyX through a Google search for gender neutral clothing a couple of years ago and I haven't looked back since. That's all I order, and I always tell everyone about it.
I find that a lot of gender neutral stuff is always black, gray, white and neutral tones. If you want prints you have to buy men's stuff, which doesn't fit properly. TomboyX is comfortable, the prints are fun, and they fit properly.
TBX: How’d you get started making TikTok content?
JC: I was one of those people that downloaded TikTok back when Covid first hit. I was like, “I'm just going to watch TikToks, I'm never going to make them.” Then I saw people doing what they were calling the “girlfriend application” and I decided to try it out. That's what started it. Everyone was watching the videos and liking them, so I figured I might as well just keep doing it and I got more comfortable with it over time.
TBX: Who do you consider your audience when you make TikToks?
JC: I like to think it's people like me. I try to make them funny so that if people are having a bad day, they can get a good laugh at some of them. But I also hope maybe young queer people out there that just don't have the visibility that I grew up with see all these people on TikTok that are out and proud and not ashamed of who they are, and maybe it'll help them deal. That's what keeps me doing them.
TBX: What would you demand if you were king of the universe?
JC: I would want everyone to be just more accepting. I think if everyone let everyone else do what they wanted to do, we wouldn't have any conflicts.
TBX: Shamefully, I know very little about Canadian politics, but we’re not very good at letting people be themselves here in the US.
JC: Our Prime Minister is pretty accepting of everybody. We take in a lot of refugees, and we don't just bring them in and let them figure things out, our government supports them and helps them find jobs and housing. Healthcare is readily available for everyone, even for top surgery and things like that. The government pays for it.
TBX: What would you say to someone visiting Newfoundland for the first time?
JC: I would say come in August, and bring your good hiking shoes because that's all you're going to do. We have Signal Hill, which is the first place telephone communications came out of North America. It’s the highest point of Newfoundland and you can see all of St. John's and the ocean, all the whales and the icebergs out there. We have the East Coast Trails that go around the coastline of Newfoundland, where you get to see the puffins, whales, moose and bears. Come with your camera and come with your hiking shoes.
You can (and should) follow Jennifer on TikTok @JenniferCross22.