Being Out as Non-Binary at College & Work

Beat the heat!After finishing my first semester at college, I feel like I’ve learned a bit. It’s the first time I’ve been actually out in real life, with people calling me my preferred name and my correct pronouns. I was given this opportunity when I joined an LGBT+ focused learning community.

It’s also the first time I decided to also be out at work, mainly because I got a job on campus. After thinking about it for a bit, I decided to write up something short about my experiences of being out.

So, first and foremost, let me tell you how I got to this point. I came to my college based on the fact that it had the major I was looking at, which I ended up switching away from. I initially didn’t know about the LGBT+ learning community either, as I was in the writers/English major community. However, when I was assigned a roommate, my roomie told me about the learning community they were in, the queer one, and I switched right away.

Still not knowing what I was doing with myself, when I moved in, I still hadn’t come out to my roomie. I had mentioned being asexual, and she seemed pretty okay with that, but I hadn’t said anything else. After meeting everyone else in our group, though, I realized that I was safe. I was the last in the line, and so far there had been three other trans people (all trans guys) and my roomie who said they used any pronouns. Everyone else identified as gay or bisexual or pansexual. I decided at last minute to come out, saying I used they/them pronouns, but I also didn’t use my correct name. I used a nickname for my deadname, and it wasn’t until I talked with my roommate and our peer mentor (who also IDs as queer) that I sent out a text to our group chat explaining why I hadn’t previously said anything, and that I preferred the name Avery.

So here are my experiences as being out at college, and, later, at work. I will say that there will be trigger warnings for deadnaming, misgendering, and transphobia.

At College;

Throughout my first day at college, I still hadn’t been sure if I wanted to go by Avery. In my first few classes, I told my professors that I preferred a shorter nickname instead of my deadname, and they all seemed okay with that. However, during a small break between classes, I was talking with my roommate and casually mentioned that I had gone by a different name when I was out online. At that exact moment, our peer mentor walked by, and I caught his attention and told him that I may or may not prefer a different name, and that I didn’t know if I should’ve used it or not. And what he said ended up with me texting our learning community’s group chat, as well as emailing my professors about my name preference. Through this, I also ended up meeting another trans student in one of my classes, and they’ve become a really close friend. I was lucky to end up at a campus that has a lot of queer students. My RA (resident assistant) is also transgender, and he’s the president of our school’s “GSA”, which we call IMPACT. Both my RA and peer mentor insisted I go, and I found a lot of friends that way.

In deciding to change my name, I was met with a lot of willingness and acceptance from my teachers. Almost all of them responded right away, saying they’ll change the class roster with the correct name. One of my classes even included pronouns in the attendance sheet for everyone, so when we signed in, we got a reminder of everyone’s pronouns. That, however, didn’t stop certain people. There were still some people who didn’t care, one’s that would refer to people by whatever pronouns they thought were correct. Some people forgot. I had a few professors that would be talking to me and another person, and would make a comment to the other person and use the wrong pronouns. Sometimes I wouldn’t bother correcting. Other times I would be too wounded to try.

This happens a lot. If people don’t see my pronoun pin, which I got in our Pride Center, they’ll just use whatever pronouns they think fit for me. It hurts a lot, especially when it’s people in classes or people who live on my dorm floor. Thankfully, if my friends–especially my roommate–were around, they would correct them or push me to correct them because I often get too anxious to correct people. But it’s still hard, having people use the incorrect pronouns when I have a pin (which is normally near my chest) and finally, finally, decided to be out.

At Work;

I worked on campus at the university library. I was hired before I came out, so I emailed the person who hired me and told her my preferred name and pronouns. She seemed happy enough to oblige, and even when she introduced me to people throughout the semester, she would say my name and that I used they/them pronouns. I felt fairly comfortable around her, mainly because she seemed happy to comply. However, there were often times when someone would use the wrong pronouns (I wasn’t allowed to wear my pin at work) and she wouldn’t say anything, and I would be too anxious to correct them. There was even paperwork she read out loud to me that had the incorrect pronouns, and she read what she read.

Like I said above, I wasn’t aloud to wear pins on my work lanyard. That often lead to people calling me by what I appeared to be to them. People were almost always polite, but I never bothered to correct every customer that used the wrong pronoun. It was too many people that I would never see again, or wouldn’t talk to, so what was the point?

The other part was my coworkers. One of my bosses–he knew how I identified after we had a talk, and he even noticed the pins on my lanyard that I had partially hanging from my pocket. He still, however, never used my pronouns for some reason. He talked about how he was a good person because he respected other transgender peoples pronouns and defended them, but for some reason he never did the same for me. Another coworker, I’ll call her Lauren for now, became a really close friend. And even though I was always open about myself, she never stopped calling me “girl”. She would say things like “damn, girl” or “you go get ’em, girl!” and I still haven’t told her that I feel terrible whenever she says that.

I quit my job at the end of the semester, due to other problems with the management, as well as just general boredom.

This was a more personal post than usual, but I felt like it would be an interesting post. While a lot of the misgendering is due to me not correcting people, I feel so much more free because I decided to be out. I put my trust in a group of very queer, very funny people, and I ended up finding a family that I feel so close to. I never would have felt so happy if I hadn’t decided to be Avery in the real world, and I have my roommate and my learning community to thank for that.

While I still have problems standing up for myself, I still have people who will stand with me. I’ve never known this many queer people at once, but they all love and respect me, and I know I’m so lucky to have found this. I never thought I would, but who would have thought it would be at college?

- Avery (2)

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9 thoughts on “Being Out as Non-Binary at College & Work

  1. I find myself experiencing a lot of the same things you did at school/work in my own work life. The company I work for is generally considered a good company to work at if you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community and most of the people that I work with were good about me deciding to go by my preferred named, but trying to get them to use my correct pronouns has been a struggle. There’s also one co-worker that is refusing to use my proper name. It’s frustrating, to say the least. I do wear different pronoun pins, trying to correct when I can, but that’s also sometimes incredibly difficult because I’ll either feel awkward or potentially unsafe. :/

    I’m glad you found a good community and that you wrote this post. Thank you. 🙂

    • Yes! Some people are just so weird about something, despite it being so simple. One person at work acted weird around me when he was logging me out of the system and saw my legal/deadname instead of what he knew me by. When I explained “that’s my legal name, but I prefer Avery” he never treated me the same way.

      My friends always ask me why I don’t correct people., but I just don’t think they understand how unsafe I feel when it comes up. I had a prof (thankfully one that isn’t teaching one of my classes yet, they just attended a club) explain to me that this was all new to them and that they were old fashioned … and then continued to misgender me.

      Thank you!

  2. Were you able to change the name on your student ID? Some unis let you change your name on the student portal and then the class rosters are automatically updated and you can get an ID with your name even if you haven’t done a legal change.

    • Yes, I was! My college has two forms for a name change: preferred and legal. I just filled out the preferred name change document, turned it in, and within a few hours, all of my online stuff was changed, like class rosters and on the student portal. Then I just went to the ID office, and they gave me a new one for free.

      Since I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be out, I hadn’t had anything changed like that before. So on the first day of classes, my dead/legal name was still there. After that was all sorted out, though, everything was changed and was so much easier. I still get a little anxious whenever walking into a new class, though, thinking they might call my deadname/legal name haha