Golden opportunity, missed

Last week at work, I found myself in an extended conversation with one of my colleagues about the work she’s been doing around the fact that her non-binary sibling-in-law will be coming to her family’s xmas stuff this year, and all of the various and sundry terrible responses she has had to push back against. It was the perfect moment for me to come out!

And I didn’t.

By the time I had even processed what was happening and that this was a great moment to come out, I felt like I’d already missed the moment? And I kept floundering around; I did a lot of comparing her family’s responses to mine, but without ever specifying who the non-binary person relevant to my family was.

I’m still torn around coming out at work at all? Like, I know that most people aren’t going to manage to stop misgendering me anyway, and I also know that it will be harder for me to handle it when I know they know better. There are plenty of people who would be great about it though. Heck, last month, when I asked a colleague at another branch about some inconsistencies in the spelling of this person’s name throughout the organization (specifically, in masculine and feminine versions), in addition clarifying the correct spelling, and mentioning that it will be become more consistent pending a legal name change*, my colleague asked me to use the name instead of pronouns where possible as well.

In retrospect, I am also thinking that the colleague with the non-binary sibling-in-law deliberately brought it up because she’s clocked me as enby (I am actually sort of passively out in minor ways at work – my public bio on the web site uses they pronouns, for instance). In any case, I do know I am not alone here, and I know I have allies.

But still, I’m scared, somehow? I think I just don’t know how I want to go about it. I could send out a big organization-wide email blast. I could start with the branch I work at (but how?), and sort of depend on word-of-mouth and/or come out to other people a bit at a time as necessary from there. I could talk to my managers about it first, though that doesn’t seem particularly necessary.

…I could also wait and see what this other colleague of mine does and then ride those coattails, but I suspect that would not be the best approach for a bunch of reasons. And to be honest, I’d probably rather not have to hear what everyone’s responses to that coming out will be, if they are still under the impression that I am cis when that happens. I don’t want them to think I’m a ‘safe’ person to hear whatever shit they need to say, and I just don’t need that in my life generally.

Maybe I’ll make it a new year/new leaf thing? I don’t know why I feel the need to be able to give a “but why are you doing this right now?” justification for it, but I feel less stressed about it when I have one.

Ugh, I dunno. Words of wisdom and/or support are welcome.


*I am quite sure this is not a question of organizational policy (as in, this is not a repeat of the fuckery I dealt with in another library system), but rather just that my colleague has decided to wait until the name change comes through before actively asking for the change – right now, the new name spelling only appears in my colleague’s email signature.


  1. Maybe you could come out to your colleague and you two can do a coordinated coming out at work together. I find it easier to take big brave steps with the help of another person. Not sure if that’s even an option, but just a thought. I find it easier to come out to people who are already opening up to me about their stuff. They should be happy to know they’re not alone.

    1. Lol I have literally been contemplating this all week! That colleague and I just had our last shift working together that we will have for quite some time, and at the end of it we made noises about hanging out some time, so I’m gonna make sure that happens and we can go from there :)

  2. I’m dealing with this right now at work! And it’s been a long time coming…

    For me, the timing finally feels right because my legal name change is in process, so I’m kinda just following bureaucratic processes, while at the same time, adding,”And I’m changing to he/him/his also.” (Even though I’m not legally changing my gender.” I am flailing around with how much to tell who – like, specifically say I’m non-binary or not? In most cases I haven’t, though I haven’t said I’m FTM or transgender either. People will just have to see as time goes on that I’m not actually “changing into a man”…

    I know you’ve already legally changed your name a while ago… Do people at your current job know this? If not, it could be a part of your coming out (it’d give them more context, like, telling them, I used to go by a different name, and this is the reason I changed it).

    There are so many ways to go about it! I guess I’d say tell a few people in person first, then go to the managers so that there can be a more widespread email / memo / announcement that is coming from both you and them. Then tell anyone who seems to have missed the information, last. Then go into damage control mode for a while till people get it (this will be the least fun by far!!!!!) This is sort of the approach I’m aiming for.

  3. Oh gosh. Yeah I can completely imagine how you’d feel like by the time your mind caught up to what was happening, you’d already kinda missed your chance to come out during that particular conversion.

    Not really to do with coming out at all but about various topics in my life I’ve kind of been feeling this general thing lately. A combination of not being sure how and when and where and even if to bring up this or that… Personal stuff, emotionally heavy stuff…

    I hope at work things “work” out. I wish you luck with whatever you decide. I really hope a situation doesn’t arise where you have to hear people talking about your coworker’s new disclosure as if you’re not in a similar position yourself… That does indeed sound like a very unappealing prospect.

  4. Honestly, it’s not even a question for me. I’ve come out to a few people as asexual and dropped hints about my gender, but I’m not going to completely come out to my coworkers as anything. My sister knows I’m asexual and was the only one who supported me about it a year and a half ago, but she pushed me to come out to my parents before I was ready and they didn’t accept it. My brothers don’t accept it. and Then today my sister bullied me using my asexuality as a scare tactic while my parents are in the room. It doesn’t matter what the reason that was NOT okay.

    I think fear is okay and it’s completely justified because opening up to people, even you people trust, is taking an emotional risk. Someday, someone is going to have a bad day (like my sister) and they’ll take a cheap shot at something they shouldn’t and it’s going to hurt no matter how sorry they are afterwards. Is coming out worth that risk? For me, no it’s not, but that’s me. People talk about coming out like it’s a magical wonderful thing, but it’s not always. It’s scary especially if most days I feel like it’s me against the world.

    If you feel like you’re in a safe place where coming out is the best option, then absolutely go for it. But don’t feel like you have to come out or feel like you missed an opportunity if you weren’t 110% sure the time was right. In my opinion, “kind of” sure isn’t good enough and I want everyone to stay safe and healthy even if that means staying in the closet for a little longer.

    1. I totally hear you here! The thing about coming out about being genderqueer though is it’s the only option to potentially stem the constant tide of misgendering. :/

  5. I know this is not remotely the same for a lot of reasons, but last year I figured out I am bi at least and I just told three of my colleagues who I am very close to and another colleague figured it out for herself so I said yes. I’ve spent the last nine months in this limbo, although I dress a bit more butch lately, so whether the others are speculating, I don’t know. It also helps that I’ve known some of these folks for five or ten or twenty years. It just seemed safe to start with a compromise, especially since although we’ve known each other a long time, we tend not to discuss our private lives so much. Two of my colleagues even got divorced one spring and I only found out six or so months later when I asked them how their husbands were. So maybe my compromise won’t be helpful for you. But I support you in being who you are. It ain’t easy for anybody. My trans nephew is going through all the things right now, but he’s still in college, which has to help. By the time he gets into the work world, he can start fresh.

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