coming out trans

I came out as non-binary at work! Part 3: In-person interactions

Did you miss the start of this story?
Part 1: How did I do it?
Part 2: Email reactions

In all honesty, this is the point at which I must admit that at some point in the last couple of years I may have slipped into a bizarro alternate wonderland universe of warm fuzzies, because I have no other explanation for just how easy this whole coming out thing has been for me.

Though this is partially because I front-loaded a bunch of affirmations and assurances into my coming out message itself, the thing that I am most amazed by is that since coming out I have not been asked to do a single iota of emotional labour around it.

I mean, when I decided I really did feel comfortable coming out at my work, it was because I figured that the level of potential push-back/invasive questions/insecurities about messing up that I’d have to deal with would be totally manageable. But I never imagined there would be none at all!

So, what did happen then?

The moment I walked into work on the Monday, now three days after coming out, the first person who saw me said: “Kasey! Thanks so much for the cookies! They were so great! I was going to bring in rainbow bagels [apparently this is a thing? But also, relevant context is that the cookies I brought in were rainbow-y] today, but I didn’t have time.”

Which, to me, this is just the sweetest way of making it clear that I belong and am loved? Just adorable, basically. I don’t even care that I didn’t get to experience rainbow bagels.

On top of this, when I eventually got around to checking my work mailbox, I also found a little hand-written note from the same (non-email-having) co-worker, which for the most part echoed many of the sentiments I had gotten in emails – she said she was glad that I felt comfortable enoguh to be open with them, let me know that she had previous knowledge/awareness of non-binary people via her daughter (who also works in our library system), and let me know she would do her best to watch her language, basically. It was a very nice thing to find!

Other than that, most people have just been business-as-usual with me (which is exactly what I would have asked for, to be honest.) One colleague who had offered a hug (that I accepted) in her email response literally jumped up the moment she saw me to deliver on it. Another person who hadn’t sent an email response thanked me in person for the email, basically said that she appreciated the reminder to continue working on the ways in which she uses gendered language, asked me if it had been hard for me to do, and said she’d appreciate recommendations to read more about non-binary people.

Because I have a pretty good sense of her literary tastes, I recommended she read Ivan Coyote’s most recent two books (Gender Failure (written with Rae Spoon) and Tomboy Survival Guide). She actually recognized the name, and we determined she’d seen Coyote perform in a storytelling festival at some point.

But I really want to get back to the italicized bit above! So, not only has no one asked anything of me (beyond accepting my explicit offer to provide resources), this one co-worker made herself available for me to emotionally process with her if necessary (which wasn’t needed, because holy wow this whole process has been so easy I can’t even, but was very much appreciated!) Another example of real allyship.

So, that’s my coming-out-at-work story! Somehow ‘changing’ my gender at work was less work than changing my name (both times I have done this in a workplace it was exhausting). I mean, different work contexts is a big part of that, but also who would have ever guessed it could work that way?

And this will be the end of the story for now! I may revisit to let you all know how pronouns go moving forward – most people do seem pretty interested in putting the effort to use ‘they’, even though I gave them an out. We’ll see how it goes!

I came out as non-binary at work! Part 2: Email reactions

Did you miss part 1 of this story (how I did it)? Get it here.

So, I sent off an email and ensured that a card would be available for those without email on March 31st, a day I wasn’t actually working. I was also off work for April 1st and 2nd. But, I can access my work inbox from home, and you can bet your biffy I was checking it from the moment I woke up on the 31st (I actually sent the email around 10:30, before I went to bed the night before.)

When I woke up, I already had an email from my manager, sent about an hour after my email!). She handled it with what I can only describe as professional-loveliness. She thanked me, acknowledged that she’d definitely been one of the folks ‘lady’ing me in the past, apologized, admitted she didn’t know a whole lot about non-binary people (though it wasn’t entirely a new concept for her) and took me up on my offer to provide resources. That was that!

Over the course of the day I got a handful of emails from various co-workers, all very positive, and generally very short. The strongest theme was that the cookies I had left for them all (birthday cake flavour Oreos) were completely unbelievably delicious(!), and beyond that people mostly thanked me for feeling comfortable enough to be open with them.

My co-worker with a non-binary sibling-in-law (I wrote about her here) though? Came right out of the gate with some A+ allyship. She replied-all in the thread to say that “as somebody with a non-binary family member” she wanted to let everyone know that while changing pronouns might seem hard or awkward, it really only does take practice, and “mistakes get made, but surprise – nobody bites your head off when it happens!” She also made a point of mentioning that the process had made her more aware of just how often we really all use the singular they on a daily basis.

Basically she just went ahead and warded off some potential pushbacks on my behalf, and implicitly identified herself as someone that folks could consult/process with on the whole thing if necessary (thus potentialyl reducing te amount of emotional labour I might have to do around the whole thing.

There were a few more emails that came in over the weekend, just variations on the same theme. In general, though, it all added up to me feeling calm and collected when I finally went into work on Monday.  You can read all about that here!

I came out as non-binary at work! Part 1: How’d I do it?

I CAME OUT AS NON-BINARY AT WORK. I really did it! It’s done. And it went more smoothly than even in my wildest dreams to be honest. I am going to write so many posts about this, but I’ll start at the beginning.

I decided somehwere in early March that I would come out at work on Transgender Day of Visibility (Marhc 31st), a little bit because it seems fitting (and gave me a framework for the coming out, kind of), but mostly because I realized that setting myself a deadline would mean I actually did the thing. And it worked!

One of the first challenges came up when I realized I wasn’t actually working on March 31st this year, though ultimately I think this just made it easier for me to rip the bandage off – I am wat better at doing these things in non-face-to-face situations anyway. So I decided on a two-prong approach.

First, I wrote an email to all the folks in my department (as in, all the other librarian-types at work) plus my managers.
Second, in order to reach all of the non-librarian types (most of whom don’t have work emails), I also bought a generic greeting card where I wrote a much briefer coming out message, and bought some cookies to go with it (this is a super common practice at my work). In the email coming out message, I let folks know where they could get the card and cookies from my desk and asked them to put them out in the lunch room, (which they did).

Anyway, I’ll tell you all about what happened next later, but for now, here is my coming out email, which proved very effective for me!

Hi all!

Today (March 31st) is the Transgender Day of Visibility, and although it actually worked out that I am not working today, I decided a while back to make use of the day and its theme to stop procrastinating on letting you all know:

I am a non-binary person! Which really just means I don’t feel like I am either man or a woman. This may sound strange or new to you, but it really isn’t a huge deal and kind of just is what it is for me, really. If you do want some resources the topic, though, I’d be happy to send you some links/reading recommendations.

I use the singular they as my pronoun, rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’ (er, on those pretty rare occasions that I refer to myself in the third person anyway…), and it is what my friends and family use for me as well. As in, “Kasey is an information assistant at BCRL. They run the family storytime program and their phone extension is 4130”.

I also realize that in a public-facing profession like the one I’ve chosen, it’s completely impractical to expect that people won’t use gendered pronouns for me, and I’m not at all interested in making sure customers get it right, and because of that I’m just generally not super bothered by what pronouns are used for me here. So, do what makes sense for you, I guess, though I do appreciate it when people try to use the right pronouns (I also realize that’s not always an easy thing).

I would like to ask you all, though, to try to avoid other forms of gendered language when talking about me. Again, this isn’t actually a huge issue for me here; I think the main thing that happens is sometimes I get emails addressed “Hi ladies”, or customers are told that “this lady can help you” or whatever. This is a funny one because on the one hand, it’s hard to feel insulted about being included with such an amazing bunch of people as the ladies here are, but on the other hand it is strange and uncomfortable for me to be reminded that yes, I am generally seen that way. But yes, in general, less gendered language to refer to me would be a good thing! So in the cases mentioned, just address the email as you would if one or more of the office men were in on it, and in the other case “this person can help you” will do!

I’ve also left a little card with a shorter version of this message and some cookies in the bottom drawer at my desk; if someone could put those out on the table in the lunch room that would be great!

Thanks all, you’ve made me feel very welcome here over the last 6 months or so that I’ve been here, and I think you’re all great!

Best,
[ME! etc etc]

Read on to part 2: Email reactions!