On social media, I don’t really make a huge effort to hide my gender identity. Agender and they/them pronouns are listed right there on my Facebook profile, where all my friends and family–as well as coworkers–can see. Nobody has seemed to notice, and if they have, they haven’t come to ask me about it.
Even still, I consider myself in the closet in my workplace. I’m designated female at birth, and that is the way that I’m read among my coworkers. Most of them seem to assume I’m a lesbian because of my boyish clothing style and the way I talk about my romantic partner (rather than using terms like boyfriend or girlfriend) with others, and I really only correct them on the sexuality facet if they make an assumption out loud. But gender? Nope. Can’t do it yet. I live in a fairly conservative county and, while I have an idea of which coworkers would be more understanding than others, I haven’t yet started to come out to anybody face-to-face yet.
Working in the Closet can be Exhausting
I didn’t even realize the effect that working in the closet was having on me until I went to a queer conference one weekend. Being with other people and being able to introduce myself with my preferred pronouns and speak about my experiences as an agender person was a refreshing contrast to what I became used to. Having that taste of walking around as my genuine self has left me eager for more, and living the Girly Lie has become that much harder each day. Does being closeted at work also make you feel suffocated?
The Closet Cure
There is a privilege I have in being able to be out with my family and my partner, and being myself around them makes it easier. My parents are earnest in learning new things and my partner has never known me closeted, but the biggest help is always the community support. The previously mentioned conference I went to is a local, annual event open to youth as well as their families. Finding a sense of community and building those connections is invaluable, and it’s a great start. Going online might be a more accessible option for many people if you don’t have those resources available to you outside the Internet. LGBTQIA+ communities online are always shifting and coining terms and describing their experiences, and there is always room for you. A family does not necessarily mean those you are blood-related to.
Can you come out?
However, you might be stuck in a state where coming out could get you fired from your job. Unsure? This website can help you figure out where your state lies in terms of discrimination laws. I live in Washington, and sexual orientation and gender identity are both covered but not every other state is lucky. This is especially where trying to find communal connections is important. If you’re able to, see if you can contact your elected officials and urge them to push more non-discrimination laws in your state.