At my newest job, they have a clause that protects gender identity. Most would assume that that means you can transition freely. But those of us who are non-binary know that this can be a really different experience for those of us who aren’t clearly one thing or the other.
One of my new coworkers, in a stroke of what I’m sure she thought was being a great ally, asked me in front of an entire line of customers which pronouns I’d “prefer”, then followed up with the fact that she had a non-binary roommate. I chuckled and told her she was nice for asking, but I didn’t have time for it.
It’s true, I’m non-binary, and I’m open about it to those who ask (in a more private setting)…but for work, I let myself appear to be a tomboy, and function as a girl. Not because I’m ashamed of who I am, but because I’ve noticed that openly coming out means constantly arguing or explaining my identity. Talk about exhausting! And customers don’t really care if I prefer gender neutral pronouns; they just want to get their burritos and move on. I don’t consider my work life to be the same as my personal life anyways, so this degree of separation is actually quite good for me.
However, it’s easy for binary trans people to see this as living a lie. They remember trying to force themselves to be one or the other, and how painful it was. And I guess if I did that in every facet of my life and didn’t identify even a little with femininity, that would be an issue for me too. But I’m a mix, and I don’t find womanhood demeaning or insulting. I find it to be a great customer service face. And frankly, I know who I am, and my loved ones know who I am, and that’s what really matters for me.
I think a lot of non-binary people choose to allow people to assume what they want in order to make things simple, and that’s okay. Telling another non-binary person how to live? Not okay.