You’ve made it through the interview process, accepted your job offer, and now you’re off to begin your new job. When you start in your new position and meet your new co-workers, you want to make the best first impression possible. But for a growing number of folks publicly identifying as non-binary at work, there is the added anxiety of whether your co-workers will respect and affirm your gender identity.
So what can nonbinary folks do to help ensure they feel safe and respected at work?
Introduce your pronouns early
When you introduce your name, don’t be scared to introduce your pronouns. You’re meeting people who you will be spending a lot of time with, and the sooner they are aware of how to refer to you, the better.
Make sure your manager knows your pronouns so that when they introduce you to other people in the organization, they include the correct pronouns. If possible, immediately put your pronouns in your email signature. And it’s a good idea to put up a sign with your pronouns at your desk, or include them next to your name if working remotely.
Be your own advocate
If your manager or co-workers slip up and refer to you with incorrect pronouns, trust your instincts and handle the situation in a way that you’re comfortable with. People make mistakes. If it has been enough times and you feel safe doing so, you may decide to quietly correct them, in a way that is respectful and non-confrontational. They might have no idea they have been misgendering you. While it is not your responsibility to teach others, it is ok to stand up for your identity and ask for respect.
If you are constantly being misgendered or feeling mistreated, you don’t have to stick it out and wait for it to get better. If your organization has a dedicated diversity and inclusion office or something similar, speak to them and seek out their advice. They know the organization and its culture and policies, and they may be able to work with you on making sure you are respected and affirmed. You may also speak to HR or to your direct manager if you feel safe.
Seek out allies
If your organization has an LGBTQ+ employee resource group (ERG), this can be the perfect opportunity to connect with other LGBTQ+ individuals and allies. If not, talk to HR about how you can start one. It is also a good idea to seek out allies within your immediate team, not only who respect your identity, but who can help to support you and create a safer space.
Don’t force it
If you are feeling unsafe, leave. You should not be dreading going to work due to disrespect or hostility. If after some time, your co-workers continue to misgender you, call you the wrong name, or discriminate against you, you don’t have to put up with it. As soon as possible, begin to seek opportunities elsewhere because your mental health should not be compromised for a job. In the right position, you will be able to bring your full self to work every day.
Looking for LGBTQ+-friendly jobs? Check out some of the listings on Idealist.
Joeli has professional and volunteer experience spanning the fields of healthcare, education, local government, and the nonprofit sector at large. She is passionate about LGBTQ issues and advocacy.