The Prolonged Process of Coming Out as Nonbinary at School

By Ash Whipple

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Coming out as nonbinary at school as certainly been an adventure. On the first day of freshman year, I decided to give myself a new name because something about my old one didn’t feel right. At first, it made me nervous because Ash was not a girl’s name and people might reject it, I was wrong. I first came out as nonbinary (they/them pronouns) in the middle of my freshman year, but I didn’t come out at school because I wasn’t sure how people would react. It was scary. The idea that all of my friends and teachers would reject who I was. I felt trapped, on the one hand, I was safe being a girl, but I was miserable, on the other hand, I could come out and face an unknown future.

I came out near the end of freshman year, I nervously brought it up to a few of my friends, ready to tell them I was kidding in case they reacted negatively. To my surprise, they were fine with it, one of my friends even came out to me and told me that they use the same pronouns. None of my teachers knew though, I was still scared to tell them.

“The email I sent was frantic and jumbled, I didn’t edit or anything because I knew that if I reread it, I wouldn’t be able to send it.”

Sophomore year was a bad year for me in general, but trying to decide how to come out added extra weight. I would continue to let people use the wrong pronouns. The thought of being seen as a girl made me feel sick, I didn’t even want to go to school. I had become more comfortable with my gender over the summer, but I was still apprehensive at the thought of my teachers’ reactions. Throughout the year, I came out to more of my friends. That helped a little but being misgendered in front of my classes hurt.

My teachers mostly seemed like they would be accepting, but coming out is hard, incredibly hard. One night, I couldn’t take it anymore, something had to be done and emailing a teacher was a lot easier than telling her face to face. The email I sent was frantic and jumbled, I didn’t edit or anything because I knew that if I reread it, I wouldn’t be able to send it. Sending that email was the best thing I could have done. My teacher was incredibly supportive, and she even told my other teachers about my pronouns, at my request of course. That made me feel infinitely better until I was misgendered again by a teacher. It wasn’t on purpose, but I didn’t have the nerve to stand up for myself and correct them. One thing I did do though, was get my school email changed to reflect my chosen name. By the end of sophomore year, I was sort of out to my teachers.

Junior year is a totally different story in comparison. I was more confident than before, and nobody was going to make me be someone I wasn’t. My first class of my first day, I was determined to make sure the class knew my pronouns. When it came time to introduce myself, I did it, I told them my pronouns. It was still nerve-wracking, standing while everyone sat with some said that my pronouns were unfamiliar. My teacher was very supportive, but he had a hard time with it. I came out in every class I had the opportunity to and once the day was done, it felt amazing. Since I’d done that the first day, I felt comfortable correcting my teachers when they misgendered me. Through that, my classmates got used to my pronouns. Many of my friends also became more supportive and started to correct people when they misgendered me.

I also took PE in my junior year, which led to me feeling sick the week leading up to it. My school has two gyms, one with a male locker room and one with a female one. Thankfully, I told my coach that I would feel comfortable in neither locker room, which he didn’t really seem to understand, but he let me use the coach’s locker room. That helped a lot. The coach’s locker room requires a key, and only one person could go in it at a time.

So far, senior year has been better. I have come out to nearly all of my teachers and friends, and I am so much more comfortable correcting people. The administrators know who I am and know my pronouns. Now I will correct teachers when they misgender me, even if it’s in the middle of class.

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