changing pronouns at work: a success story

A reader writes:

Several years ago, I decided I was ready to tell people my pronouns are they/them. I wanted to do this at work, too, so I decided to tell my manager first and asked for her support in telling my coworkers “these are Sally’s pronouns now.” She told me that I’m welcome to tell the others, but she won’t provide any support or correct anyone. She continuously got my pronouns wrong, and once, after a correction, told me, “I’ve known you as [gender] for such a long time that I’m not switching now.”

She was a terrible manager in other ways, too, so I started job hunting in earnest — with a lot of help from AAM! My resume and cover letters have never been so good! — and found one that really lined up with what I wanted next out of my career. While I was desperate to leave, I did assess the fit of the new place and reminded myself I wasn’t looking to jump “out of the frying pan into the fire” and to pay close attention to any red or yellow flags.

But I didn’t bring up my pronouns during the hiring because I was desperate enough to leave that if I kept being misgendered but everything else was good, I would put up with it.

I got hired and on my orientation day, told my boss my pronouns. He thanked me and we moved on to training. The next day, he sits down with me and says, “I didn’t understand what you told me yesterday, but I didn’t want to put you in a position where you feel you’re defending your identity or make you uncomfortable, so I asked my trans friend about it. We talked for hours, and I don’t think I totally get it yet — in fact, I don’t think I’ll EVER get it fully — but I do understand this: getting it wrong is very disrespectful. I’ll be honest, this is new for me, so I want you to know, I respect you and your identity, and please correct any mistakes I make.”

He told all my coworkers, too, “These are Sally’s pronouns, please make sure you’re using them.” He’s corrected clients and has said firmly to them before, “Sally’s pronouns are they/them, you will respect my employee and use that.”

New coworkers have started and have been told that these are the pronouns and also he draws their attention to the section of our employee handbook that specifically covers this.

I met his boss soon after starting (she works at a different site), and she referred to me with the wrong pronoun. My boss interrupted her to tell her what my pronouns are, and his boss thanked me for letting the company know.

We needed to order me uniforms, and he called our warehouse because I could only order the ones for my gender, not the ones I wanted, and told them they WILL be giving me the ones I want.

When I struggled for several days with a bad bout of dysphoria, he told me my schedule for the next few days were “flex hours” which are unusual in my line of work because of coverage and encouraged me to WFH if needed.

When I first came out, at my old job, I had thought the best I could hope for was people using the right pronouns. Thanks to my boss, I realize there’s so so much more a good boss can do for a trans/non-binary employee and I am grateful every day for him.

{ 313 comments… read them below }

  1. Shenandoah*

    I feel like this is one of the few times “I asked my XYZ friend” has had a truly happy ending!

    So glad this all worked out for you, OP. I hope you have bosses and colleagues like this forever more.

    1. VioletEMT*

      Yes! Quite pleased that Boss knew the right move was NOT to make the marginalized employee educate their superior about their identity – that it was on Boss, as the person in the power position, to educate himself.

      1. OP*

        When he told me that he’d been confused but also wasn’t about to make me explain, I legit almost teared up. I had been expecting to have to explain and explain and defend and probably explain some more. Being told “I asked someone else to explain it to me so I don’t make you do it” was such a powerful statement in so many ways!

        1. quill*

          So happy for you! It’s so much easier for everyone when somebody who needs answers has someone they have already established trust with walk them through it.

        2. Lady H*

          Your letter brought me tears of joy. I’m so happy you work at a company that is getting it right! I know it’s stressful to wonder if every new person in your life will stigmatize you, even unintentionally, and I hope working in this environment helps to heal some of the effects of that stress even if it unfortunately isn’t completely mitigated!

          Thank you for sharing!

    2. JSPA*

      Betting it’s because he
      a) actually had one, who’s an actual FRIEND, whom he listens to, and trusts
      b) started his internet deep dive with, “how to be respectful when…”

      As opposed to, “There was someone in friend group who transitioned, I didn’t really talk to them much, but here’s what I gathered, and I’m rounding it up to feedback.”

      1. Anonys*

        Yes – the boss mentioned talking to the friend for hours so it seems like a closer friendship.

        Also, it does in general seem to be more difficult for (cis) people to wrap their head around nonbinary people/people who use they/them or other non binary pronouns than binary trans folks. So I think this boss was clearly someone who is not only open minded but was generally familar with the concept of trans already and has at least one trans friend but probably hadn’t come across OP’s specific pronouns before.

        1. extra-anonymous!*

          Or then… there’s me where I’m like “isn’t that everyone? Oh wait… Huh.” Long story short I’m like… probably NB, and my partner deffo is.

          1. Sibilant Susurration*

            Ah yes, my realisation that I had defaulted myself to cis person in my teens, because I didn’t feel like I was compelled toward the binary opposite gender expression, only to discover the terms agender and neutrois in my late 30s and go “ohhhh, so feeling like nothing in particular / at all is a *thing* that exists.”

            1. OlympiasEpiriot*

              I (very cis-presenting, straight woman) remember being in my teens (late 1970s-early 1980s) and thinking and saying when pushed about what girls/women are like or do…”Really? It’s all a performance. All clothing is drag.” I don’t entirely hold that now…more nuance, but, lately I’ve been wondering if I’ve been some kind of NB male-attracted person all along.

              In any case, I LOVE hearing about experiences like the OP’s. L’chaim!

          2. metadata minion*

            Yep — I thought I found the idea of being trans kind of baffling, until I realized that I actually found the idea of having a strong internal sense of gender baffling and many things made more sense. :-b

      2. Boof*

        yes; it was boss legit asking for someone with experience for help/education, not using them as a prop to ‘splain/justify their own thoughts/actions, which is the infamous form of “but my [] friend…”

    3. photon*

      I think this happens quite a lot, it’s just that those situations aren’t noteworthy (because the person learns and adjusts), so we don’t hear about them as often. On the other hand, we hear about people behaving badly because those stories are interesting.

      1. KnittyKnerd*

        As a queer person, I can assure you that this is not just an issue of only hearing the bad stories because they’re more “interesting.” This is the reality for the LGBTQ+ community and particularly for our Trans/enby/GNC siblings.

        1. quill*

          Even if, say, 50% of stories were positive (your survey population can have this vary widely, but it applies to OP’s work experiences) the bad ones have such a huge impact that it’s incorrect to say that the bad stories are more interesting / memorable. They do damage. Just like every tornado that does not tear up your roof has less impact on your life than the one that does.

          1. JJ Bittenbinder*

            Truly amazing analogy. Tornadoes can whip through and do damage in the blink of an eye, and the tornado itself suffers no ill effects.

            I never really thought about how to replace [i]interesting[/i] to describe a story about bad behavior even though the word itself felt not-quite-right to me. “They do damage” is really going to stick with me. Thank you for that.

        2. ShinyPenny*

          Yeah, I’m totally believing KnittyKnerd on this one. I buy “frequent” over “interesting” (???), absolutely.

      2. Warlord*

        You’re probably right. Bad stories and experiences get stuck in our heads and people remember them more than the good experiences.

      3. ariel*

        I WISH this were true. I live in a relatively progressive town and the things I’ve heard otherwise liberal folks say is…. very bad. Even when I interrupt my colleagues over and over regarding someone’s pronouns, they just glide over and continue to misgender.

        1. Kat in Boots*

          I read this story and my only comment is YAY! Such great news! So glad to hear this. New Boss is Good People. :-)

      4. Dawbs*

        I think normally, the”positive isn’t a story” is the reality… but i kinda want to push back on that being the case when dealing with prejudices.

        I have a few trans coworkers- at a place that is GOOD at this. And as a flat footed bumblefuck, I have insulted all of them at least once and probably land in neutral territory more than “positive”. These people don’t tell the stories because 1- they know I’m trying (and intentions count for something) and 2- if they recorded the microagressions are dozens per day.
        (Hell, the last time i screwed up big, i went to my friend the next day to apologize and they said that it was so fun of the mill it didn’t register)

        It’s kinda like other prejudices. I can’t speak to racism, but for sexism it’s not that the microagressions don’t make good stories, it’s that they get me with “that’s not so bad” and i have 47 of them every day… so they’re life not a story. “Someone was obnoxious to the trans employee” isn’t a thing glossed over because it’s not worth commenting on but it certainly seems like it’s gotta be mundane.
        “water is wet, Garfield likes lasagna, and the tabs person dealt with shit 17 times at work today”

      5. Snowy*

        No, success stories on this level of good are kind of rare. I’m still correcting the pronouns of a trans coworker who left two years ago to some of my coworkers, and my trans and nonbinary friends all have plenty of horror stories.

        1. Rose*

          The comment wasn’t about general transitioning pronouns but about the “asking a friend” piece. IME as a queer person people asking friends for advice isn’t a big problem.

      6. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m a standard run of the mill human who identifies the gender I was given at birth– and by this point I’m MUCH more interested in stories about people who get it right. I want positive examples for how else I can support my friends, family, potential co-workers.
        Just the way we use Alison’s scripts for work situations we haven’t run into before, I’ve borrowed from stories by LGBTQ+ writers when asked to use new names & pronouns. I’ve gotten some big smiles so I think it helps.

    4. Momma Bear*

      What a great boss and person, not only to support OP with their pronouns but also to take the time to get informed and be thoughtful in his response back to OP. It’s also something where if the company just makes it a guideline to ask for/respect pronouns upfront, it will be less of a “thing” and more just normal course of business. I’m not usually one for Boss Day gifts, but if I were OP I’d at least make it a point to email his boss and praise his leadership. Even bosses need good reviews.

  2. Hermione's Twin*

    Your boss sounds wonderful. Supportive, inquisitive, eager to learn about other people. I’m so glad this went well for you after the last boss!

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I am sad that OP had to switch jobs, but it’s definitely great to get a clean start with people who only know you with your current name /pronouns and can’t slip back to that “oh I’m sorry I just knew you as X for soooo long” hand-waiving.

      1. OP*

        Switching jobs has been the greatest. My old place was extremely toxic and dysfunctional and my new place is awesome

        1. Coffee Bean*

          I am so glad that you landed in a good spot with a boss who has demonstrated he is invested in your professional and personal well-being. Wishing you you all the best in your career.

    1. Anonymoose*

      Yes! One of my children recently shared with us that they are nonbinary and prefer they/them pronouns. We will obviously call them whatever they prefer, but I do worry about what they will face in the world and how other people’s prejudices will impact their life and career.

      1. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

        Having your support makes all the difference. There are some really good, and not so good, support groups on Facebook. Transgender Parenting is really good, but they center protecting trans kids and will apply tough love to parents which some parents don’t like.

        1. Hills to Die On*

          There was a study my mom told me about that was something to this effect:
          The most successful people aren’t the ones who were handed everything. Nor the ones who had to overcome everything. The people who succeeded the most (from whatever this study was) were the ones who had all the obstacles, but had at least one champion in their corner pushing them and cheering them on. A safe place to land made all the difference in the world.
          I know that’s heavy paraphrasing but it stuck with me.

          1. WindmillArms*

            This is so true. I remember reading once that people aren’t traumatized by pain; they’re traumatized by going through pain alone. I think that’s a similar sentiment!

          2. Tazzy*

            I remember reading a very powerful story (and cannot remember now where it was) but it was about a woman whose mother taught and enforced “You can always say no and I will always support you.” One of the biggest examples was how they were uncomfortable at a sleepover as a child, and they got the girl’s parents up at 11 PM and said “I want to call my mom. I want to go home,” and the girl’s parents and all the kids tried to make it very awkward and make her stay, but her mom came and got her, no questions asked, in her slippers and pajamas.

            One of the worst experiences I had as a teenager was going to an overnight party at a friend of my boyfriend’s, and the parents took everyone’s keys because they were providing alcohol. I didn’t drink and I was just so uncomfortable, and he was doing nothing to help me feel better. I wish I had the nerve then to call my parents and tell them that I wanted to go home, and I wish I had had the support growing up to have done it even if I looked like the biggest spoilsport. Thinking back, I don’t even think I ever told them how awful that party was.

            1. The OG Sleepless*

              We told our kids that they could always call us to come get them, no questions asked. They never did, and to my knowledge they were never in an uncomfortable situation like that, but we definitely meant it.

              1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                My parents told me the same thing and I (through luck, most likely) was never in a situation where I had to take them up on that advice. But it definitely is one of the reasons that I have a strong relationship with my parents — they showed through their words and actions that they would always support me. I hope the same is true for your kids :)

                1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

                  Yes, I remember very vividly my dad sitting me down and telling me that I could call any time even at 3 am if I had been drinking and needed a ride or anything like that and he promised that I wouldn’t be in trouble. My mom piped in that I might be in a little bit of trouble, but my dad shut it down and said “I will not tell your mother about it.” It really stuck with me even though I never needed it because my parents were always a unit and my dad was usually more the disciplinarian and my mom was a little more lax. I always appreciated that I could call them if needed.

                2. Ms_Meercat*

                  For me, that was my grandpa (well, “adopted” grandpa – as in, he and his wife didn’t have kids and my dad’s parents were both dead by the time I was 3, so when we met them around the same time they became our second set of grandparents).
                  He repeatedly told me growing up that whatever happened, I could call him and he’d come get me, no questions asked. I always knew that to be true. I miss him a lot.

              2. Eat My Squirrel*

                One time my daughter’s friend was having a fight with their mom and didn’t feel safe at home. They left the house and started walking. I told my daughter to tell them we are coming to get them right now, and we were in the truck in 20 seconds. We were halfway to picking up the friend when they texted that they walked to their grandma’s house and were ok. I know my daughter remembers that. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

                1. Erin C.*

                  I had a friend in high school that got in a fight with her parents and slept in her car. We lived in a sleepy suburb but when I told my mom about it she matter-of-factly just said “If any of your friends ever feel like they have to sleep in their cars, they can come here instead.”

                  Years later, my sister’s ex-boyfriend once called my mom in a drunken haze and she didn’t even hesitate to get in the car and drive to an unfamiliar part of the (not-so-sleepy) city we now lived in, in the middle of the night to pick him up and get him home. None of us particularly liked the guy, but no one commented on it, because we’re not going to let someone pass out in an alley, so of course she went and got him.

              3. Dawbs*

                My kid is 11 and i trust her besties and their parents… and we still have a code word that gets me to her immediately if she were to call with it.

                I don’t ever expect to need it. But we both feel better knowing it’s there.

              4. Nina*

                As a teenager, my parents said that if I needed to use them as an excuse to leave early (as in ‘oh man, my parents are being such assholes, they’re coming to pick me up, this is such bullshit’) for any reason, at any time, to text them and they’d show up as fast as possible and play along.
                I used that a few times to get out of parties that were getting uncomfortable.

              5. Sibilant Susurration*

                We are teaching our youngling that “There may be things that you choose not to tell us, and that’s fine – we respect your privacy. However, please don’t ever think there’s anything about your life that you have to *hide* from us.”

            2. MigraineMonth*

              My parents went one step further from “You can always call us and we’ll come get you” and “You won’t get in trouble [even if you’d been drinking underage/using drugs] if you call us to come get you” to “Feel free to make us the bad guys in any situation where you feel uncomfortable.”

              So when I realized that the sleepover I’d gone to as a high schooler was under-supervised and co-ed I explained that my parents were real hard-asses and would ground me for a month if I missed curfew.

              1. Momma Bear*

                This. Not only does my child have the option to call, but I will gladly be the Mean Horrible Mom if she needs to save face. I’m glad your parents gave you that support.

      2. BubbleTea*

        I’m queer and my mum was worried about other people’s reactions. Honestly, the fact she kept my sexuality a secret hurt me more than the potential opinions of her random colleagues. I guess make sure you don’t act like the worry about others so much that it seems like you agree with those others. (She is now a lot more open with stuff and much less concerned about other people in opinions, which makes me feel more loved than her concern, even though I know it is normal for parents to worry.)

        1. Anonymoose*

          We’ve asked our child if they’d like us to share their preferences, and, right now, they have decided they want to come out gradually to friends and family. They did ask us to tell their sibling, who’s on the spectrum and not always terribly sensitive to the feelings of others, but that ended up fine and he’s corrected us a few times. Our kid has asked us not to share with grandparents or other family members yet, but we’ll handle that, if they want, when the time comes. My spouse’s family is evangelical, and he’s already practicing his Papa Bear speech if someone dares try to shame his child.

          We’re also lucky that we live in a diverse community, and they have a solid alliance at school as well as several good friends who are in the know, including one who is also nonbinary. The only person who’s given them a problem is the asshole kid down the street, and he was an asshole (to both my children) before they came out, too, and both avoid him as much as possible.

          1. Anon For This*

            I also have a trans child. She was GNC before she transitioned so, in her case, transitioning meant aligning her name and pronouns with society’s assumptions about her based on her outward appearance. Obviously, people who knew her pre-transition are aware that she is trans (and our families and communities have been wonderfully supportive), but I am grateful for her passing privilege with random strangers who might be inclined to cause us trouble.

            As a parent it does feel like a tough line to walk — especially when your child is so young (my daughter was 7 when she came out to us) and lives in such a supportive bubble. Does she know there are states that are trying to take trans kids away from their parents for medically supporting their transition? Is she aware that trans people, and especially trans women, are often targeted for violence simply because they are trans? If she doesn’t know these things, do I want to shatter her innocence? Or should I hold back, even if they means she ends coming out to the “wrong” person and they cause her harm?

            The messaging I’ve settled on for now is: Everyone knows you are a girl. Your name, your pronouns, and your outward appearance — that’s public information that anyone who looks at you or talks to you will know. The fact that you are trans is your personal information. You get to decide who knows it, and when. As you get older you will learn who can trust with that information, and who can’t. In the meantime, you can always come to us (parents) for guidance. And we will have your back with anyone who causes you trouble.

            1. Erin C.*

              I am a 43-year-old cis woman and I consider kids like your daughter role models. Not because she’s “brave” for being trans (she shouldn’t have to be brave, she’s just a kid), but because she’s confident enough to know who she is. I still sometimes have no idea who I’m trying to be, even without the question of gender.

              When she’s older and out in the world and you’re not always around to have her back, know there are those of us out there who will step in go full mama bear if necessary.

            2. Jacey*

              This is a wonderful message to give her! I’m a queer person who didn’t figure her particular brand of queerness out until much later in life than your kiddo, but that’s exactly what I needed to hear even as an adult coming out. My loving, supportive mother for so fixated on the fear that someone else would hurt her child that I think she forgot to tell me that she’d have my back if they ever did. I know intellectually it’s true, but it would have been so comforting and validating to hear it directly.

      3. Lizzy*

        Unsolicited advice: do not show your fear that they won’t fit in, but teach them to be brave instead. Make them believe, deep in their bones, that they will always belong with you.

      4. marvin the paranoid android*

        To be candid, they almost definitely will have to face some level of prejudice, but they will be much better off if they don’t have to live with shame or self-doubt on top of that. If you are able to teach them that being self-aware and candid about your own identity is brave and healthy, and that any prejudice they have to deal with is the other person’s fault, not theirs, that should go a really long way toward building their resilience. That’s the kind of support I really wish that I could have had as a kid, and hope to be able to pass on to others.

        1. extra-anonymous!*

          I dunno though, times are a changing. I live in Brooklyn and I think that the kids growing up here and now are just growing up in a different world. Maybe they’ll escape some or all of the prejudice?

          1. marvin the paranoid android*

            The times have certainly been a changing in many positive ways, thanks to the tireless work of activists and people brave enough to be public with their transition despite the risks, but sadly the times are also a changing in the sense that many people would prefer to see trans people invisible and marginalized by society and are working hard to use the power they have to make trans kids’ lives difficult.

            1. extra-anonymous!*

              Yeah, it’s very location dependent too. But it’s so common here to see gender non-conforming adults, or kids playing with gender expression and/or trying on new pronouns with the support of their parents. It helped my fiancée feel comfy coming out as NB. The kiddos I see growing up with a lot more gender flexibility make me feel a lot of hope for the future.

          2. quill*

            The kids deserve to have it way easier than we did, (and that’s still a fight for us to be waging overall) but being able to google anything before you internalize any societal bias against it definitely helps, especially with their peers.

      5. Candi*

        Tell me about it. My younger one (adult) is non-binary, told me a couple years ago now. There’s family members we haven’t told because, well, you know.

        On the flip side, when they went in for their first state ID and told the counter person they were nonbinary, all that happened was the person telling them where to check on the form for that option.

      6. Katy*

        I would do my best to avoid showing them that, if you can. It’s natural to worry about the kind of world your kids will face when you can’t protect them, but hearing – or sensing – “I just worry about you facing prejudice in the future,” can feel to the kid like a self-fulfilling prophecy, like the parent is bringing prejudice into the home by anticipating it, if that makes sense. If you worry about the future, I would focus on modeling the kind of world you want your kid to live in, where people treat their pronouns as normal.

        If it helps, I’m a middle school teacher and I see so, so many kids who use nonbinary pronouns. There are several in each class, plus a few more who don’t care what pronouns you use, and everyone respects everyone’s pronouns consistently, as far as I can see. The future these kids are creating is going to have much more of a place for your kid than you may think.

      7. Mid*

        I’m so glad you’re supportive! My parents are supportive in theory. But they make a lot of “mistakes” constantly and don’t seem to care about trying to be better.

  3. Hills to Die On*

    Yay I love him! That’s the boss I hope I would be in that situation.
    My daughter’s friend is trans and I am bad at remembering he/they but I correct myself immediately in the moment and get it right more often than not. Progress. But he seems to be very understanding that I do respect them and am trying very hard to get it right. I hope that helps when I do slip and use the wrong pronoun.

    1. Wendy*

      Some trans people – particularly kids – are more sensitive to being misgendered than others, but trying makes a big difference! My elder child has been using they/them for about two years now and is generally pretty easygoing about people getting it wrong (including me, sometimes), but they definitely have more patience for people who make an effort than for people who don’t bother or who actively keep using their deadname.

      1. Hills to Die On*

        Good – I hope it shows my intent until my mouth and brain catch up! Their dad refuses to use the correct pronouns, so I know it’s at least an improvement. I also go out of my way to make them feel welcome when they are at my home. So that they know I am not trying to slight them when I do slip up.
        They’ve been through so much aside from coming out as trans – I am so proud of them and I hate the thought that I would make their life any more stressful than it has to be.

    2. Anonymoose*

      Our child recently came out to us and we’re struggling with implementation on their preferred pronouns – after over a dozen years, old habits are hard to break – but we’re trying and correcting ourselves, and that seems to be good enough for them right now. We often get a thumbs-up for correcting ourselves without prompting. It’s only been a couple of weeks, so I know we’ll get better over time.

      Their best friend is unsure if they are nonbinary or trans, which means they are also unsure about their pronouns or their name. They’ve been through several new names and multiple sets of pronouns, and their parents are trying hard to keep up. I think because their parents have been accepting and willing to try out whatever name/pronoun they request (and also laid down the law with judgy relatives), they’ve been given grace when they slip up.

      1. Daisy Gamgee*

        One thing I did was to give my young nonbinary relative a Baby Yoda keychain. I said, “Here’s Baby Yoda to carry with you, to reinforce that your pronouns are they/them.” They were pretty delighted and it’s helped me a lot to remember their pronouns.

          1. ThatGirl*

            It’s not Grogu specifically, it’s having a second “person” — some people have trouble with hearing “they” as plural, so you are referring to “Sam and Grogu” as “they”.

            1. WindmillArms*

              This is my trick to help folks remember my NB friends’ pronouns! Everyone I know is an animal lover, so normally I suggest thinking of NB person + pet(s) as a permanent group. My older relatives can’t remember that my friend’s pronouns are they/them? Add their lovely dog to your mental picture! Instant “them.” :)

              1. ObservantServant*

                I write a lot of training docs at work and I’m always describing problems that our users might face and the steps we can take to help them and resolve their issue. Instant “them” as well.

            2. Zephy*

              Ah, that’s a cute variation on the “imagine your NB friend has a mouse in their pocket,” for folks who just can’t wrap their brains around singular they.

            3. Daisy Gamgee*

              Yeah, this. I chose the keychain because Star Wars is something our whole household shares delight in.

        1. Wisteria*

          Hm. The child’s name is actually not Baby Yoda, though. He is called “the child” until he gets the name Grogu, which he responds to. I get that you are reinforcing pronouns not chosen names, but they are similar issues for trans and enby people. Just something to consider.

          1. allathian*

            Grogu was always his name, but since he’s non-verbal, he needed a force user (Ahsoka Tano) to tell Mando that.

          2. RagingADHD*

            Hm. Not sure where you’re trying to go with this.

            Inside the story, this entirely fictional character who doesn’t have feelings about what real-world people call him, is addressed most of the time as “Kid,” and referred to as “The Baby,” as much as “The Child,” because the other characters are not telepathic and therefore can’t know his real name. He shows absolutely no sign of caring what he’s called, because relationally he’s a toddler.

            The issue for trans and enby people is that they can and do tell people their name, and they do care whether people use it or not. So I really don’t see the parallel you’re trying to draw.

          3. Daisy Gamgee*

            Are you serious?

            Grogu doesn’t know and never will know how I refer to him because he’s fictional. My friend who changed her name will know how I refer to her because she’s real. Forgive me for spending more effort on remembering her name than I do on his.

            (Or don’t. FFS. This is a level of “oh look you’re actually a hypocrite” I didn’t even see in the fundamentalist church I was raised in.)

        2. Jacey*

          I love it! There’s a hilarious tumblr post somewhere about an NB person who told their dad to imagine they were a swarm of bees pretending to be human, and it actually worked. (Someone commented “NB stands for numerous bees” which always makes me laugh!) Yours is a very cute version of that!

      2. Hills to Die On*

        I swear I have called them ‘Jane-Justin’ more times than I can count correcting myself on the fly. I have also called them ‘Jane-Justin-dammit-sorry’ many times. He ignores it. He really is such a sweet kid.

        1. Erin C.*

          Hey, at least you’re going right from one name to another. My usual is “Jane-dammit-Justin-sorry.”

      3. Ginger Baker*

        My sister and I found getting together and sort of intentionally “practicing” with each other when my older kid changed pronouns was very useful. It gave us some practice that was, importantly, NOT in front of my lovely kiddo. A+ Do Recommend this approach, it probably cut down on slipups a good 40-60%.

        1. Jacey*

          Yes! You can also talk to yourself about the person with new-to-you pronouns when doing the dishes or in the shower. Like: “Tomorrow I see my friend Fergus. He’s funny, kind, and generous. I hope he and I will see that new movie together. I wonder what his opinion about it will be.”

      4. Red 5*

        I have a few friends who are trans, and even having known most of them for many years my success rate at pronouns will probably never be 100%. The human brain is obsessed with patterns and connections, and it also has a hard time letting go of old patterns/connections.

        Every trans and NB person is different, and they’ll have different reactions to hearing old names or the wrong pronouns, and it can even change for the same person depending on the situation or how bad a week they’re having. The biggest trick I’ve found is just that if you’re truly accepting and loving of your friends/family and you want what’s best for them and what will make them the happiest, then you’ll all figure it out and hit your stride. If they know that you’re safe and that you love them, people tend to tell you what they want and what they need. So the thing to work the hardest on is just loving your friends and family, in the end.

      5. Commenter*

        I remember hearing a friend tell his coming-out story (as gay, not as trans) and he had the most gracious attitude towards his parents who were struggling but, at their core, trying (they were uber-religious, I think). He basically said, ‘it took me so long to come to terms or realize this about MYSELF, why wouldn’t I extend that same readjustment time to my parents?’ or something like that. Obviously that only worked because his parents were trying hard (it’s not like he was waiting for them to ‘come around’ or anything) but I thought a lovely, patient way for them to all sort of go through it together.

    3. Mike*

      I don’t want to speak for any other trans people, but in response not just to you but the other cis people making similar comments in this section, I’m someone who my loved ones would probably say is very understanding or chill about it is long as I can tell they’re trying. But it’s only sort of true.

      The reality is that it hurts every time even if I know you’re trying. Sometimes it hurts more, because I know you HAVE to try, unlike people who meet me for the first time, so I feel like the people I’m closest too are the ones that will never see me as who I am, because they are stuck seeing me with their memories. It’s only the tiniest improvement when you DO get my pronouns right but it’s with the vibe that you are saying it very intentionally and it takes effort, like “okay, I’m doing it now, I’m not going to misgender HIM, see, I got it right.”

      But I am aware that, logically speaking, I can’t ask you to do any more than try your best, and I want to have a good relationship with you, and I know it’s not going to help you do any better if I make a thing about it when you slip up. Nor would I feel better, I just want the moment to be over as soon as possible. I even know, logically speaking, that if a friend of mine changes the pronouns they use, my brain doesn’t instantly adjust either, even though I know exactly how important it is to them. I’m not going to put you in a situation where nothing you do is good enough if I want to have a good relationship with you.

      So the best option is to let it go and act like I just appreciate the fact that you’re trying. Logically, I do appreciate it. But that’s not how I feel, I just feel like crap actually.

      1. OP*

        One of the things that have helped me adjust to others’ pronoun changes (because even though this issue is obviously near and dear to my heart, I have my habits) is to relentlessly tell stories about that person to someone else. For days or weeks — but to a random friend, or a Google doc, or whatever, and continuously force myself to use the right name and right pronouns until the switch is tripped in my brain for the right one to be on the tip of my tongue when I think about the person. Not in front of the person in question or to them, and the stories are really just super silly basic ones (e.g., “John went to the store today and he bought milk and butter but no eggs, so I asked him what kind of cake can you even bake with that? John told me he puts milk on his cereal and butters his toast but he hates eggs,” etc etc etc)
        Idk if it would help everyone, but rewriting my brain AWAY from the person and practicing has really helped it be natural for me without any telltale pauses and also isn’t subjecting that person to my practice

        1. Mike*

          This is definitely great advice.

          And OP I’m really happy for you that you found a supportive workplace.

        2. SpookyScarySkeleton*

          Yes! I stumbled into this habit as a cis person with some recently-out trans friends and it’s helped so much for getting their pronouns right on the fly.

      2. OP*

        Sorry, I meant to reply to the comment above and missed the nesting.
        I’m sorry you’re going through that, and I hope it improves as people learn and it starts being natural and just how they think of you! I know it is a possibility — my sibling looked at me in shock today when I mentioned something and went, “Whoa, I genuinely forgot you’re AFAB.”

      3. marvin the paranoid android*

        Yeah, I feel this. It’s a tough needle to thread because some people are very anxious around getting the pronouns wrong and there is a lot of pressure to be laid-back about it but man, sometimes it doesn’t feel great to be seen as a test by people who are supposed to know you. Personally I also struggle with this because I don’t actually have a difficult time at all adjusting to other people’s name and pronoun changes, so I find it hard to relate to. (Not that I think that is a special achievement or anything, but I might feel a bit better about it if I knew what it was like.)

      4. Rose*

        This is really educational to read, and also sounds really hard. I’m sorry your going through it.

        I live with a trans-man relative. I’ve seen him as male since he was about ten or twelve? He wasn’t muscular, or into sports or cars, he didn’t have short hair. He wore girl’s clothes. His favorite color was and is pink. There is just something very male about him. I didn’t even know what trans was at the time. He came out to me when he was 23 and I wasn’t at all surprised. Even though I have never really seen him as female, I have still messed up his pronouns in the past, because I got so used to faking them first out of respect (his stated pronouns back in the day were she/her) and then to help keep him in the closet when he wasnt out to our family. Calling him “her” when he was already out to me made me cringe, but I had to do it, so I got used to it. Esp if I’m very tiered I’ve said “he! She! He! He!” I catch myself, freak out thinking I’ve accidentally outed him, correct myself, then remember he’s out. I’ve never told him any of this (it seems very rude?) so it’s not like he knows.

        I’m not saying this to attempt to invalidate your experience and of course this might not be what is going on with your loved ones at all, but I wanted to share the perspective that they might misgender you despite seeing you exactly as you are. At this point I forget that I ever even used to forget. It’s totally natural. I hope your loved ones get there soon.

      5. Daisy Gamgee*

        Thank you for telling us this.

        One thing I try to remember is that, much like I was queer before I told anyone, when the trans and nonbinary people I know came out to me they didn’t “change” — what changed is my knowledge of who they have always been. I try to ground my understandings in this truth.

    4. Echo*

      One thing that I hope is helpful is: treat it like any other slip of the tongue instead of a huge offense. If someone messes up and starts profusely apologizing and begging for forgiveness, it draws way too much attention to my identity and all the ways that I’m different. That can really ruin my day. But a quick correction in the moment (“did Lee get her birthday present – sorry, his birthday present?”) is polite, respectful, and lets everyone move on.

  4. She/Her supports They/Them*

    This made me smile. I am happy that LW has found their home. How much effort does it take each of us to use preferred pronouns and make someone else’s life just that much easier?

    1. Trans Lives Matter*

      It just takes practice! Practice practice practice. I have a friend with a trans child, and I practice in my head and out loud before I see my friend every time. And when we’re together, I pause to make sure I have it right in my head before I say a pronoun.

      1. Lizzo*

        ^^This. Creating new muscle memory to replace the old.
        Extra practice: for anyone you encounter where you aren’t certain of their preferred pronouns, default to they/them instead of deciding their gender for them. It feels less strange the longer you do it.

        1. InsufficientlySubordinate*

          This. I’ve been working on that and replacing the automatic is that a man/woman with they so my default becomes to think of people as they unless otherwise specified. Sort of explicitly calling out a thought process inside my head.

        2. OP*

          Now my boss only uses they/them for new people! He says since I turned out to be a surprise, why should he assume he knows someone’s unless they’ve specified?

      2. Going to change my nym for this*

        When my daughter came out as trans we officially changed her pronouns over the Christmas holiday so we could practice at home and among family before trying to teach the school. It helped immensely with getting us to where we could correct others. (the school was fabulous, thank goodness, and not exactly surprised, but there were definitely a few pronoun slips.

    2. I'm just here for the cats.*

      Exactly. It would be the same thing if you worked someplace with a Dana. You only emailed/ chatted Dana and Dana did not have a profile picture and there was no mention of anything personal so you didn’t know the pronouns. So in your head you thought of Dana as a she/her because most Dana’s that you’ve met were female/ fem presenting. And then you meet Dana at a company meeting and find out that Dana is male and uses he. You wouldn’t keep calling Dana she when talking. Your brain adjusts and you use the correct pronouns. It’s the same thing when you learn that someone is They/Them or they start to use those pronouns.

      These people who are always “I’ve known you as one way so I’m not changing how I speak to you” just boggle my mind.

      1. Daisy Gamgee*

        These people who are always “I’ve known you as one way so I’m not changing how I speak to you” just boggle my mind.

        I hear you. I’ve known three people from birth who are trans, and if it’s possible to use the correct pronouns for someone whose diapers I changed I think it’s possible to use the correct pronouns for someone I met whenever ago.

      2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Especially because 100% of the time I’ve met those people, they are people who have zero trouble with calling a woman by a new surname if she gets married and changes it.

        1. Zephy*

          This this this this this. I have never heard someone say “Oh, but I’ve known you as Jane Smith for forever, it’s just so hard to think of you as Jane Jones now.”

          1. Sal*

            Tossed off counter-example that doesn’t negate the thrust of any of these examples but I 100% have difficulty thinking or referring to my childhood best friend (who has the same first name as my SIL) by her married name. She lives across the country so it doesn’t come up very often; also probably relevant that I kept my name when I got married. :)

          2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

            As a married woman, it took about 5-6 years of marriage before my married name “felt” like my name. Even though I signed that name, introduced myself with it, used it both professionally and socially. It just didn’t feel like my identity for a LOOOOOONG time.

            1. saf*

              I changed my name because it was sooooo important to my husband. Nope, never got used to it and changed back 15 years later.

          3. quill*

            TBH this is typically about when people drop off my facebook feed. “Who the heck is Jane Jones? Oh, Jane Smith got married. What do I remember about Jane Smith from middle school, 2o years ago? I think we did an english project together and that’s why I have her on facebook.”

            Obviously this is not the case with someone who you are still actively keeping in touch with!

          4. Erin C.*

            OOo! Does anyone remember the story here at AAM about the person who wrote in that after their coworker found out their Deadname, kept referring to them as such with the ‘excuse’ of “because that’s what your mother named you and it would be disrespectful to her not to”? The comments were basically all “Find out her maiden name and call her that CONSTANTLY and when she gets annoyed just sweetly respond ‘but that’s what your parents named you and it would be disrespectful to them not to.'”

        2. Bluesboy*

          This is interesting, I’d never thought about that. I sometimes get my sister’s surname wrong – it’s not like I normally use it when I’m talking to her! I would have thought that if anything it should be easier to change a first name (logically), as you make some mistakes at first, but presumably get used to it more quickly, so if someone really can get the hang of a new surname but not a new first name…I guess they’re not trying that hard with the first name…

      3. Green great dragon*

        It’s not quite the same though, because the subconscious is powerful. I don’t think it’s helpful to pretend remembering a gender change or remembering to use ‘they’ for someone you were used to reading as binary should be as easy as an ‘oh Dana is male’ moment. This is no excuse for not trying! But realistically, you’re likely to slip up, and it’s better to be prepared for that. And then to keep trying, until you’re getting it right.

        1. I'm just here for the cats.*

          Oh i realize people are going to slip up. I’ve done it myself, because we are only human. But its not impossible to use the correct pronous. Its just people being mean.

      4. Ally McBeal*

        Not about gender, but my mother used to refuse to call me by my preferred name (a shortened version of my legal name) because “I named you, I get to decide what you’re called.” By the time she said that, I’d been going by my nickname exclusively for longer than I’d gone by my legal name. It took 5 years of no-contact (for much worse reasons than deliberately misnaming me) and a very stern conversation with her therapist to make her understand that our ability to have a relationship moving forward was predicated on her willingness to accept who I am, rather than push me to be who she wants me to be because she’s a narcissist with control issues.

  5. Allornone*

    Kudos to the boss for recognizing his own blind spot, and doing what he could to understand and ensure his employee was respected the way they deserved.

    1. Catalin*

      I applaud your boss and I also applaud you for being courageous in a time where they-them pronouns are still met with resistance. You be you! Your living authentically helps our society progress, so that one day, NO ONE will have their pronouns mocked, challenged, or rejected.

      Warm fuzzies to you.

  6. JSPA*

    Part of what makes this so excellent is it makes it shiningly clear that someone doesn’t have to “get” anything (at all!) about what gender means to someone else, to be polite, proactive, respectful and supportive.

    Working to convince other people to experience gender (or anything else?) “as I do”–or “as I and my friends do”–is a constant urge, but it’s a) more invasive than necessary b) largely doomed to failure and c) nearly entirely irrelevant.

    “Here’s how we interact with mutual respect” is what matters in the workplace.

    1. turquoisecow*

      I feel like boss understands just fine! He understands what respect is and how to ensure his employees get respect. He trusts OP to tell him what they need in order to be a good and productive employee and he does what he can to make it happen. Even if he doesn’t know what it’s like to be trans or to have dysphoria or anything like that, he knows what it means to treat human beings with respect, and I honestly feel like that might be enough for a boss to need to understand.

      I think some people get hung up on not understanding how someone might feel they’re a different gender, or what non-binary means. But they don’t need to understand those things in order to treat transgender or non-binary people with respect. This boss definitely “gets” that.

      1. quill*

        Many people assume that the way to “get” something is to feel the same, even though feelings and practical knowledge/the ability to accept those feelings in others are not necessarily equivalent.

    2. Turtlewings*

      Yes! The plain fact is that people don’t have to “get it” to treat trans/nb people with courtesy and respect. I don’t “get it” either, honestly — I don’t understand how they feel, and don’t think I ever will. But I don’t have to, because it’s not my life. All I have to do is acknowledge their right to live their lives the way they want; their decisions have nothing to do with me.

      1. Tazzy*

        My (28F) partner (20MtF) just came out to me as trans in December. I told my coworkers very soon after and we just told our families this past week. I don’t pretend to understand “what it means” but we’re in this together and taking it one day at a time. I have the fortune to feel comfortable in the skin I’m in, and I’m doing my best to help them be comfortable in theirs without judgement. We’re flexible on pronouns during the transition, but I have the name change down 100%.

        Their mom and grandparents simply asked that we all get together more often during the transition so that they can “come to terms with” (my words, not theirs) the physical changes as they happen. Our little family was so happy for the support and reassurance that we were still loved even if things will be different going forward. My coworkers made the change in name and pronouns immediately, and my boss simply told me “If you are happy and safe, then I support you. And if you aren’t, I will support you in getting help,” which was all I needed and more.

    3. SoThenISayish*

      Yes! You don’t have to have a PHD in gender studies or understand every aspect of anyone’s gender to be inclusive, welcoming, and respectful. And, I’m glad the boss didn’t make it the employee’s job to educate or “help” him understand the intricacies before he agreed to use their pronouns. That’s the beauty of it- You don’t have to be an expert- You just have to trust that others are an expert in themselves and show respect and decency.

    4. Red 5*

      EXACTLY. That’s what I stress whenever I’m doing DEI work. You don’t have to understand it, or get it, or anything like that at all. It’d be great if you did, but in the end what matters is just treating people well, which includes things like using the name and pronouns they’ve asked you to use. It’s that simple.

    5. Fikly*

      +a million

      You do not have to understand to respect. Gender or anything else. Anyone arguing that they have to understand in order to respect is fundamentally disrespectful of the other person’s agency, and setting up a no win situation, because you cannot understand for another person.

  7. Re'lar Fela*

    Oof. This hit me in all the right places. Happy tears for OP and so much gratitude for their employer! What a fantastic post for a rainy Tuesday afternoon.

  8. JustKnope*

    Wow! I’m emotional. Your boss did it exactly right – separated his own journey of understanding out from protecting you and advocating for your safety and well-being. What an incredible story.

  9. Eric*

    ” and I don’t think I totally get it yet — in fact, I don’t think I’ll EVER get it fully ”

    But by his actions, he’s made it clear that he gets it in just about every way that really matters.

  10. Lucien Nova*

    Who’s let the sentient onion in?

    Your boss is amazing, OP. I’m so glad you’ve found an accepting and understanding workplace.

  11. Beth*

    I especially love that when OP’s boss was confused, he didn’t make it OP’s problem to resolve that. He went and did some research on his own, learned the basics, and then checked in with OP to make sure what he learned would work for their needs. He also didn’t use his ‘not getting it’ to dismiss OP’s identity; he understood that what matters is that he acts in ways that show respect and acceptance, not that he has a visceral understanding of their gender. And finally, he acknowledged his own relatively powerful position in the workplace and used that position to ensure that OP receives that same respect in as many aspects of their work life as he can influence. That’s allyship right there–not just casual feelings of support, not coming in and telling people how they should be, but trusting others to know themselves and their needs and using your own position to offer support and backup.

    1. old curmudgeon*

      So very true – the OP’s boss did “Ally” the way it should be done, and all of us who strive to be allies to our trans friends/colleagues (and to BIPOC friends/colleagues) should keep his example in mind.

      If you tell me that you are XYZ and I don’t understand it, that is a Me problem, not a You problem. And it is a Me responsibility to fix the Me problem, too. So many bosses, including my own, just cannot grasp that concept.

      1. Bluesboy*

        I read this “Ally” as ‘Ally McBeal’ and spent a while trying to remember if I have ever seen an episode that dealt with trans rights…obviously need my coffee today…

        Other than that confusion, 100% agree with you about Me/You problem, it’s an important point.

    2. the Viking Diva*

      Came here to say that, and it’s been said already, dandy.
      Alison – “Ally of the Year” could be a good addition to the “worst boss” tradition, no??

      1. Beth*

        I mostly think rewarding allyship defies the point. First, the whole point of good allyship is doing the thing you know is right for the sake of it–not grandstanding, not pushing your opinions on others, not looking for rewards for it, just doing what needs to be done to make sure the people around you are getting as equal a shot at things as you can give them. And second, anytime there’s a situation where someone has the opportunity to stand out as being a good ally, that automatically means that there’s a marginalized party in that situation who has had to put up with way more BS to get there than the ally did; if we’re going to be highlighting anyone with awards, it should be that person, who’s gotten where they are in spite of a lot of adversity.

        My goal with my comment wasn’t to be like “this boss deserves recognition” so much as to communicate “for anyone looking to be an active ally to a marginalized person or group, this is what that looks like.”

        1. the Viking Diva*

          “My goal” [was] “to communicate “for anyone looking to be an active ally to a marginalized person or group, this is what that looks like.”
          yes – which would be exactly the point of recognizing ally behavior in THIS space, not to recognize an individual but to collect and call out good examples for the rest of us.

          1. Beth*

            There’s a difference between a random commenter pointing a thing out and the blogger awarding a “Best of” category.

            1. Eleanor Shellstrop*

              I agree, having an award or trophy for this wouldn’t be appropriate. I do agree with Viking Diva that it would be a good thing if Alison (if she ever has the bandwidth!) could have a collection of these stories easily accessible. I think telling stories of good allyship is so important. People learn and mimic off others so positive stories can encourage people to act like that, which we all want.

              1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

                Maybe she could create a new category for “positive outcomes/examples/advice for supporting diverse workplaces.” It could also include all the interviews with people who are either experts or work in uniquely supportive situations, like the person whose company was majority-autistic.

                Then we’re not ranking the individuals in the stories, but just gathering the examples and advice for someone doing research.

    3. WindmillArms*

      Yes! He’s being an incredible ally. Not because he’s perfect or because he’s following some script of “how to ally,” but because he is willing to listen AND speak up.

    4. Amaranth*

      Is there a good place for really useful resources to Not Be An Idiot? My child told me yesterday they feel like zhe/they fits them (now I’m wondering if it was zhe/zher and I misheard?). I thanked them for trusting me, asked if I should correct people going forward, and to let me know when I make a mistake. They had only said it out loud to one other person and I feel so honored by the trust and bravery and don’t want to mess up too much.

      1. Beth*

        If you have a queer friend you can talk to about it (someone who’s not the person who just came out to you–in this case your kid–because coming out is a hard enough thing for a lot of people without needing to also be the educator in that moment), most of us are pretty happy to share what we know!

        The 101 level I’d give on this is:

        – Accept that they are the authority on who they are. You don’t need to understand why zhe feels this way; you don’t even really need to understand what exactly zhe feels zhe is. You just need to take it at face value that if they’re telling you this is who they are right now, they’re probably right. (Same goes for if they change their pronouns again later! Trust that zhe’s giving you information on zher identity as zhe figures it out, and that zhe is probably right about their current identity, even if it’s a confusing switch for you.)

        – In general, I would advise you to use the pronouns they told you consistently. Practicing can be really helpful for making a switch–for example, sitting down with a friend and trading off saying sentences like “Zhe is a really smart kid,” “Their sense of style is really strong and unique,” “When [kid] came home yesterday, zhe did their homework right away,” etc can help fast-track building a habit of using these pronouns for them.

        – In this particular case, since your kid is not out to many people yet, I’d encourage you to ask them in what situations they want you to use these pronouns. Is it okay to use ‘zhe’ for kid when talking to your family members about zhim? What about their teachers? Zher friends? Do they just want you to remember so someone knows who they really are, but not use them with others just yet? It’s harder to remember to use a certain set of pronouns in some situations and not others, but if you’re willing to make the attempt, it’s a great way to show you respect both their identity and their right to decide when and to whom they come out.

        – If they said “zhe/they,” they probably meant that both “zhe/zher” pronouns and “they/them” pronouns are a good fit for zhim. You can see that I’ve used a mix of both sets throughout this post; that’s how friends with multiple sets of pronouns have asked me to handle it in the past. If you think zhe might have said “zhe/zher,” though, you can follow up and ask.

  12. Matt*

    NewBoss sounds like someone who at the very least is open-minded enough to know what they don’t know and be willing to educate themselves on it.

    On a side note, I can remember my own coming out 20 years ago and it’s been remarkable to see how much the language of gender identity, sexual identity and so on has grown and evolved in that time.

  13. Box of Kittens*

    Wow. This is amazing. And what really impressed me about this is that while the boss here is obviously fantastic and an example for us to follow, the company itself has already done the groundwork for this. There’s a section in the *employee handbook* about respecting peoples’ pronouns! I know that those types of changes can often just be for show but it tells me that here, someone has successfully advocated for that AND they are following through on their stated policies. Really impressive all around.

    1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      Yes! And given that the boss, reflexively, accepted LW’s pronouns and knew not to make it their issue to educate him, he likely had training or guidance from the company. He didn’t understand, but clearly knew what he was supposed to do anyway.

  14. Danish*

    Honestly being self-aware enough to go “Cool, thanks for telling me” out loud while internally going (??????) and then going away to do your own research, knowing that it shouldn’t be on the employee to explain, is already amazing. Super cool of your manager!

  15. Meep*

    Removed. When we have posts about fighting discrimination, I don’t know that it’s useful — and think it can be harmful — to fill the comments section with stories like this. – Alison

  16. FionasHuman*

    Kudos first to your boss’ trans friend — when people who can be out ARE out, that visibility alone helps change the culture in positive ways. The trans friend’s generosity in being willing to educate your boss is also absolutely lovely.

    Next, kudos to your boss, whom in addition to being a cis man is, probably, also straight. Protecting those with less power, whether at work or in the culture at large, is rough work, but also vitally important.

    And, equal kudos to OP, for being brave enough to come out at work right after a previous bad experience doing the same. It wasn’t your job to make the path behind you easier for others, but in effect that is exactly what you’ve done.

  17. TimeTravlR*

    As the parent of a transgender adult, this gave me shivers and made me cry. I’m so glad you found a decent manager!!

  18. photon*

    General thoughts–

    1) Pronouns are not gender. A nonbinary person can use “she” pronouns, a woman can use “they” pronouns. Obviously there are correlations, but that’s not definitive!

    2) Ugh, gendered uniforms are dumb to begin with. I don’t care what’s on your form, you should be allowed to select whatever uniform is available regardless. If that means (for example) that cis dudes show up to work in skirts, great! It’s dumb that skirts are gendered to begin with.

    1. I'm just here for the cats.*

      your comment about dudes and skirts made me flashback to a part in one of the Harry Potter books, I think it was goblet of fire. And 2 wizards are standing around wearing muggle clothes. one was wearing a skirt and the other was criticizing him for it, saying that it’s women’s clothes. The guy wearing the skirt was like “I like to have a breeze on my nether region.” or something like that.

      (And yes I know that there are issues with JK Rowling and her comments about Trans people. But I am of the belief that you can still enjoy a work without agreeing with the creator’s stance on issues.)

      1. Lenora Rose*

        A better example is early Star Trek, the next generation, where you do see a few men in the short skirt version of the uniform.

      2. nott the brave*

        In a thread about allyship and how to do it right, this is, uh, not a good look.

        JK Rowling is still alive. Any money that goes to her is money directly funding the oppression and marginalization of trans people. She believes a bafflingly large number of her fans agree with her views even if they are afraid to speak out. Not agreeing with an author is fine, but when they’re alive and still using their continually growing wealth in this way… well.

        It’s a hot topic for the ones being attacked, I’ll say that much.

      3. marvin the paranoid android*

        I’m not going to judge anyone who enjoys reading these books, but as someone whose human rights this author is actively trying to strip away, I have to say, it bums me out whenever I hear her name or references to her books. I wouldn’t recommend bringing them into discussions where lots of gender diverse people are likely to be reading.

    2. Red 5*

      Yeah, I can understand having options for uniforms that tend to follow some gender stereotypes or whatever you want to call it (specifically I’m thinking of shirts that button on different sides being a thing) but really in the end, every uniform option should be available to every employee.

      But I will also stand by a preference for having uniform -options- and not just trying to throw your hands up and quit by declaring everybody has to wear the same thing. That almost always means picking a masculine style and cut, which only looks good on people with a particular shape and size. Options are less about gender and more about finding a cut/style that an individual prefers. You don’t have to offer a million things, but at least two is nice.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yes – “non-gendered” uniforms usually mean “unisex” which … isn’t.

        1. Snowy*

          There is a “true unisex” which on a t-shirt is tapered/narrower in the abdomen (not as fitted as a “women’s” shirt, but also not square like a “men’s”) because a lot of people are narrower at the waist regardless of gender, but it’s rarely used, unfortunately.

    3. MFN*

      My son (who is genderfluid, and uses he/him/son/brother) wears skirts. And tights. And sometimes high heels. Gendered clothing is indeed dumb.

      When he first started wearing skirts and such, I spoke with a biologically-male nonbinary friend of mine who is built much the same way as my son to ask where they got “women’s” clothing. I worried it would be hard to dress him. My friend said, “your son is a 5’11” 130 lb teenage boy with no hips and no boobs. He’s basically a supermodel. Dressing him will be easy.” They were right.

      Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop the idiots at school from making comments, but my son is better dressed than I am. ;-)

    4. TransmascJourno*

      Photon: I’m not going to touch upon your second point, because others have already addressed it. Your first point, however, really rubbed me the wrong way. Speaking as a transmasculine and nonbinary person who is routinely misgendered on a daily basis, pronouns as an instrument of recognition and identity are really, really important to me. I can’t and won’t pretend to speak outside of my own experience, but I can say with certainty that I’m far from the only trans/enby person who’s ever felt that way.

      Forgive me if I’m reading your point incorrectly, but it comes across as “why pronouns?! who cares what anyone calls anyone!” — and that point, generally, is something that makes me bristle. My pronouns are they/them, but being able to have the courage and strength to share that took a lot more than just strangely suggesting that pronouns have no correlation with identity.

      1. not owen wilson*

        I think you might have misread their point! I didn’t take it as Photon saying pronouns are pointless or unimportant but instead pointing out that people can use pronouns regardless of their gender identity. For example, someone who identifies as male using she/her pronouns or someone agender using she/her. Neither one is a woman but both are using a set of pronouns most people read as feminine.

        1. TransmascJourno*

          Indeed, I didn’t get that impression initially, but I can totally see how it can be read that way. Photon, if that’s what you meant, all apologies on my part!

    5. not owen wilson*

      Also important to highlight that people can prefer different pronouns around different people! My boyfriend is nonbinary and uses he/him and they/them pronouns depending on who he’s talking to. My best friend in high school was a trans man and I’m also queer, but even with that background I struggled a bit at first when he told me to use he/him pronouns for him. Not because he’s nonbinary, but because I worried that I wasn’t recognizing and respecting that he’s not a man. We’ve since had more conversations about it though and now I understand — it’s that he/him feels more intimate and my partner likes that with people close to him, but he prefers to use they/them in the world at large. I do my best to be intentional about recognizing his gender in other ways though. I won’t call him a man/male, and when we first started dating I’d just ask how he felt about different terms — for example, he doesn’t mind being called a guy. And to your second point — every time I see him in a skirt, my heart just melts <3

    6. jim stasheff*

      there are a few examples of very male soldiers in historic uniforms with `skirts’ – Scotch, Greek

    1. Fitz-Panda*

      I agree! So happy that OP is in a place that actually respects their pronouns. Also, LOVE the hair colors! I’m thinking of doing the same thing :)

  19. Delta Delta*

    This is a great story of success!

    I wonder if Original Boss would refuse to call a recently-married person who changes their name by their new name. Gee, I’ve known Tangerina as Warblesworth for so long, I couldn’t possibly call her Tangerina Llamapotamus now! No, I suspect she does not do that.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      Yeah, but she might do the opposite. (That is, Tangerina Warblesworth does not change her name, but boss insists on calling her Tangerina Llamapotamus anyway because Tangerina is married to Wakeen Llamapotamus.)

      1. Might Be Spam*

        That happened with my boss when I got married. Everyone in the department knew that I was keeping my name, but boss decided to order a new nameplate anyway. Coworkers tried to talk him out of it, but I came back to a new name on my office and he expected me to thank him. Finally “compromised” by having both last names on it.

        I was young and it was my first full time job, so I let myself get pushed into it. It didn’t help that my husband suddenly changed his mind and wanted me to change my name. It took way too long, but I’m single now and I have my name back.

      2. Anonymoose*

        Oh, I see you’ve met my mother. I’m coming up on 20 years of marriage, and both she and my MIL address things to me with my spouse’s last name, which is not my last name. (My last name is my mother’s birth name, and she’s very well aware that it was a deliberate choice and is meaningful to me.) At least my mother uses my first name whereas MIL addressed them to Mrs. Spouse’s-First-and-Last-Name.

      3. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

        Ugh. Yes, this 100% happens, and from people who should know better.

        I could laugh when my husband’s time-machine-from-the-bad-old-days relatives sent us a massive family Bible with “Fergus and Tangerina Llamapotamus” engraved on it (please note username; the gift itself was ok). But I’m not over getting a Christmas card from the president of the institution of higher learning for which my husband works, and from which I HOLD A DEGREE) addressed to Fergus and Tangerina Llamapotamus, when they know damn well my name is Tangerina Warblesworth, because it is ON MY MOTHER-HUMPING DIPLOMA that the person who addressed this card SIGNED.

    2. OP*

      She was SUPER bad with nicknames too. If someone’s resume said “Edward” forever Edward he’d be, not Teddy as everyone has called him since his birth and what he actually liked.

  20. RJ*

    This is a great lesson on how to be a good boss. Congratulations, OP. I’m glad you landed somewhere where you are treated as you deserve and called what you desire. I am very, very happy for you.

  21. ecnaseener*

    Love that the new boss was confused but had the presence of mind to think “interrogating them about it is probably not the right move in this moment, I don’t need to prioritize my own curiosity over their comfort” !!! That’s a hard thing for well-meaning people to get right.

    I wish you had never had to deal with the first boss, but so glad you’re in a supportive environment now :)

  22. MEH Squared*

    I love everything about this–well, except for your old boss. She can kick rocks because she’s a jerk. Your new boss, though, is an example of how to react to something from an employee that is outside your realm of knowledge. Good on him and this is my feel-good story for the day.

  23. Zeke*

    I’ve been lucky enough to see successes like this at my workplace, too, and was able to make the jump after some concerns about how it would be taken.

    The only bad thing is…gendered uniforms? Seriously? That’s still a thing we’re doing in 2022?!

    1. I'm just here for the cats.*

      especially being that most uniforms look pretty much the same, unless they include skirts. I mean a polo shirt looks pretty close to a Vneck shirt. And a button down shirt is the same regardless

      1. Llellayena*

        I don’t object to uniforms made for different body types (a men’s-style buttoned shirt is going to look ridiculous on a D-or-larger-cup body no matter what gender we’re talking about), but you should be allowed to ORDER whichever version you want. Limiting your ability to order the uniform to whatever your birth gender is becomes a problem.

        1. Lady Danbury*

          This is exactly what they did at my previous job. They were just polos, but you had the option of getting women’s fit or male/unisex (can’t remember which one). The women’s fit followed women’s sizing and also was cut to accommodate curves but everyone could choose whichever fit they preferred.

          1. Red 5*

            We had to fight to get this at a previous job I worked at, but mostly because the boss had never actually even -heard- of the fact that women’s shirts were functionally different than men’s shirts. He just was refusing to get it, and got really angry about it, but eventually we convinced him to just switch to polo shirts rather than button ups so that people could choose between the size charts. I -hate- polo shirts and think I look terrible in them, but I’ll take that over being swallowed whole by a men’s cut shirt that I have to buy in a ridiculous size just to fit my hips.

            I also have very, very detailed opinions about “men’s cut” and “women’s cut” shirts, any why it’s all ridiculous, but I’m assuming that’s derailing and I’ll not go down that rabbit hole ; )

    2. doreen*

      I read that and was (and still am) a little confused. Although the LW doesn’t mention their occupation , most uniforms nowadays are gender-neutral in terms of looks, whether it’s an actual uniform or the “khaki pants and a red polo” type . A person might want the women’s size pants rather than the men’s size pants or vice versa because of fit but the only actual gendered uniforms I ‘ve seen in years are worn by flight attendants.

      1. OP*

        The tops are cut differently, that’s all. For the women’s ones, they taper in a bit and have a different length and neck shape. They’re not drastic, I just don’t like things hugging my curves!

  24. Not Australian*

    “If someone wants to be addressed as Big Bubba Ho-Tep and insists they identify as a toaster, you either respect them enough to respect their choices or you don’t. They’re not hurting anyone and there’s bigger things in the world to be concerned about.”

    One of my favourite quote, from ‘Harbinger Island’ by Dorian Dawes, which I had the privilege of publishing a few years ago.

    1. Urguncle*

      I get that you don’t mean to be disrespectful, but as a non binary person, this kind of ridiculous identity stuff is akin to saying “I don’t care if your skin is purple!” You can say you respect someone’s without literally objectifying them.

    2. NotAGirl*

      Hmm you probably didn’t mean to imply that trans peoples’ identities are delusions and the best cis people can do is humour them, but that’s how this kind of thing comes across.

  25. Skootaloo*

    I am nonbinary and I loved this so much I almost cried. I hope to be in a work environment someday where I feel comfortable coming out like this and experience a similar reception. Unfortunately despite the number of lovely people at my current job, one problem coworker makes me feel very, very apprehensive about bringing up anything “weird” gender or sexuality wise about myself. Stifling the true me 8 hours a day, 5 days a week is really taking its toll though.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Ugh, I’m sorry. Do you not have faith in management/HR’s ability or willingness to control that coworker’s behavior and insist that they treat you at least with professionalism and courtesy?

      1. Skootaloo*

        It’s a weird situation, in that it’s essentially just me and her in a tiny sub-department of an already tiny team (there’s only one other person and our boss in the larger team and that’s it) so we work extremely closely together and are basically around each other constantly every day. I think our manager and grand-manager would handle things well-as would HR and the rest of the staff in the other, larger departments-but making a point of enforcing my pronouns would drive a wedge between us and make my day to day very awkward in a less subtle and passive way than it’s already awkward being misgendered constantly.

  26. Daisy Gamgee*

    LW, thank you so much for sharing this with us. You are splendidly brave and your new boss is a class act. I’m cheering for you!

    1. OP*

      I remembered this comment today and nearly fell off my chair laughing as I watched my boss try to figure out how many binder clips he could attach to his face before it hurt too much.
      Luckily I was laughing too hard to tell him he’s apparently a class act. (I mean, he is, but he’s also a goof sometimes — but the laugh was much much needed!!)

  27. Llellayena*

    Alison, I don’t know how much influence you get over the articles you write or get interviewed for on other platforms or mainstream media, but this is a fantastic “how-to” that should be spread farther than your site (with LW’s permission of course). Not to discount the reach of your site, but this is something that can be applicable even outside the workplace.

  28. John*

    “and I don’t think I totally get it yet — in fact, I don’t think I’ll EVER get it fully”

    Same here. I was pretty shocked to find out my old high school friend David is now Felicia, but she’s much happier now and that makes me happy.

  29. Sad Desk Salad*

    Thank you LW for giving the rest of us a great example to lead by. I genuinely appreciate it because, while I’m not in a position of authority, I want people to know I am an ally and safe space and will always respect a person’s pronouns and identity.

    I am really gender conforming–it’s super easy to tell from my appearance and demeanor that I am cis with respect to traditional gender presentation. That said, I’m thinking of adding my (cis) pronouns to my email signature, not because I expect to be misgendered, but as a way for non-conforming people to identify me as a safe person to talk to if needed.

    1. Ashkela*

      This is an AWESOME way to be an ally. Having it in your signature does exactly what you’re intending it to do, as well as frankly helping you to glean knowledge about folx who respond to it either negatively or positively. Heck, for Pride last year (though I ended up keeping it after), I not only kept my ‘Ashkela Wigglesworth (she/her/hers)’ in my signature, I changed the colors of ‘she/her/hers’ to the pan pride colors.

      I have my pronouns in my Twitter profile and it’s always quick to weed out the jerks who decide I’ve got them there to be woke or to indicate I’m trans (I’m cis), or whatever other reasons. Like buddy, I have lots of other potentially drama-inducing facts in that profile. If you can handle those, my pronouns shouldn’t be a thing.

      1. Wine Not Whine*

        I am pleased and proud that my (large!) company recently sent out a memo to all employees asking them to include their pronouns in their email signatures, and providing a link to a website that discusses pronouns and gender-inclusive language.

        It costs me nothing to include my pronouns, and doing so helps normalize including NB pronouns for others. It’s a simple win all the way around.

        1. Jane*

          As someone who generally identifies as cis and uses she/her, but isn’t entirely comfortable with those pronouns I’d like to mention:

          While this is a fantastic thing, and a good policy, it’s also important to not make it obligatory or draw attention to/apply pressure to people who don’t end up putting their pronouns in their signature.

          If there is pressure it can inadvertently force people to out themselves, preempt their process of figuring it out, or claim something that doesn’t feel right.

          1. ShinyPenny*

            This is a nuance I learned on this site, have appreciated knowing, and have passed on to others. It totally makes sense, but is usually overlooked by people trying to be allies.

          2. Snowy*

            Same, I’m cis and on the one hand would love to put my pronouns on things both to normalize it for others, and to make my pronouns clear because my uncommon name doesn’t….being misgendered as male actually sometimes helps me get more respect. If people see I’m competent before they find out I’m a woman, it sometimes goes better, unfortunately. So I’m conflicted about it.

    2. Red 5*

      You should add your pronouns to your email! And your Zoom profile if you use Zoom a lot in your office.

      It’s a really fantastic way to normalize the practice and really does make a difference. And it also has a lot of utility beyond that because of the way that communication is constantly changing. It’s the definition of low risk/high reward in my opinion :)

    3. Vpbird*

      I’m cis and added my pronouns to my work email signature as soon as I saw someone else doing it. The out trans woman I know at work was happy to see it.

    4. old curmudgeon*

      I was beyond shocked when the senior leadership at my (very, very hidebound and rigid) state agency sent out guidance to the entire agency endorsing the addition of pronouns to our email signatures, and even more so when I realized that the person in the very top position had done so in their own email signature.

      I had wanted to start including my pronouns but had been dissuaded by my conservative boss who “didn’t see why it was important.” Once that leadership guidance came out, though, I got those pronouns into my email auto-signature so darned fast it left tire tracks on my mouse pad, and I will keep them there as long as I work for my employer. It’s a small thing, I realize, but small things can add up over time to big changes.

    5. Sad Desk Salad*

      Thanks all for the support! :) I just added my pronouns to my email signature. I agree this is a low risk/high reward situation. Our team is tiny, and everyone knows each other well, but we’re growing, and it’s not fair to assume anyone’s gender identity regardless of how the present. This is a small but meaningful way to present myself as an ally and help normalize the acknowledgement of queer/enby/NGC/trans people.

      1. Sad Desk Salad*

        how they* present
        normalize the acknowledgment of queer/enby/NGC/trans people’s preferred pronouns*

        Sorry, didn’t proofread before hitting enter!

    6. Mike*

      Adding to your email signature is definitely good, pronouns on the business card is actually exactly how I picked the first friend/colleague in my professional network to tell about my plans to transition.

    7. marvin the paranoid android*

      For what it’s worth, I’ve heard a number of supportive cis people say something along the lines of “It’s really obvious that I’m a cis man, but I’ve started listing my pronouns anyway.” To offer a slightly different perspective on this, most people I meet think it’s obvious that I’m a cis woman, but I’m not. It can be helpful to normalize this kind of explicit pronoun use not only to signal respect for trans people, but also to help chip away at the assumption that everyone’s gender identity is obvious from the way they look and act.

      1. Red 5*

        This is the reason I’ve been stressing at work, because we work with people in other countries and cultures, and so names AREN’T super obvious to everyone so easily as we might think.

        Just because I work with people in West Xylophone all the time and I know that over there, a name that starts with an X is usually considered feminine doesn’t mean anybody else knows that. Plus, even in English speaking countries names shift over time so somebody from another generation might think a name is really masculine when newer hires think it’s feminine or gender neutral.

        It just saves everybody some trouble.

  30. iliketoknit*

    Awwwww, it makes me so happy to read this! Thank you for sharing such a great outcome! I hope we get to the point where even crappy managers aren’t crappy about this kind of issue, but it was still so heartwarming to read this.

  31. Blackcat lady*

    AAM has an annual worst boss of the year. This story makes me wish we could also have a best boss of the year award.

  32. Lady Danbury*

    This is beautiful. I love that his response at not understanding was to do his own research from someone with whom he already had a close relationship, not force you to educate him. I wish more people understood the mental toll it takes on minoritized people to be expected to be minority 101 all the time. It also shows the importance of having genuine relationships with a diverse group of people.

    1. OP*

      It’s amazing. I feel like with him, I’m not his instructor for Non-Binary 101, I’m his employee who happens to be NB. Sometimes, in the moment, he’ll ask me about a specific thing, but he’ll also ask me similar questions about experiences I’ve had as a (fill in the blank with other things I am). And those questions are almost never “Explain this to me” but more “how do YOU PERSONALLY feel about this?”

      1. Daisy Gamgee*

        As someone who has had to be The Ambassador and Explainer on other topics, I am so glad that your boss is not inflicting that experience on you, and that you two get to work together. May you have a long and happy career in this good environment!

  33. ThatGirl*

    I sent this to my nonbinary coworker who told me they had “a healthy dose of emotions on a Tuesday afternoon” so thank you for sharing :)

  34. Another Ashley*

    I love how the boss recognizes that even if he doesn’t understand someone’s gender identity, he should still respect it. And that he did the research himself on his own time using his own resources instead of expecting someone to educate him.

  35. Bookworm*

    Thank you for writing in and sharing your story, OP!! I’m so glad this new job seems so much better!

  36. wendelenn*

    Paul Stamets: “Adira can do it. She’s fast.”
    Adira Tal: “they.”
    Paul: “Hmm?”
    Adira: “I never felt like a ‘she’ or ‘her’. I think I want to use ‘they’ and ‘them’.
    Paul. “Okay.”

  37. Elenna*

    Infinite love for OP’s boss realizing “well, I’m confused, but I shouldn’t make that OP’s problem” and then going out and finding his own resources to figure out how to be supportive.

  38. H.Regalis*

    This made me happy, and the boss got it right. It’s not OP’s job to educate their boss, and–this part is absolutely critical–Boss doesn’t need to understand OP’s identity in order to treat them with respect.

    There are so many shitty people who try to hide behind “I don’t get it” in order to avoid treating trans and nonbinary folks with respect. You don’t need to have a PhD in gender studies to do things like use the pronouns and name someone tells you to call them.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, exactly.

      It says something about the state of the world when the OP’s boss gets this much praise simply for treating the OP with basic human decency. It should be the default, but sadly it isn’t.

      1. OP*

        Some weeks after I started working there, I thanked him for all he was doing to be supportive and consistently so.
        He looked at me like I had three heads and told me we don’t thank each other for basic decency.

    2. CountryLass*

      I’ve said that all along, I don’t get it. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but it doesn’t HAVE to make sense to me. My understanding is not the point, and has no impact on the situation. My acceptance does. As long as the person understands that, because I don’t ‘get’ it, I may not automatically think of how they would be affected differently from a Cis-gendered person, and they may need to point it out to me so I am aware, I would be fine.

      Much like, as I don’t own a reptile I do not think about how something that affects my household would affect theirs differently. It doesn’t mean I don’t care, just that I don’t know differently until someone helps to educate me.

  39. Zeus*

    This is such a great story! I’m sending this to my sibling, xe’s looking for a job at the moment and was worried about using neopronouns in a work setting, but hopefully this will ease some of xir concerns.

    1. OP*

      Late response, but please feel free to add this delightful exchange from a couple days ago:
      My boss takes a call from a client who wants to complain about me. I can hear the other person is shouting angrily, and my boss is trying to deescalate. At the beginning, I hear him say, “Actually, ‘OP’ uses they/them”, as he does routinely to clients. The call goes on. My boss is defending my actions and I hear him start stressing the “they” every time he refers to me a bit more strongly each time.
      Finally, I hear him snap, “Listen. I don’t care WHAT my employee did or did not do to upset you. They use they/them pronouns, and you WILL respect that NOW, or I WILL hang up this phone!”

  40. sapphires and snark*

    I came out as trans at a previous job. My manager was just…so outstanding about all of it. She never got my pronouns wrong, even once, and made sure I had all the time I need to do things like get my documents changed, etc.

    She really showed me the kind of person she was by how she treated me throughout the process–I had been working there only for 3 months when I came out! We’ve both moved on (which is another story in itself) but she is now one of my closest friends.

    Bosses who get this kind of stuff are priceless.

  41. LGC*

    …I really needed to see this letter today. Thank you LW for writing it, and thank you Alison for sharing it.

  42. RetailEscapee*

    I’m a lesbian with a enby partner and I read this and yelled “EFF YEAH!” out loud in an empty house and scared my dog. Good for you!!

  43. works with realtors*

    Recently one of the contractors I work with – who is nearing 70 – asked why I have she/her in my signature. I explained how it helps to have conversations using the right pronouns and encourages everyone to be respectful even if I do use the pronouns that he would have assumed for me, and he genuinely seemed excited at the idea we could help foster better communication with it. I cried when I got off the phone with him.

  44. Name (Not Required)*

    I have trouble remembering people’s names – not faces, but always names and always has been. Adding in pronouns is a bit too much for a brain that sometimes can’t remember its own moniker. Chinese doesn’t have gendered pronouns so I look forward to when that becomes the world’s lingua franca. d–(^ ‿ ^ )z

    1. allathian*

      My main working language, Finnish, doesn’t have gendered pronouns, either. I don’t know if any of my coworkers identify as something other than the gender they pass as, but at least not having gendered pronouns eliminates a lot of opportunities for misgendering people.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          Also Estonian, and many indigenous languages … by some estimates, more than half of Earth’s total number of languages have no gendered pronouns.

    2. CountryLass*

      I think that Spanish doesn’t have them as standard, but you can add the gender for emphasis… I’ve only just started to learn it so I could be wrong… so “you can” is puede (no idea on spelling!) and “they can” is pueden. If you wanted to emphasise it would be “el/ella pueden”. I think.

      Spanish speakers, feel free to correct me! Nicely, obviously.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I’m not a fluent Spanish speaker, but what I remember from my high school Spanish class is:

        Spanish pronouns are gendered. “El” for “he” and “ella” for “she.” Also “ellas” for “they” (all girls/women) and “ellos” for “they” (all boys/men or mixed gender).

        Because verbs in Spanish are conjugated differently for first-person singular/first-person plural/second-person singular/second-person plural/third-person singular/third-person plural, you can drop the pronoun to obscure the gender of the subject. But that only works sometimes. The pronoun may be necessary for clarity. And if there are any adjectives that refer to the subject of the sentence, they will be gendered according to the gender of the subject.

    3. Marvel*

      This is a pretty unhelpful comment.

      You realize that trans people are told every day that their pronouns are “too much to remember,” right? I’m sorry you struggle with this, but all of us have our hurdles of human interaction that we have to leap in order to be respectful of the people around us. Learn the damn pronouns, and don’t complain to trans people about how hard respecting us is for you.

  45. trans_worker*

    I had an almost identical situation at my old job too – and using they/them pronouns has been a complete non-issue at my new job. I’m so glad that OP also found a supportive new workplace!

  46. Celia*

    Wow, I’m actually tearing up over this. If everyone was as open and thoughtful as your boss this world would be a much better place. A little bit of faith in humanity has been restored for me!!

  47. Lilac*

    I just started a new job earlier this month. I wish I had OP’s boss. Mine pulled the “age means that it’s hard to change” card. I was getting ready to ask for a transfer but I noticed my pronouns have just started to be used by my line manager this week.

  48. CountryLass*

    I’m so happy that you have a good boss now!

    I could understand if your previous boss had said that she was so used to referring to you as she/her that it was going to be hard to remember all the time, and to please forgive any slips whilst she ‘transitioned’ for want of a better word. I think I would probably say something similar, as a form of “I hear and acknowledge your request, and I will do my best. I may require some time and gentle reminders, please know that it is nothing to do with your choice and everything to do with my memory and habits. You have my support with other coworkers.”

    My daughter wanted to change the name we used (a derivative) to her full name. Think Gracie and Grace. I was honest with her that I would try, but that she had to remember I had called her Gracie for 8 years, I was not going to remember to stop overnight. Typically, just as I started to get a handle on it, she changed her mind!

    1. FridayFriyay*

      I strongly encourage not saying things like this. It is akin to the “over apology” for slipping up that puts the onus on the person to accept your apology or pre-emptively excuse those mistakes as fine. Trans and enby people already know that other people feel they need time and reminders. You can show that you’re trying your best by getting it right more often than not and by not putting the onus on them to remind and correct you constantly (especially at work, this is not an appropriate role to have to take on.) Just… do it. Practice as much as you need to on your own time to get it right and don’t make it their problem.

      1. Metadata minion*

        I agree! Trans people don’t have some magical name-remembering power; we mess up too. Changing my name has resulted in periodically realizing that I have introduced *myself* by the wrong name because I spent so many years saying the other one, and trust me, there is no non-awkward way to get around that :-b

        When someone goes on and on about how it’s hard and takes time it makes it sound like this is something dramatically different from any other name change they have to learn, and that they’re making special effort that they shouldn’t have to do. If you can remember that John has decided to go by his middle name and is now Ed, or the vendor you refer people to changed her last name when she got married, you can remember your trans coworker’s new name. Just apologize briefly when you mess up and move on.

  49. 404_FoxNotFound*

    <3 I'm super happy current boss is handling this so well, especially when compared to your previous not great boss!

  50. Divergent*

    OP, if you get down this far in the comments — I’d really like to know how your boss knew you were struggling with dysphoria. Was this something you talked about often at work? How do you make decisions about what to disclose and what not to, and how to talk about this stuff in casual conversation? Does this seem in line with other medical/mental health openness at work for you?

    I ask because I have similar issues sometimes and would love to be granted similar grace, but also can’t imagine/have never been in a workplace where folks were that open about health issues and I’m curious what it would look like.

    1. OP*

      So I don’t usually bring up these things at work, because while we work very closely together throughout the day, we’re also working.
      It came up because I am a high-performer usually (not to brag) and able to roll with whatever is happening, anticipate my boss’ needs and have the thing ready right when he realizes he needs it, etc. And one day, I was just… not performing to my usual high standard, so not being super bad but also not being myself. And at some point, he called me into his office and asked, “Are you doing alright? Did you sleep enough? Are you feeling sick? Do you need to go home? Is there something I can do to help?” Not rapid-fire like it sounds, I was just sorta bad at answering his questions so he asked new ones to try to get to the bottom of what’s wrong — and what he can do to help. So after he asked his usual pool of “reasons my good employees might be less good today”, I told him I’m just really struggling with dysphoria and dysphoria related depression right then.
      He stopped and went, “OK, normally I’d nod and then quickly Google ‘dysphoria’ to understand or ask my friend again, but this doesn’t feel like something where I should wait until later to understand what’s going on. Can you please explain to me and know that you’re not defending your feelings but describing? Also, you don’t have to share more than you want and you can tell me it’s too personal and I’ll leave it at that then.”
      But we had a really really good rapport by then, so I did explain what it meant and what it meant FOR ME specifically.

      I make decisions what to disclose mainly by asking myself “does it impact my work?” and “do I need some kind of accommodation/help?” If either one is yes, then I disclose — or if either has a potential to become a yes, I disclose with a caveat that I’m just giving him a heads-up in case it becomes a bigger problem.

      This is 100% in line with other openness at work – I am deliberately being vague about what I do, but the giant umbrella term “healthcare” is appropriate here. So we’re all much more trained in medical/mental health than most workplaces due to the work we do.

      Also, this is 100% in line with how my boss operates: he believes strongly that while he’s hiring us to do specific work during specific hours, we’re also actual people and not machines and that if he treats us well and gives us a few days here and there of grace, we’re going to perform better overall.

      I don’t know how helpful all that was, though! A lot of it is just “my boss is actually as amazing as he sounds” which is probably not helpful.

  51. Three Goblins in a Trench Coat*

    This makes me so happy I am struggling not to tear up at work. Thank you for sharing. This gives me faith that my trans son will land in a job that respects his gender identity one of these days (he had the uniform fight but it didn’t go as well and his boss did NOT support him). I’m so happy for you OP!

  52. Robin Ellacott*

    It’s so lovely to hear about this being handled well. Thank you for sharing, LW!

    It’s such a good example of what we can do if we find ourselves managing someone in a similar situation, and what we can expect from others.

  53. Morgan Hazelwood*

    A friend of mine (C) did this, and I think it could be really helpful for people who struggle with getting pronouns/names right.

    When C’s friend transitioned, C went out to dinner with a mutual friend and they talked about all the things they liked about transitioned-friend and fun memories — and practiced using the new name/pronouns so that they would become more instinctual. Because practice really does make perfect.

Comments are closed.