Inspired by seeing visibly genderqueer people at a game developers conference, fluffy finally took the plunge and came out to everyone: co-workers, family, friends, and even extended family.
So, yeah, I’m totally out, everywhere, to everyone who matters. Finally.
This all started at GDC [Game Developers Conference]. GDC has its own social networking app, sort of like a little mini-Twitter/Facebook/Foursquare thing so that attendees can share their thoughts and talk about what they’re liking or disliking about various panels, or ask advice for certain things.
Throughout the day I saw a bunch of visibly genderqueer/non-conforming people, both attendees and volunteers alike, and it finally put a much-needed spark into my brain. Me, being an Undertale die-hard, posted the following:
Seeing so many people comfortable in their gender expression fills you with determination.
This got a bunch of likes. As a followup, I posted:
If I don’t come out at work within the next two weeks, please shoot me.
This got a bunch of, let’s say… helpfully concerned responses from folks who wanted to help me out.
The following day I found myself in a graphics programming session that was going over my head, and I decided… wait, this didn’t all start at GDC, let me rewind a couple of weeks before that.
I work in the Interactive Applications team of a large and well-known company. My team researches interactive media for storytelling and immersion. Currently, we’re working on a VR project.
A couple of weeks before GDC, I was out drinking with some of the artists (nominally I am an engineer). When I mentioned that I slightly disliked our new producer because he reminds me of Dan Savage, my coworkers wondered what I had against him. So I explained how Dan Savage, famed gay advice columnist, has said some rather not-nice things about multiple aspects of my life (asexuality, transsexuals, and genderqueer people). One artist in particular was really aghast about that; he had dozens of genderqueer friends, and hoped that in this day and age, especially in Seattle, people could just live the way they wanted without having to suppress themselves to fit into a mold that just doesn’t fit them.
I knew then that if I was going to come out to any of my coworkers, he would be the first one. I started rehearsing as a means of testing the waters with him. I had even come up with a sly remark once I had the opportunity; something like:
So, remember how we were talking about genderqueer stuff at the bar the other week? How open do you think [our company] would be to someone genderqueer working there? I’m asking for a friend.
With the intention being that my next followup would be:
(that friend is me)
So, here I am at GDC a few weeks later, feeling distracted by Big Gender Feels, when said coworker happens to come online. Since I was having trouble following the session anyway, I stone-cold dropped this right on top of him:
So hey uh, seeing a bunch of visibly-genderqueer people at GDC has me in a mood. I feel like I should stop hiding from people, and you’re the one I trust the most. I’d been planning on trying to “ask for a friend” but fuck it. I identify as genderqueer. How amenable do you think [our company] would be towards that?
His response was incredibly positive! He felt that our company is great for LGBTQIA stuff, that our team is great for LGBTQIA stuff, and he was very, very happy that I chose him to talk to about this.
That same night I wrote a coming-out post for my songwriting community, which has played a big part of my life for the last 15 years. That too, got entirely positive responses, including people who said, “Oh wow that’s how I feel too, I thought I was the only one!” Someone even wrote a song about the thread! A few days later, my article on neutrois.me went up, and I got a huge amount of amazing responses from the Internet, including a bunch from folks who said things like, “Oh wow, that’s how I feel too, I thought I was the only one!”
Except, there had been one thing holding me back from coming out further. This same week, I finally found it: my new name.
I drafted a coming-out letter for my team, and emailed it to my manager with a note, “So, hey, there’s this thing I want to talk about this week…” He thanked me for talking to him about it. My manager also emphasized how he wants to foster an environment where people can feel comfortable with being themselves.
Then, I sent the letter to my entire team, and their responses were amazingly positive as well! I forwarded the letter to HR, who also had a very positive response. Together we worked on a simple wide-distribution message (I made it clear that I do not want to be the center of attention, so doing a matter-of-fact thing would be the best for everyone), and a week later that went out to the whole Seattle division of the company! As you might’ve guessed, the reactions to it were universally positive as well.
In the meantime, I was busy writing a few other letters:
- One for my immediate family. I’ve been out to them for a few years but the name was a new announcement.
- One for my various friends. Some of them already knew, some them didn’t, but I wanted all of them to know my new name even though everyone just calls me “fluffy” (for real).
- One for my extended family. Overall I wasn’t too worried, except I have a couple of aunts who have… conservative beliefs, and I wasn’t sure how best to deal with it. After submitting this question to Captain Awkward’s advice column and getting some advice, my parents and I worked together on some good scripted responses to any bad reactions.
Nearly everyone in my family responded incredibly positively. My favorite was from my uncle: “Hello Jayden. Good luck on the transition. You’ll do well. So, hey, the iMac is still having problems. When can you help me out with it?”
One conservative aunt called my gender a “passing fad.” Though admittedly her remark is a vast improvement over the last time she mentioned transsexuals (“I hope they die of AIDS”), both my mom and my therapist thought it was pretty amazing that I’m such a trendsetter. Who knew? (The other conservative aunt? Total acceptance and encouragement.)
More changes quickly followed. I updated my name on LinkedIn, posting a brief status update about it. Through that, I discovered that an ex-colleague of mine had herself just gone from George to Georgianna. We reconnected and had a nice long conversation about it.
Later in the week, as I was walking to have lunch with a former coworker – one who I wanted to come out to but hadn’t yet – I suddenly got nervous. I didn’t know if she even checked LinkedIn! I began rehearsing lines in my mind, over and over, about how I’d tell her. As soon as we sat down, she said: “So, let’s just get this out of the way. Jayden? That’s great.” I breathed a sigh of relief.
The number of amazing responses to my coming out are too numerous to count. So I thought it’d be easier to pick out the absolute worst things that have happened to put things into perspective:
- One hateful member of the songwriting community finally got banned; his negative response to my coming out was the last of many warnings he’d received about hate speech.
- My aunt’s aforementioned comment about fads. Seriously, I am not a trendsetter, I dress like a grunge fan from the 90s most of the time. That is why I live in Seattle.
- At a party last Friday I got way too much attention from some drunk coworkers who wanted to celebrate my successful coming-out, but their approach made me feel uncomfortable. (I mean they didn’t do anything bad… I just don’t want to make a big deal out of it.)
- Our new office building still doesn’t have gender-neutral bathrooms 😦
- It took, like, three whole weeks for my coworkers to start using the right pronouns for me without correcting them
- A mechanic called my car “girly” and doubled-down on it when I said I liked girly things. When I complained, his company informed me they’d have a Stern Talk with him.
I am by no means saying that this is something that was easy, and certainly not something that would work for just anyone just anywhere. At my previous company I would not have felt comfortable doing this. Hell, on my previous team at this company I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea! But it also wasn’t necessarily as scary as I was making myself think it would be.
Today I finally did the legal name change. Tomorrow, new driver’s license and social security card. Soon, RULE THE WORLD. (Except only as a shadowy puppetmaster because, like I said, fuck attention.)
So yeah, I think that went pretty well.
– Jayden / fluffy
Jayden is an artist, musician, and cartoonist whose day job in software actually pays the bills. They live in a decommissioned Seattle firehouse with two cats and far too many musical instruments. Their website is at http://beesbuzz.biz/.
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