Months of anxiety-inducing lockdown helped me finally come out as non-binary
Hexen Wilson, solutions architect at Amazon Web Services, has described how the hugely anxiety-provoking COVID-19 lockdowns actually helped them discover their non-binary identity.
Coming out is never an easy thing to do – but what made it less difficult for me was knowing that we have the right to choose when and how to do it. This was my journey and I was going to be in control of it.
I struggled for a long time with my gender identity, going by two different names on different days as I came into the office or met up with friends.
One day after months of reflection, I simply introduced myself by my new name in a presentation at work, then followed up with my manager and team afterwards, and moved forward from there.
That moment as coming out as non-binary had been brought on by the COVID-19 lockdown.
The pandemic and the ensuing lockdown had all sorts of repercussions for different people. For me, it was the perfect chance to launch into a journey of self-discovery.
After months of introspection I finally arrived at a place where I realised I wasn’t comfortable using either gender. That time alone during lockdown, coupled with an ADHD diagnosis and the courage of a colleague revealing their true self at work and coming out as trans, brought me to a place where I felt comfortable and confident enough to come out to friends and family, and my colleagues and clients at Amazon.
While everyone was dealing with anxiety during those months of lockdown, for me it felt doubled.
This isn’t a very well-travelled path by LGBT+ people in the workplace.
A recent Stonewall report found that more than 35 per cent of LGBT+ people in the UK still feel reluctant sharing their sexuality at work due to concerns over discrimination. Furthermore, 28 per cent of LGBT+ people have at some point considered leaving their jobs because of hostile work environments, a disappointing statistic when you think about it.
I’m hoping that by writing about my experiences and giving some advice, I can help guide others to be their authentic selves, and guide businesses to be as supportive as possible of their employees.
I can’t lie and say it was all plain-sailing for me. While everyone was dealing with anxiety during those months of lockdown, for me it felt doubled.
I was riddled with confusion as I questioned my gender identity, and with that, my core beliefs of myself and who I am. There were times when I felt like I was having a mental breakdown and was experiencing extreme dysphoria.
The relief I began to feel as I entered a stage of acceptance of myself as non-binary was huge.
While I was struggling with my gender identity, a director sent around an email to communicate that a colleague of mine was coming out as trans. It was a turning point for me – to see the issue being taken seriously, and to see such open communication.
That acceptance at a wider level helped and inspired me to embrace my own journey. The relief I began to feel as I entered a stage of acceptance of myself as non-binary was huge, and it’s a feeling that I hope others can find as they struggle with parts of their journeys.
When I came out at work, I worked closely with my management and HR to make my announcement to the wider team and changed my name and pronouns on our IT systems. Everyone was supportive from the get-go – making me feel comfortable with myself, helping me in getting word out, and I’ve really come to admire the growing culture of inclusivity I’ve seen at work.
I was shown our company’s transgender toolkit at work, a document developed by our LGBT+ affinity group Glamazon, that guides trans colleagues through the process of transitioning in the workplace, while showing other Amazonians how best to support them.
Little steps like having the option to set my “preferred name” on IT systems along with the pronouns I wanted to be identified were appreciated.
You have the right to choose when and how to make your introductions, whether quietly and slowly, or suddenly and loudly!
Discussing it with my friends and family was at times confusing, but largely positive.
I have had the privilege of growing up with many LGBT+ people in my life which meant I could always ask questions learn from friends, but not everyone has that.
Education and raising awareness are the keys to making this world a more inclusive place and there are now so many useful resources available on the internet to accessible to anyone on a journey similar to mine, or someone who wishes to be an ally.
For some of us gender is a fluid concept and there is no one way to do things; some may want to keep their gender identity quiet, and some may wish to be loud and proud about it. For those feeling in a similar situation to myself a few months back, do what feels right to you.
You have the right to choose when and how to make your introductions, whether quietly and slowly, or suddenly and loudly! You should own your own journey.