I think about being out a lot. Two things always pop into my head:

  • “I would like to see every gay doctor come out, every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out, stand up, and let that world know. That would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody would imagine. I urge them to do that, urge them to come out. Only that way will we start to achieve our rights.” - Harvey Milk
  • The story about Justice Powell’s gay clerk during Bowers v. Hardwick. For those unfamiliar, Justice Powell famously said that he had never met a homosexual when signing onto the anti-gay majority opinion in Bowers, later overturned by the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas. He had a gay clerk at the time.  (It’s possible that he was lying to protect his not fully out clerk. )

To be out is a privilege as well as a burden. It is both an act of courage and the least we who are safe enough can possibly do. 

Times have changed since Justice Powell and Harvey Milk. I come out regularly as queer, and although my chest tightens every time I talk about my girlfriend with someone new, I am lucky enough to exist in environments where such a statement is no longer controversial or remarkable. Bisexuality, although often invisible, no longer represents the bombshell that it did even when I was in high school. I am so grateful for that.

As folks who know me have seen, I’ve been inching towards coming out as non-binary. Talking to friends. Using different pronouns at events. A Facebook post. Changed pronouns at school. Changed pronouns in my Twitter bio. Talking about non-binary issues and experiences at conferences. A new website with an FAQ about gender. 

For a while, I thought it was fine to only use “they” pronouns in professional contexts. I cared (and care) more about being publicly out as non-binary than about private pronoun usage. But a lot of thought and a number of recent events have convinced me that it is not enough to only ask my professional contacts. For better or worse, people take gender cues from the people closest to someone, not from their Twitter bio. I don’t care any more if I seem inconsistent, or flighty, or if, god forbid, I am making things hard for people. If even one law student, politician, teenager or judge sees me and thinks “there is someone like me” or “I’ve met a non-binary person,” it will have been worth it. 

So to be clear:
I’m non-binary. My pronouns, for now, are they/them. If you’re confused about the mechanics, I have a FAQ here

I ask you (yes, you!) to use those pronouns. I ask you to correct other people who don’t use those pronouns. I ask you think about the ways you assume the gender of others, and the way your language reinforces the notion that there are only people of two genders.

I don’t only ask you to do this for me. I ask you to change for the many other people you may know who haven’t come out yet, who haven’t figured themselves out yet, or who may never figure themselves out. We, together, can achieve our rights.