Ben and Mike's story
Ben is 37 years old, and grew up in country Victoria. Ben is non-binary, which means they don’t identify as male or female.
“I began to recognise that I didn’t identify as a man or a woman, and rather than forcing myself into something that didn’t fit, I found that the term non-binary worked best for me, as a rejection that there are only two genders.”
As a non-binary person, Ben uses ‘they’ as their pronoun, rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’. This requires Ben to come out to people regularly and, recently, a close friend surprised Ben by speaking up on their behalf.
“I met my friend Mike about 10 years ago through a group of friends. We’d all party together and listen to music,” Ben says. “Mike has always been a very supportive friend of mine, though more in a casual way. Anytime I’d mention something I’m doing or thinking about to Mike, it’s never been a problem.”
More recently, though, Mike stepped up into a more actively supportive role. Mike, a cisgender male and operator of a small building company in Melbourne, remembers noticing the incorrect pronoun instantly.
“I was catching up with a mutual friend of ours, John, who was casually asking after Ben using the simple question, How is he doing?”
Mike wasn’t immediately sure how to respond. “For a brief moment I paused. Typically I wouldn’t correct anyone, but I know Ben uses they/them pronouns. I chose to correct John, to avoid Ben possibly having to do it the next time they see each other. I told John that Ben uses they/them pronouns, and told him that they were well.”
Even though Ben wasn’t present for this conversation, they still felt the positive impact of this action.
“When I heard about this, it reminded me what a good friend Mike was. It felt awesome that he was willing to step up and make my life easier, and to make me feel more seen in that group of friends, by doing something active.”
Mike realised his empathy and active support marked a step forward in their friendship, but also in what sort of ally he chose to be.
“I realised shortly after that moment that there’s something very small and simple that I can do to be a better friend.”