Christina and Farah’s story
Throughout Christina’s life, they were aware their experience of gender didn’t sit within the strict binary of male or female.
“Sometimes I feel I have both genders in me,” Christina reflects. “And sometimes I feel entirely outside of gender.”
Christina identifies as non-binary. A few years ago, they took steps to share this awareness publicly, and came out to their friends, family and colleagues.
“It went really well in regards to friends and family, I’m very lucky in that respect. My mum and my sister are just incredible, so that has meant the world.”
However, when Christina decided to come out at their workplace, some of their colleagues deliberately ignored their requests to be called ‘they’, as opposed to ‘she’.
Initially, Christina believed the misgendering to be misinformed, rather than intentional. However, there was one exception. “One manger was very much purposefully misgendering me, in a malicious context.”
However, Christina’s colleague, Farah, immediately became an ally. “When Christina told me that they’d changed their pronouns to they, them and theirs, I realised that this was something important for Christina,” she says.
When Farah was first learning how to be an ally, she was unsure if she was doing it the right way. The first time someone misgendered Christina in front of them both, Farah stepped up.
“I said No, that’s not the right pronouns. But I sort of felt bad … Had I spoken too fast?” So Farah decided to ask Christina directly. “I checked with Christina whether I was overstepping, because I didn’t want to silence them or make them feel like they can’t advocate for themselves.”
Christina felt the positive impact of this gesture. “I really appreciated that Farah was aware of not silencing me.”
Christina’s advice to allies is to step in, but follow up with the person concerned: “Definitely step in, particularly in that person’s absence … and when there’s a private moment following that, check in and say Hey, is it alright if I do step in and do that, what’s your preference around it? What do you need?”
No matter the situation, Christina knew Farah was there for support. “She’d always step in,” Christina says. “And I know for a fact that Farah would step in in my absence as well, which was so very important to me. That’s true allyhood.”
Farah reflects that she may not always get things right. When asked if she ever misgenders Christina, she replies, “Oh many, many times … I think the first reaction is embarrassment, but I try to remind myself it’s not really about me, or my embarrassment, so I apologise and check in with the person I have misgendered.”
Farah reflects on the impact pronouns can have. “It might be just a slip of the tongue for someone, but the amount of damage that it has on the person who is having to bear it is very unfair.”
Christina can also attest to the positive impact support from others can have. “When Farah stepped in for me, my world felt safer.”