Roz and Jess’s story
Roz, a writer, editor and academic, doesn’t identify as strictly male or female. Roz believes the idea that there are only two genders doesn’t work for everyone.
“Just like I’m not strictly gay or straight, I’m not male or female. I’m both of those things, and I’m neither,” says Roz.
Roz came out as non-binary in 2018, taking their first careful steps by asking some friends and family to use they/them pronouns, rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’.
In those early days, Roz, reflected upon gender identity mostly through their writing, and hadn’t yet had many face-to-face conversations with their loved ones.
“At the time I was still not completely comfortable being out about my gender identity with non-queer people,” Roz remembers. “It was all still very new.”
Jess, Roz’s younger sister, was extremely supportive throughout the process, and one evening she had the opportunity to speak up.
“We were out to dinner together,” Roz recalls. “The restaurant owner was very friendly and personable. He kept coming up and chatting to us but every time he did, he called us ‘ladies’. Hi, ladies! How are we tonight, ladies? Any wine tonight, ladies? Over and over again.”
Each time the waiter made his mistake, Roz noticed their sister physically recoil, and eventually she turned to check-in with Roz.
“After about the second time he did it, Jess asked me, Do you want me to have a conversation with him? I just loved how she did that. I’ve been with friends or family in the past when this has happened, and they’ve either laughed nervously, or quickly changed the subject.”
By checking in with Roz, Jess openly offered support and solidarity while giving Roz the ultimate decision about which next steps to take.
“I love not only that she reacted, but that she didn’t just assume I wanted her to blurt something out in that moment,” says Roz. “I really liked that she looked to me to gauge how I was feeling, and whether I wanted her to do something.”
In this case, Roz told their sister not to worry about it – they were keen to choose their battles carefully. But the opportunity to make that decision meant the world.
“When allies actually check in, even though it can be awkward, it gives you a lot more agency and a sense of comfort and safety. It makes a huge difference when people who aren’t necessarily from the community step up and act.”
Roz says it’s something their sister has done continuously over the years.
“She will use they/them pronouns in front of other people in a very authoritative way, which tells me she’s not going to change for the people around us. She’s going to respect the way I want to be spoken to or about.”