TJ Goldsborough, formerly known as Grace, is a non-binary student here at Smithville High. TJ uses they/them pronouns instead of she/her or he/him.
According to nonbinary.org, “non-binary is an umbrella term covering any gender identity that doesn’t fit with gender binary.”
“When you use he and she pronouns, a lot of people automatically assume your gender and when you use “they” it just makes it easier so people don’t get you (confused) with male or female,” Goldsborough said.
According to the International Business Times an estimated 4.1%, 10 million , Americans identify in the LGBTQ+ community. Even though there are many people in the school identify themselves as a part of the LGBTQ+ community, there is still discrimination from other students.
“(People say stuff) about different gender identities you know saying stuff like ‘there’s only two genders’,” said Josie Martorana, TJ’s girlfriend.
Some advocates for the LGBTQ+ community handle negative comments directly.
“The first initial thought is anger towards people who do that, but it’s more trying to get why they feel a certain way and getting them to understand things through somebody else’s shoes and then if that doesn’t work I yell at them,” said Ronnie Lathrop, GSA adviser and english teacher.
Other advocates handle it differently.
“If it’s someone that I know, I usually confront them about it, but if it’s someone I don’t know, I usually just leave it alone,” Martorana said.
Some students are struggling with TJ’s name change.
“There’s been a lot of times where people say ‘that’s stupid’ or ‘that’s too confusing to remember’,” Goldsborough said, “it makes me feel annoyed (when people are) not willing to listen and not willing to try to understand. It also makes me irritated and generally upset when people say stuff like that.”
Advocates for the LGBTQ+ community have ways to handle this as well.
“Just respect their pronouns. Use their name; just simple as that,” Martorana said.
Others have an education based approach.
“Well first, I even had to look up non-binary. I’m part of the LGBTQ+ (community) and I wasn’t sure what it was. To have someone non-binary in the school is gonna help educate people I think. If people are having trouble with non-binary, look it up yourself or let TJ educate you to it,” Lathrop said.
Coming out is never easy and this isn’t any different for TJ.
“I came out to all my friends first because it’s just a lot easier than coming out to your parents. You get used to it around your friends and it makes you more confident. When you do come out to your parents, you’ll get twice the support if your parents agree, but if they don’t you still have your friends,” Goldsborough said.
TJ has experienced positive and negative reactions from coming out to their parents.
“When I first came out to my dad he was very accepting. He’s still a little confused but that’s expected, at least I know he is trying his best. Now my mom is a totally different story. When I was still questioning my sexuality, I came out to my mom as bisexual. That’s not the case now, but that’s what I thought at the time. She was totally ok with that, until I came out as nonbinary. Every time I even mention something gender related we get in a huge argument,” Goldsborough said.
Picking out a new name was a process for TJ.
“It’s just been a name I’ve always liked. There’s this one person, he was really awful, we were staying at his house for a while and he stole all my dad’s stuff and I really don’t like him but his name is TJ and I just liked that name. I remember in F.A.C’s class we had to make pillows that were letter shaped and I did a T and J, my mom was super confused but I just like that name,” Goldsborough said.
If you are thinking about coming out, there are many adults who are here to talk.
“There are so many advocates here at school that are willing to listen to you and not just give you advice, but listen. Counselors or anybody that has a safe space sign (is) someone who’s an advocate for you. We’re going to get buttons to wear on our lanyards so students can identify us as someone safe to talk to. The building is full of people that are rooting for you,” Lathrop said.