Celebrating Non-Binary Day of Awareness: Embracing Authenticity in the Workplace

Jan Broekhuizen (they/them), Maja Blauw (they/them), and Jamie Knecht (they/them)

As a non-binary person, navigating the Workplace can be a complex journey filled with triumphs and obstacles. Finding the courage to bring their true selves to work requires a supportive and inclusive environment that recognises and respects their gender identities.

Every year the world commemorates Non-Binary Day of Awareness on July 14th. Workplace Pride is excited to share the experiences of Jan, Maja, and Jamie, who reflect on their unique experiences and journey towards self-acceptance in today’s Workplace.

Jan Broekhuizen (they/them) Ops Engineer, ING Nederland

When I came out as transgender and non-binary at work a little over two years ago, I took advantage of the covid circumstances. Everyone was working from home, so I sent a mass email to my department. I included many online resources to protect myself from having to explain the same terms and concepts repeatedly, so people could read up on what non-binary meant if they were interested.

Positive Reactions and Support

The responses from my colleagues were really nice. People were respectful and interested, and they congratulated me. I did get the “you’re so brave” response a few times, which never sits very well with me (I shouldn’t have to be brave to exist) – but I knew it came from a well-meaning place. 

I came out for a few reasons. First of all, I needed to. To properly do my job, I needed to feel free to truly be myself. Focusing on work while you’re getting overly exasperated with people using pronouns for you that feel off is very difficult. Secondly, I had started my medical transition a few months before my coming out at work. There would soon be some obvious and observable physical changes, and I wasn’t ready to answer individual questions about it. 

Paving the Way

And last but not least, I felt the need to be very open about being non-binary in a company where I didn’t know other non-binary people. I knew they had to be there, but I had never heard about non-binary people working at ING. If I’m very visibly non-binary, hopefully, that paves the way for more non-binary colleagues to feel free to come out.

Even though my colleagues were very open and welcoming about my identity, the company isn’t built for non-binary people (yet). There is no option to select non-binary as a gender identity in the administration systems yet – instead, I am currently “Neutral” (which, if you know me, I am anything but). The genderless bathrooms are few and far between, and there are none in my building. 

Overall, ING is open to change, and I’ve had some good conversations with people in HR, where it’s clear that change is welcomed. But being such a big company, it takes a lot of time and patience to see these changes come into effect.

I have become part of that big wave of change, trying to make a difference for others. As a board member of Aegon’s global Proud alliance, I focus most on international collaboration and increasing transgender and non-binary exposure. Aegon does an excellent I&D job. For the fourth consecutive year, it has received the Workplace Pride Ambassador status; awarded to organisations that score between 70% and 90% on their LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the Workplace. This is what I advise every organisation to do: participate in the Workplace Pride Global Benchmark. It makes you really look at things and improve on an annual basis.

Maja Blauw, Senior Marketing Manager, Aegon Asset Management

My name is Maja, and I’m a senior marketing manager with Aegon Asset Management in the Netherlands. I’ve been working with Aegon for 8 years now, and it feels like a very inclusive company to work for. I have great colleagues, and the company strives to foster an inclusive and diverse workplace culture. I’ve been out as gay since the first day and never felt uncomfortable about it. However, being out as non-binary took me considerably longer. Only for two years. 

Embracing Non-Binary Identity

Next to being open about who I love, I also felt the need to be open about how I identify as a person, as I didn’t like being addressed as ‘she’. I feel outside of the man and woman boxes, they are too restrictive, too binary. That’s why non-binary fits best as my gender description.  

The momentum that sparked me being open about my gender identity is that, over the past years, I noticed this worldwide non-binary wave that got bigger. In the US and Europe, I saw famous people making themselves known as ‘they’. I loved it, that was me!

To me, a second group is equally important in building that wave: generation Z. GenZ are people between 13 and 27 years old and take a much broader approach to gender identity and sexual orientation than any generation before. In Early 2023, a paper published by global research firm Gallup revealed that 20% of this group in the US identifies as LGBT. That is huge. And organisations should take note of this group, as they are your future managers and CEOs.

In March 2022, I participated in a big double interview in celebration of Transgender Day of Visibility, which was published on Aegon’s global intranet. That way, I was out with a bang. Although I felt slightly stressed, the response was overwhelming and positive. Some 20 colleagues reached out for 1:1 conversations to learn more. Particularly those who had a child or a client who identified as non-binary. 

Challenges in Pronoun Usage

However, despite the positive response in my Workplace, the day-to-day reality is quite different regarding how people address me. 95% still say ‘she’ and not ‘they’. Even though I have added my pronoun to my email signature and LinkedIn profile for years now. It has proven difficult for colleagues to use the correct pronoun. The downside is that I notice it every time someone refers to me with the wrong pronoun. I kindly remind colleagues I work closest with to use the ‘they’ pronoun, even though that gets tiring. Practice makes perfect, and saying ‘they’ can become as normal as saying he or she. 

I have become part of that big wave of change, trying to make a difference for others. As a board member of Aegon’s global Proud alliance, I focus most on international collaboration and increasing transgender and non-binary exposure. Aegon does an excellent I&D job. For the fourth consecutive year, it has received the Workplace Pride Ambassador status; awarded to organisations that score between 70% and 90% on their LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the Workplace. This is what I advise every organisation to do: participate in the Workplace Pride Global Benchmark. It makes you really look at things and improve on an annual basis.

Jamie Knecht, University of Applied Sciences of Utrecht

Hi! I’m Jamie (they/them), a 34-year-old teacher. I work in the Sign Language department at the University of Applied Sciences of Utrecht in the Netherlands. After struggling to discover my gender identity, I finally found peace with the label ‘non-binary’ a couple of years ago. Since then, I have changed my pronouns, fought and won a legal battle to get my chosen name and an X-marker in my passport, and started taking hormones to somewhat lessen my gender dysphoria. Most of these social, legal and medical changes have (had) an effect on my day-to-day work life.

Coming out at work

For one, I had to ‘come out’ to my colleagues and students and ask them to start referring to me with different pronouns. I decided to tackle this at once by changing the pronouns in my email signature and by taking a moment to make others aware of this during a staff meeting. I remember being anxious about this since I didn’t know how my co-workers would react. To help me survive these scary minutes and to make sure I wouldn’t chicken out at the last moment, I had already confided in a couple of colleagues whom I was a bit closer to (most of them queer as well), and one of them was seated right in front of me when I told the rest of the team in the MS Teams video-meeting. His support really got me through.

Coming out to my students felt a lot easier since most of them are relatively young (in their twenties) and, therefore, already more aware of gender diversity and more used to gender-neutral pronouns. I have gotten nothing but positive responses from all of them.

The support

As for my colleagues, most of them support me as well. Most try to use the correct pronouns when referring to me and show their support differently. Some have added their own pronouns to their email signatures, some try to use more gender-neutral language in their lessons and come up to me whenever they encounter a gender-related challenge, and some ask about and congratulate me on reaching certain milestones in my transition (like my new passport or starting hormones). This often makes me feel seen and accepted for who I am in my Workplace.

The barriers

However, there are also still a lot of barriers I struggle with daily. As mentioned above, most colleagues try to use the right pronouns for me. Some do not try, and some try but often fail. Whenever this happens in my presence, I usually get caught up in the same sequence of ‘I’m so sorry, but you have to forgive me because it is só difficult’, forcing me to comfort the other person for misgendering me. This is exhausting.

Other issues that still need to be resolved to make my Workplace more accessible/inclusive for non-binary people (staff and students) are the still binary (F/M) registration systems, the ease with which sometimes unwanted information like sex and birth names can be viewed by basically any employee, the absence of legal transition leave, and the scarcity of all gender bathrooms. These are all essential rights for non-binary people, and while I sometimes feel discouraged when I see how long of a way we still have to go, I acknowledge that there are people (both queers and allies) working their butts off to make good things happen for my people. That gives me hope and keeps me going.

Why come out at work?

Coming out at work as non-binary was part of what I could do to contribute to this cause. By stepping out of the shadows and showing others the importance of queer, trans and non-binary inclusion, I have proudly inspired policy changes. All new students and colleagues now enter a workspace where sharing and asking each other’s pronouns is normalised, where language is mostly gender neutral and where non-binary newbies immediately stumble across a living, breathing role model: me. Since I’ve come out at work, the number of queer students who apply for our institute has grown exponentially. And even more importantly, many students (both queer and – interestingly enough – also from other minorities) have come up to me to tell me they feel seen and safer. And that is more than I could have hoped for when I decided to come out. 


The challenges faced by non-binary individuals in the Workplace stem from binary structures and societal norms that fail to recognise their existence and experiences. Misgendering and a lack of inclusive policies and practices can undermine their well-being and hinder professional growth.

However, there is a glimmer of hope as more organisations globally are demonstrating support for non-binary individuals. These forward-thinking companies are actively fostering an inclusive culture that celebrates diversity and embraces the Authenticity of every employee. They are implementing policies to ensure gender inclusivity, providing gender-neutral facilities, and promoting education and awareness about non-binary identities.

Bringing one’s true self to work not only benefits non-binary individuals but also enriches the entire Workplace. Individuals who are free to express their authentic identities bring unique perspectives, creativity, and innovation. Embracing diversity, including non-binary identities, leads to a more inclusive and dynamic workforce that can thrive in today’s interconnected and globalised world.

As we celebrate Non-Binary Day of Awareness, organisations and individuals must continue advocating for the rights and well-being of non-binary individuals in the Workplace. By fostering a culture of acceptance and understanding, we can create environments where everyone can bring their true selves to work without fear of discrimination or prejudice.

Today, let us honour the progress and reflect on the work ahead. Together, through the power of education, empathy, and inclusivity, we reaffirm our commitment to building a more equitable and accepting world for all.

We extend our gratitude to Jan, Maja, and Jamie for this article and commend the dedication of Christine Holtkamp, Workplace Pride Communities Director, for her invaluable insights.