I’m going to begin working as a Resident Director (RD) at a Catholic university in Indiana this summer; my start date is 15 days from now. As I prepare for the move and for the many weeks of training and adjustment to follow, I keep wondering if – and how – I’ll tell my RAs about my queer/trans identities.
Some RAs have already asked about my pronouns and have speculated that I might be queer, but I haven’t confirmed those suspicions. I don’t know if I want to.
At the start of my grad school journey, I decided to enter the next two years as my authentic self. That meant wearing neckties to interviews, asking that interviewers use they/them pronouns, and explaining how my identities influenced my background and my desire to go into student affairs.
My co-grads and other students in the program know I’m queer, but sharing that information among colleagues is different from disclosing to my supervisees. Telling my RAs comes with the risk of compromising our staff dynamic and respect for me as a supervisor. These same risks exist with regards to classmates and co-workers, but maturity and professionalism are expected among us at a caliber that some RAs may not be able to achieve, simply because of where they stand in their development as humans.
However, I also know how important it could be to RAs – and other students – to know of an openly queer staff member on campus. Much of my identity development stemmed from conversations I had as an RA with one of my supervisors, who was also queer. Aside from teaching me about queer culture, encouraging me to think about intersectionality, and helping me explore my own experiences and identities, this supervisor provided one of the first opportunities I had to interact with another queer person in a professional setting. Most importantly, I knew they had my back.
I so badly want to be all of the things that my supervisor was for my own students, but I need to be careful in this new environment, among new people. At the moment, I really don’t know much about what the university climate is like for queer students and employees – that’s something I’ll have to experience for myself – but I plan on approaching it in the same way I do most new situations: cautiously.
While I don’t plan to tell my RAs upfront that I’m gay and non-binary, I won’t compromise living my truth among them. I’ll continue to sport menswear on the daily and I have my “I’m An Ally!” button and my miniature rainbow flag packed and ready to display in my office. That way, when somebody needs to talk, I’ll be ready for that conversation and prepared to say, “Me too.”