Jan Broekhuizen (they/them/their) is non-binary
It’s a relief to share this, but there’s still a long way to go
This year once again, 14 July is International Non-Binary People’s Day aimed at creating extra awareness for non-binary people and the obstacles they face. Here, ING colleague Jan Broekhuizen talks about being non-binary and how they deal with that in their professional environment at ING.
First, a brief explanation for anyone who is not familiar with the term ‘non-binary’. A non-binary person is someone who does not identify with the binary gender categories of male or female. As Jan describes it: “You have Planet Man and Planet Woman, and all kinds of moons around them. Non-binary is an umbrella term that covers countless variations. There are so many different non-binary experiences. It’s also important to realise that gender identity has nothing to do with biological sex or sexuality.”
Jan is now 32 years old, but even at a young age they knew that they weren’t a girl – despite what everyone was telling them. But it can be difficult to know how to deal with such feelings in a world where male/female heterosexuality is the norm – let alone in the conservative environment in which Jan grew up.
“It was quite a few years before I encountered people with anything other than the traditional male/female genders, relationship forms and family set-ups,” Jan explains. “That wasn’t until I went to art school, when a whole new world opened up for me. Even so, it still took many more years for everything to fall into place. At first I struggled with my sexuality, but when I got through that I realised that it wasn’t the only issue. It wasn’t until I came across the terms ‘genderqueer’ and ‘non-binary’ on the internet that I thought: Hey, this sounds familiar! And then it took a while longer before I ‘admitted’ it.”
“I didn’t ask my friends to refer to me as they/them/their until 2018, and in the case of my family it was even later. It was very daunting and I received mixed reactions, but it was a huge relief to get it off my chest.”
The next step was for Jan to tell people at work. In their team, Jan felt safe enough to say who they really were. “One of my main drivers was that I wanted to be referred to using ‘they/them/their’. It felt very uncomfortable to keep hearing ‘she’ and ‘her’. Imagine being a woman and being called ‘sir’ all the time! I also felt it was important to gain more visibility for non-binary people within ING.”
Still a long way to go
“The reactions ranged from a neutral ‘okay’ to ‘cool’ and ‘good on you for telling us’. There wasn’t one single nasty reaction, or if there were any they didn’t reach my ears. I’m super-glad I’ve told people because I can be more myself now. But there is still a long way to go in the bigger scheme of things. For example, far from all ING buildings have gender-neutral toilets, and there’s still no option for non-binary people in our HR systems.”
“I’m working to help overcome these kinds of obstacles and – on a broader level – to create more understanding for non-binary people. For example, I will be taking part in an interview on 14 July as part of International Non-Binary People’s Day. The session is open to all colleagues and they can ask me anything they want. I’ll be very happy to answer.”
- is an Ops Engineer and has been working at ING since 2019
- studied fine arts and still enjoys spending a lot of their time doing drawings and illustrations
- volunteers for TRANS magazine (online and in print)
- enjoys reading and playing both video games and board games.