Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center

John Nugent is the Assistant Director of New Student Programs at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. He is originally from Missoula, Montana and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Master of Arts degree in Education at WSU. He returned to WSU after working at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and has been in his current position for almost three years. He has a two year old golden retriever named Molly who takes up a lot of his time but when he isn’t busy he enjoys being with friends, talking politics and spending too much time reading about current events and political history. 

“Gender identity/expression means being who you are. Being your authentic self and feeling safe and secure in expressing that.” 

“I identify as a gay man. There’s not one specific event that led me to that. It was probably more of a strong realization, but a slow acceptance of the fact that this was my reality. I didn’t come out until I was 22, 23, 25 over a couple of years. There was this kind of meeting of dual realities: on the one hand I was keeping that internal, I knew it was there but it was somehow completely disconnected from the life I was living and I was not really fully able to merge the two until later. I did not face a whole lot of push back. I was very lucky in that regard. I’ve been surrounded by friends who are open and accepting and a family who embraced me, so that’s all been very positive.” 

“I think it’s important to be, from a role model perspective or just visibility, to be open and somewhat loud. Loud maybe is the wrong word, but somewhat loud with your identity because it, in a little way, challenges the status quo, the expectation of people around you who are operating within this world and a system that is assuming I’m straight. It’s important on a colleague level for people to have that assumption challenged. I’m naturally an introverted person so it’s not necessarily something that comes up a lot, but I think about it a lot- what responsibility do I have as a gay man and what could I be doing better?”

“Number one would be acknowledging and understanding that we exist in the workplace. It’s not assuming that everybody is straight unless proven otherwise. This would be the number one biggest thing that people could do in the work place. And then with that, being supportive in ways that are appropriate in understanding what it might be like to be within a workplace and in a system that is built on the assumption of people being straight, of what proactive steps can be taken to show support. But beyond showing support, making sure the support is not surface level support, understanding that there’s more to it than just being a totally loving person who’s accepting of gay people and totally onboard with gay rights. If you claim to be accepting of LGBT people and rights but still live in a way that reinforces and perpetuates a non-inclusive system then you need to reevaluate how inclusive and accepting you actually are. ”

“I wish there were more visibility. I wish there were more visibility from the queer community, the LGBT community at different points in that elevated leadership of the university. There are a couple of people who I know identify in ways other than straight in some senior level positions, so I can’t say there is zero representation and all hope is lost, but there is great diversity within the queer community. Having the ability to see people who identify like me, the ability for other LBGT people to see people they identify with, would be very powerful.”

“The biggest piece of advice is figuring out who you are. You have to think more than just in the moment. In some ways it can become easier to think about it in terms of, “In this part of the day I only go to work or go to school, and I keep all these parts of my day, and therefore parts of my life, compartmentalized,” and it becomes easier to not acknowledge or hide parts of who I am. You have to think about the future and ask, “What is your hope for the future? What will make you happy in the future?” From there then it’s accepting that you are in fact a gay person or whatever it is that you’re working through. Then how do you start to live that authentic happy self you see in the future in your current everyday life? Whether it’s rip the band aid off all at once or a transitional thing. But find people who are going to love you unconditionally, who are going to be helpful in the process, who are going to understand that you aren’t going to have all the answers. There might be times where it can be frustrating to be the ally in this process, but that’s what is needed—an understanding that internally I’m figuring a lot of stuff out and it won’t be easy.”