How Did Lockdown Help Me Come Out As Non-Binary? by Ripley Cook for Trans Day of Visibility

In this post by one of our YSJ literature students, Ripley Cook, they explain how lockdown helped them understand their neurodiversity and their gender identity. 

nonbinary flag
The non-binary flag via Stonewall

For most of my life I can honestly say that I was never comfortable in my own body. I put it down to a lot of different reasons: how men perceived me and the sexism that came with that, basic insecurities, and the bullying I experienced because of my appearance in high school. It never occurred to me that it was more than that, at least not until lockdown.

For those who know me, especially my lecturers, my mental health is never 100%. University has challenged me in ways that I would never have imagined. But it also challenged my perception of myself and forced me, through the new independence, to face certain hard truths.

The first one was that I was autistic, which is honestly one of the most important factors in my gender journey. And that my brain just worked differently: the way I viewed the world around me was separate from how the people around me saw the world. When I was faced with this reality, I had to almost retrace my steps to my childhood, to figure out who I was without the “masking”. Masking within neurodivergency is mimicking behaviour that neurotypical people do – it is very exhausting.  So many Autistic people go through this to appear “normal”.

And the first thing I unmasked was my gender.

If you want the exact definition of my gender it would be “agender”. I simply do not feel gender. I do not understand it. The gender rules that exist within society just did not make sense to me, and I did not want to be hindered or defined by them. To me and my autistic brain the rules of society around gender just do not fit into the way I live my life, I do not feel them, and I do not need them. This is because the way I see the world and society is different.

Someone may look at my chest and see boobs = woman but I do not. I can’t control how people perceive of me, but I can control the factual identity of who I am. And in my identity boobs do not equal women.

Being non-binary has made my world harder, thanks to the prejudice out there, but it has also been so liberating. I shaved my hair, I changed my name, I expressed myself online confidently for the first time. Because being non-binary to me is freedom.

York St John University is in the Top 100 Stonewall Employers. Find out more information on their website about transgender identities here and being a non-binary ally here.

All About Respect

Please see below a message from the All About Respect team about activities taking place this week.

Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week 1st – 5th February

Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week aims to highlight sexual violence and abuse in society. In 2021 we’re taking our campaign completely online, and having our conversations about sexual violence online to raise awareness that in terms of sexual violence #itsnotok. Continue reading “All About Respect”

Online Learning: Reflections/Top Tips From Current Students

laptop and notesAs we entered into our third national lockdown in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic at the beginning of this month, we have asked our students to share their reflections and their tips on online learning. For some students, online learning can seem alien and a challenge, whilst for others it opens up accessibility. Three York St John Literature students from different stages of their degree share their reflections and their tips on approaching online learning in these times. Continue reading “Online Learning: Reflections/Top Tips From Current Students”

YSJU Chaplaincy Support for Wellbeing

Jane Speck, YSJU Chaplain
“Chaplaincy isn’t just here for religious people”: Jane Speck, YSJU Chaplain.

As part of our Wellbeing and Welfare Series, we have asked our YSJU Chaplain, Jane Speck, to introduce the Chaplaincy to us and outline the ways it can support us. The Chaplaincy is there for people of all faiths and none. Incidentally, Jane also has a degree in English Literature!

Wellbeing and the Chaplaincy by Jane Speck

I sometimes wonder what people think of when they hear the word, ‘Chaplaincy’.  These days if I ask people, I more often than not get a blank stare!  It’s not a word that’s used very often, and if people have heard it at all they tend to associate it strongly with religion (which is fair enough!), but then think that Chaplaincy is only for religious people. Continue reading “YSJU Chaplaincy Support for Wellbeing”

Student Wellbeing: New and Established Services Update

group of people supporting each other
Even if we are physically isolated, we can still be there for each other. #WeAreYSJ

We’ve had an update from the Wellbeing team about the support available for you

The Wellbeing team have created a new service which allows them to meet with students on Teams, over the phone and via chats. Students can contact the Wellbeing Service via the wellbeing email or by filling in a simple form on the web.   

We have also introduced the UniWellBeing App which provides students with self help and advice.  

A 24/7 service, CareFirst is also available to students which is a confidential service providing information, advice and support on both emotional and practical issues. Counsellors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If students are in isolation, students can get support and there is a Moodle site dedicated to supporting students in isolation:  

Please share this information widely among our YSJ student community.

See our previous post on wellbeing and welfare services here for further information about established services.

Wellbeing at YSJ

Students walking on campusWe sometimes hear of ‘wellness’ or ‘wellbeing’ spoken of as some kind of new-fangled concept, but actually, the idea of being mindful of our mental and emotional well-being, as well as our physical health, goes right back to the sixteenth century, and was first used in the English language by Thomas Hoby in his translation of Castiglione’s The Courtier. And in these new and unusual times we find ourselves in, it is more important than ever to look out for and to look after ourselves and our peers. 

I’m really happy to have been asked to lead on promoting wellbeing in our department, initially through a series of blog posts. Over the years, I’ve personally benefitted from the input and support of wellbeing professionals, and the best advice I can think of to give to you is not to wait until a crisis to seek guidance. Of course, if you are already in crisis, it is not too late, either.

So in this first post, I will do two things. I will point you in the direction of York St John University’s own wellbeing and welfare services and opportunities, and I am also asking you to email me with your well-being tips, your queries, the resources you have found helpful, or even your pitches for your own well-being blog posts. These can all cover a range of topics, from Covid 19, to LGBT, Disability, or BAME experiences, to mental health in general, and I hope to get more suggestions from you yourselves. This blog is your space, reflecting your community and your experiences. Email: and put Wellbeing in the subject line.

Our lovely wellbeing and welfare team have been working hard all summer to ensure that one to one chatthey can continue to support you safely during this pandemic. Check out their welcome video here. You can also book to have 1 – 1 online wellbeing chats or welfare chats. A wellbeing chat gives you a chance to talk about any mental wellbeing concerns you have. A welfare chat is an opportunity for you to talk about challenges you are facing.

Crisis information is highlighted at the top of the webpage, but if you scroll down you will find further information about Mindfulness sessions, about the YSJ well-being app, and about Together All, our 24/7 online support community, including professional support.

So as you can see, we’ve got lots to offer you. There is also chaplaincy support available. The chaplaincy team are there for people of all faiths and none.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you with your ideas.

Wishing you all the very best this semester, Saffron.

Dr Saffron Vickers Walkling, Senior Lecturer in English Literature. 

Departmental role: Wellbeing.