Ben Papadopoulos (he or they)

IPA: [bɛn pa.pa.ðo.pu.los]

Ph.D. Student, Graduate Student Instructor

University of California, Berkeley

Email: bpapadopoulos [at] berkeley [dot] edu



Ben Papadopoulos as a toddler
"Not much has changed."

I am from Roseville, California, a suburb of Sacramento. I've loved reading and writing since I was little kid. Books made me cool—I had about a million rainbow Accelerated Reader charms and I wore them proudly around the playground. One of my first original stories was entitled "The Finger". It was a wholesale ripoff of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I wanted to be her soooo badly. But alas, no superpowers, and no blonde hair.

When I was 11, my family relocated to Boise, ID out of necessity. My family is great but that state is not. I immersed myself even more in my schoolwork with the hope that getting into a good college would be my ticket out. When I began my first Spanish class at age twelve, I became obsessed. Throughout high school, I took Spanish, French, and German concurrently and they were always my favorite subjects. Based on that, I thought I would pursue linguistics in college, but I barely knew a thing about linguistics.


It was always my dream to attend UC Berkeley, especially because it's located in the California Bay Area, and because I felt like I could actually grow and become myself there. I worked as hard as I possibly could in school to get into Cal, and right after I was admitted in April 2014, I came out to my family and friends, all of whom supported me, and I left Idaho.


Though getting into Berkeley was difficult, it might have been the easiest part about my undergraduate career. I worked full-time throughout most of my time in college, mostly in cafés. I even worked almost full-time during my first year in graduate school. I had a series of personal challenges which displaced me from my path to graduation several times (really—you name it, I probably dealt with it). After having to sit out three semesters while fighting my residency case at Berkeley in order to be able to pay for school, during which time I attended California community colleges, I was finally declared a California resident for tuition purposes, and I returned with three semesters plus a summer remaining at Berkeley. With that time, I was able to finish my two majors, linguistics and Spanish, write a thesis in two languages, and complete all the steps of applying to Ph.D. programs. I graduated from UC Berkeley (the first time) in May 2018, and finished coursework for my second major in December 2018.


Ben Papadopoulos working in a café
"Working in cafés"
Ben Papadopoulos graduating from UC Berkeley
"Graduation—May 2018"


I returned to UC Berkeley as a Ph.D. student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese in the Fall of 2019. In my time as a graduate student thus far, I have been able to teach, which has been a dream of mine since I was in elementary school, and to keep learning, researching, and sharing my findings. My current research has two main themes: (truly) queering gender and its treatment in the formal subdisciplines of linguistics, and strengthening the intersection between sociolinguistics and critical sociology. My approach is to make people, their identities, and the power structures underlying their use of language central to my community-oriented study of linguistics. Some of my current research is based around nonbinary gender in masculine-feminine gender languages, especially Spanish, in which there are many community-originated innovations (e.g. latinx, elle 'they [sg.]') that have yet to be theorized. I also work with a team of researchers, including community members, in developing the Gender in Language Project, which compiles gender-inclusive forms in many languages and explains their usage to those who need this language the most. If you'd like to get involved, please feel free to email me at the address above. Being in graduate school has been difficult, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, but so rewarding.



My surname, Papadopoulos, is Greek (Παπαδόπουλος). I am a white queer person and a proud product of public schools, among other things.

I acknowledge with respect the Ohlone people on whose land I have done most of my academic work.*

And yes, that's my handwriting!


*Berkeley sits in the territory of xučyun, the ancestral and unceded land of the Chochenyo speaking Ohlone people, the successors of the sovereign Verona Band of Alameda County. This land was and continues to be of great importance to the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe and other familial descendants of the Verona Band. We recognize that every member of the Berkeley community has, and continues to benefit from, the use and occupation of this land, since the institution’s founding in 1868. Consistent with our values of community, inclusion and diversity, we have a responsibility to acknowledge and make visible the university’s relationship to Native peoples. As members of the Berkeley community, it is vitally important that we not only recognize the history of the land on which we stand, but also, we recognize that the Muwekma Ohlone people are alive and flourishing members of the Berkeley and broader Bay Area communities today.


This acknowledgement was co-created with the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe and Native American Student Development and is a living document.