This is for family, friends, and various acquaintances. I've directed you here, probably from a social networking post, so that you can get the full story. I didn't send you a personal note because frankly I don't have the energy to keep picking out the lucky winners and telling them individually, and I'm also somewhat embarassed by the thought of clogging the inboxes of people who may not really care with a somewhat long story. So if you don't care, just skim and move on - tl;dr, as it were. This post is the starting point and probably all many of you will need to see. However, if you want to see even more, feel free to browse this entire blog - http://whataboutnaomi.blogspot.com/ will take you to the top.
[This post was originally written in June, 2012, but has also been edited as of 08-22-2012, 09-16-2012, and 10-21-20102 to reflect changes in my timetable moving forward.]
On the other hand, read on if you wish and if you do want to get in touch that would be great - just shoot me an email at my regular email address or comment on the post that sent you here. Messages of support are quite welcome, actually, and I'm open to concerned questions as well. If I hear nothing, I'll assume that this information leaves you at a loss for words or completely without interest and that's okay - I'll try not to bother you again.
I'm also aware that this isn't the world's most secure channel, but I'd ask you to keep this more or less confidential (by that I mean off the Internet and my former employer, colleagues and students) until the end of October, to let me work through the remaining people that I'll want to tell myself. I am not out to most people at work yet - that will only be done right before full transition, which is aimed for the last week in October. [edit: I have started the process of coming out to senior management at work, and they promise to be supportive. However my coworkers do not yet know.] [later edit: I am working with our CEO, the HR department, and an outside consultant in preparation for transition, which I think will go as well as it can...]
[Edit: There is no longer any need for confidentiality. I do thank all of you who did respect my earlier request, but from now on it's no secret.]
This is me. Really.
Since I sent you here, let me first put your mind at rest. No real names are used here because I'm not ready to be out in a global Internet-searchable way, but this isn't a joke, and I'm really me - the same mid-50's, Linux using, former Latin teacher, Pythonista you've always known. Or at least partially known. Except for one detail...
I'm a transsexual woman.
I'm slowly getting used to saying that. Slowly because "transsexual" sounds like such a clinical term, unreal and abstract, nothing at all like what I've felt for all these years, and also a bit because I had convinced myself long ago that no matter how much I wanted it, I'd never "earn" the chance to call myself a woman. Paradoxically I suppose I'd also have to admit that I've internalized society's implicit misogyny all too well, and I've had to deal with that as well. But while "transsexual" is clinical and abstract and maybe I don't deserve to call myself a "woman" in the eyes of some (and perhaps being a woman is a loss of status in the eyes of others), the fact remains that's what I am. A transsexual woman.
I fought it for years. I grew to resent the amount of time I "wasted" thinking about gender and being a woman, time I could have spent more productively. I decided that anything more than the most furtive and grudging accomodations to my nature would be selfish and wrong. I got to the point where I told myself that if I could just hold on without giving in to it until I died, it would all be okay. Except I wasn't holding on... And it wasn't okay.
Fortunately I finally got to point where I didn't want to just hold on until I died - I wanted to be me, to enjoy people and things and live authentically. But before I got to that point, the strain of living a lie had given me high blood pressure, put me in the habit of drinking more than I should, and stunted my personal relationships, since I felt I could never reveal my true self - I was always watching myself, guarding myself and thinking "if they only knew."
(If you want to read an account that conveys something of my experience - except for the being a punk rocker, the drug addictions, and various other cool stuff - look at the story of Against Me!'s Laura Jane Grace in Rolling Stone. The details are wildly different of course, but her emotions and their progression are very similar to my own.)
So a few years ago I told my wife, who has responded with more love, understanding, and support than I deserve, and I set out on this road. Next I told a very dear friend from my high school days and her love and support helped me move forward. The initial progress was slow - so much had to be done, old habits torn down, new possibilities considered, etc. I had to find a different job, a different city, and so on - not to hide the truth, mind you, but in order to find a place where transition might be tolerated and with an income that might support it, neither of which were possible where I was.
I also had to be sure I was what I thought I was. In February I started seeing a therapist to find a final bit of clarity. She helped me find it, god love her - as she said, there was no confusion in me as to who I am, just doubt as to what to do about it. She added, "you don't need therapy because you're trans, you need therapy to help you deal with others dealing with it." ;)
Over the past months that doubt as to what to do has been decreasing. While I don't have every detail worked out yet, I know that I need to move forward, and "forward" means doing what I can to live authentically, and to acknowledge and embrace who I am. For way too long that was simply not an option.
I've been on hormone replacement therapy since April. The first effect has been lowering my blood pressure significantly (I think of it as recovering from a lifetime of testosterone poisoning. ;) ). Slowly other physical changes are also beginning. More importantly, internally things are starting to feel so much more right, in many ways and as I venture out in female mode more, that feels right, too. If the success of the treatment confirms the diagnosis, then I'm pretty sure we've got a winner.
OTOH, while changes are in the air, there is much that I have no intention of changing - my love of both writing and teaching clean elegant code (and Python), my delight in solving problems, my joy in dogs, my appreciation of smart remarks, the open source software community and a good beer [edit: strangely, the hormones have changed my tastes so that I'm much pickier about beers...] or single malt scotch, to name a few... the main difference will be that going forward, I'll be able to enjoy those things in cuter shoes. ;)
The whole process of transition is usually measured in years, so it will be an ongoing process. Right now I'm planning to start my transition this fall when my name change becomes official, but in any case I do hope that the next time we run into each other the difference will at least be noticeable (and for the better ;) ).
As transition is getting nearer, I'm starting to tell people, people I like or have felt close to, people who, if they learn about it in some bland after the fact announcement, might legitimately wonder, "now, why the hell didn't I hear about this sooner?"
Again, I'd ask you to keep this kind of quiet, mostly just off of the Interwebz so that I can work through the remaining people that I'll want to tell myself as I go forward.
Most of my contacts in the tech and Python communities already know, since it's become too confusing to even try to keep track of who knows vs. who doesn't know. I want to thank you all for your support and understanding. It has been greatly appreciated and has helped me through a tough time.
And finally, I realize all too well that this message will inevitably change our relationship. To what degree and in what direction, is up to you. But at least now I'll no longer have to think "if they only knew..."
Love and warmest regards,