Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Luckiest Girl in the World

The eventful first week of transition has passed. After a morning of sitting on a very hard courtroom bench listening to people wrangle about rent disputes, my name change became legal. Everyone at my company was informed (and thank god, educated) about my being trans. I got my hair styled and my nails done professionally for the first time in my life. I walked back into work as Naomi with my head held high and it was fine. I braved a visit to the DMV and ended up with a new drivers licence with the desired new name and gender. I even went to my first Python meetup as Naomi.

So much was squeezed into this past week that it's starting to blur. This was the time that I had feared all of these years. This was to be a change so scary that I referred to it as "leaping off the cliff". I honestly didn't know how I was going to get through it all - standing before a judge to change my name, telling the people I cared most about at work, and even walking back into the building after everyone knew the truth. These were the things that I had struggled with for years... the kinds of fears that had held me back for ages. 

The reality turned out to be far different than I had imagined, in many ways. I went to my name change hearing with extra documentation, mentally preparing arguments to counter a conservative judge's reluctance. In fact, he sized me up, asked the formulaic questions, and then smiled and congratulated me as he signed the decree. I had thought that my fellow managers might be a tough audience, but they listened intently, politely, and sympathetically, and were instantly supportive. 

I had imagined that telling my team might be easier. Instead it was the hardest of all, taking just about all I had. This wasn't their fault, mind you - they also were supportive, sending me messages of support that very night.

And so it went. Where I had feared rejection, I received a welcome. There were hugs instead of scowls, sincere messages of support instead of haughty silence. In other words, they did what I had feared would never happen - they saw me as I was and welcomed me back. 

There were some negatives during this week of transition, some people being ominously silent or even openly unsupportive, but they were few and they didn't come from the people I work with every day.

Where it really counted, when I really needed them, the people around me came through magnificently, in a manner I had never dared hope for. I won't forget that. And no matter what else happens, thanks to them I count myself the luckiest girl in the world. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Public Coming Out Post

A Little Personal News

So if you're reading this, you've either heard this elsewhere and are looking for confirmation,  or I've pointed you here via some other message or post. Yes, I have some news to confirm... I'm transsexual. My full coming out post is here and of course you are welcome to browse the rest of this blog if you want to see a bit of what I've been through on my journey. The good news is that my name change is now official and I'm transitioning to living full time as Naomi. To be honest I wish I'd done it sooner.

Part of the reason it took me so long to even begin the process of transition was my long time position at the school, and my enjoyment of teaching. For quite a time I thought that might be enough, that the satisfaction of teaching might carry me though my life without having to deal with the truth of who I was. But eventually time and the truth caught up with me.

To My Former Students

My enjoyment of my time with you may have delayed my transition, but I don't consider that a bad trade at all. I cared for all of you, and I enjoyed your various personalities, senses of humor, and learning styles. I got enormous satisfaction from helping you learn and watching you grow. I suppose you will have various reactions - some of you may be stunned, perhaps disgusted, maybe feel somehow betrayed... others may be (and have been) positive and accepting, supportive, even happy that someone they value has finally found a bit more peace for herself. Knowing all of you, I think that the latter group will far outnumber the former. I hope so, since I have fond and proud memories of you all.

To my old school and former colleagues

I suppose you, too, will have various reactions - probably also ranging from shock and disgust to being happy for me. Perhaps the latter group will even outnumber the former, I'm not sure.

I imagine that some of you may have now guessed that the reason I left teaching and the school (and the dog obedience world, for that matter) was to make this change. And I think it's pretty clear that it would have been orders of magnitude more difficult, if not impossible, to transition there. And I was extremely fortunate to land a cool job with a company and with people who are willing and able to support me as I make this change.

It's ungracious of me to admit it, but I didn't trust the school, neither as an institution nor as a community, to stand by me during such a risky and difficult time. That realization was very hard for me to take at the time. It felt like a betrayal as I realized that an institution I'd put so much of my life into, and a community I'd seen rally around so many others in tough times, would not be there for me. But it was probably a gift, now that I think of it, since it made it that much easier to seize opportunity when it arose. But please, for the sake of others there who are LGBT, don't stand on the wrong side of history too much longer.

To all of you

I've moved on quite a bit over the past couple years, and I have an even longer journey ahead of me, but I'm still pretty much the same person. I'm happier now, and a bit more at home in my own skin, a little more authentic and honest about who I am, but that's about it. (Don't get me wrong - that's HUGE!) That, and now I get to wear cuter shoes on occasion... ;)

I'm not trying to reject my past or deny who I am or where I've been at all, so if you have the inclination to make contact again, I'd be happy to hear from you. On the other hand, if you don't feel comfortable, interested, or otherwise motivated to get in contact, that's fine with me, too. Best wishes to all.

Kindest regards,

What about Naomi?

What about the choice of the name "Naomi", that is...

On October 22, I legally became Naomi Renee Ceder. In a way it was a second birthday, one that I'd dreamed of for a long time. But how did I come by those new names?

The easy one is "Renee". Just about a year ago I asked one of my dearest friends to give me a middle name. She agreed and after much deliberation found what she was looking for - a name that matched the time I was born and had a special significance. She wanted something to indicate a fresh start, and Renee was moderately common in the 50's but not so much after that. And Renne means "reborn". That seemed quite apt to both of us.

The Naomi part is much more complex. I chose that name more than 15 years ago, when I was in the very early stages of coming to terms with my gender. I wanted a name that was compatible with the time I was born (so no "Tiffanies" or other names that were trendy when I was already in my 30's or 40's), and one that was just about as popular (or unpoplular) as Vern - I didn't want to become one of the many Susans or Deborahs my age - that just wouldn't match my experience.

As I thought about it Naomi struck me. Perhaps it was seeing Naomi Judd sing, maybe it was watching Naomi Campbell strut the catwalk, but somehow it occurred to me and once it did, there was real resonance there. As it happened one of my mother's friends was named Naomi. I never knew her very well, but I remember thinking she was pretty in a quiet and reserved way. And in some later interactions with her I learned that she was a tireless worker, full of dedication and attention to detail.

But there was more to it than that. It had the same popularity in the 50's as Vern, and it also echoed in my head from all of those Sundays in church. Our Lutheran church had several women's groups, or "units", named after women of the bible, and announcements of activities of the "Naomi Unit" seemed to echo out of the past. I don't remember if my mother was part of the Naomi Unit or not, but thinking back, that name seemed always to there.

While not a Christian, I felt obligated see what the biblical Naomi had been like. The story of Naomi and Ruth strikes me as a nuanced one. I've read many contradictory intrerpretations of her character and her relationship with Ruth, but it is clear that she suffered great loss, that she inspired great love and loyalty from her daughter-in-law, and that she hacked the social system to provide a better life for Ruth and herself. I like that view of the story - I too have sometimes felt "bitter" at the fate dealt to me, but I'm also trying to find something better.

So... Naomi Renee. 


I've just looked back over these posts... I'm sort of struck by how negative they all are. Honestly my journey hasn't been as dark as those posts might imply. I've posted mainly for two reasons - to let people know what I was doing, so that I wouldn't have to write the same emails over and over again, and I've posted to help myself face and deal with my doubts. 

Unfortunately, the doubts have gotten more prominence than they deserve. That's partly the effect of having to slog away in guy mode, keeping everything thing secret as the details of transition got worked out. That was tremendously isolating and tiring. It's also partly because nothing helps me work out my own thinking/feeling about an issue quite as well as writing something about it, particularly something that's going to be posted. That process forces me to think more clearly, to reflect more deeply, and ultimately helps me come to a decision better than anything else. 

In turn, many of the positive things haven't needed that process and so haven't been "important" enough to be mentioned - things like the lift my spirits got when I could go out as myself, the pleasure of seeing someone a bit more familiar in the mirror, and above all, the support of friends.

Today, as I've said before, I leapt off the cliff... my name change became official and the rest of transition was set in motion for the rest of this week. And to equip me for this, I recieved two gifts from dear friends far away. 

One of those gifts was practical - a magic bubble to surround me and ward off any negative thoughts. It's really quite amazing - it totally surrounds me and totally deflects the negatives - you can just see them bounce off and float away. And even better, it's an extensa-bubble so it automatically grows to surround all my friends. The friend that gave it was quite insistent that I use it, and so far it has worked brilliantly.

The other gift is even more poetic - a pair of wings so that when I leap, I will soar and fly away and end up home. They are beating strongly and bearing me up over the mountains ahead.

So thank you for those gifts, and thank you to all of my friends for your warm thoughts and support. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012


It's begun. No, check that, it's almost done. It's strange... I've been counting down for months, and suddenly it's down to days. On Monday my name change should be official. Then, the day after that, I'll start telling people at work.  I'll leap off the cliff... and things will never be the same.

Everyone tells me it will be fine, and I expect they are right. I do hope it will be. The people I work with are good people, so I have every reason to expect that many of them will be just as kind and accepting as the others I've told, who have surprised and encouraged me with their acceptance. 

And yet I've been obsessing over what I'm going tell people at work, writing and re-writng the message I want to give them. Too much? Too little? Why should anyone care at all? And so on... Honestly, I've spent more time thinking about their reactions than any other group, including family. I'm hoping that somehow that I'll find the magic formula that will guarantee their kindness and acceptance. And at the same time, I know that there are no such guarantees.

Unfortunatley I can't help but remember a couple of episodes of transphobia that I've witnessed at work that really bothered me. They bothered me not because they were brutal or extreme (they weren't at all), but rather because they were so routine and unthinking, so casually contemptuous and so easily accepted. They flowed so naturally that I'd bet that the people involved can't even remember them, while I felt those incidents in the pit of my stomach for days. I wish it didn't bother me, but it did.

And even without that memory I sometimes still find it hard to believe that anyone will accept me, let alone with kindness. Why should they? Crossing the gender line, particularly at my age, is not something society respects or even allows. And god knows I will be far from perfect (whatever that might be) in presentation. My voice will be laughable, my face a wreck, and I'll have that ugly damned stubble on my face for electrolysis to work. In short, I'll be an easy target for trans contempt and ridicule - easy to be seen as an old man trying to be a girl... and failing.

I know that I'm worrying for nothing. I know that everyone's behavior will be professional. I also know that behavior is all that I can ask for, and that is enough. 

But regardless of what might happen, regardless my fears, no matter how unjustified or justified they might be, it won't stop me. I've come too far to get to this point, to accept and embrace both who I am and who I have been, and to get to a point where I can finally allow myself to be happy. 

When the countdown finishes, I'm making that leap. Wish me luck.