January 4, 2010: Edited from a document originally written between March 19-28, 2007. I'm keeping this here for posterity even though I no longer agree with some of what I wrote in what follows. As a general rule, I'm still happy to discuss anything mentioned below with people who know me, and, within certain reasonable limits, with people who don't.
Hello. I'm transitioning from female to male, and changing my first name to "Tim". The limitations of the English language being what they are, I would prefer to be referred to using male pronouns.
If you're finding this out for the first time from my web page, and think I should have told you directly, then I'm sorry. If I waited to come out until after I'd directly told everyone who matters to me, I'd never come out. So I hope you understand.
That's all that anyone else really needs to know, but if you want to know more, read on.
Infrequently Asked Questions
Shorter bathroom lines. Improved chances of dating gay men. Improved chances of dating lesbians. Getting called "ma'am" a whole lot less often. Curiosity. "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Pick whichever reason offends you the most.
In Becoming a Visible Man, Jamison Green described gender as "the
interface between our psyche and our cognitive mind/body/sex". If gender is like an operating system for the body, then it wouldn't be quite accurate to say that I'm installing a better OS, but more accurate to say that I'm swapping out my existing hardware for a set of peripherals that has better native driver support.
A few hormones, some surgery. Everything in its own time.
I liked the way it sounded, and I don't have any particularly close friends named that (although yes, probably everybody has a cousin/brother/etc. named that. Have you ever noticed that people don't name their male children very creatively?) Really, though, I'll be infinitely happy to reclaim all the time I used to spend explaining that I wasn't named Kristen or Kiersten. I can only think of one way to pronounce "Tim". Can you think of another?
I thought you identified as dynamically gendered?
I used to, but through a combination of careful static analysis and runtime profiling I determined that my gender expression was male 95% of the time, and thus, a male body would be a far more efficient representation for me.
No, really, aren't you buying into the gender binary and its oppressive norms?
I would have asked this question myself once. I still intend to subvert gender norms, I'd just be a lot happier doing it as a man rather than a woman. I still support genderfuck and genderqueerness, but in all honesty, most people don't understand what either of those words means and I don't want to spend my life explaining it to them. I find getting perceived as female to be upsetting, but it's perfectly reasonable for people to perceive me that way as I am now. Thus, looking male is a more practical solution than either fuming inside or embarking on a career as a genderqueer evangelist. Plus, IDing as genderqueer does nothing to change my body, which I want.
Aren't you betraying feminism?
I'm still a feminist, and just because I don't want to be a woman doesn't mean I think there's anything wrong or bad or inferior about being one. Do you hassle feminists who are cisgender men (that is, men who were assigned male at birth) for not transitioning to female?
I hate sexism. That's not why I'm transitioning, though. There are a lot of women who hate sexism; most of them don't have any desire to change their body to be more like the opposite sex. I do.
So are you going to break up with your male partner now that you're a guy?
No; I was attracted to men, women, and everyone else before, and I still am. Gender identity and sexual orientation are often orthogonal.
California law suggests that only death or divorce end a marriage, so as far as I can tell, he and I will be legally married as long as we want to be, even after I legally change my sex.
I don't believe you're really a guy. You look like a girl to me.
First, that's not a question. Second, I don't really expect you to. The point of "transitioning" is to go someplace where you weren't before. Eventually, I'll look like a guy. Even though I don't, yet, I'm announcing my transition now so that I don't have to worry about keeping a secret. Secrets suck. I don't expect instant acceptance, I just want to be able to talk freely.
What's between your legs?
Would you ask somebody who wasn't transsexual (and wasn't your lover or about to become your lover) this question? If not, why do you think it's okay to ask a transsexual person that?
Why can't you just be masculine without changing your body? Why do you care what other people think?
Would you go out in public with a skirt on (if you're male) or without shaving your legs (if you're female)? If not: What do you care what other people think?
(Of course I know there are guys who wear skirts in public -- even outside San Francisco, sometimes -- and women who don't shave their legs, but I'm suspecting none of them would be asking this question.)
Indeed, if I cared overmuch about what other people thought, I wouldn't be transitioning; even in the most accepting social circles imaginable, it's a pretty awkward and embarrassing thing to do. But to borrow a phrase from Samuel Delany, the "reward of invisibility" wasn't worth it in order to avoid making other people uncomfortable.
The next question might be considered an alternate form of this one, or perhaps vice versa:
What are the long-term health risks of introducing male hormones into a phenotypically female body?
I don't know, and neither does anybody else. Life is full of cost/benefit analyses and most of them are made using stunningly incomplete information. This is one of those.
Despite the absence of rigorous scientific data on the subject, you might hazard a guess that whatever risks involved are similar to those risks involved in being a cisgender man (everything from increased heart disease risk to guys trying to start fights with you in the Whole Foods Market in Los Altos). There are risks involved in being someone who outwardly appears to be a woman, too (everything from breast cancer to being expected to enjoy daytime television), so to a first approximation, it's a wash. I suspect that I'm at more risk from riding my bicycle in San Francisco than from taking testosterone, and I don't see anybody telling me to stop riding my bike (except this one cab driver once).
For the imaginative reader, I might also pose the question of what the long-term health risks of disliking your body might be.
If I slip and use the wrong name and/or pronoun, will you get mad?
No, I understand it's hard to make these changes. All I can reasonably ask is that you try.
If I have a picture and/or mention of you on my web site, do I need to update it now to reflect your new name and gender?
Use your own judgment. It'll never be any secret that I used to be a girl; I have too much of an Internet presence for that, and after all, I graduated from a women's college. There's no need either for you to bring that up gratuitously now or for you to put a lot of effort into revising ancient history.
When talking about events that occurred before you began transitioning, how should you be referenced?
In whatever way causes the least confusion. I would appreciate any efforts to make it clear that I'm a guy now, though, where it's convenient to make them.
Should/how should this change be communicated to people with whom you're no longer in touch?
Well, it's on the Internet now, so it's public information, and you can tell the New York Times if you want. Mention it if it's relevant in context; there's not really any need to mention it if it's not.
Are you sure about this? What if you change your mind?
No one knows the future, but I've thought about it, and I'm pretty sure. Everyone is different, but at the same time, it's quite rare for people who are at the point where I am to change their minds.
What about having kids?
In general, yes, trans people can have kids. For me, I already didn't know if I wanted them, and still don't know, but if I ever have them, they'll likely be adopted. I'm happy to sit on a towel on the edge of the gene pool.
I have a question that isn't answered here. Can I ask it to you, or will you get mad?
Of course you can ask! I made this page because I know that there will be people who'll be curious, but won't want to ask. I'm likely to answer any question that is posed respectfully.
Thanks to my friends and family for supporting me during this time. In particular: David, Mom, Lynn, Corvi, Juli, Maggie, Karl, Sondy, Sarah T, Sarah D, Chris, Debra, Lari, Dan, Bianca, Kest, Cyn, Philippa, Rachel, Josh, Jessica, Nye, Andrew, Ari, Mryn, Sam, Katia, Tony, Elena, Isabel, Pace, your words made all the difference. (If I'm forgetting you, it's out of carelessness rather than a passive-aggressive accusation of unsupportiveness.) Special thanks to Audrey Tang for warning me about the monomorphism restriction.