What are your pronouns?
Where do you work?
Travelers, the insurance company.
Do you have any hobbies or special interests? What do you do for fun?
Usually play video games. I really like this Demolition Derby game called Wreckfest. And [I’ve] been playing a lot of Fallout 76. It’s okay. I have a hard time linking up with people, but there’s this group on Facebook that’s exclusively for females, for Fallout. So everyone can just be themselves and just be excited about stupid shit and not have people say dumb stuff to them.
I’m not a big TV person, but I do enjoy some shows. But I’ll watch a bunch of movies. But usually I’m so skittish that I’ll start watching a movie and then go do something else and then come back and finish it or, you know, watch it later on that night. So I’m a little too ADD for that.
I’m big into racing games. I really like going fast, so video games are a good outlet. Like Dirt, and, let’s see...What did I play before Fallout? Like, Elder Scrolls Online. So I was kind of familiar with the formula. I still need to [play The Witcher 3.] I know that 2 and 3 are beautiful, and I own them. And I have not played them through. Battlefields is another one that I play. Not really the latest one. They didn’t do a great job. I had this controller where it was this sort of round globe thing, and it had a handle on the front, and had a gun attachment, so you moved it in a 3D space, and it worked really well to be like, I'm looking up, I'm looking down, and you feel like you’re moving the gun. I do have VR. It makes your face really hot. It’s really difficult to control. Like, you’d have to really work at it to get a normal game working in 3D.
How do you handle the issue of pronouns and being gendered when interacting with strangers / mixed company / etc?
On the phone, I try to answer [with my voice] as high as I can, and try and keep it as high as I can. And sometimes they get it right, sometimes they get it wrong. I let it go. It hasn’t been long enough and I completely understand, given that, you know, my voice is low. So I just kinda roll with it. And apparently Abigail can be a man’s name. I was playing Street Fighter, and one of the crazy martial arts dude’s name is Abigail. It’s like, I didn’t think this one through.
[In person, people don’t mess it up] too often. I was at a store over the weekend up in Vermont where the woman was talking to my kids and said “he.” Sometimes they’ll correct people. But I don’t bother in that little setting, because it’s just not worth it.
[It’s great that my kids correct people sometimes.] I don't want to put that on them, but if they’re volunteering it, sure. [They’re] nine, six, and six. The oldest one is a boy and the two others are girls. Bryn is a very free spirit. She decided she wanted her hair short and it’s short like her brother’s. So she gets mis-gendered a lot. And I make a point to definitely correct them in that case. Because she really does take it to heart. She [says], “Why are people thinking I'm a boy?!” and just doesn’t understand. She just doesn’t want the hair tangles. Her mother and I were very open about everything, which is why when I came out, I didn’t think there’d be that much of a problem. I thought that maybe it would be okay, and I knew that work was okay, and I thought that family would be okay, so I went for it, and it completely backfired, personally.
[I was working at Travelers when I came out.] It was in my brain, and I was fighting with it, and I was trying it online, which I actually did when I was fourteen, fifteen. And I kinda went back to that because that was an easy place to do it and to do the changeover and test and play online and see if people were going to say something. Just, you know, kinda get used to the idea, and everything that I'd have to go through because I knew that it was going to be hard. I totally agree with [being unashamed of your speaking voice as a trans woman], and if you can do that, that’s awesome. Me personally, I'm still old-school. I'm still even adjusting to the non-binary, and kind of getting used to the idea of myself, and trying to be careful and trying to not assume.
Have you had difficulties with changing your name and the way it affects you moving through the world, being recognized how you want, or being mis-gendered?
It’s definitely been difficult, with the paperwork and everything else. I went and I changed my name and that was relatively easy. Changed my name, changed my social security. But apparently I was supposed to wait until I got my gender marker changed in order for that to change. But there’s no gender with social security and by the time I got the letter and everything else that I needed for Massachusetts, they had changed the law. So you didn’t even need the doctor’s note anymore. Which was good. But I actually changed it in Mass even when I didn’t live there because I just wanted it changed. So I now have my license with the correct gender marker, but changing my birth certificate was, holy mackerel. It took me four or five different times and I still have to send a final check to them, but everything should be changed now. And the birth certificate is changed with the marker, without anything saying it’s been updated. But it took a lot and it took a doctor’s note and everything else, and the doctor’s note was after I'd just had my procedure, just the basic one, just to kinda get rid of the testosterone. And that was my main goal. That’s all I was looking for. Everything else seems a bit too much and I'm afraid of everything not working afterwards. It would make me feel a thousand times better every time I get dressed. That’s something that I'm still working on. I even have the recommendation, but I haven’t been able to call the doctor yet.
I came out in November 2017. And then by, probably December, [my wife] had already said she wanted me to move out, and wasn't going to be able to deal with it. She “wasn't a lesbian, [didn’t] like women,” so then I moved out in March. Work was good. It took longer than I wanted. But that also gave me time to kind of get my wardrobe together and get everything in order. And it was difficult to change into that, go to work and then come back and change back. But once I talked to them and started the process, it was very smooth. They even had a local guy, Tony, a trans man, come in and he gave sort of an informational talk, and answered questions. It was just really great. I listened in to everyone else asking questions, and one of them [said], “What are [you] gonna do about the voice?” Some people do train and some people don’t do anything. So I actually did do [one at the] University of Southern Connecticut, they have a voice program, and it’s like twenty bucks a visit. So I did that for maybe about two semesters. I didn’t get to finish the second one because I wasn't able to pay for the gas to even go down there, let alone the appointment, so I had to cut it short, but I got the general gist. And I can still work on things whenever I want, and I know the right thing to do so that it won’t damage my voice. But it also means that I talk really quiet, and that people don’t always hear me, and then I go to be louder, and then I’m like, [growling]. Especially with the kids, I'd rather just fly under the radar as much as I can.
Everything [at work] was great, and people have been great, and even people who I can kinda tell, underneath, are not great, are still, to my face, great. [laughs] So that’s all I can ask. You know, I'm not asking you to change your entire belief system. We have a lot of contractors from India, so it’s kind of a completely different culture for them. But everyone’s been phenomenal. So I couldn't have asked for anything better. They got rated really high for transgender acceptance. They got a handbook for it.
What word(s) would you use to describe your identity?
Female. You know, to have the qualifier “trans female,” it feels like a qualifier. So I'd rather just be me, and if it’s on paper, they won’t know the difference. They see me in person, it might not make a difference. It all depends. At least I have a chance of flying under the radar. And that’s still kind of my approach to everything, is try to fly under the radar. Try to be as quiet as possible, you know, as unnoticed as possible. That’s my goal. It shouldn’t be that way, and I totally love the people who can be [loud about it and not care].
Techie. Geek. I’m a little reluctant for that, just because I wouldn’t ever use “nerd.” But I would use “geek.” Just the connotation I guess. Some people will say that they’re a book nerd, or this nerd or that, and it always has such negative connotations for me. I can’t get over it. I will say “queer.” It has that same feeling. But that one, I'm able to say we’re taking it back. We’re using it and owning it and it’s a great descriptor for not cis/het [cisgender/heterosexual]. It’s just a great descriptor for not the traditional, not the “normal.” And it works really well for that. But I wouldn't use it in mixed company. I wouldn't use it in a new group until I'd heard someone else say it. Just because I know that it has connotations to some people, and especially older people. And I'm bisexual – I don't have to explain [that].
Are there ways that you dress / act / speak / etc. to specifically make a statement to others about your identity? Why?
Makeup is a big [part of how I make a statement about my identity.] I worked on my walk. I had to. I made a conscious effort when I was like sixteen or seventeen to make my walk masculine, and I had to unlearn that and just try and be as natural as possible, but still watch my posture. Maybe I'll take smaller dainty steps when I'm going up steps. And I'll try and dress more towards the femme side; I kind of wanted something that was more female-specific for the photo shoot. I second-guess myself. I’ll try and start really high on the phone, as high as I can. So yeah, there’s definitely things that I'll do.
How early on did you know or suspect that you did not identify within the binary?
God, it was probably about fourteen. When did White Town’s “Your Woman” come out? [The lyrics go], “I’ll never be your woman…” So it was about that time, and I would sing, “I’ll never be a woman.” And my friend actually got angry at me, and she corrected me, and she’s like, “No! No! That’s not it!” And it would never even occur to me at that age, but I would shave my legs, I was doing my nails, just because I liked it that way. It just felt better. I got teased in gym because I was wearing shorts, and kind of shaved my arms too. I just didn’t like it.
I was just rolling with it, and it was about the time that I had to get a job, probably 11th grade, and so I was like, “Okay, cut my hair and wear regular clothes again.” Because I had been goth for a long time, because it kind of enabled me to do the things that I wanted to do and not get as much flak for it. I mean, still get flak, but it’s a goth person with painted nails, okay, they do that. [laughs] It’s a goth person with long hair. Okay. I never even knew it was a possibility.
Do you think anything about the way you were raised or where you grew up affected how you drew conclusions about your identity?
[My upbringing] was a constant barrage of being picked on in school. I would have my hair pulled, I had my feet stomped, it was just a constant barrage. And I was standing up to it, and I was being brave, that’s when I was brave, was standing up to the kids who seemed like they wanted to cause me harm. It was just this hatred, and they could not stand it, and I would probably have been attacked if I actually went full-on or even understood it at the time. [I grew up in] West Brookfield [MA]. So, went to school at Quaboag, which is where Molly Bish was from. She disappeared. She was a big missing case for a long time. They finally found her like, ten years ago. I remember walking in Ware and someone from my high school stopped. They were driving by, and they stopped, and he gets out, and he’s puffed, pushing his chest up into mine, and he’s like, “What’s your beef? What’s your beef?” And I couldn't stop laughing because it was so ridiculous, he was like 5’6” and I was almost 6’ – and I was just laughing at him, and he didn’t like that, and I thought I was going to get slugged right there, but I didn’t.
[Toxic masculinity] was rampant. All through elementary school, all through high school. And even a couple years later, there was a small reunion, it was an unofficial one, and one of the kids showed up, one of the guys who was always on me, and I was just there with my wife, and hanging out, and he still came in like a bull. It was definitely like, dude, what? Everyone’s kind of grown up and you’re not.
Can you give any examples of misconceptions people have about those who identify outside the binary? Have you personally dealt with them?
Just all the things around operations, and just approaching people about it … People will just assume there’s no separation between gender and sexual preference.
In your own words, how would you explain that gender identity is different from sexual orientation?
Well, for me, part of it was, I always had this attraction, always knew I was bisexual. And had a couple experiences that weren’t bad. And then one that was bad, so I thought, maybe not. But since then, there’s been one or two, and I'm good with that. It’s a lot easier, I think, for me to explain it as bisexual, just because they don’t have to wonder, if I say “lesbian,” what does that mean to them? Do I say “straight?” No, I’m just queer, so in that case, it’s a good descriptor. I'm not straight by any means, and just being bisexual, it’s not a cop-out, but it’s convenient. [laughs] There would be a ton of misconceptions based on whether someone would say that they’re straight or gay or anything, and that can be completely independent based on how they identify.
My mom’s like 80 so it takes a little bit more patience. She would usually remember, but when it was in the thick of things or she was saying things quick or anything else, it was constant mis-gendering. But I don’t correct her anymore. She catches herself most of the time and I know that she means well, so I just kinda roll with it.
How do you feel represented in media and society at large?
Ugh, God. The Simpsons apparently has a character called Stan-a-Rina. And Family Guy, I don't know why I put myself through that. I always go back to Mr. Garrison’s New Vagina from South Park. It’s all bad news, it’s constant “man in a dress” representation. And, you know, having the cis/het guys play the roles doesn’t help at all either.
I liked the first season of Transparent. I think that they dealt with things well, and they did enough explanation, and I really like the flashback part where they go back to Germany. I think the second season is where I stopped. But most shows I don’t think I make it past the second season. They start running out of ideas or they just pull in weird things.
"I kind of wish that there was more of the in-between. The men with facial hair and makeup. The people who are just like, “This is my voice. That’s it.” The people who just are. Those are the people that I want people to see. And understand that not everyone is the same way, not everyone even experiences it the same way or presents the same way, and that everybody has their own way."
There’s a lot of people on Twitter, a lot of people who completely pass; they can essentially fly under the radar and not be recognized. And those are often the people who are most visible, and when Buzzfeed does the “I’ve just harvested Twitter before and after photos and just re-posted them without permission,” that’s horrible representation. It puts people in danger. There’s people who’ve had to close their accounts because of that. There’s people who’ve fallen off Twitter because of that. I still have not posted a “before” picture because I don't want to be part of that. This is me now, accept me and we’ll be fine. But I kind of wish that there was more of the in-between. The men with facial hair and makeup. The people who are just like, “This is my voice. That’s it.” The people who just are. Those are the people that I want people to see. And understand that not everyone is the same way, not everyone even experiences it the same way or presents the same way, and that everybody has their own way.
That was one of the first things I had to do before I even came out at work was get as much electrolysis as I could, because that was my hang-up, was the facial hair. I always hated it, and when I would kiss my little girls and they would say, “Your face is all scratchy!” I’d be like, “No, it won’t be!”
What improvements would you like to see happen inside your communities, and in society at large?
I think if people would not assume, or to stop using “sir” and “ma’am.” I think there’s something floating around from 1986 that was from some retail job or something: “Don’t assume sir or ma’am, you may be wrong.” It was from some HR training video. If people just didn’t care, and just let people be whoever, and have more of the people just wearing what they wanted to wear. How does this person wearing a dress affect you?
Could you tell me about an experience or moment in your life that was very impactful for you?
It was essentially coming out to my friend, telling him that I’d been chatting to him as a woman that was not me. It had been maybe about 6 months where I had been playing both, and I even went so far as to have two sessions open so I could be present when the other person was also present. I felt that that was the only way that I could experience it… Was this really me? I was being this person and it was somewhat different than me, but in some ways it was just the parts of me that I didn’t let come out. And that was a huge shock and completely derailed my friendship with everybody, and left me very isolated after that. And rightly so. It was very dishonest, and it wasn't what I did, it was how I did it. If I had made the realization or knew that that was how things could pan out and be okay, then I probably would’ve done things differently.
The other thing was actually coming out and having the person who was always so supportive of people with alternative lifestyles and so cool finally tell me no, that’s it. I realized something about myself and, you know, I had the house and the wife and the kids and the car and the dog and I had everything that I was supposed to have to make me happy, and why wasn't I happy? I drank for a couple years, really heavily, and got in big trouble with that, and couldn't figure out why I was so unhappy with life. Things have turned around immensely since then. I get to just be me and I'm happy just being me and it’s difficult, but it’s worthwhile, and I can’t say I regret it, even though a lot of bad things have come about from it.
Could you give me an example of something difficult that occurred in your life how you dealt with it?
It would probably be coming out. You know, I dealt with it by just doing what I had to do, and I probably should’ve fought moving out a little bit more. Probably should’ve tried to get the divorce a little bit more solidified before moving out. I also wouldn’t have blown the mediation in the divorce. I was worried about losing my pension and I withheld it until I had talked to a lawyer to make sure, and it was very late at that point in the process, and, you know, it came out as dishonest, so then we lost the chance to just go through mediation and split it down the middle. So then everything went to court and became a lot more difficult after that. So I dealt with it poorly.
Who in your life do you feel you can trust or depend on?
My kids, definitely. My best friend. He lives in Maine now. He’s a pilot. So I don't see him much. And my friends from grade school and high school. I've still known them, and they’re still relatively good people. I don't talk to [one of them] so much because he was really bad to his wife, and just really toxic masculine, and I kind of became friends with his wife when she decided she wanted to move out. She realized it was going to be too hard, couldn't get a job, and moved back in relatively quickly. But he’s got so much money now that he can just let her do anything she wants and she does, and I haven’t talked to her much ever since, and I really don’t talk to him much because I know what he’s put her through.
[The way my male friends talk to me has changed] a little bit. Family definitely, I think I lost at least some, and my brother, he’s been a bit different. But for the most part, people still know that I'm me and that the person that I am hasn’t changed, it’s just what I look like on the outside.
How has your identity played a role in your relationships, romantic or otherwise?
It’s made it a heck of a lot more difficult. Getting matches on Tinder, on Bumble, and I see the notifications, I go to check it, and before I can actually see who it was, they’ve undone it, because they’ve looked at my profile. They saw “trans” and they were like, “Ah!” But, you know, it was a person that I wouldn't have wanted to match with anyway if they’re going to be like that. [laughs]
Are you able to find adequate medical care?
The Wheeler Medical Clinic, they’ve been great from a medical standpoint. Also go to them for mental health now. For my endocrinologist, getting my “Mr.” changed on the mail that they send to me has been horrific. I'm finally going to go in with my changed license and be like, “Change it.” “Well, is it official?” “IT’S OFFICIAL. LOOK.” That was another major thing that I wanted to make sure was done because of the bathroom bill. Because it’s gotta match your birth certificate. Well, my birth certificate says that and I'm good. Just in case things get that way, and things really are edging towards that and it’s kind of scary.
How has your view of yourself changed since you were younger?
You know, when I was fourteen and was as feminine as I could be, that was the most me. I was tainted after that. My parents threw a fit and were like, “Are you shaving? What are you, do you like boys?” And I had to flatly deny it and just completely stopped after that. It was stopping me dead in my tracks, and from then on, I never felt like I was quite the same person because I had to put on this front and never quite felt like me and that was part of what made me so miserable later on.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Move to someplace and then just do it. [laughs] Move someplace accepting. Move to Northampton, and then be who you are. But I still wouldn't want to change my kids. My kids are amazing. So I'm glad that my life turned out as it did up to that point because I have them, and if nothing else, I know that they accept me.
What are your concerns for the future?
The legislation. The bathroom bills. The transgender bans. The slowly whittling away protections where, yes, it’s about a cake here, but it really means denying people rights after that, and being able to just refuse service or anything because you don’t like the person. [If] your candidate just said that your LGBT rights come before religious rights, if we had something like that, that would make all the difference. It wouldn't let people have that sort of escape to get out of it.
What do you look forward to in the future?
I look forward to finding somebody who I can hang out with and shares my interests or at least puts up with my interests. Just someone who I can send a text to and be like, “Hey, what’s up?” So, finding somebody. Finding financial security again. Making sure that I get the kids the money that they need. Making sure that I have the money that I need to live, which has been very difficult up to this point. I filed bankruptcy, and trying to get through all that in the middle of the divorce, and just wanting to be okay and not be on edge about everything would be nice.
I get to see [my kids] on the weekends. Every weekend. Because doing every other weekend, I wouldn't see them enough. I need to see them more than that and I need to be there for them regularly. It’s also more towards having them kind of half, and if I can ever get them for half, then I can make a much better life for them when they’re with me. I do [talk to them during the week] if they call, or if I call. Which we do every now and again. Sometimes they need it, sometimes I need it. I just need to hear them.
What have been the important frustrations in your life, and the most important successes?
Probably frustrations would be going through the tough times in jobs. Just working through the crap and sticking with it, and getting the experience. And once you’re experienced, it feels more secure and you have more confidence. I’ve since kind of lost all my confidence. But, you know, going through the garbage at work and doing the tedious stuff, everybody’s gotta do it. And you still gotta go to work, you still gotta get paid, so you just do it most of the time.
I think of success as more professional because to me, that’s kind of what success is. I haven’t had much that I'm super good at, other than computers. I build computers and I can put them together, but that’s not very marketable… Nobody wants a desktop anymore. Everybody wants a laptop. So to be able to build a desktop that can do gaming and really kick ass, you have to choose the right stuff to be able to put it all together, and I'm great at that, but my attempts at selling systems and doing that as a side gig just never… I mean there’s very few people who will do a desktop because they want to be able to bring their laptop with them somewhere.
[I’ve thought about marketing to old people who still use desktops] somewhat, but I'm worried about my presentation and how they might deal with it. I stopped doing any kind of computer work when I came out, other than bartering with my electrolysist to do her website, because I kind of do that too. I’m not super good at it, because I haven’t kept up with things, but I know how to change things that are already there.
Do you have a philosophy of life? What’s your best piece of advice?
It was “Be chill,” you know, I try and be as easygoing as possible and going with the flow, and a lot of times I miss out on myself because of it. Like I don't always get as much as I could get for myself if I wasn't so easygoing. But then again, it kind of allows you to go where life leads you when you just accept things and go with it. Depending what happens with where I live; it’s kind of, look around and first thing I see, that looks good, okay, let’s try this. I'm just really easygoing with life and try to be as flexible as possible. When I get stressed I get angry and I get irrational when I get angry and I don't like it so I try and do everything I can to not get frustrated, to not get angry. I'll play a game and if it gets to [that] point I stop, and if I'm not done with the level, that’s fine, just turn it off. And I try to teach that to my kids. One of the girls has a really hard time with losing right now, so it’s important for me to show her that I don't always win the games. That you have to have to play the game over and over again sometimes and you have to be able to handle that. I teach as best as I can. No one ever tells you how to teach your kids how to be. You just kind of figure out – I figured out what my parents were and then I tried to be different from that. So that was my philosophy with it.
Are there any other questions you would have liked me to ask, or anything else you would like to talk about?
Just that I'm single. [laughs] It would be nice to have somebody. Even to have a couple people who aren’t it and just to go through that. Have a couple more dates. That would be fine. I’m living my best life as best as I can, as much as I'm allowed to.