Coming Out at American Express

(Originally posted January 24, 2004)

From the moment I first slipped on a pair of my sister’s nylons when I was eleven years old, I knew that my cross-dressing was a shameful, dangerous practice, and that people would rather that I kept it secret. When I was twenty-four, I decided that I was tired of hiding, and I just wanted to be able to be who I was. I wanted to be able to join in the conversation when I heard women talking about clothes, not turn away. Mostly, I just wanted to stop feeling ashamed.

In the winter of 1995-96, I was living in New York in an apartment I shared with an old friend. In the previous two years, I had come out to two gay male friends, two girlfriends, my father, my apartmentmate, one bisexual friend, and one straight male friend. Everyone had been relatively accepting and supportive, so I decided to come out to the rest of the world. I had decided to post to transgender newsgroups under my real name, and I knew that it was impossible to hide that. I had started carrying a picture of myself cross-dressed in my wallet. I knew that at some point I would have to come out at work.

My work then consisted of temping for Vanstar, an outsourcing company at the offices of American Express. We were working for American Express, but we were twice removed from most of the benefits of being actual American Express employees. The American Express employees resented us for taking their jobs, and the Vanstar employees looked down on us for being temps. But the money was decent, and it was good experience. (more…)

Doing Transgender Research: Recognizing and Compensating for Limitations

(Thanks to the members of the My Husband Betty message boards for helpful feedback.)

Over many years of contemplating transgenderism, I’ve come up with a few principles that I’ve encountered over and over again. Principle One is “No one really knows what’s going on.” With so many closeted cross-dressers, stealth transsexuals, and people from all over the transgender spectra lying to themselves and to others, and lots of people who’d rather not hear about us, it’s very difficult to make any statements with confidence, or to believe any statements from anyone else.

Recently, there’s some good news and some bad news regarding Principle One. The good news is that there’s been an increase in funding for transgender research over the past few years. Much of this funding is in the form of locally based studies in the context of research on the transmission of AIDS. (I could write a whole article on the problems involved in that idea.) Social service organizations around the country have gotten grants to study their local transgender populations, and have gone out, found transgender people, asked them questions, and published the results. With the sometimes-generous support of the government and philanthropies, hard-working teams of investigators have collected large amounts of data, sometimes on only a small salary or even on a volunteer basis. Just do an Internet search for transgender study and you’ll find a bunch of them.

So what’s the bad news? Unfortunately, a lot of this time, effort and money have been wasted due to poor methodology. It really upsets me every time I read about one of these studies, because I want the same information that the study organizers want, and I know how caring and dedicated they are. I hate the idea that they could have taken all that money and left it in a pile for the clients of their walk-in clinic and probably done more good. (more…)

Some Transgender Principles

As I have time, I’m going to gradually migrate my writings from my old transvestite website to this new blog, revising and updating them in the process. I’ll also write new articles as the muse strikes me. Many of them will relate to this list of principles that I developed in 2005 and have been expanding since.

For the past two and a half years I’ve been participating on the (en)gender Message Boards, moderated by Helen Boyd, author of My Husband Betty, and her husband Betty Crow. It’s a really good group of people, with lots of interesting ideas about transgender phenomena, but over that time I’ve found myself saying a few things over and over again. This page is written in part to save myself some typing on this message board; the next time one of these comes up I can just link to Principle 3. Kind of like the joke about the comedians’ club.

Right now I’ll just write a little blurb for each principle. As time goes on I may expand them into full-fledged articles.

1. No one really knows what’s going on
Discussions about transgenderism are often full of generalizations: “Transgender individuals are like this,” or “Transsexuals are like this, but cross-dressers are like that.” The fact of the matter is that nobody’s done enough research to prove this, so everyone’s going on hunches. Unfortunately, hunches can often be wrong. The bottom line is that nobody has information beyond the people that they’ve talked to. Except in Sweden. (more…)

Some good work-related trans news

There are a couple of good trans-related things that have happened to me in the past month. They both relate to my business; in case you don’t know, I’m a computer consultant. I’ve been hesitant about being out to my customers for a number of reasons. The main reason is that it’s just not relevant to most of my business. But sometimes things come up, and it makes sense to mention something trans-related. The second problem is that I’ve built a lot of my business in my local neighborhood, and it’s a bit more conservative than Manhattan. Even in Manhattan, though, I worry that transness (especially transvestism) may not be as accepted as homosexuality.

There are signs that being out isn’t as difficult as I thought, however. I know that one of my biggest customers was aware of my cross-dressing before she hired me, and I’ve come out to some of my other cutomers (who I knew were either some flavor of queer, or at least open-minded) with no adverse consequences. And now, recently, two more things.

The first is that I’ve recently become involved in LGBT business networking. In June I joined the organization Out Professionals, and I was a little apprehensive at first, because all their materials just say “lesbian and gay.” But I asked if it was okay to join because I was trans, and the seminar organizer said, “you could even be straight, and you’d be welcome.”

A few weeks later I got an announcement from Out Professionals that one of their members is organizing a breakfast networking group here in Queens. I went to the first meeting last month, and it was a really nice experience. The other attendees were very friendly, and I got some promising business leads. The next meeting is going to be on Wednesday, September 13 in Jackson Heights. It’s still at an informal stage, so if anyone reading this is interested in attending, send me an email and I’ll send you the organizer’s email address.

The other positive development recently is that I met another computer consultant who’s trans. This woman is transsexual, around fifteen years post-transition, and has built a successful computer consulting business with several employees. She tells me she doesn’t pass with everyone and she’s out to anyone who wants to know, but if any of her customers know she’s trans, it doesn’t seem to faze them. They seem much more interested in getting their computers working.

It’s reassuring to see this, as a counterpoint to all those studies that use questionable methods and claim to show that almost all transpeople are drug-addicted prostitutes or underpaid social workers. It shows that there’s a middle way between the closet and poverty.