All posts by Anna

Anna vs. The Bus

I tried to take the bus to work this morning.  Usually I arrive at the bus stop 45 seconds too late, and I watch from across the street as the bus drives off to the next stop on the line.  But today I was 2 minutes early!  When I reached the stop, I checked the bus tracker app on my phone only to discover that the bus was 15 minutes behind schedule.  At this point I decided I had two options:  1)  continue waiting in the feels-like-minus-5F cold or 2)  pick an intersection that I think is a 15 minute walk away and try to beat the bus there.

Like any sane person, I picked option #2.

So I set off walking.  I pass several bus stops on the way, and the only bus I see is driving the opposite direction.  Finally I see the finish line:  a traffic light controlled intersection barely outside of downtown.  I check the time and see that about 20 minutes have passed.  I pick up the pace, knowing that every second the bus is gaining on me.  20 sidewalk squares left … 15 … 10.  At this point I hear squeaking beside me.  I look to my left, and it’s the bus slowing down for the red light at my imaginary finish line.  I was so close!  As the bus slowly passed by me, I realized that I was going to lose this race.  I had 5 sidewalk squares left, but the light was already green and the bus was accelerating down the street.  As I took the last few steps into second place, I hung my head and promised myself a rematch.

I’ll beat you next time, bus.

My (new) Drivers License Game

When I updated my drivers license after my name change last month, I was initially annoyed that the State of Michigan did not let me update my gender marker as well.  I have been carded a few times in the last month, and from what I can tell nobody actually notices what gender your drivers license says you are.  I’ve decided to turn this into a game – how long will it take until somebody comments on this “mistake”?  I’m guessing that if I keep being confident then nobody will notice for a long time.

So far, I have had to show my license twice.  Both times, the person looked at the year I was born and then addressed me with female pronouns.  One of the people even made a comment about how I was born in 1988 and didn’t have my ears pierced yet!

I have a few flights at the end of February.  I wonder if TSA agents look at these details?

When you give a cat a bed …

When you give a cat a bed, the cat will ignore the bed.  Always.

When I first adopted my kittens, I went out and bought two cat beds from a pet store figuring they would each use one bed.  I have had them for two months now and I have only seen them in the beds twice: once on the afternoon that they came home with me and then later that night.DSC_0360

So where do they sleep?  Usually not these beds.  Most of the time they either sleep on my bed or cuddle up in their cat tree.

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But I have an idea for something new to try.  I finished some clementines the other day and decided to give the box to the cats.  Then this happened:

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I think I’m going to put a blanket in the box and see it keeps getting used as a bed.  I hope so!  But these are cats I’m talking about, and it is very likely that they will lose all interest in the box as soon as I start calling it a bed.

Name updating status

I had my name legally changed a few weeks ago, which is a relief because my old drivers license basically stopped working.  When I went to adopt my cats the woman at the Humane Society took one confused look at my license and immediately told me “this isn’t you.”

I’m honestly surprised at just how easy the entire process has been.  I was in front of a judge for a whole 30 seconds, just long enough to verify my old name, age, and that I’ve been living in the county for at least a year.   Easy!

I’ve heard that the difficult part of a legal name change is updating everything afterwards, but that part hasn’t been too bad (so far).  The Social Security Administration office took about 45 minutes to work through, and there were only 3 people in front of me at the Secretary of State.  In a little over an hour I had updated my Social Security card, drivers license, car title and car registration.

I have been visiting as many places in person as I can, and showing my court papers in person.  The longest part is usually waiting for my turn in line and actually talking to a representative to update my account takes less than 5 minutes.  This was way better than I was expecting, but I suppose it helps that I am doing all of this over the holidays when I have extra time.

I can already tell that updating the deed to my condo is going to be more challenging.  The county Register of Deeds told me that I would have to find a title company and have the deed redrafted, which hopefully won’t take too long.  I am not expecting this change to be free.

I am going to tackle updating my name at work (and therefore with my health insurance company) after New Years.  I hope everything goes smoothly!

How did I pick my name?

One of the most common questions I have been asked the last several months is “How did you pick your name?” so it seems like a good topic for a quick blog post!

I chose my first name (Anna) last January.  I had tried out several names in my head since at least freshman year of college, but none of them really felt like they fit.  My solution was to copy what other transpeople had done for renaming themselves:  I looked up how popular my old name was in the year I was born, and found the matching female name.  I found “Bryan” ranked number 54, and when I slid my eyes over to the female column my first thought was “Anna … that’s a palindrome!”.  The name stuck.

My middle name was easier to pick out.  I already knew that my old middle name (James) was my Dad’s first name, and I decided long ago to stick with the naming pattern and choose my Mom’s first name (Michele).  I still considered others, just in case I found something that I liked better, but in the end I kept coming back to “Michele” since it just felt … right.

Cats Playing With Water

I was brushing my teeth last night and, like usual, my cats both made their way onto the bathroom counter. They seemed curious about the water running in the sink, so I left it running a bit and watched them play. While brushing my teeth this morning I pulled out a camera and took pictures 🙂

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Corran and Mirax have noticed the water!

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… and Corran chooses to investigate!  (Also, I hope Mirax isn’t chewing on my toothbrush).

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“I can touch it, but I can’t hold it.  What is this substance??”

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I think she’s just thirsty.  I wonder if I should find an upstairs water bowl for them?

Why I can never be “stealth”

For many trans-people, one of the biggest goals after transition is to go “stealth”. This means hiding your past from everybody your interact with so that nobody knows your true history.

I don’t think I can ever do this.

First, putting yourself into a situation where nobody knows your past is very challenging. Packing up and moving to another town where nobody would know me is a big decision to make, especially since it would mean leaving behind all of my friends. My friends were super-supportive of me during my transition, and I could never just abandon them after everything they have helped me through. So even if I was to move to a new place, far away from the people that know me, I would still have an issue with all of my identification that declares me to be male. The state of Michigan requires reassignment surgery before I can fix the gender marker on my ID, and that is a huge step that I haven’t even begun to wrap my brain around yet.

But there are other reasons I could never be completely stealth, as well. I like to joke about my transness with the people I’m close to, for example: just the other day I proudly declared that I’m a Time Lord on her second incarnation (and regeneration in real life takes way longer than it does on Doctor Who!). If I was ever stealth, it would mean I’m no longer able to speak the amusing comments that sometimes pop into my head, and that just wouldn’t be fun.

Just because I’m not completely stealthy doesn’t mean I go around broadcasting my history to strangers. I don’t introduce myself to somebody with “Hi, I’m Anna and I’m transgender!” since that would just be awkward. I know I pass well, and that gives me the freedom to choose who I want to reveal my past to. Sure, it’ll require some basic trust building when I make friends with somebody new but that’s okay. My new friends will get there eventually.

What has been the hardest part?

I was asked an interesting question about transitioning by a friend last night – “What has been the hardest part?”  The first answer that popped into my head was coming out to my friends, especially the first few.  I took a night to sleep on the question, and I can better expand on my answer now that I’ve had more time to think about it.

So what has been the hardest part?  Learning to open up about myself.

I spent years convincing myself that one day the dysphoria would go away, and nobody would ever have to know about it.  I made a habit out of dodging questions and flat out lying to keep people from knowing what really goes on in my head.  I feel bad about that know, but avoiding talking about anything related to the transgender world was a defense mechanism.  I was completely terrified of how people would react if they knew.  Would I be fired?  Would nobody talk to me ever again?

Somewhere along the line I realized that if I couldn’t talk about my issues, then I couldn’t transition.  I had to be able to tell people what was going on, why I was changing and what that meant.  The last thing I wanted was to abandon my old life and start fresh as somebody else.  I love my friends, I love my job and I stubbornly refuse to give anything or anybody up.

I’m a geek, and I reacted the way any geek would during a crisis:  hop on Google.  All my “why do I think the way I do?” kinds of questions kept leading to the same trans support site, so I made my own account thinking that I could post and ask questions anonymously.  It took almost two months before I made my first post.  I had a cold a few days before, and I had told my brother that rather than taking medicine I would just ignore it until it goes away.  He reminded me that I should know better than that by now, and that the last time I ignored a serious issue I ended up in the hospital with a massive infection on my intestines.  Two days later I made my first thread.

Everything started “snowballing” from there.  Scheduling my first gender therapist appointment took a couple of weeks to force myself to do.  Telling my first friend?  Only a couple of hours.  Coming out to people got easier and easier as I got used to it.  And the things I was afraid of?  They didn’t happen.  I still have my job, I still have my friends.  Unsurprisingly, now that I’m not withdrawing in on myself anymore I feel like I’m much closer to everybody in my life than I ever used to be.

Linux Plumbers Conference

I went to the 2013 Linux Plumbers Conference, held in New Orleans from September 18 – 20.  I have attended Linux conferences before, but this was my first one as Anna.  Needless to say, I was nervous going in that first day.  It’s a good thing I didn’t have anything to worry about!

The first thing I noticed was that suddenly people were talking to me.  This actually started on the plane, the gentleman sitting next to me was also attending the LPC. He started chatting with me shortly before landing, and then we split a cab to the hotel.  I don’t remember people talking to me that easily when I was traveling as a guy, so this was a big win for me!  I guess a cheerful, geeky girl is more approachable than somebody desperately trying to be a guy?

While wandering booths one day a recruiter called me over. He said he had seen me earlier and wanted to talk with me to see if I wanted to “spread my wings” and apply at his company.  I’m happy where I work now, so I told him I wasn’t interested in switching.  He seemed a bit disappointed by my answer, but I doubt his ability to find me another job hacking on the Linux kernel.  Besides, I like my coworkers and I have no reason to leave!   I wonder how much of his interest in me is because I’m a female developer?  The conference was mostly attended by males, so any female is bound to stand out from the crowd.

I also noticed a difference in how people were treating me Thursday night, during my private dinner with Trond Myklebust and Linus Torvalds.  When we arrived at our table, Linus pulled out my chair and pushed it in for me while I was sitting.  Then the waitress approached us and stated “What would you like to drink?  Ladies first” and then turned to me.  I ordered my usual iced tea without comments from anybody in attendance.  I guess it’s abnormal for a guy to choose not to drink, but it’s okay for a girl?  As a side note, during dinner Trond was asking if some “identity matching” script would break if somebody changed their name and email address all at the same time since I’m currently in the process of changing my name.  Linus mentioned that there was once a kernel hacker that changed their gender, and that caused a few problems with matching up the new identity to their original one.  He then turned to me and said something like “If you’re just changing your name, that’s fine.  If you become a guy then we’ll have problems”.  I eventually pointed out that I’m actually going the other way.

There was a closing dinner for LPC attendees on Friday. I was wearing a Pi shirt all day, and I assume that got some attention. During dinner I made my way up to the dessert table at the same time as another developer who had shown up in a pirate hat. I said hi, and we talked for a bit before he put the hat on my head, looked at me and said “it looks better on you”. I doubt that exchange would have happened had I still been male.

I feel that attending as a female was more rewarding than when I attended as a male. I was noticed, people talked to me, and I had more fun. I’m already looking forward to next year!