365 days later…

Everything is arriving early.

I always thought I’d be writing my 1-year post on the anniversary of my first shot of testosterone. But here I am, just a little over nine months on testosterone, and all signs point to this milestone: one year ago, I admitted to myself that I was finally ready to transition. I was ready to be happy.

Much has come full circle.

An unexpected event happened a year ago. An email showed up at work offering a brown bag lunch workshop at the museum called “Science and Gender: He said, She said” that essentially promised to shotgun us back to the 1950s in terms of gender roles. I penned a very honest letter to HR sharing with them some of my own struggles with gender at the museum, and asking them to please reconsider. They did, and that letter later ended up being the conversation starter for many of my second “coming out” conversations at work.

Last week, a year later, all of Research attended what I hope will be the first of many diversity trainings. While we barely scratched the surface (I’d argue we really only looked at the surface), and there was essentially no talk of power or how intersectionality requires us to think critically and differently about our identities, it was a modest step in the right direction.

Last week I  stood on a stage and for the first time talked about my transition to a room full of strangers. Part of my own personal struggle to come to terms with who I am was weighed down by the pressure of knowing that I would have to get to a place where I was comfortable with the idea of being out publicly. At the time, that self-induced pressure combined with the fear and frustration I was experiencing in response to the realities of what it means to be transgender manifested in anger. I carried this uncomfortably with me for months. The last threads of it cut loose the day I started testosterone. From there on, I was moving forward.

I feel a deep social obligation to be visible, which was only strengthened after meeting other trans individuals in STEM fields over the summer at the Trans Health Conference. When I first started my transition my rules for outing myself were: Is it safe physically and mentally? Will it impact my career? How important is it? Is it worth it? Now, I pretty much just jump to “could I get killed?”, and if the answer is no, I usually take the risk.

This past month I’ve talked a lot about this last year. I talked about science and gender on a short TV clip and on the radio; spoke for three interviews for print; and gave one public talk that will also be a podcast. I was happy to do an additional interview for something strictly science based, but am grateful for the practice talking about something so personal in a very public way.

Right around when I made the decision to transition and was struggling with how this would effect my future in science, I googled “transgender scientists” to see who my role models were. Of the 14 people who popped up, only two share my experience as ftm, and only one was still alive [note: there are a LOT of ftm scientists…Wikipedia just doesn’t know]. He is a tenured professor at Stanford, an MD PhD. He is a brilliant scientist, speaker and writer, and I was glued to YouTube videos of him speaking on neurobiology and gender in science.

Last month I sat on an old couch in his office next to a life-size cardboard cutout of the Australian version of Justin Bieber – a holiday gift from a graduate student – and we talked about everything from trans scientists, to health, biology, bicycling, and being happy. I asked him how, if and when I should tell potential PhD advisors I am trans. He asked if I was Googleable. I looked at him confused. He said, we all Google our prospective students, if it would come up on a search you can assume we already know. Guess that answers that question.

This was one of the longest years of my life. One of the fastest. One of the best. Months ago seem like years. I’m 9-months on T, 3-months post-op, out to everyone in my life personally and professionally, and ready more than ever for what’s to come. I’m waiting for time to slow down again. Someday this will be a new normal. I’ve got a feeling that in three months when I write about my 1-year on testosterone everything once again will be different. I have a feeling about the future.

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2 thoughts on “365 days later…

  1. Shayle, I just heard your story collider episode and it was a total revelation to hear another trans person talking about fieldwork! Googling “transgender scientists”? Been there. Figuring out how to navigate bringing shot supplies/live in close quarters with strangers/etc in the field? Working on it right now. (I’m a paleontology grad student doing field work in Africa.)

    Basically, it’s just super exciting to know that there are other folks out there thinking about the same things. I’d be really interested to talk with you more sometime. But for now, just wanted to say thanks for putting yourself out there!

    • Thanks for connecting! I have been lucky to meet some other tscientists at conferences, it’d be great to have a social media group to share stories…hmmm. Would definitely be interested in talking more. PM me on twitter @wrong_whale

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