Tuesday, March 31, 2020

It's been an interesting year

I began my transition nearly a year ago, on April 3rd, 2019. I'm posting this a bit early, because today, March 31st, is International Transgender Day of Visibility. I can't put into words how much happier I am now! This past year has been the best year of my life so far, despite the struggles of dealing with dysphoria and transphobia. My transition has gone realtively smoothly, and I realize it's not that easy for everyone. Sure, my family hasn't been super supportive, but they haven't disowned me, cut off contact, or attacked me. I'm lucky that I work for a company with a strong anti-discrimination policy. All of my friends have been extremely supportive.

Many people aren't so lucky, though. Every day, trans people are harrassed, bullied, evicted, fired, attacked, and even murdered — just because they are trans. Some trans people have to hide the fact that they are trans for their own safety. This is why we need a Trans Day of Visibility. It's easier to hate someone you don't know. It's getting better though, and as long as we continue to fight for our rights, it will continue to get better in the future.

So once again, thank you to all the people who have supported me this past year. I could not have done this alone!

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Texas Furry Fiesta 2020!

I had so much fun at TFF this year! TFF is special to me because it's where I met my wonderful dragon boyfriend Scrydan last year.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Am I actually Non-binary?

Lately, I've been thinking more about my internal gender identity. I feel like I don't really have one. There's nothing inside my mind that's telling me that I'm female, male, or anything else. Thinking about how I've felt about my gender in the past, I'm starting to warm to the idea that I'm actually Agender and always have been. I think the label "transfeminine agender" fits me, but I still want to call myself a trans woman based on my presentation. I'm not sure if I want to use the label "non-binary", though. It depends on the definition. My hesitance to use it feels like my hesitance about using "pansexual". It's mostly the worry that it doesn't fit me. I have an image of "non-binary" or "agender" as someone who is androgynous in appearance, even though there are people like Riley J Dennis who are non-binary but are very feminine and use she/her pronouns.

My hesitance might also be the concern that I do have an internal gender identity but just don't realize it. Does my desire to be female in every way possible mean that my internal identity really is female? Does my desire to have an internal sense outright telling me that I am female mean that my identity is female? Is that what an internal sense of gender is - a desire to be a specific gender?

Some things are clear, though. I am much happier with myself since transitioning. I love the name Katie. I love my full name, Jennifer Kathryn. I love when other people see me as a girl, and I love seeing myself as a girl! My only regret is not transitioning sooner.

I don't think I'm going to use the label "Non-binary", at least not right now. This is a topic that I re-visit once in a while, so things might change in the future. I have a ton of respect for non-binary people. There's a lot of hatred for them out there, even from some trans people, mostly due to misunderstanding what they are and what they're trying to accomplish.

So, shoutout to all the lovely enbies out there! Y'all are awesome!

Monday, November 04, 2019

When a name becomes an insult

Imagine this scenario:

Your name is Casey Smith.

One day, you wake up with a piece of paper in your hand which says you've changed your name from "Assclown Smith" to "Casey Smith".

Confused, you check your wallet. Your driver's license says your name is Smith, Assclown, and the photo is you, but in full clown makeup, wearing a dunce cap. All your credit cards bear the name Assclown Smith.

Now you're starting to panic. You check your email. Sure enough, there are dozens of emails in your inbox - from your bank, your pharmacy, your dentist, your insurance agent - all starting with "Dear Assclown," or Hello, Assclown!

Obviously, you feel the need to fix this right away. First - you log onto your bank's website where it greets you with "Welcome, Assclown!" You click on "My Profile", hoping there is a simple way to change it online. No such luck. You search on the bank's site, but there's nothing in their paltry online help about changing the name on your account. So you call them.

ring... ring...

"Thank you for choosing 18th National Bank!" the sickeningly cheery recording slowly announces. "Did you know... you can use our mobile banking app to... transfer money..., pay bills..., or access your balance..., twenty-four hours a day..., seven days a week..., three hundred sixty-five days a year...! Just visit our website at... double-yew... double-yew... double-yew... dot... 18th... national... bank... dot com! Our associates are available to help you from 8:12 AM to 4:47 PM, Eastern Standard Time, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday; from 9:07 AM to 5:31 PM on Wednesday, and 7:54 AM to 6:01 PM on Friday. This call may be recorded for training purposes. Please listen carefully to the following options, as they may have changed. If you would like to use our telephone banking system, press 1. If you need directions to one of our branch locations, press 2. If you would like to schedule an appointment to apply for a loan, press 3. If you know your party's extension, you can dial it at any time. To repeat these options, press star. Otherwise, please stay on the line, and an associate will be with you shortly. ring... ring... All of our associates are busy helping other customers. Your estimated hold time is... five... minutes."

You press the mute and speaker buttons and set the phone down. You ponder what is happening as you listen to the crappiest hold music you've ever heard. How many accounts do you have with that name? How many databases are you in? There must be hundreds! It's impossible to remember them all. Even if you could, you have no idea how many third parties your information has been sold to.

"Thank you for calling 18th National Bank, my name is Ashley, how can I help you?"

"Uh... I need to change the name on my account."

"Okay, what is the name currently on the account?"

"Um..." You glance over at your computer, where you are still logged in. "The account number is 64-3151-8030."

"Ok, could you please verify the name and date of birth of the account holder?"

Is she really going to make me say it? "Um... April 1st, 1991... and the name is... assclown Smith."

"Thanks for confirming that, Assclown!" You wince as you hear the name. "Just fax us a copy of your marriage certificate and we can get that last name updated!"

"Actually, it's the first name that's wrong. My name is Casey. Casey Smith. And I don't have a fax machine."

"Oh! I'm sorry. Let me see. Do you have a photo ID with the new name on it?"

"No, not yet."

"Well, once you get it updated, you'll have to come to a branch in person and show your ID and a court order changing your name, then we can start the process to get your account updated. Is there anything else I can help you with?"

sigh "I guess not."

"Thank you again for using 18th National Bank, and have a nice day!" beep!

This isn't going to be easy, you mutter under your breath.

To be continued...

Friday, October 11, 2019

Happy National Coming Out Day!

Today, October 11, is National Coming Out Day! I've talked about my experiences in depth on this blog before, so this is a bit redundant:

My name is Katie Stafford. I am bisexual. I am transgender. I refuse to hide who I am or debate my existence with anyone.

My story

When I came out as trans, most of the reactions were positive or mixed.

  • The first person I told was a trans girl I knew online. I said:

    So I found this subreddit the other day: https://www.reddit.com/r/egg_irl/, and it was uncomfortable how much I related to a lot of the memes there. I don't know if I'm trans or not, but I'm going to at least explore to figure out what extent I am.

    She replied,

    Heh, makes sense. I know I just thought I was a pretty feminine guy until fairly recently.
  • When I came out to Scrydan, I said:
    Recently, I've been kinda questioning where I fit in as far as gender, and I'm probably genderfluid, maybe nonbinary. I'm not past questioning at this point. I've picked out a name and I'm kinda exploring it online, but I haven't really given much thought to actually transitioning. It may be the case that it's not for me.
    He replied,
    To be honest, I really like you. You're really special. ... I think if we keep hitting it off, we should really consider getting together/dating. As for transitioning, it really is up to you.
  • I came out privately to a group of friends in a group chat. I said:

    Over the past few months, I've slowly come to the realization that I might be transgender.

    I tried to dismiss these thoughts as curiosity, but I started realizing that it was more than that.

    Two weeks ago, I decided to begin exploring a feminine identity. I chose the name 'Katie' and started using that online. Slowly, I've been starting to use it more and more, and I feel that it fits me quite well.

    I can't say for certain what the future holds, but for now, I'm proceeding as if I will fully transition.

    One friend said:
    Thank you for trusting us. Whatever you need, we'll be here. ♥️
    Another said:
    I commend your quest for self-knowledge and your courage in dealing with what you've discovered head-on! 🙂
    A third friend said:
    Thank you for including me. Anything I can do, you just let me know. You have my full support!
  • Coming out to my father was trickier because I had no idea how he would react. I wrote a long letter explaining my feelings, and answering a few questions that I thought he might ask. I sent him a link to the letter, and his response was cautious:
    I saw on your page you said you were bi & I accepted that. I just hope you think long & hard about this. A lot of people that are accepting of gays & other groups still have trouble with gender identity. Forgive me if I have some trouble getting used to this, but I will try.

    He was mainly concerned with how my mother would react.

  • I decided I didn't need to be that long winded with my aunt. I texted her:
    I wanted to tell you that I've been talking to a therapist for a few months and I've realized that the source of my anxiety has been gender dysphoria. So I've been exploring that, and living as a woman in private. I've come to realize that this is the right thing for me.
    She replied,
    Oh really!? I guess I didnt realize you had so much going on. You should come over and talk some time.
  • Coming out at work was very formal and involved a lot of preparation. It involved several meetings with managers and HR. I drafted an email to send to the team which was reviewed by my boss and his boss.

    Dear Colleagues,

    I have enjoyed working for ██████ for the last year and a half, and have grown to count many of you as friends as well as coworkers. Several of you I have known for more than a decade working at ██████. There is a personal issue that I have been dealing with privately for a while now, but it cannot remain private forever.

    Some of you may have noticed subtle changes in the way I dress and speak. This is because I have been transitioning to female, and have been living as female outside of work for several weeks now. This may come as a surprise to many of you, especially those who have known me the longest. The past year has been a long journey of discovery for me. For my entire life, I've suppressed and denied feelings of being female. Lately, however, my dysphoria has reached a point where I no longer have a choice. I am so much happier as a woman that I dread having to present as male at work.

    I have chosen the name "Jennifer Kathryn Stafford", and prefer to be addressed as "Katie". I have filed a legal petition to change my name, and barring any paperwork issues, this will become my legal name after a court hearing on ██████.

    Effective ██████, I will begin presenting as female at work. You will notice an immediate change in my appearance. From that point forward, I ask you to please address me by my new name and use female pronouns when referring to me. I understand that it will take some time to adjust, and slip-ups will occur. I will not be upset by minor mistakes. If you slip up and I or someone else corrects you, please apologize and move on. Most of my friends outside of work have adjusted quickly.

    I hope that this transition will be completed with the least amount of disruption to the workplace. I understand that this may be difficult for many people to understand and accept. I have attached a PowerPoint presentation which you can look at if you have any questions. Please contact me privately through email or Slack if you’d like to know more. I look forward to continuing the great professional relationship we’ve had previously, and hope we can go on to an even more productive future.

    Sincerely,

    Katie Stafford

    I got a few replies, all positive. One coworker even confided that his teenager was questioning their gender identity.

Not all reactions were positive, though.

  • Bizarrely, the first negative reaction was someone on a transgender support group on Facebook. I made an introduction post, saying I was questioning my identity, and the first comment was:

    I personally don't like how you can't decide what you are. Either you know or you don't. It's not a trend, dude. Smh.

    That person quickly got banned from the group.

  • Coming out to my mother has been the most difficult. I sent her a letter similar to the one I sent my dad. She had such a negative reaction that I was heartbroken. I know she still loves me, and I still love her, too, but this has put a big strain on our relationship. I really hope that over time, she will come to accept me as her daughter.

When most people think of "coming out", they think of news stories - celebrities, politicians, actors, other public figures. In reality, coming out is a long process. It must be done multiple times and tailored to the each individual person or group. Sometimes it's easy, and sometimes it's hard. It takes strength and courage, even coming out to people you know are supportive. If someone comes out to you, the best thing to do is to show your support. Be positive. Get excited! It means they care enough about you to share their feelings with you. Don't question if they are serious. Don't assume it's just a phase. Nobody comes out without putting a lot of thought into it.

So, I'd like to send my love and support to everyone in the LGBTQ+ community, whether you're out, in the closet, or just coming out today!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Home automation: Thermostat

I recently completed another piece of my homemade home automation project. The thermostat in my house was a cheap POS with buttons that were hard to press, and didn't seem to maintain the temperature very well. I thought of maybe installing a Nest thermostat or something, but that wouldn't really give me the level of control I wanted. Luckily, thanks to this Technology Connections video, I knew that wiring my own thermostat would not be difficult.

I initially considered mounting a Raspberry Pi on the wall where the thermostat is, but getting power to it would be tricky, and finding a nice-looking wall-mount enclosure that could contain both the Pi and a relay board would be tricky. I realized I didn't need to do that, though - my server is already downstairs in the same room as the furnace, so I can just run another control cable from the furnace over to my server. I connected it to a relay board, which is connected to an Arduino plugged into my server. The Arduino is essentially only used to provide GPIO, and has a safety cutoff to turn the furnace/AC off if it doesn't receive a command at least once every 3 seconds.

Of course, being able to turn the AC on and off is pointless without being able to measure the temperature, so I need a digital thermometer as well. Connecting it to the server downstairs is not a good idea, because it's always cooler downstairs than upstairs due to simple physics. That wasn't a difficult problem to solve, though - I already had a thermometer connected to an Arduino upstairs which is plugged into the desktop in the living room. That one was actually my first major Arduino project years ago, to control my window-mounted AC in my room at my dad's house. It has a connection for a DS18B20 digital thermometer, and a group of IR LEDs to send the Cool/Fan only remote commands to the AC unit. When I moved into this house, I put it in the living room so it could control my living room TV instead. All I needed was a way to get the temperature from the desktop to the server, which just involves a script reading from the Arduino and sending the temperature over the network.

The no-nonsense web UI

To control the thermostat, I need some kind of interface. I decided a basic web UI would be the easiest way to make it work on both my desktop, my phone, and my boyfriend's phone. I created a very simple API to get the current temperature and control the thermostat, then created a static HTML page with minimal Javascript to create the UI seen above. Since I didn't have to worry about users with obsolete browsers, I don't have to bloat it with compatibility libraries or gigantic frameworks, I can just use modern ES7 code without nightmares of bug reports from IE6 users.

I also created a script that would read the thermostat logs and produce a graph of when the AC or heater was running, and calculate the duty cycle hour-by-hour to show how close to capacity it's running. Each hash mark represents one minute that the AC was running on this particular day. The numbers to the right indicate the minimum and maximum thermostat setting for that hour, and the last number is the duty cycle percentage.

So far, it's worked pretty well (that is, as long as the AC compressor doesn't crap out). I'm one step closer to automating my whole house without relying on a store-bought solution.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

It's my 6-month transiversary!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019 was a fairly ordinary day. It was my first day back at work after TFF. I worked on a bug in the morning, had bacon-wrapped meatloaf for lunch, then had to go outside because the fire alarm went off even though there was no drill scheduled. My home server shut off in the afternoon for some reason (I think my cat Mae might have stepped on the power strip switch). I talked to Scrydan for a bit on Telegram. When I got home, I saw a reference on Reddit to The IT Crowd, so I decided to watch it while I continued browsing Reddit.

Then, at 18:29, I was browsing /r/lgbt when I saw this comment by "PossiblyClaire", who had started questioning their gender identity after coming out as bisexual, which struck me as familiar. A user called "dequacker" responded with "Go on r/egg_irl and r/traa and see if you relate to any memes there. That's how I found out I was trans".

So I visited /r/egg_irl. The sidebar says "Post egg memes (memes about trans people who don't know they're trans yet)." I saw post after post after post after post after post after post that resonated with me.

Then at 19:36, I saw this post. A conversation between two people on Omegle, one of whom is "fine" with being a boy, but who thinks being a girl would be better. A comment by "master-hacker" led me to turn-me-into-a-girl.com, which completely destroyed every rationalization I had made to myself. I could no longer dismiss my feelings as "I want to be more feminine, but I've never felt like anything but a man, so I must be cis." I realized that I couldn't really say I ever felt like a man in the first place. I had started with the conclusion and had assumed that the way I felt must be how a man feels because I was a man and therefore I must be a man. My gender identity up to that point had been based on a tautology. I was a coyote walking on air because the cliff ended and I never looked down.

At 19:42, I got up, walked to the kitchen, and started pacing back and forth, like I usually do when I have something to think about. I started thinking about the steps I would need to take in order to explore this new identity. I walked for 20 minutes, thinking about what friends I could talk to, alt accounts, etc. I realized I would need to choose a name to use at some point, and then it hit me - Katie! It was obvious. I had always been drawn to that name, as if I shared a connection with it. Ten years ago, I used to fantasize about being in a relationship. I had invented a girlfriend - named Katie, of course - and came up with an entire backstory for her. I realized that this was a subconscious projection. I wanted to be her more than I wanted to be with her.

At 20:02, I sat down and started working on creating a new Reddit account. I decided to call the account katie_pendry (based on my existing fursona name, Jace Pendry). I got sidetracked for a bit trying to get my password manager to work, but at 21:04 I created the new account and started introducing myself to the folks on egg_irl. I also talked to one of my trans friends on Discord.

So that was the first day of my new life. Two days later, I came out to Scrydan, who has been 100% supportive of my transition from the very beginning. Three weeks later, on April 24, I took my first HRT pill. May 25 was the last day I ever dressed up as a man (at work). This has been a wild 6 months, but I've never been happier with who I am. I'm looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for me.