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 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.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Bizzare network speed issue

I recently switched to a gigabit Internet plan, and it was working great at first, but it started slowing down to ~150mbit after a day or two. I started doing my normal troubleshooting, rebooting the modem, etc., but it soon became clear that the issue was with the server I was using as a gateway/router. I was having issues getting any network throughput, even for data originating on the server itself. I have a test script which generates 64k of random data, then continually pushes that one block over a TCP connection (eliminating the possibility that compression is making it look like there is more data transmitted than there actually is), and over a gigabit link, I usually get a very consistent 111/112 MiB/s transfer rate. However, this script seemed to peg one CPU core at 99%, even though it's spending all its time in the send() syscall, and it was only getting 10 MiB/s. CPU benchmarks showed everything was running normally, there was no CPU throttling. Both network interfaces were doing the same thing (one built into the motherboard, another on a PCIe expansion card). The only thing I could think to do was to reboot the server - which worked.

The next day, it started to slow down again. Doing an internet speed test straight from the server showed slightly decreased speeds, but the same speed test from another device (with packets being forwarded through the server) was extremely low. Once again, the CPU seemed to be the bottleneck, with ksoftirq using 100% of one core. This indicated that outgoing packets are taking a long time to process, and that work is being done in the context of the thread that is sending the packet. I checked my iptables rules - nothing stood out. The route tables all look normal. Then it hit me - I have an LTE backup using an old wireless hotspot, and in order to prevent sending normal traffic to it, I use an alternate route table, with a source address rule which selects that table. I have a service that sets up an SSH tunnel through that interface to an external server, and for simplicity, I have the service configure the routing tables on startup. There was a bug in the script which caused it to add another rule whenever the service starts. The remote SSH server got stuck with an old connection using the ports, so the service was restarting once every few seconds.

In the end, I had a total of 15,059 rules which had to be checked for every packet that goes through (seen in the image above). The solution is simple - remove all source address rules before adding new ones. I also unjammed the remote SSH service, so the connect service wasn't constantly restarting.

I did learn some things in the process. I knew that the processing for iptables, routing, and eBPF took place in the kernel, but I had always assumed it got kicked off in the background, and that the sending process returns immediately, but apparently, it's all synchronous, and send() doesn't return until the packets have actually been placed in the outbound hardware queue. This is significant for performance if there is a lot of processing to be done.

Monday, July 01, 2019

I got it!

I finally got my birth certificate amended! I was expecting to have to wait a lot longer, because I hadn't heard anything about the court case since it was filed back in October. I decided to stop by the Office of Vital Statistics in Topeka to get it updated in person so I wouldn't have to wait weeks for it.

While Scrydan and I were in Topeka, we decided to visit the Equality House, across the street from the hateful church whose name I won't repeat here. I didn't realize they actually had two houses, the original one with the rainbow colors, and one right next door with the transgender pride flag colors.

What struck me about the house is how open it is compared to the "church". They claim to be Christian, but what would Jesus think of a church with an 8 foot high fence, covered with signs warning about a video surveillance system, with automated gun turrets scanning the lawn? Okay, I made that one up, but the place totally struck me as the kind of place that would have them. Not to mention the giant signs with homophobic slurs on them.

The Equality House is the perfect response to this kind of hatred. While the "church" uses its First Amendment rights to spew hatred, it is countered with a message of love, acceptance, and inclusion.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Oops

A couple months ago, I wrote a post announcing that I would be using my initials, and I mentioned a couple of people who share those initials. Well, it turns out one of those people is a fucking TERF. So she can go fuck herself.

I don't really like the term TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist) because it implies that they are feminist. I prefer the suggestion to call them FARTs (Feminism-Appropriating Reactionary Transphobes). But I still use the term TERF because they hate it. They call it a "slur", and whine that it hurts their feelings, at the same time they use actual slurs against us and argue against our basic right to exist.

So...

Monday, June 24, 2019

Birth certificate update

So I missed the news on Friday... There was an agreement in the case I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Foster v. Andersen. The Kansas Department of Health and Environement has agreed to issue amended birth certificates with the correct sex marker! I have already drafted my request to get mine updated.

So, that's a little bit of progress. It shouldn't take a court case to get rid of outdated discriminatory policies like this.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

It's official!!

My name is officially Jennifer Kathryn Stafford! This is a huge relief to me - seeing my old name is a major trigger for dysphoria. There are still a lot of places where it needs to be updated, and that old name is going to be popping up like a cockroach infestation for years to come. Maybe one day I can disassociate myself from it, but that's a long way away.

Unfortunately, since I was born in Kansas, I am currently unable to correct my birth certificate. There is a federal lawsuit, Foster v. Andersen, filed last October, which is still working its way through the courts. With Brownback gone, there is a slim chance that this discriminatory policy could be corrected legislatively, but I'm not holding my breath for that.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Dragon cuddles!


I had this artwork commissioned of me with my cuddly dragon boyfriend, Scrydan. You can view the full image here, but beware that it may be slightly NSFW.

Artwork © 2019 by Vallhund

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Hello World! I'm Katie.

A month ago, I posted about changing my name on all my accounts to just my initials. This was just temporary. Now I can finally reveal my shiny new name:

[Jeff Goldblum] Well, there it is.

I've been going by "Katie" privately for about a month and a half now. Online, I've been going by my fursona's name "Katie Pendry", or "Katie the Panda", or "ktpanda". My site is now ktpanda.org, and all the old URLs will redirect to the new one.

Needless to say, I'm still the same person, except now I can be who I truly am and not feel like I'm wearing a mask all the time.

I'd like to thank the Reddit communities /r/egg_irl, /r/traaaaaaannnnnnnnnns, and /r/MtF. as well as my wonderful therapist, for helping me kick my self-doubt and denial, and for showing me that every trans person's experience is different. I had built up a straw person view of what a trans person must experience, and simply dismissed all the thoughts that I might be trans because I obviously didn't meet all this strict criteria, and must therefore I must be a cis male.

Despite the fact that I've always wanted smooth, soft skin.

Despite the fact that I've despised having facial and chest hair, always keeping it shaved as short as possible, even though I hate shaving.

Despite the fact that I've always hated my voice.

Despite the fact that as a kid, I fantasized about swapping bodies with a girl in my class.

Despite the fact that I found the idea of magical transformation into a woman appealing.

Despite the fact that I once accidentally introduced myself as my mom's daughter (brain fart or subconscious wishing? I'm still not sure).

You get the picture.

But after seeing the memes on /r/egg_irl, talking to other trans people, and talking with my therapist, I came to the conclusion that whatever I ended up as, I wasn't 100% cis. I picked out a name, created a new Reddit account, and started exploring. I started taking hormones on April 24, and within a week, it was clear - I'm not genderfluid, non-binary, or any of the other labels I was trying out... I'm a girl, plain and simple.

All the friends I have come out to so far have been extremely supportive, and I am very grateful for that. I know it's not easy adjusting to a change like this, but they have been very good about using my new name and not misgendering me.

Finally, I am very thankful for the support of my loving boyfriend, Scrydan. He has been a huge source of support during my transition. It's so helpful to not have to worry about whether or not my partner will support me.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Quick update

Back in February, I promised to start blogging more often. I haven't had a lot of time to keep up with it, though. I've been spending a lot of time with my boyfriend Scrydan who I met at TFF. Even though we live a fair distance apart, we're spending as much time together as we can. This weekend, we're going to be camping at Central Plains Fur Meet southwest of Wichita.

Posts might be sparse for a bit, but hopefully I'll have some stuff to post about soon.

Friday, April 19, 2019

So what's up with the name change?

I've been trying out just using my first and middle initials instead of my full name. It's not that I don't like my name, I just wanted to try something new. Plus, it puts me in good company.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go yell at my engineers, who so far have completely failed to create the combustible lemons I requested...

Monday, April 01, 2019

Photos from Texas Furry Fiesta 2019

Well, TFF is over, and I had a blast! Thanks to @Skywind_Kitsune for driving me down there and back. This was my first furry convention, and I look forward to going to many more.

Here are a few photos that I got. Unfortunately, I didn't get names of everybody that I got photos of, so if you recognize someone, please let me know!

My friend Hexadoodle in the fursuit playground.
Lies!
Fursuit Improv
On the observation deck of Reunion tower.
@CRT_QT
Me with CandyPaws
Playing with a pizza frisbee

Thursday, March 21, 2019

My first fursuit

Yesterday, I received my first fursuit for my character Jace Pendry from GEEKpaw productions, and I love it! It fits pretty well, although it's a little tight. It gets hot inside, as expected, which is why I bought an EZcooldown cooling vest.

I can't wait to show it off at TFF next week!