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.