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Jen’s Announcement

[Note: the following post was created to supplement my transition announcement, which read as follows:

To you, all my friends, family and colleagues,

I am writing to share a personal transition with those of you who have not yet heard. In brief, I am transgender and have changed my name to Jen Richards. I ask that you use female pronouns for me and update your records. My new work email address is [x] and my personal email address is [x]. You are welcome to share this with anyone you believe should or would like to know.

For many, this is all you need, or may want, to know. I thank you for your attention.

For those who care to learn more, either about transgender issues in general or me personally, please feel free to follow this link to further information on my website. Cheers, Jen Richards]

Welcome, and thank you for coming to learn more about my transition.

First, I would like to express my gratitude for all the incredible people in my life who have been so supportive. My family, nearly all of my friends, and everyone at eighth blackbird and in the arts community, have been simply amazing. I’d also like to publicly acknowledge my roommate, Andrew McCann. I had only met him briefly before moving in just over a year ago. He has patiently listened and replied with respectful curiosity and sincere concern at each step of my process, somehow knowing exactly when I most needed kindness, space or a good laugh. Thank you, Andrew.

I’m an unrepentant optimist who has consciously chosen to assume the best of people, and I work and move in unusually progressive circles, but I’m still rather charmed that the main anxiety my transition engenders in others is concern about etiquette, such as which pronouns to use and what questions are inappropriate. Along those lines, I’ve written a few paragraphs to briefly answer some common questions about being trans and my personal preferences. Links to additional and more comprehensive resources are listed below.

I may be the first openly transgender person you know, but it’s unlikely that I’m the first transgender person you’ve met. You may be quite surprised to discover how many people live their life in a gender different from the one assigned to them at birth.

“Transgender” is an adjective, not a noun. So, for instance, I’m a transgender woman. Or, many trans people don’t identify as “transgender”, but simply as a man, woman and sometimes neither or both. There isn’t a consensus in the trans community, but generally speaking, if you’re not sure, feel free to ask someone which pronouns they would prefer or how they would like to be referred to as.

Personally, I’m not comfortable talking with (most) people about surgery. In that respect, I don’t think of myself as “pre” or “post” anything.

One misunderstanding I’ve come across is that some people infer a correlation between gender identity and sexual orientation. Just as any person may be straight, gay, bi-, poly- or asexual, so may a trans man or woman. (And I’m quite comfortable discussing my dating life with anyone interested in that kind of thing!)

This is not true for all trans people, but for me and many others, our status as one gender doesn’t mean we set aside our experiences of the gender we were born with. I cherish my past as a son, older brother, brother-in-law, grandson, nephew, boyfriend, and kinda-dad. Those relationships matter to me, and though they’re now changing, nothing changes how genuine they have been. Having said that, a trans person’s past can be a delicate matter, and generally I suggest checking with a trans person before sharing a gender-specific story or picture of them.

Finally, I do want to let you know that I’m really, really happy. And while I’m not claiming I was unhappy before, the ease and comfort I feel now is incomparable to anything I had known previously. And while, as is my nature, I remain in constant interrogation with all my choices, it is this feeling that keeps me moving on this particular path.

Have additional questions? Ask me! You can do so here in the comments, on Tumblr, via Twitter, through email, or best, over a cup of coffee or glass of wine.

Thank you all for your time, attention and support.

Much love.

Jen Richards

Postscript:

The above is the result of sharing my original announcement with several friends who are far kinder and wiser than me and helped both clarify my points and soften my tone. Special thanks to Ashley and Ari for their input. There is nonetheless one difficult point I’m reluctant to omit. I want to note that while my experience has been positive, my experience is the exception. Part of the impetus for this site was to acknowledge that transition can be a tremendously affirming journey, one that ultimately finds those who go through it happy and whole on the other side. However, it must be acknowledged that too many do not make it to the other side, or only do so at great cost. I hope others look to my experience as model for what’s possible, as an appropriate way for how the world can and should respond, but do not assume any other particular trans person has been so blessed. There is a great deal of fear, suspicion, resentment and pain in the trans community, and for good reason. Rates of harassment, estrangement, homelessness, violent crime and suicide are staggeringly high for transgender people, especially those of color. Your attitude and actions either make that worse or better; there is no neutral. We must all be the change we wish to see. Thanks.

Additional Resources*

How to Be a Better Ally to Trans Folks in Four Steps

Trans 101

Not Your Mom’s Trans 101

How To Respect a Trans Person

TNET: PFLAG’s Transgender Network

Oak Park Public Librar Transgender Resource Collection

Or for a lighter and more personal route in to these issues, try reading The Princess from the beginning.

*Thanks To Rebecca Kling for most of the above links.


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5 Comments

  1. ted wrote:

    you are the bomb!

  2. todd reynolds wrote:

    Hey Jen… I just wanted to ping in because I just now discovered all your transitional news. Just happened through our connection on facebook. I simply wanted to say that I celebrate your feeling whole and happy, and I’m thrilled to know of my friends’ warmth and support through your transition. I would of course expect no less, but it’s always lovely to hear of it. I look forward to meeting you again, and thank you for your tireless advocacy for the birds and for the work we all have given our lives to. Cheers! Todd

    • Jen wrote:

      Todd, thanks for the ping and generous comments. And yes, I’m likewise unsurprised by the open minds and hearts of our particular community, though extraordinarily grateful nonetheless.

      By the way, you might be amused to learn that I start off each Transchat by listening to Transamerica! I know it has nothing to do with being trans, but I did it’s a kick ass piece of music and it has become part of my ritual.

      Readers: if you want to get a taste of the brilliant musical adventurousness that fuels my career obsession, check out Todd’s work.

      Oh, and also Ted Hearne, who commented above and is one of my personal favorite composers and performers (and not-so-secret artist crush).

  3. Ali Alasandra Samantha wrote:

    Thank you for your sharing, very good information about how to be true to yourself. Thanks again from a fellow sister.

  4. Jami wrote:

    Jen,
    I wanted to congratulate you on your transition and on posting this. I’d also like to add that smooth, seamless, trouble-free transitions are becoming more and more common. You’re right that some of us don’t have an easy journey and some few don’t make it, but there are a lot of us, including me, who change over without any hiccups or negativity in the course of our lives at all. I think that reaction by society to our transitions is a direct result of more visible, more confident transfolks.

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