Yesterday, Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade and I had a conversation regarding transgender identities. Mike had expressed some views via Twitter that many took offense with and were hurt by, including myself. I emailed Mike to let him know how I felt, and the resulting conversation left us both feeling a bit better about the whole mess. Although I initially wanted to keep the conversation private, I gave Mike the go-ahead to publish our conversation, and effectively outed myself as male-to-female transgender person to, oh, just a couple thousand strangers.
This post isn't to talk about Mike or what Mike believes regarding gender identity, or even what I believe. I'm not here to try and convince you one of us is right or how you should treat people you don't agree with, people who identify different than you, or people you frankly just don't understand. I want this post to be about why I gave the okay to publish that conversation, and what life has been like for me thus far. As with my conversation with Mike, this isn't to sway you or make you think any particular line of thought - this is merely me releasing the valve a bit and airing some dirty laundry, to confuse metaphors.
The truth is that, while the details about my transition were available to the public via several websites and articles - some of which I myself had written - I was afraid, for several reasons. Any of my Destructoid readers should know how highly I champion feminism and gender equality. I was afraid that, if people knew I was biologically male, I would be told I had no right to talk about situations which I could not possibly understand. What right would I have to talk about what it means to be a woman in games if I wasn't "really" a woman?
I was afraid that, for all the praise and compliments my work has received over the years, I would not be able to find work if people knew. For one, I would technically count as another male hire, since that is what I legally have to identify as. When sites and publications in the games industry start seeking diversity in their potential hires, "white dude" is not very high on the list, and as far as paperwork is concerned, that's what I am. We must also account for the fact that, as much as I love it, the industry is not well-known for being inclusive and welcoming. I was afraid that discrimination would be a factor, and that I might be denied work on the grounds that my identity would make people uncomfortable.
I still worry about these things, though the outpouring of support has certainly helped, and I thank you all for that. There is still a fear that my identity will be seen as a liability, or that I will be told my views and experience as a woman "don't count." I also worry about perception. To those of you who met me in person at PAX or any industry events, the short answer is yes, I was afraid you could tell. Yes, I am afraid every day that people can tell. No, I do not feel particularly confident in how I look and sound.
I am afraid of how you see me, because I want you to see me the way I see myself. I want confirmation from the mirror, both literally and socially.
Recently, I considered giving up on being Sophie. The stress of worrying about how people perceive me, would anyone find out, what would happen if they did, could I ever save up enough money to go through with the physical changes I seek, etc. were weighing very heavily on me. I knew I wanted to be Sophie, but the reality was too hard to face, and I often felt conflicted about wanting certain things; I wanted plastic surgery to help my appearance, but if I felt I had to be pretty and couldn't be happy just being a woman, was I doing it for the right reason? Things like that.
I thought that perhaps, if I could just learn to be happy as a man, I could let Sophie go, and I would no longer have to worry about such things. I've tried, and that simply hasn't happened.
I don't know if I'll ever be proud of myself the way so many of you apparently are proud of me. I don't know how this now highly-visible information will affect my ability to work in the field. I don't know that I'll ever be able to afford to be the way I wish I was.
But I do know I don't regret telling Mike how I felt yesterday, and I don't regret telling you about myself and my experiences today. Thanks for reading.
P.S. I have a part-time shift today I need to handle, but I'll be fielding questions in the comments later on. I'll try my best to get to all of them before the day/weekend is over. You can also email me if you'd rather keep our conversation private.