Today on Skeptoid …


So it’s finally out, and so I’m finally free to say something about it: I have taken on a contract job to write and produce some episodes of the Skeptoid podcast. Not every week — more like every six weeks or so — but I’m still excited to become a part of a podcast I’ve listened to for a very, very long time. I will be writing, recording, and editing the episodes for air. Yes, that’s me you hear. No, I’m  not happy with my voice quality, but more on that in another post.

My first episode is about the Death of Rasputin. It’s up for reading or listening. I hope you enjoy it. I’d love to hear feedback (I know my voice quality is terrible).

I think it’s safe to say that I am the first openly transgender host that the podcast has ever had. But then, the podcast only had one host for seven years, so that’s not saying much! I will have more to say about this whole thing in upcoming posts. But for now I’m just happy the first episode is out there. My next episode may not be for two months, though, and then every six weeks after that. Though that could change; this one was originally scheduled for early October.

Name Change Update


This blog has been pretty job-focused the last couple weeks, and with good reason: it was the most pressing issue on my plate. But because I’ve been job-focused and not posting as often as I might, I didn’t get to tell you folks what happened recently: I got the date for my name change!

It’s October 31. Yes, Halloween. In less than two months I will be legally Alison, bringing my ID in line with my identity.

On Halloween, which is a lot of ways is the most appropriate day for it. When I was still posting incognito last year and signing up for forums and such, I would often be asked to enter a date of birth. I always entered 10/31. And now, in some way, 10/31 actually will be a birthday of sorts!

Why did I use Halloween? It felt fitting. I have always loved Halloween. Not for the obvious reasons; I mean, I love candy and costumes and pumpkins and that, but there’s a love beyond that. I am a student of folklore and folkways, and Halloween — or Samhain, or what have you — has always felt special to me. In the calendar year of my heritage, Halloween has a lot of lore, a lot of meaning, a lot of metaphor. Maybe it’s just the concept of identity; for years I wanted to dress as a woman on Halloween because that felt like the one time a year when I could actually do it. Hallloween was the night expectations were reversed. The one day costumes could go on … or come off, if you tended to wear a costume the other 364.

Well, my costume is coming off. And on Halloween I will not be in costume anymore. I can hardly wait.

Once More Unto the Jobs Thing


I’m a teacher again. Me. Not Him, but Alison. Authentically!

I have my friend Steve to thank. He’s the one who mentioned me to the associate dean at a local community college and explained my issue with the name and the transcripts and such. He’s the one that she told the name incongruency wouldn’t be an issue. So I applied for an open class at the college, got an interview … and got the job.

It’s not full time. It’s barely part time in fact — one class that meets four hours a week.  But it’s still a foot in the door. One class this semester can lead to more classes next semester, which could lead to more down the line. It’s my first post-layoff teaching position and I’m actually looking forward to being in the classroom once again.

More importantly, this will be my first time teaching as myself. The college is even working with me to accommodate the name change. Until it becomes legal I need to be Him in their files, but they’re making an effort to assure that my email address and anything else the students see carries the right name. My students won’t know who I was, but who I am.

My original plan with my old college had been to start teaching as myself in late September, as their calendar was not quite on the normal schedule. Well, this course happens to be a “late start” course at the new college, which means it doesn’t start until the third week of the semester. Which places it, coincidentally, about when I would have begun teaching anyway! It’s so weird. I thought my plan was derailed when I was let go in June, but somehow I’ve managed to get myself back on track.

“Life finds a way.” So sayeth Jeff Goldblum. Well, life — or rather transition — has found a way.

I have a big bag in the back of my truck right now. It contains the last of His clothes, the ones I held onto in case I needed to go back to work. I won’t be needing them anymore, . While my life transition is far from over, my social transition has reached a zenith. I will not be going back, not now, not ever. When I get in front of that class and I succeed — and I will succeed — I will have proven that this transition hasn’t changed who I am fundamentally.


The Jobs Thing, Again


Having resolved my inner conflict over whether or not to sacrifice my identity for the sake of work, I have begun sending out applications. I have decided that the best approach is to just own the discrepancy and to offer a quick explanation that smooths it out without over-sharing. There’s two parts to this approach.

1) Acknowledging on the part of my resume where I list my writing credits that certain publications were done “As [Him].”

2) Putting the following statement in my cover letters. I am trying to make it clear but not too wordy, something I probably need to work on.

You may note that the transcripts are issued under a different first name; you will also notice that some of my writing was published under this name. I am in the process of a legal name change, and I no longer use my old name for any professional or personal purpose. I anticipate the legal process to complete sometime this autumn, and I do not anticipate it interfering in my teaching in any way.

We’ll see how this works out. I guess I’m lucky, in that colleges, in general, tend to be more liberal and open-minded about these sorts of things. In fact, my old college was probably one of the most conservative colleges I’d ever encountered, likely a result of its positioning as a private business school. Community colleges and public universities don’t normally share such conservative streak.

I’ll of course keep posting about the job hunt as it progresses. I’ll also post about the name change, if I hear anything. Which I haven’t yet, which sucks, but I’m guessing that these sorts of routine, non-critical background checks are not top priority in the State Police Fingerprints Lab.

More Thoughts on Jobs


Follow-up to the last post: my copy of my college transcripts turned out to not be in the file drawer where they were supposed to be. So, I have had to ask the university to mail me new ones. Thus no jobs applied for, and with the school semester starting this week and next, likely not a lot of chances for me to apply for last minute openings in any case.

However, I’m still thinking about the larger questions involved in this situation. Because it’s bothering me on so many levels that society demands that I give up my identity in order to make a liveable wage. Could I really walk into an interview with solid credentials, 15 years of teaching experiences, published writing on my resume, clean and neat and well dressed … and still lose a job simply because I don’t conform to the stereotype of men and women? Sadly, the answer is “yes”. That’s the whole reason this is even a dilemma.

This is not a dilemma most people have to face. When most people show up in the interview, their identities are not questioned. They’re accepted as is, because they’re privileged by their conformance to gender norms. Sure, they have to think about their appearance within those boundaries, and even within those boundaries there are some horribly demanding expectations, especially for women. But at least be accepted at face value for who they are and who they represent themselves as, even if that representation turns out to be unacceptable for the employer.

That’s one of the reasons I have pushed back against all the well-meaning advice telling me to go back to being Him. Because that advice is coming from a position that implicitly supports the status quo. By telling me, “You should fall back on Him because that’s how you’ll get employment,” I’m essentially being told, “Your identity isn’t as important as your productivity.” And by following that advice I’m essentially agreeing. How can I insist that this transition is real, that my identity is authentic, if I cast it off in favor of making money? I can’t.

And let’s be clear here: this isn’t just about working a job I would hate. You could give me the best job in the world, one that pays a lot and demands little; but if you told me I would have to work as Him and be called Him and be known as Him to do it, I would resist just as fervently as I am now. And I wouldn’t hate teaching; I would hate teaching as Him.

Further, what if I choose to make the compromise. I apply as Him and begin teaching as Him … and then a month later my legal name change goes through. Suddenly I’m in a situation where I’m teaching under a name that is no longer my own. Do I approach my new employer at that point and then go “surprise”? That would be disruptive and would almost certainly guarantee I wouldn’t be invited back the next quarter. Do I continue teaching as Him regardless? If so, at what point does my whole life become a lie again?

My identity is not something I want to compromise. I compromised my identity for the entirety of my adult life, and I ended up on an overpass in the dark, timing the oncoming traffic. Every day since that bleak moment has been a day where I have fought to get to a point where there are no more compromises. I have had a rule throughout my transition: no steps backward. It’s part of what has kept me strong and it has given me drive to continue on with my transition even when things were hard.

Maybe this is it. This is the hill I stand or die on. So be it.

I think that when I do get my transcripts, I’m going to just apply as I am. I’ll make a brief explanation of the discrepancy in the cover letter, and then I will let the process take its course. If they want my talent, my experience, and my time, then I want something in return: I want the same respect for my identity that they offer every single cisgender employee, every single day. And if they can’t give me that, then that is probably not a place I want to work anyway.


Job Hunting While Transgender


Returning from Gen Con meant a return to reality, and that meant thinking about teaching again. Granted, I still have money left from my severance; but (a) it’s not as much as should have been because it was taxed as “bonus” pay not salary, and (b) it will run out by December in any case, and (c) teaching jobs start in cycles, and the next one won’t be until January.

I am not looking for full-time work at this point (not that I would turn it down if such an elusive beast reared its head). But working as an adjunct on a per-class basis for a community college is a nice way to score a little extra money and make that severance stretch out another month or two. Adjuncting will also afford me the time to keep current with my writing jobs, such as they are.

Finding a position in teaching in 2014 is difficult in any case. But mine is complicated by other factors, of course. This was the problem I was dreading, the one that transitioning while at my former, thought-I-was-secure job was supposed to help me avoid. To wit: I’m living as Alison, and I’m in the middle of a legal name change; but my government ID still says Him, as do my college transcripts. So whom do I apply as?

Obviously, my heart says I apply as Alison. No turning back. I haven’t spent a single day as Him in over two months. That is a part of my identity I have left behind, and every day I find another small way to scrub it from my life. I don’t pass, I probably never will pass, my height alone guarantees it, not to mention my build, my voice, and everything else; but even if I teach as an out and proud trans woman, I’d still be teaching authentically, as myself.

Practicality and responsibility say that I apply as Him and work as Him and just “suck it up and deal with it,” as someone so bluntly put it yesterday. I need a job, and in this day and age being trans is still something that carries an enormous stigma. This may be what I need to do to get by. Besides, going into any interview as Alison is likely to kill my chances in any case. That’s just the way of the world we live in. Being trans is more acceptable than it used to be, but a lot of schools aren’t  going to want to risk putting off their paying customers (the students) by putting a tranny at the head of the classroom. Why do that when they could play it safe? I’m more likely to get a job as Him.

But honestly, emotionally, I don’t know how I would handle returning to Him on a daily basis. Just thinking about it last night gave me a panic attack and reduced me to tears. That’s the curse of dysphoria. Two months of freedom, two months as my Self is all it has taken for me to freeze up at the thought of having to put on a shirt and tie again, to be called Mr. Hudson all day. It’s not me; it never was, but I was trapped in it for all my life so I dealt with it. When I broke down last year it was precisely because I couldn’t deal with it any longer. Now that I’ve had my taste of freedom, can I really go back in the cage?

I don’t know what to do. All the people in my support structure tell me to take the practical route, to suck it up, to be him. But I don’t know if I can. Every step I’ve taken since I got out of the hospital last April has been a step away from the burden of Him. I just don’t think I’m strong enough to shoulder it again.


Gen Con was a Blast!


I tried to come up with a clever title for this post, but nothing seemed to fit. Instead, I decided just to be honest. Gen Con was a blast; it was an amazing way to spend a weekend; and I cannot wait for next year.

In a general sense, the whole event was just a ton of fun. For four days I was more or less removed from my daily routine. I barely checked my email, didn’t respond quickly to texts, and posted on social media only to share pictures from the con. I met a lot of nice people there while playing a lot of good games — mostly the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons, which is a huge step above the last edition.

It was also an incredibly self-affirming place for a trans woman to be. I knew going in that Gen Con was a “safe space” for trans people, but I had no idea how it would feel to spend four days with people who didn’t even think twice. From the time I first presented myself to pick up my badge (with a letter from my therapist explaining why my ID and Badge name didn’t match), I was Alison throughout the con. When playing RPGs, it’s common for two players at the table to reference a third player in the third person as they discuss tactics and such; over four days, not once did someone use anything other than she and her when referencing me … even when I was playing a male character. This was a group unconcerned about conforming to gender norms.


On one side is Erica. On the other is a Khadoran Man-O-War. One one them is my BFF.

It wasn’t perfect, of course. Specifically, the servers in the local restaurants and coffee shops were less open to gender identities outside cis expectations. I was misgendered more than once, and I think one shitty little barista even sniggered at me behind my back with her fellow employee. But I tried to ignore these moments and enjoy the rest of the experience.

When I decided that Gen Con would me a milestone for me a year ago, I made the right decision. I have never been so comfortable in my own shoes as I was at Gen Con. Even in the crush of anonymous people, even meeting all these people I have never met before, even when I was front-and-center as Dungeon Master for a table full of players waiting for me to give them a fun time — even then, I was myself, and I was seen as myself, and I was happy.

I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Now if only the rest of the world were so accommodating!

Transgender at Gen Con: An Operation Gamer Girl Epilogue


A year ago, when I was still pre-HRT, still had a job, and still lived mostly as my old self, I conceived of Operation Gamer Girl, an admittedly silly name for a silly idea that was meant to motivate me to work towards full transition. The plan was simple: attend Gen Con the following year as myself. At the time, I felt like I was challenging myself, and I felt that attending Gen Con would be like a milestone in my gender transition.

In the year since, I’ve more or less forgotten about the gimmick of Operation Gamer Girl. My transition is moving at a steady clip, I’m already living authentically, and I’ve even got my name change in the works. So in that sense, when I leave for Gen Con tomorrow it will not be a challenge to do so, nor will it be the milestone I thought it might be last year.

But in a lot of ways it is a milestone. That I’m even going is a big deal; the last Gen Con I attended was in 2005. And that I’m going as my authentic self is still something to be uproariously happy about. And I am happy — I am looking forward to this trip more than I have any trip in a long time.

Not to say that I’m not without worries. Despite recent developments in the gaming community, I’m still going into a crowded convention hall as myself, my true self, unarmed and exposed. Add to that, I will not be just a body in the crowd. I have volunteered to work at the con (hey, free badge, can’t knock it) so I will be front and center at times. I will be running table, DMing games. What if someone refuses to be seated at my table? Or doesn’t take me seriously as DM because of the way I look?

In fact, I’m worried about even picking up my badge, because I registered for Gen Con as Alison. Very likely they will ask for ID at the badge table, and my ID is not yet changed. I have a letter from my therapist to explain things, and I’m hoping it’s all I need to smooth that issue over. If I were turned away at the door, I don’t know what I’d do.

But even with my worries, there is no way I’d do anything different. I would no sooner go in there under his name, in his disguise, than I would go in there naked. This is my first Gen Con in a decade, and I’ll be damned if I let the fear of other people ruin it for me before I’d even arrived in Indianapolis. Besides, most of my male clothes have gone to Salvation Army at this point. I wouldn’t have anything to wear.

Tonight, meanwhile, is all about packing. And that means planning out a lot of outfits in advance. As is usually the case, I can’t just throw myself together haphazardly; I need to make sure that every day is a day where I put my best self forward. Controlling how I look helps me control how people see me. I have to look authentic, I have to look real, I have to look natural. It’s just me, folks, but unfortunately being me takes a lot of work sometimes.

So off I go, commencing the final phase of Operation Gamer Girl. I can’t guarentee I’ll be posting anything else this week, though you can be sure there will be something about the trip next week. In the meantime, I’ll probably be tweeting from Gen Con on both my @Ariamythe and @AliRolls4 Twitter feeds.

Wish me luck, folks!  See you next week.

[There is a companion to this post over at Ali Rolls for Damage.]

When Fortune Smiles


This has been a pretty amazing week for me. My name change petition is filed, and the process is underway. My decision to pursue writing is actually starting to pay off a bit. [Just a bit, but still.] I’m working on a book. I’m preparing for my first GenCon in years. Finally, I may even have an opportunity to return to podcasting, something I loved to do a couple years ago but that I lost when my life shattered at the beginning of my transition. Things feel like they’re moving in the right direction.

I get worried about times like this. Honestly, I’m just waiting for the first sucker punch to come. They always do, when you least expect them. Not that I believe in karma or universal balance or anything like that. I’m just a realist. In the meantime, though, I’ll be over in the corner writing away with  a shit-eating grin on my face.

Petition for Name Change


I finally did it! I started the process for legally changing my name.

The filing itself was underwhelming. There was no more drama in it than there would be in filing any government form — stodgy old building, bored and indifferent clerk, some typing and printing and stamping and signing and paying a $150 fee. That fee gets my application in the pipeline for a court date, but I don’t get a court date until I’ve gotten fingerprinted, sent those off to the State Police for a criminal background check, gotten the results back, and then posted the name change in … something, a newspaper maybe? Do people still read those? Anyway, I’ll likely get in front of a judge in two months.

It will probably feel like two years.

Of all the can’t-turn-back steps I’ve taken, this one is the can’t-turn-backiest. Your legal name is … well, your legal name. It’s a chore to change it, and it would be a chore to change it back again. It will be the name I file taxes under, the name I get paid under, and the name write checks with. It will become my name on file with the Social Security Administration, and it will become the name on my official Birth Certificate (yes, they re-issue). This is a big deal, and I can’t believe I’m at this point.

Sadly I am petitioning to change my name but not my gender. Michigan still has a burdensome and expensive surgical requirement in place for gender marker switching, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Still, I am feeling good today. There’s still bureaucratic hoops to jump through before it happens, but they’re minor obstacles. This is me, finally me. Part of me can’t believe I’m bere. The rest of me feels like dancing.