Jamie Nelson, a queer transgender male, recently transitioned.

Many in the transgender community are celebrating that Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, will be on the cover of Vanity Fair and hope the high-profile platform will lead to wider acceptance of transgender people. As part of Forum’s In My Experience series, we talk with local transgender people about their stories of transition and hear their thoughts on the nation’s discussion about Caitlyn Jenner.

Resources Recommended by Guests

The SF LGBT Center's Transgender Employment Services


Transgender Law Center Helpline



Books Recommended by Guests

Boys Like Her: Transfictions by Taste This

Letters for My Brothers by Megan Rohrer

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock

She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano


"Transitioning" from KQED News

Jamie Rafaela Wolfe, vice president of TransGender San Francisco
Isa Noyola, program manager at the Transgender Law Center
Sawyer Steele, senior producer at Moxie Institute Film Studio and Lab
Fresh White, life coach and contributing author to "Trans Bodies, Trans Selves"

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Blessed to have GLBT friends, family members, although I have to remind myself that they are GLBT. Is this unusual? To me they are friends, family.

    San Francisco has a good GLBT historical society on 18th street.

  • Sam Badger

    India, Mexico and America’s native tribes, among others, have had open communities which are distinct from the Western notion of “trans” identity. These countries have serious issues in this area, but have been working on these issues for much longer. Iran, hardly a socially liberal country, recognized the right of trans folk to transition. Might the narrative about Jenner and the media hype will make his narrative “the” narrative about trans people, disregarding everyone from Hijras and Muxes in India and Mexico to homeless LGBT youth in San Francisco?

  • Robert Thomas

    In 1968, IBM fired Lynn Conway because the culture there, all the way up to Thomas J Watson, Jr., couldn’t conceive of accepting a transitioning transgender person in their midst.

    This happened after Conway’s invention of the essential concept, Dynamic Instruction Scheduling, the virtual “Gothic Arch” of computing machinery architecture, while on IBM’s Advanced Computing System team.

    Forced to start her career over, Conway worked at Memorex, Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), DARPA and taught at M.I.T. and the University of Michigan.

    Wile at PARC, Conway developed the foundational MOSIS computer chip prototyping system from which she, along with co-author Carver Mead (coiner of the phrase “Moore’s Law”) compiled the groundbreaking text Introduction to VLSI Sysytems (1979, Wylie). It’s impossible to overestimatete the influence of this text. More than a communiqué from the laboratory, it provided the basis for every graduate program in the design of Large Scale Integrated Circuits that make all of the tools of the internet (and certainly their little cousin the smart phone) possible.

    Lynn Conway is at least a demigoddess, and belongs in our pantheon next to Grace Hopper and Augusta Ada Byron.


    • ES Trader

      Alan Turing merits mention,

      • Robert Thomas

        In my engineering career, I’ve worked with two other engineers who were trans people, both very respected engineers (one was a supervisor). Both completed their transition before I knew them and I’m sure, given the early days in which each did this, that it was a bumpy ride.

        My other choice for admirable transgender person in the world of Technology and Arts is obvious:

        Wendy Carlos.

        When Carlos emerged as a transgender person, without question many of her admirers and fans were startled. I know few who weren’t also, ultimately, more impressed with her courage.

  • ES Trader

    Any comments about HBO’s “Looking” ? And how has your transition added/detracted from your career goals ?

  • Melissa McAvoy

    Beyond Magenta is a great recently published book for teens and middle school kids about trans and other gender identities.

  • Sam Badger

    Aren’t the images of Jenner on the magazine cover and people’s treatment of it a form of objectification of the trans identity? Jon Stewart had a montage last night of news folks saying fairly retrograde things in “celebration”, like ranking her next to other women. It seems to be one of the consequences of having this discussion in the celebrity media.

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      Great point Sam Badger! Wondered why she had to be in the pink corset as if wearing something from Victoria’s Secret makes me a woman. Why can’t a woman be valued for her brain first? And having her recline in a sensual pose probably was geared to the publications readership which lets be honest is not the grey matter crowd.

  • Another Mike

    From my limited experience, people who transition wait till middle age to make the transition. Why would this be, if indeed this is the case?

    • Kindryth

      Because even though you know you’re trans when you are young you figure out very quickly, especially if you’re older like me that being trans and coming out as trans is not a good way to advance yourself through life. Trans is the last minority still heavily judged by society. Kids aren’t stupid. They figure out very quickly that being queer is not something you go around telling everyone without getting your ass kicked.

      That is usually why people wait till middle age. And it sucks because waiting physically makes transition harder too. The sooner you can start taking hormones the better one’s physical transition will be.

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      To do reassignment surgery often takes money which a younger person may not have. And maybe some trans live in areas where its not as easy if they live at home, cannot move, or work in some area that isn’t as progressive or understanding.

  • Kindryth

    I hope that this discussion today can mention something about the issue of passing. I hardly hear anything about it even from the trans community. I am a trans woman who very rarely passes as the gender I am hoping to be accepted as. Even though I live in San Francisco my quality of life is completely different than a fellow trans woman or trans person who does pass. For instance, being told to leave a female only bathroom or other “female only” places is commonplace for me whereas a peer of mine may never have any issues with this even though both of us may have been on hormones the same time and have transitioned just as long. The people chasing me out of a bathroom never even knew they peed with a transsexual but I as the non-passing transgender person I unfortunately get to bare all of the harassment for my entire community while the others may never feel any of this. Passing has everything to do with Caitlyn Jenner because she is in the same class as me, not passing too well and has a lot to do with all of the attacks on her. If she was tiny and feminine before transitioning I think things would be different.
    All the very best,

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      Jessika your post makes me so sad. Having heard Caitlyn’s voice which is still low I am wondering if a trans with a lower voice may be a reminder to some listeners that the person is still male because sadly many judge based on voice or shoe size.

      Have a hetero female friend who wears a size 11 shoe, is 6-1, and is not feminine looking and I am sure some who do not know here, may think she is trans.

  • seaneee

    I moved to San Francisco, fresh out of college from Orange County, CA, about fifteen years ago. I came from an extremely conservative place that used words like “fag” and “gay” like they were akin to “hello” and “goodbye”. Thankfully I had a more open views than the majority of my peers, but I wasn’t without my prejudices and preconceptions.

    As I walked into a my first interview in San Francisco, I was greeted by Liz Morton, a woman who I understand, was one of the first bay area residents to go through transgender surger in the 70’s. I’m embarrassed to say that beyond shock, I was somewhat, well, somewhat revolted. Beyond TV and Movies that satirized transgender people I really had no interaction or experience with the LGBT communty. Over the next few years I got to know Liz closely and she became a very influential person in my life. She was a wonderful woman that always had a positive outlook and ALWAYS looked out for her friends. After time she was not a Transgender woman, but simply a woman. My interaction with her set the tone for a new attitude towards the LGBT community.

    Sadly she passed away a few years ago, but I think of her often.

  • marte48

    I would admire Bruce Jenner more if he had chosen a cause that did not celebrate sex, vanity, superficial beauty, and narcissism. I hope he’s happy now that he is getting on magazine covers again. I guess he could not stand being in the shadow of his famous women family members anymore.

    • Whamadoodle

      I wonder at the way your post equates all four of those things. You would admire her more if she didn’t celebrate sex? Sex SHOULD be celebrated. It’s a beautiful part of life. Should T people only be sexless and never sexy?

      • Beth Grant DeRoos

        I think Marte48 makes a great point. Most trans folks want to be taken seriously and not viewed as sexual freaks. Posing Caitlyn Jenner in sensual poses and wearing stereotypical pink does a disservice to ALL women who want to be appreciated for their intelligence.

        Some of us felt this same way when Marissa Mayer Yahoo’s CEO appeared in VOGUE magazine in a sensual pose. Aug 2013

        • Whamadoodle

          Well again, you and Marte conflate “celebrat[ing] sex,” which is a perfectly healthy thing, with celebrating “vanity, superficial beauty, and narcissism,” and with being “viewed as sexual freaks” and not being “appreciated for their intelligence,” which are all things which have nothing to DO with whether one is a sexual being, or with celebrating one’s sexuality.

          Why does being sexual or sexy mean the same thing as being unintelligent, vain, or narcissistic? I think people can be VERY intelligent, while also being sexual people. I know many such intelligent people.

          • Beth Grant DeRoos

            Maybe its how the phrase ‘celebrating sex’ is being used. I see a trans celebrating their true gender not sex. Is a celibate trans celebrating their true gender if they are not being sexual with any one? Heck is a heterosexual woman who is comfortable in her own skin, celebrating her gender or something sexual?

          • Whamadoodle

            Shouldn’t we celebrate all of those things? I don’t think any of them make one either less or more intelligent; nor does being NONcelibate make you more of less intelligent.

          • Beth Grant DeRoos

            (laughing) do you work for some ad agency where sex is used to sell every thing from Carl Jr’s , vehicles and even cleaning supplies?

          • Whamadoodle

            No! I do pretty boring work. Do you work for…

            … well I don’t know how it makes either of us money, and I’m sure we each hold our opinions honestly.

            You can tell that I do, anyway, because I apparently ask good questions, that are hard to answer. Questions such as: why DO you keep insisting that being sexy or being a sexual person means you can’t be intelligent?

            You really don’t know anyone personally who is both at once? I have met them; I’m telling you, people who are both intelligent and sexual really, really do exist.

          • Beth Grant DeRoos

            Of course I know people who are sexual, heck my parents were sexual, thus I came to be. But I am not sexual as far as being sexual around any one other than my late husband. Maybe I see sexual as being different from looking attractive?

          • Whamadoodle

            And that’s fine! I see no reason to keep you from expressing your view, or not expressing it, or for Caitlyn Jenner to do so with hers.

            (But again, I said “intelligent AND sexual”–so you agree with me, I hope, that one can be both? Why say that people shouldn’t or won’t see someone as intelligent if they see them as attractive too? That’s simply not true. Many people are both.)

          • marte48

            If it had nothing to do with vanity – why did they choose VANITY FAIR magazine?

          • Whamadoodle

            Again: it may well have, in THIS case. I make none of the assumptions you do about Jenner; nor do I declare that your assumptions are wrong. I simply don’t read Jenner’s mind.

            In general, though: If you’re saying as a general principle that anyone who takes pictures in attempts to express themselves as a sexual person, or to express their sexuality, is worthy of the contempt you express in your posts, or is intrinsically demeaning themselves or those of their group, then I disagree. If you’re not saying that, then fine.

      • marte48

        I didn’t say that. You are making assumptions about what I said. I was a child of the 60’s, and celebrated sexual freedom before you were born. All people have the right to fulfill their sexual needs. No one has the right to impose it on everyone else. If you need to have a sex change operation and don an evening dress and get your photo on the cover of glamour magazine in order to accept yourself, that’s YOUR problem. Bruce lacked for NOTHING. It was all in his mind – not others. He was feeling sorry for himself because he was envious of the attention and power that the oversexed, empty-headed women in his TV family had. This is all just a continuation of the sexploitation that is reality TV. It’s a side show. It’s showbiz.

        • Whamadoodle

          Your statement was that you didn’t admire Jenner because she “celebrate[s] sex, vanity, superficial beauty, and narcissism.” Your statement, then, says that you do not admire people who “celebrate sex.” I think that sex SHOULD be celebrated.

          It may well be showbiz in Jenner’s case, or envy, or other assumptions you seem to feel VERY free to make about it — I say it may be, but you seem very sure about reading Jenner’s mind, so you’re hardly one to talk about “making assumptions” — but the fact is that your statement was that you do not “admire” people who “celebrate sex.” That, at least, is not an assumption, those are the words you put down, in black and white, and that’s a fact.

          For my part, I have admired MANY people who “celebrate sex,” and I think that equating celebration of sex with narcissism, or with all sorts of other negative traits, is shameful. Jenner may well do so, and you may not have MEANT those words you wrote, but your statement certainly did equate them.

          • marte48

            Bruce was already sexual, and could have as much sex as he required. What he did not have, apparently, was the exaggerated, vulgar, manipulative, symbolism of sex – that really have nothing to do with sex, and have everything to do with showbiz.

          • Whamadoodle

            Jesus Christ, man–you see the Vanity Fair cover as “exaggerated” and “vulgar”? It’s about as exaggerated and vulgar as a one-piece 19th-century ladies’ bathing suit with covering up to the neck buttons. It’s really MILDLY sexy.

            Kind of an overreaction, I think. What’s she supposed to wear to avoid your charge, a haystack?

          • Beth Grant DeRoos

            Am now wondering what publication would folks suggest Ms Jenner should have done rather than Vanity Fair?

          • Whamadoodle

            Heh–yes, ironically, if she’d appeared first on the cover of Fast Company, wearing a Hillary Clinton/Condi Rice pants-suit and ordering around underlings from behind a power desk, she’d have been twice as vulgar in chasing money in fact, but would never have been called “vulgar”!

          • marte48


          • marte48

            First, I am not a man, even though I embrace the masculine parts of my psyche. Is Caitlin going to abandon her masculine identity? Is she going to walk around in high heels and evening gowns from now on? Is she going to give up hiking and camping? We all learned to cross dress a century ago when women started to wear pants. We accepted both our masculine and feminine selves without needing to undergo surgery or TV appearances.

        • Beth Grant DeRoos

          He was feeling sorry for himself because he was envious of the attention and power that the oversexed, empty-headed women in his TV family had????

          Not true. She clearly has stated she hated living a LIE!! She had been going out of her way to transition quietly and was OUTED!

          • SPH

            He and she are still living a lie. Gender is not a man must be macho, or a woman must be feminine and sexy. Being oneself does not change because of an outward appearance of male versus female. In order to be truly happy, and not be living a lie, every male that has feelings and characteristics that society decided are feminine has to learn how to express them within the
            body and the gender he was given at birth.

            I know this from experience. It took me from 5 years old until about 13 years ago to stop hiding my less masculine traits in my public life, while discarding the clothes I believed were a part of expressing my other side, in my secret life.

            The clothes, the makeup are still a lie. Being yourself is being true, and the only way to be fulfilled.

          • marte48

            Transition quietly as part of a reality TV show?

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      Have you read the opinion piece in the Wednesday NYTimes The Price of Caitlyn Jenner’s Heroism ? It points out some things I had not realized about the Vanity Fair piece. One being that Caitlyn is shown not as a woman in her sixties but made to look like a woman in her 30’s and even her name is not a name most older women would have chosen, but one that would be found in a woman much younger. Thus the question why not allow her to be a beautiful older woman, dressed equally well?

  • marte48

    This is as bad as teaching young girls that they cannot be beautiful unless they wear high heels, fake eyelashes, red lipstick, sequined bathing suits, and rhinestone tiaras.
    I’m sure that the cosmetic industry would disagree.

  • marte48

    In order for “Caitlin” to accept herself as herself, she needs to get out of those high heels, wipe off that makeup, put on kaki shorts and a t-shirt (no pushup bra) and look at herself – her true self – in the mirror, and say “I accept myself as I am” the way that we ALL do. Being feminine and sexy has nothing to do with superficiality and glitz.

  • marte48

    The point is, all showbiz this has nothing to do with love – or self-acceptance.

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