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coming out anthology 2006

Letting People In

I understand that you may have recently heard some rumors about me, my life and the changes in my appearance, and what these changes actually mean.

I have had a chance to share what I have been going through with a few of you personally; I apologize to those of you who heard about this through the rumor mill rather than through me, but I had laid out a specific plan in order to take the proper steps for my professional life and to protect my family’s privacy.  I appreciate the amazing support I have received from those of you whom I have spoken with directly.  I hope this letter will clarify the process I have undertaken.

Since my earliest memories, I have never felt like I fit in.  Exactly what this means is difficult to explain, but generally it derives from me not feeling right about my gender.  This is known medically as Gender Identity Disorder.  Simply put, my emotional and psychological gender is not in alignment with my genetic, physiological sex.  To use the rather shop-worn phrase, I am a transsexual.  I have always felt that I was a woman who was trapped in a male body.  This is not an acquired condition; rather, it is an intrinsic part, a lifelong aspect, of my being.  Despite all of the behaviors that I learned in trying to deny my true feelings, this condition has been, and still is, the source of unease and discomfort in my life.  Finally dealing with this has been like lifting a huge weight off my shoulders.

I have been receiving treatment through accepted medical practices for Gender Identity Disorder.  While the standards of care for treatment are wide reaching, what this ultimately means is that I have been taking necessary steps to change my gender to female.  While this may be confusing, shocking, or even scary, I want to assure you that this does not change the person I am.

With all this said, the biggest problem with transsexuality is not transsexuality itself, it's the misinformation and misconceptions out there and the attitudes that are driven by that.  Gender Identity Disorder is a medical condition and is not a psychological disorder.  It is also not what you see on Springer, and it's nothing anyone did to me, or the result of life experiences.  This condition has existed throughout human history, and exists in every culture in the world without exception.  There are many medical theories on why this happens. Some research indicates it has to do with how the brain is structured, and I've been this way since before I was born.  All of this research points to a direct physical difference that is unchangeable, and an immutable fact.

Researchers believe that the brain is wired for gender in about the 14th week of development when a flood of testosterone washes over the fetus.  If the amount and/or timing of the hormones are wrong, then it seems the baby's mind and body may develop in different directions.  Regardless of medical research, I know it is something I have dealt with from my earliest memories.

I will “transition” officially on April 5 as I head out on Spring Break.  I will have legally changed my name as of this point and most people will call me Jenna.  I fully expect this to be difficult to remember, and difficult for many of you who have known me for many years.  Simply using “she” instead of “he” may also be a difficult change.  I can only ask that you make your best effort to use the appropriate name and pronouns.

I value each of your friendships and hope that you will see how this decision has made me a happier person who is more easy going, though fundamentally, it does not change me as a person.  Dealing with this problem has released pent up frustration that often seemed to manifest itself in counterproductive ways.  As far as I can tell so far, this change has not affected my intelligence, ability, memory, or love of peanut butter or even western Maine.

Many of you know my wife and best friend, Darlene.  She is truly an amazing woman.  I cannot begin to relate the happiness she has brought into my life in the nearly 10 years we have been together.  She has stood by me through some of the most difficult times of my life, and certainly the most difficult decisions I have ever made, as well as the happiest times.  I am truly lucky to have her as a partner and couldn’t imagine life without her.

It is my sincere desire to make this major change in my life as minimally disruptive as possible.  I want to continue working in a place and industry that I truly love, and with people that share the same passion for skiing and riding.

I am more than happy to answer any questions that you may have.  I will answer as honestly as I can and help you see that I am still the same person.  Darlene and I both appreciate your support and only ask that your professionalism, compassion, and humanity will help you (and us) overcome the stereotypes and prejudices that exist in our society.
- Jenna



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