Coming Out Trans

Of the challenges we face being trans, coming out is one of the more stressful tasks. But there are ways to reduce the stress and fear that coming out brings. If done correctly, and in the right circumstances, coming out can be an easy and smooth process. Read on to find out how.

Research. Having the answers to the inevitable questions will allay any thoughts your friends and family may have that this is just a phase, or that you’re jumping into this. Find out how transition works, learn about what hormones can and can’t do, and some of the risks involved. The people you’re coming out to will likely be confused and possibly frightened, and the more prepared you are, the more confident they’ll be in your decision. This being said, try not to simply pour information on them. Make it a conversation, let them ask questions, and answer them as best as you can.

Plan. Some people have success just jumping into things head first, and will come out with little preparation. But I’ve found it’s easier on everyone if you know who, how, and when beforehand. You don’t have to make a big production of it, just find a time and a place to talk to the person quietly and calmly, and discuss what is going to happen. Have a loose script ready so you can start the conversation, and not find yourself at a loss for words. Do try to memorize the script, though, reading off a piece of paper or note card may be too impersonal.

Discern. Some people will take it very well, and some won’t. Knowing who is who and planning accordingly can make things much smoother. Use what you know about these people to figure out how they’re likely to react. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come out to the people who won’t react well, unless your life may be in danger because of it, but certainly use a lighter touch with the less accepting ones so they don’t have a kneejerk reaction. It’s scary, and it may be tempting to try to hide your transition from these people, but them finding out from someone else will likely make things more difficult than hearing it from you.

Test. If you have friends or family who know already, try out your approach on them first. They might be able to point out things that you missed, and can provide constructive criticism. If you don’t have anyone, talking to yourself in the mirror can help, as hearing it out loud will make it easier to find rough spots. Or find an online transgender support group if you can, they’ll usually be more than happy to hear what you have to say and offer advice.

Wait. Don’t rush into it. Find a good time, when the person or people aren’t busy or distracted, to start the conversation. It may be tempting to come out to family all at once, during a large gathering, but this can backfire. If there’s a bad reaction, and someone causes a scene, you may be blamed for “ruining” the event. This is unfair, but it happens all too often. Better to talk to people one at a time or in small, casual groups.

Don’t wait. This may seem contradictory, but what I mean is, don’t feel like you have to tell absolutely everyone in your life before starting transition. Make a list of who you feel it’s important to come out to in person, and don’t feel bad about sending the rest an email, or even making a post on your social media platform of choice. Some people may be a little hurt that they didn’t make the cut, but the alternative is to find the time to tell everyone, and that could take months, or even years. You can always start HRT and other transition-related processes in the meantime, but there will come a point where you can’t, or won’t want to, hide it any more.

Listen. When you do come out, listen to the questions your friends and family have for you. Accept healthy criticism, though if they’re just being jerks you can always walk away. Remember, unless they have other trans people in their lives, they likely won’t have much information to go on, so it’ll be up to you to educate them. If you don’t have the time to answer all their questions, direct them to a few websites that have the answers they’re looking for.

Be patient. These will be some rough times for everyone concerned. Mostly for you, but the mental gymnastics required to undo what may be years or even decades of reinforced gender roles can be difficult for some. So if they screw up, say the wrong things, or make assumptions, gently correct them. Getting mad and scolding them can push them away, and thanks to the stubbornness inherent in most people, it can be counter to your goals.

Be firm. If someone tries to talk you out of transitioning, or refuses to call you by your preferred name and pronouns, don’t bend to their pressure. I have a friend who delayed transition indefinitely because her wife was worried about what her conservative father would think. But delaying will just make things worse for you down the line, and in the end, you have to live for you, not for the approval of others. Tell them why it’s important for you, and if they insist on opposing your transition, you may have to take a break from them if you can. Don’t try to hide it, or make compromises, that will just make things worse in the long run.

Be careful. This is in italics and underlined for a reason. While coming out is exciting and cathartic, it can also be dangerous. I mentioned earlier to be aware of who you’re coming out to, but this bears repeating. If you can, have a friend with you, and have an escape plan, if there’s a possibility of things going sour. If you can’t do that, meet somewhere public. Don’t be alone with the potentially dangerous person, and maybe consider coming out to them via text, or over the phone. Your safety is more important than their feelings.

Finally, be happy. If you want to go stealth, leave everyone who knew you pre-transition and start fresh, by all means, do that instead. Coming out isn’t for everyone, and sometimes you need to just start over. Just remember, the past has a way of sneaking up on you, and some things may follow you wherever you go. Or, if you want the big reveal, tell everyone, and make it into a celebration of your emergence into your new life, do that! Nobody can tell you how to live your life, and whatever path you want to take, happiness should be your ultimate goal. Love yourself, and live accordingly.

Why Your Support Matters

By funding Hypatia, you are enabling us to build the next iteration of Hypatia into 2018 with the following improvements:
  • Part time mentorship coordinator to manage and track the status of our students
  • Funding for the Emergency Cash Relief Program
  • Part time administrative support staff
I found out about Hypatia through a friend of mine when I was in a severe time of need and personal crisis. Without the assistance of their emergency cash fund, I hwould have likely would have lost electrical services to my home and been out of food. Additionally, the program was able to help with the costs associated with filing for my name change.
So, for that, I am so thankful that the program exists for those who need it. Speaking from experience, it’s an amazing thing to have that kind of help when the world seems darkest.
 — Bridget, 2017

In the beginning…

Hypatia Software Organization (HSO) was founded in 2015 by a group of homeless and disabled trans developers creating the Hypatia Engine (  Since not everyone in the group of developers had the skills required to work on the project, the group quickly adopted an informal peer-mentorship model.  Simply put, the community pooled their efforts to teach each others the required skills necessary for developing the Hypatia Engine.  At the time, the goal was simply just to build the Hypatia Engine, to create their portfolios, and enable them to obtain gainful employment in the tech industry. After a few months of hard work the group founder, who had been homeless until this point, secured employment and this greatly improved her life circumstances. At the beginning of the next year, HSO was re-conceived as a resource to help others better their situations and bring hope to trans people who experience systemic disenfranchisement, poverty, and homelessness. We seek to provide opportunities for experiences of transmisogyny, the intersection of misogyny and transphobia, to flourish, in software and beyond.


HSO has come a long way since its founding. Most significantly, Hypatia obtained 501(c)(3) charity status in February 2017. Obtaining non-profit status has allowed Hypatia to reach an ever-growing number of trans individuals in need of aid, and will allow us to grow to meet future demand.
This year we have been working hard on improving the efficacy of our programs, internal organization, and reducing our operational overhead to optimize our ability to help our members the most we can with the means provided by our generous donors and contributors. This includes providing our members with part-time paid internships with HSO to help grow and maintain the organization.
HSO is currently volunteer run with help from paid interns. In 2017 Hypatia has accomplished the following milestones:
  • Added 47 new full members, bringing the entire membership to over 205 full members as of of this blog post
  • 24 of the new members were enrolled in our Mentorship Program
  • On-boarded 31 new peer mentors
  • Processed 52 Emergency Cash Relief (ECR) applications to help stabilize our membership’s access to food, transportation, medication, and other basic needs

Mentorship Program

Our Mentorship Program aims to provide disenfranchised experiencers of transmisogyny with the tools to help them overcome the obstacles of their situation and the systematic discrimination that has denied them such opportunities. We believe that by equipping our members with the skills they need in order to get hired in the tech industry, our members will flourish economically as there is a high demand for tech workers. Our mentors utilize our syllabus along with their professional knowledge and experience in order to teach in-demand skills such as full-stack web development and systems administration. Another important aspect of our mentorship program is that our mentors double as role models for our members. Our members can see themselves in their mentors and be encouraged that they themselves can achieve success.
Working with my mentor has given me some confidence that I can actually do more technical things. Tackling python has been an issue for me since I am the type of person who needs support to get through tougher problems in general, and learning python makes you hit a lot of walls if you don’t know your way around. My mentor has shown me things while pointing out that I have my own ability too. I am now less scared of larger, complex projects that I can now figure out.
 — Janice, 2017
Throughout the mentorship program, our members work on projects that demonstrate their skills to their future employers. Additionally, we help our members with their resumes and also help them prepare for interviews. By providing our members with this fully fledged package of help we optimize their ability to handle job interviews with confidence and success.

Technology Resources Program

HSO’s Laptop Program aims to provide disenfranchised participants of our Mentorship Program and other eligible members with the tools needed to utilize the knowledge and skills we provide through our Mentorship Program.
The Laptop Program is mission critical part of our endeavors to help our disenfranchised experiencers of transmisogyny secure the foundations required for them to overcome their situation and succeed, without the equipment to put their knowledge into use a lot of opportunities would be gate-kept, as not all jobs come with physical location or company devices. While portable devices have increased in computing power, these devices can not do what a full laptop can for creation. Note: relevance? The laptops costs less or similar to phones
Thanks to the Laptop Program we can help open up doors for our members, and pair them with paid internships such as Outreachy (, Google Summer of Code (, and other opportunities.

Emergency Cash Relief Program

Through our Emergency Cash Relief Program we help ensure the basics needed for the survival and stability, such as food, medicine, and shelter, required to focus on studying and job hunting. This is a mission critical component that ensures the retention and efficacy of other programs such as the Mentorship Program by diminishing or removing factors such as homelessness, starvation, and depression from daily life, thus providing both our members and HSO with the optimal foundation for helping experiencers of transmisogyny succeed. Without this program many participants of the Mentorship Program would have to drop out, being unable to stay the course due to avoidable issues relating to depression, starvation, and homelessness.
I recently lost my job and while looking for employment i ran out of funds. I live in an apartment and was unable to cover my entire rent. Hypatia helped with what i needed and if it hadnt been for [Hypatia’s] promptness i might have been without a place to live during the holiday season. Im very thankful that there is an organization like this to help people like me.
 — Shelly, 2017

The Complications of Coming Out

It’s October 30th 2014 and I’m at a client’s site working on repairing a computer for them. Fresh Air is on in the background and Terry Gross is interviewing Jill Soloway about their show Transparent. Transparent is a show I’ve heard about from primarily trans people who criticize the fact that the show, like many others, casts a cis man as a trans woman. I have not watched an episode to this day and on the TV, Terry and Jill start discussing gender. Jill identifies as non-binary. I had never heard that term used before but it hits me like a ton of bricks. The clients I’m working for are nearby so I try to keep my cool but really all I want to do is find some privacy so I can research more about what non-binary means. I finish my work as quickly as possible, rush to my car and sit there on my phone for a good hour pouring through Google search results for non-binary, then I move on to terms like demigirl, genderfluid, and genderqueer.

That night I tell my partner I’m genderfluid. She’s surprised I’m just learning about non-binary people now. We had a conversation about her potentially being non-binary a few months ago where she used expressions like feeling masculine, and terms I hadn’t yet learned the context of. It was a conversation I didn’t realize I wasn’t understanding. She thinks I’m trying to copy her in some way. Later when I tell her I want to go by the name Harley Quinn, she retorted that, “It makes me think you just want to be a comic book character.” Our relationship didn’t last much longer.

I keep my name to myself for a year after that despite coming out to many close friends. It takes me a long time to process how deep those words of hers cut me. I know I don’t want to be a comic book character but that criticism eats away at me. Harley Quinn is a character I love, she is a powerful woman with no fear, who has gone through a lot of abuse at the hands of a man who’s supposed to care about her. It’s a story that resonates with me because I want to be a powerful woman, I want to have no fear, and I too have suffered abuse at the hands of a man who was supposed to care about me.

Eventually I find a safe space of supportive people online who play video games together. I join under my dead name but am fully open about my gender and sexuality. I think I want to use she/her & they/them pronouns, but the first time I hear someone refer to me by “she” I know that’s all I want to hear. Soon I work up the courage to tell them the name I want to go by. Everyone instantly accepts it, and many people tell me how much they love it. This finally gives me the confidence to tell other people in my life.

It’s Spring 2010 and I’m almost through my first year of college. I’m talking to one my best friends, she’s telling me that she’s not a man; and soon she’s going to come out publicly. She’s big into jokes. I’m a kid who has high functioning autism (I didn’t know that yet) which often makes me terrible at reading people; and although I am accepting of LGBT+ people, I’m extremely under-educated on most of it, especially trans issues. I tell her that I’ll accept her no matter what, but I’m not sure if this is a joke because, “you’re always telling jokes.” She soon drops out of school and comes out halfway through our two-year course. I don’t understand why she doesn’t finish with school before coming out, or just continue with school while transitioning. Later in life I will learn just how naive my line of thinking was. Mutual “friends” say things to me like “I don’t care what he is. I’ll accept him, but I’m not gonna use a different name or call him ‘her’.” I don’t really understand because that’s not what acceptance is. She’s made her wishes clear, why won’t they respect them?

Her and I grow apart after she drops out. She’s working third shift and I’m working second shift while going to school. I’m also dealing with having just left the hardcore christian, conservative, abusive home I grew up in, as well as being on the autism spectrum without realizing it. We still see each other from time to time, and we end up staying in touch over the internet on and off for a few years after school. I realize sometime later that she was attracted to me, but due to internalized transphobia I didn’t notice.

One rather lonely night relatively early on into realizing I was non-binary, I decide to tell her that I want to transition too. We hadn’t talked in months yet I send her a text saying, “I’ve realized I’m trans, I need hormones, and I have no clue how to get them.” Hindsight makes me realize this is an incredible amount of shit to dump on someone, especially someone who was still learning how to be comfortable in her own transition. She’s sends a short text back saying, “Please don’t talk to me about this”, along with a link to the website she was getting her hormones from before she could find medical help.

Over the next couple of years it slowly dawns on me how little I was actually there for her as she was going through one of the hardest parts of her life. She came out to me early, I was clearly someone she trusted, and I was to caught up in my own shit to be there for her in the time she most needed someone. Then I thought I had the right to dump my own problems on her with no warning. How I handled our relationship shall remain my biggest regret in life, and even saying that feels selfish of me.

There are some strange conversations that happens when you come out to cis people as a trans woman. The first question you almost always get is some rendition of, “So you’re gay?”. They never actually mean, “Are you gay?” What they mean is “Are you attracted to men?”. In my case, yes I’m really gay but no I’m not attracted to men. Society is so warped by homophobia and transphobia that most people don’t even fully understand the concepts, even after you try to lay them out.

Sometimes you will come out to someone expecting it to be a hard conversation but they instantly accept you. It can kind of blow you away. You’re thinking maybe I underestimated this person. More often than not, later down the road you find out that there are exceptions to their acceptance. They will think or say things like, “Yea I’ll accept your gender, but I’m never gonna be comfortable with not using your ‘real’ name, it’s just who you are to me.” People put no thought into how much this can hurt someone as they are essentially rejecting the very core of who you are and they clearly put no time into actually learning about what it means to be trans.

As I write this, I’m about to reach the third year anniversary of the day I heard that episode of Fresh Air and realized I was genderfluid. I’ve since started using multiple names with those I’m closest to as I feel it better represents the many facets of my gender. I have yet to gain access to hormones or put much work into my voice, despite wanting to, due to extreme anxiety, lack of transportation, and money.

If there are trans people in your life, be there for them, offer to help them in any way you can, and stick to that commitment. Don’t push them into talking about things they don’t want to, or rely on them to educate you. Be proactive, educate yourself, arrange to spend time with them. Don’t give up if they sometimes say no to spending time together, or if they have to cancel plans you’ve already set. You can make a huge difference in how easy it is for someone to become comfortable with themselves.

About the Author: Hana Quinn is the current faceless voice behind our Patreon. She joined Hypatia to learn how to code, and is hard at work on her first text adventure game.

When Things Go Wrong

Transitioning is hard, even in the best of situations. But there are plenty of things that can go wrong, and when they do, it can be devastating. My name is Rowan Marie Hand, and I am a transgender woman. This is my story.

It’s the year 2000. I’m 16 years old, and I just watched a certain French film about a young boy who wanted to be a girl (more accurately, it was about a young girl who didn’t want to be a boy). It was playing at the local theater, to a nearly empty room. The movie itself wasn’t a masterpiece of cinematic genius, but something in it resonated with me. That was the first time I realized that there were others like me, and that there was hope.

Back up a bit. The year is 1995. I’m 11, and I’m at my friend’s house. She and her little sister want to play dress up. I “begrudgingly” agree to be their model, and they gleefully put me in a pretty dress, inexpertly applied makeup, and a costume wig. I make all the appropriate noises of protest, but in my heart I am elated. Here I was, dressed like a girl. But this can’t be right. I’m a boy, aren’t I supposed to hate this?

A little more. It’s 1989. I’m 5 years old, and in kindergarten. It’s play time, and the boys and girls all have their toys to play with. I want to play with the girls, because their toys look like more fun. But the teacher scolds me, and forces me to play with the boys. I have fun anyway, but I am a bit resentful that I couldn’t play pretend with the dolls like I wanted to.

One more time. It’s 1984. A baby has just been born. The doctor takes a cursory glance at one tiny part of the baby’s anatomy, and triumphantly proclaims, It’s a boy! Everyone is happy and everything is perfect and fine. I’m just an infant, I don’t know what the heck is going on, so I cry. Little did I know that that moment would shape the rest of my life in many ways, some of which are irreversible.

Now let’s go forward. 2002, a year and a half after I saw that movie. I’m in 12th grade at a private boarding school. I’m in my boyfriend’s dorm room, and I’ve been mulling over things in my mind for a while. I did research, found the right words, and now I knew what I was. And it was time to share that knowledge. “H?” I inquired, getting his attention. “There’s something I need to tell you.” He raises an eyebrow. “I’m… I’m transgender.”

H looked at me for a full minute. He seemed lost. Then he broke into a grin, kissed me, and said, “Does that mean I’m bi, and not gay?” He was a great guy. But, as happens sometimes, he moved back home at the end of the school year, and we never saw each other again.

That summer, I came out to my mother, who said she’d known for years. I cried, she cried, it was all very emotional.

Three years forward. I’m 20. Both my parents, and my sister, know now. I’m in therapy, in accordance with the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care, and my therapist just wrote my letter of recommendation. I have everything in order, and I travel to an endocrinologist (hormone doctor) in Philadelphia to get a prescription for Estradiol. He asks me a few questions, about children and marriage and where I want to go with my life, and at the end of it all, he says no. Not in so many words, but the gist is, “you’re not trans enough.” All that time spent in therapy, all my yearnings and desperate needs, dismissed by a man with a clipboard.

I was devastated. My identity, my life, was invalidated by this man who knew nothing about me beyond the stereotypical questions he asked. I cried the whole ride home. After that day, I decided if I couldn’t transition, if I couldn’t be a woman, I’d just be the best man I could be. And so began the long, dark period of denial.

I spent the next seven years in agony. I grew an impressive beard, lamented over my hair loss (and covered it with an endless series of bandannas), and immersed myself in “man” culture. I smoked a pack a day, drove fast, and overall I was kind of a jerk to people. I had a few girlfriends, a few boyfriends, but nothing was fulfilling. I went to tech school to learn how to work on cars, hated it, but stuck with it because it was a man’s career. I was suicidal pretty much constantly through that period, but I kept going through sheer stubbornness.

Finally, in 2012, I had that ray of hope. A friend of mine, who was also transgender (and one of the few people who knew “my secret”), came up to me and asked if I was okay. I insisted I was, but he pressed, saying that I’d seemed really down and hurt, and he asked if there was anything he could do. I broke down, and admitted that I was miserable, and that I wanted to die. Then and there, he made a pact with me: we would transition together. I shaved the beard that day, and never grew one again.

We made our appointments, for the same day, at a well known LGBT clinic in Philadelphia, and I quit smoking. I didn’t want any complications with the hormones, and nicotine was a known risk when taking Estradiol.

The day of our appointments came, and I got dressed up in a nice outfit, a cheap wig, and too much makeup. I drove us down to Philly, found parking, and we checked in at the clinic. I was vibrating with nervous energy as I waited for my name, my long-preferred but never-used name, to be called. Eventually, the door opened, my name was called, and I went in.

In the exam room, we went over my medical and sexual history, I was asked a few questions, and I had the opportunity to tell my story about the endocrinologist. The doctor gave me a shocked look, and said, “we’re sending you home with a prescription today.” Elated hardly covers my mood at that point.

I had some blood tests done, and came back to the waiting room with a prescription for Spironolactone, a common testosterone blocker, to start me off. I was to come back for a check up, and to get the other prescription, for Estradiol. Estrogen. The “girl hormone”.

My friend’s experience was similar, though he had to come back to be taught how to inject his testosterone. We both left with our heads in the clouds. As we drove home, we kept breaking into song and laughing. This was one of the best days of my life.

The next few months were a blur. As the HRT (hormone replacement therapy) did its job, I started to notice the first little hints of development. I reveled in the changes, even when they hurt. Growing boobs hurts, did you know that?

But not all was well. Unbeknownst to me, or to anyone, there was something inside my body just waiting to tear everything down around me. And every day that I was on HRT, the danger grew.

For over a year, however, everything was great. Maybe not perfect- as it turned out, I had some psychological issues that were being masked by the nicotine, that came up after I quit smoking. But I dealt with them, got on medications to deal with them, and everything went back to relative normalcy.

Until, that is, the night of December 1st, 2013. I had just come home from a friend’s house, where they were throwing a party, and I was in the bathroom getting ready for bed. Sitting on the toilet, I suddenly felt the right side of my body go numb and limp, and I pitched forward onto the floor.

Luckily, I remained conscious, and was able to pull myself across the floor, and into my bedroom, where my phone was. I dialed 911, and told the person on the other end what I had feared: that I was having a stroke. I pulled myself to a sitting position, my right arm lying useless by my side, and I screamed for my dad, who was downstairs. He came running, and I explained what had happened, tears in my eyes. He stayed with me until the ambulance came.

At the hospital, I met a neurologist, who told me that I, indeed, was having a stroke. They injected me with a drug they called a “clot buster”, and I almost immediately felt a tiny amount of feeling return to my limbs. It hurt. A lot.

I spent the next week in the hospital, being tested and poked and prodded. Some of the staff called me Rowan; some did not. I tried to stay positive, and found it easier than I expected. I realized that I had no expectations for my future any more, and every day I woke up alive was more than I could hope for.

I got some answers. I had a small heart defect, a “patent foramen ovale” that was basically a hole between the atria of my heart. This hole let a clot slip through, a clot most likely caused by the high dose of Estradiol I was taking at the time. They took me off HRT immediately, which I protested but not too loudly, and gave me Warfarin to keep my blood from clotting again.

The following two weeks were in rehab, where I learned how to walk again. By the time I left, I could walk, albeit clumsily, without a cane. My hand was still fairly useless, and remains significantly limited to this day.

Eventually, I got back on Spironolactone, and later a low dose of Estradiol, this time administered through a patch, not a pill. Not once during my hospitalization, recovery, or after, have I had any desire to go back to that sick parody of masculinity I had been living before I transitioned. It simply was not an option. I continued my transition, seeing the stroke as nothing more than a bump in the road. But I have been very careful to avoid any such bumps since then.

That was four years ago. Since then, I’ve started living as a woman full time, I’ve had my name legally changed, I’ve had tons of laser hair removal and hair transplants (which were woefully inadequate- now I wear a weave), and now I’m living as authentically as I can. I am who I want, need to be. Nothing will ever take that away from me. Nothing.

About the Author: Rowan Marie Hand is a married 30-something from Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and their pet roommate. She is a published author, an accomplished seamstress, and a prodigious doodler.

Time to Transition to People-Friendly Systems

From government issued IDs, medical facilities, employers, housing, and much more. The way our gender and names are stored in databases can greatly change the way a lot of trans people experience  the world. Most people take for granted having equal access to their basic needs due to the fact that for most people there are no prerequisites to obtain them.  But for a trans person these things come at high costs and absurd protocols which puts us at risk monetarily, physically, mentally, and socially. In a world where equality is such a prevalent topic and cause, why is it that we are denied even some of the most basic human rights like self-authority and consent. Year after year this remains true with little to no change people. Society continues to allow these transgressions towards a whole group of the population. The following are some of the realities, struggles, violations and dangers trans people are put through due to virtually unlimited forces and systems seeking to invalidate and erase.

This year for Trans Day of Visibility we have asked trans members of Hypatia to reflect on the intersection of the trans experience and technology. Below you will find a series of reflections from trans members of our community. We hope that as you read the reflections below and remember that Trans Day of Visibility is not just about physical visibility, but the visibility of our struggle, experiences, and lives.


Part the existence issue is that our legal/deadnames are used in so many places. Until you stop going by that, you don’t really notice how pervasive and indicative it is of your identity to others. It’s literally everywhere, acting like some kind of unseen barrier that the cigender world never even notices.

It’s not only on credit cards, but banking information, workplace systems, rental agreements, car notes, medical records, school records, previous job histories, and the list goes on. Trying to change these to reflect your chosen name which reflects who you really are and identify as can be seemingly impossible, costly, and potentially out someone that is trans in some situations without court orders. Even if “nicknames” on some accounts can be used it still often causes confusion and incidents of being put in situations where someone else misgenders and possibly puts you in harms way due to others around you. Even if they don’t mean such. It still can be overheard if called by a pharmacist, a doctor, etc

Not to mention the issues that arise between how someone can look on their driver’s license vs their appearance while in transition as well. I’ve personally had people refuse me service due to mismatching ID where my picture and appearance did not match up. Even now, producing it causes conflict due my legal name and gender conflicting on my driver’s license, sometimes causing people to claim it’s a fake ID. This is complicated further by the process to get a legal name change. In many states it’s a costly, totaling $250-$400 without a lawyer. It can be a time consuming process that lasts for 1-3 months+ and sometimes not even attainable due to judges who try to block it. While rare, it’s still something that does happen from time to time. In contrast, compare it to those who get married have almost no issues to change their name other than a small fee, members of the transgender community have to jump through all kinds of hoops with notes from doctors, affidavits, lawyers, and then the actual court process itself.

This also extends into the work place. Even for me, someone who works in an entirely virtual environment almost, the system logins, display names, etc all reflect my deadname. This causes some serious issues personally, and for others as it brings up the weight of such and the emotional issues that come with seeing/hearing or even having to type out those names. While certain databases and situations are understandable (Payroll, Benefits, etc), it’s a nuisance when you don’t want everyone to know or are going “stealth” as it were to avoid discrimination in a general work place environment and not have those other than in HR know. Changing these without a legal name change is something that’s often not easy. In my own situation, I haven’t exactly figured out who I even contact about such within my company to remedy the situation. Because of that, the stress and anxiety of being outed on nearly a daily basis is hard to deal with and a few times it was perilously close to occurring and sometimes derails an entire day of work due to the stress of such.

Not only can this be distressing, but can open the door to discrimination, unintentional outing of Trans people, and other issues that surround daily life that others take for granted.

Sophie  // @ClockworkGirl

The lack of ability for systems to acknowledge trans people is something that goes a lot deeper than most people think. It’s not just about trying to get through the pathologizing system of hoops to get legal recognition followed by the struggle of trying to update your records everywhere. Before that can even happen we go through a period where we simply have no belieable means to identify ourselves, which can be problematic and traumatizing and its something that we have virtually no control over to fix. Other people, particularly the psych industry are given ownership of our identities and bodies. In this period of trying to live our lives without matching ID reflecting who we are. We have to constantly out ourselves no matter if we do. Even just picking up your medication from the pharmacy can become suspected identity theft/fraud because people wont believe your ID is actually yours.

In a world where trans people are continuously discriminated and harassed, even by people who are supposed to be there to protect; like cops, thats not just nerve wrecking. It can become an outright threat to our lives and well-being. The casual disregard or outright refusal to account for our existence within critical systems is not just an assault on our identities, but a method of oppression.

I believe its time for us to stop asking nicely and hoping our allies will help restore our rights to identity and consent, and time to *demand* what is *rightfully* ours. We exist and we endure undue humiliation and abuse just to be ourselves all because people don’t find us important enough to implement actual change for. We *deserve* IDs that reflect who are and we *deserve* to have it without needing to beg strangers in the psych industry for consent to our identity. We *deserve* to be treated as real people. Equals. Not like property of others. All because seemingly people feel someones genitals does, and should define who they are and can be, as a human being. A sickingly concept that I wish the world would open their eyes and see. This should be an outrage… and yet for all our allies, for all our fighting, for all acknowledgement that being trans is not a mental illness then our consent and rights are still handed over to the psych industry by default.

For the cis-gendered people reading, I ask this: How would you feel if your authority over your own body and identity was *legally* taken away from you because someone didn’t feel it fit your genitals? How would you feel if you had to go through a humiliating and violating process thats potentially several years long, and having to spend a small fortune in the hope that you’ll meet the right stranger, the one that’ll finally accept accept you begging to be who you are is enough? Would you accept it happening to you? If so why aren’t you outraged that others are forced to go through it? How many of us have to die because of broken and abusive systems before you care enough to be outraged?

We are one people, and its my firm belief that if anything is going to get better we need to learn to acknowledge that no matter how different someones life, identity or skin colour is,then we are still one singular people. When we forget to care and stand up for each other, to insist fair treatment and equality not just for ourselves — but for all, we become less for it. Personally, and as a people. So we should remember the value of unity. To stand, and walk as one. To fight all the battles together, rather than for all to succumb to the crippling and ubiquitous lateral aggression that follows the dissolution of unity. It may be hard, but I believe we all have it in us, I believe in a day we treat each other with kindness and compassion, with respect — but the day will only come if we all choose unity and love over hate and indifference. It starts with you, and me. So wont you join the fight for a better future for all?

Josephine  // @josie

Having social anxiety and PTSD makes it very hard for me to go outside to buy basic things i need in my daily life. This often forces me to buy things online, but even that is not without complications when being trans. I had my credit card locked to my deadname on paypal for almost 6 months and they refused to change it even after i supplied the required documentation as proof of my existence. It was only when i broke into tears and told them i was trans that they finally agreed to look into the issue. It is very hard not feeling defeated when having to beg them to help with issues that cis people will have no problems getting fixed. But it doesn’t end here. Once the parcel finally arrives, there is also the constant fear of new delivery people who might not want to let me sign for the things I bought and paid for unless i pass to them. Being misgendered by delivery people is not uncommon and sometimes they even go out of their way not to look at me while i sign, which only makes my social issues worse.


It has always amazed me that my dignity as a human being, and respect from my peers can be tied to something as trivial as an entry in a database. While the examples of this are many in my life, I’d like to focus on just one example in one of the more important aspects of my life: employment and housing. During my transition on the job, I never would have thought that our companies computer system for the name badges could be tied to our payroll records. Further more, this name was tied to our companies single sign on system. In simple terms this meant that my work ID, email address, and employee records would all have my old name on them until my months long name change process in probate court could be heard.

At first, I didn’t think this would be a big deal. But soon I realized that it was beyond non-trivial. When I would swipe my employee ID at the door, the men at the security desk would literally freak out when they saw my name came up. Often I’d hear them comment about how glad they were that the computers warned them about my existence as I walked down the hallway. Daily work started to become near impossible as after talking to coworkers in remote offices, and sending them an email. They would instantly report it as a “scam” or some type of “fraud”. Again, I thought this would pass, but it only got worse. This pretty much made it impossible for me to carry out the responsibilities of my job, with everyone always questioning me if I really am who I say I am. At one point they issued a security alert in one of the offices because the name I gave on the phone didn’t match my employee ID, they even worked up all the fancy VPs and business men — Only to find out it was just me trying to help someone fix their problem. I soon realized that my fate and future in the company depended on a database entry I was powerless to update.

As if being unemployed isn’t enough, I’ve always struggled with housing, it has always been the same story. They require my legal name for credit reasons, and end up passing my legal name up to the people who do the interviews. They look at the name, they look at me, they look at the name, and then they ask me baiting questions like, “Do you bring a lot of boys back to your place?” – “Do you do hard drugs?” – “Do you hang out with people who do hard drugs?” – “I see you checked non-smoker, but is that really true?” – And so on, do I get a callback? No. Should I report things like this? I wish, but then I’d have no time left in my life for anything else. Its always degrading having other people instantly assume that you are into hard drugs and sex work, just because of a name on a screen.

These days, my name and gender marker are up to date on all my IDs — It makes a world of difference — But its far from the end of my struggles…

On hospitals / Olive

As a trans women, making the choice to get help through hospitalization was an extremely terrifying choice to make. I had been very resistant to getting help at first knowing that it would be hard to get the help I needed. It was a struggle I finally concurred and finally sought help, but sadly it was even more rough then I had anticipated. My attempts to advocate for myself fell on deaf ears at each turn. Finally scrambling and getting my GF to help advocate for me is what was needed in the end for the hospital staff to finally help with my situation.

Throughout the nightmare-ish 20 hours in the hole in the ER and the 72 hours I spent in the hospital, getting misgendered was common and painful as ever. Especially with my anxiety being as bad as it was at the time. I often got misgenderd by the food staff reading my deadname off the their chart when handing out food, which made getting food uncomfortable. Fortunately the other patients in the hospital didn’t use my dead name when referring to me.

While I was in there, I wasn’t able to get all the medication I need as a trans women. They stopped my testosterone blocker while I was in there and typically shorted me 2 mg of estrogen a day. The third day in the hospital, trying to get out of there before the weekend was difficult to say the least. I wouldn’t put it past the nurses to have not wanted to help get an appointment setup with the psych before the end of the day due to my trans status. I felt lied to pretty often when trying to get that ball rolling. During the meeting with the psych that my GF’s insistence helped bring about, the psych came across as looking down on my trans status. Only with the insistence of how trapped being in there made me feel was finally enough for the psych to sign the release papers. I wouldn’t put it past them to have used me being a trans women as an excuse to deny my voluntary 72 hour confinement form.

random things / Joella Sylvia

Nearly every day during the two week waiting period for my picture license was upsetting to me. Buying alcoholic beverages is annoying because i have to hand over an id of someone who doesn’t exist anymore whether I’m at a store, restaurant or bar. I got pulled over last week and that was terrible because i look nothing like a boy named Joel but my automobile insurance is in my legal name of Joella. Not having my picture id match all my other papers makes me feel like I have to explain myself everytime which “outs” myself and is unfair to have to put myself in that vulnerable of a position just because nothing matches fully on identifications. The hospital I worked at can print a photo ID in five minutes but the DMV can’t print a license on site!?

Having to pay fifty bucks for a reissued diploma is pricey to me. Haven’t i paid enough for the degree? It’s MY diploma. Health insurance was a mess since my hrt was still being billed for a male named Joel not a girl named Joella. So I needed prior authorization and had to use my old diy stash for 2 days because i ran out. My job is super cool with my identity but I’m angry that despite identifying myself on the phone as “Ella” people within my company still call me dude or sir. I wish that a memo could go out saying a woman named Ella works for store 188. The cost of name change, license, Birth Certificate and passport are pricey all because of what? to be who I am? I find it exciting and I giggle when I get to pick “female” for things like medical forms but there needs to be more options sometimes. My main gripe is not that the listed suggestions don’t allow name and gender change (it’s easy when you do it in order) it’s just how long and how much effort it takes to do. It’s 2017 and the process of name change took a freaking month in itself and during that month of time I basically had no identity. I actually spiraled and binge drank one night because I felt so lost. I existed in my heart as Joella, my coworkers, wife and friends called me Joella. But I had a car, marriage certificate, mortgage, paychecks, diploma, and medications from this Joel dude. I felt that I didn’t exist in the world.


As both a trans woman and someone with chronic health problems I’ve had to spend way more time than I’d like in doctor offices, labs, and hospitals. They systematically erase the truth of our existence. Sometimes I’ll get asked if my insurance is correct because my employer never did their job and corrected their records for me after I gave them government ID with my actual sex of female on it. Some medical offices will change the sex indicator in their records from F to M once they find out that you’re trans. Of all places that one would expect to know of the recent science saying that trans women are in fact female. This sometimes results in things like getting things in the mail from them that aren’t actually addressed to you, “Mr <last name>”, and such. Once when I was in the hospital for three days, as soon as they found out I’m trans they moved me to another (private) room without any consent from me. I think they may have charged me for both rooms too (and at the extreme US healthcare costs even), but of course when one has been so sick that an ER doctor admits her for three days she doesn’t really have the ability to thoroughly audit and dispute three pages of medical bills. I wasn’t even allowed the dignity of being clean shaven in all that time. Despite me telling the doctor what medications I was on (the usual spironolcatone and estradiol), I wasn’t given either of those the entire time I was there. And I have to pay thousands a year and 14 hours of labor and commute every business day for this? It’s terrible.

I have also seen sites attempting to be inclusive of LGBT people such as an LGBT cancer risk survey site I once saw. They massively screw up things relating to trans people that simply consulting a few trans people on could have fixed. They will make the common mistake of giving gender options as “male, female, transgender or other”, or something very similar to that. They completely ignore that many trans people are not a third gender and these kinds of things often overlook the diversity of those who are. So you, being a woman who just happened to be assigned male at birth due to some atypical anatomy, put female and then you are asked questions that assume you’re cis. Some of them won’t be answerable and others won’t be asked in ways that have any significant helpful effect for your health and well-being. This is merely one example that comes to mind of the way the medical industry systemically overlooks trans people and especially chronically ill trans women, even when attempting to be inclusive. We’ve all seen their claims of trans-specific care and surgery being “cosmetic” or “experimental” when the best data and experience of those who actually work with trans people say that it is indeed medically necessary for some of us. So I get denied my human right to healthcare for more than a decade and counting because of this nonsense.

Being trans has also given me a look at how one’s name is stored, processed, and used by various government and corporate systems. As part of the abuse I suffered as a child and young adult I was not allowed to choose a new name for myself when I first came out as a trans. I had to either accept my mother renaming me or continue to be called a male name. Obviously that’s not really a choice. To this day I am often faced with multiple identifiers that aren’t me but I have to pretend like they are, or once were to simply exist in the world. Some documents list me as something, some another. Work calls me one thing, the government something else. The people closest to me call me my actual name Signý. This name and one of the others, are uncommon names at least in the US. So, I’ve been through all manner of misspellings, mispronunciations, and other such things resulting in yet another way I don’t get to be called who I am. Anyone who has gone through a legal name change process knows what a massive pain it is along with significant financial and time cost. So it is not something that one can just go do. The fact that trans people are disproportionately poor just makes things like this even less accessible to us.

You may have noticed the ‘ý’ in my name too. Which I’m not too picky about because Signy or Signe are fine alternate spellings for me, but it’s an opportunity to point out another instance of technology ignoring and/or erasing people. Those with non-Anglo names can have a hard time getting their name to show up correctly in all manner of different fields, forms, documents, etc because those working the software behind it never considered the existence of names that contain characters beyond the “standard” A-Z.

And when you are barely holding onto life as it is, struggling through each day with no in-person support at all despite your disabilities, little things like seeing your actual name on a package, website, paper coffee cup, or actual gender on an ID or data sheet at the doctor office are all you have to remind yourself that you even have a self.


In a world where people feel constantly profile and constantly expose their information to others in exchange for goods, nothing is more sacred to people than the idea of privacy. For trans people in an unsafe environment that means becoming good at hiding, even from yourself. In an environment where your deadname is a curse you can’t break free of without hundreds of dollars and the hope that the people who control your records will grant you that request that continues your ability to survive.

These, and many more are the issues faced by virtually all trans people across the world. The painful struggles of invalidation, erasure and abuse a whole segment of the population must face on top of, and because of their bodies not matching society’s expectations for who they are as people. Can we as a people truly claim equality is a thing we care about when broken systems are allowed continue to exist, enabling abusive people to harass, discriminate and put a whole segment of the population at risk in such a major and pervasive way for something so inane? To treat trans people with respect and dignity it is imperative that trans people be accounted for in the systems that run the world we live in!

The Hypatia Software Organization is looking for mentors!

We’re looking for trans women and non-binary people who work with Python and are able to dedicate just an hour a week for six months to help raise our peers out of systemic homelessness and poverty.

We were all young programmers once, with those first few steps being hardest to take. The best way to succeed in making those steps is a positive and safe community with good mentorship — mentorship like yours. You can make a real impact in someone’s life. It may be hard to imagine, but your donation of just one hour a week will make a significant difference in their life, giving them the confidence and support they need to succeed.

With your help, we’ll be able to provide a career path and a solid resume to impoverished or homeless people who experience transmisogyny. You can empower them to contribute to the Free and Open Source community for the first time and to begin building a portfolio of work.

We are looking for mentors of all skill levels, to help out at every step of your mentee’s journey. Even if you’ve only been programming for a year, your expertise and knowledge is still valuable, and you will be able to help someone overcome the struggles you overcame. Unique challenges are present at every step of the way, and others are struggling with the same things as you. The knowledge you will be able to share is valuable.

We recognize that being a mentor is a huge step, with impostor syndrome being difficult to overcome. By mentoring with Hypatia you will be a welcome part of our supportive and nurturing community. We will give you all the assistance you need to feel sure of yourself and your abilities. We will also match you with a mentee who will benefit most from your unique skills and knowledge and who will grow through contributions that only you can make.

Fill out our volunteer application today!

HSO is pleased to announce: application to become a 501(c)(3) charity approved!

Hypatia Software Organization, Inc. (HSO), is now a registered United States Federal 501(c)(3) non-profit organization!

HSO filed paperwork to become a non-profit corporation in the State of Massachusetts. We became Hypatia Software Organization, Inc., at the end of September.  As of yesterday, we have received notice of approval for our application to become a Federal 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the United States! This has been the result of many months of hard work from many team members within the organization, and we would not have made it this far without everyone’s help.

Here is what becoming a 501(c)(3) means for you:

  1. If you pay taxes to the United States government, you can donate to HSO and receive a letter stating your donation amount, which you can use as a tax break.
  2. Assurance that your donations to HSO goes toward aiding experiencers of transmisogyny , providing education that will help enable procurement of employment in coding and systems administration jobs, as well as direct charitable relief.
  3. We will continue our policy of openness and transparency, with a number of exciting new ways to showcase all the good work we are doing.
Hypatia Software would like to take this time to thank our community, our supporters and our allies.  It is because of your support that HSO was able to accomplish this important step.  We are now more able to continue our mission of offering direct aid, a nurturing community, and mentorship to those who are experiencing transmisogyny.  We at HSO are truly excited to embark on this next stage in our future.  Exciting things to come!

Interested in helping our mission?

There are many ways people can help out! If you would like to make a secure tax deductible donation to Hypatia today you can do so directly via our donation page, 100% of all donations go directly to furthering our mission.  If you would like to volunteer, consider filling our our volunteer application! People with any skill-set are welcome, we are always looking for new mentors, creative writers, programmers, graphic designers, and more!

HTTP/SSL Made Easy With FreeBSD + Nginx + Certbot!


Recently at Hypatia Software Organization we decided to enhance the security of our servers by improving our HTTPS (encryption) support. Use of strong encryption enhances the privacy of our members, volunteers, donors, as well as the Hypatia community at large. In the past deploying strong HTTPS to a web-server was a costly and time-consuming process that required buying an X.509 certificate from a Certificate Authority (CA). This has changed with the creation of the Let’s Encrypt CA, a CA that provides cost free X.509 certificates via a public API, as well as Certbot a client that utilizes the this API to turn certificate generation into a simple process that anyone running a web-server can do!

logo-fullNow that the basics are out of the way, lets get down to how to deploy Certbot on your web-server to obtain a cost free X.509 certificate for yourself! In this example we will be using FreeBSD 10.2-RELEASE using Nginx 1.8.1 as a web-server. The process is fairly simple and requires at least basic understanding of the shell.  In the examples we provide we are using ZSH as our shell and the prompt will be denoted by a “%” character.  Before you can get started you will need a valid domain name pointed to the server that you wish to obtain a certificate with. Additionally you will need to install git and python, you can install them with the following command:

% pkg install git python

Once you have the required packages, the rest is easy. First lets clone the Certbot repository from Github:

% git clone

Now all that’s left to do is obtain our Certificate, Certbot will automatically install any system dependencies and create a Python Virtual Environment to manage any Python packages it requires. In this example we will be requesting a certificate for the following domains:, This process will take several steps that will be noted with comments (Text after the “#” character):

# Change directories to the freshly cloned certbot repository
 % cd certbot
 # Stop Nginx (nothing can be using port 443 when Certbot runs)
 % service nginx stop
 # Obtain our certificate!
 % ./letsencrypt-auto --debug certonly --standalone -d -d
 # Start our web-server back up:
 % service nginx start

And that’s it! You will now have a certificate in /etc/letsencrypt/live/, where is the first domain listed in the above letsencrypt-auto command.

One more suggested security enchantment you can implement for your users is generating your own strong and unique Diffie-Hellman (DH) Key which is used for exchanging cryptographic keys between the client (web-browser) and server. This can easily be done with the following commands which will yield a 4096-bit DH key:

% cd /usr/local/etc/ssl/
% openssl dhparam -out dhparams.pem 4096

Now that you have a new X.509 certificate I’m sure you would like to deploy it to your web-server. Here is our basic Nginx configuration. We store it in a separate file and include it in our /usr/local/etc/nginx/nginx.conf file. By doing this it makes it easy to include the same settings and headers in all of our HTTPS virtual hosts. While this could be written a bit more clean we find it works very well. To include the common file, you will need to add the line “include ssl_common.conf;” to your configuration file, it should look something like this:

http {
      server {
              listen 443 ssl;
              include ssl_common.conf;

Here is the contents of our /usr/local/etc/nginx/ssl_common.conf file:

# Thanks to for providing a great reference! Please check out their site
# to make sure your SSL Configuration is up to date with current standards! Be aware that in this
# example we use a slightly liberal cipherlist to allow for older browsers on older devices, Eg.
# IE8, android 2.4, etc
# Enable Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS)
ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;
ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/;
ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/;
# Disable SSLv2 and SSLv3 (BEAST and POODLE attacks)
ssl_protocols TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2;
# Enable our strong DH Key
ssl_dhparam /usr/local/etc/ssl/dhparams.pem;
# Cipher-list for PFS.
ssl_ecdh_curve secp384r1;
# Requires nginx >= 1.1.0
ssl_session_cache shared:SSL:10m;
ssl_session_tickets off;
# Requires nginx >= 1.5.9
ssl_stapling on;
# Requires nginx >= 1.3.7
ssl_stapling_verify on;
# Requires nginx => 1.3.7
resolver valid=300s;
resolver_timeout 5s;
# HSTS Support
add_header Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=63072000;includeSubdomains; preload";
# These headers can break applications, be careful!
add_header X-Frame-Options DENY;
add_header X-Content-Type-Options nosniff

After making these changes you must restart your web-server:

% service nginx restart

Now you should have HTTPS running with a certificate from the Let’s Encrypt CA! If you would like to test your server for configuration errors, I strongly recommend using to test your server configuration. If you follow this guide and checked for any changes, you should get an A+ on SSLabs’ test. Good luck and happy hacking!a-plus

Further reading

Special Thanks to FundClub for Helping to Raise $8,500!!

fundclub On behalf of Hypatia Software Organization I would like to extend a special thank you to the people at FundClub who were able to raise $8,500 USD for us!! We are extremely excited about this development, and cannot wait to begin the difficult, but important work ahead. These funds give us the ability to fully offer our services to homeless, and disenfranchised, trans women.

We are planning on using the funds assist Hypatia in some of the following core areas:

  • Streamlining and expanding the mentorship program
  • Emergency cash relief funds to assist in buying HRT, bus fare, etc.
  • Laptops for homeless / disenfranchised trans women
  • Public speaking
  • Overhead (eg. VPS, domains, service providers)
  • Assisting with internships
  • Creating job opportunities
Thanks again to the FundClubyou are an amazing group!

It is an honor to have be added to the ever growing list of organizations that you have helped empower though your good will.We at Hypatia will do our best to put these new funds to work, in the spirit that they were given.

The next steps will be decided at our weekly Membership Meetings, which currently are every Sunday at 5:00PM CST and last one hour.  If you would like to attend, please join the #member-meeting channel on the Slack Team. If you need to be invited to the Slack Team, please fill out either the Volunteer, or Benefits Application, and we will invite you as soon as we can.

Lisa Marie Maginnis

Hypatia Software Organization