by Jameson Hampton
The actual act of writing code while trans feels a whole lot like writing code while not-trans. Turns out, coming out as trans didn’t affect my ability to write code much at all! Who would have known??
But writing code isn’t the only thing I do as a programmer and a lot of those ‘code adjacent’ parts of my career do feel a lot different since I came out!
[a drawing of someone packing a suitcase]
Me, packing to go to a conference and agonizing about what gender clothes to pack more of
Thought bubble: Hm… this shirt only looks good when I’m wearing my binder and I might not be able to wear it every day if the weather in Phoenix is hot!
[a drawing of someone at a laptop computer]
Me, agonizing about how many followers I have on Twitter, which is a completely universal experience in the tech community as far as I can tell
Thought bubble: Hm… my friend Emily has like 14k followers and they get harassed by anti-trans people way more than I do… maybe 588* followers isn’t so bad!
*my actual follower count at the time of writing this
Sidenote about Twitter!
It’s inexplicable to me why I get so upset when a stranger on the Internet who I don’t know or like calls me a freak or some crappy insult, but it gets to me anyway!
[a drawing of an egg]
That guy who was a jerk to me on Twitter
[a drawing of a fried egg in a frying pan]
What I’d like to do to him
I’m nonbinary*, but since I was assigned female at birth, I was already a minority in the tech industry even before I came out. But I was part of an awesome community of really kickass women in tech!
-not a man
-not a woman
-not a binary gender – see how that works?
-they/them/theirs pronouns (for me personally)
Now I’m out and I’m part of an even smaller minority and I don’t feel as welcome as I used to in my old community ):
There are lots of women in tech groups – and some of them are nonbinary inclusive! But not all of them are and sometimes it’s hard for me to tell the difference – which can be a source of a lot of anxiety!
[picture of an email]
From: Women Techmakers
Your talk got accepted for our conference this April in Montreal!
My Thought Process…
1st: Yay I got accepted!
2nd: Omg they know I’m not a woman, right? I PUT THAT IN MY APPLICATION, RIGHT?!?
3rd: I totally did. And they want me to speak anyway. Yay!
4th: I hope it’s not awkward at the conference… ETC
*Footnote: WTM was a great conf, they knew I was nb, it was very inclusive and not awkward! Yay!
When I ask if I’m welcome at their events, some groups say things like…
“Well I guess you can come but it’s not really meant for non-women” ):
And other groups say things like…
“Yes, we want to support all non-men – women AND nonbinary people!” (:
(Every time a woman says that first one to me, it makes me want to start a group for nonbinary people so I can saw, “Well, it’s not really meant for men or women…” That’s a spiteful reason to do it, but it’s not a bad idea!)
Anyway, even though I’m transmasculine, when it comes to tech industry stuff, I tend to think of myself more as a “non-man” than a “non-woman” – because I don’t have all the advantages that a man does!
That’s what’s so frustrated about not being included in discussions about women in tech. Since I still look like a woman to strangers, I still get discriminated against in all the exact same ways as before – plus the discrimination for being trans on top of it. Being transmasculine and telling people I’m not a woman doesn’t magically get me a ticket into the boys club.
But getting lumped in with women’s groups isn’t totally comfy either. It’s great when people include me but it’s still weird to be in organizations with just “women” in the name. I feel like I’m being erased when I’m mentioned in things, like, “CHECK OUT THESE AWESOME WOMEN (and nonbinary people) IN TECH!!!”
I know that’s not totally fair because they’re trying to be inclusive by including me at all, but that’s what it feels like sometimes! Language is important! It feels a little bit like saying, “You’re allowed to be here, but you’re not important enough to be in the name.”
By the way, speaking of coming out, let’s talk about that for a second!
I think a lot of people have this perception that “coming out” is like this big profound event that you do once and then it’s an accomplishment in your past, like graduating from high school. But actually, coming out is an exhausting daily conversation with no end. If you’re lucky, you’ll get better at if over time, but you never really stop having to do it.
[A pie chart that’s mostly overlapping captioned “People I’ve Ever Met” and “People Who Know I’m Queer”]
See, this chart looks pretty good! But here’s the other part of it.
[a single circle captioned “People I’ve Never Met”]
And once people move from the “never met” chart to the “people I’ve met” chart, they don’t just magically get imbued with knowledge of my queerness. I have to tell them and “come out” to them if I want them to know. (And I do want them to know, because otherwise they’ll just assume I’m a woman and refer to me accordingly, which isn’t good for me.)
Coming out to new people as I meet them isn’t as dramatic as coming out to everyone in my life for the first time, but it does still carry some of that weight and fare. What if they react badly and reject me? What if they react really badly and try to hurt or assault me? ):
For me, this means every time I go to a conf and give a talk, I have to stand on stage and come out again to a room of strangers, which is pretty daunting! So why do I keep doing it?
~Because being myself is also super rewarding!~
[Sticker of a happy donut]
How I feel when people get my pronouns right <3
[Sticker of a happy cupcake]
How I feel when I think about how everyone in my life uses my chosen name now <3
People could always react badly, but the positive reactions make it so worthwhile!
DM to @jameybash: I was worried I couldn’t pull off transmasculine with blue hair, but you do it so I know it can be done!
“I really learned something from your talk. It changed the way I think about trans issues, I had my friends watch it too!”
Plus, as a developer, sometimes I have the opportunity to make a difference!
Me: Hey, what if I put a third option in this gender dropdown?
My Client: Sure, whatever
Okay, my client doesn’t actually care either way, but now I’ve made the Internet a better place for all the nonbinary people who ever use this site!
All I can do is keep being myself and talking about these things and being as awesome as possible and hoping that awesome rubs off subconsciously on everyone around me. In the wise words of Gerard Way (who is also nonbinary!): “You’ve got to make a choice if the music drowns you out and raise your voice every single time they try to shut your mouth!”
Thanks for reading! Find Jameson online at jameybash.com or on twitter at @jameybash <3