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What’s in a name; what’s in a title

Commentary: Trans Progressive

I surrendered use of my name given at birth, Stephen Mark Sandeen, in 2003 because that name no longer fit me. At age 44 I finally embraced what I first knew about my sex and gender at age fourteen – yet at 14 I was not able to fully accept that personal truth, in large part because of what I was taught in the Pentecostal Church, I was raised in, regarding transsexual people. I didn’t understand what the Bible had to say about variant sex and gender in Isaiah 56:3-5 and Matthew 19:12; I didn’t understand how 1 Samuel 16:7b applied to me:

“God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

My heart was female even though I was born male-bodied.

My parents were very spiritual people who very much embraced their Christian faith. My parents gave me the first name of Stephen, named after the Christian faith’s first recorded martyr. The name Stephen means “crowned,” which is in direct reference to the laurel wreath crown placed on the head of winning Olympians in ancient Greek Olympic Games.

I was also named after the Apostle Mark. Mark being the apostle traditionally credited with writing the second Gospel of the New Testament. The meaning of the name Mark is “consecrated to the god Mars.” It’s also interpreted to me as “warring” or “warlike.” It’s an interesting middle name given my 20-years of service in the Navy.

I legally changed my name to Autumn Violet Sandeen in 2003 when I began my transition. I picked that name for several reasons. My name reflects all of the colors of the changing leaves of autumn. Also, after the first two seasons of spring and summer comes the third season, autumn. At 44 I was entering into what I saw as the third season of my life. And, as I’ve come to understand the name Autumn as I’ve grown older, it’s a name that reflects the season of harvest – reaping what one sows in an earlier season.

Violet is a name that carries through that embrace of vibrant color.

In the life I led under the name Stephen, I had three children. Each of them was named with a “bird” middle name, and on my back is the only tattoo I have on my body, and in that tattoo are three herons that represent those three children. Those herons reflect I’m a parent.

What comes in a name; what comes in a title … well, I don’t hold the titles of mom or mother, but instead hold the titles of dad and father. Those titles reflect my personal history, and it’s a history of living and presenting to the world as male before transitioning in 2003. It’s also a personal history that I fully embrace, so there are masculine titles that are connected to the woman I am now because of that history.

I accept the contradiction of being a female dad because my love for my children is as unconditional as I humanly make it. For their sake I embrace a title and role that with just a hint of pain misgenders me. It is what it is.

So even though there’s a hint of pain in the titles of dad and father, I’m not my children’s mother – they already have a mother and it’s not me.

With us in life we carry names and titles, and many of us embrace identities that on some level define us. Mine include Autumn, father, military veteran, transsexual, transgender and LGBT community member. As much as some of us would like to do away with titles, in the brick-and-mortar world we carry these with us – for better or worse. I like to think mine are for the better. v



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Posted by LGBT Weekly on Sep 6, 2012. Filed under Trans Progressive. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

9 Comments for “What’s in a name; what’s in a title”

  1. I know of no definition of female that includes having a penis.

  2. Too true. I wonder when they will reach a tipping point and society will say enough? They se determined to push things well say any reasonable point…well actually, they already have.

  3. Nature displays physical genders that cross the bounds of male and female. That’s true for both human and animals alike.

    Perhaps gender is all just a social construct, so what…Autumn and I then identify with the social construct we refer to as “women” and “female”. You can respect our right to self identity so long as we cause no harm or not. Entirely up to you but really, there is little excuse for being rude, haughty, and arrogant. Those, by the way, were some of the same traits that God cited as the sins of Sodom.

    Sadly, these sins are conveyed to the children. That’s plainly clear.

    Transgender people however do not, however, have transgender children. If the Bible is to be believed and the sins follow generations…maybe it’s not a sin ;) *hint* *hint* *nod* *nod*

    • Sorry, but no. I don’t buy into the social construct silliness for gender, and to try to extend it to physical sex is completely absurd. Sandeen, and I assume you, are transgressing social rules simply for your own pleasure. You may not see that as harmful but that does not mean that it is not. If nothing else your behavior brings harm to those who actually are transsexual.

      Gender is not a social construct. It is rooted in the physical sex of the brain. It is evident a lot sooner than puberty. And it is not subject to choice. Gender transgression is a chice, and as such should not be subject to legal protections.

      • Actually, neurological studies have found differences, mostly in white matter, between transsexual brains and brains of cissexual people of the same biological sex. (More specifically, female-to-male transsexuals have “male” brains, while male-to-female transsexuals have brains halfway between male and female.) http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20032-transsexual-differences-caught-on-brain-scan.html summarizes the topic nicely and links to three peer-reviewed scientific studies on the subject.

        • Actually, there are other studies that have found stronger evidence for in the brains of male to female transsexuals and females. Some of the most interesting evidence involves the feeling, or lack of feeling, of phantom body parts. This is a new area that is just being studied. Some FTMs report feeling phantom penises that never were. In some transsexuals there is no sensation of phantom penises after surgery. The of course many who claim to be transsexuals cannot bear to part with theirs. It is all very interesting.

          • Somehow, the word “similarities” went missing in the above. There are studies that show strong similarities between the brains of male to female transsexuals and normal females. And these similarities are in areas related to sexual-linked behavior.

  4. I met Autumn several (approximately eight) years ago when she when she answered an ad I placed for an apartment for rent. She was at the beginning of her transition and yes she looked like a guy in a dress. When interviewing my prospective residents I try to spend a little time with them to get a feel as to whether or not they will fit into my apartment community. It was only a matter of minutes before I no longer saw a man in a dress but a very nice person, a nice human in need of a place to live, hopefully where she could have some quiet and a little peace from the name calling and harassment many of those of you who are transsexual and/or transgender have endured during your transitions. While it is true being an activist brings a lot of unwanted negativity from a lot of different people, for the most part she was able to get that peace and quiet other than the stones thrown at her in the comments from her articles and blogs.

    My father was a Baptist Minister, but fortunately I was never taught to hate anyone. Instead I was taught the teachings of Christ that said we are to love one another and not judge people. I do understand some of the points of view from the religious right although I don’t subscribe to them. What I don’t understand is people from the LGBT community, especially transsexual and transgender people, who write such hateful things to and about her. Even if I didn’t know her I wouldn’t understand the hatefulness. In these last eight years I have gotten to know her very well and have learned to love her like a sister and am proud to call her my friend. I have met other trans women some in transition and some who have completed transition and for the most part they are just like any other human beings who just want to be who they are without all of the prejudice they have to endure. For those of you who have transitioned and are so hateful to other transsexual and transgender people, I can only say shame on you. And, why do you care so much?

  5. I don’t hate anyone. I sImply prefer reality and reason. I do not accept the idea that simply saying one is a woman makes it so, and even less so the idea that females have penises.

    For the record, and to be clear, I do not identify as transgender nor do I accept qalifying terms such as “trans” woman. I believe people are either me or women. If you feel the need to fudge, well I find that odd. Even if you claim to be post-op. And I tend to look at behavior. I don’t care how you look, and I have seen people you might never “clock” visually, if you think and behave like a man, if you had a long and successful career as a man, or you cannot seem to let go of being a man,,,well let’s just say that I am not buying your story. Transsexuals are rare. Sadly, those who are drawn to the idea are not.

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