A decade of AutumnBottom Highlights, Trans Progressive Thursday, February 7th, 2013
Commentary: Trans Progressive
Feb. 6 2003, I went to my place of employment as Autumn for the first time.
As many already know, I served in the U.S. Navy from 1980 through 2000. I’m a retired, disabled, Persian Gulf War veteran; my disabilities are service connected and my Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability rating is 100 percent. In early February 2003, I started working for the VA’s San Diego Healthcare System in La Jolla as a student work study. My low paying job at the Patient Health Library on that February day (and for many more days following that day) was to serve the disabled veterans who needed help with materials. I obtained that job as a student work study for a whopping twenty-five hours a week because I was using VA benefits toward obtaining an Information Systems degree at National University.
That day I had a limited idea of what my life was going to be like from that day forward. Not only has my appearance changed dramatically in these past 10 years, but so too has my life dramatically changed during those years after I decided to publicly live the gender I know I am between my ears. (Having a gender identity that didn’t match my natal sex wasn’t something I chose, but my decision to live as a female certainly was a choice – a great choice.)
There is a grainy photo taken at the Patient Health Library on my first day as Autumn which is included with this column. I’d say now that it’s not a very pretty picture of me, but it is a photo that has a lot of meaning for me. Day one being fully out to the world, in a very visible way, is a pretty significant thing, and having a photo of me from that day is a pretty wonderful thing.
I had an epiphany at 14 – while mowing the backyard at my family’s home, of all things – that I was a transsexual, but I talked myself out of that basic truth almost immediately. I talked myself out of that basic truth because I wasn’t heterosexual in my target sex of female, and I mistakenly thought one had to be heterosexual in one’s target sex to transition.
As a veteran, I had therapy through the VA medical system. On the first day I had access to mental health services and met with a psychiatrist I told him I had gender concerns. At the time my mantra involved telling myself that I wasn’t sure if I was a transsexual, but I was absolutely sure I was more than a crossdresser. I communicated that mantra to the doctor, and he assigned me to one of their staff therapists.
At 44 I had another epiphany right after I had just completed one of many conversations with my therapist, after again stating that same mantra. Walking down the second floor hallway of the VA Medical Center I remember the three sentences of my internal conversation, “Who the hell are you kidding? You know you’re a transsexual. You know you’re female.”
So with my therapist and an endocrinologist, I planned the first months of my transition. I spent three months going to work as Autumn without hormones, and April 10, 2003 I took my first conjugated estrogen tablet. May 4 of that year I began living as Autumn 24/7, and the following July 3 I changed my legal name from Stephen Mark Sandeen to Autumn Violet Sandeen.
As many of you know from reading my recent columns, last year I changed my legal sex in California from male to female. In many senses my transition is over. I’m still a transsexual and I’m still transgender, but the process of my transition is pretty much over.
A decade of transition; a decade of living as Autumn. It’s been my season now for 10 years, and in my mind that’s a good thing.
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