In primary school, I tended to associate more with the girls than the boys; in many of the classes in primary school, we used to sit on the same table for lessons, and I nearly always sat at a table with just girls on rather than boys or a mixture of the two. In general, the girls seemed to be better behaved and more hard-working too, and I felt a lot more similar to them than the boys, who tended to be noisier and more disruptive.
With secondary school, I chose an all-boys school, because I preferred the atmosphere there, and it had a better reputation than the only co-educational school in the area at the time. Three years later, the school I was at merged with the girls school next door and became co-educational, but, by that time, I felt rather “out of touch” with the girls, as well as having to deal with puberty, and initially found it hard to relate to them (although a lot of this may have been due to my Aspergers too).
At that stage, I hadn’t yet accepted that I was transgender though; even if I had, it would have been pretty much suicide to “come out” as trans at school; I was the target for a lot of bullying already on account of being very bright and quite eccentric (which I now know was probably due to having Aspergers), so to be “out” as trans as well would have made the bullying several times worse, to the point of being even more unbearable than it was.
In one of the vacations during my third year at university, I saw a television programme about transgender people, which struck a chord with me, and was the first time that I seriously considered the possibility of being transgender myself and switching gender role to live as a woman. Later that year, I was away on holiday at a religious “experience week” run by the Unitarians in Derbyshire (my father being a Unitarian minister), where I took part in a play that they were putting on; I played a part in drag (a character called “Miss Print”), and stayed in my costume afterwards when we went for a drink in the pub; a couple of young women I knew there noticed how much happier and more relaxed I seemed; the conversation we had that night was the first time that anyone else had realised about my feelings towards my gender, and the support and acceptance that those two women showed towards me was the first time that I realised that this was something that might actually be possible for me to do, in the real world.
In my fourth year at university, I gradually became a lot more “out” about myself, initially getting involved with the university’s Queer Rights group, who were the most appropriate university society to deal with transgender issues at the time. With the support of a friend who was transsexual, I took the step of living full-time as a woman during my penultimate term at university, which I found very liberating, and made me feel so much happier in myself; however my parents took it very badly (I think they were worried about how it would affect my job prospects upon graduation amongst other things), so I ended up reverting to live as male for my final term.
It’s only in recent years that I considered the possibility of transitioning to live as a woman; prior to that, I didn’t even mention anything transgender related at work, and just dressed as Ruth outside work; mainly when I was with friends from the bisexual community who were very much accepting of me. It was through them that I met my wife Sonia, who has always known me as Ruth; on our wedding day, we had a special Pagan hand fasting ceremony where we married as two wives, in addition to a church wedding where we married legally as husband and wife (although Sonia has always referred to me as her wife rather than her husband).
In early 2008, I found a website called Salon Geek, www.salongeek.com – while doing a Google search on transgender stuff (there was a thread on there discussing transgender clients, I seem to remember), so I joined up to the site (as Ruth), and introduced myself and commented on some threads. One of the threads was about someone who wanted a website done; as I had experience of web design (having worked in Java web development for around 8 years at the time), I commented on the thread and ended up doing a website for her; that led on to me doing more websites for salons, and getting a good reputation on the site as a web designer. This was the first time that I had seriously considered the possibility of a career as Ruth (which everyone on the site knew me as); I had the idea of designing a salon software system and getting enough work as to no longer need to do IT contract work, thus being able to transition to live as Ruth full-time.
In the autumn of 2009, I took a break from IT contract work to attempt to pursue that dream; however things did not go quite as planned, as I initially spent too much time on web design work, rather than on coding the salon software system, and charging way too little for my web design work, so had to go back to IT contract work after a few months, on account of running out of money.
However, as time went on, I started to feel more and more unhappy about my gender (having had the chance to live as Ruth while working from home on the web design stuff for several months), so decided to take the step of properly changing my name to Mrs Ruth Donna Mills by deed poll (which I did back in August this year), with the aim of finally doing a proper transition to live as a woman.
Shortly after having changed my name, I plucked up the courage to tell the guy that I currently do some contract work for that I’d changed my name, although was still OK to present as male for the contract work for the time being. Thankfully, he was absolutely fine with that (I was a bit worried, as one never knows how someone would take news like that); my main reason for continuing to present as male for the contract work for the time being is that I am still having electrolysis done on my face, and have to grow my facial hair out a few days before each electrolysis session; I wouldn’t want to risk attempting to present as female in the office whilst still having noticeable facial hair growth.
On reflection, I think it was my own fears of not being accepted by people, or of risking the loss of my career that prevented me from transitioning ; having taken the step of changing my name and being “out” about my gender, I’ve found that people have taken it a lot better than I had imagined.
In terms of work, the most important event by far was discovering the Salon Geek website and getting a good reputation as a web designer, and thus realising that it was possible to work as Ruth and be accepted for who I am, and that people would be happy to get me to work for them on account of the quality of work I was able to deliver, and not be put off because I was transgender.
I would say to an employer looking at taking on somebody who is transgender that it would be very silly indeed to discriminate on account of someone being transsexual or transgender; it’s something which should really not affect someone’s ability to do the work.
On reflection my career has been absolutely key to my life; it’s what I spend the majority of my time doing, and something that I really enjoy. It’s also been the primary means I’ve had of supporting myself since graduating from university. This is one of the main reasons that I’ve delayed transitioning for as long as I have, as I didn’t want to risk losing my career.
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