When I was struggling with the decision to transition, one of my chief concerns was the expectation that I would be committing career suicide. I found many examples in the media of successful transgender celebrities, performers, models, writers, and activists. I also found many examples of transgender professionals who had carved out a life focused on care for others in our community. I am eternally grateful to these people. They deserve a lot of the credit for opening society’s eyes, advancing our laws, and changing people’s attitudes.
But what about people like me? Could I find examples of transsexual women who— in spite of their failure to conform to gender norms—had carved out successful careers in fields similar to mine? I began to scour the Internet for examples of people who were open about their transgender background but who were successful for things unrelated to gender. Following is a list of people whose lives and accomplishments particularly inspired me. They gave me hope during some of my darkest hours.
Society stereotypes us as people who are consumed with makeup and clothes. I spent more time examining the lives of these women than I did thinking about feminine finery. Leandra Vicci, one of the women profiled here, was kind enough to counsel me. “Tina,” she said, “people assume that we transition because we are obsessed with our gender. In fact, we transition so that we can finely stop thinking about it.”
Lynn Conway — Executive, Computer Chip Pioneer
Career: Designed advanced supercomputers for IBM (fired in 1968 upon revealing plans to transition). Returned to work as a woman for Memorex and then Xerox PARC, where she led the LSI Systems Group. Coauthored Introduction to VLSI Systems, the standard text in chip design at 100 universities. Joined DARPA as key architect on Defense Departments Strategic Computing Initiative. Finished her career as a professor at the University of Michigan. Invented several technologies that revolutionized chip design.
Education: BS, MSEE, Columbia University.
Awards: IEEE Fellow. Computer Pioneer Award, IEEE. Member National Academy of Engineering. National Achievement Award, Society of Women Engineers. Electronic Design Hall of Fame. Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Award. Honorary Doctorate, Trinity College.
Margaret Stumpp — Chief Investment Officer
Career: 20 years as Chief Investment Officer for Prudential Financial’s $80 billion investment management subsidiary, Quantitative Investment Management Associates. Her research and opinions have been covered in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Forbes and on CNBC. She has published articles in: The Financial Analyst’s Journal, The Journal of Portfolio Management, and the Journal of Investment Management. She also worked at AT&T and Price Waterhouse.
Education: BA, Economics, Boston University. MA and PhD in Economics, Brown University.
Affiliations: Q-Group in Finance, Journal of Investment Management, CFA Institute, CQA, NY Society of Security Analysts, Executive Women of NJ, Financial Women’s Association of NY.
Amanda Simpson — Test Pilot, Flight Ops Director, Public Servant
Career: Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the United States Army (Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology). Deputy Director, Advanced Missiles & Unmanned Systems, Raytheon. Director of Flight Operations / Test Pilot, Hughes Missile Systems.
Activism / Public Service: Board member to: Raytheon Global Women’s Network, Raytheon GLBT & Allies Alliance, Raytheon Diversity Council. Winner 2004 Democrat primary in Arizona District 26. Associate Fellow, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
In the News: First openly transgender woman political appointee to any presidential administration.
Megan (Michael) Wallent — Microsoft Executive, Windows Explorer Leader
Career: Currently Corporate VP, Microsoft Business Systems. Previously General Manager overseeing development of Windows Explorer versions 5.5 and 6, reporting directly to Bill Gates.
Education: BA, Computer Science.
Personal Life: Lives with wife Anh and three children. Private pilot. Diehard Boston sports fan.
Activism: Member, Board of Directors, Out and Equal. Maintained very transparent blog detailing her transition.
Medical Update: In 2013, Megan announced that she is transitioning back to Michael. It isn’t because she regrets her transition. Rather, she has learned that she has a genetic predisposition to blood clots and is in a high-risk category for hormone therapy. She prefers to stay alive in order to be with her wife and children.
Gina Duncan — Mortgage Banker, Star Linebacker
Career: Regional Manager, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. President, Metropolitan Business Association of Orlando. Small Business Owner (Art in Voyage travel consulting).
Public Service: Ran unsuccessfully for Orange County Commissioner.
Personal Life: Star linebacker for undefeated high school football team. Homecoming king. Married 25 years with two children. Now lives with dog, Boo, in College Park, Florida. Loves skiing, college football and long distance running.
Martine Rothblatt — Entrepreneur, Lawyer & Author
Career: Founder & CEO, United Therapeutics (highest paid female CEO in 2013); Founder, Sirius Radio and GeoStar. Published The Apartheid of Sex.
Social Activism: launched the Terasem Movement, a transhumanist school of thought focused on promoting joy, diversity, and the prospect of technological immortality.
Personal Life: Married for 34 years with four children and four grandchildren.
Gina Kamentsky — Inventor, Artist, Musician
Career: Toy inventor, sculptor, comic book artist, animator, and musician. Well known in the toy industry as the creator of the hit game Chicken Limbo. Worked at Fischer Price Toys before becoming an independent toy designer. Gina has collaborated on the design of a miniature golf course, invented interactive candy, dolls, card games and wacky kinetic sculpture. Her creations have been featured in the New York Times, Metropolis, LA Style, and Home Magazine and are housed throughout the United States.
Personal Life: When not inventing, Gina can be found playing bass fiddle in the hillbilly band The Fritters or zooming around Massachusetts with the East Coast Biker Chicks.
Nicole Ashley Hamilton — IT Pioneer, Entrepreneur
Career: Developed Microsoft’s first search engine. Named as inventor on seven U.S. patents. Founder / CEO of Hamilton Laboratories. Previously managed software development departments and projects at Prime Computer, IBM, Microsoft, and RealNetworks.
Education: MBA Valedictorian, Boston University; BS and MS, Electrical Engineering, Stanford University.
Personal Life: Two sons. Self-described tomboy. Loves fast motorcycles, hiking and bicycling. Wardrobe comes from REI. Firearms instructor and competitive shooter.
Audrey Tang — Entrepreneur, Software Programmer
Career: Free software programmer, described as one of the “ten greats of Taiwanese computing”. Best known for initiating and leading Pugs, a joint effort to implement the Perl 6 language. Has also contributed to SVK, Request Tracker, and Slash. Has led Chinese translation efforts for various Open Source books. A reputation for “penetrating insight into code and an uncanny knack for encouraging the people who write it.”
Education: IQ reportedly 180. Unable to adapt to student life, dropped out of school at 14.
Personal Life: At 24, began to life as a woman, citing a need to “reconcile my outward appearances with my self-image.”
Kate Craig-Wood — Technology Entrepreneur
Career: Focuses on Green IT, Cloud Computing. Selected at 20th most influential person in British ICT by Computer Weekly’s UKTech50. Co-founded Memset Dedicated Server Hosting. Board member of Intellect UK. Fellow of British Computer Society. Steering Board Member of European Cloud Partnership.
Public Service: Chair of Intellect UK’s Climate Change Group; Outspoken advocate for women in IT.
Personal Life: Loves motorcycling, surfing, SCUBA, Skiing. Licensed helicopter pilot.
Michela Ledwidge — Writer, Director, Producer, Systems Architect
Career: Founder / Director of MOD Productions. Focused on Visual Storytelling. Won Sydney Film Festival’s Peter Rasmussen Innovation Award for her cutting edge screen projects. Board Member, Australian Directors Guild. Lecturer, University of Sydney. Set up the first web site in New South Wales (1993).
Janet Furman — Entrepreneur, Musician
Career: Founder of Furman Sound, a professional audio and AC power products manufacturing company. Business development counselor at SCORE. Live Recording Technician for the Grateful Dead.
Personal Life: Amateur bass player. Avid runner, featured in Runner’s World.
Education: BSEE, Columbia University.
Deirdre McCloskey — Noted Economist
Career: Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago. Previously on the faculties at the University of Iowa and University of Chicago. By reputation a conservative economist of the University of Chicago school, she describes herself as a Christian libertarian.
Publications: Author of sixteen books, most recently, Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World. Author of 400 scholarly pieces.
Honors: Honorary doctorates from universities in Sweden, Guatemala, Denmark, Ireland, and the USA. Phi Beta Kappa Lecturer, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow.
Education: BA and PhD in Economics, Harvard University.
Rachael Padman — Cambridge Astrophysicist
Career: University Lecturer, Cambridge (UK), Deputy Project Scientist, James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (Hawaii). Miller Research Fellow, Berkeley (California).
Education: Electrical Engineering, Monash University, PhD in Astronomy, Cavendish Laboratory.
Research Interests: Millimeter wave optics and receiver systems; Low-mass star formation; Spectral-line data reduction software.
Joan Roughgarden — Evolutionary Biologist
Career: Taught at Stanford University from 1972 to 2011. Now semi-retired as a faculty member at Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. Author of 8 books and 178 articles. Associate Editor or Co-Editor of Philosophy and
Theory in Biology, American Naturalist, Oecologia, and Theoretical Population Biology.
Contributions: Proponent of social-selection theory of evolution as an alternative to Darwin’s sexual selection model. Argues that the Bible does not conflict with evolutionary science.
Awards: Stonewall Book Award, American Academy of Arts & Sciences Fellow, Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, Dinkelspiel Award for Undergraduate Teaching.
Education: AB in Philosophy and BS in Biology, University of Rochester—Phi Beta Kappa. PhD in Biology, Harvard University.
Leandra Vicci — Research Executive, Engineer
Career: Lecturer of Computer Science and Director of the Applied Engineering Laboratory Department of Computer Science University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC.
Personal Life: A self-professed techno-geek, her high school activities bear this out: science club, radio club, math club, duodecimal club, chess club. She placed second in New Jersey’s 1957 physics competition and had a ham radio license.
Passions & Perspectives: Science, technology, classical music, mountaineering, rock climbing. Lives on a farm with her long-time partner, Ina. “Since my transition ten years ago, the gender issues that used to dominate my life have evaporated entirely, while I’m still the techno-geek that I’ve always been.”
Health Care, Pastoral Care
Dr. Rebecca Allison — Cardiologist
Career: Chief of Cardiology, CIGNA. Fellow, American College of Physicians. Fellow, American College of Cardiology. Repeatedly voted a “top doctor” in Phoenix Magazine’s annual poll.
Education: BS, University of Mississippi. MD, magna cum laude, University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Activism: Chair, American Medical Association Advisory Committee on LGBT Issues. President, Gay & Lesbian Medical Association. Recipient, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Equality Award. Director, World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).
Reverend Erin K. Swenson, Th.M., PhD — Minister, Psychotherapist
Career: Presbyterian Minister practicing in Atlanta, Georgia. The first known mainstream Protestant minister to transition from male to female while remaining in ordained office. A practicing parish associate and pastoral psychotherapist.
Community Leadership: Board member, More Light Presbyterians. Chair, Health Ministries Committee of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta. Co-founder, Southern Association for Gender Education. Travels nationally, presenting to conferences, churches, organizations, seminaries, and universities.
Personal Life: She continues to maintain warm, supportive relationships with her ex-spouse and their two grown daughters, as well as with the rest of her family.
Performing Arts, Creative Arts
Sara Davis Buechner — Concert Pianist, Educator
Career: Has served on faculty at University of British Columbia, Manhattan School of Music, and New York University. Performed with New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Buffalo and Cleveland orchestras. Maintains an active repertoire of almost 100 concertos. Has given master classes at the Royal Academy in London, the Juilliard School, Indiana University, and the Kobe-Yamate Gakuen in Osaka, Japan. Chief music consultant to Dover Publications.
Awards: Queen Elisabeth Music Competition. Gold Medal, Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition. Bronze Medal, Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition.
Discography: Has produced 16 albums featuring works of Mozart, Brahms, Bach, Dvorak, Busoni, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Turina, Martin, Rozsa, Foster, Friml, Gershwin, Lamb, and Addinsell.
Education: BA, MA, Juilliard School of Music. PhD in Music, Manhattan School of Music.
In the Media: Featured in the New York Times, Paris Match, Macleans, and Noticias de Argentina. Has appeared on Entertainment Tonight, Extra, In the Life, Studio Four, and National Public Radio.
Personal Life: Lives in Vancouver Canada with her partner Kyoko.
Laura Jane Grace — Punk Rock Musician
Career: Founder, lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist of punk rock band, Against Me! Founder, Total Treble Recording Studio and record label, Total Treble Music. Album, New Wave, selected as Spin’s Album of the Year.
Personal Life: Continues to live with her wife, Heather Hannoura, and their daughter, Evelyn, in St. Augustine, Florida.
Jennifer Leitham — Jazz Bassist, Composer, Vocalist.
Career: Member of the Jennifer Leitham Trio. Has played for k.d. Lang, Doc Severinsen, Mel Tormé and Peggy Lee. Recorded on over 125 albums, including 10 of her own.
Personal Life: Transitioned while touring with Doc Severinsen. Subject of award-winning documentary, I Stand Corrected.
Media (Journalism, Film, Production)
Lana Wachowski — director, screenwriter, producer, Comic Book Publisher.
Career: With her brother, directed The Matrix. They wrote and directed the two Matrix sequels. Co-founder, EON Entertainment. Owner, Kinowerks, a green-friendly production and special effects studio. Founder, Burlyman Entertainment, a comic book publishing company. Previously, a comic book writer for Marvel Comics and Epic Comics.
Jennifer Boylan — Author, Activist, Professor
Career: Faculty of Barnard College at Columbia University (New York); Professor of English, Colby College. Hoyer-Updike Distinguished Writer at Ursinus College. Member, Fulbright Scholarship Judging Committee, US Department of State.
Education: BA, Wesleyan University. PhD, Johns Hopkins University.
Publications: Author of 13 Fiction and Non-Fiction Books. Op-ed Contributor to New York Times. Two of her books detail her transition (She’s Not There) and her life as a transgender parent (Stuck in the Middle with You).
Media: Guest on Oprah Winfrey, Live with Larry King, 48 Hours, the Today Show, Barbara Walters, and NPR.