Beth 'pidge' Flanagan's blog. Open source queer.

Look kiddo, I’ll give you something to worry about!

“Life is the expectation of the unexpected – the things you worry about rarely happen. Something new, the unexpected, will usually come from outside the ball park. You’re all nodding as if you understand but you really don’t. What I’ve said are just words to you. I want you to go to your private cubbyholes and think for the next four hours. Try to remember all the things you worried about during the last years and whether they ever happened or what did happen – and then we’ll talk about it.”

Saul Alinksy Rules for Radicals

I am a natural worrier. Part of me thinks that it is because many transwomen generally carry around a big knapsack of anxiety. Most of the time, though, I realize that it’s because I just spend way too much time trapped in my skull over analyzing “stuff” until I’m genuinely anxious about it. I tend to worry about the most insane things.

I once worried myself into a panic attack in fourth grade over the annual school inspection. It had nothing to do with me, of course, I just had a picture of a stern nun inspecting our fingernails for the slightest bit of grime and flunking the entire school because *I* was the one who had a slight bit of nail goop. I worry about jelly bean color (blue food. YECH!) I worry about whether that weird vibration in my car’s front end is just the grooved road or is my tire about to fall off and send me slamming at a high speed into an oncoming bus, killing me and the bus full of orphans in a painful fiery crash. Most of these are just micro-worries. Things that I worry about for a few seconds. Little illogical things that are entirely nonsensical but make my thoughts a little more entertaining.

Worrying is how I make sense of this world. It is how I can sit there and pick apart fairly complex systems, both technical and social and come to a better understanding of them. Follow the path long enough until you find something to worry about. Back up a bit. Follow another path. Worry about it. Pick it apart. Worry about the parts, the connections. That is how the cracked out hamsters in my head work. Pure, unadulterated, Acme Brand Worry.

These days, my worries are mostly about work, a much more important worry in my opinion. Every software release period, I end up obsessing over the build to the point where I sit there not sleeping, watching my 3-7 hour build like a hawk in order to ensure that nothing went south. It almost never does, and I essentially ramp myself up into a nice case of insomnia or even worse, a migraine. But none of those worries can compare to the state I was in a few days ago.

Four days ago, I was in a blind holy hot white panic of worry that I hadn’t seen in years. I had to call a friend of mine and have her list the reasons I should post my coming out post. I was about to free information that once out there, I couldn’t go “HAHA Guys. TOTALLY KIDDING!!! JOKES ON YOU! PSYKE!”* I had a few ideas about how people would react and all of them included some really lousy stuff. I know quite a few transwomen** and I’ve seen a lot of them transition at work, but not a lot of them had actually navigated a post-transition coming out of the closet.

We just RARELY do this it seems. I had few folks whose experiences I could really go. No one I know of in open source. Like, a few who transitioned during their time in open source. A few who are out in open source. But… I couldn’t think of anyone in open source who actually came out as a transwoman, who I could ask “er… how do I do this? What do I have to worry about? Patch rejections? Trolls? Martians?”

It’s kind of too early to give any real data yet, which I am compiling, but, what I can say is this. My worries seem to be unfounded so far. Everyone I generally deal with on a day to day basis has pretty much said the same thing. “Great. Can you get that bug fixed now?”. No, really, folks have been amazing and I’m grateful that my worries were unfounded. I spent a few moments on Wednesday tearing up over some of the heartfelt comments I received. To everyone who sent me kind words, words of encouragement, irc messages, phone calls, emails, etc. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Your support and kind words have meant the world to me. I can’t thank you enough. Especially to the other transwomen out there, both caged and uncaged. I love you for all the love and support you’ve given me the past few days.


* Although, I must say, the joker in me was tempted to try it.

** When we transition, along with the lifetime supply of estrogen, the insanely awesome sense of humor, and a fruit basket, we also get a subscription, similar to the old MSDN subscriptions. Once a month we get, on 24 CDs, a complete list of all transwomen the world over. This is why, when people find out I’m a transwoman and they ask me “Oh, do you know so and so.” I always say “Oh! Of course I know so and so! I saw her a few weeks ago! She was saying some awful things about you the other day *tsk*”. It’s because we really do know each other. I promise! And like my old MSDN subscription, the CDs end up stapled to my ceiling and walls of my lab. It’s like living in a freaking disco ball sometimes.

One response to “Look kiddo, I’ll give you something to worry about!

  1. allthoughtswork September 10, 2013 at 7:05 PM

    Whenever I read heart-wrenching and life-flopping confessions and accounts from people who own the persecuting title “not mainstream” for any reason, I get the urge to smile. Here’s why. This all sucks now, while we are (I include myself as I have several gigantic weirdisms that keep me off most invitation lists) being stoned in the public square for standing out, but there will come a time–and quickly, from the looks of things–when what we are will be about as normal, boring, and mainstream as brown hair and green eyes. With time and exposure the human population incorporates pretty much every new idea once they realize it won’t cause the Earth to implode. Take it from the Borg: you will be assimilated.

    It just really, really sucks to be the first wave. You know, the line of soldiers who seem to get mowed down right away by a rain of bullets because they stood out front. Rosa Parks didn’t get a medal, she got arrested. But you sure as hell remember who she was, don’t you? Thing is, you can be openly honest and still cover your ass. Just pick exceptionally awesome people to share your personal time with during your life, no exceptions. Be selfish that way, be picky. Teach people that, Yes, you are different, and Yes, that means you are worth WAY more than “mainstream,” so they shouldn’t waste your time with anything average. You may be normal, but you are waaay above average, get it? Kick ass, girl.

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