October 1, 2013

Who’s Liv? And why is she sitting at my desk?

We are pleased to have the opportunity to officially announce that we are welcoming Liv Wyatt into our professional community as Tom Hill is in the process of transitioning from male to female.  In her personal and professional life, Tom has changed both name and pronouns in the process of transition and is now using female pronouns (she/her) and the name Liv Wyatt.

Liv has been both a friend and valued member of our staff for many years.  We thank you for your attention and sensitivity to Liv's transition.  She is greatly appreciative of everyone and their support. Liv has written a short piece about her transition:

Some of you may have noticed that I have been undergoing some changes lately. I suspect many of you have begun to ask, “What’s up with Tom?” Truth is, the answer is both very simple and very complicated. The simple answer is, I am transgender and I am transitioning from male to female. The complicated answer is, I am transgender and I am transitioning from male to female. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…..

For most of my life, it has been clear to me that something was different about my gender. As a kid, everyone told me I was a boy so I assumed I must be one. After all, my parents sent me to an all-boys school, I played varsity football, was captain of my high school soccer team (state champions to boot), ran track, enjoyed dating girls, and in general got pretty good at this “boy” thing. In spite of all that, I had this lingering feeling that something wasn’t quite right. I had only a vague understanding of what was going on, but I knew enough to keep it to myself.

Every time the feeling that my gender assignment was incorrect crept into my head, I would tell it to “GO AWAY”, only to find I really couldn’t make it go away. I got married, had three kids, a mortgage, and a career. There was a mini-van in the driveway, grass to cut, and snow to shovel. I really didn’t need these feelings about my gender complicating my life. All I knew was that each time I tried to hide my true feelings about my gender, it got a little more difficult and I got a little wearier. Finally I reached the point where I began to feel that I just couldn’t fight this battle anymore. I found a therapist and we talked. We talked, and talked and talked some more. Slowly, I began to realize that as difficult as it might be to admit, I could no longer run away from the reality that I am gender variant; that for whatever reason, I was born with a body that was biologically male but a mind that was never in sync with that. She also helped me understand that no matter what the rest of the world might think, that didn’t automatically mean there was something wrong with me.

I suspect by now you are asking yourself “what the heck does it really mean to be transgender?” The truth is there is no easy answer. The best piece of advice I can give you is to forget everything you think you know about transgender people. I’ve found that what most people know, they’ve gotten from some campy movie, a Jerry Springer or Maury Povich show or perhaps a Barbara Walters special they’ve seen on TV. The images often portrayed by the media are quite different from reality. I’ve met transgender doctors, lawyers, bankers, accountants, policemen, fire fighters, Navy Seals, Marine drill sergeants and yes, even a few architects. I have friends who have known from a very early age that they were miss-gendered at birth. There are others like me whose feelings are a bit more complicated.

People often assume that gender identity and sexual orientation are related. In reality, gender identity has nothing to do with either sex or sexual orientation. It has nothing to do with a lot of things we are taught to associate with our biology. Most people’s gender identity matches their biology so it’s not something they usually think about or question. A few years back, I went to a lecture at one of the local colleges given by a transgender woman. She talked extensively about what it was like to grow up questioning her gender identity. As I walked out, the person next to me said “I can’t imagine anyone ever questioning their gender. I’ve never questioned mine.” As for me, I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t question it. Never questioning one’s gender seemed just as odd and unfathomable to me.

There is no one way to define how a transgender person sees their gender. Most people think of gender as binary; you’re either male or female with nothing in between. For transgender people, it’s rarely that simple. Some of us have a gender identity that is consistently different from the one assigned to us at birth. There are others whose gender identity is somewhat fluid. From time to time they may identify as a hybrid of male and female identities or simply neither. Some have even described themselves as a third gender. As for me, I identify as female but just like my grandmother, I enjoy a good football game every now and then.

One thing gender variance is not, is a mental illness. Some of the most sane, intelligent and grounded people I’ve ever met have been part of the gender variant community. Yes, there are some strange ones among us, but then again, there were a few little old ladies in my mother’s bridge club you had to wonder about. I’ve come to realize that while being transgender is rare (though far less rare than you might think), it is a perfectly normal human condition; just a bit different. The other thing gender variance is not, is a choice. Some years ago my partner jokingly said to a therapist, “If this is just a phase or something, I’ll kill him.” The therapist took a deep breath and replied, “Nobody does this by choice; it’s too damn hard.” She was right. If you knew the pain and rejection that some transgender people have had to endure, you might be a bit forgiving if they come across as a little strange.

During the last few years, I have come out to a number of friends and family. I’ve been very lucky. For the most part, those who know have been accepting, though it has been difficult for a few. Actually, I’ve noticed that once people spend time with me, they usually get over their fears and my transition becomes a nonissue. It seems the fear of the unknown is what makes people most apprehensive.

I’ve been working in this community for 35 years. I’ve known some of you for all of that time and consider many of you friends as well as business acquaintances. This might be quite a shock for those of you who were not aware of my situation but please understand that this is something I have been struggling with for much of my life. I’ve found it increasingly difficult to be “Tom”. Truth is, “Tom” is a somewhat uncomfortable costume I’ve been wearing all my life and I find I am considerably more relaxed when I don’t wear it. Don’t worry if you don’t understand it. Quite frankly I don’t either. I’m not sure I ever will. I just know this is real and try as I might, I’ve never been able to make these feelings go away. Please try to remember that I am the same person I’ve always been. Only the wrapper has changed.

The kids are grown (well, as any parent of 20-somethings knows, that may be stretching the truth a bit) and the mini-van is thankfully gone, but I’ve still got the wife, the house, and the career. The grass needs mowing, and the snow still needs to be shoveled. I haven’t suddenly forgotten what little I know, and I should still be able to do tomorrow what I did yesterday. I’m just a little happier when my gender presentation matches who I really am. I’m sure some of you will have questions. Please don’t hesitate to ask. I’ll do my best to answer as truthfully as I can. That said, there may be some questions I can’t answer or for privacy reasons would prefer not to answer. I’ll try to politely let you know if that’s the case.

One last thing, I’m sure some of you will feel a bit awkward the first time you call me by a different name or use female pronouns when referring to me. My experience has been that it gets easier with time. Don’t worry if you occasionally slip up (after answering to Tom for well over 50 years, there have been times when even I’ve done that). All I ask is that you do your best.


Tom Hill/Olivia Anne Wyatt

Or as my friends, family and those at KRA know me, just “Liv”