On the Science of Changing Sex

About

Candice2

Candice with her adopted daughter Liz

Welcome!  This blog is written by silly ol’ me…  Candice H. Brown Elliott.  “Kay Brown” is my pen name for writing on trans related history, culture, and science.

After being doxxed a decade ago, in which I suffered the typical online character assassination and loss of privacy that follows, I decided my only recourse was to be “out”, though I would have preferred to remain stealth in my daily social and professional life.  It required me to be very candid and exhaustive in this bio, to counter repeated calumnies.  The only honorable defense against lies is the truth.

If you see some of these webpages or substacks dissing someone (including me), ask yourself why they felt it necessary?  Was it to discredit a voice on the science or history?  Was it envy, jealous of their life’s accomplishments?  Was it hatred, a need to be considered “the expert” on the topic and that other person’s (including my) writing disagrees with theirs?  Unable to counter with actual science and facts, they resort to character assassination.  Consider this, the more that someone falsely and maliciously attacks another writer’s character, misrepresent their social history or sexuality, the more one knows that their voice has become important, to need to be silenced by lies, distortions, and ridicule.

I’ve always chosen to work at the cutting edge of things.  If “everyone” is already doing something, they don’t need my help.  I tend to work getting things started, blazing a trail.  I take chances and do the things that need to be done, and say the things that need to be said, when no one else is willing.  But I’m content to let others take the limelight as it becomes popular.  I believe we should all study the past, live in the present, and invest in the future.

My life has at times been challenging because of being transsexual.  Yet other times wonderful people helped me along the way.  I was and remain grateful to them, both named and unnamed in this short but comprehensive bio.

An Ambitious Family Climbs Out Of Poverty

My father grew up in Port Arthur, Texas, a dirty, smelly, working class petroleum refining town on the Gulf Coast. He was born in the fall of 1929, right as the economy crashed. He grew up poor as poor can be. He shared stories of how he and his brothers would fish and hunt for crawdads in the Gulf waters to put food on the table. But he and his thee siblings were very smart and managed to get into college in spite of this lack of funds or legacy, partly on the GI Bill from serving during the Korean War. My dad and his sister both went to Rice University.  Even his gay brother climbed out of that poverty through study and hard work, largely because of their father (my grandfather) insisting upon it.

My mother grew up in a tiny farm town in the middle of nowhere on the boarder of Texas and Oklahoma. Her family was a little better off than my father’s, mostly by dint of hard work farming and ranching. (I have childhood memories of collecting eggs from the hen house and of feeding hay to the cows on their farm.) My mother too was very smart, graduated from high school at age 16 to attend college to earn a teacher’s credentials at age 19, graduating as a married woman with a baby in her arms, me. My father worked at a bowling alley, between graduate school classes, to support his young wife and child. My siblings came along in rapid succession. Thus, while my mother was carrying me, my parents were dirt poor students from working class families. Things must have been rough for my parents at first. Me? I don’t remember.

My father was proud to have worked his way out of the poverty he grew up in… earning his place in middle and even upper-middle-class professional circles, but always carried a bit of baggage from his childhood, especially around the topic of food. He would become enraged at food waste for example, remembering days of hunger. There was never the entitled expectation in our household that other well off families taught their kids. Instead, my father was constantly exhorting us to study hard, especially math and science, just as his father before him, fearing we would slip down the socio-economic ladder, saying, “You want to be a ditch digger when you grow up?” He not only helped us with homework, but independently tutored us in science, setting up experiments and demonstrations, from basic physics, chemistry, to biology, while our mother pushed us in reading, writing, and arithmetic (she had a teacher’s credential after all). I learned that same lesson about hunger when I was disowned and become a homeless street tranny. But my father’s lessons of hard work and study lifted me out of poverty, just as it had for him.

A Stressful Youth

I am the first-born of four children and had a number of cousins, one of whom, a boy a year older than I, was also part of my de facto sibship as we grew up.  My parents divorced and later remarried, so I also have a younger step-brother; but as he lived with his mother and not in our house, I barely knew him.  He and my youngest brother spent more time together as they were both competitive swimmers on the same team.

My life was very happy until I started school, where I was often teased and bullied.  Frankly, while my early childhood memories are very sketchy, lost to typical early life amnesia, my mother has reported that I was very different from my two brothers from an early age, obviously gender atypical and it bothered her greatly, especially when the neighbors noticed and gossiped about it.  For example, when I was ten (I think), I was at a neighbor girl’s house helping her sew a skirt, her mother came home unexpectedly and found us working on it.  She became enraged and yelled at me to go home, “Don’t you know how boys are supposed to act?”  In the late ’60s, when I was ten years old, because of that obvious gender atypicality I was labeled “emotionally disturbed” by the school district psychologist, and sent to “play” every Friday afternoon in a room full of only boy’s toys with Dr. Peters (a tall, bearded man as a masculine role model… what a name… you can’t make this stuff up!). 

I was obviously not only gender atypical, but gender dysphoric.  For example, starting around the age of eight or nine or so, I become convinced that my parents had had me surgically altered as a small child.  I would secretly search my parents legal papers and our family health records to find the proof so that I could confront them with it in an effort to force them to reverse it so that I could live as a girl.  In Junior high, I spent my lunch time at the school library reading books and teen magazines on fashion, hairstyling, and make-up.  During those two summers, I volunteered as a swimming instructor for little kids at a local high school pool.  The instructors were ALL girls.  When not in the pool, I wore cut-off blue jeans “hot pants” (fringed as short as I could make them), tie dye T-shirts, and girls moccasin flats (shoes).  Another example, at our 8th Grade Graduation, the boys were told to wear black pants and white shirts. The girls to wear pastel dresses. So, naturally, I wore cream pants and pastel orange shirt.  There was simply NO WAY that I was going to be wearing what the boys were wearing.  My mother was “not amused”.  That summer, I broached the idea of going to high school as a girl.  My mother shut me down with a sneer.

I was seriously and repeatedly harassed, physically bullied, and viciously beaten by groups of boys at my first high school, Homestead High, in Sunnyvale, CA, which an unsympathetic administration tacitly condoned. 

One of the worse beatings I suffered was when I was 14 years old, when two older boys, who laid in wait along my path through a dark orchard just a block from my home, first taunted me, then beat, knocked me to the ground, and proceeded to kick me viciously, all the while yelling homophobic slurs.  Their exact words included,

“FAGGOT!”

“PANSY!”

“PANTYWAIST!”

“YOU THINK YOU’RE A GIRL?”

“YOU MAKE ME SICK!”.

I transferred to another high school nearby, Los Altos High, with a zero tolerance policy toward bullying.  I was grateful for that policy, because it mattered.  One day, during my Senior year (well after I had come out), a boy I didn’t even know (so this wasn’t personal) approached me during lunch while I sat with several friends on the Senior Lawn, began kicking me, yelling,

“GET UP FAGGOT AND FIGHT!”

I looked up at him and told him, “You are barking up the wrong tree, I won’t fight you.”  Two of my female friends put themselves between him and me when he resumed kicking me.  He punched Jan and then shoved Barby such that she fell backwards on top of me.  Suddenly, Dr. Madgic yanked the boy back by the collar and frog marched him away.  I never saw the boy again, ever, presumably because he was expelled.

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Candice and Jeff making their wedding vows

In 1973, when I was 15/16, my mother brought me to my pediatrician for evaluation regarding my gender atypical behavior and homosexuality, who referred me to a therapist, Dr. Kansky, a specialist in “troubled” adolescents who, with instructions from my mother, was to “cure” me with talk therapy.  He eventually told my mother that I was being uncooperative.  At 17, in the fall of 1974, I called my pediatrician and asked for a prescription for female hormones.  He angrily replied, “You can do any thing you want with your life but I won’t be any part of it!”.

From research at the public library, I found a reference to the Stanford Gender Dysphoria program.  I called them up, but while they said that they would be happy to help, I had to wait until I was 18 unless I got my parents permission.  In early 1975, I “tricked” my father into letting me see Dr. Norman Fisk at the Stanford Program when he said I needed professional help to treat (cure) me.  {My parents were then divorced and my mother had custody of the children.}  Dr. Fisk is the man who coined the term gender dysphoria and told my family to support, rather than deny me medical help to transition.  During our few intake interviews into the Stanford Program with him, I related my hopes and dreams for my future, most particularly that I fervently wished to marry a straight man and adopt children.

Fisk also interviewed my parents, separately from each other, but with me in attendance so I got to hear it all.  My father was angry and didn’t like Fisk because Fisk defended me telling him that I was transsexual and that if he chose to fight me, he “would win a few battles but lose the war”.  My mother was petulantly resentful that she had such a child as me.  “I have known for years that he wanted to be a girl.  But I thought that was [morally] wrong.  He was very different than his brothers.  All their friends were boys.  His were always girls,” naming several of my friends over the years, starting with my pre-school friends, but couldn’t remember my friend who had been my only guest on my tenth birthday.  “Marian,” I interjected for the only time during the whole interview.  “He was always very prissy.  He would walk clear around even the shallowest puddles.  When he was little, I would put him in clean clothes on Monday and on Friday they would still be clean.”  She confirmed that I had been sent to a therapist about my behavior when I was ten years old… and again when I was 15/16.

During this time my mother would say very nasty, discouraging, things when we were alone.  The one that stung the worst was,

“No man will ever love you, you know.”

I came out as both homosexual and transsexual in high school in the early ’70s and transitioned as a teenager in the mid ’70’s.  I published a short story in a school magazine using my new name, as I was out to the student editors.  I was full-time nanny for a local family with two children my last high school summer.  Their mother was very understanding and wrote a glowing letter of recommendation using my new name and gender to help me in my social transition.   I practiced my make up skills on my female friends.  Toward the end of high school, I attended class presenting as a boy, but openly socialized as a girl after school, changing clothes and putting on my make-up at a friend’s house a couple blocks from school {her mother was very supportive and understanding}.  My mother was very upset about this.  I dated (yes, romantically and sexually) several boys from my high school, including my brother’s best friend.  Oh, the family drama that followed when we were discovered!  At one point my father strongly suggested, “Have sex with a girl.  I’m sure that will change you.  What about one of your friends, Barby, or Cassie?  Wouldn’t they do it to help you?”  I replied angrily,  “I’m sure they would.  But that won’t change me and I DON’T want to have sex with them!”

Not everyone at Los Altos High was accepting.  In fact, our singing instructor made very loud homophobic comments about me in class the first weeks of my Senior year such that I was compelled to drop the class to avoid further public humiliation.  Yet several of my teachers and school administrators were very supportive: Mrs. Church, our English teacher encouraged me to write a journal of my transition and subsequent life and more importantly helped arrange for my records to be changed upon graduation; Coach Tom Bottom, who I had known since I was nine years old, found an alternative to Boy’s PE for me my senior year, teaching students to swim, and Dr. Madgic, the Vice Principle, wrote letters of recommendation in my new name and gender to help me with my future college education, such as it turned out to be.

Though I had applied for and been granted a place at a four-year state college, my upper-middle-class family flat-out refused to support any such ambition unless I agreed to never present as a girl.  This I refused.  I begged my mother to help me to transition and attend college as a girl.  Without their signatures on financial disclosures, I couldn’t even apply for financial aid.  My father demanded that I live as a closeted gay man like his closeted gay brother.  My mother thought even that was unacceptable.  My ‘phobic family kicked me out after I graduated from high school and turned 18 the same week in ’75.  After that, I had no need to present as a boy, and didn’t.  Very soon afterwards, no longer legally blocked by parental disapproval, I began HRT.  I’ve mostly made my own way, supporting myself, since.  Life was a bit hard for a while, on my own like that, but worked out OK in the end.

Had you met me when I younger, say from age 18 to 22 you would have thought I was stereotypical of such “young transitioners” or “street transies” as we were called back then, experiencing housing and food insecurity, aimless, working a succession of low pay pink collar jobs, unlikely to achieve much in life.  My friends, and especially boyfriends, called me “Candy”.  I was into partying, clubbing, dancing.  I dreamed of being a singer/entertainer/film maker.  At age 20, I moved to L.A., based on a promise from an older man who said he could help me get into the biz (I was so naïve).  I took classes on video film making.  I hung out and got temp jobs at film and video production and post-production studios, went to film industry parties in Beverly Hills and Bel Air.   I dated a movie producer, a talent agent, and dined at a famous actor’s apartment.  I even modeled lingerie for a high end fashion boutique in Los Angeles.  In the end, I was just another California (bleach bottle) Blond hanger on.  The only screen role I was offered was one that that I flat out refused (you can probably guess what type of “film”).  Other offers were even less welcome.  Just one example: An executive at one studio offered to exchange cocaine for sex.  (Don’t let anyone mislead you… sex work is a nasty and short career which you can’t list on a resume in later life.  But one does what one must to survive.)

During this time, I was also stalked, sexually assaulted, and raped, not just once, but several times.  It seriously affected me, causing depression, occasional panic attacks, and low-self-esteem.  You may read about some of this in an essay I wrote regarding them.

My life was going nowhere, fast.  But I got very lucky, with friends and mentors who saw something in me, even if I didn’t yet see it myself, offering advice and help, both moral and practical, my life became much more stable when I was 22/23 years old.  I began to take myself more seriously as my self-esteem rose with a vision that I could have a real future, back home in Silicon Valley.  As one of my friends said to me one night, “You could even be an entrepreneur!  You have the right class background.  You can speak their language.”  She was referring to the fact that my father was a corporate executive and entrepreneur.  Amusingly, his townhouse backed up to the golf course along Sand Hill Circle, just off of Sand Hill Road in Palo Alto, where many of the most famous venture capital funds have their offices.

At age 24, on the first day of work at Fairchild, I was asked if people called me, “Candy”.  “Only once,” was my deadly serious reply.  I was now a serious career woman.  Why did I chose a career in high technology?  Because it was my golden ticket out of poverty, intermittent homelessness, and food insecurity.  That, and it was in my hometown, where I knew people in the industry who could help me.  Paradoxically, the very thing that helped me escape that street tranny trap is what some of my detractors have weaponized to diss me today.  My successes, in spite of both misogyny and transphobia, are used against me.

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Candice in the hospital for SRS, at age 23.

I had SRS in Colorado when personal finances finally permitted it in early ’81 – I had some savings, borrowed heavily from friends and max’ed out my credit cards – paid off when the insurance company finally reimbursed me.  Of course, getting a letter from the ACLU Transsexual Rights Committee had a lot to do with that.

I earned a BS by examination in ’82, and was admitted to Stanford Graduate School that fall.



How To Get a College Degree by Examination

Some expansion is warranted here, as many are confused by my statement on “by examination”.  This used to be more common, especially for women who had studied at places like Cambridge and Oxford which refused to grant women degrees.  Those women would then sit for comprehensive exams at other institutions with less bigoted policies.

I had about one year of Jr. College, mostly general ed requirements, earned at four different Jr. Colleges over about five or six years, taking one or two evening classes at a time while working various jobs.  At this rate, I might get an AA degree in another five.  I had been working in pink color jobs and was looking at a career ceiling unless I had at least a four-year degree that my employers would respect, which at my then present rate, I might earn in another 15 years, if ever?  Joanna Clark told me about a little known program called the Regents External Degree from the University of the State of New York (now spun out as Excelsior College).  They offered college credit by examination, specifically, if one could earn at least a minimum score on a Subject Graduate Record Exam (not the general), they would award about a year’s worth of university credits.  Looking at the minimum score needed, it appeared that you had to be at least within one standard deviation of the norm for that exam, typically at least in the 33%tile or so.  Remember, that meant that one is scored against students that had already earned a degree in that field and who wanted to go onto graduate school in that field… a high standard.  I’m fairly certain that the Regents never thought that someone would attempt it, but I figured that if I could earn decent scores on three subjects of the then available exams, I would have a BS.  It would save me 15 or more years!  With little to lose and much to gain, I jumped on it!

The exams are offered only several times a year and one could only take one at a time.  I decided I would try the Biology exam.  I borrowed every biology text I could lay hand to… studied every waking moment not at work.  I took practice exams to hone my test taking skills and to look for areas of weakness.  When I took the test, one of my friends was also taking it.  I left an hour early from the three-hour time allotted and saw my friend give me a quizzical look.  She told me later that she had thought I was giving up.  No, I had already finished an hour before that and had gone through it a second time, catching some dumb mistakes.  I earned a 99th%tile score, the highest available.

I next chose psychology, having read my first university level text-book in Jr. High, taken an elective course in high school to become a peer counselor, and taken a couple psych courses in Jr. College.  I brushed up on the basics and took a few practice exams.  I got a 93rd%tile.  It wasn’t the perfect score because I hadn’t cared to study up on all of the silly pseudo-science that was still to be found in the exam: Freud, Jung, etc.  I only had a few weeks between the exam dates, so didn’t have much time to study in any case.

I still needed a third exam and was running out of easy {for me} options.  I would have to take one with heavy math… I was advised by my mentors that if I really wanted to have a decent career, given that this was Silicon Valley, of the exams available my only real choice was physics.  Chemistry might have been easier for me (my father being a chemist and having tutored me since I was quite young), but not as likely to be as impressive in Silicon Valley.  Ugh!  No easy peasy English Lit exam would do…   Please understand, I’m smart… but NOT good at math.  My highest math class was intro to calculus.  Earlier, I had had to repeat algebra in high school after failing it the first time.  (Although to be fair to myself, I was being bullied and attacked multiple times a day, and even the instructor was part of the ‘phobic faction of the faculty.)   Ugh!  No choice, I dug in.  I bought some physics textbooks along with their problem set workbooks at the Stanford University bookstore and sat down every waking hour not at work to plough through them.  Ugh!  I got math help from some of my mentors, like Dr. West at work.  I was not confident about doing well enough on the physics exam.  But I figured that if I didn’t get a good enough score, I could always try one of the others, the English Lit exam perhaps, just to get the BS and call it a day.  Well that test was worse than I could imagine.  No ducking out early.  I hadn’t finished.  I had answered all of the non-math problems first, but still… I walked for an hour on the lovely Stanford campus w/ a raging migraine before I could drive home.  I was very worried I hadn’t gotten a high enough score.  But… I did, at 45th%tile.  Not bad for someone who had never stepped foot in a college physics classroom!  Some folks have made a big deal about my having been a “physics major”… as though that “proved” something… yep, for all of perhaps a few months part-time self-study in the evenings!

Candice_Caltech

Candice Brown in college

The Regents agreed to grant me a degree in psychology… but not biology or physics because they also required upper-division lab courses in those subjects.  Fortunately, after some negotiation, they agreed to grant a waiver for the lab requirement on the physics degree due to my extensive real world experience in high-tech clean room work, documented by Dr. Belt, Vice President of Fairchild Semiconductor.  I had a dual degree in psychology and physics, very strong minor in biology… and with Dr. Belt and Fairchild’s sponsorship, was admitted to Stanford Graduate School in the Materials Science Dept. as an Honors Coop part-time student.  Why materials science?  That was the department that taught classes and conducted research in semiconductor fabrication/processing.  It also had the highest number of women, w/ near gender parity, unlike the electrical engineering or computer science departments.  There was no hope that I would ever actually finish a degree, as I could only take maybe one class at a time while working full-time as a fab supervisor, which I did, but an Honors Coop has access to far more than just classes… as well as taking classes for credit, I audited several just for the knowledge.  The classes were available for viewing real-time via microwave video link at work.  (And now you know where I ate lunch… not always at “lunch time”.)

So, I went from having a smattering of general ed jr. college credits to a degree and onto graduate school at an elite university in about a year’s time!  With my official status as a graduate student Fairchild promoted me and sent me to in-house management classes.  I was soon supervising a small group of engineers, technicians, student interns, and clean room operators designing & manufacturing microelectronic devices in a small prototyping fab.  {As proof that Silicon Valley was a small world back then, one of the technicians reporting to me was a young woman just a few years older than I, who had grown up only two doors away.  We used to play records and practice dancing together growing up.}  Not bad for someone who only a few years before had been intermittently homeless and couch surfing.

In reaching this goal, I proved my family wrong.  They had predicted, and in many respects worked to ensure that it would be self-fulfilling, that I would be an outcast and a failure.  My sister had even predicted that I would be murdered and made it hatefully clear that she looked forward to it.  In essence, I had caught up with my siblings, and met the very high expectations set for all of us as children by our college educated upper-middle-class parents, in spite of the obstacles I faced and the lack of encouragement and material support.  Our father was a polymath in biology, chemistry, and mathematics, BS & MS.  He once told me that he regretted not continuing on to the Ph.D. in mathematics, but as a married man with a pregnant wife, settled for the MS.  Our mother had graduated with a degree in liberal arts at the age of 19, a married woman with her first child in her arms (me).  One of my brothers became an electrical engineer in Silicon Valley after being an avionics technician in the Navy.  Interestingly, he had begun flight lessons to become a private pilot from the age of ten.  The other went to Stanford as an undergraduate, then onto medical school to become a cardiologist, Associate Professor of Medicine at Stanford, later to be a senior hospital administrator at Duke University.  Our sister earned a BA in business administration… I think…  but I don’t know much about her career before she joined our father’s business as the business manager, as she and I haven’t spoken in decades.  In becoming a graduate student at Stanford, fab supervisor at Fairchild, and later a successful entrepreneur, I had earned back my father’s respect but never my mother’s.



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CedarStar

A Full Life

Through the late ’70s and into the ’90s, I lived in various situations, most often sharing LGBT friendly communal space with other women & transwomen.  My favorite was “CedarStar” a large suburban communal property (0.7 acre) with two houses in Portland, Oregon, I and a number of women, men, young people, and my adopted daughter lived in and restored during the early ’90s.  I designed the paint and garden color scheme for the main house, shown here.  During those years, I dated a number of straight men, but none ever seemed to stick around longer than six months to a year or so, mostly due to their fear that their families wouldn’t accept a transwoman…  until I met my husband.

Comstock-House_sI’m currently in my mid 60’s, married to a very understanding and loving man, and have an adopted daughter, the second of two foster daughters, Cassandra and Liz, both now grown, and five god children, from elementary school to fully grown.  My husband, Jeff, and I live in Northern California, in the Wine Country, north of San Francisco, in an historic house (on the National Register) we have restored with a great deal of sweat equity. If you pass by, you may find me out puttering in my english cottage style garden, tending hundreds of roses, irises, lilies, as well as many flowering annuals sown by seed.

10398525_1116284467975_430389_nI began taking flight lessons in 2003, after having flown with a colleague and saw how beautiful and peaceful it was, and just kept on learning and earning certificates and endorsements.  I found flying allows me to escape the everyday concerns of life and renew my spirit.  Now I teach others to fly as a flight instructor (CFI, CFII, MEI).

candicecoverIn my “me” time, I play the Mountain Dulcimer, modern full chording/fingerpicking style, mostly British Isles folk tunes.  I used to play at small festivals and such.  You may listen, should you be interested, to my indie produced cassette tape album of mostly folk music on dulcimer I recorded back in ’89.  (Tap on “Side One” or “Side Two” to listen to the MP3 version.)  Please keep in mind, this is my hobby… I don’t pretend to be a professional.

Comstock-House-inside_sIn the evenings, Jeff and I enjoy our extensive library of slightly over 10,000 books (no exaggeration), surrounded by antiques, living as though it were the turn of the last century.  Jeff introduced me to Foodie Culture, fine cooking.  I’m still not the chef he is, but I’m learning.  We share a love of history, but have very different tastes in fiction.  I love Jane Austin, he John Kennedy O’Toole and Eric Kraft.  The house is filled with musical instruments, a ‘parlor grand’ piano, flutes, clarinet, dulcimers, guitars, Irish harp, etc.  In music, I love folk,  musicals, and big band; he likes jazz, opera, and serious art music, as he has degrees in music.  Jeff became a computer programmer after college, later becoming an investigative journalist, then an internet entrepreneur / CEO of a local ISP and an early web-based newspaper.  Now that he is retired he has become a locally respected historian, researching and writing hundreds of articles on local history.  I love my life with him.

Jeff, Kay, Liz, & Reese

Candice, Jeff, Liz, & Reese

Children and young people have been and continue to hold a special place in my heart.  As a teen, in Jr. High and High School, I was a frequent babysitter, volunteer swimming instructor for very young kids for two summers, and even a full-time nanny for a local family with two children my last summer.  As an adult, I volunteered through several organizations whose mission is to encourage children and young adults, especially girls, to pursue STEM educations and careers.  I’ve taught STEM classes at a private school.  I’ve been a licensed fostermom in two states, Oregon & California, and most recently served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for an FtM transkid in foster care.  (If you are also a foster/adopt parent, then you know the level of scrutiny, background checks, and parenting classes that I had to go through, but multiply that by suspicious bias against transfolk in the 80’s and ’90s… and even today!)  In addition to officially fostering children through child protective / social services, I have unofficially fostered and mentored a small number of LGBT young people, of both etiological types, occasionally even offering short to medium term housing to allow post-op recovery in privacy before they return to their regular lives.

A Successful Career

In spite of having been dismissed from several promising positions (and I suspect, failed to be hired for yet more) when bigoted management discovered my medical / social history, I’ve had a very good career, from teenaged secretary to experienced CEO.

Bhowmik_mobile_9.qxdMy professional career has been in the applied sciences, at the intersection of high technology and psychophysics of human vision, focused on improving color flat panel displays. I was a technical advisory editor for Solid State Technology Journal in the mid-80s.  In 2005 I was inducted as a Fellow of the World Technology Network.  I’m regularly invited to speak at international conferences and universities.  I’ve published papers, journal articles, and contributed a chapter to Mobile Displays – Technology and Applications, a textbook in my field.  I’ve reviewed papers for technical journals as an expert in the field.  I have over a hundred granted US patents and hundreds of foreign cognates in display and semiconductor technology.

SchadeIn 2014, I was awarded the Otto Schade Prize by the Society for Information Display, of which I’m a Senior Member, specifically for my contributions to that field.  OK, so it’s not the Nobel Prize, and it wasn’t all that much money, but its still better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick as my father would say.

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Candice and her colleagues brainstorming at a small display start-up company

When I was a child, my father, a technologist and corporate executive (Vice President R&D, five patents), strongly encouraged, insisted really, brooking no dissent, that I and my siblings study and take every available STEM course (though he had no objections to my personal passion / interest in Individual Voice – singing classes, as he loved to sing as well).  In college, my boyfriend’s mother encouraged me to follow in her footsteps, as she was then the president of the Silicon Valley chapter of the Society for Women Engineers (SWE).  Because of the women I knew in tech, I never thought of it as “men’s” work.  In fact, most of the workers inside the fabs and on the assembly lines were women.  Surrounded as I was by high-tech fab workers, technicians, executives and technologists as neighbors, role models, and mentors, both men and women, I literally, as well as figuratively, grew up in Silicon Valley, bicycling distance from Stanford University, starting my career as a teenaged secretary / administrative assistant for a small high-tech firm, working full-time while I studied part-time, growing my skills and responsibilities as I worked my way through various positions from secretary/admin assistant, electronics assembler, expeditor, supervisor, manager, executive, and finally CEO of a small international corporation (offices in California and Israel).  At each and every step in my career, I was mentored and encouraged by both men and especially women.  These days I’m officially retired, but still work as an advisor for several firms.

candicecover3To be clear, to set the record straight as some have mischaracterized my skill set, I am not a computer programmer nor an electrical engineer and never have been… in fact all of my formal education (such as it was) was in science not engineering.    Others have mischaracterized me as a “physicist”, likely due to mistaking my unusual undergraduate degree by examination in physics while ignoring my much stronger background and interest and what I actually have built my career on.  No, most of my career is built upon my much stronger interest in biology and psychology, specifically psycho-physics, the branch of biology/psychology that deals with how our nervous systems respond and organize our perceptions of physical stimuli… in my case, vision science, how we perceive color images.  But, my early background as an assembler/clean-room operator, then studying video and film making and my subsequent experiences managing the development and manufacturing of microelectronics and electronic displays combined with my knowledge of biology and psychology led me to research into how to design and improve color flat panel displays such that they worked in harmony with the human vision system.   Yes, that’s me on the cover of Electronic Engineering Times for a profile article on me and my work to revolutionize the way that color flat panels displays are designed.  One of my female friends from high school, who had earned a degree in mathematics and similarly had worked in Silicon Valley as a technologist, joked it was like being on the “cover of the Rolling Stone”… sent five copies to my father.

Speaking of high school friends and classmates, a fair percentage of them, both men and women, earned STEM degrees and/or worked in Silicon Valley from assembler, technician, engineer, marketing, to executives.  One young man who was a senior when I was a freshman at Homestead started a computer company in his garage… Apple.  When you grow up here… it just seems natural to work in tech, like our parents.

candice-eetimes1I like to quip that half my career was spent in a bunny suit (clean-room garb) and the other half in a business suit.  I know what code looks like, I can follow the logic of well written documentation & high level pseudo-code, having written my share, but don’t ask me to write or debug actual code; beyond very simple code, I can’t.  I’m a people manager / idea person, not a heads-down engineer.  I have managed programmers and engineers though, just as I have managed clean-room personnel.  I was once asked, decades ago, in an interview if I would rather be around people or machines.  The hiring manager, a woman a decade older, was very surprised when I answered “people”.  I love being around smart, energetic people, so I love both teaching and managing people.

I’ve worked for and even founded several Silicon Valley high-tech start-ups, selling one of them to Samsung, a large Asian consumer electronics company you may have heard of.  There’s a very good chance that you are using the tech, PenTile Matrix, that my amazing team and I developed, as it is shipping in hundreds of millions of smartphones, tablets, notebook PCs, and televisions, each year, most notably in the Samsung Galaxy series and the Apple iPhone X.  The technology consists of novel color subpixel arrangements and a semiconductor chip core that performs digital signal processing and color management based upon insights gained from research on how the human vision system processes images and color.  The technology allows displays to be higher resolution, brighter, longer life, and lower power.  Yes, that’s our PenTile technology showcased on the cover of IEEE Spectrum magazine.

been-there-run-thatI currently serve as an advisor to two venture capital funds that focus on women led start-up companies and serve as a mentor to aspiring entrepreneurial women through Springboard Enterprises, an organization of women entrepreneurs and to Stanford Business School students.  (On the flip side, I’ve learned a great deal myself from these inspiring women!)  Kay Koplovitz, the founder of Springboard, collected a series of essays on founding and running start up companies by women entrepreneurs into a book, Been There, RUN That and included one of my essays.

All the Stars are Suns ebook completeIn late ’17, I published a SciFi novel, All The Stars Are Suns using the pen name “Seaby Brown”, the first of many I hope, as I am writing my third at this time.  And yes, while not the main protagonist, there is a transwoman in the first story.  And no, she is not a reflection of me or my life.  The plot hinges on future advances in understanding the neuro-physiology, the organization and operation, of brains, etc., taking advantage of my interest in biology and neurology.  It is set a couple hundred years into our future.  It is a story of hope for the future against dark regressive politics and intrigue.  But seriously, check it out!  You may learn more about the novel and order it from Amazon here.

RAVEN'S ROOK EBOOK 2My next novel, Raven’s Rook just came out on Thanksgiving, the fall of ’20.  You may order it from Amazon here.  It is the sequel to the first, set several thousand years into the future.  It’s a ‘coming of age’ story, of both individuals and a culture set on a far away terraformed colony.  I’m already writing my third, Skyview Keep.  It too is set in the same universe several thousand years further than the second.  No planned publishing date for it as yet.  And yes, there is yet another planned beyond it, a grand sweep of future history.

41ItR6HBALL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve also published a non-fiction book, Rainbow’s End: A Parent’s Guide To Understanding Transsexual Children and Teens.  This is a much needed antidote to the lies recently published by transphobic authors.

I’ve also recently published, On The Science of Changing Sex: A Layman’s Guide To Transsexuality and Transgenderism.  It takes some of the material from this blog and then some.

My most recently published book is Invention Engine: A Practical Guide to Creativity available as aInvention Engine Front Cover hardbound book for inventors and entrepreneurs.  I’m currently studying for the USPTO Patent Bar Exam to become a patent agent so that I can work from home writing patents for other inventors.



TransActivism

Since the late ’70s, I have been quietly involved as an activist.  My resume as an activist includes the following highlights:

-I first rode in the ’77 parade in San Francisco, on top of the roll-bars of a jeep while transactivist and writer Angela Keyes Douglas rode on the hood.  I participated in many subsequent pride events in several west coast cities, from Los Angeles to Portland.

-My first introduction to serious political activism, was in 1978 campaigning (as just one of thousands of LGBT folks) against California Proposition 6, the “Briggs Initiative” which sought to ban lesbians, gays, and our allies from teaching.  Sadly, it was this experience seeing how hateful many were to LGBT folk that made me deathly afraid of pursuing a career as a public school teacher, something that I had thought seriously of pursuing at one point.  It would be bad enough to have to be a closeted gay or lesbian teacher… but the risk of being outed, ridiculed, and blackballed from teaching after having spent years getting credentialed because of transphobia ?  Happily, I did become a teacher at a private school in ’89/’90.  And I’ve loved being a flight instructor these last few years.

ACLU

– I was a founding member of the ACLU Transsexual Rights Committee in 1980, (that’s me in the middle) with Jude Patton, Joanna Clark (AKA: Sister Mary Elizabeth), and Joy D. Shaffer, M.D.  Missing from this photo is Carol Katz.  Joy is an amazing individual; after transitioning as an undergraduate student at CalTech, went on to attend Stanford Medical School, later to found a private primary care practice for the LGBT community in Silicon Valley.  She was on the front lines fighting the AIDS/HIV epidemic in the early years.  Joanna similarly fought the epidemic by operating a BBS and later a website providing much needed medical and scientific information about the disease, posting journal articles, skirting copyright laws to save lives.  Jude was a physician assistant and had been active in HBIGDA (now WPATH).  Carol Katz was a law enforcement officer before her transition and volunteered as a security organizer for various LGBT & Women’s events afterwards.  This was an amazing group of people and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to have worked with them.

-In the mid-80s I volunteered at a few LGBT organizations including the Gay and Lesbian Alliance at Stanford (GLAS) and the Billy DeFrank Community Center in San Jose.  {You don’t remember seeing me there?  I was the one who stayed late to help put away the folding chairs and sweep the floor… the stuff that needed to be done that no one else wanted to do… oh, and work setting up and tearing down sound equipment for Wymym’s Music concerts.}  Around this time, Joy Shaffer and her (female) lover, Patricia, dragged me to an anonymous clinic to be tested for HIV, knowing that I had been very sexually active with men, unprotected, since the mid-70s.  I was negative and remained so by learning about safer sex practices and condoms.

-In the early to mid ’90s, I helped organize the Portland trans-community, with the help of the Lesbian Avengers, to reclaim Oregon historical hero, transman, Dr. Alan Hart from a gay rights organization who were misappropriating his memory, using him as a mascot to raise money, misgendering him, falsely claiming he was a “lesbian / passing woman”, as an example of a lesbian who was forced to pass as a man to escape homophobia.  To this end, I co-founded, along with Ken Morris, a transman, the Ad Hoc Committee of Transsexuals to Recognize Alan Hart, which worked to educate the wider gay and lesbian community about transsexual and transgender people, our lives, and our need to be included in gay rights legislation.

Kay Brown

Candice ’96

-I was a volunteer full-time legislative lobbyist for several months working alongside transactivist/lawyer JoAnna McNamara, successfully removing language from a bill that – had it been included when the bill eventually passed – would have stripped transsexuals of recently hard-earned employment non-discrimination protection, protections Ms. McNamara, serving as attorney for a transwoman wrongfully terminated, won in court.

-By the mid to late-90s, it became clear that more transfolk were willing to step up and take on the burden of transactivism.  In fact, it became a cliche that every newly transitioned transperson was a “transactivist”, whether they had actually done anything or not.  But among the growing popularity of transactivism arose professionals who, with support from LGBT organizations, demonstrated that their work was far more effective than my own (e.g. Shannon Minter).  My work there was done, let others take the lime-light, time to move on to other issues.

-In the mid to late 90’s I was dismayed that so many recently transitioned transfolk had no sense of our history, often claiming to be “the first {fill in the blank}” when they were nowhere near being or doing such.   I felt privileged and honored to have known and worked alongside many of the key early transactivists of the late 20th Century and wished to ensure that they were remembered.  I began to conduct research and education about our collective transhistory, teaching classes at the Harvey Milk Institute in San Fransisco and publishing both online and in the Transsexual News Telegraph magazine in the mid to late-90’s and into the early 21st Century.  By the mid-oughts, interest had grown in research and education of our history and of our heroes among the transcommunities.  My work there was done, let others, those whose skills are greater than mine (e.g. Dr. Susan Striker, Dr. Aaron Devor, etc.), take the limelight, it was time to move on to other issues.

-In the late 90’s to the 2000’s, I participated in fundraising for the Intersex Society of North America within and from the transsexual and transgender communities, meeting Cheryl Chase, and later become friends with Dr. Alice Dreger and Kiira Trea.

Kay Brown 2010

Candice Brown Elliott in 2010

-This past couple decades, I became interested in learning and spreading knowledge about the science advances in understanding transsexuality and transgender experience… and in combating myths and misinformation (thus this blog) after a dinner conversation with Joy Shaffer, M.D. and Anne Lawrence, M.D, in 1995 at my house (CedarStar) when they were houseguests.  Dr. Lawrence walked me through the evidence.  I later read the journal papers for myself and became fully convinced.  What that science says about us isn’t always comforting, but needs to be known and understood.

candiceportraitIt is my sincere belief and hope that a greater understanding and acceptance of who and what we really are, without false tropes and denial, will lead to a happier & emotionally healthier community, reduce the pain & confusion of our friends, families, & neighbors, and reduce stigma.  If you agree with these goals, please post links to this blog on your blog, social media, discussion fora, and news comments.

I warmly welcome polite inquiries.  I can be reached at formertranskid@gmail.com

My Twitter account is @Display_Geek

Additional autobiographical anecdotes are sprinkled about among the essays on my blog.

Through Knowledge, Justice…

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