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University professor comes out as trans in powerful and moving viral letter

Vic Parsons October 3, 2019

Amy Ko. (Medium/AmyJKo)

A University of Washington professor has come out as trans in a powerful letter that’s gone viral.

Amy Ko, an associate professor at The Information School at the University of Washington, recently earned tenure and her friends asked her what she would do with that privilege.

“A big question for me was, I have job security, I had some power, and I have an audience, what should I do with it?” Ko told NBC News. “I felt like a really important thing to do was make ideas more accessible to the world. The writing that we do in academia, we really do it for each other, and it’s often locked away in digital libraries that are behind paywalls.”

In a blog post, Ko said: “It took me a lifetime, but I’ve recently accepted that I’m trans.

“While I’m increasingly secure in my gender identity, I’m pretty clueless about my gender expression, so expect some clumsy experimentation. Please refrain from policing my appearance or voice (or anybody’s for that matter),” she added.

The letter has received more than 2,400 “claps” on Medium and more than 7,000 likes on Twitter, resonating with transgender, non-binary and LGBT+ college students and faculty around the world, according to NBC News.

“Since I was young enough to learn the 1980s conceptions of girls and boys, I knew that I was not a boy. On most days, my brain told me that I was a girl, that I wanted friends that were girls, that I wanted to do what girls did, and I wanted to be seen as a girl,” Ko wrote.

“For a brief time in primary school, that felt entirely natural. But awash in those feelings, I also quickly became aware that feelings like mine were something that no one in my life discussed, and so that probably meant it was bad. And as I absorbed more pop culture, I learned that people with penises who dressed, acted, or felt like girls were something to be ridiculed and laughed at; moreover, pop culture taught me that girls were to be diminished and disrespected too.

“My feelings were hard to ignore, but fear of being laughed at and disrespected was stronger. I pushed those everyday feelings about being a girl deep down, where no one could ever find them, not even me.”

Ko has already written a follow-up post, detailing what it was like for her to come out as trans.

“In some ways, the blog post marks the end of a story for me,” Ko said. “Probably the biggest thing for me is not having a cloud over every moment of my day, a cloud of fear and a cloud of concern or worry.

“It’s hard to explain what it’s like to keep a secret for that long, a secret that’s so central to your identity, but it’s exhausting and so much work to hide all the time.”

 

More: coming out, University of Washington, viral

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