Who I am

I was “born as” a baby – 5 lbs, 16 inches. The clothes my parents gave me then don’t fit me anymore than the arbitrary labels they gave me as identity markers, so I changed them to real ones. In 48 years I’ve outgrown onesies and other people’s expectations and grown into the person I actually am, which may not fit into your demands of me, but that’s too bad. I’m going to wear what I want to wear, call myself my real name and go to the bathroom where I need to. You have nothing to fear from me in a restroom, I promise you. But you already know that, really.

Continue ReadingWho I am

I’m legally changing my first and middle names

I’m changing my first and middle names.

I am getting rid of Stephanie Ann. My first name is going to be Hawthorn. (no e- like the tree, not the author.) My middle name is chosen, but I’m keeping to myself for now.

This is something I’ve been actively planning for over two years, but I’ve been thinking about it for more than 20, because I’ve always disliked my name and did not feel like it fit me. I have always been more gender-neutral than my name is, and I am in a place where I can’t tolerate a name I don’t connect with anymore.

My wife Stephanie has known about this for several years and is supportive of me changing names. We have talked through all of my ideas together. I’ve let my immediate family know about this. Most of them are onboard with it. Some of them are going to have to get onboard.

I’ll be starting the legal name change process soon, and it will take a month or so before that is all in place, and I’ll start changing things like credit cards and bank accounts and then my online presence.

I realize this is a big change for someone who has had the same name for 47 years, and that remembering it and calling me that name and thinking about me differently is a pretty big challenge.

That weird feeling you may have about my new name feeling strange to you – that’s the feeling I’ve always had about my old name – it doesn’t feel right. It’s a period of adjustment, but I have confidence you all are smart and capable people and can rise to the occasion.

I know people will have ideas, opinions or commentary about this. Please share your thoughts with me directly in a phone call or face-to-face conversation, rather than gossiping or commenting on social media.

The decision tree of names I’ve thought through and discarded is 786 lines long. I’ve gone through literally hundreds of names in the past few years trying them on and seeing how they fit. Naming yourself is hard. But I’ve found a name I actually love – it’s unique, gender neutral, has an outdoors/natural quality to it. Hawthorn is unusual as a first name, so there aren’t hundreds of little kids running around with the same name, nor do I have cousins or family members with that name, which are also bonuses.

Continue ReadingI’m legally changing my first and middle names

Myers-Briggs Personality Test Result

Myers-Briggs Test Result

I don’t remember getting this test result in the past, but I’d have to search my Facebook timeline for the last time I took it to see.

Who knows how long that test page will be around, so I’m copying the whole INFP results here:


INFP personalities are true idealists, always looking for the hint of good in even the worst of people and events, searching for ways to make things better. While they may be perceived as calm, reserved, or even shy, INFPs have an inner flame and passion that can truly shine. Comprising just 4% of the population, the risk of feeling misunderstood is unfortunately high for the INFP personality type – but when they find like-minded people to spend their time with, the harmony they feel will be a fountain of joy and inspiration.

INFP personalityBeing a part of the Diplomat (NF) personality group, INFPs are guided by their principles, rather than by logic (Analysts), excitement (Explorers), or practicality (Sentinels). When deciding how to move forward, they will look to honor, beauty, morality and virtue – INFPs are led by the purity of their intent, not rewards and punishments. People who share the INFP personality type are proud of this quality, and rightly so, but not everyone understands the drive behind these feelings, and it can lead to isolation.

All that is gold does not glitter; not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither; deep roots are not reached by the frost.
J. R. R. Tolkien


At their best, these qualities enable INFPs to communicate deeply with others, easily speaking in metaphors and parables, and understanding and creating symbols to share their ideas. The strength of this intuitive communication style lends itself well to creative works, and it comes as no surprise that many famous INFPs are poets, writers and actors. Understanding themselves and their place in the world is important to INFPs, and they explore these ideas by projecting themselves into their work.

INFPs have a talent for self-expression, revealing their beauty and their secrets through metaphors and fictional characters.
INFPs’ ability with language doesn’t stop with their native tongue, either – as with most people who share the Diplomat personality types, they are considered gifted when it comes to learning a second (or third!) language. Their gift for communication also lends itself well to INFPs’ desire for harmony, a recurring theme with Diplomats, and helps them to move forward as they find their calling.


Unlike their Extraverted cousins though, INFPs will focus their attention on just a few people, a single worthy cause – spread too thinly, they’ll run out of energy, and even become dejected and overwhelmed by all the bad in the world that they can’t fix. This is a sad sight for INFPs’ friends, who will come to depend on their rosy outlook.

If they are not careful, INFPs can lose themselves in their quest for good and neglect the day-to-day upkeep that life demands. INFPs often drift into deep thought, enjoying contemplating the hypothetical and the philosophical more than any other personality type. Left unchecked, INFPs may start to lose touch, withdrawing into “hermit mode”, and it can take a great deal of energy from their friends or partner to bring them back to the real world.

Luckily, like the flowers in spring, INFP’s affection, creativity, altruism and idealism will always come back, rewarding them and those they love perhaps not with logic and utility, but with a world view that inspires compassion, kindness and beauty wherever they go.

Famous INFPs:

William Shakespeare, J.R.R. Tolkien, Björk, Johnny Depp, Julia Roberts, Lisa Kudrow, Tom Hiddleston, Homer, Virgil

Fictional INFPs:

“Frodo Baggins” from The Lord of the Rings “Anne of Green Gables” “Fox Mulder” from X-Files “Deanna Troi” from Star Trek “Wesley Crusher” from Star Trek

Continue ReadingMyers-Briggs Personality Test Result

My Coat of Arms, drawn by me at age 11

This is my coat of arms, that I drew when I was 11 and I was in love with Princess Diana and all things British, so I read books on heraldry and ignored most of what I learned and drew some badass unicorn horns and swords and arrows. And some gender ambiguous people hanging out, chilling.

My Coat of Arms

Kate Middleton had to make up her own coat of arms now that she’s a princess, and she put some acorns on it. That is not very badass.


Continue ReadingMy Coat of Arms, drawn by me at age 11

26 Things

Back in 1999, people on the internet were trading the meme called “100 Things” where you wrote 100 things that people might not know about you, and you posted them on your site. I started my list but never got beyond 26 items, so I never put it on my site. In cleaning out some of my old writing today, I found the list, and chuckled at some of the now out-of-date items. You might get a kick out of them, too.

  1. I daydreamed my way through elementary school. I would have done better on the tests, except that I was reading ahead in the book and not doing the exercises, because the story was really fascinating.
  2. Salman Rushdie is one of my favorite authors. So is Jane Austen. I’m not always sure I understand Rushdie, so I have to read the criticism and analysis. I do understand Austen.
  3. As a kid, I took piano lessons and clarinet lessons. The only thing I can play now is the right-hand introductory part of “The Sting.”
  4. I grew up Catholic. I quit going to church in college. I started going back a few years ago, semi-secretly, because I didn’t want my friends & sister to make fun of me. I quit again when the priest scandal hit last year. I’m officially a secular humanist now.
    Unitarian Universalist. Although we never go to church, because we’re not awake that early on Sundays.
  5. I only keep in touch with one friend from high school – Cate. Most of the rest of my friends I met in college or recently at work.
    This is no longer true due to the wonders of Facebook.
  6. I didn’t really understand everything about sex until I was 16. I knew the “tab A, slot B” part, but I didn’t know the “arousal, orgasm” part. I thought that people had sex solely for the purpose of makin’ babies. I found out the truth from my friend Linda Griggy on a sleep-over.
  7. In high school, I joined the drama club not because I wanted to be an actor, but because I had a crush on a girl that was joining and she talked me into it. She ended up being my first real kiss.
  8. The only boy I ever kissed was Doug Knox, a kid from Junior High. I kissed him in Linda Griggy’s basement. This was before she explained the crucial details of sex to me, and I finally understood that it was girls that turn me on.
  9. Years ago, I was in a wet t-shirt contest at The Ten, the lesbian bar in Indianapolis. I was dating Peg at the time. I was very drunk. I didn’t win.
  10. I’ve been single for quite a long time. It feels normal to me. I don’t know if that’s good or not.
    So not true now.
  11. My favorite board game is Clue. Because of the house. I love houses. Also, I love board games.
    Different house, same love of the game.
  12. I am a fan of Amy Grant. Because she’s HOT.
  13. I lived in Canton, Ohio for two years; eight grade and my freshman year of high school. It was hell and the kids at school were evil. Although we lived next to Hershbergers, who were really cool. Mike Hershberger was a retired major league ball player, and a really cool guy.
  14. I haven’t been sleeping well lately. I’m only getting about 4 hours of sleep a night. I don’t know why.
    Wow, that’s stil true, but I didn’t realize how far back the insomnia problem went.
  15. Places I’ve been on vacation: New York City. Tucson, Arizona. Las Vegas, Nevada. Atlanta, Georgia. Madison, Wisconsin. A roadtrip around the mid-west. Washington, D. C. Munster, Germany.
    Cambridge, England; London; Toronto, Canada; Mexico, Route 66, California, Phoenix, Arizona; Durham, North Carolina; Luray, West Virginia…
  16. Places I’ve never been: California. Florida.
  17. I’ve worked for the same company for almost 8 16 years.
  18. I’m not a fan of Mexican food. It tends to make me ill.
  19. I’ve forgotten how to cook. I used to be able to make things, but now I eat right out of the refrigerator and heat everything up. This is ironic because people use my recipes every day, and send me new ones.
    I Still hate cooking.
  20. I’m mostly German, but also Irish, Polish, and native American. I’d like to find out more about my native American ancestors.
  21. I like to collect things. Many of my recent collections are influenced by my friend Doug.
  22. Jobs I’ve had: Baby sitting. Reshelving books at the public library. McDonalds. Chicken restaurant. English Tutor. College food service. Pizza Delivery Driver. Factory worker at Maxon Corporation. Assembly line worker at Vita-Chlor. Ticket sales at a movie theatre. Graphic artist at Laser Graphics. Graphic artist at Western Newpaper Publishing. Graphic Artist at Macmillan Publishing (now Pearson Education). Document conversion at Pearson Education. Web design at Pearson Education.
  23. I “came out” in 1987 in college. I’ve been honest about being gay for 15 23 years.
  24. My favorite movies are the Wizard of Oz, Auntie Mame, and Fight Club. I don’t know what that says about me, but it can’t be good.
  25. I think a great deal of psychology is complete bull.
  26. When I was in high school, I sprained my ankle really badly and had to undergo cryotherapy and walk around on crutches. This was my worst injury.
    Wimp. Nothing compares to having your chest cracked open.
Continue Reading26 Things

Arline Groenwoldt

Arline Groenwoldt
My Grandmother, Arline Groenwoldt

My maternal grandmother, Arline Groenwoldt, died on Thursday, April 15th. I waited to mention it here because I wanted to be sure that my family had a chance to attend her services first. And then I waited some more because I’m having such a hard time figuring out what to say. I can’t adequately capture her likeness in words, and it’s overwhelming to try to explain what she meant to me. I have a vivid memory of her voice, and I keep replaying things she said in my head, afraid that I’ll forget what she sounded like and that little piece of her will be lost to me.

We drove to Iowa for her memorial last week. She is interred in Davenport Memorial Park next to my grandfather, Julius H. Groenwoldt, who died on March 30, 1996.

From the Quad City Times:

Arline Groenwoldt

PERRY, Iowa — Arline V. Groenwoldt, 86, of Perry, Iowa, and a Davenport native, died Thursday, April 15, 2010, at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. A year after her husband Julius’ death in 1996, she moved from Davenport to Perry to be near family. Memorial services will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Runge Mortuary in Davenport. She will be buried next to Julius in Memorial Park Cemetery.

She is survived by her son, Jim Groenwoldt (Debbie), of Indianapolis, Ind.; and daughters Pat Mineart, of Noblesville, Ind.; Judy Barden, of Des Moines, and Nancy Wright (Dave), of Perry; 14 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and one brother, Richard Koos (Beverly), of Davenport.

Grandma Groenwoldt’s love of reading is a legacy she passed to my mother and her siblings, and then to me and my siblings. She and my grandfather also loved flowers and their garden was full of gorgeous blooms – one of my most vivid memories from childhood.

Some flowers from our garden, for my grandmother.

Garden Blooms
Garden Blooms
Garden Blooms

Continue ReadingArline Groenwoldt

3 Things Meme

Copy, paste, delete my answers and type in your answers. Tag a few good friends! The theory is that you will learn a lot of little known things about each other.

Three Names I go by:
1. Steph
2. Electrasteph
3. [secret blog name redacted}

Three Jobs I have had in my life:
1. page in a public library
2. factory work at Maxon Corporation (college job)
3. Website Designer

Three Places I have lived:
1. Ankeny, Iowa
2. Canton, Ohio
3. Indianapolis, Indiana

Three TV Shows that I watch:
1. The Closer
2. The Mentalist
3. The Rachel Maddow Show

Three places I have been:
1. Münster, Germany
2. Route 66 from Chicago to California
3. Toronto, Canada

People that e-mail me regularly:
1. Stephanie
2. Chi
3. The Gap

Three of my favorite foods:
1. Buffalo Chicken
2. Pizza with capers
3. Olives

Three friends I think will repost:
1. Stephanie
2. Chi
3. David (if he hasn’t done it already)

Things I am looking forward to:
1. vacation week!
2. container gardening on the porch
3. finishing up some furniture refinishing

Continue Reading3 Things Meme

Steph Needs

DIRECTIONS: Type your name and the word NEEDS in quotes (e.g., “John Needs”) into Google and see what comes up.

Steph needs someone to CoNfOrT HeR.
Steph needs another new start
Stephanie needs to get the women together in an alliance because the men
Stephanie needs cash-fast-but times are tough, and soon she’s forced to turn to …
Stephanie needs a behavior modification approach to deal with …
Steph needs to go to the bathroom real bahhd.
Stephanie needs some help. Look at those pants! Should have stayed on the sidewalk!
Stephanie needs to be in a family where there are no other children or animals.
Steph needs our continued prayers
Steph needs your help with a quick survey!
Steph needs to be gone.
Steph needs a ride
Steph needs to know that her feelings are normal and that a sleepy…
Steph needs to stop eating lamingtons.
Steph needs to fight her own battles.


Continue ReadingSteph Needs

Gender Identity Things

A couple of posts down, I answered a meme wherein I mentioned that I “have some gender identity things I don’t talk about much.” To that post, one of my former co-workers added a comment.

When I initially read it, I deleted the comment. It’s been a very draining weekend, and I thought the post was antagonistic, and I really didn’t want to deal with it. I also didn’t want to let it stand, because I have a site comment policy that I enforce.

But it was also unfair enough, and full of so many unjust assumptions that I changed my mind and decided I’d better address it, for better or worse.

The text of the comment:

Gender Identity issues??? Well no Duh!

You know what they say Steph; those who protest the loudest have the most to hide and you aren’t any different. You treated me with complete disrespect and rejection when I transitioned at work 4 cubes away from you for over a year. At a time when I needed friends and support, you wouldn’t even talk to me, not a kind or supportive word EVER. You could have been a huge help and a valuable ally, but obviously you were hiding behind your own issues and didn’t want to muddy your internal gender puddle.

You know what? I get it, I understand. I wish I would have made the connection then instead of catching it in a brief comment on your blog which I read occasional. (It is one of the better Hoosier-made blogs, so kudos to you.) Had I known, or had I been in a position to get outside my own issues at the time, at least it would have dulled the feeling of rejection I felt.

I doubt you will, but should you want an ear for those gender identity issues, I’m here and more than willing to listen.


I’m not sure where to start, but let me dive in.

1. My own gender identity.

LET ME BE REALLY CLEAR because I’ve been through this discussion before, and had people try to tell me I don’t know my own mind. And anyone who reads my writing knows that’s the one thing that sends me into a blind, frothing rage. I hate it when people try to tell me what I think. I’m the most introspective person you or I know, and no one has examined what I think more carefully than me.

I am not interested in transitioning to a man. I’m happy with my body in it’s current configuration. I’ve been openly gay for over 20 years, and if I were interested in being a man, I would have arrived there 15 years ago.

What I’m not comfortable with is society’s expectations and prescribed role for me – primarily involving (but not exclusive to) clothing that is traditionally considered women’s clothing.

I don’t like dresses on me, and will not wear one. I’m not comfortable in a dress or a skirt and don’t like the way they look on me. I hate the way women’s shoes look and feel on my feet. I don’t like purses. I don’t like the colors, styles or cuts of women’s blouses or tops on me. I like to wear clothes that are comfortable to me. I like to wear men’s clothes. I like to wear men’s shoes.

I also have issues with what society expects from women when it come to occupations, behaviors and attitudes.

When I said my “gender identity things” I definitely DID NOT MEAN that I’m confused or have doubts about who I am or how I feel. The “issue” I have is with society, not with myself.

And I AM NOT ALONE in how I feel. There are LOTS of lesbians in the same shoes I am in – breaking gender lines without being trans. Wanting to change what women can do and be without transitioning into men.

This is wholly and completely different from the feelings and desires of female to male trans men, and the distinction is at the heart of some extremely emotional and very hostile clashes between the lesbian and trans communities.

These hostile clashes are one of the reasons I’m not comfortable bringing up gender identity on this blog – because one of the people I like and admire – my friend Marti Abernathey – is a a trans advocate, and I really like her, and don’t want to have difficult discussions with her. I’d much rather avoid the conversation, because there are things I disagree with in some of her positions, and I value her friendship and don’t want to argue when there’s so much we do agree on.

The other reason is because I don’t want to have this sort of conversation in front of my mother, whom I love very much, but who is, I’m sure, very uncomfortable at this topic right now, because she reads my blog regularly. My mom has come a very long way since I came out 20 years ago, but there are still areas where we have things to talk about, and I’d prefer do that in person with her and not here, because she deserves that respect.

2. My experience with trans people.

I have a friend who transitioned from male to female in college, (circa 1987) amidst great hostility and at a time when people REALLY didn’t know or understand much about gender identity issues. I listened to Rachel’s explanations about how she felt, sympathized with her in the fear she felt at the hostility she went through, tried not to add anything to the burden that got heaped on her, and actively defended her to other people as she gradually changed into the person she really felt she was.

I think she’s an amazing, strong and expressive person. We haven’t always agreed over the years because we have very different personalities, but I like her, and admire her for surviving all the crap she had to deal with in order to find her true self. I still see her a couple of times a year, usually at the holidays, and it seems she’s become a happy and truly joyful woman, and I can’t picture her as anything else.

Over the years I’ve become friends with several other trans people and also have the privilege of working with trans advocates on political issues and efforts.

I have also had numerous conversations with trans people and with lesbians and gay men about gender issues, and especially have had some difficult conversations with a few trans people who seem to believe that all “butch” lesbians have just not discovered their inner man and who are convinced I’m going to transition at some future date that I just haven’t realized. I’m not sure why a few people are so rigid in the other direction than societal norms in their beliefs, but those people exist and can be very vocal.

I don’t know if that’s what you’re saying, Janie, but it sure seems that you comment is making that assumption.

3. My workplace.

Before Janie came along, there were two other people who transitioned from one sex to another in our workplace. As far as I know, they both did so without problems, and were treated with respect and consideration. I wasn’t close friends with either of them, but in the few conversations we had, they said that their transition was supported by active participation from human resources. I never heard them complain about how other people in the company treated them, and I never heard anything against them from anyone else. Now that’s not to say things didn’t happen – just that I never heard about it. But I’ve always been openly gay at work, so it’s possible that people made sure nothing came to my ears.

When it comes to my own experiences with being openly gay at my current workplace, I’ve always felt supported. Hell, I CAME to the company in 1994 specifically because they had sexual orientation and gender identity in the EEOC clauses, and other gay people advertised it as a welcoming place to apply. After being fired from a job for being openly gay and dealing with another that was hostile to gay people, working at a welcoming workplace was a priority for me.

3. My experiences with Janie.

First of all, Janie… I regularly, openly defended your transition and challenged people’s beliefs about gender identity when you came up in conversation. I did this partly because you came up quite a bit, and partly because I was approached by human resources and asked to speak out on your behalf if I heard people making inappropriate or discriminatory remarks, and to let them know if I thought there was a problem.

In my discussions with co-workers, the issue wasn’t specifically your transition – it was other personality issues that got packaged with you transition, and I strove to separate those and point out that if someone had a problem with you, they should address the problem and not take cheap shots at your transition. All of the people I talked to were able to sort that out in their minds. Some took longer to get there.

About you and me personally – Not one kind word? What? I had conversations with you, Janie. I spoke to you, said hi to you, I wasn’t in anyway disrespectful or unkind.

On the other hand – bluntly – I just don’t like you. I’m sorry, but there it is. There were things you did and said that bothered me, and it had nothing to do with you transition, or my feelings about my gender or yours. It was just you. So yes, there were times when I wasn’t warm or welcoming. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to go into specifics on my issues with you here or anywhere else.

I did and do have an obligation to defend your status in a minority group – one that I took up unhesitatingly. But the reality is that we just don’t have to be BFF with everyone just because we’re in minority groups that deal with the same issues. Some people just have different personalities, and you and I are two of those people.

Continue ReadingGender Identity Things

The name “Stephanie” on Babynamer.com

One of the blogs I read regularly pointed out the site babynamer.com in a blog post, because it’s a nicely-designed and interesting site on baby names. They include a long definition and origin of each name, a section on famous people with that name, a long list of related alternate names, and then a funny feature – “drawbacks” for any given name (all the mean things people will call your kid). The drawbacks page is definitely the selling point that sets this apart from other baby name sites.

Here’s what babynamer.com says about the name Stephanie:

Meaning: Its source is Stephanos, a Greek name meaning “Crown or garland.”

In French, this name is spelled with an accent — Stéphanie.

Languages: This girl’s name is used in German, English and French.

Nicknames: Fanny, Steffi, Steffie, Stefi, Stevey, Stevie and Stepha

Alternative Spellings: Stefaney, Stefani, Stefanie, Stefany, Steffanie, Steffany, Stepfanie, Stephaine, Stephaney, Stephani, Stephannie, Stephany, Stephenie, Stephyne and Stephney

Variant Forms: Estephanie, Stepanie, Stephane, Stephine, Stephnie and Stefne

Non-English Forms: Estefana, Estefania, Stefania, Estebana, Stefanida, Étiennette, Stefana, Stepána and Stepanida

Popularity: The name Stephanie ranked 41st in popularity for females of all ages in a sample of 2000-2003 Social Security Administration statistics, 41st in popularity for females of all ages in a sample of the 1990 US Census and 10th in popularity for females of all ages in a sample of the 1994 US Census.

This name is highly rated both on the 1990 U.S. Census list and in state data recording the most popular baby names.

Narrative: According to Christian scripture, Stephen was the first martyr, and the influence of this saint accounts for the popularity of both male and female variations of his name in many Western languages.
The Bible describes Stephen as a righteous and compassionate person who refused to disguise his beliefs, even though his frankness cost him his life. (How apropo!)

He was condemned to death by stoning, and the cloaks of those commissioned to do the bloody work were held by a fellow persecutor of the Christians, Saul of Tarsus.

In time, Saul became Paul the Apostle, shaper of Christian doctrine and Christian missionary to the entire ancient world.

That last two lines – where Paul the Apostle held the cloaks of the people who stoned Stephen to death, and then went on to become the most famous Christian missionary – so interesting.

And then, here are the drawbacks (with highlights of my favorites):

Silly Steph
Stef-fanny (I got this one)
Stuffy Steffy (and this one, too.)
Step on me
Steffe Weffe Waffle Face
Stay funny
Stupid Stephanie (What? That’s not even creative.)
Stay Fine
Staphanie the Giraffanie
Steffe Weffe (I got this one, too.)
Steffie Stuff

None of these is the exact name my baby cousins used to say when they were too small to pronounce my name: “Nephne.”

Continue ReadingThe name “Stephanie” on Babynamer.com