Lynn Conway: Trans Icon and Pioneer, 1938 – 2024

I am very sad to hear that the trailblazer Lynn Conway has passed.

She invented things I don’t even understand, created one of the most ferocious and useful trans websites back in the day, and was a friend and fellow crank.

I always felt richer and smarter talking to her, and am glad she started to be recognized by the wider world in recent years, garnering honorary degrees and other lifelong achievement recognition (including a very belated apology from IBM for firing her for transitioning).

Thank you, Lynn, for everything. Here is Lynn in her own words, and Dallas Denny’s obituary is below, and then a few more memories from me about working with her and her giant brain and heart.

Lynn Ann Conway

January 2, 1938 – June 9, 2024

Prepared by Dallas Denny

June 10, 2024

An Obituary

Lynn Ann Conway was an electrical engineer, computer scientist, and an activist on behalf of transgender people. She died in Jackson, Michigan on Sunday, June 9, 2024 of heart trouble.

Lynn was born in Mount Vernon, New York on January 2, 1938. She was a reserved but exceptionally bright student who attended MIT but did not graduate due a difficult and ultimately unsuccessful gender transition. Conway continued education at Columbia University, where she earned B.S. and M.S.E.E. degrees in 1962 and 1963, respectively. In 1964, Conway accepted a position as a researcher at IBM’s facility in Yorktown Heights, New York. There, Conway worked with others on an advanced supercomputer project. Conway was fired in 1968 when it became known that she intended to transition. IBM later apologized for that action.

That same year, Lynn consulted Dr. Harry Benjamin and became a patient. She completed her gender transition, also in 1968. In a divorce, she was denied the right to visit with her minor children.

Using her new name, Lynn continued work as a computer research scientist, working at Computer Applications, Inc., Memorex, and, Xerox PARC, and DARPA. In 1985, she became a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan and, simultaneously, Associate Dean of Engineering.

Lynn’s post-transition accomplishments were foundational in the develop of computers, but her pre-transition work was not credited to her until 1998, when a researcher who was examining IBM’s three-decades old supercomputer project discovered that a scientist he had been unable to identify had become known as Lynn Conway. For Lynn, this resulted in a difficult decision to come out as transgender. She has since been hailed not only for her myriad post-transition accomplishments, but for her earlier work. She is famous for, among many other things, launching the Mead-Conway VLSI chip design revolution.

Lynn was well-known in transgender circles for her accomplishments and for her website, on which she told her personal story and worked to advance the rights of transgender people. She is perhaps best known in this regard for her criticism of Ray Blanchard’s theory of autogynephilia and a failed lawsuit, with Dierdre McCloskey, against J. Michael Bailey author of The Man Who Would be Queen.

In 2002, Lynn married her long-time boyfriend Charles Rogers. They lived on a 24-acre wooded property in rural Michigan.

Sandra Samons, a therapist in Ann Arbor and a long-time friend of Lynn’s, asked me tonight to share the following information:

Lynn Conway died yesterday, June 9, 2024

Her husband Charlie Rogers can be contacted at

Arrangements are still incomplete, but Lynn Conway’s funeral will be held at: Sherwood Funeral Home, 1109 Norvell Rd., Grass Lake, MI 49240 (Tel. 517-522-3000, URL

Service will be at 1 pm Saturday, June 22 with visitation the night before from 4-7 pm.

Lynn helped so much with my first book – there’s a photo of her and her husband in it, even – and I’d sought her out because she was the most ferocious critic of how trans women were portrayed, and I didn’t want to get it wrong. Back then, we lived on two sides – crossdressers on one, “transsexual” women on the other – and we spent months on the phone, talking to each other about these worlds. She didn’t believe she had anything in common with crossdressers, as maligned as they were for being fetishists and the like – and at the time, no one really believed crossdressers were trans women who hadn’t yet transitioned.

In these conversations, I could hear the lightbulb go on when we talked, about how a long suppressed gender identity might manifest in complicated ways for some, and in a more direct path for others. It was astounding to hear someone whose brain actively engaged any detail in order to make a connection, bridge a difference, and her own story, told to me during those calls, helped me understand why the divide even existed.

Rest in peace, brilliant friend. You represented the best of us with your incredible intelligence that combined with kindness to create a true icon and role model. I will never even aspire to her scientific genius, but I will always aspire to her generosity of spirit, and how much she believed in knowledge, and that knowledge is power.

Guest Author: Jessica Michelle Polacek

(My friend Jessica has been doing some awesome queer history of Wisconsin on Facebook, but this summary was too good to not pass on. – hbk)

Wisconsin LGBTQ

Continuing our celebration of LGBTQ history on the last day of Milwaukee Pride, here are some other facts about my home state:

1. Milwaukee had its own version of Stonewall, eight years earlier at the Black Nite Bar

2. LGBTQ recorded history in Wisconsin dates to an 1894 arrest in Black River Falls

3. In 1976, just months before Harvey Milk, James Yeadon defeated 13 other candidates and was elected to public office as an openly gay man – twice!

4. Wisconsin was the first state to pass LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws which came through the help of religious leaders

5. Emmanuel UCC in Oconomowoc was the first open and affirming church in the state

6. Opened in 1968 by June Brehm, This Is It, one of Milwaukee’s beloved gay bars, is one of the oldest in the country

7. Wisconsin was the first state to have three openly LGBTQ elected officials in the US Congress – Tammy Baldwin, Steve C. Gundersen and Mark Pocan

8. Congressman Steve C. Gunderson was unwillingly outed on the floor of the US House of Representatives — then reelected in spite of this

9. Milwaukee was home to some infamous ‘drag wars’ in the 1980s between clubs Two-Nineteen and LaCage

10. Milwaukee has been dubbed an ‘underappreciated gay Mecca’ with more than 100 years of LGBTQ history

11. Nationally acclaimed Gay Peoples Union started right here in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has a rich, colorful and often positive LGBTQ heritage. Just one more reason to celebrate Pride. 

Birth Control and Trans

I recently received a question, via email, from a young person about birth control.

“I am a 17 year old closeted trans guy who is looking for ways to mitigate dysphoria. I have access to binders, but I am physically unable to use one for health reasons. I have moderate to severe acne and have been recommended that I start estrogen-based patch birth control to mitigate it. However, my friend told me that the hormones included in patch birth control could have “feminizing” effects, such as breast growth. I looked on the internet to see if this was true, and there seems to be a lot of conflicting information. Some sites even said that taking birth control could lessen the effects of female-to-male hormone replacement therapy (FtM HRT) later down the road. I plan to start testosterone later in life. It’s not safe for me to come out to my doctor, so I can’t ask for help from a medical professional. Is there anywhere I can find reliable information about potential “feminizing” effects of birth control originally designed for cis women?”

So I asked a trans friend who is an RN, and who gave me this amazing resource and information:

Lots of great clinically sound information in this document: Birth control is appropriate and people taking or planning to take testosterone can use most any method. The methods that typically help stop bleeding would be the progestin pill, implant, IUD or the depo shot. Sometimes these methods are specifically used to stop bleeding, even if the patient does not desire it for birth control properties. Progestin does not interact with testosterone. Sometimes patients choose to avoid the methods that contain estrogen such as the pill, patch, or ring, due to the lack of clarity if estrogen interacts with testosterone, which sounds like it would be something important for this individual. I would say we have a fairly large handful of patients on T that get the Depo-Provera shot every 3 months. For some, it is to help control any potential bleeding that testosterone has not stopped, for others it is for birth control and for some it is for both reasons. The copper IUD might also be an option as it does not contain any hormones but could potentially have some light bleeding associated with it prior to starting testosterone. A final note, testosterone is a very potent hormone and has very little, mostly no issue, overpowering estrogen.

Articles About the Current Anti Trans Moment

I’ve been gathering and sending these to people lately but thought it might be time to gather a bunch of them, so here goes:

Chase Strangio on the Arkansas law

Brian Lehrer on WNYC with guest Kate Sosin

My favorite podcast, Is This Democracy, on why the attack on trans rights is an assault on democracy.

Mother Jones on the organization that wrote these anti trans laws and pushed them on to state legislatures (that is, it’s no coincidence that they all seem similar)

Heather Cox Richardson, everyone’s favorite historian, on why standing up for trans rights is a basic issue of equality, saying, “Once you give up the principle of equality, you have given up the whole game. You have admitted the principle that people are unequal, and that some people are better than others. Once you have replaced the principle of equality with the idea that humans are unequal, you have stamped your approval on the idea of rulers and subjects. At that point, all you can do is to hope that no one in power decides that you belong in the lesser group.”

A much more emphatic piece by Jay Kuo on what genocide is, how this language signals that is the intention, and shows us how history always has the lessons.

A new interview with the one and only Masha Gessen, who I just learned identifies as trans and non binary, from The New Yorker‘s David Remnick, and a radio interview too.

An explainer from Vox.

And to close, this piece of good news out of Minnesota, which has effectively become a sanctuary state for trans people and their families, adding to a short list of states and countries that have done so.

Guest Author: Ariela Rosa

A partner recently sent me this piece she’d written for a contest and I was struck not just by the writing style but by the deep urge, as ever, to get a partner’s truth you in the world. Enjoy.

Transition in 2000 Words – by Ariela Rosa

May 24, 2022

I wanted to say I appreciate R’s commitment to building community and giving everyone a voice. Their style in leading with heart, reaffirming that the conversation is a safe space, and being open to everyone’s inputs is so appreciated. 

I stop to ask R, my spouse, if he has changed his pronouns.

“Oh yeah,” they say. “I was encouraging people at work to put their pronouns in their email signatures, so I started by putting mine. And when I went to put “he/him,” it felt wrong. So I just put they/them.”

This casual decision completely devastates me.

They came out as trans two years ago, 16 years into our relationship. I could not promise that our marriage would last through all the changes, but I of course wanted to treat them with dignity and respect, starting with the most basic of the basics: calling them what they wanted to be called. So I’d been checking in constantly about pronouns. They promised they’d let me know when they were ready, but suddenly I find out that I’ve been misgendering my spouse without knowing it.

I am angry at us both. Once again they’ve made a decision without letting me in, but also I want to get this right, and because I had no warning there is no way for me to not fuck this up over and over.

Saying “they” makes my heart ache for me.

Accidentally uttering “he” makes my heart ache for them.

December 23, 2021

“Hey, I got this for you for Christmas. I know it’s not much, but…”

I’d bought a few pairs of earrings that reminded me of my husband spouse. One set was two halves of an avocado with smiling faces painted onto the pits. I paid for his lobe piercings two weeks ago, crying later that day about this step in his evolving womanhood. Buying the earrings is my way of manning up.

I get on a plane to Utah the next day. I was tired of asking a dysphoric person to hold me through my tears as if I were the one suffering and needed to be someone else’s problem for a while. I also needed to know if I felt better with or without him.

The trip did not help me figure this out.

He called on Christmas Day to thank me. I sobbed.

January 2022

My friend sends me back from Utah with a gift certificate to Sephora. “I want R. to go to somewhere where they will take care of him and treat him with respect.”

What a thoughtful gift; I am happy and know he’ll love it. But also, I’m so angry; I feel a responsibility to go with him so I can shake my cis privilege at everyone and ensure that he will be treated right. But that also means seeing him glow in his foundation and eyeliner, watching “him” fade further away.

He shares that he’s afraid of looking like a man in a dress.

But what’s wrong with being a man in a dress? I could totally handle that! I tell myself to shut the fuck up; what awful thoughts. If there is a hell, then I’m sure I belong there.

We have fun for once; I’m proud that I was able to ignore the lump in my throat the whole time.

Back in the car, he cried. “They made me feel so valid,” he said. I tried extra hard to smile in spite of myself.

September 2020

My spouse’s summertime online affair came to an abrupt end when I found the transcripts of him and his partner sexting the other week. I had suspected the affair from the beginning, but I felt an extra sting when I realized that the other person had treated my husband like a woman when I felt I couldn’t. He even gave this person his chosen name while telling me he wasn’t ready to make that change yet. The potent mix of rage, guilt, and despair boiling all over my body makes me want to tear off my own skin.

Perhaps it is because I feel so much loss, pain, and eroding trust that I decide to finally confide in one of my best friends about R. being trans, hoping to lean on someone else for a while.

I do not tell her about the affair.


I stop her and explain sternly that my spouse being trans isn’t doing anything to me, and that she can’t be mad at someone just for being trans.

I do not lean on her for support.

October 2020

“Well, do you WANT to buy girl’s clothes?” I ask.

“I guess I should,” he replies.

“Cool beans. I will take you to Torrid, and we will get you a dressing room. And if someone dares to say something I’ll fuck ’em up.”

We find some vibrant skirts and blouses. I choose many of the options, insisting that he try everything because he has no idea what he’ll like. He is too shy to ask the sales associate for help, so I do.

“Hey you,” I say with as much non-nonchalant confidence as I can muster, “My husband wants to try on these clothes.”

She opens a room without hesitation and with a warm smile. Turns out I didn’t need to beat up anyone today. Lucky her.

I ask what he thinks. Turns out a shirt I had chosen was less than flattering. If he wants my opinion, I will gladly give it to him. But I also will encourage him to buy the damn thing if he disagrees.

“Yeah, hell no, ick.” I breathe a sigh of relief. We throw it aside and laugh.

July 2020

After making passionate love, we cuddle in bed as a stream of afternoon sunlight shines through the window and onto our nakedness. I cry while I caress his chest hair, which glistens from the light and the sweat of our sex. He is going to shave his chest for the first time today, and with laser starting next month I know that this is the last time I will ever feel this part of him.

His hair is so coarse, long, full, curly. We used to make jokes about the possibility of his chest hair poking through his t-shirts, making him and the shirt one and giving him super powers.

He won’t feel like my person without this hair.

He holds me tight, giving me this last chance even though it kills him. I apologize.

When he finally goes to the bathroom, I sob and scream into my pillow until I fall asleep.

June 2022

R. is having a bad dysphoria day.

I just want to gouge out my own eyes. I feel like a fraud. In my head I imagine people referring to me as ‘he’ but then I feel like I’m referring to myself that way and it makes me feel like I’m lying if I keep misgendering myself. I feel lost and can’t function.

I should be there to help them through this, but my deadlines don’t care. So I work while I listen, trying hard to understand something that I know I never will.

I know. It’s ok. I think I just need to say it. Sometimes just sharing things with you helps.

I feel guilty for missing the man they need to get rid of to feel right.

Spring 2022

“Oh wow! And you’re okay with that?” This seems to be the chief question during the public phase of my spouse’s coming out.

“I mean, we’re a work in progress,” I giggle because I don’t know how else to respond. “Anyway, he hasn’t changed pronouns yet, but I’ll let you know when.”

What I really want to say is fuck you. I don’t think I get to choose or “okay” the core of my spouse’s self, assholes.

Or is everyone asking whether I want to stay married? This seems like a terribly invasive question that I can’t even answer for myself yet.

“It’s so great that you are supporting him—oh, I mean her? Is that right?” They look for me to assure them that they are indeed not transphobic. But I don’t have energy to help anyone else.

Instead of expecting me to take care of them or make them comfortable, why doesn’t anyone ever just ask me what I need?

Today that online group for partners of trans folks posted a meme: “As a trans person you don’t transition to become a different person. You transition to stop pretending to be someone you’re not!”

This stings. I know it’s correct. I also know that I fell in love with the person my spouse was pretending to be. I miss that person every day. I write this in response to the original poster.

“My wife is trans,” OP replies. “I tend to focus on how much happier she is.”

Dismissed again.

June 2020

“I’m gonna order some books on gender and sexuality,” he mutters while I’m in the middle of a Zoom meeting. There is maybe six inches of space between the back of my chair and the side of his. Our second room barely accommodates our desks, but I’m insistent that we separate our work space from the rest of the house so they don’t meld together. This work from home thing is temporary anyway.

I wave him away so that I can pay attention.

The books arrive a few days later. One book in the pile… is a gender workbook?

“Babe, are you questioning your gender?”

He doesn’t look at me when he says yes.

The floor has fallen out beneath me.

“I can’t do this! Of course you can transition and I will always support you, but I cannot be your wife! We need to divorce NOW. Seriously, what the fuck! 16 years! After everything we’ve gone though, you didn’t tell me?! 16 fucking years!”

“I didn’t know either.”

When R. was five, a bunch of her cousins visited her apartment, and her first instinct was to pick up some cans to join the girls in playing restaurant. The room fell silent: every adult whipped their head around, instilling deep shame into her as they said “boys don’t play like that.”

That’s when he was born.

So I know he’s right: how could he have known?

But how do I reconcile falling in love with a mask?  I’m grieving him while she is alive; I grieve him even though he wasn’t right. I don’t understand my reality or my feelings.

It doesn’t take long for her to peak through and for him to start fading away, though in the quiet phase of the transition he comes back sometimes to keep up appearances for those who do not yet know.

I envy my friends for getting to keep him for just a little longer.

June 2004

We met through a mutual friend when we were 17 and 19. I was about to graduate high school and was pretty sure I didn’t have a future, so I had stopped dreaming by the time he came along.

But being with him made dreaming seem possible.

After talking each other’s ears off for a week over the phone, we met for pizza, walking across the Harlem Bridge to the Bronx. On the way back, we stopped in the middle of the bridge to enjoy the light breeze and cloudless sky. We held hands while watching the late afternoon sun bounce along the water.

Something felt so familiar in this moment, like I’d known him before and would know him again. I already could not picture my life without him.

“Hey, I just want you to know… I can’t predict what will happen with us, but no matter what, I will always be your friend.”

Response to That NYT Op Ed

The NYT published a shitty ‘both sides’ op ed today that is supposed to be about Roe but is basically a transphobic POS.

My coment:

It’s inexcusable that anyone would fall for this bait: divide and conquer, over and over again, and white women – I’ll use the term since it’s the one you prefer – fall for it the hardest.

I am one so don’t at me.

As a feminist who has been committed to gender liberation for my lifetime, and who has been working with an for trans and non binary people for a couple of decades, it pains me to see women cling to a biological reality that is now criminalizing all of us.

The destruction of Roe is connected to all of the transphobic laws out there. You know how you tell? The same people who are for Roe being overturned are also the ones who are passing transphobia.

Not understanding or accepting the newer lingo of gender liberation is not a good reason to join the oppressors, which is exactly what Pamela Paul just did here, and what half of you in these comments is applauding.

It’s a sad state of affairs when cis women do not recognize how deeply feminist trans movement is, how radically inclusive it aims to be, and how bodily autonomy is a shared concern.

Get it together, folks. We have no time for this.

Trans TX Orgs

Trans Education Network of Texas:

Equality Texas:

ACLU Texas:

TX Trans Health:

TX Trans Kids:

Organización Latina Trans Texas

Trans Pride Initiative:

OutYouth (Austin):


20 Years.

I wrote a new (free) piece for Patreon today and then started wondering about all the things I’ve written over the years about the Towers and that Tuesday.

So, in order of their appearance, this one from 2005, and a peaceful image that did my heart good when I first saw it, and that I still call Wish.

Then, in 2008, this kind of throwaway piece that still packs a wallop because it was true; from the first time I flew in a plane after that day.

Two pieces from the 10th anniversary, one of which I wrote in 2007 for a grant application, and the other – about the dogs.

A few years later, when fostering kittens – one of whom would become our Greta Bean – I would write about how having our two gray boys leave footprints in the dust of our Brooklyn apartment that day.

I first started hating the term “never forget” I don’t know when but I first said something about it in 2014. That’s also when I posted this beautiful view from the top of the Towers.

By 2017 I had a fellow New Yorker here in Appleton with me, and I wrote this for her, and for me, and for all of us who were there but who left NYC, but moreso for all the people who weren’t there who think they’ve got something to say.

In 2018 a smattering of memories about the beautiful place it was and the hints of what was lost immediately after, soon after, and much after. (This is still something I need to write a hell of a lot more about, personally. I lost my life in no small part that day and have only insinuated about it but never really dug in.)

In 2019 this piece about being a post traumatic, when I was convinced that would be the center of my next book, an idea I abandoned once I started trying to write it because it was too fucking painful and I did not have the mental health resources – or the time off – to really do it. Sometimes you lose too much blood trying to get a thing down, and that was the case with this. Sometimes projects are abandoned because they have to be.

Last year, this piece a week ahead of time about a song, and a band, and a concert that happened afterwards, and the pathos and drunkenness and community.

But 2020 was filled with so much other grief, as is 2021. My rage is always the first thing that I can express, and I’m glad I get to, because I’m so continually disgusted at the misuse of this day for patriotism instead of memory, perspective, grief. What strikes me most this year is how much I still haven’t said or written about, my nightmares, how much of my life and my self I lost as a result. I’ve never written about Mychal Judge but I read about him a lot and hope he does become a saint.

So the rage is often what you get, the pushback to how we do this as a country. I’m sad not to be in NYC and relieved not to be in NYC, too: just one show on “what ‘never forget’ means to you” had me weeping in my BK apt, so maybe it is for the best that I’m not soaking in a whole town’s grief and anger today.

Or not. For now, I compile and cry and play with cats and order groceries and go back to reading N. K. Jemisin’s The City We Became.


For our 20th anniversary, I had this plate and artwork commissioned because queer artists are the best. Kaffers Illustration on Insta and FB.

(And yes, of course I have more to say about what it means/what it takes to make it to a 20th wedding anniversary as a trans couple, but not today…. )