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.

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