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.

Philly Trans House Bombing

So a man in Philadelphia casually tossed a bomb onto the porch of a house that was the home of 7 trans people.

The house and its tenants have been targeted before – with paintballs – which is why there is footage of this new attack.

If you are in the Philly area and recognize this person or the guy walking with him earlier in the video, please contact the police: 215-686-3183/3184.

(And no, I don’t believe in the police, but I also don’t think someone who is bombing a house full of trans people should be free  to try it again.)

Weekly Trans Roundup: 2/4-2/10/18

Since I’ll be doing most of my writing on Patreon these days (do sign up! it’s only $1/month!), I’ve decided that I’ll also do a weekly round up of some of the most trans relevant news I’ve seen in the past week.

Chelsea Manning Isn’t the Only Trans Candidate You Should Know About is a brief article about some of the other awesome trans candidates running in the US.

This cool video by Blake Cully on what it’s like to be trans and deaf.

This awesome sartorial history of pink and blue as the colors for babies from KSPS:

Another great video about Charlotte:

A video by a cis man calling for greater inclusion of trans women (at the women’s march & beyond).

Iowa City added a third gender option.

This cool story about decolonizing sexuality at a Two Spirit Pow Wow.

The announcement that a new book called The Singing Teacher’s Guide to Transgender Voices is now available.

A great article on ‘walking while trans’ about criminalization of trans identities focused primarily on the NYPD.

And sadly, the obituary of the fourth trans woman killed this year, Celine Walker, age 36, who was killed in Jacksonville, FL.

Adieu Holly Boswell, Beautiful Soul

One of the gentlest, most loving, most fierce souls I have known died this past weekend at the age of 66. I don’t know what of; I only know that for 66 short years, the world was a better place and still will be as a result of who she was and how she was.

When we met, just glanced at each other across the room, it was one of those kismet moments of “i get you” and we talked. And talked and talked and talked; Holly and I talked whenever we saw each other, nearly couldn’t stop. I don’t know that I was so extraordinarily special in that, because she was so open and so welcoming and so goddamned beautiful I’m sure a lot of people found themselves wanting to be known when they were in her presence. She could see you, see you for your pain, for your fear, for your beauty. As my wife put it, “She was the first trans woman I met who was utterly confident in her skin and her example has fed my soul from now to the end of days.”

When I first started going to trans conferences, the lingo was all CDs this and TSs that, FTM and MTF, binaries upon binaries, “real” transsexuals vs. I don’t know what. It was at a time when trans women would tell my wife she wasn’t a woman if she expected to stay with me after transition, that “real” trans women didn’t do that. We didn’t feel we fit in well as our queer artsy selves because there was so much prescription to being trans then, so much, with exclusive camps that left anyone who wanted to express a gender without changing their genitals with nowhere to be.

But where you could be was with Holly, and her company more than made up for the folks for whom you were too non-doctrinaire. If you think it was controversial to be “non op” now, it was a million times more then, but she held her ground with grace and a knowing smile.

She invented the trans symbol because she was too much and too many things to be restricted to one gender. She wanted all of her many selves present all the time. She was the first person I knew who embraced a non binary identity. She wrote The Trangender Alternative in 1991. Here’s an interview I did with her back in 2006.

I adored her. I will miss her. I will value how much she made us welcome and how much she validated any emotion, any gender, any pain; she took it all in and transformed it, light in her eyes and an impish smile all surrounded by that beautiful, beautiful hair.

Faerie child, I will miss you. I think, I hope, I told you how much you meant to me, but I’m sure you knew it even if I didn’t. Because you were that good.

RIP Diane Torr

I just showed students in a Gender Variance course some of Diane Torr’s magic in her Drag King workshop from Venus Boyz.

I knew this news was coming but it’s still heartbreaking: so many of the true trailblazers from the early days of genderfuck and drag are heading for the exits.

Diane Torr, thank you so much. Even knowing you existed at one point in my history was more than I needed to get through a day.

She died May 31st in Glasgow. Thank you for everything you were, everything you did, everyone you helped along the way.

A Tale of Two Americas

Two pieces of news. First, the Dems re-introduce the Equality Act:

Democrats including House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer are gathering Tuesday morning at the Capitol’s Rayburn Room to announce the re-introduction of the Equality Act, which would ban anti-LGBT discrimination nationwide….

… but VP Pence could be the only winner:

President Donald Trump has invited conservative leaders to the White House on Thursday for what they expect will be the ceremonial signing of a long-awaited—and highly controversial—executive order on religious liberty, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.

(Please, if you haven’t sent a check to the ACLU recently, please do. They are our best bet to fight this hateful idea. )

I’m a little astonished at how we are so obviously, as a nation, going in two different directions at once. The basic rights that have not yet been granted to LGBTQ Americans are still up for argument.

Victim Blaming Dr. Dao

Now journalists are starting to dig into Dr. Dao’s past, as if some criminal history or other misdeed somehow “explains away” the violence done to him by United.

This is victim blaming.

I hope, if anything like this ever happens to me, no one asks me how I dressed, what I did in the past, or whether or not I have a criminal history.

I would just want people to respond to the unfair and violent way I was treated after having done nothing wrong but bought a plane ticket and gotten in my seat.

In gender studies we often use the idea of “asking the other question” – to see what kind of power structures might be at work. The obvious one here is capitalism, where it’s seen as legitimate for a company to protect its property instead of treating people with respect. But there’s patriarchy, too, which trains men to believe that violence is an acceptable way to protect property. I’d add as well racism – Dao is Vietnamese-American – and orientalism, if you read some of the descriptions of the way he behaved. (Honestly, if I see the word “unusual” one more time I’m going to scream.)

Other articles are pointing up sexual misconduct, too, and honestly, the whole thing is sickening. He was brutalized by a company he paid to transport him. That is all. There was no good reason for it, and the behavior of United should be roundly criticized by all of us who fly.

ACLU Sues WI Over Trans Health Coverage

At long last, some good news:

MILWAUKEE – The national ACLU, ACLU of Wisconsin, and volunteer attorneys from the law firm Hawks Quindel sued Wisconsin’s state university system and insurance board today over their refusal to provide gender-affirming health insurance coverage to state employees who are transgender.

The suit was filed on behalf of Alina Boyden, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Shannon Andrews, a cancer researcher at the University of Wisconsin Medical School.

“The state continues to deny our clients coverage for medically necessary treatment simply because they are transgender, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” said John Knight, of the ACLU’s national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV Project. “All that transgender people like Alina and Shannon are asking for is to be treated like everyone else, and that includes respect and coverage for the health care you need.”

May they win, and win well, and set the bar high for all employers in WI.