Sunday, 28 March 2010

Has anyone else noticed?

From Reddit :
Has anyone else noticed how many trans people, trans women especially, work in computer science/IT/engineering/other technical occupations? I mean, just look at this list:

Martine Rothblatt (Inventor of satellite radio)

Audrey Tang (Lead Perl designer, named one of the top 10 computer scientists in Taiwan)

Lynn Conway (Co-inventor of the modern microchip design process)

Danielle Berry
(Designed video games M.U.L.E. and The Seven Cities of Gold)

Mary Ann Horton (Usenet admin during the 1980s, and leader of the original "backbone cabal")

Deirdre McCloskey
(Award-winning economics professor at the University of Chicago)

Rachael Padman (Physicist at Cambridge University)

Stephanie Langhoff (Chief scientist at NASA Ames Research Center)

Megan Wallent (Microsoft executive, head of the Internet Explorer division of Windows)

(CEO and founder of Memset, voted best web host in the UK)

Joan Roughgarden (Professor of Biology at Stanford)

Amanda Simpson (Senior technical advisor to Bureau of Industry and Security, Deputy Director in Advanced Technology Development at Raytheon)

Sophie Wilson
(Designer of the Acorn micro-computer)

Rebecca Heineman
(Video game programmer at Microsoft)

And those are just the famous people; it doesn't include everyone who's stealth or semi-stealth.
Or even a few lesser lights. The odd blogger or two (some of them very odd) on subjects such as brains, science and software.


Anonymous said...

...or the military numpties who maintain HF radios.

MgS said...

It's not surprising really - there's something amazingly compelling about the inanimate when you are struggling with an identity that every social rule you know is telling you is wrong.

Technology has all sorts of places where a person can 'go deep' and escape the myriad pains of life.

I did it - for a while ... and others I know have done similar things. Sometimes it is deliberate and conscious, for others it just seems to happen

amandainsjc said...

I don't know-I think there's more than a bit of selection bias there-people involved in scientific/technical fields are naturally going to know a lot of other people who are also in those fields.

I guess I see that a lot here in Silicon Valley-sure, there are lots of trans IT workers here, but then again there are *lots* of tech workers here, cis, straight, trans and queer. I guess I'm also uncomfortable making all sorts of generalizations about groups.


Angel said...

Yes, we are quite an intelligent lot.

Thanks for posting this, Zoe. I showed it to my hubby and he was quite impressed :)

Zoe Brain said...

I reckon I've worked with 2-300 people as colleagues in my career.

2 others have transitioned, that I know of.

Whether you accept the "official figures" of 1 in 30,000, or the more likely figure of 1 in 3,000, I think that's more than a statistical outlier.

Anonymous said...

Um... I've worked with up to 2,400 people in one military command and I've been in 8 commands. I think I've worked around 6,000 people total. Out of that number of people I worked with 2 people who were Intersexed and 7 (9 if you include NATO personnel) Transgender people.

In my current field, at my work place the company has 14,000 employees and over 20 Trans workers. Considering its a high tech field where to progress we have to figure out how to work around the laws of physics itself to produce next generation products...well, Transgender people I think are uniquely outfitted to look past the mentality of “that’s the way we always do/did it” and towards “what do I need to do to get past this obstacle to advance?” and when we’re stymied then we look for a different path to advance towards our goals. But, we don’t stop advancing.

And honestly, considering the shear number of real life Transgender ‘Rocket Scientists’ that I know….you’d think that there would be at least one famous sci-fi movie/show/book that would reflect that fact.


Anonymous said...

Well, again there are plenty of trans people who aren't geeky scientists/technicians/engineers/blah blah blah. But if that's the industry you work in, then you obviously aren going to have a biased perspective.

Besides, it just stereotypes people. And Silicon Valley is nothing if not full of cliches.

(says the computer sciene major going to school in Silicon Valley).


Lloyd Flack said...

The chance of 3 or more transsexuals in a sample of 300 with the probabilty of occurence of transsexuality of 1/3,000 is approximately 0.015%.

adepta said...

"Well, again there are plenty of trans people who aren't geeky scientists/technicians/engineers/blah blah blah."

Of course, but the point is relative ratios. According to every available statistic, for instance, 60-year-olds commit more crimes than 20-year-olds. Blacks (in the US) commit more crimes than whites. Men commit more crimes than women. This, of course, doesn't mean that every 20-year-old black man is a criminal, nor does it mean that every 60-year-old white woman is not a criminal. And, of course, you shouldn't assume that 20-year-old black men are criminals when you meet them, because it's a). still relatively unlikely and b). a nasty thing to do to someone. However, a randomly selected 20-year-old black man does have a much higher *chance* of being a criminal than a randomly selected 60-year-old white woman. Nothing is black and white; all is shades of gray; but this doesn't mean that all grays are the same shade.

Jet said...

This is awesome. Thanks for the list!

adepta said...

"60-year-olds commit more crimes than 20-year-olds."

That should be "20-year-olds commit more crimes than 60-year-olds". Doh.

Battybattybats said...

Of course the incidence of TG could be wrong.....

And I'd love to see media, documentaries and military fiction and science fiction properly reflect our contributions.

Sara said...

Another for your list:
Jamie Faye Fenton, S.F. Ca
From GORF (actually, even earlier, but everyone recognizes gorf) to coding Macromedia Director and still busy today...

Thank you for this list, Zoe. I'm saving it for my daughter, who is already showing some early signs of geekitude.

Imogen said...

It does seem rather striking, doesn't it? My computer destiny started when my parents bought me a Sinclair ZX81 when I was ten. I loved the fact that you could create little clockwork toys in there, a kind of LEGO of the mind. I could also see where it was going, and its immense untapped potential was very compelling. My father always thought I was wasting my time "footling" around, little did he know I would build my career around it.

I think IT is attractive to transwomen for a few reasons. It's a young industry with few set traditions. It's not a hyper-macho environment, most of your co-workers are nerdy and introverted. Importantly for me, you can pretty much dress how you want. I have a particular loathing of corporate dress codes -- I've never worn a suit in my life, not even to weddings.

What other career could I have had where I could work at ESA among the snazzy Italians with burgundy hair, skater shirts, black drainpipe jeans and Chucks?

Henry said...

Add to the list perhaps Alan Turing, who never came out as trans but who chose estrogen shots under psychiatric supervision over prison when offer a choice between the two upon conviction for having a "same sex" relationship with a man.

Both transsexualism and computer programmer correlate with Asperger's Syndrome.

Justine Valinotti said...

I'm not a tech person, but as a transwoman, I can see why many of us would gravitate toward related fields. Brain and some of the previous commenters have alluded to some of the reasons why. Another reason, as Brain pointed out to me, is that our brains may actually be different: There is, as I understand, research to indicate that we have more interplay between the hemispheres of our brains. And, what is problem-solving but an exercise in synergizing the rational and intuitive parts of our minds?

Bonze said...

'Taint as if I myself belong in such august company, but yeah, it's come to my attention before...

Anne Rose Blayk a/k/a Kevin Eric Saunders a/k/a bonze blayk

PS: Ayn Rand was seriously creeped out by computer programmers -- because they were too feminine!

PPS: Deirdre is now one of my personal heroes, as an economist who's gone public with the Awful Truth: Neo-classical econonomics ain't science, it ain't shit, it's the intellectual equivalent of "very difficult chess problems" with zero relevance to the real world. Yay! (Disclaimer: I lasted two months in grad school in Econ. The overwhelming aura of rampant delusionality got to me...)

I'd love to see her and Nicholas Nassim Taleb on a panel together...

Battybattybats said...

Bonze interesting bit about Ayn Rand you mention there, do you have any more details?

I found what i have read of her philosophy quite interesting, it seemed totally reactionary to marxism (from what i heard of her life that seems understandable) and so devoid of the notion of any form of the social contract with the single exception that the exploited should never try and struggle for equity from those who manage to exploit them with any other obligation to others diluted to insignificance except on the whim of the power-grabbing as to be a psychopathic philosophy! And that much more than most philosophies it fails to cope with the presence of actual psychopaths in the system of society.

Her views on Gender i have not read about. And as i wonder about the various social forces which have contributed to the anti-S&GD (sex and gender diversity) forces in society i wonder how influential her views on Gender might have been over those ascribing to her other ideas.

Bonze said...

Battybattybats --

Many people misread Rand, especially leftists intent on misrepresenting her writings and her ideas.

There's far too much power granted to corporations in our society. Where do they get the power?

From the State, which in the US grants them all the rights of an individual with NONE of the responsibilities.

US corporations are required by law to function in a psychopathic fashion: Maximizing shareholder profits is BY LAW the only legitimate function of a corporation.

Who wrote and enacted those laws? Erm.... could it be... could it be... psychopaths?

Ayn didn't glorify power-grabbing; she glorified creativity, originality, and people who are committed to leading productive, happy, rational lives -- to the extent of their abilities, however limited they might be. The world would be a better place if more people would think for themselves and Question Authority, even if they're not great thinkers themselves.

(All the accusations that Rand was a "cult leader" are total bullshit, spewed by people who want to distract attention from their own cultic obsessions, and how a real cult functions. The truth is that Rand accumulated a clique around her, that Ayn was a Mean Girl -- some of the time, to some people -- and that some of the people associated with the clique did have cultic tendencies. Some people are like that, if you're a celeb of whatever nature, people will idolize you and try to MAKE you the focus of a cult. -- Like, OK, anybody out there have a Germs Burn? :-) -- )

Sure, there are perverse elements in some of Rand's ideas, and especially in the way she sometimes expresses herself: she's not out to win any popularity contests. OTOH, re-reading Atlas Shrugged recently was a source of great joy to me; even as I was horrified by her advocacy of what the Soviets called "wrecking", which didn't bother me much when I was young, I was provoked to laughter to the point of tears by her skewering of PoMo "thinking", 50 years ahead of her time.

As far as her opinions re: "effeminacy" in men, I don't think anybody ever really took notice of it, or gave a damn if they did. As with Nietzsche, anybody who slavishly adheres to Ayn's opinions is Missing The Point.

-- bonze

PS: For the sake of another example regarding folks who, like Ayn, are smarter than me but still manifest puzzling "logic fails": I love and admire Zoe, I think she's a genius, her patient elucidations across the web of the Real Science relating to transgenderism/transexuality to largely uncomprehending numbskulls are a model of patient and compassionate teaching; and that moving on from demonstrating Major Skillz in Blowing Shit Up (a needful profession) to doing more basic CS research is wonderful.

I mean, it's got to be such a trial, trying to get across the concept of a Bimodal Distribution for the nth time. Maintaining one's patience while doing so is, well, awesome.

But I can't figure out why Zoe is still a self-professed "conservative"! ??? Damn, I gave up on all my sympathies with so-called "conservatism" 30 years ago!

Battybattybats said...

Thanks Bonze.
What i read about Ayn was in philosophy discussions so left out any cultish accusations. My concerns about her views centered solely on the issue of social contract.

Regarding corporations as persons how that became a part of law is beyond me. A very old mistake of reckless incongruity that should be drasticly rectified but is now so dangerously inculcated as to require great bravery to attempt.

So you say Ayn had far less impact on gender thinking than she had on economics? Cool.

I just wonder at how some modern gender ideas developed, like the hindu fundamentalists whose gods crossdressed changed sex and had same sex relations but who have enshrined anti-gay and anti-trans ideas introduced by the british into their ideology to the point of violently oppossing what is in reality a return to Hindu tradition.

Like the Catholic human-rights guy i spoke to in one blogs comments who kept on going about 'traditional values' as the basis of human rights and the wrong of imposing GLBT over traditional cultures who was wrong not just on what the basis of human rights are but who refused at every turn to at all acknowledge my repeated point about the many traditional cultures around the world with same-sex marriages and transgender traditions.

Anonymous said...

0. Yayness for stealth!

1. Stealthiness keeps this Director gainfully employed, with a nice harbour view out her office window, ayuh...

Enjoy your writing, always.

-- 'Mevlannen'
from somewhere in The Colonies