Hi, I'm Tessa

Hi! You may have noticed that I changed my pronouns on Twitter and started making some changes to my appearance in recent months. In the spirit of bringing my whole self everywhere I go, I want to share some news with you.

My name is Tessa. I am a trans woman.1 I use she/her and they/them pronouns—I like them equally, so feel free to use either or both for me.2

It would mean the world to me if you would use my new name and pronouns moving forward and ask the people around you to do the same.

Borrowing verbatim from Erin White’s incredible Coming out as nonbinary at work letter, which was such a help to me in thinking through how to come out professionally, here is a bit of an FAQ that I hope you will find helpful:

What can I call you?

  • Tessa, Tess
  • Ms. Walsh 3
  • she, her, hers, they, them, theirs (en) / elle, iel (fr)
  • that person, friend, pal, former bandmate, colleague, developer, digital preservationist, archivist, librarian, @bitarchivist

What if I get it wrong?

It’s okay! If you catch yourself, correct and move on. What’s important is to try.

Will you correct me if I get it wrong?

It depends on the situation. If I remind you, it’s because I know we respect each other and both care about our relationship.

Can I correct others?

Yes, in the spirit of calling folks in rather than calling them out. We’re all in community with each other, and want to be generous with each other as we learn.

Below is the long version for those who are interested. Feel free to stop here if you’d like, and thank you for reading this far!

Masculinity has long felt to me like a slightly itchy, ill-fitting work uniform. I thought it was just something I had to live with so I tried my best to ignore it and get on with things. But it was often a source of discomfort. And then one day—or more accurately, slowly, over the course of many many days—I really and truly realized that it’s never too late to be yourself. I’ve long seen transitioning as a valid and positive life choice that other people made. It just took a little while for it to sink in that it could also be a valid and positive life choice for me.

Since coming out to myself as trans, it’s remarkable to me how many things about my own life have suddenly made more sense. I’ve felt a disconnect between my self image and how the world sees me for as long as I can remember. In college, I joked that I was a lesbian in the wrong body (“but not really, haha”). I’ve long felt jealous of women’s fashion and disinterested in the more masculine parts of my own wardrobe. I rarely liked pictures of myself and did my best to avoid online platforms like Facebook where I couldn’t carefully curate my image.4 I played music with my friends in a few bands and loved it but always imagined my songs being sung by a woman. When I decided to go to grad school, I elected to move over a thousand miles to Boston to attend a women’s college.5 I could go on and on and on. On some level I think I’ve known that I was not a cis man my whole life, and it’s just taken me thirty-some years to be able to name it, have the words to describe my feelings, and be ready to act on the knowledge.

I feel so lucky to have an incredible partner, family, friends, and colleagues who support me and have shown me so much love and respect in response to my coming out. My partner Lydia especially, so consistently affirming and supportive and loving, has been such a source of strength. I’m thankful as well to live in Montréal—a city of open-minded people, trans community, and decent trans medical care and institutional support.6

Getting to know myself more deeply and express my feminine side more freely has been an experience of profound growth and joy. While it’s not always easy, it is liberating, and I’m so excited to continue along this path and live openly as myself.

Seeing more positive trans representation in the last years definitely helped me build up the courage to come out and transition, as did seeing a number of wonderful trans and nonbinary people in my personal and professional circles out and living their truth. I hope that my coming out can be similar inspiration for others. If you are also trans or nonbinary and have similar interests or spend time in similar circles or you just need someone to talk to, let’s be friends! DM me on Twitter or send an email to tessa [at] bitarchivist [dot] net.


[1] “trans woman who is sometimes highly skeptical of the whole notion of gender and sometimes feels pretty non-binary” might technically be more accurate.

[2] we have, after all, used singular “they” in English since 1375.

[3] I was internet ordained a few years back in order to officiate friends’ weddings, so you could technically address me as “Reverend” if you need to use a title. Do you really, though?

[4] mind you, there are and always have been myriad reasons to detest Facebook.

[5] albeit one with coed grad programs and a gender-inclusive bent.

[6] though not without room for improvement, as anyone who has been on gender clinic waitlists for as many months as I have can attest.

Published 14 May 2020

Digital preservationist and software developer
@bitarchivist on Twitter