Melissa Elise User Guide

I use the title “User Guide” humorously of course.  When a person transitions from how they have been expected to live their life to how they want to live their life, friends, family, colleagues, and accepting people in society, have to transition as well.  This is meant to be an expression of how I feel about various aspects of interacting with everyone.

Please note, this is a “Melissa Elise User Guide”, not a “Transgender Person’s User Guide”.  We are not monolithic.  These sentiments apply uniquely to me.

I want to be the author of my own script.  This is a theme that you will likely hear me repeat from time to time.  I was handed a male gender script when I was born because to oversimplify, I had a penis.  Among other things, that script dictated that I should like the color blue more than pink, play with Tonka toys but not Barbies, expose my chest at the beach when other girls didn’t, wear pants instead of dresses, and do “boy” stuff on the playground instead of “girl” stuff.  If I could have written my own gender script, it would have been something much closer to what we think about as being female.  Not only was this not an option for me as a child, it would have been disastrous for me to even bring it up.

Who am I?

My name is Melissa Elise Summitt.  I had the good fortune to be able to choose a name that I love and that matches my personality.  Although Melissa is preferred – and soon to be legal – name, I also have another name that is dear to me and that I used for 52 years: William Dewey Summitt III.  Perhaps I could have done without the “Dewey”, lol, but it was my “Dewey”, so I’ll own it.  I don’t use this name anymore, but it is still with me, and I like to subtly recognize it in many ways, much of the time with only my knowledge that I am doing so.

Is William a “dead name”?  No.  Absolutely not.  I like to consider William as my “legacy name”.  And I appreciate that legacy and the name that came with it.  It is perfectly ok to refer to the name “William” in all its forms when discussing my past.  I was in fact named William/Bill for most of the events of my life.  I am called “Billy” by my Mom and family friends.  I view this as a term-of-endearment and I like it.  When I was very young and Bill Sr. and Bill Jr. were still alive, I was called B-III (B3) by my grandparents on my father’s side.  I loved that!  Sounded like a Star Wars droid.

But now I like the name Melissa.  It is a solid GenX name (reached as high as the #3 girl during the GenX years).  If you call me “Mel”, I will disown you, lol.  If I’m in trouble for something (which seems to happen with some regularity), I fully expect to be called “Missy” (“Listen here, Missy!).

What is my gender?

I am a transgender woman.  I will let others have whatever debate they would like about what “makes a woman”.  I’m not trying to hide anything or pretend that I’m something I’m not.  I was certainly born, and am, a biological male.  But for most of my life (all my life really), I identified with what is generally thought of as being female.  Labels are of no consequence to me.  If “transgender woman” doesn’t appeal to you, pick something else.  But to not have some terminology to distinguish between my identity and my biological sex at birth would be confusing and, frankly, silly.

To summarize:

Gender Identity:  Female

Gender Presentation:  Female

Biological Sex:  Male

What are your pronouns?

My viewpoint is that gender is not binary, but rather a spectrum.  Using this interpretation, I am waaaayyyyy far towards the female end of that spectrum.  I very clearly identify female.  The most logical pronouns to use for me are She/Her.  I understand why many don’t want to be gendered or to gender anyone else without getting direct instruction from the person in question.  I, however, hope to be gendered without any prompting :).

Everyone’s identity should be respected.  For me, however, I have no hangups about anyone referring to me as “he/him”. If I’m misgendered because of appearance, that’s ok.  If someone that has known me for a long time has difficulty getting pronouns (or my name) “right”, that’s fine too.  I will answer to those pronouns and name without pause.  No need to even correct in that moment.  If it’s someone intentionally trying to be a jerk, well that doesn’t bother me because why waste the time.  And finally, if it’s someone that is otherwise a good person, but they still want to call me he/him or use my legacy name, well that will become weirder and weirder as time goes on and the wonders of hormones and modern aesthetic surgery stake their claim to my body.  So, whatever, I guess, but how awkward that will be as time goes on.

Terms of Endearment

This section is more for Mom and friends of the family.  I am Billy, have always been Billy, and hope to continue to be Billy.  In this context, “Billy” is a sweet term of endearment, and I love it.

“Group Identity”

I don’t have a “tribe” or a group, I have friends and colleagues and family.  There is no set of “group characteristics” that can be applied to me.  You have to get to know me, listen to what I say and write.  Most importantly, observe my behavior.  Actions speak louder than words.

I love all my family and friends and am so very grateful that you are a part of my journey.