Partial Transcript: Ellen Boggs: Alright. My name is Ellen Boggs, I’m here with Tori Elmore and David Atkins. This is part of the oral history project for Dr. Cline’s class for the LGBTQ. Would you like to introduce yourself?
Tori Elmore: As Ellen said, I am Tori Elmore. I am twenty-eight years old, originally from Wytheville Virginia just down the road. [I] Graduated from Virginia Tech in Mechanical Engineering in 2009 and I’ve been working up the road in Giles County ever since.
Partial Transcript: ELMORE: I was born in Charlotte and lived there until I was almost nine. Pretty normal upbringing, [I] went through various phases of Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers and just ran around outside, built Legos, which was probably a sign I was going to be an engineer one day. Nothing uncommon, I never really thought about anything like ‘who am I supposed to be?’ It just never crossed my mind. I never really thought about it. I was just too busy doing stuff, learning stuff.
Partial Transcript: ELMORE: coming to college forced me to open my mind a little bit more about the world as it is, and the first couple years I kind of stayed in my little bubble. But then I just got tired of it. I felt repressed in the sense of not really having control over my own life and letting other people do it for me—and that’s definitely just friends and not my parents, they’re amazing. I started kind of branching out and doing various illegal activities [laughs] and it started freeing my mind up to think about things outside of a certain context. When I did that— I think that’s when some really high level anxiety started. I started to get a sense of something was just not right. I just feel different for some reason, just off—not like a [air quotes] ‘normal’ person.
Partial Transcript: ELMORE: My anxiety got worse and my depression got worse—a lot worse. I was just doing a lot of really destructive things and not really caring. I wasn’t— what was the word?— my aunt, she’s a social worker in Baltimore, she described it as being passively suicidal; where you’re not going to go actively cut yourself or jump off a bridge or anything, but if a situation could come up that would cause you harm, whatever who cares, whatever. I was very apathetic about it; and that’s where I was getting. I would do things like go get hammered at the bar and be like fuck it, I can still drive home, and I don’t care, it’s fine. And then I wrecked the truck, and had some really close calls with DUIs, and had to get friends to come get me at four in the morning. It was just a downward spiral and eventually just reached a point where I was sitting in my kitchen, just chugged a bunch of vodka or something, this was fall of 2012, and I was looking at my little island of steak knives and just kind of picked one up and just thought, you know, this would just make so many things so much easier.
Partial Transcript: ELMORE: I called up my best friend and we talked about it and she was like you’ve got to do something different. And I was like, maybe I need to try this hormone thing, maybe that’s why I’m so upset. I started to think about how if I didn’t like it I could just stop. It’s no harm, no foul, it’s kind of a no-lose situation. Even just the act of me saying, ‘yes I’m going to give this a try’ just completely shifted how I was feeling about life. I just instantly became happier and more excited and hopeful.
Partial Transcript: ELMORE: The roller derby team was great with it.
BOGGS: Oh, please talk about that.
ELMORE: [Laughs] Yes! Whenever we would have formal occasions, which we would have randomly, I could dress how I wanted, everybody was totally fun with it and we had a blast, and they were just completely open. ‘Just do you,’ they kept saying. I originally joined the team in 2009; me and my roommate went to recruitment night and I figured, well I’m graduated, I guess I need a hobby or something because I have extra time now, this seems like fun. I couldn’t play because it’s a women’s sport, but I could referee.
Partial Transcript: BOGGS: Where do you work again? Sorry.
ELMORE: It’s Celanese. It’s a chemical plant about thirty minutes away in Giles County, between Pearisburg and Narrows. Or ‘Narras’ [pronounces with an accent] as the locals call it.
BOGGS: What do you do?
ELMORE: I’m a Maintenance Engineer. So things break and I figure out why, and if things break frequently I try to dig more into it and see what’s really causing it.
Partial Transcript: ELMORE: One of the sessions with my therapist when I was debating whether to start hormone treatments I made a pro and con list–here’s all the reasons why it would be good and here’s all the reasons why it would be bad. Then we would talk about it and some of them would be more facetious than others. Then eventually the right one won out.
Partial Transcript: ELMORE: I really think the best outreach that I do is just showing up to work everyday in blue collar boys club USA.
BOGGS: Yeah how’s that?
ELMORE: I thought they would chase me out of town with torches and pitchforks. Somewhere in the back of my head I thought ‘yeah that’s gonna happen,’ but no everybody’s been great. I had a hunch that people are generally better than we give them credit for, especially in terms of Appalachian culture. We want to do right by people even if something seems kind of weird or strange.
Partial Transcript: ELMORE: I actually started having a Dexter style double life where I would go out dressed certain ways with certain company and have to keep pictures untagged on Facebook like ‘don’t tag me on Facebook! I swear don’t do it,’ because I would be friends with people at work and they would see it and bad things would happen.
Partial Transcript: BOGGS: You mentioned that you had to go to UVA to see an endocrinologist?
BOGGS: Why did you have to go so far?
ELMORE: Uh, I tried a couple of endocrinologists around here. One guy in Princeton thought, when I said on the phone I was looking for hormone replacement, that I was low on testosterone and needed to boost it and I was like ‘Oh no, no, no, no, no I want to go the other way with it.’ He said ‘Oh I don’t have any training for that.’
Partial Transcript: BOGGS: When you first started it did you notice anything changing immediately, or did it take time?
ELMORE: It took some time, but I just instantly felt better. Like–ahhhh [sigh of relaxation], like I was finally doing the right thing.
BOGGS: So it wasn’t really the treatment; it was just that you knew you were headed in the right direction?
ELMORE: Yeah, it was very much a psychological impact, but then I’d say three months or so in my chest started hurting and that’s when I was kind of like yea! Things are happening!
Partial Transcript: BOGGS: Did you ever talk to your aunt about anything?
ELMORE: Mmhm, she was great. I could tell her that I had a secret urge to go slice up people and put them in dumpster and she’d be like, ‘Oh why do you want to do that?’ She couldn’t be phased. So, she was always my go to for, I feel something strange and I want to talk to someone about it.
BOGGS: So in your family it was mainly your mom and your aunt?
ELMORE: Mmhm, my dad hasn’t had a problem with this, but he’s always been the more pragmatic one. When I first told him I’m transgender after he processed it, he was more concerned about things like my career, the job I was at and how that would be affected.
Partial Transcript: BOGGS: So, as far as dating–you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to but, how has that changed?
ELMORE: I avoided it mostly over the past couple years since I knew something was probably on the horizon, so I avoided dating like the plague. That’s not to say that there weren’t forays in the night, but I didn’t actively pursue a relationship. I actually had a date last weekend. That was my first date in a good couple of years.
Ellen Boggs: Alright. My name is Ellen Boggs, I'm here with Tori Elmore andDavid Atkins. This is part of the oral history project for Dr. Cline's class for the LGBTQ. Would you like to introduce yourself?
Tori Elmore: As Ellen said, I am Tori Elmore. I am twenty-eight years old,originally from Wytheville Virginia just down the road. [I] Graduated from Virginia Tech in Mechanical Engineering in 2009 and I've been working up the road in Giles County ever since.
BOGGS: We've already covered your name, date of birth. Oh did you cover yourdate of birth?
ELMORE: I was born on August 14th 1986.
BOGGS: Alright. If you could tell us more about where you're from and the peopleyou interacted with there [Wytheville] and throughout your childhood?
ELMORE: I was born in Charlotte and lived there until I was almost nine. Prettynormal upbringing, [I] went through various phases of Ninja Turtles and Power 1:00Rangers and just ran around outside, built Legos, which was probably a sign I was going to be an engineer one day. Nothing uncommon, I never really thought about anything like 'who am I supposed to be?' It just never crossed my mind. I never really thought about it. I was just too busy doing stuff, learning stuff. Though my mom did tell me when I was coming out of diapers and she as taking me to get my big boy underpants, cause that's apparently a big day, she asked me what I wanted and I said 'pink'. She thought I just didn't know what I was talking about and we never broached the subject ever again, well until a few years ago, but we will get to that. Yeah a pretty normal childhood. Then moved 2:00here to Wytheville, which is quite a change of scenery from being just outside Charlotte. Really I remember, let's see [pause]. I remember having a hard time with my older brother because I've always been more introverted and he would make fun of me a lot and his friends would also and they would call me names, it was less than pleasant. I tried to avoid him at all costs, but it doesn't really work out. You can't avoid someone in the same house. But I had my own friends. I was in the [school] band and ran cross country and track and stuff. I think some of my best friends were in the band. Cross country was just my outlet to do 3:00physical things or I'd get cranky and feel like I didn't know what I was doing with my life. I dated some; I was mostly just scared to talk to girls. Really awkward in general, in case you can't tell. That part of things was pretty clear to me as far as who I was attracted to that hasn't really been much of a question. Some of the other things in my life didn't come up until maybe my early twenties. I probably started letting myself ask those questions. There was a lot of repression, I think, in my teenage years. I'm sorry if I'm jumping around or anything.
BOGGS: No that's fine. Could you say why you moved to Wytheville was it for your family?4:00
ELMORE: Yeah it was for my dad, he got a job there. So he went from [pause] hewas a shift supervisor at Eastman Chemical Company and he got a Plant Manager position at, they've changed so many names now, it was Morton Powder Coatings then it got bought by Roman Hoss and then Dow for a while now it's Axon of Bell [sp]. It was a chance for him to better himself and a better life for us, so we jumped on it.
BOGGS: In high school were you more into the math and science as an engineercoming into Tech?
ELMORE: Oh yeah, I was definitely a mathlete. I was on the math competitionteam, which was really fun for me. I filled in for the science team a couple times and everyone just kind of expected me to sit there and I got a few questions right. I was just like, okay. 5:00
BOGGS: As far as your band friends how close would say you were with them?
ELMORE: I never really talked much with them about seriously deep stuff withreally much anybody, but I would say they were my best friends.
BOGGS: For homecoming dances or anything, did you go to those, prom?
ELMORE: Yeah they were a good time. I went just mostly to have fun; asking agirl to go with me was just kind of a chore, like well I guess I have to.
BOGGS: How did that go?
ELMORE: Some occasions better than others, but overall I just had a good timewith it. I usually tried to ask friends, cause I wasn't really romantically interested with anyone at my own school for some reason. All my dating 6:00experiences were with people at other schools nearby.
BOGGS: So how would you meet them?
ELMORE: Friends of friends, traveling to different competitions or sportingevents stuff like that.
BOGGS: Pretty basic, everyone does that. What was the application process liketo get into Tech anything really stuck out?
ELMORE: There was no essay so I was like 'I'll apply there cause I don't have towrite an essay and I really don't want to do that.' It was just right up the road, so I applied for early decision and got accepted and was like 'alright well that's done, moving on.' So I didn't really have to worry about it from that point on.
BOGGS: Well now if you just want to talk about how college was different thanhigh school? 7:00
ELMORE: In high school I was really religious. I've developed some theoriesabout why, but it was what it was, and coming to college forced me to open my mind a little bit more about the world as it is, and the first couple years I kind of stayed in my little bubble. But then I just got tired of it. I felt repressed in the sense of not really having control over my own life and letting other people do it for me, and that's definitely just friends and not my parents, they're amazing. I started kind of branching out and doing various illegal 8:00activities [laughs] and it started freeing my mind up to think about things outside of a certain context. When I did that, I think that's when some really high level anxiety started. I started to get a sense of something was just not right. I just feel different for some reason, just off, not like a [air quotes] 'normal' person. I felt uncomfortable in general and just really awkward and I felt like I needed to do things, like drink a lot, to be able to socialize well. 9:00As time went on in my later years of college I started to get more of a sense of what was going on; that things weren't right and I really did feel like someone else, but I didn't treat it that way at first. At first I treated it as this super secret thing I did in private and then didn't tell anyone about, as far as expressing my inner [short pause] desires, if that's the right word?
BOGGS: Is there any specific moment that you can think of where you kind oftransitioned from thinking of yourself one way to the next?
ELMORE: Not really one specific moment, it-
BOGGS: Just a collective?
Tori: Yeah, an evolution of thought. It very much evolved from I'm comfortably10:00male to I'm just really awkward and uncomfortable for some reason to oh, I apparently really enjoy pretending to be a woman. I thought oh that's weird, but okay it's fun so I'll roll with it, but keeping that private, and then going to places like the park or go with a friend that just happened into my life at just the right moment to somewhere like Asheville for a night. Then that turned into, I like who I'm seeing in the mirror this way more than otherwise. Then [laughs] that turned into me talking with my mom saying, 'hey I was thinking about getting a therapist.' [She asked] 'Why?' [I replied] 'Oh there's this thing I like to do sometimes', and then she's like 'oh okay, well that's fine.' 11:00She wasn't really sure what to make of it because it came out of nowhere. But then I was like I don't want to do any [laughs] hormones or surgeries or anything, I swear! That turned into, maybe a year or two later, me saying to her that 'so I think I kind of need to do this hormone thing [laughs].'
BOGGS: Was that from a doctor telling you to do that, or just something youthought about yourself?
ELMORE: Both. My anxiety got worse and my depression got worse, a lot worse. Iwas just doing a lot of really destructive things and not really caring. I wasn't, what was the word?, my aunt, she's a social worker in Baltimore, she described it as being passively suicidal; where you're not going to go actively 12:00cut yourself or jump off a bridge or anything, but if a situation could come up that would cause you harm, whatever who cares, whatever. I was very apathetic about it; and that's where I was getting. I would do things like go get hammered at the bar and be like fuck it, I can still drive home, and I don't care, it's fine. And then I wrecked the truck, and had some really close calls with DUIs, and had to get friends to come get me at four in the morning. It was just a downward spiral and eventually just reached a point where I was sitting in my kitchen, just chugged a bunch of vodka or something, this was fall of 2012, and I was looking at my little island of steak knives and just kind of picked one up and just thought, you know, this would just make so many things so much easier. 13:00Just the fact that I thought that just made me step back and go, 'what the fuck am I doing with my life, I have got to do something. I can't keep doing this.' I called up my best friend and we talked about it and she was like you've got to do something different. And I was like, maybe I need to try this hormone thing, maybe that's why I'm so upset. I started to think about how if I didn't like it I could just stop. It's no harm, no foul, it's kind of a no-lose situation. Even just the act of me saying, 'yes I'm going to give this a try' just completely shifted how I was feeling about life. I just instantly became 14:00happier and more excited and hopeful. I would tell people when they asked how I'm doing I would say I'm [stuttering the word] ha-hap-happy, like [laughs] it was some foreign concept I could never understand. Or, am I describing this about myself? That's not right. It fits, but it doesn't seem like it's supposed to fit.' If that makes sense.
BOGGS: It does, it does make sense. So, with the friend that you called, shehad an idea of how you were feeling at the time?
ELMORE: Yeah, we talked about everything. She had a master's in Women andGender Studies, so she was a good best friend to have, still is.
BOGGS: Was there anyone else you had talked about it with?
ELMORE: The roller derby team was great with it.
BOGGS: Oh, please talk about that.
ELMORE: [Laughs] Yes! Whenever we would have formal occasions, which we would15:00have randomly, I could dress how I wanted, everybody was totally fun with it and we had a blast, and they were just completely open. 'Just do you,' they kept saying. I originally joined the team in 2009; me and my roommate went to recruitment night and I figured, well I'm graduated, I guess I need a hobby or something because I have extra time now, this seems like fun. I couldn't play because it's a women's sport, but I could referee. I thought, alright, let's see what happens; who knows, there might be some fringe benefits and we'll see how it goes. Just to try something. I guess maybe I just had a hunch it was the right place for me to be because it's a very eclectic kind of culture. I just got addicted to it, hooked on it, just loved it. Over time, over the next 16:00few years, I would open up more and more about myself. Some of the girls on the team kept saying, 'you know if you just went ahead and started taking hormones you could be playing with us.' [I replied], 'oh I don't know, that's scary, I don't know.' Then I eventually did and I'm playing now!
BOGGS: So where is the derby team at, where do you guys practice and play?
ELMORE: Yeah, we're based out of Christiansburg up until recently whenAdventure World, the rink in Christiansburg, went out of business. So we're in Roanoke right now until we either have a new rink open up in Christiansburg, or can find a big warehouse space to rent, just some big flat enclosed area.
BOGGS: Do you guys travel at all, where do you get to go?
ELMORE: This year I've been to Fredericksburg, Lancaster Pennsylvania,17:00Charleston West Virginia. I'm going to Johnston City later today. In the past we've gone to Virginia Beach and Wilmington, Charlotte, Winston Salem, just kind of all over the place- Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Richmond.
BOGGS: How does that happen? Do you guys set it up yourselves or-
BOGGS: How do you network for that?
ELMORE: Internet helps. I don't know how it could be done without the internet;I just can't imagine it. Every team puts there information out there and every team has an interleague coordinator who sets up the schedule and works with other teams to figure out their open dates and our open dates. It's like okay well we can play you on this date and then other teams will play you on this date. We look at the history of where did we play last time, was it home last 18:00year or away last year and try to reach the best solutions for everyone.
BOGGS: Do you make friends just on your team?
ELMORE: No I've got friends everywhere. Tomorrow we have a 'bout,' we call them,against the team from Beckley. I'm really good friends with, probably close to, half their team. I've just known them for the last few years. I've got some good friends on the Charlottesville team, other West Virginia teams like Charleston, Lewisburg, some on Johnston City's team, just kind of everywhere. I traveled as a referee, not just for our team, I would get Facebook messages 'hey there is a bout next weekend in, pick-a-place, and we need an extra ref.' I would be like 'yeah sure I'll do it.' Over the years just networked and just met some really 19:00great people.
BOGGS: What do you guys do outside of Derby?
ELMORE: I don't know, just hangout, grab dinner, drinks. We've got random PRevents we'll do, or fundraising events. That's pretty much it, but that's pretty much all I do with anybody [laughter].
BOGGS: Can you think of any challenges you faced either here at Tech or afteryou graduated with derby or in the workplace. Anything you would want to talk about?
ELMORE: The only time there were really challenges was when the plant would shutdown from lack of electricity, which is important, electricity is important. And so then I'd have to go on night shift for a month and start the place back up and that would impact my ability to go to practice and I would have to ask my 20:00boss if I could have a day off to go ref a bout, or this year to go play in one, and then go back to work the next night. Those have really been the only times it's been an impact . They've been really great to work with because other people do things like, they've got kids who play football or softball. One of the guys on my hall at work he's one of the coaches at Christiansburg High's football team. So he just comes in earlier so he can leave earlier and go be at practice. We just make our little arrangements like that.
BOGGS: Where do you work again? Sorry.
ELMORE: It's Celanese. It's a chemical plant about thirty minutes away in GilesCounty, between Pearisburg and Narrows. Or 'Narras' [pronounces with an accent] as the locals call it.
BOGGS: What do you do?
ELMORE: I'm a Maintenance Engineer. So things break and I figure out why, and if21:00things break frequently I try to dig more into it and see what's really causing it. Are there process issues? Is it metallurgy concerns? Are there adjustments that are supposed to be made that are not getting made? A lot of troubleshooting, investigating, also trying to engage our mechanics in safety culture which is not the most fun part of my job. I would rather get greasy and dirty and solve problems, so I guess that's why I became an engineer.
BOGGS: You mentioned you would play with Legos in your childhood, so you kind of knew
ELMORE: Oh yeah.
BOGGS: But how did that evolve with your personal identity, or if it had anyintersection at all?
ELMORE: Having that sense of I like to fix things and solve problems and put22:00things in their right place, I think, helped because it gave me an outlet to figure out what was going on in my head like in a rational sort of sense. One of the sessions with my therapist when I was debating whether to start hormone treatments I made a pro and con list: here's all the reasons why it would be good and here's all the reasons why it would be bad. Then we would talk about it and some of them would be more facetious than others. Then eventually the right one won out.
BOGGS: Was there a deciding factor?
ELMORE: Just kind of feeling, intuition.
BOGGS: Was it on your list?
ELMORE: No it wasn't [laughs]. I wanted to be as rational about it as I could.23:00But once we talked through, especially talked through the cons, and realized that those downsides that I had really weren't that big a deal things that I really cared about, I just was like 'yeah, I think this is what I need to do.' Something went off in my brain like Finally! You've finally gotten the message! We've been onto you for this for years even tried to drop you some hints when you were twelve and you wouldn't listen.' Like when puberty started, I hated it! Oh god, the hair on my face and everywhere else and I was like eww this is ugh . Get this away from me, get this off me. But the brain is really adaptable so I just kind of dealt with it and things sort of worked themselves out. Sort of, I guess [laughs].
BOGGS: I'd say so. When you were at Tech here were you involved with the Hokie24:00Pride? I'm not sure if it was called
ELMORE: Not at all.
BOGGS: Did you know anyone who was?
ELMORE: Yeah. I had some gay friends and it was just one of those things like,'oh that's cool. You gotta do whatcha gotta do.' It wasn't a community I had any interest in doing anything with, just no vested interest in it. Yeah I just didn't really have any vested interest in it at the time.
BOGGS: Are you involved in it now?
ELMORE: Yeah much more now. Not so much at Virginia Tech, I'm still trying tofigure out am I too old to be doing anything with the university because I'm just an alum and I'm 28. But when this transition started becoming more and more real 25:00my mom reached out to New River Valley PFLAG and so I started going with her and met some really great people there. That's kind of gotten me branching out and helping with the rest of the LGBTQ community, so this isn't the first interview that I've done before. I really think the best outreach that I do is just showing up to work everyday in blue collar boys club USA.
BOGGS: Yeah how's that?
ELMORE: I thought they would chase me out of town with torches and pitchforks.Somewhere in the back of my head I thought 'yeah that's gonna happen,' but no everybody's been great. I had a hunch that people are generally better than we give them credit for, especially in terms of Appalachian culture. We want to do 26:00right by people even if something seems kind of weird or strange. If they care about you then they'll just may not necessarily agree with what your doing, which a lot of people at work are that way. They still won't treat me any differently and they'll have fun with me. One day, the first day I came in with these really tall boots, someone made a joke like 'dang you bringing in your Durango boots today,' I said 'well they show off my legs.' When I came out someone was like 'Ok so you're going to be a girl now. Can we still fuck around with you?' [ELMORE replies] 'Oh, it would be weird if you didn't.' [worker replies] 'Okay, cool, just wanted to be sure.'
BOGGS: So this was happening while you were at work?
ELMORE: Yeah so I've worked there since 2009 and as time went on, I guess27:00starting in maybe 2011, the time frame's a little fuzzy, there was rampant alcohol abuse that makes the time frame a little fuzzy, which I actually really hate. I actually started having a Dexter style double life where I would go out dressed certain ways with certain company and have to keep pictures untagged on Facebook like 'don't tag me on Facebook! I swear don't do it,' because I would be friends with people at work and they would see it and bad things would happen. Whenever I would go out I would have to shave all my body hair. I couldn't do it in the summer because then I'd be wearing t-shirts and people 28:00would be going 'why are your arms so bare?' So I had to play it seasonally, like 'oh winter is coming I actually get to do this stuff now,' which ironically broke my heart when it started to get warmer because then I had to kind of let that hibernate for a while. Then I just couldn't do that anymore, it was exhausting. It was not who I was and so I started figuring out how I was gonna come out in a place that has a fifteen on the Human Rights Council score. I'd heard snippets of conversations from people about 'so and so's gay it ain't no 29:00big deal,' just in passing not about me. Just conversations in general, you hear certain things people say and you store it in your mind for later processing or like that's an interesting data point. Things started to come together. They [Celanese] had a new CEO that was really trying to have a big diversity push. We had gotten a new Plant Manager who was from Sweden and I thought 'oh she's gonna bring some European sensibilities here.' And just my gut instinct from what I knew of the people that, 'I think this is going to be okay. I think the timing is right.' So once I had given myself enough hormone time- whenever I had to 30:00tell my boss 'hey I'm gonna need to have Friday off, I need to go to UVA.' [boss replies] 'What do you have to go to UVA for? Is everything okay?' 'Yeah, yeah everything is fine I have to see an endocrinologist.' 'What the-an endo what?' 'They deal with glands and stuff.' 'Oh alright, everything's alright though?' 'Yeah I just have to get some stuff looked at.' 'Oh okay. Cool.' So they were great about that, but I wouldn't tell them why until, so I started hormoning in April and my plan was around the end of the year I should be transitioned enough that the face would look less masculine and things would develop and I would just be, what's the word for when babies develop in the womb? 31:00
BOGGS: Oh gosh, I have no idea.
ELMORE: [Laughs] Alright well I had cooked long enough, let's go with that. So Isat down with my boss, my former boss, they work closely and in similar roles and I just set up a meeting with a nebulous title like 'discussing the future.' They were like 'so you called us in here. What is this for?' I had this cup of coffee and was shaking like it was gonna spill everywhere and they said 'c'mon you're shaking like a leaf. What's going on?' So I told them what I had been up to over the past year and what my desires were going forward. I said 'for the last nine months I have been taking estrogen and testosterone blockers and it's the best thing I've ever did and I've never been so happy.' They said 'oh, 32:00really?' 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, so I'm gonna be like a woman now.' They were like 'that is so cool! I've never known anyone that's done that, how did you know?' So I told them the whole story and they said 'that's really fascinating, wow.' So we talked about what we would say to HR and how to move forward and when we talked to HR they didn't really know what to do. No one had apparently done this before in the entire seventy year history of Celanese, this was a first, which blew my mind. So I gave our HR department some reference material some different organizations to talk to, gave them PFLAG information, gave them some Allen Equal [sp] I think it was their website and contact 33:00information. So they talked with some corporate HR people and it turned out there was already the beginnings of an LGBTQ diversity initiative. So we just kind of jumped in with that, so we worked out a plan; we were gonna wait until the New Year when people are back from holidays and just kind of make an announcement to the management. Then we would do little small group sessions with all the mechanics that I work with, then maintenance. There's about one hundred or so mechanics I work with on a routine basis, so we figured small group sessions. That way if anyone had any questions or concerns or religious 34:00fervor, there was some of that, not as much as I thought there would be, but there was some. Meeting with the management people I was horrified, terrified, just completely frightened, but our HR manager said what was going on and people were just so happy for me. Our operations manager said 'I've never been so proud of you before. It takes a lot of guts to do what you're doing especially in a place like this.' People kept saying how brave I was, how courageous I was. But it didn't feel like that for me; for me I was just doing what I gotta do, not trying to make a statement or anything. I'm just trying to live, it's this or the alternative and the alternative is much colder and more eternal and I didn't 35:00want to do that. So I started having the small group sessions with our maintenance personnel, who are all most of them have side enterprises as farmers or mechanics auto mechanics, so it is very blue collar, very well-to-do kind of people. I've built up a good relationship with them over the years and joke around with them about stuff. I already had a reputation as being kind of strange for roller derby, so most of the questions I got when we, me and my boss and their foremen, had these meetings, most of the questions were around 'what's your name gonna be?' 'What bathroom are you going to use?' Regarding that, there 36:00are unisex bathrooms scattered around, so we figured well that's probably the easiest thing for now and we'll figure out when to start using the female ones sometime later when we're all used to this, which that time is now and we're working on that. I let people know early on that they could ask me anything, anything, nothing's off the table here. So they ask me everything that you would expect, maybe not expect people to ask, but what you would secretly want to ask but don't want to be rude about it. So some people were more tactful about the questions than others. One person was just very blunt about the question, he 37:00said 'so can I ask you something?' I said 'yeah oh god what is it Aaron?' 'so you gonna get your dick cut off?' [Laughs] I said 'that's why I like you.' I was just like 'I don't know. It's taken me this long to figure out what the hell I'm doing in life, I'll deal with that later.'
BOGGS: Do you think that since you were so open about it, that's why people wereso accepting?
ELMORE: I think so.
BOGGS: If you had been more repressed it might have been
ELMORE: I think it would have been more uncomfortable, but I came into it with asense of humor and I let everyone know I didn't want to have the vibe of 'if you say anything about this you're gonna be in trouble.' I wanted to have the sense of 'yeah, it's really weird. It's totally uncomfortable for everybody. It's new, lets just figure it out together and have some fun with it.' But there was some 38:00backlash, a few people, one guy was like 'Well I don't believe in any of this stuff, you mean I gotta work with him?' I just thought 'whoa dude.' So then my boss jumped in and just snarled at him and said 'Yes that's exactly what you're going to do.' I thought 'yay. Go Chuck, yay.' And then one guy said something about, this is all because of Obama's America [laughter] and we have all turned from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thought 'I'm telling you I'm becoming a chick. How does Obama come into this?' Things that just make you go buh? [exasperated noise]! So yeah that really happened. There were other people though that as 39:00these meetings were spaced out over a week that rumors and stories spread around. So we got this little meting coming up and this is what it is going to be about. So some people would give me warnings like, 'now I believe in the Holy Bible and I believe in the Lord Jesus and everything the book says, so I just want to know if you're sure that this is what you want to do. It may have eternal consequences.' I kept a poker face, but I would just roll my eyes and my head like oh dear God. But I thought about it, and I think if they didn't care about me at all they wouldn't have even bothered, but because they did believe 40:00that that was a thing, a risk, a worry and that they expressed it, that they actually cared about me as a person, because they didn't say it from a place of damnation or you're going to hell for this. It was more from a place of concern, like genuine concern. So I tried to understand people's meaning and context more than the actual words that they were saying. One guy gave me a whole big list of pages of Bible verses to read and study over. So it is coming from a place of 41:00concern not judgment.
BOGGS: Did you read the list?
ELMORE: I did. Some of them contradicted each other, surprise! But, it was whatthey believed and that's fine. Our working relationships haven't really changed much. People have told me, since I started coming to work how I want to, that, they would just look at me and say 'you just look so much happier. You're just so much brighter and cheerier and just seem so happy.' I told them 'I am.' So I think that people are understanding that it's not just a choice people make it's something that you just gotta do. That they see how I was before and how I 42:00am now and they think about how much happier I am as a person and how much that makes it easier to work with someone when they're happy and people want other people to be happy. Its just been a really, mostly great experience.
BOGGS: You mentioned that you had to go to UVA to see an endocrinologist?
BOGGS: Why did you have to go so far?
ELMORE: Uh, I tried a couple of endocrinologists around here. One guy inPrinceton thought, when I said on the phone I was looking for hormone replacement, that I was low on testosterone and needed to boost it and I was like 'Oh no, no, no, no, no I want to go the other way with it.' He said 'Oh I don't have any training for that.' I wanted to be like I've read what the training is, it's really not that hard. Prescribe a couple things and watch 43:00levels, but whatever you're a doctor I'm not. And then I tried this other guy and he seemed on the edge of senility and I didn't get a sense of comfort that he knew what he was doing. He told me, the guy from Princeton told me, my therapist had told me you'll probably have to go to UVA for this. So I ended up having to go to UVA for this, but gotta do it. So they were really top notch, still are and it's a good two and a half hours away just to go see a doctor, which in a sense seems ridiculous. I have a friend that went female to male and he is having to go to Lynchburg for his shots. I just think why can't, why don't 44:00doctors know this stuff. I mean I know malpractice and liability's a concern but come on, you know, a couple hours of training and I'm sure that would be sufficient. Why is that not more prevalent?
BOGGS: Where did you, you said that you read the training, where did you get that?
ELMORE: [I] read some documents from the Endocrine Society and WPATH, I can'tremember what it stands for its World something Association for Transgender Health. There's guidelines about what the patient should exhibit and what in terms of gender dysphoria and how to start treatment. I think there were even specifics on doses, recommended starting doses and blood testing frequency and then you just kind of make adjustments from there until things get in a certain 45:00range. So it seemed like it made sense to me but I'm a mechanical engineer not a doctor of humans.
BOGGS: When you first started it did you notice anything changing immediately,or did it take time?
ELMORE: It took some time, but I just instantly felt better. Like 'ahhhh [sigh ofrelaxation], like I was finally doing the right thing.
BOGGS: So it wasn't really the treatment; it was just that you knew you wereheaded in the right direction?
ELMORE: Yeah, it was very much a psychological impact, but then I'd say threemonths or so in my chest started hurting and that's when I was kind of like yea! Things are happening! So, [aside] Sorry my contact is misbehaving.
BOGGS: I understand that
ELMORE: I might need to take a minute. [pause] Ok I think I got it [laughter].46:00So, I think the level of emotions I've had has been the most different, multiple emotions at the same time. Where I don't know how I'm feeling, am I sad, am I angry, am I frustrated? It's all of them. Surprise, this happens.
BOGGS: You think that's more from the hormones?
ELMORE: I think so. I've cried more in the last sixteen months than I have inthe last sixteen years. Over silly things like, let's see I missed the deadline to take the PE Exam.
BOGGS: What's that?
ELMORE: Professional Engineering Exam. So then I cried. In hindsight I'm likethat's a stupid reason to cry, but it just happens. Every now and then I get home from work and I'm having a bad day and I'm like I'm just gonna curl up on 47:00the couch and watch something sad and cry, just gotta have a cry.
BOGGS: I understand that.
ELMORE:But I like it more. I actually get a sense that I can express my emotionsinstead of before when I would feel angry or frustrated it would just brew and there was no outlet for it. Now it's like I feel the negative emotion, I get it out and I move on with life. It's such a bea- I almost just said better and easier, beasier [laughs] way of way of dealing with it, in my experience.
BOGGS: You mentioned your mother took you to PFLAG, so was that something shejust did on her own? You had no idea?
ELMORE: Yeah, she just reached out on her own. I think she wasn't surprised that48:00something was going to be happening. After some research and study, reflecting on her own family experience, her sister is very, I don't even know the right word, I think she had some Bi [sexual] tendencies. Very gender queer kind of fluidity. So, then we did some research we found out when my grandmother was trying to get pregnant with my mother she took a pregnancy drug called DES. It was some kind of synthetic estrogen that has a long complicated name and they have since banned it. But I think they still use it with farm animals. They found that first generation, second generation, and some third generation 49:00offspring had statistically higher than normal chances of gender dysphoria, and homosexuality. So, I heard that and I was like 'Oh! Well there we go, okay that makes sense now.'
BOGGS: So you kind of embraced that?
ELMORE: Yeah, well I guess I'm just kind of stuck with it. It's the geneticlottery. My mom didn't get it, my brother didn't get it, but yay I did.
BOGGS: Did you ever talk to your aunt about anything?
ELMORE: Mmhm, she was great. I could tell her that I had a secret urge to goslice up people and put them in dumpster and she'd be like, 'Oh why do you want to do that?' She couldn't be phased. So, she was always my go to for, I feel 50:00something strange and I want to talk to someone about it.
BOGGS: So in your family it was mainly your mom and your aunt?
ELMORE: Mmhm, my dad hasn't had a problem with this, but he's always been themore pragmatic one. When I first told him I'm transgender after he processed it, he was more concerned about things like my career, the job I was at and how that would be affected. But that's who he is and he knew that if it was gonna make me happier, then it's what I needed to do. So they've been outstandingly supportive. My mom and me have a better relationship now than I think we ever have just because we have so much in common. We went and got our feet done yesterday; we just hang out a lot and go shopping, and have wine nights together 51:00and it's just like this whole new experience.
BOGGS: No kidding. So, as far as dating, you don't have to talk about it if youdon't want to but, how has that changed?
ELMORE: I avoided it mostly over the past couple years since I knew somethingwas probably on the horizon, so I avoided dating like the plague. That's not to say that there weren't forays in the night, but I didn't actively pursue a relationship. I actually had a date last weekend. That was my first date in a good couple of years.
BOGGS: How did it go?
ELMORE: Great, it was really great. She was really cool. We met after a derbybout; she bought me a shot cause she saw me play and said 'you kicked ass out 52:00there, I need to buy you a shot!' I was like 'okay.'
BOGGS: Have you talked to her since?
ELMORE: Yeah we talk a lot. We've talked about how we are going to do our nextdate because she lives in Fredericksburg, so we talked about maybe doing a home and home sort of thing where I go to Fredericksburg one weekend and she comes to Blacksburg one weekend. So we're working it out.
BOGGS: What would you do, what would you want to do as a date?
ELMORE: I have no idea, just kind of figure it out as we go along. Things likethe weather would have a play in it. Maybe we go to the Cascades that's always fun, especially when it's frozen.
ELMORE: It just depends. Maybe there's something crazy going on that weekendthat we can check out.
BOGGS: I don't have anymore questions. Is there anything else you want to talkabout? This has been incredibly interesting and great. 53:00
ELMORE: Let me think. I don't know, are there any common themes that you'vefound in other interviews?
BOGGS: Well you're our first.
ELMORE: Oh! Patient zero. Yeah in general I think I have been amazed at how I'mnot sure if accepting is the right word, but willingness to roll with, or maybe it is acceptance, I don't know. When I think about people, real Appalachian people have really been with this whole thing. I think a lot of it has to do with how happy someone really is when they go through with it and realizing that 54:00you're basically the same person just kind of different on the outside and maybe a few different mannerisms, but sense of humor goes a long way with people. That is probably the biggest thing that I have observed and experienced with how to deal with people you might be leery of being yourself around.
BOGGS: Well thank you so much. This was a great first interview.
ELMORE: Good happy to do it.