Out

Coming out of the closet sounds simple: 
  1. Open the door. 
  2. Exit the closet.
  3. Close the door behind you (optional).

There is a bit more to it than that. 

I was genuinely surprised at how many times I wound up coming out. I told my family I was transitioning in October of last year, started hormones in December, and updated my Facebook profile in January, but continued to present male professionally until the end of September 2017. I came out hundreds of times in the intervening period, and I have been lucky not to lose a friend or (to my knowledge) alienate a colleague in the process.   

When I posted my personal update on Sunday, that finally finished. I had sent a letter on the previous Friday to my colleagues at CFA Institute and was ready to make who I am all the way google-able.

So I did. 

People from all over the world have since written to express congratulations and support through social media and email. This torrent of affirmations coupled with the trickle of smaller ones i'd gotten in the prior months to entirely change my life. 

Buttoned-down, serious people have not hesitated to accept me. Some even went so far as to say "why would this change anything?"

Not everyone is met with so much positivity, and there is no question that I am lucky. But I think you should know how far this was from my expectations. In the echo chamber of the closet, I convinced myself that I would be forced to make a living as a sex worker if I opened the door. 

I never talked about it, and so I never examined that absurd idea. It started to seem non-negotiable, like death or taxes. 

We are capable of believing anything with our eyes closed to contradictory evidence. 

National Coming Out Day will be celebrated on October 11th 2017 for the 29th time. I am glad to share that the people who surround me have exceeded my wildest expectations, and my hope is that others who have edited their own dreams out of reality will give their surroundings a chance. 

I know it can be hard to find the words, and so I've reproduced the letter I sent on Friday below. 

I wish you all the best as you move forward on your own journey. 

Sloane      

I would like to share a personal detail with you: I am a transgender woman. 

This tends to come as a surprise, but that’s the nature of secrets. This is the only good one I had. I am thrilled to share it with you as a mundane fact. I’ll just ask one favor: please keep this to yourself until you see a more formal announcement in the next few weeks. This letter is just going to the people I've had closer contact with over the years. 

Some of you have known this was coming for months, and your support has been a remarkable source of strength and wisdom. For most of my life, I had assumed that I would have to leave any professional ambitions behind if I stepped out of the closet. I am overjoyed to learn that won’t be necessary, and indebted to you all for building a workplace that slowly chipped away at my own self-limiting assumptions. 

Of course, “colleague” does not have a gender, and so in a way I am announcing nothing has changed. I understand if you don’t quite see that yet, or if you are unsure about how to refer to me. The last bit is not complicated: I am a woman, which means I am “she” and the things I possess are “hers.” 

I’ll also be changing my name. Pleased to meet you: I’m Sloane Ortel. 

I understand many of you have known me for a while, and are not used to referring to me that way. It’s important you know I will always trust the intention in our interactions, and also that it’s very easy for me to separate an error from a slight. If you can respect me as a human, seeing me as a woman is a matter of time. 

I trust you will get there, but I also know that you may not know very much about trans issues or the broader ”queer” community. Clicking through a few of these comics might be a fun way to fill that gap if you’d like to. CFA Institute has also been predictably, wonderfully diligent in ensuring this doesn’t catch anyone off guard, and you can expect to hear from people who know more than I do in the coming months. 

I am happy to discuss the details of my own situation with you at an appropriate time, but the bigger hope is that you will see it as a reminder everyone has their struggles. 

Hiding my own has meant near-constant multitasking. 

I will discontinue it with pleasure, and look forward to putting my added capacity toward the work we’ll do together. Specific thanks are due to dozens of you, and you know who you are. Acceptance is due to everyone, and our privilege is to work so they get it.  

With admiration, excitement, and serenity —  

Will Sloane

Sloane Ortel 
Direct: (Phone number redacted)
Twitter: @sloaneortel


A Personal Update

I would like to share something with you: I am a transgender woman.

Earlier this month, I visited Brooklyn Civil Court to petition for a name that more closely matches my gender. With a few more months, a couple more forms, and probably a decent amount of waiting in line, my passport will identify me as a woman named Sloane River Veda Ortel just as this website does.

You can probably imagine that putting this out in the open is a relief. I can now look to the future with optimism I had not thought possible.

Though I have known something was different about me for most of my life, I was too scared to say anything until September of last year. The first person I told has been a close friend since I met her in fourth grade, and likely would have responded just as wonderfully at any time between now and then.

It was hating myself that kept me silent.

I believed only the meanest things that people said about others like me, and did everything I could think of to be someone else. I was hollowed out in the process and nearly destroyed entirely.

I spoke up in September because there was nothing else to do, and I’m speaking up here because I will absolutely never take those words back.

My gender is just one part of who I am to my family, friends, and colleagues, but it’s inseparable from the rest of me. It has taken a while to realize these remarkable people have been referring to the whole package when they say that they love or respect me.

Most of us are not so lucky, and I look forward to paying the love I have received forward. I also just can’t wait to see what i’m capable of without a hand tied behind my back. 

Thank you for reading, and best wishes in your own journey.

Sloane

P.S. I wrote about the wonderful reaction that this letter generated here