My name is Jami Shofner and I’m from Houston.
Twenty years ago, which was back in the mid-nineties somewhere, I was doing stand-up comedy as a woman, and I was in a drag show in Cincinnati. In the middle of Friday night – the show was on Saturday – the plumbing in the ceiling and the men’s room backstage collapsed – or the plumbing sprung a leak, the ceiling collapsed. Just like that, the dressing room space for a drag show had been cut in half.
Before the show I had to pee and I figured I needed to just stick around because I didn’t know when the middle of the show was going to be, and I didn’t want to miss my intro. And then it got worse. So ultimately what I did was I went to the destroyed men’s room and in the corner of the room, across the room, there was a… an intact urinal. I worked my way across the room, I hiked my dress up, I pull my pantyhose down and I pulled my dick out and was peeing when the door opened to the restroom. And it was a guy from maintenance. He turned red from the neck up and then turned white from the top down. And was just stuttering and stammering.
And it’s like, “I… I’m sorry. Ma’am. Excuse me.” And he backed out. I realized that what people see is what they think they see. This guy saw a woman standing at a urinal, taken a leak, and to him, it was the woman. The rest of the stuff was inconsequential. It was an important point for me because I learned what you need to do is you need to project being a woman much more than you need to actually be a woman.
I was a very angry person. I had a lot of issues with anger management. Root cause of it was that I had to live a lie. And I was angry that I couldn’t be the person that I knew I was. It got to the point where I couldn’t not transition.
I was pretty much out. I was doing stand up as a woman. About half the time socially, I was out as a woman. And I had decided that I was going to actually finish my transition in the sense that I’m going to change my documentation, I’m going to take hormones, may or may not have surgery, but I was gonna make the full change.
At work, my boss transitioned. When he announced that he was going to transition, he got fired and that immediately put my transition plans on a hard hold, ‘cause I couldn’t afford to lose the job that I had. So I worked along for another 10 years at this company, more or less.
I had… I had started as much as I could without just outright making the transition. I grew my hair out. I wore, you know, women’s slacks. I put my hair in a ponytail and a scrunchie. I wore earrings. I didn’t wear makeup, but I did use mascara. So it was not overt, but it was more than covert. And I finally, uh, got laid off and that was part of the impetus for me to go ahead and finish transition.
I was at a paper mill in Oregon and I was working doing design work with the engineers from the paper mill. And I was standing in front of a crowd of all men and I was pointing at something on the white board. And I looked at my hand as I pointed and I realized I was pointing like this and I immediately thought that’s not very butch. That’s not masculine at all. And I realized at that point, Okay, you’ve turned the corner. And I had.
Not shortly after that,, I got laid off, not because I was trans or how I looked, but because of the dot com bubble bust. But I finally did get a job. I landed a job with the federal government. And I thought this is the perfect time to… to go ahead and transition because all of my interviews have been by phone and this was in pre-Zoom days. So nobody knew what I looked like, they only knew what I sounded like.
When I got the job offer, I talked to my prospective boss and I told them, I said, “I want to transition. I’m going to transition when I start to work.” And his advice was we have – we… the federal government has a one-year transition period during which you can be let go for any reason.
And he said, “My recommendation would be work for a year and then transition.” And that’s what I did. I had already changed my name legally. I had started hormones, but I hadn’t changed at work. And I left work on Friday before Presidents Day. I came back to work on Tuesday after president’s day as a woman, and everything was changed. People referred to me by my new name. Every – all my paperwork said female, had my new name on it… everything was different. And it was the greatest move I ever made in my life. I no longer had to lie. I no longer was angry. I could be… I was free to be who I knew I was.
Be true to yourself. I can’t stress that enough. You need to have confidence in who you are and acknowledge that. And… and live that truth because if you don’t, you’re not going to be happy.