News » Features

This is Me

Stories from three transgender women who renamed themselves


In a small, crowded courtroom, the judge called forward Matthew Ray Bailey. Bailey stood up from the first row of seats and approached the bench, wearing a wavy blonde wig, a purple sweater, a black skirt with black tights and small heels.

The judge asked if the name change was a way to evade debt or criminal charges.

"No, ma'am," Bailey's feminine voice responded.

"Then your new name will be Fiona Ellen Kilfoyle," the judge said, gavel in hand.

Kilfoyle turned around with a smile--and the hint of a five o'clock shadow--on her face.

She walked back to her seat, taking the hand of her wife.

Four weeks prior, as part of the procedure to change her name, Kilfoyle had published her intention to do so in the legal notices of Boise Weekly.

The reason given: "to right a terrible wrong."

'To Right a Terrible Wrong'

In her earliest memories, 35-year-old Kilfoyle fantasized about being a girl. The feelings followed her throughout her life, until nine months ago when she felt so unhappy she quit her job and started seeing a therapist.

As she started truly accepting herself as a woman, she knew she had to tell her wife. The couple has been together since 1999, but this was Kilfoyle's best-kept secret. She never admitted it to herself, let alone her wife.

That was a rough night. She drank a lot.

"That's the paralyzing part of a lot of this," Kilfoyle said. "You just don't know how people are going to react at all."

Most marriages don't survive the transition. Kilfoyle was "pretty much lit" by the time she managed to cough it out.

"'I have something to tell you,'" Kilfoyle remembered telling her wife. "I was being really serious so she was like, 'Oh my God, what?' So I just had to let it out really quick, like tearing off a Band-Aid."

It was tough to say, let alone hear: Your husband of more than 12 years isn't a man.

"She said, 'Are you serious? Is this for real? Do you actually mean this, or is it some kind of joke?' It was emotional," Kilfoyle said. "We hashed it out for quite a while."

But Kilfoyle's wife--who declined to be identified or interviewed for this story--decided to stick with her. Then they set to work on choosing a name.

Kilfoyle charted out her genealogy, selecting her great-grandmother's name, Ellen, for her middle name. Her wife made lists, looking up names by year. Kilfoyle couldn't pick a name that was too recently popular. Nor did she want to pick the name of someone she already knew.

"That would be really awkward, right?" Kilfoyle said. "Or you're looking at names and you're like, 'I dated her. That's a little weird.'"

She ultimately picked Fiona after another distant relative.

Kilfoyle started on hormones and testosterone blockers shortly after. She noticed a change in her taste and smell. Her skin softened. Her mental process changed.

"It's like a fog cleared in my head," she said. "I felt less driven by my testosterone. I feel a lot better."

The next step in her transition: dressing the part.

She had to create a whole new style for herself so she started from scratch at consignment stores. She loved throwing away all her ugly, boxy male clothes. Kilfoyle likes thick tights that make her legs look more feminine. She likes simple patterns and light floral prints.

Matt wore a beard as "armor." Fiona paints her nails midnight blue.

"Matt's dead," she said. "Matt is dead."

Kilfoyle became a woman everywhere but her office--a software company in an office tower downtown. She's worked as a computer programer for the business for six months now, but the constant shifting of personas wore her down. She'd leave work, go home, change, spend an hour putting on make-up and go out again--even if it was just to run to the grocery store. She had a pact with herself: to never let herself go out as a man.

The hardest part of switching back and forth for work, Kilfoyle said, was speaking. She spent so much time training herself to speak differently, with less resonance and with a lighter pitch. But having to go into work and speak like a man again made it hard for her to internalize her new voice and etch it into her subconsciousness.

Finally, the day came. On Feb. 11, 2014, she approached the judge's bench and legally became Fiona Ellen Kilfoyle. She took the day off work, leaving the evening before as a man with a slightly receding hairline and returning the following morning, a woman.