Choosing My New Name:


Lynn Conway

Late in 1968, I was fired from my research position at IBM for being transsexual, just as I was about to undergo SRS and complete my gender transition. Suddenly I was faced with having to start my life and career all over again, in a new name and in secret. Back then that was the only way I had any chance of starting over and continuing on in a professional career post-transition.
I realized that a totally new name (including a new last name) would make it easier to "go stealth", right back into my original profession and right in the Bay Area where I'd been working.  My family, relatives and friends had disowned me by then, so I felt no angst about disowning my old last name and making a break with the family line.
As the time came for filing for my legal name change, the choice of my new first name was easy:  I had used "Lynn" as my female name during my college years, and during my social transition in '67-68. However, few people outside my transition caregivers and a small circle of friends knew about that name, so it was a safe choice.
While reading Helen MacInnes's novel The Salzburg Connection in late1968, I instantly liked the name of the lead female character. Her name was Lynn Conway, and I identified with her in various ways.  Realizing that Conway was a good last name for me because of my Irish heritage, I took it for my own - just in time for my legal name change. Here's the book and the words I encountered there:
Excerpts from the Salzburg Connection:
"At least, we now have something to -- " Keller stopped short, once more glared up the staircase. "Does no one use the elevator any more?" he demanded angrily, rising quickly to his feet.

Mathison's head turned. He rose, too, looking with surprise and a good deal of pleasure at the girl who stood half a flight above him. She was slender and long-legged, auburn-haired and blue-eyed. Even from this distance, the bright color of her eyes was quite definite and most remarkable. Now, thought Mathison, that's the kind of secretary to have. She must work with the interior decorator on the floor above Newhart and Morris; she certainly didn't belong in the firm, or else he would have seen her last week and his few days in Zurich might have been less work and more fun. "Excuse me, please," he said in German. "I am in your way."

"Not at all. I always step around people on staircases." Her German was extremely correct. "It's a pity to disturb them. A stone step is such a warm and comfortable place. But I am so sorry I scared off your friend." . . .
He stared at her unbelievingly. Could this be Mrs. Conway? As young as this? With humor and warmth, totally feminine? Smartly dressed, with quiet elegance -- excellent gray wool suit over a blue cashmere sweater, a deep-blue fleece coat over her shoulders, shining black pumps and pretty stockings? She looked as if she had risen late and spent at least an hour on preparing herself for the outside world.
"Something wrong?" she asked.
"I was just trying to guess your name. Could it be Conway?"
"Yes," she said, surprised. "Lynn Conway." And now it was she who was staring. "You aren't William Mathison?"
"Bill Mathison." He shook her hand with mock solemnity. "'How do you do, Mrs. Conway? Welcome to Ziffich, city of Zwingli and numbered bank accounts."
She recovered. "You aren't at all what I expected."
"My sentiments completely."