Letters from readers who've been outed via the Internet

Below are a few of the stories I've gotten from readers since I first put my web safety page. Certain identifying information has been edited or removed.

Letter #1

I didn't see this listed, but it happened to me, so you might want to include it in your safety tips.

I corresponded with a man for awhile and finally decided to meet him at his office -- he really seemed very nice. Turned out, he was actually nice, but also a bit too snoopy. Later, when he e-mailed me, he knew who I was and had my address and birthdate and no telling what else. Scared the hell out of me!

He finally told me he had gotten the tag number from my car and run it through publicdata.com and bingo! And why? He said he was just curious as to who I was and felt he had the right to know, especially since it was public data, anyway.

No harm came of it, and since I did know where his office was, I doubt he intended any harm.

Got lucky that time... live and learn.

Sound the alarm to your readers!!

Letter #2

From a reader who transitioned in her mid-twenties [personal details edited for privacy]

The one thing I wish I had done differently, and which goes with your thoughts on Internet security, is change my last name as well as my first name. In order to maintain family support and support at work, I had pressure not to change my surname--people couldn't understand why I would want to just because I changed my gender--I wasn't a different person after all, they'd say, etc. etc. Unfortunately, in the world of the Internet, no information truly disappears. As my last name is somewhat uncommon, I've run into a few situations where people have searched on my last name and then, using what they know about me already (school graduation, date I was licensed for my job where I live, old newspaper clippings from my hometown from high school of old things) were able to find out lots more info about me than I thought was available. This is not something everyone does--in truth, I'm lucky that my appearance does not raise many questions--but it's happened twice in the last two years (including one romantic situation, which became difficult as a result and could have proved disastrous). So anyone transitioning young and hoping for true stealth would be well-advised to change both of their names, even if their parents or friends or work colleagues recommend against it or don't understand why they are doing it.

[I agree with this recommendation. For more details, see my section on choosing a name. --AJ]

Letter #3

From another reader who transitioned in her mid-twenties [personal details edited for privacy]

I wish I'd been given the sound advice you share, not so much because I've been outed by the web (which has happened only once thank God -- oh if I could only expunge USENET!), but because I innocently shared enough information early on to eventually get my phone number tracked down and calls from someone spooky within driving distance of my house, as well as a couple of other unpleasant experiences being recognized by persons unknown while on the west coast (long, creepy story). Oh, I also got contacted by a woman on the east coast last year who told me a "friend" she'd met online had been using pictures of myself I'd posted a while back. I wrote her "friend" but, unsurprisingly, never got a response. I should have pursued it with the ISP from the email or something, but life interceded. Anyway, I'm sorry these things happen and the world has four jerks for every decent person. Internet users beware I suppose.

Letter #4

From another reader who transitioned in her mid-twenties [personal details edited for privacy]

I just wanted to comment on something you have on your very informative site regarding stealth and the Internet In my mid-20s when I was transitioning I found the usenet group alt.support.srs. I needed information very badly and posted messages, foolishly signing my first and last name to them (yeah, that was dumb). I figured the messages would be on the board a short while then they'd scroll off after a week or so. The messages I posted came back to haunt me recently.

I'm in my late twenties now and post-op. I rarely tell anyone I'm ts. Anyway, I met a guy and we started seeing each other. Even though we were intimate, I felt no need to tell him of my Ts background (some people would not be cool with that, but I didn't feel it was relevant to our relationship at the time). Well, he's a computer type and, knowing I'm into theatre, decided one day to see if he could find any of my theatre reviews online. He plugged my name into the search engine at dejanews and viola - messages I posted like three years ago came up...messages asking about SRS, FFS, and all that other stuff. Well, the next time I saw him he was acting kind of weird. I asked him what was wrong and he finally said he saw some messages posted under my name, from my old college to a transgender support group. I was totally freaked. I had NO idea they had archived those messages. At first I kind of played dumb but felt guilty and admitted that it had, in fact, been me. We talked about it and, despite being rattled and distant for several days, he is fine with everything now (and frankly, its a relief to have him know about my past and be ok with it, but I would have liked to have told him myself instead of having him find out that way!)

I managed to get them (Google who now own the dejanews) to remove my old messages. Luckily my boyfriend is a nice person and good-natured. If it had been someone else, who knows how he might have reacted. By signing my name on that newsgroup I was unknowingly putting myself in potential danger.

I just thought I'd share that story because Internet privacy is a very real concern if you want to do stealth. Something I posted years ago came back to haunt me!

Letter #5

A funny thing happened the other night. I was at a club Monday night having a great time dancing, drinking, flirting, etc. And this one guy was showing big-time interest. Then a strange thing happened... We eventually went outside to talk, and after some small talk, he said, "Hey I know you. I saw your profile on Yahoo." I'm like, "What???" He's like, "Yah, I liked your pics." I went quiet on him and wasn't sure what to do. He told me not to worry, cause he wasn't gonna out me to anyone. Besides, he said it would be in his best interest not too, cause he found me attractive & had his image to uphold with the other guys...

I asked him why he hadn't responded to my ad, and he said he never really thought about dating a Ts but that it would probably be too wierd anyway. He said he just stumbled across the ad one day and thought, "Pretty girl, but too bad she's a dude." But after he and I met by chance and in person, he said I seemed like a perfectly normal chick & never would've guessed the Ts part if it weren't for my personal ad... So we kinda hooked up for the rest of the night and might go out again! He was a great kisser!!

An example of a potentially bad situation not turning out so bad. I never thought I'd actually meet anyone in real life, outside of dating, who would make a connection between some obscure yahoo profile and me. Kinda scary... The world is too small of a place sometimes... I think it's time to take the personal ad down. Besides, so far, it's only been good for bringing the freaks out of the woodwork, and I doubt I will meet my dream guy on the Internet anyway. :-)

In this section:

Transgender web safety

Safely visiting transgender websites

Safely interacting with others online

Putting up your own website: pros and cons

How to minimize an existing web presence

Readers who have been outed online

Reader tips: online safety

Other web resources