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Community Support Eases Transition

Annika Miller, Ph.D., came to Susquehanna in fall 2000 to teach math and computer science. A native Pennsylvanian who had been teaching at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo., she returned with her partner, Kelly, their oldest son, and their second son on the way.

She settled into the campus community, teaching, doing research and working with students in areas such as combinatorial mathematics, robotics and artificial intelligence. She was active on the curriculum committee during creation of the university's learning goals and played a key role in developing the Perspectives class.

In spring 2007, she was diagnosed with a medical condition called gender identity disorder, also known as transsexualism. Working with her therapist, Diane Ellaborn, she learned that the condition, increasingly believed to originate in utero, is one in which a person of one sex has a brain that is structured as one of the opposite sex.

The primary effect was that Miller, who had been presenting and was seen as a male, was in fact a woman. This disconnect between who she was and what people saw had created dissonance for much of her life, Miller says. She and Kelly, with whom she had been honest about her identity from the start, together decided to seek treatment to eliminate this disconnect. Starting in fall 2008, Miller began to have private conversations with university colleagues and others, explaining that after a leave of absence in fall 2009 and a reduced teaching load the following spring, she would begin presenting as a woman when she resumed full duties at the beginning of the 2010-11 academic year.

Miller said she received overwhelming support from her Susquehanna colleagues, noting that she could imagine many university communities where her transition would have been much more difficult. Her father, Laurance Miller '61, D.Ed., was also profoundly moved by the campus community's embrace and support of his daughter, adding that such acceptance would not have happened during his student years. "It's been absolutely stunning," says Larry Miller, who spent 20 years on the faculty of Mansfield University of Pennsylvania. "I think the acceptance by Susquehanna University's administration, staff and students has been exemplary."

Following is the story of Annika's Journey.

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