We wonder if Sarah Natalie Bähr, wearing a pretty dress and 3-inch heels, ever reminisces about the joys of childhood with her co-workers over lunch. If so, would she begin her own recollections with, “When I was a little boy…?”
That little boy, born Stephen Bähr in Germany in 1969, grew up there, earned a B.A. in Computer Science from Berufsakademie in Stuttgart, came to America in 2001 on a temporary assignment to set up an IT service hub for a German/Swiss-based company in the Americas time zone; got married four years later, and still later began a process borne of a lifelong desire to become a woman.
“I finally needed to give up trying to be male and embrace being female,” said Bähr, who considers herself a lifelong transgender, hiding this side of her life since childhood.
(A transgender is an umbrella term for transsexual, cross-dresser, born in one gender but feeling in the other.)
“My whole family was supportive of my decision; so were my wife and stepchildren,” she said. “The greatest opposition was I, myself. Once I figured what needed to happen, it was mostly just a matter of getting things done. We lost two friends over this, but this thing just exposed them for who they were. I found a great therapist here in Fort Wayne, whereas without her I’d probably still be sitting here a guy and scrambling to figure stuff out. My wonderful physician also helped me tremendously along the way. My employer has been outstanding during my transition and has updated its EEO policy to include gender identity as a protected class.
“I drew a clear line in the sand on Nov. 3, 2014. It was the day I started to come to work as a female. There was no more being male for anyone as of that date.
“My life has made a turn for the better and Fort Wayne has been very kind to me in so many ways, not only as a transgender person but also as a person in general. People who I meet all respond positively—including encounters with strangers who have gone from not knowing to being curious and fascinated in minutes. I am now more at peace, connect more with people and don’t have to filter what I say and do anymore.”
Bähr feels much more needs to happen with educating the masses, how for example gender preference and gender identity are two separate things.
To that end, she has created a personal website that explains transgender (www.sarahstginfo.com) and related areas, such as health insurance coverage for transgenders, name changes, discrimination, transgendering as a mental health issue, and more. For example, there are many steps and procedures to a sex change: hormone replacement, beard removal, voice coaching, breast augmentation, facial contouring and more.
Her own marriage to Ruth Brooks Bähr was challenged by her gender transition and the time leading up to it, admitted Sarah Bähr.
“I met my wife as a man. She knew I was transgendered when we got married but did not, however, anticipate that I’d actually wanted to be a woman at one point. In my defense, I didn’t quite have that figured out myself yet. But my wife stood by me and is now a proud member of the LGBT community, and we even marched together in the gay parade last summer.”
“We have come a long way in advances for transgender people, but there is still much work to be done because of adversities on all levels: legal, peers, professional, institutional, heck, even from their spiritual and religious support systems, their families and the media. “Humans are afraid of what they don’t know… we have to be able to rationalize what’s going on and be smarter than our lower instincts…”