I will miss you terribly…

I lost one of my closest friends, my “sister,” yesterday…. and the world is a little darker today because of her passing.  My

my friend, Stacy Nowak...

friend, confidante, partner in arms, like a sister to me – Stacy Nowak – passed sometime early yesterday morning.  Like me, she was an air traffic controller, she worked at Morristown Tower, and the day shift yesterday morning discovered her body in the women’s bathroom.  The cause, though not final, is speculated to be either a coronary or an aneurysm.  Her Wake Services are to be held on Friday, with burial on Saturday.

Stacy and I first “met” about three years through our very close friend, Laura.  Though her and I never managed to get together physically, and almost all of our conversing was done via Yahoo Messenger or texts, we were very close because of our shared lives.  When we first began conversing, back in 2008, it was I who was going to transition first on the job, and she was at her beginnings… we both were.  As events followed their course, I made a detour on my way, but she kept moving forward, and on April 6th of last year, she emailed me

Hey hun,
FULLTIME STARTS IN 7 HOURS!!!!!!!!! YEAH!  No more changing back and forth for me.  YEAH!


Thus it was that, on April 7, 2010, she fully transitioned.  It wasn’t easy for her; she was not successful as a developmental at her first assignment at EWR, was transferred to a much smaller tower in Pennsylvania, and while there and beginning her transition, she underwent significant harassment by others that she worked with.  When she began her hormone therapy, she lost he Medical certificate, and was also verbally harassed by the Flight Surgeon for the Eastern Region office, whom she told me basically yelled at her for being transsexual.  Working with our union, Stacy was able to secure a transfer to Morristown Tower, where she began her new chapter fully transitioned.  And I know that she was so very happy and healthy post-transition, living life to its fullest, always optimistic.

It was because of Stacy’s legwork that my transition at work, in the FAA, was so very easy for the most part.  Stacy, unfortunately, bore the brunt of it all – for the both of us.  As a controller, she was the groundbreaker within our region, the first to have to deal with Medical regarding simply taking hormones.  She was required to submit a letter from a board-certified psychiatrist to get her medical back. She wrote to me thus:

Did you see the endo yet? As far as what they are looking for –  you MUST see an M.D. board certified psychiaTRIST!  Do not see an pscyhologist- the medical department seems their opinions as invalid. You may need to see 2 or more psychiatrists to get your medical back.  Yes you will be considered “not sane”.  Any previous medical evals will be invalid unless they specifically state you had gender issues when seeing those drs.   Plus you will have to be tested and prove your are not schizophrenic, bipolar, manic depressive etc etc.  Their regs say that trans people have much high chance and are most likely schizophrenic, bipolar etc etc, and thus your letters must directly state you are not. 

They also might ask for any copies of CT scans if you ever had them done of your brain.  Another misconception they have that is GID maybe caused by a brain tumor.  May not be medically right, but its FAA medicine not real medicine. 

That should be what they are looking for, but honestly they have no clue what they really want.  Every time I asked, they wanted something else.  But for sure you MUST see a psychiatrist – seeing anyone else is just a complete waste of money like I did.

So, when I made the jump last year, I planned my transition out very carefully, taking into account everything I would need that FAA would likely ask for.  And, when I informed Medical of my pending transition, it was with letters from my psychologist, my psychiatrist, and my endocrinologist, along with a detailed transition work plan.  All Medical could then do was to put me on restricted duty for 30 days.  They had nothing else.  And I’ve never gotten the opportunity to thank her sufficiently for that…. it was hugely important, and so very helpful to me in my transition.  And now I will never get that opportunity…

Stacy and I shared so many commonalities.  Obviously, the most significant being that we were both transsexual women in search of our true selves.  We were both married; although thankfully she did not have children, it was very tough on her, facing the separation and disintegration of her marriage.  We were both federal employees, both controllers, sisters in arms, in the end us against the world…. We were two in the same region, we interacted likely every day… and above all and most importantly, we had each other in this battle…  I was just reminiscing beforehand, and it popped into my head that a few times, last year, we had spoken about living together, sharing an apartment and helping each other with transition.  We talked like silly schoolgirls about moving to Manhattan; for my part, it was a very serious consideration, and I certainly would have desired to have shared this with her.  What could possibly have been better than to share lives with another so close in almost every way….  Lately, we’ve even spoken about our goals within our jobs, she had expressed a desire to bid for a management position, and we talked about our “taking on the world.”

Last I texted Stacy, she texted me that she was at JFK for a training session and wondered about my schedule.  She was there one day, and was going to be there the following, on which I had something scheduled, but certainly could have – should have – canceled.  And I am so very remiss and mournful that I did not.  I really miss her already… though I never met her personally, we had a unique and treasured connection, and I feel I’ve never done enough for her, certainly not what she did for me.  May God Bless you, Stacy, and I pray that you are fully now at peace… till next when we meet, you will forever be in my thoughts and prayers.


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. deeanne R colwell
    May 11, 2011 @ 14:42:27

    i am so sorry to read of the passing of you loved one. just from reading your above piece, i know how you must really be sadend and feel so empty now. Transitioning is a difficult journey sometimes and to lose someone along that journey just seems more than anyone can deal with.. again, please accept my sympathy..
    as a member of the aviation community, i do understand the harshness of dealing with the FAA in transitioning.. please if you ever need to chat , feel free to,, d.


  2. Brenda C. Roberts
    May 11, 2011 @ 19:58:10

    This is a very tragic story. It is always tough when you lose a friend. A friend like this makes the loss that much more tragic. I cannot imagine anything more tragic. She was able to see her dream come true with the surgery, but was not able to enjoy her new life. It is a terrible shame. May she rest in peace and look down to us everyday. May we look up to the sky and see Stacy.


  3. Keri Marie
    May 11, 2011 @ 21:50:27

    @Brenda… she never had her surgery, she only went full time just last year, and although she was concerned about when she would be able to afford it, it never weighed on her mind, it never detracted from her happiness….


  4. Bill
    May 13, 2011 @ 14:04:19


    I am so very sorry for the loss of your friend. As a straight male, I cannot even fathom the difficulties you and Stacy had to deal with in your lives. My wish is that people would be more tolerant of those they consider different, or don’t share the same views. Maybe one day our paths will cross at a NATCA event…


  5. RDoug
    May 15, 2011 @ 16:41:22

    My most heartfelt condolences on the loss of your friend, Keri.


  6. Sarah
    May 19, 2011 @ 16:11:14

    I am so sad to learn about this today through SAGALA….and sorry that I missed the services. Thank you for sharing the love online.


    • Keri Marie
      May 20, 2011 @ 12:38:53

      Thank you everyone from the Academy group; I know that she was very proud of her service and so very much enjoyed her recent trip to Colorado. And yes, Sue…. it’s a world’s loss truly. But, even if she knew completeness, happiness, if but for a moment, I am certain she felt it was all worth it in the end….


  7. SueF
    May 19, 2011 @ 16:49:26

    I was devastated to hear about Stacy. I knew her through the LGBT Academy group. She was an amazing and courageous and funny woman, and I miss her. I’m sorry for your loss, and my loss, and the world’s loss.


  8. Jeff Petrie
    May 19, 2011 @ 17:48:00

    Honestly I didn’t know Stacy very long, or very well. Although she and I served together on the board of SAGALA — a GLBT service academy alumni organization — it wasn’t until March of this year that I actually met her in person. I will remember Stacy for her energetic strength and determination, which were a bit camouflaged by her gentle, tender spirit. I cannot begin to imagine the challenges of the road she traveled for 31 years… Stacy’s life will inspire others who follow: she showed that we can all “aim high” with confidence, and live our lives as they were meant to be lived. L, Jeff


  9. Jennifer McCandless
    May 21, 2011 @ 02:41:58

    Thank you for your touching tribute to your friend. I knew Stacy a bit from our interactions on online trans support sites, but we had fallen out of touch; your description of her filled in many gaps in my knowledge of her background. I’m sorry for your loss, and for her loss to the community, yet I’m glad you were able to experience the richness of her so closely. Thanks for sharing with us.


  10. Sal Grimshaw
    May 23, 2011 @ 01:16:36

    I feel your pain and am in tears, regarding Stacy, in my work i would like to say with your closeness, she will b with you, talk to her. I am moved beyound words and will join my heart to yours while you heal.
    Namaste Keri. Love and light to you, and her loved ones.


  11. Jaclyn Feakins
    May 25, 2011 @ 17:08:16

    I regret now that I never met Stacy in person. I was away visiting family in Chicago and did not hear the tragic news until yesterday. We had e-mailed back and forth when she was first dealing with the requirement to reveal all medications she was taking to the flight surgeon. As a retired air traffic controller, I advised her that if she didn’t list hormones they would fire her for failure to disclose. If she did list her hormones they would TRY to fire her, but she would be able to fight it. It’s a difficult position to be in. I did not transition until the final year before retirement, to avoid that dilemma. They pulled my Medical (Medical certificate showing fitness for duty) and I took “sick leave” for the last 10 months of my 27 year career. Stacy was very brave and determined to be her true self AND have a career as an air traffic controller. It’s so sad that her life was cut short, as she was overcoming obstacles and finally living her dream. She is, and will be, in our thoughts


    • Keri Marie
      May 26, 2011 @ 22:58:06

      Jackie… Are you the controller from ZAU? I saw on Marci Bowers’ show?? That was so incredible for me. As for me, I transitioned at ZNY… Fun fun. They never tried to fire me at all, in fact the only thing thy did was put me in restricted status for 30 days… I knew Stacy when she was a developmental at EWR, when we were both contemplating beginning our transitions…


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