Dr. Mary Ann Horton is a transgender activist, an author, an internet pioneer and a computer architect. She earned her PhD in Computer Science from UC Berkeley, spent 20 years with Bell Labs and retired from San Diego Gas & Electric, where she protected the power grid from hackers. In 1997 she persuaded Lucent Technologies to be the first Fortune 500 company to add transgender-inclusive language to their nondiscrimination policy, earning her the Trailblazer Outie Award, and inspiring her to write her memoir, Trailblazer: Lighting the Path for Transgender Inclusion in Corporate America.
What aspect of editing or writing are you involved in?
I’m an author. My coming-of-age memoir tells of my life as a trans woman and a trans activist. It commemorates the 25th anniversary of Lucent’s historic policy signed 10/28/1997, the first Fortune 500 company to formally pledge not to discriminate against transgender workers. I was the instigator of that policy.
What first attracted you to writing/editing?
When I talk, I stumble. When I write, I can proofread, edit and clarify. This is important for sending email, and even more important for a memoir.
How long have you been writing?
When I was a kid, I wrote an eight-page children’s book A Beaver’s Story in pencil and crayon. As an adult, I wrote technical papers to explain how to use computer programs and internet domains, so I learned to explain clearly. This led to publication of my technical reference book Portable C Software in 1990. After retiring, I had a new challenge: write a memoir that real people would enjoy reading.
As a writer, what kind of books do you write? Any published? How about short stories?
Beyond my tech pubs and memoir, I wrote (with my friends Lisa and Bill Koontz) the 2004 parody, How the Grinch Stole Marriage, about same-sex marriage, which went viral. A short story based on the first chapter of Trailblazer will be performed December 8 in the IMWA Memoir Showcase in La Jolla.
What are you working on now either writing or editing?
My raw material autobiography has 200,000 words, partly computer stories, partly trans stories, partly just life. I’ll write a second memoir, telling about the computer stuff. My challenge will be to dig into technology and still make it fun to read.
How long have you been a member of SDWEG and why did you join?
I found the SDWEG table at the 2019 San Diego Book Fair. The meetings, members and resources were exactly what I needed as an author.
What benefits have you gained as a member?
The monthly meetings are beyond valuable to me. I’ve learned a ton about every aspect of writing, publishing, marketing, publicity and on and on. SDWEG membership is a great investment of my time and membership dues!
What’s something unique or special about you that you’d like others to know?
I’ve had an interesting life in technology as well as trans activism. One fun tidbit is that I invented the email attachment while a grad student at Berkeley in 1980.
What request might you have of other members? (joint venture promotions, launch team, referrals, reviews, advance readers…)
I’d love to see a “cook book” covering all the aspects of writing, editing, publishing, marketing, etc. If the membership wrote sections they’re knowledgeable about, and we edited it like a Wiki, we’d have a great resource for our members.