Antioch University Seattle (AUS) alumna and LGBT counselor Paulette de Coriolis was recently interviewed on KNKX 88.5FM, a local Seattle-area radio station. The station is an NPR affiliate, which airs jazz, blues, and NPR news. Additionally, they produce a local news show called Sound Effect, which showcases local stories and voices.
The show, titled What is Normal?, which included de Coriolis’ eight-minute interview segment, aired January 19th of this year. The interview was focused on de Coriolis’ experience of coming out relatively late in life as a transgender woman. She was 53 years old when she began slowly transitioning and was out as a trans woman, full-time when she retired from her career as an electrical engineer at age 62.
de Coriolis had no say in the editorial content for the show so it took a lot of trust on her part to commit to the KNKX interview. One of the reasons for this being that trans people have not historically been compassionately represented in the media. From the murderous Norman Bates character in the film, Psycho (de Coriolis’ first exposure to a trans-ish person on-screen) to Laverne Cox on the cover of Time Magazine, we’ve come a long way… but according to statistics, “out” transgender people only make up 6/10 of one percent of the population. “It’s hard to count trans people,” de Coriolis said, “because many don’t want to be seen.”
Emerald City Social Club and the Ingersoll Gender Center drop-in support group for trans people were de Coriolis’ first positive in-person exposure to other trans people. She became a facilitator for the Ingersoll Center group in 2004. Through the experience of being a support group facilitator and her therapist’s encouragement, she decided to become an LGBT specialized therapist in 2011. She explored a variety of programs and found that Antioch was a natural fit for her. “Quite simply, I liked the feeling that I got from all of the people I talked with at Antioch from the receptionist to the admissions advisor, to the students, to the graduating students/ therapists I knew as colleagues.” She also liked that the school made it very clear they were geared toward returning adult students. She found herself to be the eldest in most of her classes, the average age at the time was 37, but most of the students were adults with jobs and families and previous careers.
Because her AUS program, the Clinical Mental Counseling Program (CMHC) allows students to go at their own pace, de Coriolis took four years to graduate. She made good use of the time by re-starting a defunct LGBT group on campus and making sure that it would continue after her graduation. It is still active today.