This page shows some of the major events that have shaped my life, including areas such as my seven years of military service in the US Air Force and my work in modeling photography. Let's start with one of the major events in my life, that has definitely had a hand in shaping who I am.

I am transgender. The precise scientific reason for transgender is not yet understood fully, but a basic description of what this means is that all human embryos are female by default. It is only the injection of male hormones during gestation that create male genitalia. In some cases this means a child may have a brain that forms female, while the genitalia may not conform to that wiring. Whatever the cause, it created great distress since I was very young, until the realization that accepting myself for who I am and making the transition to properly reflect that, was my only true option at having any sort of life.

 

I am not alone in my transition. It is estimated that one out of every 250 to 500 males in the United States has some degree of gender dysphoria. This is approximately twice the number of people who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis and Cerebral Palsy. From the mechanism that creates a transgender person, it appears that male-to-female trans, such as myself, outnumber female-to-male trans by approximately 5 to 1, although the precise numbers may never be truly known because of the stigma society often associates with this difficulty.

 

I have been on hormones for years, eventually going full time and completing surgery. Documentation, all the way back to my birth certificate, now properly reflects my name and gender, acknowledging who I am and who I have always been. It's a good feeling, no matter how difficult the rest of the world might try to make it. I want to thank all of my family and friends for their love and support in my new life, and especially to Cherie, my wife and partner without whom I would not be writing this today.

 

Being a public figure already in space education circles made me decide early in this process to not hide these facts from anyone, and to aid others in understanding. With that in mind, I have given many talks at colleges and universities on this subject, including the UCI School of Medicine, Orange Coast College, Irvine Valley College, Cal State Fullerton, Pepperdine University, and even the Orange County Sheriff's Academy. If anyone is interested in more info on this subject, feel free to contact me.

Transition Links

 

I used to write a column on transgender issues for the web. Due to medical issues I had to suspend the column, but a full archive of what I wrote is available here:

 

Sex Ed 101

 

Other related links:

 

TG Rainbow Group

 

Transgender Day of Remembrance

 

OC Register profile

 

Transgender Law Center

 

Orange County FtM Group

 

Trantasia

Michelle and Cherie,

Partners in Life.

Sitting in the commander's seat aboard the Space Shuttle — the ultimate dream of spaceflight.

May 21, 1967, as an 11-year-old kid, I stood beneath the 3-story tall nose of the XB-70 aircraft number 20001 at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Catching some shade on the hot tarmac of an air show.

 

This aircraft remains a favorite of mine, second only to the X-15 (it's number 1 as far as Cherie is concerned!).

 

The inset at right shows a detail of this old black & white Polaroid taken by my father, Bryce. In it you can see the makings of a true photo nerd — tacky shorts, thick black-rimmed glasses, a pocket protector case for my sunglasses, and the old twin-lens reflex camera.

May 1984, almost to the day 17 years later, I am standing in the same spot beneath the same giant bomber prototype. The only difference is that the XB-70 is now on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Dayton, Ohio.

 

I'm always glad I shot this photo when I did. Since the bomber was moved indoors to better protect it against the elements, this shot would be impossible to reproduce today.

 

I am very happy they did move it indoors, however, since I recall distinctly seeing rusty water dripping from this magnificent aircraft. Ohio is a far cry from the dry California desert.

I spent most of my seven years in the U.S. Air Force at Fairchild AFB, outside Spokane, Washington. I worked on the Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM). This missile system replaced the aging fleet of Hound Dog missiles. When the Hound Dogs were finally phased out completely in the mid-1970s, all of them were destroyed as stipulated by international arms agreements.

This is the very last Hound Dog at Fairchild. Our group was to move it into a hangar where it would meet its fate. I had to get one special shot with this historic missile, so I handed my camera to a friend and told him to take a shot of me doing this Dr. Strangelove pose.

This photo is in a weapons storage bunker at Fairchild AFB where we kept the SRAM between maintenance checkouts and loading on the rotary launcher for flight test, or to stand alert duty on the B-52 Stratofortress. Here you can see several SRAMs on their bunkbed storage units. The rails in the foreground are from the transport cart that is just being lowered.

Photography and writing are what I am best at, however, I did try my hand at painting one time. I created this mural of the B-1 Lancer to cover the wall in my office at Fairchild AFB in the late 1970s. It is 17 feet long and 7 feet tall. Outside of the frame, an SR-71 Blackbird flew high above and to the right toward the Sun, which is also out of frame. I often wonder if this mural still exists.

Above is a shot from August 1977. This was my set-up in the NASA parking lot at the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB for ALT-1, the first Approach and Landing Test of the Space Shuttle Enterprise. My Celestron 8-inch telescope provided me with a 2000 mm lens to shoot the 747 with the Enterprise nestled on its back.

The very first model of the Space Shuttle I constructed in 1979. This was a 1/144-scale kit and is painted with the white External Tank in the configuration of the first flight of the shuttle system. The shuttle was hung from the ceiling of my room at Fairchild AFB.

STS-1: Shortly after the first landing of Space Shuttle Columbia on April 14, 1981 at Edwards AFB. I covered 25 landings and 4 launches of the shuttle (Edwards AFB is a lot closer than Kennedy Space Center in Florida!) during the course of the 30-year program.

Columbia: Orbiter OV-102

Columbia was in refurbishment at the Palmdale, California, facility of Rockwell International when these photos were taken. The one on the left is coming through the side hatch tunnel to the mid-deck. The one on the right is coming up the ladder to the flight deck. Thanks to Jeff Howe for taking these photos. Read the articles, and see many additional photos about this experience here: May/June 2000.

 

I have another photo, sitting in the cargo bay with Jeff, just outside the airlock hatch. Soon after the Columbia accident in February 2003, I saw a photo of this same hatch imbedded in the soggy ground in Texas.

 

The tragedy of Columbia is that the loss of the seven astronauts was as preventable as the loss of the Challenger had been 17 years previously. "Those who know not of the past are doomed to repeat it."

In the pilot's seat of the Goodyear blimp, flying over Southern California.

Photos by Michael Cutler.

I enjoy doing educational programs for schools and science centers. This is from the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, California. The presentation concerned the then recent landings of the rovers Spirit and Opportunity on Mars.

Certified to handle lunar rock samples brought back to Earth by the Apollo astronauts, I have had the pleasure to show these fantastic specimens on many occasions to school children, and at exhibits and expos across the country.

My wife, Cherie, and myself with the lunar sample which happens to bear a striking resemblance to a VW Beetle!

While still in the Air Force, in November 1976, I purchased my first professional camera: a silver-body Nikon F with 105 mm and 200 mm Nikkor lenses, in a sturdy Halliburton case. Although I have gone through several cameras since then, and have now gone completely digital, I still have this complete set that I started with so many years ago.

 

I purchased the equipment from a friend in the Air Force, using my re-enlistment bonus. Deciding to turn my photography into a professional endeavor, I literally walked down the hall after purchasing the camera and placed a call to the Drezden Modeling Agency in Spokane. I told them I would like to get into fashion and modeling photography, and wondered if I might be able to set up a shoot with a couple of their models. They accepted.

 

My friend Gary, whom I had bought the system from, listened in on the call. Immediately afterward, he got on the phone and ordered a new camera for himself. We were in business together for the next several years, until I left the Air Force and returned to my native Southern California.

My very first professional modeling photograph, taken in December 1976. The model's name is Janice.

A second photo of Janice taken at about the same time the shot was taken from across the river at left.

A couple years after beginning my career photographing models, I was talking with a friend in the Air Force. He asked me how I got started and I told him about the first cold day out by the Spokane River with Gary and myself shooting photos of Janice and Marci.

 

He said how he had seen a couple of people once in that area shooting photos of models and had taken a picture of them shooting photos from across the river. He dug out the photo, and there was Gary and I on our very first day of professional work!

 

In the photo above, I am photographing Janice almost in the center of the frame, near the edge of the large rock outcropping. Gary is slightly below me and about half way to the right side of the photo, shooting Marci.

 

Near the upper left of the frame you can see my new car (a 1976 Toyota Corolla SR5 Liftback) parked near a tree. The cold is plainly visible in the frost covering the trees and rocks.

 

It was unbelievable that someone happened to capture this moment in time. The detail (right) from the photo shows me with Janice, camera to my face, snapping a shot.

A photo from my very first fashion show. The model was Miss Washington 1976. She was a good friend who worked with Tom Kaylor. Tom and I also worked together for many years.

At work in our first makeshift studio. Gary and I set up in a small room at the Fairchild AFB Recreation Club. We mounted paper and set up our lighting equipment. Cindy was our first model to use this studio. I learned then that I prefer outdoor, natural lighting.

This is Anne. She was a waitress at Savage House Pizza (a great place, now unfortunately gone) in Airway Heights. This was a favorite hangout for people from Fairchild AFB. Anne was one of the primary reasons I decided to become a professional photographer. These photos were taken at the Manito Park Japanese Gardens in Spokane in the Spring of 1977. They were my first time working with a nonprofessional model, a preference I maintain to this day.