Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants

image of underpants on a clothesline

You know me as James Chartrand of Men with Pens, a regular Copyblogger contributor for just shy of two years.

And yet, I’m a woman.

This is not a joke or an angle or an analogy — I’m literally a woman.

This is my story.

Once upon a time, I found myself having to make some hard decisions.

The welfare application was on my kitchen table. It was filled out and signed, waiting for me to bring it to the people who would decide whether I’d be able to make rent next month or put food on the table.

I hated looking at it. I didn’t want to be in this situation. I’d thought that when you start over, make a clean break, life was supposed to get better, right?

But here I was, out of money and out of choices.

I had two young daughters to take care of. I was single and alone, having left an unhealthy relationship, and I was living in a crappy, tiny apartment.

I’d used up my savings trying to make ends meet, supplementing as best I could with the money I earned from a dangerous part-time job that gave me all of 4 hours pay a week at minimum wage. I had been looking for a better job, but there were none to be had in the low-income/high-unemployment area where I lived.

And I couldn’t get a full-time job anyway — I was still on the waiting list for a spot in daycare.

How did I get here?

It was ironic. I’d once had a respectable, safe job in a corporate office. I’d had the nice salary, the paid vacations, the opportunity for advancement. I had formal education, diplomas, brains, and skills, and life had been good.

Now it wasn’t.

My older daughter told me she could look for work to help pay the bills.

She was 12.

As a last-ditch resort, I turned to the internet. There must be something I could do. There must be jobs out there . . . maybe in writing. I was a good writer.

And sure enough, there was writing work for me on the ‘net, work I could do from home that paid quickly. I signed up with the company, thinking I was so lucky to have this chance to pull myself out of the mess.

I struggled to get gigs — there was tough competition from more experienced hustlers. When I did manage to grab a job before someone else could, I worked hard and wrote well. I wanted to do my best.

I earned $1.50 an article. I averaged $8 a week.

I was treated like crap, too. Bossed around, degraded, condescended to, with jibes made about my having to work from home. I quickly learned not to mention I had kids. I quickly learned not to mention I worked from my kitchen table.

I quickly learned that this sucked.

So I started looking for better gigs and clients, now that I knew there was writing work to be had.

I scoured Craigslist and job sites and gig auctions and sent applications to all sorts of people.

And it worked. I started getting real clients, for real pay. I was earning more, feeling good. I even began hiring people to work with me as a team.

But . . . it still wasn’t really working

I had high-quality skills and a good education. I was fast on turnaround and very professional. I hustled and I delivered on my promises, every single time. I worked hard and built the business, putting in long hours and reinvesting a lot of the money I made.

I really, really wanted to make this work.

But I was still having a hard time landing jobs. I was being turned down for gigs I should’ve gotten, for reasons I couldn’t put a finger on.

My pay rate had hit a plateau, too. I knew I should be earning more. Others were, and I soaked up everything they could teach me, but still, there was something strange about it . . .

It wasn’t my skills, it wasn’t my work. So what were those others doing that I wasn’t?

One day, I tossed out a pen name, because I didn’t want to be associated with my current business, the one that was still struggling to grow. I picked a name that sounded to me like it might convey a good business image. Like it might command respect.

My life changed that day

Instantly, jobs became easier to get.

There was no haggling. There were compliments, there was respect. Clients hired me quickly, and when they received their work, they liked it just as quickly. There were fewer requests for revisions — often none at all.

Customer satisfaction shot through the roof. So did my pay rate.

And I was thankful. I finally stopped worrying about how I would feed my girls. We were warm. Well-fed. Safe. No one at school would ever tease my kids about being poor.

I was still bringing in work with the other business, the one I ran under my real name. I was still marketing it. I was still applying for jobs — sometimes for the same jobs that I applied for using my pen name.

I landed clients and got work under both names. But it was much easier to do when I used my pen name.

Understand, I hadn’t advertised more effectively or used social media — I hadn’t figured that part out yet. I was applying in the same places. I was using the same methods. Even the work was the same.

In fact, everything was the same.

Except for the name.

The answer was plain. Without really thinking much about it, I tried an experiment when I chose my new pseudonym:

I became a man (in name only)

Taking a man’s name opened up a new world. It helped me earn double and triple the income of my true name, with the same work and service.

No hassles. Higher acceptance. And gratifying respect for my talents and round-the-clock work ethic.

Business opportunities fell into my lap. People asked for my advice, and they thanked me for it, too.

Did I quit promoting my own name? Hell yeah.

Eventually, I had earned enough income and credibility to get a mortgage, and I bought a tiny, modest house for me and my kids in a quiet town near my mum. It was the first home of my life I could truly call my own, paid for by long hours and hard work. Paid for by my own sweat and tears, at the tender age of 37.

It’s nothing new

Using a male pseudonym when you’re a woman isn’t anything new. Writers have been doing it for centuries. George Eliot, George Sand, Isak Dinesen. Even the Brontë sisters, championed today, wrote as Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell back in their time.

Why did they do it? To have their work accepted, because women weren’t supposed to be writers. Their work had a much better chance if their audience didn’t have to get over initial skepticism that a woman could write at all, much less do it well.

Since then, we’ve had feminism. We have the right to vote, to own property, to be members of Parliament and Congress, to get a job, and to be the main breadwinner of the family. And yet apparently we haven’t gotten past those 19th century stigmas.

The evidence was right there in front of me.

I never wanted to be an activist, or to fight the world. I’m not interested in clawing my way up a ladder to a glass ceiling. Life’s too short for that.

I just want to earn a living and be respected for my skills. I want my kids to be happy and have access to what they need. I want them to go to university and have good opportunities in life.

When it started to take off

I really didn’t think any of this would ever happen, to be honest.

The blog I’d started to get some clients and show off my skills? For a long time, so few people read it that weeks would go by without a single comment.

But things changed. Slowly at first, but then all of a sudden they picked up speed. There were more comments on the blog, and more again.

I didn’t overthink it — I just answered them and kept on blogging to earn clients.

Then my blog hit Michael Stelzner’s list of the Top Ten Blogs for Writers. The flood of people who came to visit was overwhelming.

And they liked what I wrote.

And I thought to myself, “Oh shit. What do I do now?”

What I did next

I was in too deep to back down, too survival-minded to do anything but go forward, and, quite honestly, too scared I’d lose everything I’d worked so hard to build.

So I didn’t do anything at all. I didn’t really know what to do.

I thought about it a lot, though. And logic told me that the loss of my real name was a small concession for the ability to be able to support my family and ensure their financial security for years to come.

Truth be told, if just a name and perception of gender creates such different levels of respect and income for a person, it says a lot more about the world than it does about me.

Why am I telling my story now?

Well, people talk.

For three years, I’ve kept my true name and gender pretty tightly under wraps and only confided in a tiny handful of people I trusted. But there was always that risk that someone, someday, would end up spilling the beans. And for years I sat braced for that moment.

And sure enough, someone I trusted got mad and decided to out me. (Someone who, incidentally, was using a male pseudonym and identity too. Go figure.)

Here’s the thing.

My life, my terms. No one handed me anything. I’ve worked damned hard for this. I took care of myself and my family, and I’ve given the best of my creativity and knowledge to each of my clients and my readers.

I’d like to keep doing that.

P.S.

Oh, my real name? Well, I never really wanted that revealed, totally apart from the gender issue. I know better than most how quickly and profoundly revealing just a tiny bit of personal information can affect (and even destroy) people’s lives.

I have kids. I’m not interested in making myself vulnerable in that way.

So please. Just call me James.

About the Author A rose by any other name would still turn in the great writing for clients that James does at Men with Pens.

(Author’s note: I have to extend my thanks to Kelly for the help she gave me with the original draft of this post. Her kindness made a difficult task so much easier.)

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Comments

  1. As you know, I was in shock when I learned my friend James, wasn’t really a James…or even a guy. As it sunk in, I got it. As a mom, I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same thing. People don’t always approve of the steps we take in order to put food on the table, unless they’ve been in a hardship situation, they’ll never understand anyway.

    I think being James Chartrand works for you. It certainly works for me.

  2. I’m lucky enough to have a name that most people assume is masculine anyway, but I’d never considered the effect of a name on getting writing work. Guess this explains the lack of photos of you! :)

    I for one, think it’s great that you found a way to make it work. Even though it means the world is still a place where women are looked down on . . . but you beat it and that’s awesome! Here’s to plenty more writing jobs coming your way, regardless of your name.

  3. What an awesome story!

    And here I am, going by Lexi because I got tired of being mistaken for a man when I use my real name (Alexis).

    No wonder I’ve never seen a picture of you. I’ve always been curious what you look like.

    Anyway, thank you very much for sharing. It’s incredible how primitive our society still is when it comes to gender stereotypes.

    I will never see MenWithPens the same way again.

    Lexi

  4. Thank you so much for letting us publish your story here, James.

  5. Hey James,

    A rose by any other name is still a rose. Cheesy but true.

    Who cares if James Chartrand is a man, woman, E-Trade talking baby, giraffe, etc? If the writing gives people value, that’s all that matters.

    Of course, for some, who creates the content matters just as much as the content (*cough* Michael Jackson *cough*), but that’s their problem. Like you stated, it shows about society more than anything.

    As long as your pen name, character, or whatever is congruent with what you do, then it’s fine to be whomever when you create. This is so if people do find out who you really are you aren’t discovered as a hypocrite or anything that can damage your message.

    Besides, it’s more fun to create with a pseudonym sometimes.

    Here’s to focusing on great content and not who creates it as much,
    Oleg

    PS. The Harry Potter writer experienced what you did as well. She wasn’t getting deals with her real name, so she chose the J.K. Rowling pen name because it wasn’t clear what gender it was, so people assumed it was male.

  6. James,

    You are all class.

    I’ve walked way more than a mile in those shoes you speak of, and if I’d seen a pair of wingtips as I walked along, I’d gladly have put them on. I’ve often wished I had.

    There is so much to muse about here, yet all I can say is I’m glad to call you a dear friend and a super-talented collaborator.

    In a long and winding life, I’ve still known very few people with the balls you’ve got.

    Regards,

    Kelly

  7. Really nice post pal, i really liked the way you wrote it gave me great tips and your content is outstanding, these are some stories which inspire me to continue with blogging

  8. I am burning mad – but not at you. I’ve seen this effect in a million ways and yet still think that I can stand under my own name. Am I a fool?

  9. This is awesome James. When I first started reading the article I thought I was reading another awesome article at Copyblogger, but I was in for a shock when I found out that this article was beyond awesome.

    Congrats on telling your true story and what you’re really about. We are all friends here :)

  10. Like Jenn I’m furious and discouraged – not at you James (can I call you Jamie?) but at the fact that maybe if I blogged about writing as what, Sam Jones? Elvis Presley? Mike Wilder? I’d have more credibility.

    As part of some of the women’s movement way back when I’ve often thought my generation has done a piss-poor job of letting subsequent generations know what it was like and why it’s different and how far we still have to go.

    And as I let my anger go they whole business of women v. men, patriarchy, etc. etc. etc. still totally mystifies me.

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention… maybe spreading the word will help?

  11. Awesome. Touching. Thought provoking. Kudos to you.

  12. Wow. :-o

    I’m blinking a little and trying to get used to the idea. I know what you mean about the gender issue. I often try to emulate male consultants’ confidence, assertiveness, and boundaries. People will treat you differently if you’re a woman, and you’re taught to treat yourself differently.

    Would I use a male pen name? For me, it would be too much headache…but if I were trying to support my family and inches away from welfare and people would take me more seriously, definitely.

    I admire you not for being a man or a woman but for having built an amazing business. And knowing more about you makes me admire your accomplishments more.

    I think I’m going to start thinking of you as Jamie….that’ll be easier on my mind. :)

  13. It’s pathetic that you had to do this.

    However, ironically, you’re doing what woman have done for generations: doing what needs to be done to take care of your kids. That’s an awesome example for your daughters.

    Rock on.

  14. Male or female, your writing makes us want to sit down and have a literary beer with you, so it’s all good.

    And Brian will tell you. He’s started businesses with people he hasn’t even met in person, so does it really matter if, in this Web 2.0 age, you pee seated? Hardly.

    After all, what you did took some serious balls. ;)

  15. “James”, that is quite a story. Thank you for sharing. It is amazing that this type of thing still goes on in society. As a white male, I am guilty of being oblivious to these types of things.

    The bottom line is that you must be very proud of what you have accomplished, regardless of what name and implied gender you assumed.

  16. What a deep insight into our culture. Thanks for your clear accounting and perspective. It’s easy to lose track of the realities of professional life. You’ve brought those realities back into bright focus. Brilliant!

  17. I hope Copyblogger will publish a follow-up at some point about the ripples in the pond that happen because of this startling story, because I would love to know how many women will create a male online identity after reading this. I will be one of them.

    (Interestingly, knowing you’re a woman makes me much, much *more* likely to hire you. But I guess I’m in the minority.)

  18. OK well, first, I guess this means I have to end my crushing on you LOL – because that might be wrong. Second, who you are won’t change the writing that you do in my eyes. The fact that you had to take this on, makes me admire you and your writing even more.

  19. Wow… just wow.

    I’m glad that everything worked out for you and yours.

    Being a young white male, it’s easy to become blind to the ridiculously stupid crap others have to go through.

    Personally I’d rather work with women in any creative field.

    I’m pretty much never going to complain again.

  20. Hi James, the only bearing this post has on my opinion of you is that I feel I know you better. And that’s a good thing.

    It’s sad how perceptions from others made you assume a different gender, but at the same time it’s great how you turned a corner and can give your daughters all they need.

    Good luck with everything.

  21. The more I think about it, I want to add that if I were in your position, I’d have done the exact same thing without even blinking. Not. Even. A Blink.

    I will have to continue to crush on you after all. ;)

  22. Thanks for sharing your story, and for keeping on under your own terms. I’ve written elsewhere under a pseduonym (for different reasons) for the past five years, but “came out” about eight months ago. It was a strange feeling, but I’m sure not as disorienting as what you’ve been through.

    You go, [guy].

  23. This is something I’ve always wondered about. There are still people who claim that there is no longer any glass ceiling or pay disparity between men and women. Yet, you have just proven that there is — even in the field of writing, which is dominated by women these days. Thanks for coming out of the closet, and for sharing this insight with the world. Maybe things will change and someday we will earn based on our talent and not based on our gender.

  24. Wow, James. Thanks for sharing. Your story had such a slow creep to it. I was feeling everything you said, then you got all twist ending on me.

    Your story makes sense, and bravo to you for doing what you needed to in order to take care of your family. It’s amazing that you didn’t change the quality of your work, but that by adding the twig and berries you were able to alter perception. Crazy and sad. Not necessarily in that order.

    I’m glad to know you. You’ve taught me a lot. Kelly said it well, there are few people with the balls you’ve got.

    Thanks.

  25. I am in utter and complete shock and awe. The Oscar goes to…Jamie. I always wondered why there were never any pictures of you.

    I’m angry and I’m proud of you (I hope that doesn’t sound condescending and it feels weird to type because I consider you to be a mentor). I’m also sad. Angry you had to do this, proud you found a way, and sad that someone outed you.

    Bravo.

  26. Wait…I have to pick my jaw off the floor.

    If you ask me, I think you’re brave on two counts – brave to try it and brave to reveal it now. I’m thrilled your career took off, but I’m totally upset that it took a male pseudonym to get you the recognition you deserve. Like Nikki, I’d have done the same, too. There’s nothing wrong with choosing a pen name. No rule says it has to be gender-true, eh?

    To the issue of respect, I think it’s very telling of our society that a man sees little to no argument on his rate versus the condescension you experienced as a female writer. I don’t even know how to begin to deal with that.

  27. This post exemplifies what a magnificent writer you are!

    You have definitely mastered the art of storytelling; I was thoroughly engaged from your first word to your last. I would like to think that it’s not a true story; just a great piece of writing. I would like to think that the days of gender discrimination are far behind us. But that’s not the reality. Discrimination still exists. It’s just much more subtle. It’s likely not even a conscious decision on the part of some.

    Thank you for sharing your story and shedding light on an issue that has been ignored for far too long.

  28. Just fell off my seat. And yet, and yet… It was only a few weeks ago I headed over to The Men with Pens website to check out the About section. I felt that I didn’t really know you and I was sometimes confused as to who had written a post.
    Feel sad that someone was about to ‘out’ you as a woman. (Seems crazy to be saying that in 2009.) But my next thought was: who cares. You’re great at what you do. Keep doing it.

  29. Wow James! Is sexism that bad in the writing world?
    Anyway, your personal story was a real beauty
    and inspiration. And I know that most freelancers are experiencing this too.

  30. Wow! Great story!!! Very creative thinking I’m going to pass your story on.

  31. Cool that you tricked “the man” and it’s working.

  32. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention. This is an amazing story and you are an amazing woman so keep remembering that. Many writers have brought down the industry by accepting substandard wages. How can someone be expected to survive on $8 a week, especially in the developed world?

    I am saddened by people’s behaviour, why would she out you when she is doing the same thing. I was recently reminded of the saying “when you point a finger at someone, remember four fingers are pointing back at you.”

    Her day will come. In Jamaica, where I was born, they have a saying “Today for me, tomorrow for you.” You were forced to tell your story, but out of every difficulty, there is an opportunity. You told your story and others will benefit. Your story will inspire many. You can never tell the unintended consequences of your actions. Your blog post toady may just be the oomph that someone needs to continue going on.

    Thank you for sharing. Avil Beckford @avilbeckford

  33. Well, it had to be said eventually, didn’t it? Looks like your fan base will stay with you…but James was more a persona than a name. Hope that now we’ll get to see more of “the real person” and you won’t feel compelled to continue the “man talk.”

  34. James, thank you for allowing us to put this on Copyblogger. I’ve known for over a year now, but I was sworn to secrecy, and it’s been killing me. It’s not because you’re a woman (frankly, I don’t care), but because it’s such an awesome story, and I wanted to tell everyone.

    Problem solved. Now I can just link to this blog post. :-)

    By the way, I get the whole privacy thing, but now that you’ve been outed, you should seriously consider taking advantage of this. Write a press release, and send it to the traditional media. You would get a TON of interviews, and I would almost guarantee a major publisher offering you a book deal. You would never have to worry about getting clients again.

  35. James, what you are to me transcends all considerations of sex, even though the only word that encapsulates it is packed with gender bias: a STUD!

  36. Gender is not the only issue here. Had you picked the name Abu Rastogi, a fine Indian I just picked up off the web, you would probably have had just as much trouble selling your work.

    The name you chose is not just male, it is also anglo saxon and by implication white. Even a hispanic name would have been less successful.

    Names are important things, you chose a good one

  37. Sixteen years after this cartoon and it’s all still true.

    I’m stunned, frustrated, empathetic, impressed and utterly confused by all of the above. James, I wish you the best. I respect your work. You don’t owe us a thing.

    As a society, however, we owe ourselves and each other a LOT more.

  38. Wow…..just wow is what comes to mind right now. I guess we’d like to think that a lot of the gender barriers have collapsed, but obviously it’s still not the case and it’s probably naive for me to think otherwise.

    I’m absolutely impressed with your tremendous courage to share this personal information. I also have to say that you are an amazing writer….and no name change is going to change that!! Keep up the good work!

  39. Ahh, Quebeçoise. You are still James to me… and one of the best “guys” out there. As I told you privately, I chose to work with you because of your brilliance in branding, not your gender.
    Any one who thinks the arts are not gender biased as well, think again. Still. Male artists are paid more than women artists (“Talking Prices”, Olav Velthuis, from Princeton Press)

  40. Oh gosh, James. Wow. “Shock and awe”, as Dana says.

    I think this is the first post I’ve read by you that made me cry.

    I’ve been “Ali” online all my life (well, since I got email aged 15), because I dislike the name “Alison”. A lot of people in the blogging world assume I’m a bloke.

    Do you know, I knew about “Men with Pens” for a few months before subscribing — and the main reason I didn’t subscribe is because I felt like it wasn’t for me because it had “men” in the title. (For some reason, “Dumb Little Man” didn’t hit me in quite the same way.)

    Thank you for being brave enough to post this. I hope it’s the start of making life easier for any other mom who has to go through the same.

  41. I’m a little surprised by this.
    Not because of the Gender issue, I’ve seen that in the past as well. But, more because I work in the publishing industry and it’s DOMINATED by women. As a matter of fact, over 90% of the company I work for is women. Same with the previous employer.
    But, I suppose if this is the copy writing or ad industry, it would be different.

    One thing I noticed is that many women in our workplace tend to dis-credit themselves before anyone else does. It’s difficult (and frustrating at times) to see someone extremely talented discredit themselves out of the gate.

    That may be the difference between men and women, that may be the society we live in, I do not know.

  42. ps. You gave us hints all along :) :

    Method Blogging:
    Who Do You Want to Be in 2009?

    How Three Drag Queens in a Bus
    Lead to Better Blogging

    How Cross-Dressing Makes You a
    Better Blogger

    The Winnie the Pooh Guide to Blogging

    The Pick-Up Artist Guide to
    Effective Online Marketing

  43. This is…my heart breaks for you. There IS a HUGE DIFFERENCE in the way men and women are treated online. In fact, when I started blogging I sidestepped revealing my gender and it worked since my name can go either way.

    I am…so proud of you. Thank you for saying what most of us already know, thank you for doing whatever it took to build your business, thank you for showing that great work is not gender specific.

  44. Fortunately the internet is the great equalizer. Where you can do anything you want and be anything you want. Whether you are fat, ugly, man, woman, from somewhere else that people don’t understant, it can all be fixed with a little marketing power and the ever-beautiful psuedonym. No longer does the little guy have to suffer. There is success to be had for all of the underdogs out there, and James-ette has showed us all that it’s possible.

  45. Shane, if those posts where not enough, go back and look in the comments at all the “inside jokes” that were being made (okay, usually by me).

    I’m proud of you, James. ;)

  46. James has more guts than anyone I know, online or off, first, to try and then succeed at the business, and then to tell her story for all to see.

    Guts, and a lot of heart.

  47. Great story and thanks for the candor while you described your ordeal. There are millions of people who have been hit very hard recently and it’s good to know that there are others working through similar situations.

    It’s troubling to see that you had to use a man’s name to see a difference in income in this day in age.

  48. Good for you for doing whatever it took to be successful, but as a feminist I’m shocked that this is what it took.

  49. This post was as well crafted and thought out as every move you’ve made to build your career and care for your family. Excellent.

  50. I used to think that gender bias was limited to developing countries like India, where I live. Your story has changed that perception. Its really sad to know that women are treated the same elsewhere also.

    What you did may not be right, but that’s what SHOULD have been done. Keep writing… don’t care about what name you use.

  51. I love seeing all the reactions here. I’ve been so proud of James (and a little heartbroken for her, though she’d thump me for it), and I’m really glad to see the strength and support here.

    @Ali, me too (on the “Men with”) but it seems we’re in the distinct minority. :) Not for the first time on my account, anyway.

  52. James,

    Thanks for having the courage to tell your story. I must say, it was an eye-opener for me.

    The obvious conclusion to draw from your experience is the preconceived notions of others out there – but I wonder, did you notice that using a pseudonym – male, female, or neutral – had any effect on the way you presented yourself? I have used pseudonyms on the Internet from time to time and notice that a rose is NOT just a rose… that choosing a label, playing a character, tends to affect the nature of the interactions people have with that character. Have you reflected on any possible effects that might have had?

  53. Wow. There’s no way I can keep up with comments today, but just a couple of quick ones.

    Thank you, everyone, for your support. I appreciate that more than you realize.

    @ Peter Hickman – I agree with you on that. Male, white, etc etc… it does have a profound effect on how we’re seen. And it’s just a label people call you, in the end.

    @ Everyone – Yes, Jamie works fine. I’ve used that around the ‘net as well. It works!

  54. Here is a question: Would as many positive comments have come in if the original James was indeed a man who, for perhaps good reasons, had taken a female pen name and written under it for a number of years?

    I have a feeling many people would be more angry about it as a violation of trust than they are now. I am not saying this because I am mad about her/him doing this, I think it is fine as long as there isn’t a sinister element too it. But I am wondering about that question.

  55. Fan-freaking-tastic post.

    As a guy (I’m not faking), it’s disheartening to know that the many women from whom I’ve learned so much are constantly forced to provide that extra push in an effort to make the playing field more level.

    You’ve managed to open a can of worms that’s been overdue for opening. The fact that you’ve raised the issue in a very real and personal manner will make a big difference in the way the discussion will unfold.

    Way to go, James.

  56. Shane,

    If you do go back, the comments on The Pick-Up Artist (a superb post) are an absolute roar. I cringed on that, but she didn’t flinch. Whew.

    Until later,

    Kelly

  57. I started to read this and was moved. I understand what it takes to start over- how hard it is, the way people treat you when things are not going well, and the feelings you have as you struggle everyday to pay the bills.

    How brave you are! Brava! You go Girl! Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  58. Amazing story James, thanks so much for sharing. It’s unfortunate you had to do this but I would have done the exact same thing. As a former client of yours I can vouch for the exceptional quality of your work and still won’t think twice about hiring you again.

  59. We’ve been Yentled!

    Thank you James for sharing your story. I was having some weird emotional thing reading it and realized it was because it was leading me to question if I was selling myself short because I’m a mom, I can afford to not seek paying work because my husband makes a decent living, I don’t have to take myself seriously. It’s very uncomfortable to question yourself like this.

    You were in a position where you had to do what you did to put food on the table and I don’t for one minute think you did anything wrong by doing it. What it does make me realize is that because I am lucky enough to be in the position where the money is not crucial that it’s important for me not to just take whatever is offered as I transition back into work outside the home.

    Thank you for the thought provoking post.

  60. Hi “James”,

    Reading your work, I always had a feeling there might be a female behind the name. Something about the emotion, the “get down to brass tacks” part of it all… Plus, like Shane said, a guy would never write “The Winnie the Pooh Guide to Blogging” :)

    For what it’s worth, you can go on being James and your true fans and best customers won’t care. Those that do…Well, you probably didn’t want to work with them anyway! Cheers to you for stepping up and sharing your true self regardless of what others think.

    Your work speaks for itself — Bravo :)

  61. @Marty, I’ve seen men with women personas online, and I think you’re right, it triggers a lot of anxiety and anger.

    But I also think a lot depends on the story around it. If James had been quite successful, tried a pen name as a lark, and been slightly more successful, I don’t think you’d see the same reaction. If a single father had the same motivations and the same experience, I don’t think I’d feel any differently.

    @Kelly, laughing, I forgot about that Pick Up Artist post. Yeah, the comments were interesting.

  62. Gender shouldn’t matter; it’s shameful, though no surprise, that it still does – to some people. Not, thankfully, to all.

    No doubt your daughters are proud of your success (or will be, when they’re old enough to understand). Let’s hope things have changed by the time they’ve grown up…

  63. I started reading your post and I thought, uh-oh, a feminist whine about to begin (I should have known better) but no. It was “life is tough, get on with it”.
    Thank you. I’m new to blogging and am stumbling through it. No whining from me though, people don’t want to hear it. Thanks for the inspiration.

  64. @ Brian Clark – You and your popcorn. I could hear you grinning from all the way over here. Sadist. ;)

    @ Mike – You asked:

    The obvious conclusion to draw from your experience is the preconceived notions of others out there – but I wonder, did you notice that using a pseudonym – male, female, or neutral – had any effect on the way you presented yourself? Choosing a label, playing a character, tends to affect the nature of the interactions people have with that character. Have you reflected on any possible effects that might have had?

    I did think about that for quite a while. To be quite honest, I refute most of the stereotypes laid on women. Demure, long hair, makeup, dresses, quiet, no cursing, mom, cooking in the kitchen, supported by husband, blah blah blah blah.

    If anything at all, being “James” allowed me to be MYSELF. Business-minded, entrepreneur, smart, savvy, bold, confident… everything society typically associates with men. So I wouldn’t say I became the name – I’d say the name liberated me to be who I am.

  65. @Brian, damn you Brian Clark! :)
    I feel so chartranded right now!!!!!!

  66. I agree with @Jon about now that you are out really coming out. You’ve got an incredible story to share on many levels, including the fact that you were able to build a thriving business without ever having a phone conversation with your clients. That’s a big deal.

    And of course all of the other issues related to getting jobs/income by using a man’s name is huge.

    I’m most interested to hear how you feel now that you are “out” and what, if any, side effects there were of living in the shadows.

    Would you be willing to do a recorded or live phone interview? I’ll message you through Twitter.

  67. @Marty – Men often use female pen names to write for womens’ magazines, Mills & Boon etc. I have no problem with that. How is it a “violation of trust” to adopt a pen name?

  68. Wow! I just don’t know what to say. I am so surprised that our society is still so gender biased. But I guess I shouldn’t be. Thank you so much for sharing this. And thank you so much for taking such good care of your kids. Good for you!
    Sue

  69. Damn Canadians…

  70. Jon beat me to it. Every word he (she?) wrote is dead on. If you’re not on Oprah before she goes off the air, you’re just not trying.

    This touches so many issues: gender identity, anonymity, online reputation, pay inequality. That’s before you even get into things like: Were women more likely to hire the “real” you than men were, or were they just as biased toward “James”? Exactly how much more re-work was there for you than for James? How did response rates / profitability compare between James’ accepted first drafts and your “fixed” ones?

    Find yourself a good reporter or biographer, sit with a tape recorder, and talk for about three days. Have it transcribed, and beat it into a manuscript. You could have this thing ready to publish in under a month. Strike while the iron is hot.

  71. Kathleen K. O'Connor :

    Wow, the fact that you had to become a man to get more work makes me feel a little sick to my stomach, but I am glad to know that one of the best online writers out there is actually a woman.

    One of my regular clients (from Israel) thought I was a man until we talked on the phone, even though my name is clearly feminine. I guess in some people’s eyes, only men are capable of being competent and professional. I guess haven’t even thought about what discrimination I must face as a woman until now. You just turned my world upside down!

    So, I guess this is why Men with Pens doesn’t provide a phone number. Has your inability to talk on the phone with clients affected your business in any way?

  72. @Ali – I don’t think it’s a violation of trust to write with a pen name, but I do think it is a violation of trust to do business under an alias when the buyer is being misled.

    A businessman/woman likes to know who they’re doing business with, and if someone is lying about their identity, what else might they be lying about?

    I’m not making any accusations here, as I’ve spoken with James often enough to trust her (that’s going to take some getting used to :)), but it’s just the reality of the situation.

  73. I’m happy with my success as a female writer, but this makes me wonder how much more successful I might have been writing under a male name. Who knows? I don’t fault anyone for writing under a pen name if they feel that’s what they need to do to support themselves and their families. Guess you don’t ever let your clients call you? I’m impressed that you’ve kept this up for so long, because I have clients who *insist* on phone chats.

  74. Well done James.

  75. A truly inspiring story, and it’s unfortunate that women have to do this in the modern age but sadly we are still a prejudicial society.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

  76. I think that’s the coolest (and scariest) post I’ve read all year.

    Bless you.

  77. Ali, I was thinking about the possibility that a person could use their false identity as the other sex to get something of value. For example, if a male writer, writing as a woman, got a free membership to a women only exercise facility as a result of their promoting that facility. If they then gave that membership to their sister or wife to use. Would that constitute a violation of trust?
    By the way, I am asking these questions because I am curious about how people define it, not because I think I have the answer to it.

  78. I work in a hardware store. Over half of the sales”men” are women and more knowledgeable about home repair than 90% of the men who walk in the door. Yet almost every day one of the ladies comes over to me and says,”Go help that customer, they need a MAN!”

    To get “even”, I always walk up to the customer and say,”By the way, before I help you, I want you to know that (Jennifer) knows more about (plumbing) than you can imagine. You would do well to always listen to her suggestions.”

  79. @Nathan It’s an interesting issue. I suspect I’d feel a bit weirded out if someone lied about their age (eg. one of the reasons I’m a fan of Glen Allsopp is because he’s accomplished a lot at a very young age – he practices what he preaches!)

    It’s hard to imagine the exact same issue in reverse — maybe a man working in a different, traditionally female, industry (eg. freelance embroidery) would face the same issues.

  80. If I could start a standing ovation online, I would. BRAVO! (clap! clap! clap!)

    This brilliantly written story also gets a huge sigh of relief on your behalf. I’ve seen how difficult it’s been to do what you’ve had to do, but like everything else, you’ve accomplished it with class and a strength I’ve seldom seen elsewhere.

    This superb move is only one more reason to be proud of my friend, James Chartrand. :)

  81. Well done, James. Massive kudos to you for doing what it takes to support your daughters.

    Like most everyone else on this thread, it makes me a little sad and a lot angry that women are still treated this way. It’s not like I didn’t know it before – I’ve gone by AC for years online for the same reason – but… you know, I always hoped that my perception of bias was incorrect, or applied to me only.

    Guess not.

    But, massive kudos to you – and the “trusted person” who was going to out you will hopefully take a lesson from this.

  82. James (or maybe Jamie),

    I think it’s great that you came out and gave this story.

    I had no clue and we’ve been communicating via email for some time.

    You’ve done great work and continue to be a strong pillar in the freelance writing world. Keep up the good work.

    Might I advise you try out a fake female name and introduce a few articles to your audience and see how it goes :)

    P.S. I always wondered why you never showed your pictures on the site.

    P.P.S. So what is the story behind the others on Men With Pens? Inquiring minds want to know.

  83. @Marty – I don’t have the answers either, I’m afraid! I’ve been invited to guest post on a “women’s business” site – an opportunity which I suppose might not have arisen if I was a man.

  84. Drew, Jon,

    It’s been written already. And quite movingly: Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent.

    I’d still buy the first copy of James’ book. :)

  85. Wow–Thanks for sharing this story, “James” :-) I have to say, now that I know you’re a woman, I like your writing and your blog a whole even more than I did before!

    Keep up the awesome work…You Rock!!

  86. Re: the phone calls

    Yes, not being able to talk on the phone was limiting and there were times that I was forced to “come out”, as it were – but it was always my choice to do so. I could have always refused.

    The rest of the calls… Frankly, doing business by email has been VERY great. Everything in writing, no misunderstandings and no long conversations having to listen to unrelated stuff just to get to “So we’ll start on Tuesday? Great. Thanks!”

  87. I guess this previous post makes a lot more sense now:
    http://www.copyblogger.com/cross-dressing-blogger/

  88. Wow!

    I applaud you for taking control and ‘outing’ your name at your own time. I, too, know what it’s like to be female in a male-dominated industry and the BS that we have had to deal with. If only the men knew!

    You obviously did what you thought you had to do to survive. It makes me furious as a woman though that we have come so far, and yet you were forced to make this decision. It only goes to show you that we obviously haven’t come far enough.

    You are an excellent writer and call yourself whoever, whatever you want, I’ll continue reading you.

    You go, girl!

    Karen

  89. Terrific story of survival and entrepreneurship Jamie. Enjoy your posts immensely. Saddened that in the 21st century we still sometimes need a male pseudonym to have our work respected or taken seriously.

  90. @Kelly, I loved _Self-Made Man_ as well. I still think there’s some fresh ground for James to cover, though. :)

  91. Re the book Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent

    In truth, very different stories, different situations. I read the book only recently and while there might be one quarter of it that applied and that I’d experienced myself, the rest… Nah. Totally not the same thing and I found myself saying at the end, “Well, THAT sure isn’t like me…”

  92. Wow! I loved reading this today.

    It shows the subtle energy involved in any kind of prejudice. As much as I hate to admit it, it is still a man’s world instead of mankind’s world.

    You proved something powerful here and it takes a lot of guts and courage to do this.

    I love that you are not angry or trying to prove anything. You are just trying to make a living.

    To me, this adds to your credibility.

    You are awesome!

  93. James,

    Did a presentation on James Tiptree Jr. a.k.a. Alice Bradley Sheldon, Science Fiction Writer. Amazing that things really haven’t changed. I smell an amazing best seller.

    Wishing you success.

  94. James—you haven’t been in a monastery yet, for one thing. You swear too much. You’d be found out instantly. ;)

  95. Great piece.

    Marketing is everything, and a good brand starts with a ‘good’ name. The reasons for that are just a tad more… annoying when it’s about people rather than say, peanut butter.

    I have a long, Jewish, name. A very old, Biblical, name.

    People think I’m Muslim, people misspell the name (even Jewish organisations I belong to) and noone can pronounce it right.

    So, pleased to make your acquaintance, David Dylan. :-)

  96. I get a chuckle out of looking at your blog style. The name, the graphics, everything. It isn’t a meek bookworm of a man, it is a MACHO bullet shooting man that is writing this.

  97. Wow, just wow. Been thinking about this for the past several minutes, as it’s such a shock, that I still can’t get over it!

    It makes perfect sense, and damn that must have been awkward. I’m curious, did it cause any sort of internal conflict, not as in a “I forgot which gender I really am,” but more like – am I supposed to be in character right now?

    I can’t imagine having to do that and it’s funny that most of the women here have said they would, but most of the guys have not.

    And I’m not surprised that you did it, I’m surprised that it worked so well. Just fascinating…

  98. Well, why the hell not.

    If you make more money and can support your family then why the hell not.

    I really liked this post. It gives me some hope as a writer because right now it’s just a hobby. I really want to make a job out of it but it’s hard.

    Thanks, er, James.

  99. Wow. That’s horribly depressing. Uplifting that you were able to achieve success and I’m glad you did. But otherwise depressing.

    Now I’m one of the women wondering if I should change my strategy and use a pen name if it can make THAT much of a difference!

    Unfortunately I’d then lose proof of my verifiable credentials and experience on the technical side for writing for my target manufacturing/chemical audience.

    Maybe I should at least take my picture off the front page of my site….

    I absolutely hate that I’m thinking this way. I haven’t noticed any prejudice in being a female engineer so it wasn’t on my radar when I decided to start trying to get B2B copywriting jobs. Now I wonder if there was stuff I missed.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  100. @Marty, as a woman I wouldn’t consider it a violation of trust except on certain very feminine issues. Even then, I wouldn’t mind if he got female friends to consult–I don’t recall James writing about her experiences as a man and giving advice for men based on those experiences…which would be a betrayal of trust. So I think it’s only when one uses an assumed gender as a basis for one’s work. Only field where I think that’s likely to happen is advice columns (like in the Mary Worth comics…which I only read thanks to Comics Curmudgeon ;) ).

    I think if Sean Platt, for example, had written under a female persona I’d be similarly surprised and a little confused as I tried to wrap my brain around it, but if he had a reason for doing so then I’d be ok with it.

  101. @ Nathan: You asked:

    I’m curious, did it cause any sort of internal conflict, not as in a “I forgot which gender I really am,” but more like – am I supposed to be in character right now?

    No. Because I didn’t change my character, my personality, WHO I am. I was me, all the time.

    I have had times where I’ve sat back and said, “Well, wait a second, who am I?” But not in the sense you’re speaking – rather one of those introspective learning/growing/becoming better people kind of ways that I think every person on earth does (or should do).

    The short answer is that no, there was never a sense of personality dissonance.

  102. Wow. Just…whoa.

    A couple of thoughts, in no real order:

    1) I can’t believe that you had to take a male pen name in order to really break through. I’m not mad or anything that you did; I’m just kind of shocked that we’re almost into the second decade of the 21st century and you still HAD to. Aren’t we supposed to be more enlightened by now?

    2) It totally, totally, TOTALLY sucks that somebody outed you. Words cannot articulate how horrible that is. I’m sorry.

    3) You did whatever it took to provide for you and your kids, and then telling your story like this takes a tremendous amount of courage. I really admire that. I already admired you for being a great writer (I’ve been reading your stuff on Copyblogger and MWP since mid-2008), so this just makes you even cooler.

    Rock on :-)

  103. It is just too hard working to leave without a comment.

  104. Wow. I’m gobsmacked (as my Brit friends say). Come to think of it, that explains quite a bit.

    I remember posting a comment on the cross-dressing post and your reply seemed odd. Odd enough that it stuck in my head. Now I know why.

    “Jodi: So, would “Men with Pens” become “Women with Swords”?

    ;-)

    36 James Chartrand – Men with Pens October 8, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    @ Jodi – “The pen is mightier than the sw-….”

    Oh no way. No way I am going there. Nuh-uh. Nice try, though ;)”

    By the way, author James Tiptree, Jr.’s real name was Alice Bradley Sheldon.

    I’m also angry. Not at you, but at the fact that you needed a male name to be taken seriously.

    My name could be both. Maybe I should take my picture off my blog, change my avatar, and triple my rates.

    And the kids think feminism doesn’t matter any more.

  105. James, thank you for your humility, vulnerability and transparency. No shame in that, or for being a woman, either. Kudos to you for your courage and commitment to your children and career, no matter the cost.

  106. Post of the year.

    Shock, disbelief, sadness, anger, admiration, respect, joy, inspiration. I’m struggling to think of an emotion you didn’t evoke.

    And as Shane points out, your headlines are even sharper than we suspected! :-)

    Thanks for sharing.

  107. James: I worked for years in the film industry in a position normally populated by men. It was always a struggle and I used to joke that if I had a penis and an accent (film people love foreign accents for whatever reason) I could rule the (film) world.

    Now I work in a field where there are many fewer men, but I still find myself bidding against men from time to time. Regardless of price, regardless of the quality of work, 9 times out of 10, the man will get the job if the client is male. The odds are slightly better if the client is female.

    I applaud you for doing what needed to be done to support your family and provide them a good life. Its sad that you had to hide your gender to do it, and its sad that you still feel the need to protect your identity. I get why you are doing it. Its just sad that you have to.

  108. @James – Gotcha. That makes sense. I think we all go through that :)

  109. What a story! Remember I contacted you a year ago about possibly reworking my site and copy? Well I was SO impressed how you got back to me quickly, were thorough you were in your email, and spelled it all out without having to do a consultation over to phone. You just gave me the info without trying to ‘sell’ to me. And you were also very honest about what I needed, and not trying to sell me what I didn’t need.

    I really liked that. And I remember thinking, “wow, this guy is down to earth. Not wimpy, but not super salesy either. Just straight w/the facts, but in a warm way.”

    But the funny thing is, a big reason I didn’t have you rework my site is I thought a MAN wouldn’t be able to ‘get’ what I was trying to convey to my potential clients. I wanted someone who would ‘get’ women.

    And guess what? I never had my site redone. Didn’t find the right person, but always kept following what you were up to. Loved your work, and still do.

  110. *blows air out of lips*

    I’m really blown away by this.

    Both by your story, and by my reaction to it.

    Why should it matter to me that you’re a woman? But it does – I’m amazed at my hidden sexism. Not in a ‘I’m never going to read her writing again’ – more that it changes the way I read it.

    And not in a bad way, but it *shouldn’t* make *any* difference.

    And I realise that I kind of do the same by not outing myself as gay – I refer to my partner by first letter – I think that *some* people knowing that would not want to work with me – but then maybe they’re not my Right People…

    More importantly, I feel weird about crushing on you. Now.

    Well done on outing yourself with such style.

    Oh, and ditto all the ‘get your story out and on Oprah’ comments.

    You are still Canadian, though, right?

  111. Wow. Good for you for choosing to share this, and good for you for finding a way to make a living for you and your children.

    I’m still in shock. I guess it’s not that weird since I don’t remember seeing your photo. Still with the internet you never know if those things are real anyways. ;)

    I confess that I think it’s pretty cool to be able to pull this off for so long.

  112. @Brian,

    Considering past fight club references, I better not find out you’re actually Brad Pitt.

    @James (Jamie) On a similar movie reference note, I propose your new pen name be Trinity Chartrand

  113. So, how do women use their competitive advantages to gain business without…selling out?

  114. I call him “Jamie-boy”. Even on the phone.

  115. Wow! James, I don’t know that I have much to add to what others have said, but I respect you even more for making a tough choice and making it work. It’s sad that using a male pseudonym makes so much difference – food for thought there, certainly.

  116. Chris,
    Which “competitive advantages” would those be exactly?

  117. @ Andrew – Aw, dude, you make me want to come over and pat your back and say, “It’s okay!”

    This here:

    Why should it matter to me that you’re a woman? But it does – I’m amazed at my hidden sexism. Not in a ‘I’m never going to read her writing again’ – more that it changes the way I read it.

    And not in a bad way, but it *shouldn’t* make *any* difference.

    Was very often one of the reasons I *hated* telling people who I was. I didn’t change, my work didn’t change, NOTHING changed…

    Except *their* perspective of me. And I disliked becoming someone else in their eyes in that way. I wasn’t that person. You know?

    *pat-pat* It’s okay. I get why it happens.

  118. So you did the “Remington Steele” thing to get gigs and respect. So what? You found something that has obviously worked well for you, and in a more evolved world gender wouldn’t be an issue. Someday we’ll get there. In the meantime, you have achieved a level of success that many people would certainly envy. Congratulations!

  119. Hello James and thanks for sharing your experiences and explaining why you did what you did.
    I commend you and your incredible courage; you played by your rules and kept on at it no matter what…. I wonder how many female writers will take up male pen names starting today.
    It’s pathetic that women are still being judged by their gender in this day and age. If you’d let them put you in your ‘place’ James, there would be no Men with Pens.
    Fly light this Christmas James. You go Girl!!

  120. Wow……
    I shall now be known as MAX POWER.

  121. @Shane, actually, he’s Helena Bonham-Carter.

  122. I know the politically correct thing is to support you here but while I am happy you made the best of a difficult situation I believe you failed your readers. You failed by not outing yourself until forced to. You failed because you should have outed yourself after achieving a measure of success.

    It’s sexism and you are perpetuating the myth that women can’t write as well as men. There are too many successful female writers to cite here but you get the picture.

    So that said, if your story is true I would have done the same thing. Yep. But you missed an opportunity to be honest on your terms which would have made you appear to have more integrity.

  123. James,

    I hope, now that it’s out in the open, that things wont change for you. I hope that you continue to get the work you deserve, and that clients keep coming to you. I hope that you and your two daughters have a magical Christmas.

  124. As the daddy of daughters I am both pissed and pleased. Pissed that you’ve had to go through these machinations in what should be enlightened times. Pleased that it worked and you were able to take of your own … quite handily it seems. Thank you for sharing.

  125. I’ve been following copyblogger, men with pens and many other sites and writers on the web trying to get enough information and courage to FINALLY start a freelance writing career…this article just pushed me over the edge…if you can do it, there’s no limits or excuses for ANYONE. It’s a sad commentary on equality, but sometimes you can’t fight city hall. I’m also impressed with the great comments here, what a wonderful nurturing community this is! Wishing you all best of luck in the new decade.

  126. You know, @F, your comment would hold a lot more weight if you’d left a web site or a name other than “F.” You chastise James for not having the courage to turn her business upside-down, but you don’t have the courage to leave a blog comment that lets anyone know who you are.

    I don’t blame anyone, anywhere for taking time to find their courage. But I’m not crazy about people who use anonymity to take pot shots at others.

  127. James, you rock.

  128. @F Oh, come on. If only all the lawyers I know who call their company “solid sounding name & co” while it’s just them and their “Regular sounding name”… ok, bad example.

    Anyway, come on. As far as I’m concered, it’s just marketing. It’s sad that in this day and age it still works that way, but other than that… what is the difference with a company calling themselves “Grandma McLovable”?

  129. Wow, I really understand your position & it really sucks that you even had to change your name to get acknowledged for your creativity & hard work! Unfortunately on the net we are a minority gender, come on gals join us and equalise the odds for us women!

  130. Amazing story! I work for a major online media company focusing on the women reader community. I am passing this along to our readers.

  131. You make me want to get my OWN pen name. Fine job doing what needs to be done!

  132. Thanks for writing this entry. As a woman who grew up in the 60’s, I have struggled against gender bias for a long time. I find it truly sad and disheartening that we still have to deal with this kind of discrimination. I truly thought most of this type of bias was a thing of the past. And on the internet!

    This is the media of the anonymous. The media of the people, where anyone can write or say anything. Whether people read/listen to you is completely their choice, and I thought it would be made on the merits of the writer/speaker. However, I guess some folks are still stuck in the past, like women barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. What a shame.

    Good wishes and blessings to you for doing what you needed to do to get what you wanted. That, my dear, is my definition of a “liberated woman”. Good on you.

  133. F: What Sonia said.

  134. It sucks that the world is stupid, but I’m glad that you found your way through that stupidity to get your work recognized and properly compensated. Keep up the great writing!

  135. That was a brave post indeed. Kudos to you, but such a shame that you had to invent an identity for the world to realise your talent. Keep it coming let nothing bother you. Let your posts speak for you =)

  136. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m sad to see that it is still a man’s world. Hopefully, that is changing!

  137. @F, maybe you should try reading the whole article. Like the part where “James” applied for the same jobs as not-James, and was more likely to get the commission. Like the part where it wasn’t “James” who didn’t think women could write as well, it was the people who hired “him” but not “her”.

  138. I have to say that I don’t recommend anyone in business get a pen name unless they expect to have zero communications with clients. It can be limiting (No SWSX or BlogExpo or workshops…), it’s stressful at times (“Hey James, can we do this by phone? What do you mean, no?”), and it’s not a route I’d recommend, tempting as it might sound.

  139. I knew it was time I took “Johnny Depp” as a nom de plume.

    Great post. Thank you.

  140. It’s been 16 years since the “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” cartoon came out in the New Yorker (google it for the wikipedia page). And I’m old enough to have been online and remember its publication well. Not much has changed.

    But I still feel sick, empathetic, sad, impressed, and utterly confused by all of the above when I read this. James, I admire your work and I wish you the very best. You don’t owe us anything.

    Civilized society however… when will this change??? That’s the discouraging part.

    And as more and more people and business rely on online branding, the trust discussion will surely get louder.

  141. I don’t understand people criticizing you at all. What is important is the work, not the name. What amazes me is not that you did this is that we still live in a world where people have to do this!

    Don’t let anyone call you a coward. Or at least don’t believe it. What is cowardly is attacking people and not the system. Your gender shouldn’t make a difference. But it does and you do what you have to do to make it work. I applaud you. And always know: what is important is the words, not the name.

  142. Hmm…in a way I’m not surprised. I have to be honest that in reading your posts here at Copyblogger (I’ve never subscribed to Men with Pens) I just never “connected” with your posts. There did seem to be something off…although I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that this was it.

    I know of too many successful women bloggers and writers to think that your gender was what truly stood in your way. I am glad this worked for you but what I truly admire is people who are successful by genuinely being themselves in every way.

    Perhaps that is what I missed in your posts…personal experiences that would help someone actually get to know you rather than just learn business tips from your writing.

  143. I have been working on a “Year in Review” blog post since the beginning of December, which will include, among other things, my favorite blog posts of 2009—and this post will, without doubt, be listed as my favorite in the social media category.

    2009 was my first year as a blogger, and although it is definitely not my blog’s primary topic, I have written a few posts about my perspectives on blogging. In nine posts tagged “blogging,” I have quoted “James Chartrand” four times – once even joking that I wasn’t only agreeing with “him” because we shared the same first name.

    I must admit, similar to the remarks made by other white men, I am often oblivious to how serious issues of inequality sadly still remain very true in today’s society.

    When I mentioned how much I enjoy the guest posts on Copyblogger written by James, and how it has made me a fan of “Men with Pens” as well, a female friend (and fellow blogger) remarked, “you mean Men with Penises? – you wouldn’t read it if it was Women with Pens.”

    Of course, I denied there being any truth to that – but now, I am forced to wonder.

    In my first two posts about blogging, I mostly only quoted men (not counting “James”). I did mention Tara Hunt’s great book and linked to some great Copyblogger posts by Sonia Simone – but not counting full attribution in the mouse-over link title, I didn’t mention her name – I wonder why?

    In my third post about blogging, I only mentioned women (Amber Naslund, Jennifer Blanchard, Venessa Miemis, and Michelle Russell) – that post was written around the time of the derisive comment from my female blogging friend – just a coincidence? Again, I am now forced to wonder.

    Bottom-line: I love James Chartrand – the writer, the storyteller, the blogger – the person who will continue to teach me about blogging and writing. Thank you, James. You are awesome.

  144. Wow!! I”m speechless!! I always wondered about the no photo stuff. Either way, you do great work. I hate your so-called friend outted you and now my bubble is busted. I kind of liked thinking of you as a man and you have the same name as my late beloved father which I always thought was a good omen. At the end of the day, you’re still King James to me!

  145. @Jim, I love that you shared that, thanks so much.

    @Jennifer W., from now on, just call me George Clooney.

  146. Oh.
    Well, I don’t care if you are a man or woman or straight or gay or whatever. And I understand the gender issue — I’ve read similar accounts by those who went through gender change.

    A tiny part of me, however, is a bit discouraged, to be honest. I thought we had a friendship, and friendship is built on trust. So I feel a bit cheated. Don’t worry — I will recover soon.

    Love & Light,
    Akemi

  147. Wow… that’s both cool and sad at the same time. Cool that you “pulled it off” and sad that you needed to.

    Glad you were able to do what you needed to do for your kids.

  148. Good for you for having the courage to do this. The thought crossed my mind when I started my business, but in the end I chose the “if the fact that I have tits matters to them, I don’t want their business anyway” route.

    I often suspected that it made a difference, and while I am sad that your story confirms that it does, and am more than slightly irritated at whoever outed you, I applaud you for your courage and want to say that I love your work, although I think I’ve gone all fangirl on you before!

    Cheers,

    Angela West

  149. James,
    Ironically, you lost a reader because of the male image your blog projects. I saw recommendations for you and discounted reviewing your site because it seemed so male oriented.

    The funny thing is that I’ve been looking for writers to profile on my site for teen girls about careers. If you ever fully come out of the closet, we would love to hear from you at lookilulu.

    I get the gender assumptions. I did joint women’s studies when I got my law degree. As a lawyer, I’ve seen women attorneys treated worse in numerous ways even by women. Society still has a long way to go for really equal professional opportunities for women. Underground assumptions are a big part of the problem.
    Some women’s own lower assumptions about their value is also an issue.
    Thanks for sharing.

  150. 133 posts within a span of a couple hours, I think that says it all. It is amazing the impact the author’s gender has on how I interpret what I’m reading. Thanks for sharing.

  151. Hell yes.
    As a growing writer, I have some questions for you, James. I’m curious about some of the logistics. May I contact you? What would be the best way to do that?

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry you felt you had to, but I’m glad you did.

  152. James,

    Gotta ask. How did you handle clients who wanted to discuss their projects by phone or, even worse, in person?

    Also, in your online promotions, didn’t you ever have to provide a picture? What about on the About Me page on your website?

    You can only hide behind your e-mails and instant messages for so long. Didn’t you find that eventually clients wanted to talk to and see who they were working with?

  153. @ Akemi – I think it’s important to note that I’ve never been through a “gender change”, as you put it. A name is just a label – I’m still me.

  154. Kathleen K. O'Connor :

    F, it’s easy to tell someone off anonymously, but it’s not easy for a popular online personality to come out and tell the world she is a woman when people thought she was a man for all of these years, regardless of the circumstances.

    I would love to use email 100% of the time for communicating with my clients, but some of my clients hate writing and ask me to call them. I am shy, so I have a mini-anxiety attack everytime I have to call a client.

    So, is Harry a Harietta? I guess if he is, that would merit another “coming out” post ;)

  155. Loved the article. Wonderful story. I just went to your site and subscribed. I run a business and will probably contact your team in the future. I would’ve hired you for the exact opposite reasons. I prefer to work with women rather than men, but in the end talent rules and I’ll pick based on talent, skill level and personality.

  156. @ Susan:

    How did you handle clients who wanted to discuss their projects by phone or, even worse, in person?

    Also, in your online promotions, didn’t you ever have to provide a picture? What about on the About Me page on your website?

    You can only hide behind your e-mails and instant messages for so long. Didn’t you find that eventually clients wanted to talk to and see who they were working with?

    I simply told people I operate by email only to provide clearer focus, be able to give my undivided attention and to provide us both with a paper trail. I’d say one out of 25 people would opt out, but every other person fully appreciated the email approach – and I even had many people admit they hate phones too and just did calls because everyone told them they should!

  157. I usually read the other comments to see what others have to say (and which way the wind is blowing). This time, I didn’t. I wanted to write this from the heart. Please keep keep writing under any name. I don’t know that I’ve been so shaken in a long time. I’m 61 years old and consider myself an enlightened conservative. I’m very ashamed. I thought we had gotten past that male/female writer issue.

    Now, to bare my soul. I used to buy action/adventure mystery thrillers penned by men. The rationale: What would a woman know about violence, guns and death?
    My epiphany came with a Janet Evanovich book. Nuff said! I admire your courage, perseverance and class.

    Steve

  158. @Kathleen, I would *love* to go to an all-email policy as well. Mostly because I end up burning a lot of time if I go by phone. I enjoy chatting with people, but then, whoops, there goes 90 minutes.

  159. Thanks for outing gender bias…your method worked. Here’s to further success!

  160. How sad that we as a society are still divided in this sense. A simple name and gender change changes everything. But kudos to you for doing what you had to do to support your family. I think that’s awesome!!

  161. Kathleen K. O'Connor :

    Lola – I don’t recall ever reading a post on Copyblogger that was very personal. I think most of the writers here provide great writing and business tips without revealing much about their personal lives.

  162. @James – I remember you actually writing a blog post on MWP about why you didn’t work by phone. I almost printed it out and gave it to my boss. “See? SEE? He’s a popular blogger/copywriter and he talks to clients solely via email! Why can’t I do that?”

    @Kathleen – This:

    I am shy, so I have a mini-anxiety attack everytime I have to call a client.

    describes me exactly. I’m terribly shy around people I don’t know well, and I communicate much better by email than by phone. Is there some kind of club for people like us?

  163. re: the whole ‘disingenuous/honest’ thing: I go back to Seth’s “All Marketers Are Liars” and my own position on storytelling—when you’re telling stories, ask yourself, when [not if] the other person finds out it’s not strictly [or remotely] true, will they feel betrayed, or secretly smug and pleased that they’re on the inside now?

    Motive often defines reaction. I have seriously considered using a definitely female name for some of my books just to get around the fact the subtle expectations folks seem to have because I happen to have a Y-chromosome.

    I wonder how my wife would feel about co-authoring business books with a female husband?

  164. Oh, James, I meant to ask you something – as you were getting paid for your work, did you have an account set up as James Chartrand or did you use your real name or something else? I hope that isn’t too personal a question, but it seems that at some point, someone might wonder why they’re paying “Jane Doe” if they’re not paying James Chartrand.

    This is particularly of interest to me because for the privacy of my family, I don’t use my real name on my blog and that severely limits whether or not I get paid if I choose an affiliate or something. Thanks!

  165. Wow. Wow. And wow again.

    I want to echo the sadness others have already expressed that (1) such things are still necessary in 2009 and (2) trusted friends sometimes turn out to be neither.

    But mostly I admire your moxie, James! I would love to buy you a beer and a copy of a book I read waaaay back in library school: How to Suppress Women’s Writing. It’s bursting with humor and sarcasm, as you can see from the cover.

    P.S. FWIW, Gender Genie guessed this entry was written by a woman. http://bookblog.net/gender/genie.php

  166. @Kool Aid, not sure where you’re located, but in most states in the U.S. it’s quite easy to set up an LLC for your business name. Then you can do all of your payments through that.

    It makes good sense whether or not you’re revealing your real name, in fact. (I don’t think you have to have an official LLC to do it, either.) It’s just easier to keep track of expenses for taxes & bookkeeping if you keep things separate.

  167. Wow – I feel like I’ve just been told Santa Claus isn’t real. I did wonder once – we had a disagreement online when I had PMT and I said to Stuart – wow, James argues like me with PMT – but he’s a dude.

    It sucks that you had to do this – you’re a damn good writer and you deserve to be paid for your work – not your gender.

    Now I’m thinking back to you saying I should use a different name when you were designing my new theme. I assumed you meant my name sucked – but I had no idea why.

    But I’m LMAO at Akemi feeling cheated. When she interviewed you – she described you and James as handsome and I was wondering how she knew that, since you don’t use your pics online. I think you’ve just fallen off her eligible men shelf.

  168. Kathleen K. O'Connor :

    @Sonia – Yes, that is another issue! Chatting over the phone can burn a lot of time. Email goes straight to the point. But I understand that some people are slow typers or can’t get their thoughts across well on the screen, and that’s why I suck it up and take phone calls.

  169. Akemi’s comment points to a real danger of using a persona with some significantly different aspect to our “real” selves. When we use social media to connect and build more business, people *do* feel like they know us. And if there’s something we aren’t sharing, there can be hurt feelings.

    I was glad she stepped up and respectfully let us know. If this post shows nothing else, it’s that feelings aren’t always logical, rational things. They just are.

  170. Thank you, for writing this. I hope it sets off some serious ripples, mostly ones beneficial to you, and opens some eyes. We all suspect this is going on, but it’s good to have more proof. Best of luck to you under any name.

  171. Kathleen K. O'Connor :

    @Michelle Haha, we should start that club! I am glad to know I am not the only one. I am also shy around people I don’t know well. I find that the clients who want to talk on the phone tend to be the bubbly types, so that at least makes talking on the phone a little easier.

  172. Wow. Amazing story. You’ve got my respect. You value your kids higher than your ego – and there’s nothing more noble than that :-)

  173. James,

    I fully understand the why behind what you did. It’s unfortunate that someone chose to out you. Good on you that you weren’t surprised or unprepared for that eventuality.

    Taking the time to write this was a solid decision. Respect is hard to earn for anyone, and as your story makes clear, harder for women in some cases.

    In my field, as a programmer and analyst, there are not a lot of women in lead positions. I sometimes wonder if the glass ceiling as at work there or that some women sabotage their own success by focusing on being a woman over a programmer.

    What are your thoughts on that?

  174. James –

    Just want to say – *again* – thanks for everything. Your help was instrumental in getting my writing business off the ground.

    You’re the ma’am! Let’s talk again soon.

    O_o

  175. I always thought there was something up with you, James. Perhaps because you were a little over-the-top on the guyish stuff – from “men with pens” to steamy pictures and overtly sexual topics (stuff that most guys don’t feel comfortable publishing, in my opinion).

    But good job in making it work. You rock. Even though I feel like I don’t know you anymore (I probably do, it’s just shocking).

  176. First of all, I will throw in my kudos and support with all the others above.

    Secondly, I am amazed, not just about what has happened, but by my own reaction to it. I’ve considered James to be a friend, albeit one I’d never met in person, for a couple of years. As soon as this news sunk it, I found myself looking at him/her differently. That really bothers me.

    I had preconceived ideas about James, and now I realize that I wouldn’t have come to those same conclusions had I known the true gender. Most of those notions had to do with private-life stuff. “He must not have full custody of his kids to work this much” suddenly became, “Wow, how does she get so much done while caring for two children?”

    This announcement has made me realize, much to my chagrin, that I have some deeply ingrained gender biases, and I thought I was far more evolved than that. I am so disappointed to learn that gender inequality is so rampant that a simple name change can make that much of a difference in the pay and respect a writer earns. I’m far more disappointed to discover that I am somewhat complicit in the whole thing.

    Best of luck to James and to the rest of us as we continue to evolve.

  177. Ok.. by half way through that article my mouth was wide open. Not because you are female but because I (im 16 by the way, so have not seen as much discrimination towards women as many have) am sickened that gender has anything to do with anything in the world we live in now. It is disgusting.

    Well done for getting through that terrible ordeal and I hope life is treating you very kindly.

    Shane

  178. That’s a cool story, and I applaud your courage for coming out and writing this article. Now I find you even more interesting than ever before and will probably read your stuff more than ever before.

  179. Wow. It’s a shame that people are so petty as to out you. A shame that barriers exist which made you feel it necessary to change your name. But not a shame at all what you’ve managed to do for yourself and your family. Regardless of your name, you have tons of respect here. Bravo!

    On a side note, I’ve often felt that female cartoonists had an easier go of getting fans on the web and actually considered using a female pen name to draw comics to see if it would make a difference in a strip’s popularity. But about the time I was considering it, my comic sort of took off, so I didn’t make the leap. Even if it hadn’t made a difference in reader reception, using a pen name may have had a placebo effect on me, allowing me to be more my true self, under an assumed name, ironically.

    Thank you for sharing your story and for years of inspiration and great content.

  180. Wow, I’m astonished –
    a) that it made such a difference, and
    b) that you were able to keep it up all this time.

    How did that work? Did you just say, “I don’t do phone”?

    I’ve always thought that being female helped me stand out as a writer in my business. But who knows what kind of success I’d have if I were a guy? Or, like you, a “guy.”

    I’d like to think it wouldn’t change things, but judging from your story, that’s naiive.

  181. Re-reading my post…it didn’t quite come out as I wished it to.

    Let me add a few things…

    -You rock!
    -You rock!
    -I still really think you rock!

    Now it’s time to get to know you as Jamie ;)

  182. When you have people who depend on you, especially those who can’t go out in the world and do for themselves (age, health, etc.), you do what you have to do to provide for them.

    You’ve done a great job. Kudos!

  183. @ Chad – Hehehe, I appreciate that, thanks ;)

    (On a side note, the hot pics on blog posts ALWAYS got more commentators. ALWAYS. Sex sells – no pun intended.)

  184. Good to know that James can now be a woman’s name as well :)

    I’m wondering if I’ve ever met ‘him’.

  185. James,

    This story is amazing, but part of me is still skeptical. When you chose your new pen name, did you put on a new persona? What I’m thinking is that if you, say, exuded more confidence as James – that’s potentially the thing that got you more clients. You could be whoever you wanted to be under a pen name – not as easy under your “real” name. What are your thoughts on that?

  186. Great article, James! And a sad testament to the state of this country when it come to gender.

    You have me thinking about the my own name, which is Chinese (and given the spelling) and difficult to pronounce correctly… even for native speakers!

    I remember in high school when I worked for 2 months as a telemarketer, and my manager told me, “Your name is too hard to pronounce/understand. We’re all going to call you ‘Steve.’ And that’s how you’ll present yourself on the phone.” And lo and behold, after that little change I got my first sale.

    I freelance and I’m thinking maybe people aren’t hiring me b/c they’re worried they’re going to butcher my name. So, from now on, I think I’ll go by “Steve.”

  187. You know, it’s terrible that you were *forced* to write this post and compromise the financial security of your family. I truly hope things continue to prosper for you and perhaps James’ current reputation will be enough for the gender issue to fade into the background. You do great work and any client who discredits that talent because you are a woman is not worthy of your work.

    I’ve greatly enjoyed watching the blogging world respond to you as they got to know James. And you’re right, there was never a “you” and a “James”, it’s all you and it’s all wonderful.

  188. Nathania,

    Butting in a bit here, but I think James is exactly who she is—no filter, no change except that name, in her writing. And I’ve written (and worked out in the real world) with my own brand of ballsy confidence for years to very different effect (can’t help it, that’s me)… Sometimes our writing is tremendously similar, yet the reactions to it are not the same at all.

    My 2¢…

  189. @ Nathania – I answer your question a little higher up in the comment section. The short answer is no – I am who I am. A name is just a label.

  190. Shame on the people who judge the quality of a person or work based on gender.
    Keep up the good writing, for me, that’s all that matters :)

  191. Fascinating, just fascinating. My disconnect with you James is now understandable. Something just above subconscious seemed off, but I certainly had no idea of the real truth! Glad that is cleared up.

    Having worked in newspaper reporting, emergency medicine, and the martial arts, I can see the temptation to hide gender just to be treated equally. And I can see after writing this post you are in for a wild ride of both kudos and kicks. Hang on!

  192. I got redirected to this from hackernews; I just wanted to say that while I’m not sure the gender change was as important as the name change (ask John “Cougar” Mellancamp about dealing with stage names you hate), I don’t see why anyone should have a problem with this, or with your desire to keep your privacy – and no one else should, either.

    After all, look at my own username!

  193. Sorry James – meant to say you and Harry. I’m guessing Harry is a woman too. He comes across as more feminine than a lot of women I know. I actually wondered if he was gay.

  194. “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” The quote is from Gloria Steinem and it seems appropriate in this context for so many reasons.
    As with all forms of oppression, it really sucks when you get the full picture of how bad it is, for how many people it’s bad, and for how long it’s been that bad.
    It’s depressing, it’s enraging and it can be demoralizing.
    But hiding with our heads in the sand, assuming (or pretending) that these issues have all been resolved doesn’t do us (or our children- male or female) a damn bit of good.
    As for me, I’m angry that the world is still such that a man commands more respect, has more credibility and gets hired and paid more than a woman.
    I’m sad that a talented woman had to go underground to get paid what she was worth and make a life for her family.
    And I’m hopeful that the truth will set her and the rest of us free- free from the burden of deception, and also free from our ignorance of the current state of gender ‘equality’ really is.

  195. James, as a client and a fan of your work, rock the hell on. Sad to me, of course, that the world works that way. Wonder if I should be a Bob instead, to stop all the discussions of “women in social media” and instead just focus on the quality of work, period. But I digress…

    Good for you for, well, being you. Keep rocking.

    Amber

  196. James, you *rock*. Period, end of statement.

    I *love* the fact you recognized how a name change would help your business and didn’t spend earlobes of time bemoaning that fact…you “just freakin’ did what you had to do.”

    I know soooo many people will say, Oh Bad Bad James for not Standing Up and Making A Difference! Which is utter moose-byproducts; those people aren’t the ones who have to put your food on your table. Idealism is wonderful if it doesn’t affect your bottom line…..

    Anywhos, you’re an excellent role model for your kids and a tremendous roll model for being successful online. Woot!

  197. @Liz, that is a fabulous quote, thank you! I hadn’t heard it before.

  198. James, absolute kudos to you for having the courage and determination to do what needed to be done for your family. And thanks to you for writing a fantastic post that points out some cracks in equality that never seem to go away.

    I’m not shocked because I don’t think it’s that uncommon to write under another persona. I hope this post is read widely. If people realize that they may not know for sure who is behind a piece of writing, they might start paying more attention to the quality and the content than they do on whether or not the writer’s name fits the bill. And, as Peter Hickman points out, it’s not just male/female names, but names that imply a particular race as well.

  199. I am so proud of you for fooling the system. It still amazes when I hear of another instance of gender discrimination taking food of the table for a woman and her children.

    I just read an article last night that talked about how some companies will charge more for a woman’s version of their product for no other reason except that they can. Yet, in the competitive workforce women are still suffering from smaller paychecks for the same positions. Charge us more, pay us less. Sweet.

    I’m glad you beat the system at it’s own game. I’m glad you and your family are safe and warm. I’m ticked that your obvious talent had to be disguised as a male voice to bring that success.

    I hope the murmurings around your “coming out” will bring you even more success and will not affect your jobs. I also hope it gives more women the tenacity to continue overcoming the discrimination that society likes to brush under the rug.

    And lastly, I hope the other woman that sold you out is sitting there wishing she had sold herself out because of all the attention you are getting now. Congratulations, James. You deserve it.

  200. @Liz:

    “Some boys take a beautiful girl
    and hide her away from the rest of the world
    I want to be the one to walk in the sun
    girls just want to have fun.”

    Cindy Lauper ;)

  201. Wow. Now all of the chatter on Twitter makes so much more sense… guess I should have checked the blogs first!

    James, you continually make me stop and think with your writing. Today is certainly no exception. Your story here makes what you’ve accomplished even more impressive.

    Well done.

  202. @…I forget, sorry.

    ” To get “even”, I always walk up to the customer and say,”By the way, before I help you, I want you to know that (Jennifer) knows more about (plumbing) than you can imagine. You would do well to always listen to her suggestions.””

    LOL. Reminds of when my superviser, I was working at a callcenter at the time, responded to a customer who complained he was helped (well) bij “a foreigner”: “No sir, that’s impossible, we have no foreigners working here.”

    So, I looked around the room to see only Moroccan, African, even Chinese people… and he tells me: “Remember this; on *my* team, if you live here and you speak the language, you are a native.”

  203. I still love your writing! But, I am just destroyed. I thought we had gotten further. I can’t even write about it now. I can’t stop thinking about it. I am fortunate where I am presently working.

    I am so proud of you that you figured out a way to make things work for you and did it quietly. I’m not an activist either; would prefer to earn the acknowledgement and value as fight for it.

  204. Hi James :)

    Thanks for this inspiring and interesting conversation that you have started! Thanks for “coming out” – love the post. I love your thoughts on how being James still allowed you to be yourself, because I think that can absolutely be true.

    I’m curious how you think this will affect how you go forward. What now?

  205. James,

    What a moving post. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m sure I’ll be thinking about the ramifications for this for awhile.

    As someone who has worked with you, all I can say is that you rock. You have been one of the most responsive and easiest people to work with. And now, you’re an inspiration, too.

    Wishing you all the best,
    Michele

  206. Alanna Parke Kvale :

    It’s a sad commentary on our professional world that it makes a difference about a person’s gender, it shouldn’t. Intelligence, cleverness and creativity have nothing to do with being male or female. You are brave and highly creative and I salute you!

  207. May I just say proudly, you go girl! Excellent article here on Copyblogger.

  208. Immediately after reading your story above I scrolled down to the comment form, then realised that even though I wanted to write something, I had no idea what that was.

    Congratulations on finding a successful business model.

    But I think it’s sad that your customers and clients have proven to be so obviously gender biased. They should be ashamed of themselves.

  209. I’m so amazed at your story and think the choices you made make perfect sense. Why didn’t I think of it??;)

  210. James, and the commenting crowd, you may find some of the points in this commentary based on a Univ of Texas researcher, professor, author interesting.

    He’s researching more specifically around the Facebook culture, but online and social media arena, nevertheless. I believe you will find what he is finding supports and correlates with how you’re “true” and valid persona you have created is congruent with your “real life” one.

    Patterns reveal and reflect – regardless of the buzzword or “name” accompanying.

    Congratulations on both you resilience and perseverance, as well as your willingness to risk. I believe you do epitomize much of research support ing fact that most all of success is in the keeping-on with keeping-on. Within that framework, it usually in the last 5% that puts us each over the top.

    Now…where are all those folk who select the conference presenters for social media and similar “online” endeavors? Despite the fact 53% of all social media, active users, readers and engaging participants — we find an amazing paucity in the # of women being INVITED to be presenters.

    Now – I do have to add one recent discovery: I, personally, have invited 3 just this month to present at a local business conference, giving each a general topical area – but that they can redefine and position their commentary within – at will.

    Guess what? I did not get 3 “yes” responses out of 3.

    Why?

    Writing, researching, editing for groups, et al – all behind the scenes moreso than ‘on the stage’ was the choice of one who was not comfortable speaking. That’s her perogative, right? I definitely thought so – though it did surprise me given her market and her background coming out of Enterprise, Web 2.0 as quite an established player within that. (I truthfully don’t know why i was surprised – after all, speaking publicly is literally stated to be the #1 fear of many – even over death!)

    However, i believe it is also a cue: if we want inclusion – we also may need to grow in comfort-zone to be able to then respond to invitation for such.

    The universe in my experience tends to deliver in the big picture – and is a bit blind to the “Yes, but….” caveats when being expansively inclusive.

  211. So sorry – failed to include this Univ of Texas researcher’s url to his work:

    http://www.utexas.edu/news/2009/12/01/facebook_psychology/

  212. @ Paul – I won’t speak against my customers and clients, because almost every one of them has been awesome in his or her own right. They rock, and they came to work with me and trusted me with their projects and dreams.

    That, to me, is awesome.

    It’s the people out there who turned their back because of who I was, instead of what my skills were, that gets to me. I’m glad this post seems to be changing how people think.

    @ Gramma – What’s next? Sheesh! A DRINK, dammit! I figure I deserve one today!

  213. I second the other “Wows” – I am in awe of your initiative & creativity. True, it is sad that you had to go through this but it says everything about your spirit! I’m supposed to be a writer but I keep echoing others :-) you definitely rock!

    As I read, I just knew you were going to say someone “outed” you & boy does that say a lot about them. But even though you did not choose to expose your secret, you showed you have more class in your little finger than that person has in their whole body.

    You inspire us and I thank you for sharing your story.

  214. Bravo–er, I mean brava–James!

    I’m saddened, but not surprised, at the discrimination you faced. Early on I trained myself never to mention my children to clients. Too many jumped to conclusions about my dependability–though I’ve never missed a deadline in 18 years.

    But I must confess my own sexism: I’ve always found James’s bravura a little irritating. “Macho posturing,” I harrumphed. Now knowing James is a she, I see her confidence more as healthy self-esteem!

    I guess none are immune to gender bias

  215. This doesn’t change my impression of you as a kickass writer, but it does do a number to the visual of you as a burly, hairy, Canadian behemouth that misses the home row before coffee in the morning that I’ve had in my head. :D

    It sucks that you had to do this, but you do what you have to do. I can’t help but wonder if you are going to be a legend now.

    “…and then she totally pulled a James Chartrand on me!”

  216. Well James,

    I read this completely. I am so glad I did. You should just keep doing what you are doing. You shouldn’t have to keep doing the same thing because of the way some people think but do it. Providing for you and your family is all important.
    It was a beautifuly written piece and I truly enjoyed it.

    Thank You,

    Jerry

  217. Annabel Chiarelli :

    Thanks for sharing, James, and shame on the person that betrayed you.

    Making snap judgments about people based on various signals is hardwired into us, and often serves us well.

    For example, if you’re interviewing potential babysitters and someone comes in smelling of pot and booze you’re going to justifiably make a negative snap judgment.

    The question is how can we as a society learn not to judge people by things that shouldn’t matter, such as gender, ethnicity, etc. I’m sure we’ve made progress compared to 100 or even 50 years ago, but your experience shows that we still have a long way to go.

    It’s a complex question that I can’t begin to answer, but I think learning to be mindful of our own unspoken assumptions is a first step.

    Thanks for reminding me of this.

  218. I love your story. Touching, poignant, and brutally honest.

    It’s so hard to understand that, in the 21st century, you had to resort to taking on a male persona to to feed your children.

    But it’s still true in all kinds of subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

    Thanks for writing and telling the truth.
    Kathleen

  219. I’ll just take the moral here. Be professional in work and no preconceptions should judge your decisions.

  220. Yee Ha, James! You deserve a Cowgirl – or Cowboy – hat and some rockin’ John Wayne boots!
    Your gender makes no difference to me – I’d be hooked on Copyblogger either way. But WOWZA! I loved reading your story.
    Obviously your ‘former friend’ is jealous – hate to say it, but some women are, on occasion, ‘catty’ when it comes to competition … especially when a ‘friend’ is doing much better than they are.
    I’m glad you shared your story.
    You are an inspiration to us ALL. Don’t know what I’d do without Copyblogger. You keep me on my toes and inspire me to build a better blog.
    Best wishes, James-ie!

    Deb

  221. Good Deal! haha Do what you GOTTA DO! :)

    Play on, Playah! :D

  222. James, while I’m annoyed at the world’s gender biases and the person who outed you, I just wanted to say thank you for writing this and hopefully making more people aware of these inequalities. I know it couldn’t have been easy for you.

    Also, are you still Canadian, at least? I don’t know how I’d cope if that was made up too! =)

  223. Interesting. I bet you think your writing is the same under the male gender ID as under a female gender ID, right?

    Phone sale people always use a phone name. Why? Because it is a persona. It is a whole new character – the one that sells.

    What does that mean? It means it is the character that works. The character is the one that succeeds in selling. It is a different person. It speaks differently. It acts differently. It writes differently. It carries a different energy. One could say it is a character with a different contract in life.

    Men fear females. It is more than distrust. Why?

    Females betray males. Simple. Females boss males around and tell them what to do. Females think they know what is good for males. Females think they know what being male is all about. Do they? How could that be possible.

    Respectfully yours,
    the_IRF

  224. Sathish—I love that. Well-said.

  225. And I thought I’d finally met a man who understood me…

    This makes much more sense.

  226. Mary E. Ulrich :

    Hi James, I get to be the 200th comment.

    James, we love you. Just you.

    ps. you really should think about a book.
    pps. can you now get rid of the bullets?

  227. Rock on James! Like the others, I just want to show you my support. You did what you had to do, with unparalleled success. It’s just awful that it “was” what you “had” to do.

    I guess business is still business, handled on the golf course with a handshake and cigars.

    Anyone have any thoughts on how to handle this still going strong glass ceiling? Or on a catchy male pen name? ;)

    ~Kimberlee

  228. @James (re: comment #212)

    I admire your appreciation of your clients and hope that some day in the future I have the opportunity to become one of them. I still find it sad, however, that had some of them known your gender before, they may not be your clients now.

    And yes, this post of yours is definitely changing the way people think. Hats off to you!

  229. This is powerful and important. Thank you for writing and posting it.

  230. I actually find this story rather upsetting–not because of anything James did–her actions seem perfectly reasonable. But the idea that being a man rather than a woman could turn her career around is heartbreaking to me–esp. since if you go over to the feminist blogosphere trolls spend all day explaining that feminism may have been useful at one time, but we don’t need it now because everyone knows that women are treated the same as (or better than!) men.

    I guess we’ve got a lot more work to do.

  231. 1) Good for you; doing what’s necessary to make your talents support your family, shows a lot of courage.

    2) I’m mad as hell that you had to “play the game,” and that the “game” still exists!

    My day job is in an industry that has always been notorious for giving women short shrift, but unfortunately I have to be physically present to continue doing it. It has always bothered me (and always will) that where men are seen as “aggressive” and “go-getters,” women who act similarly are seen as “b*tches” and “b*ll busters.”

    I’m glad you found a way to do things on your terms.

  232. Wow. More power to you. I am thrilled that you found a way to success and that you’re financially secure now. You earned it, you deserve it.

    And reading this made me sick to my stomach. I want to believe that women have equal opportunity and your story illustrates how, sadly, that’s not true.

    Man, oh, man. How far we (haven’t) come.

  233. @ Rob – I address my feelings on character/personality/persona in the comments above.

    I would like to add that if my writing style changes, I’d be REALLY surprised. I’m still me, people. I haven’t become another person.

  234. What a sad commentary about the disparity between the genders in the writing/blogging world. It reminds me of what Jane Austen faced, as depicted in the movie, “Becoming Jane.” Things haven’t changed as much as we’d like to imagine during the past 200 years.

    Good for you for finding a work-around that helped you care for your family!

  235. I’m with Cynthia. I got a little sick reading this–not about you, or your success, which I’m THRILLED for and is well-deserved, but…

    That it was the best option. That it “worked.” Ugh. I know I should take this moment to reflect on how far we’ve come, but first, I really need to just burn off this feeling of what the f*cking f*ck.

    Seriously happy for you, James, and wildly grateful for your generosity in sharing this story.

  236. When James first told me months ago that he was a she I was stunned. I sat at my computer with my mouth open for several minutes in total shock. My first coherent thought was that I’d been talking to this person for months and he wasn’t who I thought he was. Plus a lot of admiration that he’d managed to totally convince me that he was a man. And embarrassment that I’d been fooled! LOL

    Then – and it took time – I realised that the person I talked with was the same. Even his name didn’t change, I still call him (her) James. Everything that James said was real. There was no difference in the person. Everything we talked about, our lives, our kids, our businesses, was real. It was only my perception that had changed.

    And at the end of the day, it was no different to any of my other friends who have nicknames.

    Re the pronouns in this post – I used to be good with grammar, but now I never know whether to use he or she for James. Sheesh….. ;-)

  237. Hehehehe, when James first told me, I even went and wrote a post on Gender Bias on the Internet. The comments were interesting. http://wahmbizbuilder.com/gender-bias-internet/

  238. Amazing. Your story is depressing in that it highlights how prejudiced people can be but mostly I find it inspiring. You stuck at it and did what you had to and it’s paid off and I hope there are some people out there who can learn from this. I have great admiration for you – James.

  239. @Mel I think you hit it spot on. The hardest part, for me, was the embarrassment that I had been fooled – had been made to look like a fool even. Then I realized that that reaction made the situation about me, and it wasn’t about me.

    In fact, it’s not about any of us. It’s about James finding a way to provide for him and his. Our reaction to that is something each of us has to figure out how to deal with in our own way.

    I love how this post has people looking at their reactions to the news with open minds and frankly shocking themselves by their own reactions. Doing that is the only way things will every change.

    For that reason I thank you James for putting yourself out there so that we can all learn and grow.

  240. I find it amazing that so many of the commenters aren’t troubled by James’ conduct. Men with Pens was a blog that preached transparency, yet its author felt that those rules did not apply to him/her. That is hypocritical.

    Some have commented that this was clever branding. Perhaps yes. But I thought blogging was more than that. For me, blogging is about establishing a personal relationship with readers. Our word is our bond. When a blogger is dishonest, that bond is broken.

    Moreover, James’ reason for the deception – gender bias – doesn’t justify the extent of his/her charade. S/he did much more than create a fake name, but a fake persona. Look at this post: http://menwithpens.ca/online-personality-beware-the-mommy-blogger-stereotype – s/he says that she is a dad and then criticizes mommy-bloggers for being intolerant of men. One commenter mentioned the JK Rowling example which is apt: Rowling did not try to pretend to be a man, but rather, created gender ambiguity. Same with SE Hinton who wrote the Outsiders. If Men With Pens had been a blog by someone named James, that might be OK. But to concoct a persona as a response to gender bias is not excusable in my book. As you noticed, I refer to James as s/he. Because the truth is that I still don’t know what to believe. Is this post honest? Or is this some kind of a trick trying to see how people will react? I’ll have a hard time trusting this writer for a long time.

  241. Wow, James. Thanks for the post.

    It’s made me even more determined to make it under my own name!

    Cheers,
    Catherine

  242. Wow James your store is both inspiring and disturbing. It is sad to see that gender still has such an impact on people decision making proses. On the other hand it is always good to hear stories of how people have over come hardships. Thank you for sharing.

  243. This was an amazing post. It’s sad and it sucks that you had to go through it, though. Kudos to you for doing a post about it; I think it probably made people think when they might not have otherwise.

    It reminds me of an interview I read (or maybe saw?) with Kal Penn (of Harold & Kumar fame). He mentioned that as a joke or bet with his friend, he changed his very Indian name to the more white/ambiguous stage name “Kal Penn” when requesting information about auditions and etc. Almost immediately his callback rate doubled.

    Also, not only is this the first time I’ve read all of the comments on a CB post, it’s the first time I’ve actually commented!

  244. I once landed a fantastic job because the person hiring me thought I was male and Asian. Then I showed up and he was completely flustered. Luckily, it gave me the chance to really wow him and his team with my knowledge and skills and they hired me. I really don’t think he would have called me in had he known I was just a normal, white woman.

  245. Dear James,

    You posing as a man – and then revealing yourself as a woman – has done women online a great service. The evidence is in the comments: those admitting their bias. THANK YOU.

    Now if we could get the female social media types to stop showing their cleavage in their avatars. But that’s a side rant.

  246. Actually Carolyn, that article you reference impresses me further. She managed to write a balanced piece about mommy writers while BEING a mommy writer. That takes talent. And her points were right on – there IS a stigma attached to working moms. The very words “working mom” suggests we cannot separate our work and home identities long enough to get the job done, but I digress.

    I don’t feel cheated. Given the reasons she spelled out quite clearly here, her motivation wasn’t to deceive. It was to earn a respectable wage. We could argue till the cows came home on whether it really required her to be male in her writing persona or that it was her talent finally taking off professionally, but I would not consider her intentions evil in any way.

  247. @Kim – I once received a offer to help write a math textbook. After I explained I was terrible at math, the other party said “but I thought all Asians were good in math. That’s why I asked you.”

    When I began writing and blogging, I didn’t publish my picture for several years and when I did a lot of people were surprised. I always wondered if it made a difference.

  248. I don’t think having a persona changes all that much. I used a persona when I waited tables to get bigger tips.

    I didn’t change my name, but I did my makeup a certain way, did my hair, and projected a personality that got me bigger tips.

    Did I regret doing this? No, I was in college and I had to pay the bills. I needed every dime I made. I found it akin to acting.

    Changing a name does not necessarily mean creating a persona, either. And it doesn’t take a man to tsk mommy bloggers who are intolerant of men.

  249. @ Carolyn, historicallly, people have done a lot worse things than use a pen name in order to feed their kids. James did not do this because she saw gender bias, she did it to stay off welfare and provide for her kids as a single mother.

    I’ve been a single mother on welfare, and I can tell you now that I’d happily take on a pen name and persona of someone else if it would have fed and clothed us.

  250. The best thing about this story is how many folks out in interweb-land are realising that we, too, still make crazy gender assumptions.

    Congrats, James. You’ve not only built a successful business, put food on the table and been damn good at your job; you’ve also opened the eyes of those who’ve been saying – incorrectly – there is no need for feminism any more.

  251. @Carolyn, “If Men With Pens had been a blog by someone named James, that might be OK. But to concoct a persona as a response to gender bias is not excusable in my book.”

    “That *might* be okay?”

    It’s attitudes like that that really frost my petunias. Who exactly are YOU to say that *might* be okay?

    And that comment by me could also be petunia-frosting as well – who am *I* to say what YOU say *might* or *might not* be okay?

    See how it works?

    Your “outrage” does zero for James’ bottom line – she and she alone is responsible for it. It’s ever soooo easy to stand and preach and what have you….if your bottom line is NOT involved.

  252. @Catherine, I think that’s awesome. :)

  253. I wonder if you really didn’t change. You created a whole business, including a brand identity that was very ‘male’, a name for your business that was very ‘male’, and a website and gender identity based on you being a male. But you aren’t a male. It wasn’t you just changing your name. You created an entire world of you being a male, which you are not.

    You also had to learn a very sophisticated method of lying about, and obscuring, the truth. That wasn’t you before the endeavor commenced, it was something you created and grew into being based on the deception. In other words you changed as a result.

    The truth is I am disappointed when you say you didn’t change. What a waste of an incredible experiment in your life if, after all this, you didn’t change the way you thought, wrote, and communicated. I would hope you would have, otherwise the effort was purely a money-making exercise and had very little insight about yourself or your efforts attached to it. That would be sad.

    One of the things that does bother me about so many of the comments is how they inadvertently diss all the women who did NOT change their gender identity and have made their professional way in the writing or other worlds. Don’t they deserve equal if not more credit for their accomplishments?

  254. Good for you. For writing anyway… for changing your name, and now, for letting us know why you did it. Good for you.
    Good for you. For taking care of those children, for making a home for them with you own hard work. Good good for you.
    As a 52 year old “women’s” magazine writer who’s pretty much genre-frozen, you are my new hero. Who knows how many great new “male” writers you’re inspired.

    Good for you.

  255. @ Marty – Those are interesting views, and they intrigue me. You’re upset that I’m the same person and didn’t change? Or you’re upset that I say that I prefer being “James” as opposed to someone else that I’m not for the benefit of how society feels women should be?

    A few people who know me personally – some whom have visited me in my home – have commented here and have said that yes, indeed, what you read is what you get.

    The brand identity that I created was simply an image that fit who I am – good branding is one that permeates your WHOLE business, not just the look of it. If that brand didn’t fit my personality from the start, I couldn’t have pulled it off.

    I also didn’t create a world of being male, and there was no very sophisticated method of obscuring the truth. Dude – I was me. Simply me. Being me. That’s not sophisticated at all, and it’s pretty easy. I just lived my life and did what I do best.

    As for the other women and men who’ve worked hard in their life, I tip my hat to them and admire them for what they’ve achieved. They deserve credit as much as I do, and I’ve never said any different.

  256. So does this mean that Ann Althouse http://althouse.blogspot.com/ is REALLY one hell of a writer, or, if she went by a pseudonym, she would be hugely more successful than now? How about Ann Coulter for that matter? Oh, wait, I see your point — if she were male, she would be Al Franken, and would now be Senator from MN!

    Your point is well taken, it IS all about gender and race! Were Condolesa Rice were a white, liberal male she would be God. The case seems like “settled science”.

  257. James,

    Thank you for your story. It angers me that this kind of gender bias is still taking place in this world, but it is. I have seen it numerous times, and I’m only 23.

    I worked in customer service for an internet company for 2 years. I have seen customers call in and refuse to speak to me because I was a woman, at jobs. They promptly requested a man as soon as they heard my voice. Nevermind that I was better than most of the men there, and my stats proved it.

    I could go on and on about this, but I’m not the blogger here. Thank you again for your story and inspiration.

  258. Thank you. Lots.

    Funny enough I just wrote an article wondering why in the top 100 of German blogs the first blog clearly written by a woman is at #35 and not a lot following, and why this is. Your description fits in very nicely.

    Would you mind if I translated this into German and published it?

  259. Rachel Swirsky :

    Nice to meet you, James. I will endeavor not to call you Mr. Tiptree.

    Thanks for sharing the story and good luck with your work.

  260. James, my hero.

    You may have been “outed” unwillingly – by someone feeling threatened by your hard-workked-for success, perhaps? – but I have hope that this whole kerfuffle may start a few small pebbles rolling downhill toward change. Too many capable people are held back by ageism and sexism and racism and all manner of other ridiculous “isms” – and no one benefits from that kind of thinking.

    I’m also rather intrigued by your statement (in an earlier comment) that “the name liberated me to be who I am”; must go away and think about the power of names for a while.

    Bravo, James – or rather, brava!

  261. This is a case of a woman using an actual male name, but there are any number of women out there who are blogging or web-posting under gender-neutral names or handles. The reason is the same. You just sense (and are often correct) that as a woman you will not be paid as much attention as a man with similar content – or will be paid the wrong kind of attention.

    I blogged under a gender-neutral handle for a long time, not by any conscious choice, but the choice often bubbled up to my consciousness when I considered using my real first name. In the end I always felt inclined to not do it. I realized there were certain (very small) advantages to staying with the old handle and not enough advantages to being gender-specific.

    I don’t think I’d choose a gender-neutral name again, but I understand now why I was reluctant to drop it once I got going.

  262. Wow…….. I love how her website is oozing with masculinity :)

  263. I think that those suggesting that the difference is due to a personality change should consider that the SAME personality in a man is received quite differently in a woman. It has been said before that if you are assertive and a man you are perceived as confident, while if you are assertive and a woman you are perceived as a bitch.

  264. Dang, Marty, you mean I’m not allowed to like grey and black and have interests that extend beyond Betty Crocker and be ultra-confident in my abilities if I’m a woman?

    Hang on, I have to go burn my wardrobe and get some etiquette lessons.

    I think my petunias just got kinda frosted, too. We sure see things differently.

  265. i haven’t had the opportunity to read anything you have written yet. maybe it is just me, but the unfortunate truth is that is that sometimes people don’t like it when someone is a female. or gay. or black. or anything else that is different.

    tomato tomahto. however you say your name, your words are still what matters. good luck

  266. @Lori, yeah, you never hear the words “working dad.” But that’s a whole different discussion.

    I just remembered an incident long ago. There was an ad in an HR trade magazine (of all places, since it’s a heavily pink-collared industry) for a hotel offering a discount on a three-night stay.

    To represent each night, they showed a pair of men’s underwear. There they were, three pairs of briefs, all lined up across the page.

    As if only men traveled, or stayed in hotels, or worked.

    I was so mad, I fired off a letter, along the lines of “hey, it’s the ’80’s, we’re not all home baking cookies you know.”

    I guess we haven’t come a long way, baby.

    Sigh.

  267. @melinda – Does being a mom on welfare justify welfare fraud? What about lying about resume credentials to get a job? At what point does one’s situation morally justify one’s actions? There was an easy solution here — James could have blogged anonymously or done what JK Rowling did and been gender-ambiguous. S/he chose to go all out and pose as a male while preaching the importance of transparency.

    Maybe I was naive. I’ve been blogging 7 years. I believed that blogging was a conversation, a bond between the author and readers and other bloggers. Turns out all that blogging is just another marketing tool – all about branding. That cheapens blogging and it’s going to cheapen social media. And that would be a tremendous loss.

  268. It’s so rare that we talk openly and honestly about this issue! Forgive me but I can’t help sharing a similar story from the world of science.

    When Barbara was an undergrad at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): “I was the only person in a large class of nearly all men to solve a hard maths problem, only to be told by the professor that my boyfriend must have solved it for me. I was not given any credit.”

    Yeah. That’s bad enough. But stay tuned because it gets even more outrageous. Years later, Barbara became Ben: “Shortly after I changed sex, a faculty member was heard to say ‘Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but then his work is much better than his sister’s.'”

    Yep. Same scientist. Same writing. But somehow his work is better than Barbara’s. Go figure.

    Read all of Ben Barres’ 2006 article “Does Gender Matter” online at Nature.com.

  269. James, I didn’t mean to leave the impression I was upset. I was just trying to bring up some thoughts I had about your story and some of the comments. You said you were in survival mode but also scared that thing might fall apart if the truth got out. Those are emotions and reactions that can change a person and how they perceive themselves and what they do, right? That is the sort of thing I was talking about more than anything else. You went through something pretty amazing and I would hope it would have made an impact on you is all.

    So, no worries. I don’t think what you did was with ill intent. I think your story is as you told it, one of scrambling creatively to make your way in the world. I wish you well with your continued work and hope the story helps your career and helps others to be less unthinking about their prejudices.

  270. Thanks so much for sharing that with us. I was beginning to despair that so many net gurus are male but now I;m thinking maybe they’re not.

    I wish you hadn’t felt the need to invent a male pen name but if it works you can’t knock it.

  271. Yay, for you, a strong, resourceful, intelligent woman.

    Boo, for our society, men and women alike who would challenge and devalue the quality of your work simply because of your double X chromosomes.

    Don’t they know women should be lauded, for we do everything a man does, but backwards and in high heels.

  272. So what now? Is Men with Pens dead? Is James no more?

  273. @ Carolyn, no-one said anything about welfare fraud and no, I don’t think anything justifies it. How does using a pen name become welfare fraud? I’m really not sure how the comment got taken as me saying fraud was acceptable, or that either James or myself had committed welfare fraud.

    I think it’s a very long stretch to make a connection between using a pen name and male persona to using that name to deceive the tax office and govt.

    You feel deceived by James, and that’s fine. That’s how you feel. That doesn’t, and won’t, change James’ reason for doing what he does.

  274. Wow.

    I respect you even more for doing what you had to do. My mom is a single mother, so I understand. Male or female, your writing and business flourished either way.

    That’s a pretty impressive story, and I want to say thank you for sharing it with us.

    “My life, my terms. No one handed me anything. I’ve worked damned hard for this. I took care of myself and my family, and I’ve given the best of my creativity and knowledge to each of my clients and my readers.

    I’d like to keep doing that.”

    I’d like you to keep doing that too. :)

  275. Holy Mother! I’m gobsmacked… and bemused.

    Thought Sexism was SO last century. Also realising that getting to know people via social media isn’t really getting to know anyone at all.

    While I understand why you did it and respect your work, I’m curious about who else is out there being someone they’re not?

    You didn’t harm anyone by doing this, but there are others who could, and that could make social media friendships a little tricky (just like any other online interaction, I s’pose).

    I never interacted with you so I don’t have an issue at all, just amazed cos of how well known you are, so I do see how some could be upset.

    I like to think we can be our genuine selves and still be successful in this day and age.

    Either ways, you’re not responsible for how anyone feels and it can’t have been easy for you to keep up the charade – still it makes me sad to think you had to change who you are to be who you are.

    Thanks for writing about this, I have a feeling it will shake (and wake) enough people up to change the way successful women are viewed. Here’s to empowerment!

    Question: If you had to start over, would you do it again?

    Tia @TiaSparkles

  276. Hi Kelly,
    When you can find where I said anything even close to what you are accusing me of, let me know, ok? What I did was bring up some points that I think are worth contemplating.

    One, the possibility that creating a ‘male’ identity goes farther than changing one’s name. I thought James had done that, she disagrees. That isn’t me bashing a gender, it’s me observing something about branding and marketing and bringing it up.

    Two, that when you embark on a new and slightly frightful journey into the unknown it isn’t beyond the pale to assume that you will be changed by that journey. That is the idea I brought up. I didn’t mention anything about gender identity there, just the idea of transformation.

    I didn’t disparage any gender in my third point, which was that there are many women who do not change their gender and succeed in their respective fields and I was hopeful they would get some kudos equal to the one’s being given to James.

    Kelly, if you can’t respond to respectful points brought up sincerely without bashing me and mischaracterizing what I said, perhaps you are guilty of the exact thing you are accusing others of in this thread, which is to be prejudice against others based on sex. Could that be the case?

  277. Thank you so much for sharing your story, James! I’ve spread it to several of my groups. I’m an active feminist with Broad Universe, an organization that promotes women writers in speculative fiction, and we constantly see the double standard and have to explain to people, “Yes, there still is a gender divide – especially in writing – in this ‘modern’ and ‘enlightened’ world.” Thank you so much for sharing your story. People like you continue to inspire our efforts to get to a day where you don’t need a pseudonym! Thank you!

  278. @Carolyn –

    I’d just like to make the point that it’s been proven time and again that having an “ethnic” name frequently means a job applicant is less likely to be accepted by a company. Two friends of mine have names of this sort. One chose to continue to apply for jobs under her real name, knowing that it would probably make it more difficult for her. The other chose to go by his middle name, which was much more generic, because he didn’t want yet another thing working against him in the job market.

    Is it his real first name? No. And after he was accepted for a job, he went by his given name around the office. No problems at all – his boss even understood why he might choose to go by his middle name on job applications, given the societal stigma. Naturally that same boss would never have automatically tossed his application out because of his real first name – or would he? Hard to tell. The point is, the boss knew that the intention was not to deceive, only to get past an innate prejudice that has been proven to exist. He didn’t falsify his qualifications or his skills – absolutely nothing on his application that was relevant to his job was different.

    Ditto James. The opinions are the same, the advice is the same, the skills and qualifications are the same. The only thing that’s different is a name, and the essay very carefully lays out the reasons for that, which are much the same as my ethnically-named friend. He just wanted to get past a societal stigma so he could get on with doing his job. I’m really not sure where you’re getting all your devious machinations theories from.

  279. I support the choice you made to use a pen name to mask your gender, James. It’s a shame that would be necessary to make more money. I think that circumventing the issue is just another way of fighting discrimination. Sure, at first it only helps one female writer, but if the cause is to help female writers earn fair wages, doesn’t that help the cause? And now, by writing your article, you’ve helped raise awareness of the issue.

    I think many of the people who are showing less interest in female writers, all other things equal, have already made the decision to avoid discriminating based on gender, but are having trouble implementing it. Maybe we should try to read the articles first (at least the first part) and return to the author’s name after we finish? Maybe we should remind ourselves every so often to focus on the content, not on the person who created the content?

    I’ve always thought pen names sounded fun and am glad you enjoy using yours. I hope you can continue using yours effectively for as long as you like!

  280. Thanks for this coming-out.

    All this works for foreign names too…

  281. @Tei – I agree with you, but I can also see where Carolyn is coming from. I believe James did what he(she) did with the best of intentions, but any deception, malicious or not, does raise issues of trust and authenticity.

    Does that mean I disapprove of what James did? Absolutely not. James, if you happen to read this comment, I just want to say bravo – for meeting prejudice head on, for choosing to take action instead of give up or complain. We can all learn from that.

    @James – Where do you see yourself going from here? Will you be going fully public about your gender on Men with Pens, or just to the readers of Copyblogger?

  282. Congratulations James, on a riveting account of your trials and tribulations. As Napoleon Hill once wrote, persistence is the key; that, and your writing skills, accounts for your richly deserved success.

    What an indictment of a supposedly egalitarian society that continues to devalue the contributions of women, particularly women like you!

  283. What a great article. I have been in the same shoes. I find many times men are more concerned about hitting on me then taking me skills and abilities seriously. Way to go “James”, you do what women do best; taking negative situations and turning them into positive and successful ones!!

  284. The people who are upset are the same people who get mad at the definition of marriage or can’t understand cross-gender identities and feel the need to judge those that have issues that they could never understand.

    Anyone who is “upset” or “angry” at James needs to check yourself. You’re showing your prejudice. Shame on you. Unless James was telling you that you two were going to get married and have a couple of kids, you have absolutely NO reason to be angry. You’re just proving what her point.

  285. Nice story – full of mystery which everyone loves – fortunately I have a name that most don’t know if I am male or female…love your persistence.

  286. It takes real courage to admit you’re a woman. You’ve put your reputation and possibly your career on the line by “coming out”. I admire your honesty and I can see why you did it.

  287. It’s not surprising to me. I’ve also seen just the opposite. While your experiences (sadly) were gender biased in compensation, SOME men as women were able to reach a wider audience in their gender “nom de plume”

    Great work, and hope you continue your audience base if not increase it.

    ;)

  288. Thank you, James.

  289. impressive … sad, too … talk about getting the job done … your daughters are lucky girls

  290. I can’t say I’m that surprised given how effective you were. It’s sad women still have to find alternative ways to market to get the same attention as men. Way to go on being creative and putting out great work! It’s the quality of your work that counts in the end…if you satisfy your customers then who cares if you are a man, woman, or elephant. :-)

  291. Really wanted to believe this wasn’t still happening in the US as it is in other parts of the world!

  292. Wait; is James actually an *elephant* ? That tears it; I’m not reading (Wo)Men with Pens anymore.

    It’s late. I have a fever. Eleven other excuses for goofy attempts at humour.

    This has been, continues to be, an educational series of comments. I understand the few who are bothered. I also see clearly that deception without bad intent isn’t so ‘black and white’ wrong.

    Re: the questions about James’ writing changing because of the name and persona: it’s a valid question; I don’t think it’s necessarily so. And although it might have been an opportunity for some role-playing and learning, that wasn’t the point and doesn’t have to be.

    James wasn’t trying to understand what it’s like to write as a man, because she didn’t write as a man, she wrote as herself.

  293. Holy crap! What a bunch of bullshit for you! Man (woman), that totally sucks. But here’s to the continued ability to get what we deserve, even if we still have to sneak it out the back door. And I’m totally creating a male alter-ego tomorrow. Who is gay.

  294. Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha. It is quite possible to write empathetically, and truthfully, while not exactly being a geisha, or Japanese. Just saying.

  295. James,

    I figured it out about a year and a half ago — that you were a woman. I had no idea why you were posing as a man, but I felt that it was your personal business. I didn’t want to intrude and I didn’t want to ask you about it because I figured you had a good reason. But damn, I was SO curious!

    Of course, I had my theories. Maybe it was easier to earn more income as a man. Maybe you were in hiding to protect your safety. Maybe you planned to write a tell-all book about what it was like posing as a man in business on the Web (there’s an idea!).

    I do remember feeling a little bit betrayed, as a woman, thinking: haven’t women before us fought tooth and nail so that we could own property, vote, and run our own businesses? So why was this James-woman posing as a man, throwing all away all those rights that we women fought so hard for?

    My sense of betrayal was always quickly replaced with curiosity. I wondered, “Is she finding it easier to succeed as a man?” As a businesswoman, I’m well aware of gender discrimination online or off, so my sense of betrayal shifted into hope — hope that eventually you would “come out” and share your story. I’m glad you did.

    Now go write a memoir and tell us the WHOLE story!

  296. I’m tempted to try this out to see if it would improve my job offers. One question… how did you get paid? Didn’t you have to provide your real name so your clients could send you a check? This is the only thing that has stopped me so far from writing under a fake name. I like the idea of being a guy for a while. — Did you ever have to talk to people on the phone?

  297. Hmm. I have subscribed to several writing blogs, but never bothered to look at Men With Pens specifically because it seemed to exclude me, as a woman. I figured that a blog with a name like that would discount the experiences of women. It is not surprising that a woman might use a male pseudonym. But I’m not comfortable with a woman writing for a site that specifically indicates (through its name) that it promotes a male perspective.

  298. Okay…so how do we go about nominating your post for a Pulitzer? Seriously!

    Great read!
    Great story!
    Great writing!

    Makes me proud to be a writer…and a woman!

  299. I’m reading all these comments and come away with an overwhelming sense the majority of James’ fans support her. As do I. Her story is compelling, her reasons the most fundamental of all, survival in a competitive world and protection of her children. We forgive many sins in the name of protection of ones family. But where is the sin? Whether by accident or intention Men with Pens is a phenomenon lead by ‘James’.

    No one was harmed. A few feelings may have been hurt but the product, the services remain the same. I fortunately knew of the alias more than a year ago because I wanted James to teach branding and copywriting at Solo Practice University. http://solopracticeuniversity.com/faculty/james-chartrand And she is educating lawyers on the importance of both.

    She has been an incredible success not because she was a woman in sheep’s clothing…but because she is just a brilliant and talented lady. The only difference – people thought she was a man and paid her more because of it.

    And her branding of James Chartrand is no more deceiving than any other anonymous blogger who builds up a huge following. The anonymity allows projection of fantasy on who that person could be. That we all fantasized about ‘James’ as a living breathing male was harmless. The idea of complete and utter transparency in social media is a farce. How many truly bare all on the internet? I know too many people with great reputations who cannot afford to ‘bare all’ on the internet or truly lose their credibility.

    What’s going on here is the idea that some people have to face which is women are still held back in big and small ways professionally. Those women who haven’t felt it don’t get it. Those women who have suffered and prevailed maybe want all women to suffer and prevail, no short cuts. That’s a personal choice and the choice is made based upon our own individual circumstances. Judgments come easy.

    When I was little I lived near a country club and wanted to be a caddy. I went as myself and was told girls can’t be caddies. I came back the next day dressed as a boy and got the job. Life’s lessons started early.

    No excuses, no apologies. You’re freakin’ awesome. This is the way life played out. No damage or harm to anyone. Just a copywriter who will be even more in demand for showing just how powerful branding and image building can be…even if it initially started based upon survival.

  300. Call me suspicious, but I want to know how you dealt with:
    1) phone calls with clients;
    2) corporate recordkeeping–surely you had to submit your real name & Social Security # for clients’ 1099 forms;
    3) paychecks made out to James Chartrand.

  301. I don’t see how anyone could get upset at “James” over this. I think the people who would get irate about this would be the same people who root against Dustin Hoffman in “Tootsie”.

  302. James,

    Considering the treatment of women on the web, (Kathy Sierra ring an unpleasant bell?) it’s understandable why you chose a male pseudonym. Add to that the demonstrable discrimination you’ve documented here, and all I can say is “post-feminist America, my lily-white tuchas!”

    All the best to you.

    No, I’m not a writer, no, I have never heard of you before today–you’ve shown up on several sources, though. But I sympathize witcha, I truly do.

  303. @kelly I am not angry, but personally, I would never work with a service provider who preaches transparency but evades that rule herself. This has nothing to do with male versus female, it has to do with trust.
    How can we believe any of this story? OK, so James is a woman. But was she really desperately improverished – or was she simply not earning as much as she felt she should? Was someone really going to out her? Or was there a television or other opportunity that required her to show her face at this particular time?
    I don’t know that any of this matters, but my point is that I don’t read bloggers lightly. Over time, as I read, I put my trust in bloggers, especially those who preach transparency. It is hard for me to regain that trust when I learn it was a fraud. That’s what it comes down to for me: trust.

  304. James, having read almost every comment above, I believe almost everything has already been said. However, I couldn’t let this opportunity pass by without pausing to say: “I’m sorry”.

    I sort of hoped that our society had progressed beyond all of that B.S., but apparently it hasn’t. Thanks for sharing such an amazing and heartfelt story.

    Normally, I am the guy that just browses headlines, and then skims content. This is the first blog post I have been so deeply drawn into in quite some time. You can now count me as one of your faithful followers.
    Sincerely,
    Mike

  305. Thank you so much for sharing your story, James. No judgment here — you did what you had to do. I’m just saddened by the fact that the world is like this online and offline.

  306. @Susan Three cheers! You summed it up very nicely, indeed.

  307. @ Tia – “If you had to start over, would you do it again?”

    If I had to, yes.

    @ Jeffrey – There’s a link to the same story on my site at Men with Pens, so yes, people who do visit the About page have the opportunity to read it.

    @ Susan – Thank you. That is all. :)

    As for Men with Pens, nothing changes. Not the name, not James. Life goes on, yes? We *are* having an upcoming redesign to add a bit more color and get rid of the dark alleys and yes, include more women, but we already had that in the plans months ago and were launching it regardless of the ‘reveal’.

    In regards to my writing, I certainly see no reason for the style to change. It IS my style, after all!

  308. I’m not a copywriter, as my horrible grammar and wanton abuse of the common comma (thank you Terry Pratchett) probably betrays.

    I started blogging fairly recently, and freelancing. I read this, and other, blog(s) to get better at those things that come with my vocation I’m not yet good (enough) at. Like copy writing.

    So I have no history here, nor any trust to betray.

    Still, all I can say is that as far back as ’92 I argued that on-line persona and offline person should be seen as separate.

    I’ve met people offline with whom I could do nothing but argue online, and had a pleasant time. Vice versa too, alas.

    So, the name is “Men with pens”. Big deal. “History of the World pt. 1″ has no pt. 2 either. (If I’m wrong, tell me. I’m trying to date a girl who loves that sort of silly stuff.)

    I propose a rename: Writers with Pens. Then add a “There’s no ‘i’ in there.” byline.

    Everybody happy.

    Well, maybe not everybody.

    Me, I couldn’t care less. I just enjoy the posts.

    Greetz.
    DD.

  309. @Lisa Reeve. An attempt at humor, I hope. You only read other women? I’m a guy and read more women bloggers than men – mostly because I read more personal blogs than professional…
    with that said, you need to broaden your outlook!

  310. Wow, wow, wow! I’m in complete and utter shock, lol.

    I’m sad that the world is still so sexist that you did so much better for yourself – earning the living that you deserve – with a male pen name than with your own. This is almost 2010, after all.

    I’m also sad that someone decided to out you.

    But your post shows what a brave person you are. It must have taken guts to put this all out there! And I must say, it’s a very well written post, to boot.

    I still think you’re awesome, regardless of your gender. I’m still in shock that you’re not a guy, LOL, but you’re a great writer, and that’s all that counts!

    Rock on! :)

  311. corporate recordkeeping–surely you had to submit your real name & Social Security # for clients’ 1099 forms; paychecks made out to James Chartrand.

    I’m a bit surprised at how many times this has come up. I thought it was common knowledge that smart small businesses, solo professionals, and freelancers protect themselves with an LLC or S corporation, which makes these “identity” issues moot.

    No offense, but I hope these comments are coming from people with jobs. I’d hate to think so many people working for themselves don’t know about these things.

  312. Excellent post! Heck – that was probably one of the most interesting blog posts I’ve read all year…and I read. Lot of blogs!!

    You have had an amazing journey and deserve the success you have found. It is too bad that ewn in 2009 sexism is still alive and kicking! This should be a reminder to us all that we have to work together to make the world a better place and treating all people equally is where we need to start!

  313. This is a great success story. I’m sure gender played (plays) a huge role here and in similar situations, but I suspect the fact that you picked a sturdy anglonym helps a lot. If you’d picked, say, Surender Vnushchenko, it would be more difficult to appeal to the prejudiced.

  314. I think you are amazing. Without a doubt. Stay strong, be who you are. *Props* to you James!

  315. @ Carolyn – I want to address some questions you asked:

    Does being a mom on welfare justify welfare fraud? What about lying about resume credentials to get a job? There was an easy solution here — James could have blogged anonymously or done what JK Rowling did and been gender-ambiguous. S/he chose to go all out and pose as a male while preaching the importance of transparency.

    1. I have never committed welfare fraud or signed a false name on any contract. I’m not sure where you got the idea I was a criminal.

    2. I have never lied about my resume credentials to get a job. I listed my skills and qualifications – a name makes those different somehow?

    3. I have never preached exposing a personal life on a blog. I say to be personable, yes, but I have never told anyone (that I can remember) that full out private life exposure is a must.

  316. Hi James,
    You’re terrific at what you do and I doubt the revelation bothered those of us who appreciate good writing. Whether or not a writer uses a pen or a real name often matters more to a publisher than a reader. You are not the first and won’t be the last to have such a pseudonym – I do hope others remember this fact and cheer you on. Frankly, I loved the sincerity of this post and thoroughly enjoyed your Evergreen piece which I referenced in my recent blog post. Kudos and Keep up the brilliant work!
    Have a Happy Holidays!
    Cheers, ;-)
    Eliz

  317. Tracy (aka spiritwolf32) :

    Ok, after the five minute shock wore off. This is what I have to say.

    I am honored to say that James is a friend of mine from online. And honestly, I think this required a lot of guts and hear to do.

    So what if he turned out to be a she. The person I chat with daily is still the same person I;ve chatted with for the past several months(more so in the last couple months) and just because the gender changed doesn’t mean I am going to change my mind about being a friend.

    I think James had to do what (s)he had to for family. I can definitely understand that.

    It’s bad when women don’t get the same respect as a man and to have to resort to using a pen name of a man just to get the work that she should have been able to get on skill alone is ridiculous.

    This only makes me want to fight harder for what I want and hopefully things will get to where women get the same respect and notice for their work as men do.

  318. @ Brian, I notice with those comments also, with a lot of them they seem to be assuming that James is american. As we readers of his blog all know, he’s proudly Canadian.

    So the use of 1099 forms and social security numbers is a moot point.

  319. On why you never hear the phrase “working Dad” –

    As a woman living in the South, I have had to face gender bias all my life. All around me are men who expect their wives (who have full time jobs) to do all of the cooking, cleaning and taking care of the kids. So, of course, I was not surprised to hear that this sort of gender bias is still taking place in the working world.

    However, that does not mean that I am not simply furious that this is something that still goes on in the work place.

    Sadly, there is a current debate going on in our local newspaper’s forum on how people should have the right to deny jobs to those who have tattoos.

    I have both tattoos and breasts. I guess I’m fucked.

  320. It’s the PayPal age and anyone can use any account for payment. If the majority of James’ clients pay via PayPal they can send it to a James Chartrand/Men With Pens email address. (Which is how I paid her when she blogged with me.) Anyone who pays using PayPal doesn’t need to know the recipient’s real name and has no access to his or her bank account.

  321. I did not mean to imply that you personally had committed fraud. My quote was a hypothetical in response to a comment that suggested that lying about gender is justified if you need to feed your kids. I asked hypothetically, whether welfare fraud or other illegal conduct would also be justified to feed kids, and where we should draw the line.
    As for not exposing a personal life, that is fine. But you didn’t just not expose your personal life, you intentionally created a false personal life. If you had just blogged anonymously and not shared details about your personal life, I would not regard this as deceitful. When someone is anonymous, we are sent a message that they are trying to conceal something. Anonymity puts us on guard not to trust 100 percent and so we don’t feel betrayed to learn the identity.
    What you did is to intentionally create a false persona to build credibility. You shared personal information, but it was false. You said you were a dad in several posts, you called your site Men With Pens (and I think described yourselves as a bunch of men) and you gave those details because you knew as a copywriter that they would enhance your credibility.
    Apparently, I am in the minority here so I won’t argue anymore. But I take this seriously because I for one really believed in blogging as a tool to build trust. I know that this charade didn’t harm anyone individually, but I will never be able to read blogs by marketers without checking their credentials and frankly, looking for a photo. And that’s a shame.

  322. Carolyn: I do hear what you’re saying, as honesty and integrity are non-negotiable traits with me. Yet I don’t feel betrayed by James in any way whatsoever, even though I’ve been reading her content and exchanging emails with her for over a year now.

    You are asking why people should take her at face value after she’s admitted to using a pen name. I ask you, why shouldn’t they? Does Men with Pens deliver value with every post? Yes. Has that somehow changed with the revelation of a pen name? Not at all.

    James is a great writer and a wonderful teacher. None of that has altered in the last 24 hours. Those people helped by Men with Pens yesterday will be helped by them tomorrow. Happy clients will remain happy clients.

    I understand feeling shock, or even betrayal, but to attack the core of her character seems… unseemly… holier than thou even.

    In reading your words I’m feeling that you would leave no exit for James. No matter how much dignity she handled herself with, she would have been wrong for ever doing it at all. Don’t you notice the piercing silence in regard to anything ill said about her character outside this incident?

    If her one transgression is using a pen name to feed her children in an anguished act of self-preservation, which hurt no one and breached no decisive ethical boundaries… well, that’s just the sort of outlaw I want on my side.

  323. What a great article! I’m glad she was creative enough to make a living for herself and family.

  324. Fem with Pens, eh.

    They outed your gender but not your real name? Sounds like you’re lucky.

    I wanted to use an online identity, but the world’s so small and at the end of the day, it seemed like too much work to keep straight. It also seemed easier to build trust and partnerships just by being me.

    I’m glad that you were able to turn around your life, get your success, and make your life happen on your terms.

  325. Carolyn: James didn’t create a false personal life for himself. In all the time I’ve been reading, I think she referred to liking American Eagle Outfitters one time and going shopping with her daughters. That’s about as personal as it got. James always painted in broad strokes, and with reason.

    Let me ask you this Carolyn, Stephen King wrote under Richard Bachman because he could only put out so much material in a year, at least back in the day. King even gave Bachman cancer, I assume just for grins. Would you feel betrayed as a reader? I know I didn’t.

    Yes, blogs are about building trust. And I imagine that, at least in the overwhelming majority, the audience still trusts James. If he has helped them to grow their business, and he is always putting his audience first, then that advice is trustworthy.

    A breach in audience trust would be leading them down the wrong path to butter her own bread. There’s nothing even close to that here.

  326. @Kathleen K. O’Connor – I was thinking of posts like this one:

    http://www.copyblogger.com/the-secret-of-life/

    …which is extremely personal. Not all of them have to be, for sure, but if you have a fake persona then it’s hard to have any.

    I find the linked-to post about mommy bloggers hilarious – James complains that men are treated as second-class citizens at mommy blogs, but evidently women are treated as second class citizens as writers. I guess you really can’t have your cake…

  327. Hi “James”,
    Congratulations for prevailing and for sharing your story. It would be great if this story could be reprinted in men magazines, the New York Times, etc., to hopefully help men wake up from the stupor you described.

    Reggie

  328. I am stunned and more than a little depressed by your story. I don’t know what more to say than, ‘that sucks’. You should be so proud of what you’ve achieved for yourself and your children. I applaud you.

  329. Bryan Aucremanne :

    James,
    The old saying “Alls fair in love & war” definitely applies when you’re responsible for two little ones!The earlier comments about talent,personality,and chutzpah;personally,I could give a rat’s *ss what anyone else thinks:when I hit the “Big Time”,you’re hired & I hate phones too!

  330. Reading this post and these comments puts things in a whole new perspective for me.

    It makes me wonder: how many other of the vistors here are also not who they say they are?

    That’s the way the ball bounces in Blogo-Land, when mostly written communication is used. Much of the intended message is often lost.

  331. I know that the blog delivers value. And I respect that James came clean and of course, I don’t think anyone should be penalized for an error of judgment. At the same time, I’m a lawyer. My reputation doesn’t just matter, it is my livelihood. If I am dishonest about anything at any of my blogs, I can lose my license to practice or tarnish my reputation. Perhaps things are different in the marketing world, but as a lawyer, I simply could not take a chance on using a company or a service provider which engaged in dishonest conduct. Too many lawyers have been lead astray by sham marketers already.

  332. You had to do what you had to do, you’re a good writer I like reading your articles. man or woman ^_^ so even though the skeleton has come out of the closet…nothing really changes

  333. Thank you James. The world is a better place because of you:
    -because you courageously chose to write under a male pen name so that you could bless the world with your talent and teach your daughters that who you are is more important than how you are labeled.
    -because your character is transparent. You do write with integrity and courage. James is just a name and father is another word for parent. And to say that James is not being honest when using these labels is to perpetuate the discrimination that made these acts necessary.

    To the Person who outed James:
    Thank You. I’m sure it was not your intention to influence such positive change in the world but you did. This may be just one corner of the universe but I truly believe in the Butterfly Effect. People’s eyes (men and women alike) have been opened to their own prejudices. People have been encouraged and given hope – as the commercial says, “Priceless.”

  334. I have been a subscriber for some time but never got round to posting a comment. However, I feel inspired to by your post. I admire you for your courage in stepping forward to reveal what your name really is. A name is simply a label. Whether or not there has been a previous intention to deceive, it is not important because that is all in the past. Guilt is also unnecessary because back then, you have survival needs to consider.

  335. WOW, I never saw this coming. James/Jamie, I am shocked that “becoming” a man had such a profound effect on your freelance results. I have always thought of publishing and writing as quite gender neutral and I wonder if your subject area is key here. Because when I think about it, marketing is seen by some as a man’s game.

    As a copy writer/editor/consultant and work-at-home mum I have also been discriminated against. I had one regular client give a big consulting job to a fancy officed marketing guy in a sleek suit rather than me, his die-hard, right hand who had helped him build his business for two years. The ultimate insult was the guy gave my client similar advice I had given him at the very beginning of our relationship and which he had steadfastly ignored. Now he was all enthused at these so-called innovative ideas. I was furious and slowly phased out his business, putting it down to the client being a jerk. But maybe this happens more than I thought. Maybe business/marketing and even online writing is still thought of as a male domain.

    Either way, kudos to you for being so ballsy. I can’t believe someone was going to expose you, but who cares, you’re still James from MEN WITH PENS. You still kick ass and I agree that you should milk this with traditional media for all it’s worth.

    Kelly

  336. It’s been really interesting to see the emotions and the reactions everyone is expressing in the comments. I went through them myself a couple years ago, when I had the rare occasion to be one of the few people to talk with James on the phone.

    I called and a woman’s (distinctly Canadian and actually kind of sexy) voice answered the phone. I said, “Hi, is James there?”

    “Yes,” she said, a little too brightly, after which there was an unusually long pause.

    “Um… can you get him for me?” I asked, finally.

    “This is James,” she said. “I’m James Chartrand.”

    A couple seconds passed as it sunk in.

    “HOLY SHIT!” I yelled. “Oh, my God!”

    And then I laughed. The whole thing was just so perfect, so good, that as it continued to sink in, all I could do was laugh.

    The queasiness, the need for it, the imagined future unintended consequences of it all washed through me. But most of all I was happy for James. I didn’t feel betrayed at all, or that James had been dishonest at all.

    James is a thousand times more honest than 99% of the people who use their real names on the internet but lie about who they are in every other way. And I feel that James has been honest with us from the start in the ways that mattered most.

    I’ve always been proud to have her as a friend, and I’ve always been happy for her success. I knew this day would come, and my only regret is that I missed it because I was so busy today that I was hardly online at all.

    James, way to go, “dude.” You rock.

  337. I totally agree with you a pseudonym places people in so many different catagories I use the name mdbobbo and in the early days of getting friends on instant messengers I used to get asked a lot “Are you doctor?” Go figure huh some girl out there looking for a doctor and finding me.
    A long story the short version is.. It’s mad dog bobbo because of things I made computers to do at 286 level that I shouldn’t really be able to do. sorry girls no MD salary here better just look elsewhere [=^_~=]

  338. Congratulations on your writing, on your courage, and on making a good life for your family. You are inspiring, and even more so for overcoming and revealing (yet again) the pervasive gender bias so many would like to say no longer exists in our so-called modern culture.

    I hope you and your family, continue to thrive, and that your story goes mainstream, in the hope that at least a few more men (and women) will begin to reflect upon and perhaps change any bias they find within themselves.

  339. As a wildly satisfied client and enjoyer of all your writing/tweets/banter, I say Hallelujah.

    Now I get to know even more of you.

    What a freaking fascinating story. And brave thing you did for yourself and your kids. As much as I am trying to hold back, the marketer in me says: WRITE THE DAMN BOOK! I am hanging on every word of your story, and it would help so many people.

    But I digress. This is your life, and do what feels right.

    Most importantly, welcome home. :)

  340. Learning that someone had to pretend to be a man in order to earn a decent living doesn’t make me proud to be a woman. It makes me disgusted that, more than 150 years after the deaths of Ellis, Currer and Acton Bell (aka the Brontë sisters), our society is still so blatantly prejudiced.

  341. I’m not surprised because until today I didn’t know James or Men with Pens. Nada. I’m sorry you had to resort to being a male to get your work accepted. I am however, very impressed with your tenacity and willingness to stick with it until it really paid.

    Something we all can take a lesson from. I am still baffled that this has happened but I am happy I read your post. I now have a new resource to help with the wordsmithing.

  342. Hi James.

    I am Virginia, 12 years old.

    This story is amazing! My mum, who comes here everyday, told me to read it and boy, am I glad I did!

    My family is small, just mum and I and she is just trying to break into the writing world. Your story is so inspirational and I really hope that one day we can be just like you. I want to be a author or journalist when I grow up and start off my career. I can only hope by then that females will be accepted just as equally as men.

    Well done! I aspire to be just like you!

  343. ‘James’ I felt sad that you had to chose the path you did but really and truly happy that you negotiated your way through those difficult waters to provide such a fantastic support for your family.

    I really believe, as a single-parent, that we will do anything to provide whatever we can for our kids.

    Your tale is liberating.

    Sue

  344. James, thanks for coming out through such an eloquent post. This is my first visit to the site, brought here by a link to this post, and found it riveting. Women do not just experience this in writing jobs, but in almost every aspect of our lives — it’s just that it’s hard to present the evidence like you do here. And the media rarely covers it when the evidence is there anyway. I always feel so much pressure to keep quiet about the double standards I experience and witness that you describe here – the difference in respect, pay, everything. The pressure to keep quiet about it comes from women almost as much as men — as if talking about it brings about a curse of some sort. Makes it real. Or puts their relationships with men in jeopardy. Or puts their denial about sexism in jeopardy, which makes living with sexism and men a lot more difficult. But talking about it is the way to change it, the key to organizing against it. Yes, the media will label us whiners, man-haters, losers looking for excuses. That’s because they like the way things are. They don’t want to pay us as much, treat us or see us as equals, give our issues and accomplishments as much attention, because that, they think, means less for them. I personally think a more just world means more for everyone, but they will perhaps only understand that when they are forced to experience it. (If they are forced — it won’t happen if we keep stomping on each other and telling each other not to complain about the problem). I do want to tell you James/Jamie — and others who wrote such great comments here — about a great movie I am sure you will enjoy — The Associate, starring Whoopi Goldberg. Very ver relevant to what you experienced. Except it takes place on Wall Street. Carolyn, you see it too, it’s a comedy, it will help you lighten up for a little while. Also, Carolyn, it is a good idea to always, always take what people say with a grain of salt. Always, always. People never ever tell a hundred percent of the truth when they talk, even when they try. I expected to get mad at James’s post on the mommy bloggers, but I liked it — She was truthful in essence, not about the detail of being a mom vs dad, but in her argument and perspective. It was an honest communication. A lot of people are honest in the detail –“I’m a dad” — but argue something they don’t really feel or think because they are manipulating others with an argument for an outcome.

  345. I always think that gender is not a problem anymore until i read this story. It seems that gender is still a problem.

  346. I joined the Men with Pens blog the other day, and I’m just getting to know you — so it’s all good.

    I find it interesting that numerous people have said things like how it makes so much more sense now, and how now that they know your stuff was written by a woman, that it’s even better, blah, blah, blah. This seems in its own right, a bit of that discriminatory thinking that started all this. How deeply it’s embedded. Good writing is good writing. Seem slike it shouldn’t matter if it’s written by a woman or a man.

    Some mentioned, too, a guy might not write the Winnie the Pooh Guide to Blogging. …but he might. Me, I’d go with Tigger in a heartbeat–if I’d thought of it first. Screw the stereotype junk. I like the playful side of a Tigger Guide better than the idea of a Rambo or Rocky’s Guide… unless we’re talking, “and Bullwinkle,” that is. And #!@#!$, I’m 100% stud(muffin). ;-)

    Thinking on it, Stallone’s Rocky could easily be related to never, never, never, never, never, never, never… never, never, never giving up. That’s a definite need, to succeed.

    You’ve blessed a lot of people here by not giving up. Thanks for that.

    Strive on, Ms. Chartrand.

  347. It really is staggering to hear how much gender prejudice still exists. I am a chartered accountant with an honours degree in economics and I trained with one of the “big” firms, Deloitte Touche.

    I spent some years in Saudi Arabia where I worked illegally because I was a woman. I had to have a cubby hole in my office in which to hide should the religious police come round. Discovery would have meant having my hair shaved off and being splashed with black ink. I accepted that as it was par for the course in Saudi Arabia.

    However, when I moved back to the UK I thought the playing field would be level; after all, I was back in the land of intellectual reason. My first job back, one of my duties was to visit regional offices and give a monthly report. At the first meeting I was introduced by the regional manager who said, “Although we don’t have a proper accountant here today, we are still glad that F. could make it instead.” My predecessor had exactly the same qualifications and had trained with the same firm.

    Later on when applying for a new job, I went through a series of three interviews for a particular position only to be told by the Chairman (when I was the only surviving candidate at the third level) that he couldn’t possibly employ me because he wouldn’t know whether to stand up or not when I entered the room.

    In a later job when I was a director and expected to attend directors’ power breakfasts, I found I was the only woman there and the men (about 50 of them) circled round me leaving an empty space of about five feet because they felt so uncomfortable about my presence. I could have been a different species not just a different gender.

    I am sure that many women have similar stories to tell about those times. That was twenty years ago – a whole generation. Moreover, business was always considered something of a male bastion and a slower adjustment in male behaviour was to be expected.

    James’s experience is disappointing if not bizarre. Writing is the one field where women were able to prove themselves equal to men in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, even before improvements in women’s education and the invention of effective birth control made a professional life more attainable.

    The most disheartening apect of James’s story is not that she took a man’s name or that she has been outed but that it was necessary for her to masquerade as a man in the first place.

    Come on guys, cast this dinosaur of gender prejudice into the extinction it deserves.

  348. Dear, you are really a hard working women.

    Really Impressed.. Keep smiling

  349. I am surprised by the difference it has made to change your name into something masculine. I am wondering, did people really react differently, or was it a matter of self confidence and the possibility to really focus on writing.

  350. Blimey, a bit of drama or what?!

    Inspiring story though, and regardless of how you did it, or what implications this has on gender issues in society (It could be debated forever), the fact is you did it. you made it work yourself in a way that you were happy to do.

    I’m guessing being outed at this stage is only going to send your popularity through the roof.

    good stuff. :-)

  351. I cannot begin to tell you how upset I am that this is still true. We like to believe the culture has made strides, I’d like to believe that this story is exaggerated. But it does sound completely believable. How do we fight that type of descrimination? It may be people are not even aware they are doing it, but yet it IS happening. So, do we all try to build our businesses under a male name?

  352. Hear is a fun antidote for all you youngsters about gender discrimination. The problems that Flyss had twenty years ago would have been in the 1980’s. About that time I was having a conversation with a very old gal who had known my dad as one of the gang at the Starlight Ball Room in NYC. She always dragged out the Board of Directors crown from Standard Old to party as did my dad drag out the DuPont brothers and others from that company.

    She told me the story of her life, starting as a typist. This grew into being a secretary. When she told me this she laughed. She said, today’s women would get all upset with those terms and she thought that was hilarious, and tellingly sad. She had a short leg, if think it was her left side. She wore a lift show of about two and half inches or a bit more. It always went clump, clump when she walked. She was not very gamely in her movements and I wondered aloud to her as to how it was she could do ball room dancing, or enjoy it, or that anyone would enjoy her. She laughed. She had a rather raucous personality to go with her ugly looks, well at least plain looks. She wasn’t tall. She wasn’t athletic. She wasn’t at all attractive in any way, except for her temperament, which dad always said was at the very least an easy ribald wit. Today you would probably call it risqué to be polite. She never married or really every had a boy friend except my dad as a favorite partner who understood her and to dance with. She wasn’t a lesbian and was probably unrequited in love. So far as my dad knew she never had a lover.

    It was her laugh that answered my question. If you were not comfortable with her she would cuss you out. Like the Queen of England she called a fart a fart, in public. Smart gal. I liked her. So did her boss who made her Executive Secretary of the Standard Oil Company just as it was taking off to become huge during and after the war and ran the world. He had to play boss and didn’t have time to runt the company so he asked her to do it.

    After things settled down a bit she asked to design the HR department. She knew that would be the make or break part of the company, if it was to continue to the successful path it was on. She picked everyone that made the company, mostly men.

    Then she told me a very sad thing. She said that women were going to get into the business of HR and that would be the ruination of everything. She said, “Today’s women just don’t get it! They will ruin the work place. Our generation fit in with the guys. We didn’t think we were their bosses.” I asked what went wrong. I never really got an answer. I don’t think she knew, but she did comment about what I will summarize as being the power of sex that women had not learned to be honorable about.

    My point is that this gal ran the growing wealth of the world before Wall Street and Saudi Arabia or London became what they have become. Hell, she set it up.

    Recognize that Standard Oil after WW II held the keys of the world’s energy in the palm of its hand. She knew the Saudis. She knew the Russians. She knew the Brits, the Pentagon and DC. She knew the so-called Big Game, just as it is called now. Their games were the world that she, and the guys she ran with, cunningly trumped.

    She talked to me about the cycle of reformation, which all religions have to undergo and viewed the upcoming Islamic cycle just as did the Soviets who so inform me of the same issue when I studied briefly at Moscow State University. She saw what was coming.

    She saw with disparagement the foolishness that would arise around and from feminism and its pry bar of gender discrimination and all the rest of it … all the discrimination-isms. She wasn’t sad about it. She was angry at all the young females and everyone else’s overwrought sensitivity of the day (1970-80’s). Makes me wonder. What went wrong? Today she might see just how special we all feel about ourselves … how we all have been taught to think we are special … clump, clump, clump.

    Respectfully yours,
    @the_IRF

  353. It sounds real.

  354. As a woman, I know there’s a great deal of prejudice towards us. Still, it shocks me that it affected your writing career to such a degree. It seems so…illogical.

    Never the less, this may be the best tip ever. I plan to conduct my own experiment with a new blog under a male pseudonym.

    Here’s to your continued success!

  355. Well crap. Just when you think the world has changed…it really hasn’t, has it?

    James, glad you told your story. What this says to me more than anything is the ‘world of transparency & authenticity’ is, perhaps, a complete farce. And maybe it’s time more folks concentrate, like Amber said, on results vs. the who & the what.

    I have been so staunch in my beliefs about ghost blogging (wrong), ghost tweeting (wrong), agencies acting as a voice on behalf of clients in the interwebs (wrong) that maybe the fact is I was the one that has been wrong… it’s back to business as usual. Is that a good thing? Have you unwrapped the ‘social media purist’ blanket for good James? ;-)

    Best of luck…you ROCK!

    Beth Harte

  356. Like some of the others who have commented, I’m furious, but also heartbroken and not at you, James, but at a society that proves, once again, that it’s more backwards than forwards.

    For YEARS I’ve struggled to build a business believing that integrity and my own personality would win through, it would speak for itself. Part of me is tearing up at the idea that if I’d been smart enough to consider using an alias instead of my real name it might not have been so hard a trudge. I never considered the impact my being a woman might have on my potential for success.

    This is supposed to be an equal opportunity society and while, as a single mother I’m very conscious of the inequality in other ways, I thought, as a freelancer there was SOMETHING in my life where my being female wasn’t holding me back. I took pride in being a gamer girl, being a rare female computer geek. Being a woman was a gift in this industry, not a gauntlet. But maybe it IS a gauntlet. One I didn’t even realize I was running.

    Reading this I started thinking, really, really thinking about the names we put side by side with success. Particularly success in online industry. I’m listing them off in my head, MAN, MAN, MAN, MAN. Where are the women leaders of this industry?!?!? Is our gender the reason we can’t make it to the top?

    Mary McRae said, “I would like to think that it’s not a true story; just a great piece of writing. I would like to think that the days of gender discrimination are far behind us. But that’s not the reality. Discrimination still exists. It’s just much more subtle.”

    A large part of my heart WISHES the ‘story’ James tells were just a publicity stunt. It’s rocked that glass ceiling and as a publicity stunt it would be AWESOME. But, there is too much truth in it for the message to be falsified. Women writers have confirmed the scrutiny they receive because of their gender. It really is true that females are seen as LESS, and it’s so unconscious and ingrained that we don’t even realize we do it to ourselves.

  357. Holy snap! Your revelation was all at once sad and inspirational. Sad not because you are a woman, but sad because I can only imagine what one would to do feed one’s daughters. Do what you’ve got to do, girl! Oops, I mean James.

  358. It’s a fascinating story, and reading the comments here equally so.

    There’s one thing I’m curious about – why push it beyond the name to an entire brand around Men With Pens? (a wicked sense of humour perhaps…?)

    The other question in my mind – partly following on from the comments and conversation here – is the extent to which blogging is (or isn’t) different to writing.

    Blogging isn’t just the copy, it’s also the comments, conversations and exchanges (on other places too, like twitter) – we like to think we ‘know’ people through this medium, but how much is that the case? which bits are the bits that ‘really’ matter? which bits might make people feel upset or cheated if they find out later that someone isn’t the person they thought they were?

    Or should we get used to the idea that everything we share online is – to some extent or another – only one version of who we ‘really’ are?

  359. I’ve just sat and read and reread this post. I’m kind of dazed. I have occasionally wondered over the last three years if yours2share would have progressed further if I was Steve Garrett instead of Sophie Garrett, but you just don’t believe it can really make such a difference.

    I’m also bothered by the fact that we all (women too) must be discriminating subconsciously against women.

    It also makes me wonder how many more female “James” there are in this electronic world.

    As commented by others, you have a fantastic chance to get great exposure in the press, on TV, radio and with a book as this is a story that would generate a lot of interest.

    Whatever you do, very best wishes

  360. Back in the 70’s, I started my first business and was married. My wife worked for a bank and had health benefits. I didn’t. Then one day she told me that she had found out that the bank paid for the health benefits of the male employee’s wives but that they did not pay for the female employees’ spouses. I paid a visit to the bank president with my wife’s blessing. He was clueless and didn’t see my point of equal pay, opportunity, etc. In the end, we prevailed and my wife went on to a nice career at the same bank.

    I’ve fought the same fight many times since but I thought – I really hoped – that we had made progress and that a talent like James would never have to live this story.

    It seems like we have a long way to go yet. I am so happy that you were able to rise above it all, James, and make the life you want and deserve.

  361. First order of business — blog site to be renamed to “Men With Pens, and One With An Ink Well.”

    As the husband of a female network administrator, I’m very familiar with the perception that there are some things that the girls just can’t do. She rubs my nose in them every single day.

    So I’m not surprised to see that one of my favorite writers is actually male. Now if we can just get Naomi at IttyBiz to admit it, we can all move on.

  362. James,

    All gender issues aside, this is a nice piece of writing which will inspire me do better work today. Thanks.

  363. One of the beautiful things about the net is that it allows us to disguise ourselves by wearing a mask as to our true identities. We can be anyone we want to be. Who would know?
    The saddest thing that I got from your blog entry wasn’t the fact that you had to pretend you were a man in order to get the respect that you did for your excellent writing: it is the fact that you were “outed” by somebody with a grudge. Shame on her. Shame on her. Shame on her.

  364. Well, James, now that we know you’re a woman, we can no longer believe anything you write, trust anything you say, or make locker-room jokes in your blog comments.

    Just kidding! As a real man, I apologize on behalf of the rest of us. People should be judged by the content of their blog, not the name on the masthead.

  365. I just read Carolyn Elefant’s post on this and the (1) comment. While I vehemently disagree with her opinion and position on this, I think she does open the door for a deeper discussion on just what transparency means, and what it should mean in the blogosphere. I think this is an opportunity to dig down a little deeper than just James’ story (which I don’t want to minimize because I respect her). Let’s take this to the next level.

    So – Copyblogger writers I would love to see you write about this and get the discussion going!

  366. James,

    This is really a touching story about adapting to your environment and winning. yes, there is a cost, sometimes the hardest struggle in life is to be yourself.

    The “oh shit” comment had me rolling! Brilliant writing should be all that matters, but we all know there is more to this game than just the writing.

    We all like to pretend that that world is far different than it was fifty years ago, in terms of technology yes, the human condition, a resounding no.

    Basis is the elephant in the room, that people climb over and steadfast say it was not “there” as they sweep up the drooping. We still have avery long way to go.

    I read your post with a chuckle and a lot of ah ha’s and believe it or not I know how you feel, I had a ebay business for years I am was highly reluctant to let these brown body parts accidental getting the pictures.

    Okay that was a lie, I was anal about it, once I took several pictures and noticed my thumb was really well represented in all of the shots. I deleted all and reshot the group. Sad but true. I was even hesitant to put my picture on my blog, but of late I have developed a “fuck it” attitude.

    Nice to met you James!

  367. Women should aspire to higher things than passing as men. What a come-down. I am also shocked that so many writers condone this lie. Oh, well–knock yourselves out.

  368. The story and commentary inspired me to make it the subject of The Napkin Dad Daily blog today. http://napkindad.blogspot.com/2009/12/oh-what-tangled-web.html

  369. I haven’t had time to read the plethora of supportive comments, but I’m just blown away.

    Frankly, I’m both incredibly impressed and sick to my stomach over this.

    I completely understand your reasons for doing what you did and think it was a gutsy move. However, how pathetic is it that such rank sexism exists in these supposedly modern times? Incredibly pathetic. Horrifying, really.

    And, just out of curiosity, how did you avoid outing yourself when it came to payment? Did you use a trade name?

  370. WTG, sad story that “friend” sought to out you & effect your business and ultimately your family. Karma

    True today that with all the talk of equality this is still man vs. women in some cases .

    Similar to your story, female friend owns a Development Company with staff of grad degrees etc. She found, like you acquiring clients (bid winning) treatment within job to mirror your experience.

    What she did, hired a “corp looking dude” that just goes with her to in person meetings and sits there.

    What happened?
    You got it, more clients, less revisions more referrals…
    go figure

  371. I don’t believe rank sexism does exist. I ran into it when I had a “real” job in Washington, but only once in 28 yrs in this internet-based world…and that was in person, when a consultant told me I could not ask for more than $40 an hour because I was a woman working at home. I think those who bill themselves as Work at Home Moms may invite bad treatment. Don’t know. I was one, but never said that.

  372. Dick Carlson’s “Ink Well” comment for the win!

    And on a serious note, the more comments I read, the more I’m convinced that the discrimination that clearly still exists is mostly subconscious. People who *really believe* they value women equally still, when choosing between a woman and a man, tend to favor the man. And if you asked any one of them, they would be able to explain their reasons with all sincerity.

  373. I belonged to a political discussion group under my real name. Anything I shared was chalked up to my being a liberal on PMS. So, I decided to change my name, join a new political discussion group and see what happened. Suddenly, people were referring to me as an “attorney” suggesting others ask me what I knew about different subjects, etc.

    The difference was startling, amazing, and unexpected. I truly thought there was as much detracting from intelligent conversation in my mode of communication as there was in the male condescension I faced. Nope. As a man, my “mode of communication” was lauded, respected and sought out. Funny how that works.

    In the end, when I revealed my gender, the was some serious rage from a few of those I had ‘debated’–as if this somehow diminished the validity of the facts and information I shared. Truly funny in a not-so-amusing way.

    So, I get James’ story, I truly do, and I say more power to her! :)

  374. Who answered your phones?

  375. I second the “wow” you received, James. I kept thinking I was reading about a situation a women had to go through in the 50s or 60s to feed her children. But, I know it was more recent than that. So sad.

    I work really hard at being a social media strategist and apparently women are naturally good at social media as it is all about relationship building. We’ll see if that matters or if the stigma will continue in yet another medium.

    You are so brave to share your story. And, you are a great women writer — so proud to share a gender with you!

    All the best to you, Julia

  376. @chris, I realize it’s a huge number of comments to sort through, but that question was addressed a couple of times above. James didn’t work by phone, everything was done by email. Which, as she pointed out, had some advantages.

  377. Thought we might all need an uplifting thought after all this talk of discrimination and prejudice, both of which are basically conditioning, and will gradually fade away.

    But for now – what is supposed to be the backbone of the internet? Relationships. What are women good at? …

  378. And here I thought from the title you were just getting reassignment surgery or something, and wasn’t even shocked or bothered by that.

    It is disturbing to me that these kinds of prejudices still exist. Every time I think we’re finally evolving as a species, we hear of some major setback of human intelligence like this. (I am talking about the treatment you received as a woman vs. man, not in any way questioning your intelligence.)

    I enjoy your work and have learned much from you. It hadn’t really occurred to me to consider whether you had indoor or outdoor plumbing. Strange how people treat each other sometimes, and over the most innocuous things.

    Of course I am of the well-thought-out opinion that all babies should be named James, whether male or female. So you could simply make it official to help me sell that idea :-)

  379. Here’s one throughout the corporate world no one has mentioned: What about when we call a large company who has outsourced their call center and customer service to another country and the person answering the phone tells you their name is ‘Jim or Jane or Jackie’ when it is really a very long Indian or Phillipino name? The company is trying to overcome numerous obstacles, prejudice or pronunciation for customers so they can service them. NO one tells you with complete transparency when you buy the product, we outsource to other countries, these are the countries, we’ve trained the staff to change their names because we believe you are prejudiced.

    We,as customers, know the person 8,000 miles away isn’t John. Do we ask their real name, accuse them of lying and saying the company isn’t transparent. The company recognizes the prejudice and is finding a way to deal with it.

    Bloggers are transparent to the degree they need or feel comfortable with. There is no universal mandate. Customers or readers will accept them or not based upon their comfort level and their own research beyond the about page.

  380. I have to leave a comment again, I guess, to end comments being sent to my email. Bye.

  381. Good for you! It’s about the content, not about the name on the content.

    That said, it took real bravery to come out and say this. I’m proud of you for putting yourself out there, both in your writing and in this revelation. We shouldn’t still be shocked by your story — but clearly the world hasn’t yet caught up.

  382. I’m not passing judgement on anyone. But I’d like to ad these honest questions to the debate:

    What about the many women who’ve run succesful businesses using their real names?

    And would we all have the same supportive reaction, if it were a man posing as a woman?

  383. @Friar: Regarding your question about whether we’d be as supportive if it was a man using a female pen name, I think so. There are men in the publishing industry who write under female pen names because they’re writing romance, which is a pretty female-dominated genre. :-)

  384. Wow. This just blows my mind. Makes me want to start going by “Gene” rather than “Geni”. Really enjoy everything you do – and don’t care if you have three heads and a tail. Just keep sharing your insights with the world.

  385. Friar, if the story was just as compelling, the value we received with each and every post was there, if we understood there is all types of discrimination in this world and not everything is black and white? Absolutely.

  386. Dear James:

    Fascinating! Truly. I did not realize that issues like that still existed in this world. Maybe I am just naive. Maybe I don’t know how things work.

    Yet, I can still learn from your experience and see how it applies to me. It’s funny how one little thing can mean so much to people.

    I am currently seeking jobs as well, yet, I am having a tough time with that. It makes me think that there is something that I am not aware that that is keeping me from landing amazing opportunities that I deserve.

    Thank you for being so brave and sharing your story with the rest of the world. It only makes us become more aware of ourselves.

    Best of luck!

    Tomas

  387. Christopher Currie :

    What a lovely story! Well done.

    A friend recommended a book the other day, and later at a bookstore I walked right past it. It was by a woman. I assumed I would have no interest in it. I had to read a book by Margaret Atwood in high school once. I’d rather give myself a tracheotomy with a fountain pen than do that again.

    Funny thing is, my favourite bloggers are Kate McMillan and Kathy Shaidle (who linked to this post). Go figure.

  388. It just hit me – This is what Captain Kirk did on Star Trek in the Kobayashi Maru simulation. He wouldn’t accept a “no-win” scenario so he changed the rules.

    Live Long and Prosper Captain Chartrand.

  389. I know a few guys who write romance and actually being a man helped.

    -Sandra I was just watching the new Star Trek and grinning at the scene. Which you so adroitly illuminate, if you can’t win perhaps changing the rules is the only way to go.

    I am really amazed at how many people think these things do not exist. Gender basis, racial basis is alive and well in the world today. Sad but very true.

  390. @ Sandra

    That may be the most awesome thing I have EVER read. I totally second the motion.

    Live Long and Prosper, Captain Chartrand!

  391. I’ve heard people doing the reverse as well. Jamie Fox’s real name is Eric Bishop. From what I heard, he went under Jamie Fox because women were more likely to get called up on open mic nights than guys, and Jamie is gender neutral/leaning towards feminine.

  392. Thank you so much for posting this. This story seems to be getting the attention it deserves. Before yesterday, I had never heard of James Chartrand or Men With Pens. Now I’m a fan.

  393. IMHO, there is no fraud here. None. This person decided to keep gender OUT of the business relationship, as it should be. If adopting a pen name is the only way to do that, so be it.

    Frankly, if I’d thought to do it, I’d have separated my writing persona from my personal life ages ago. I would have registered my name as a gender-neutral business name with the state (oh wait – I did that), and I would have kept all mention of my real name off the Internet. There are crazy people out there – nut jobs looking for easy prey, clients who have obvious gender biases, obsessive clients who don’t understand boundaries….

    There is NO reason why assuming a pen name under ANY gender is fraudulent. James’s experience is the same, so what’s the difference exactly? Now if she embellished the resume and created an entire career that never existed, that would be bad. But that didn’t happen.

    What’s in a name? Apparently, a better career.

  394. Doesn’t anyone want to wonder what the reason is behind why there is all this discrimination that goes in all directions at once. It happens to everyone, male, female, whatever color or race, culture to culture. For thirty or forty years i have heard the exact same commentary about the fact of “its” existence. Yet no one every explores with genuine curiosity the ‘whys’ involved. Clearly there seems to be something deeply ingrained or encoded into our genetics. Decrying it forever does a disservice to all … and to the dynamic. Maybe there Are good reasons why it is as it is. Understanding is more important by far than distress. Judgment is a useless way to hoe the soil. It grow no beans.

    If you got paid for the insight(s), real and valuable insights, as to the why(s) girding this dynamic and its enduring pervasiveness, globally, what would you come up with? May i suggest you don’t make the human wrong for the way they are built. Look to see what the genetic imperatives are that formulated it to begin with.

    I wonder why it is that putting people at ease is the first and only rule of etiquette?

    Respectfully yours,
    the_IRF

  395. IRF, the intellectual and social worlds have been exploring IN DETAIL why all this happens for decades. Go into any bookstore or any of a million online blogs and you will find a plethora of insight into the reasons. You have been listening in all the wrong places and not investigating it yourself perhaps?

  396. IRF

    Here is an overly simplistic reason.Those in power, rarely if ever share it or relinquish it. Hence the reason we have wars. Nor does it go in all directions.

    On the more academic answer there are degrees based on this very issues and enough books to fill a good size library, some said you were not looking in the right places. I think that was kind, I do not think you were looking at all.

    The reasons of discrimination/ biased applications- are 1 religious views 2 ethic background 3 gender 4 age the other groups are so small it doesn’t really make for a lively conversation.

    I have been on copyblogger for a few weeks now, this is the most active post I have ever encountered here thus far.

    Why ?

    It resonates with a lot of people!

  397. One of the best articles I have ever read, ever ever ever.

    When I told my husband about it, he said, “When you start freelancing, maybe you should use my name.” LOL, not a bad idea.

    — diane, 30-year veteran copywriter & underpaid corporate slave

  398. Holy crap.

    I’d never heard of you until today, but you can be damn sure I’ll be reading from now on.

    Wow.

  399. @Todd “tojosan” Jordan
    I too am a Programmer/Analyst (working in web software development), and I cannot tell you how many times I have experienced discrimination from men and women alike. To the point that sometimes I join chat rooms with a gender-neutral name just so I can actually be listened to and avoid all the patronizing. Discrimination happens face-to-face as well as online. A brief example: in 2009, my group (all men except me) organized a conference. The morning of registration, we were all present to greet attendees. Two young men, in their twenties, went down our line, shaking the hands of the men on either side of me but skipping me. It was plain that they thought I was a secretary and therefore not worth talking to (actually, I have a PhD). Nothing I did contributed to this; I was in the process of extending my hand to shake theirs when they just swung to shake the hand of the man on my other side. Gender discrimination is deep rooted, and some professional areas are worse than others. I have worked in the non-profit sector, higher education and web development, and encountered significant and blatant gender discrimination in all these areas. Not from everyone, by any means, and only some of the time, but often enough to realize that many women’s careers are being set back by it.

    @James Thank you for your courage in sharing your story. I totally understand why you did what you did, and wish you every success now that the cat is out of the bag.

    @ Everyone Let this be a wake up call! Challenge yourselves about your assumptions. Challenge other people when you feel discrimination is taking place. Let’s all take responsibility for treating people as people and not according to what gender, race or creed they belong to.

  400. Very interesting. Unsuprising. I’m curious though how a pseudonym is handled in terms of cashing checks, and dealing with social security numbers. Set up a business with the pseudonym and use that number?

  401. I’ve been giving some serious thought to whether this does actually represent some kind of dishonesty. I knew immediately that what James did was justified, but was there any that *needed* a justification?

    Using a pen name is trivial. That it suggests a different gender was obviously intentional, but she didn’t call herself “James I-Am-A-Man Chartrand”. But the website is called “Men With Pens”. Hmm, is *that* deceptive?

    Then I realized something: Unless James knows some new technology for web design that I’m not aware of, she’s probably using a keyboard, not a pen. Everybody knows that, and no one seems to care. Why? Because we know it’s not really important.

    So why do people care about the “Men” part? It seems they feel that *that* is important.

    It reminds me of a scene from “School Ties”, an early Brendan Fraser movie. He was a student at an exclusive private school. Someone finds out he’s Jewish and all hell breaks loose. His girlfriend, crying, demands to know why he never told her. He asked what religion she was. Presbyterian. He asks why she never told him that, and she said, “It wasn’t important!”

    The point was, everyone told themselves that they didn’t care about your religion … as long as they thought you were one of the “good” ones.

    So, James hasn’t told us her real name. And didn’t originally tell us her real gender. She also hasn’t (unless I’ve missed it) told us whether she’s right- or left-handed, what color her eyes are, or what’s her favorite color.

    Why is no one complaining about *those*? Oh, right … because those things aren’t important.

  402. I really hope that IRF isn’t insinuating that there is a genetic reason that women should earn less than men for doing the same job. If so, doesn’t James’ story sort of squelch that idea? There was no genetic change (in James or in the people doing the hiring), merely one of perception.

  403. @anon, scroll up in the comments and look for a comment from Brian Clark, he (and a few others) gave the scoop on that.

  404. Wow. I can’t say much that hasn’t been said. We do what we have to do to take care of our families. As a money coach who works with women, I’ve also focused on feminine success psychology. And the truth is, women and men are different. The problem is when this leads to such unfairness. People want to ignore the gender question. But we can’t. Different is not bad. Besides, results should speak for themselves!!!

  405. @Drew, that’s a good point. If you’re pretending to be a woman to go on dating sites or otherwise create romantic relationships, your sex is pretty damned material to that conversation.

    The sex of your copywriter strikes me as a not very relevant detail. I like the way you tied that to pens/computers.

  406. My takeaway from all this is how more well-known celebrities could learn from how you handled the threat of being “outed” in a way that might hurt them.

    Letterman came out and took the wind out the sails of the talking heads by admitting it, apologizing, and cutting the story before it got real legs.

    Tiger (sorry, it’s been two days since I even heard his name… I was starting to get twitchy) didn’t do it that way and seemed less forth-coming. Yeah, it’s private, but when ppl aren’t up front the story gets real legs and the rumormongering starts.

    Doing this cuts the legs off the story and gives HUGE credibility to you and less to those who would tell your story… it makes them look less like brave investigators and more like childish gossips. (I think it’s more honest and shows more strength of character as well.)

    Masterfully managed.

  407. A lot of people are surprised that the discrimination James (and others in the comments) has encountered is still happening, and they wonder why.

    This kind of discrimination is in every molecule of our society. It’s invisible because we were born into it. It’s built into our language (I would dearly like “they” to be an acceptable pronoun for an individual). It’s built into practically every person who had a hand in raising you. It’s built into every television show you ever saw, every book you ever read, and every song you ever listened to.

    An obvious example of this is religion. Most people don’t belong to a religion because it’s “right” or the “the one true religion.” They’re ALL the one true religion, right? They hold certain religious views because they were born into them. Most of us reading this live in North America. If we were all born in Saudi Arabia, nearly every single one of us would a Muslim and wouldn’t think anything of it. We would have been born into it, and it would be natural to us.

    How many times have any of us been shown we behaved in a racist fashion without realizing it? Same sort of thing.

    You can’t unmake your history or your language in a day. It’s a difficult, sticky situation.

  408. I’m in kind of the opposite situation. I write fiction that is in categories mostly read by women. My main characters are almost always female — or male-to-female transgendered. If I were to try to sell my stories or novels with a male name… it just wouldn’t work. I needed a good, strong and FEMININE name to sell anything.

  409. I love this story. I hate this story. I too write under a pen name, but I kept it the same gender. Now part of me wishes I’d made it gender neutral. But I’m frustrated that should even be a thought. How do we shift the perception that men know more, should be respected more, should earn more? It’s not a new question. But I’m not hearing any new answers, and I certainly don’t have them.

    Thank you for stepping into the light.

  410. Wow, methinks you’ve just penned my exact problem–only, I never thought to change my name to the other sex. My son is now 25, I never financially recovered from giving up my career to write, so I could be a single mother (17 years), and actually spend some time WITH my growing child. I still can’t find decent pay for my writing. Maybe it’s time I made that jump to boxer shorts!
    Thanks for the great read.

  411. I’ve communicated a few times with James and had no idea. Do I feel betrayed? No. Amused? Yes.

    You did what you had to do to make money, nothing illegal although deception was employed.

    If I were in James’ shoes I’d consider doing the same. What it comes down to is getting one’s foot in the door to showcase what you can do. Looks like “James” has succeeded in an environment where women find it difficult to even get a chance to demonstrate their talents.

  412. Hmm… I’m late to the party. And… This just rocks. I mean, damnit… How is PI ever going to pull off something as grand as this?!?!

    Oh we will, friends. Oh yes, we will :-)

  413. James-

    Thank you for sharing your incredible story with us. I’m so sorry that it had to happen under these circumstances, and that there are people who can’t understand.

    But they probably just had crushes on you ;)

    Thanks for all you’ve shared over the years.

  414. I am disgusted, but not surprised, that you were treated and paid better as a man. I am saddened by this accidental experiment, but somewhat excited by the opportunity it has opened up for us to examine our usually unacknowledged prejudices.

    As was mentioned before, people’s perception was the only thing that changed– but almost no one consciously admits “I am going to pay this writer more and be more respectful because he is a man.” We need to actively work to overcome hidden biases that have been culturally embedded in the back of our minds.

    We must take the time to look at our own reactions and how our ideas about who “James” is change with a changed perception of gender. We only need look at these comments to see that male is still seen as better in our society– as if somehow invoking distinctly MALE body parts (ie that took real balls) is a compliment. It isn’t. It is just another way of saying that if something is really great it must be like a MAN.

    And no, readers who used that metaphor, I don’t think you meant it that way. The problem is that we perpetuate language– slang or otherwise– that uses male as the norm. This, in turn, reinforces subtle discrimination and allows for the idea that female is not quite as good as male.

    I am upset by the idea that women should support that notion by “becoming” men. Yes it worked in this case, but having the world think that all the talented writers are men is not the answer.

  415. James, do you know how big my smile is right now?

    Surprised? You better believe I am. Impressed? Admiring? Excited? Yup, yup and yup.

    I’m not about to get into the reasons why or why not, but I applaud your willingness to go and do what you needed to in order to pursue what matters to you.

    And what’s more impressive is that you actually haven’t sacrificed any self-image or self-belief, which is what I’d be concerned about is this was anyone else. As you say “the name liberated me to be who I am.”

    Your story is going to be huge, but it’s your work and your values that speak. It makes me want to put on a dress and a wig and go be a Scottish nanny for a rich family in San Francisco. Oh wait…

    So when can we work together on something?

  416. The sheer support for James’ courage here is comforting but then it begs the question; if James had such a hard time with getting a good job because ‘she’ was a woman, then there’s a small percentage of the over 400 people commenting here who could discriminate, given the veil of anonymity or the ‘right’ circumstances.
    So after the shock wears off, who amongst us is going to go further and do something about it? Who’s going to look really deep inside themselves for those ingrained prejudices against gender, race, color, or creed? We should all go home and ask ourselves some very hard questions today, because it wasn’t Martians who did this to James. It was us.
    I am very sorry we failed you James.

  417. The image I project – a landscape designer with a strong sense of aesthetics and a passion for biodiversity and conservation – is consistent with my true identity. It’s not a deceit or gimmick. It’s who I am and what I believe in.

    The image James projects – a skilled, reliable, informative writer with a strong work ethic – is consistent with James’ true identity. It’s not a deceit or gimmick. As far as I’m aware, it’s who James is and what James believes in.

    Does anyone have a problem with that?

  418. @David Walker

    Thanks, you just helped me put something in perspective. There has been something nagging at me since I read this and I couldn’t put my finger on it – until I read what you wrote.

    I, too, am guilty of this type of discrimination but it truly wasn’t a conscious thing. I had an opportunity to take a training class from a man for an industry dominated by women. I put it off for over a year and just recently decided to jump in. I kept saying I didn’t have the money and I already knew the info and all kinds of other excuses. Now I am taking my second class and I really love it. I have learned a lot, fine tuned my skills and found a community of like minded people. Yep, mostly women.

    Until I read this post I never thought about it and David, you helped bring it into focus for me. And I thank you.

  419. James, you’re still an awesome talent and a generous teacher. No matter what kind of underwear you wear. ;-)

  420. @ Tom – You do realize that comment left it wide open to whether I wear underwear or not…

    And then common sense said, “Do not touch THAT one with a ten foot pole.”

    ;)

  421. @Friar

    Tune in tomorrow on MwP. I’ve got a post up addressing the question of women who run successful businesses under their own names. Like me. :)

    As for the other question, a lot of people have already brought that one up for you. Seems lots of people have a story or two to tell about a man who needed to use a woman’s name to be accepted in his field. Mostly certain kinds of writing – women’s magazines, romance novels. Which makes sense, if you think about, seeing as ad copy was considered a man’s sort of writing (and evidently still is). Writing apparently has very distinct gender divides, and anyone looking to cross over has probably considered the gender problem.

  422. Like everyone here, I am amazed and I stand in admiration. This is an issue that just hadn’t occurred to me.

    Just one question about how you pulled this off… When you had to speak to clients on the phone, how did you change your voice to sound like a guy?

  423. @Tei, that’s awesome, can’t wait to read it.

  424. Friar: I’ve considered writing a romance novel before. Mostly because they are formula, I could nail the language and it seems like it would be good for grins. The times I’ve batted around the idea, it’s always been with the definite plan that I would A) Write under a pen name and B) That name would belong to a woman.

  425. I am stunned by this post on so many levels. @ocdqblog aka Jim Harris (see, Jim, I can get the Twitter ‘@’ symbol right once in a while) turned me on to men with pens and I just loved the alliteration at first.

    I then started reading the posts and thought to myself, “This is great stuff.”

    And then, a few weeks ago, “James” and I started emailing about a possible guest post (coming Friday – yes, shameless plug). I offered to chat with James but, as was “his” policy, he wouldn’t go for it.

    I attributed it to being a busy blogger and owner of a very well run, popular, and diverse site. As others have pointed out, there was an ulterior motive for this.

    It’s downright maddening that the same writer, cloaked behind a different gender, is treated so much better because of his “manhood.” So much for evolution, I guess.

    Whatever your name is, keep on keeping on!

  426. I look forward to seeing your keynote about it at a future blogging conference. If people think that gender-bias is a thing of the past, it is most likely because they wish it was so. You have an awesome story to tell here.

    As the mother of a nearly 7 year old daughter, I find it depressing that things have changed so little since I was her age 36 years ago. I can only hope that they will be different for her when she is my age. Then again, you brought up a number of 19th century female writers who no doubt wished the same for us.

    Some day.

  427. I’ve confronted this ugly truth many times in my own life. There’s no such thing as a glass ceiling — it’s more like constantly moving into a strong headwind for decades at a time. A headwind that would not even so much as exist if I were a man, and I know it.

  428. Barefoot Marie :

    Content wise, it didn’t matter to if you were a man or a woman. When I first read your blog, I honestly couldn’t say who the authors were. I enjoyed the content. Period.

    It is sad that that this is what it took to get to where you are. The same reason why my grandfather changed his last name to sound “less Asian” when he came to this country.

    But on another note, I have to admit it’d be fun to see how many name-droppers this will out. You know, the folks who “went to school with you and the boys”…

  429. I am so in awe of you! I have had many heated discussions with men AND (yes) women who think this does not exist. Well, it does, it has, and I don’t know when it will change. Even had one woman tell me if you are good, you will be noticed so people who complain are probably not very good at what they do. WHAT???

    Kudos to you for the work you’ve done and will continue to do!

    Take off the rose colored glasses – you who have argued and looked askance at me and other women. It is still here.

    Cathy

  430. that is a great story and i was inspired by it! males have it so much easier in many ways!

  431. This story is so… unbelievable. It’s great your kids are warm and fed now, I’m also happy that you revealed your gender and told your story.

    I have a similar situation with some of the gigs I try to land: when the potential client learns I’m not based in their home country (let it be the US), they just give up.

    Just recently I had an enthusiastic client from NY who was so happy with my promptness and price and who just walked away when they read my “about” page more carefully.

  432. I applaud you ‘James’, for the fortitude & the perseverance to keep at what you have done so far. I, myself, am I woman who lives & loves a male cross-dresser. He is by trade an interior housepainter; however, he has had
    w-w-a-a-a-y-y too many employers not pay him!! My point is he is now more “accepted” as a female, tho he doesn’t work as a painter any longer. So. every member of each gender has some degree of difficulty in dealing with all sorts of sh_t!!

  433. Wow. It sucks that this is real life and that things have to be this way. But I feel sort of … redeemed … by your story. Justified or something.

    I know it just happened and that you didn’t plan it or anything. And I know that a stranger’s opinion doesn’t matter much. But I’m proud of you. I’m so glad you shared your story. I wish you and your family all the best.

  434. I think YOU ROCK… Doing what women do so well…and that is whatever it takes to get the job done. I admire you and thank you for your great story, writing and courage!!

  435. It’s always amazing to me at how far I thought we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go. The last time I was shocked by prejudice was in college, when the professor told all the white males in the class that we belonged to an exclusive club no-matter if we joined or not. We enjoyed all the benefits of the club just because we were white males.

    Growing up with three brothers and no sisters, this gender prejudice was part of what I saw in my parents relationship. Mom stayed home and picked up after us, cleaned and cooked. Dad worked and had this attitude that seemed to say, women have their place because that’s the way it’s always been although he never said it.

    To my shock, the womens movement and I hope I’ve grown out of that prejudice I saw. My wife, my two daughters and granddaughter would probably say different. I think my son may have gotten a bit of the same prejudice from me.

    Well, I’m sorry from us men for the position we put you in and your rough start. Nobody should have to receive less than their worth based on gender, race or any other prejudice. I am so excited for your success and hope and pray that women everywhere would gain courage from your story.

    Enjoy this media spike and ride the wave. I first started following you from a recommendation from @alihale so shout out to her.

  436. I’ve been reading “Men with Pens” for more than a year, and always looked forward to Jame’s articles on Copyblogger. James was/is more than a name, it is a persona. James is like Humphrey Bogart giving great copywriting advice.

    It’s sad that in this day and age, there is such rampant sex stereotyping and pay discrepancy. On the other hand, it’s possible that one of the reasons that James does so much better in getting writing jobs is because James is a believable, likable character in voice and message.

  437. Simply awesome … I am pleasantly stunned! Made my day to read this. And, as always, you know how much I adore all of you there for doing such a wonderful job on the site. Thanks for sharing your story James – I agree with Lori above that it’s about voice and message.

  438. Awesome story. The headline grabbed my attention in my google reader. I remember speaking to you a few months ago through email and asking about your ‘no email’ policy and you gave me the scripted response you use – I still use it (slightly modified) to this day. It’s great to hear your story.

    Never let any of the ‘haters’ get you down. You did what you had to do – no one can tell you that you were wrong for that.

  439. What a great idea, James. I’m going to try it too. Watch for my next publications under the name of George Eliot.

  440. Very good history. The pen name saved you. Just kidding. It will always boil down to the skills, motivation and hard work, if you want to become successful in life.

  441. Just wanted to come in and echo a lot of other people that it’s really impressive, both what you’ve done and your post announcing who you are. Rock on!

  442. James you have given us all a gift–an opportunity to think about the lenses we use to see the world.

    It is so sad that James had to experience stigma and its ugly consequences. Many of the comments above demonstrate that “Stigma” is much more than just male vs. female.

    Stigma can be about power, can be about “us vs. them” and millions of other factors. It is invisible, yet ever-present.

    Someday I hope our children will live in a world where it is okay to be different, okay to be a minority, just okay to be.

    FYI: There is a broad base of knowledge on “stigma” in sociology, social psychology, Women’s studies, Disability studies, African American studies, Gay/Lesbian studies….

    An interesting book is “Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity” by Erving Goffman, Simon and Schuster.

    Thanks James, you are helping us all.

  443. James, you go girl! Seriously… :-)

  444. well this is indeed an real story which inspires all the freelancers who still feel that freelancing is difficult, and also to those who feel teased because they are poor, because they are helpless, but this story teaches all the poor and helpless ones how build the courage just by change the gender in name and make your living out of it.

    james has done a really very good job and the way he has narrated is really indeed specially appealing.

    thanks,
    james for letting me know about your story.

  445. James really got me thinking today, which is good, but after over 200 emails between us should I be feeling that this is somehow a breach of trust?
    I tried to lay out my thoughts here http://jamesjspencer.com/james-chartrand/. And I will be continuing to think things through, which is great. Thanks James.

  446. James,

    You rock!!!! Thank you. Keep being you.

    Marisa B
    Longmont CO

  447. I have returned to Copyblogger to re-read this post over & over – as well as each and every comment. James’ “coming out,” as it were, has both shocked and gratified his (her) followers. It has definitely stimulated conversation and is likely to do so for some time.
    As an artist, I enjoy exploring a thought provoking subject intuitively … I simply follow where the art takes me. What I truly love about artistic expression is that the end result is often different from what I imagined it might be. Rather appropriate in this case.
    If anyone finds my idea intriguing, please visit my Dec. 15th post at http://www.debtrotter.com and let me know what you think. The post is mostly informative, since many of my readers are other artists (who are likely not all familiar with James).
    The art is the real storyteller.

    Deb

  448. I blame the patriarchy, of course. It’s too bad you couldn’t have come out on your own terms, but that’s due to a *true* breach of trust. “James” is just a name, and anyone feeling “betrayed” obviously valued you more for your imagined genitalia than your writing. Good on ya.

  449. James,

    Great respect!!!

    You set an example to be followed not only by women.

  450. It’s the next day here where I live and the conversation is still going strong. Boy, did James stick a stick in the ants’ nest.

    I thought you all might be interested in something I used to do to even things up back in the 90’s in the UK. Under British law, the Sexual Discrimination Act, a woman is granted equal pay for equal work; i.e. if the woman does the same job as a man she gets paid the same! You have to live with the law as it is and it was a relatively new act at the time and wasn’t going to be given any more teeth for a while.

    Whenever I tried to get raises for my female staff, the male elite would say,” Oh, she’s got a husband to help pay the bills (or boyfriend)”. Then they started saying, “but your department is mostly female staff. You have no men for comparison.” (It was 98 to 2) probably. And they argued that the women were being paid a fair wage for the work they did.

    I now put up my hand to admit that I practised reverse discrimination in that I employed as many men as I could to change the ratio of the genders in the department. I could get higher salaries for the men and more frequent raises.

    Then came the sneaky (I admit it) part – I could now argue up the women’s pay by pointing to the men and saying that the women did equal work and should be paid equally. (I guess I’m outside the statute of limitations for this one – I certainly hope so.) So you see, I broke the law by practising discrimination in hiring (male over female) in order to be able to redress the inequality in pay and achieve better remuneration for the women in the long run.

    I did a similar thing in another job where there was resistance against paying black employees equally (equality for different races also being laid down in statute).

    The point is that we, women, (or blacks or muslims or whatever) should not have to resort to all these subterfuges in order to get a fair whack at the ball.

    As to a name – just think of the real pain caused to transsexuals who are not allowed to change the gender of their names officially in the USA.

  451. brilliant, I teach women’s leadership training and often confidence is the biggest block to progression for women, the glass ceiling is still firmly in place

  452. I just had the shock of the year. In the last two days my visitors on google analytics went up by about 910%!! Of course the bounce rate was, unfortuantly, rather high. But if I got that much, 1 commenter out of over 400, I wonder how much Men With Pens got!

  453. Good for you. I publish under a half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction. “Devon Ellington” was chosen specifically for its gender ambiguity.

    The name you choose is just that — your CHOICE for YOUR reasons and no one’s business, as long as they know to which name to cut the check!

  454. I just read James Spencer’s post and I really don’t get it.

    I work at home. There are some people who just don’t take you seriously when they hear that. In fact, I would say that I have experienced the same issues James Chartrand has because of it.

    On my autoresponders I am required to give a physical address. I am NOT going to put my home address. But to get around the work-at-home stigma I use a mail box at the UPS store.

    Is this a breach of trust that I hide the fact that I work at home? And for those of you (James Spencer and Carolyn Elefant) who say it’s not the same, please tell me how it’s not. How is James using a nom-de-plume and male persona any different?

    Get over yourselves people – James does quality work with integrity. I really don’t care if she’s a little green man from Mars!

  455. One simple phrase: “You gotta do, what you gotta do!”.

    Thanks for having the courage to make it public. You probably felt that you were risking everything. But in this day and age, most people don’t care about that kind of stuff any more. You have proven yourself as a great writer!

  456. No different than Eric Bishop using Jamie Foxx to get comedy gigs because it sounded female. Handle your business I say.
    Although, I’d believe this story more if there were pics of you. Just reading it at first blush sounds like a great fiction story/sitcom.

  457. Your story make me feel sad. Even it is 20th century, Some women have to act like man to get a job and respect. But for me, You’ve done your best as mother.

    Cheers,
    Sek

  458. Hi James,

    Kudos to you! I admire your determination to make things work for you and provide for your family. That takes more than just class and balls.

    Somehow, though, I just knew it! I mean, something in the back of my mind always made me wonder. Whether it was a comment James made or the way something was written or a word here or there – I always just wondered. ;-)

    And I must say, I’m totally peeved that a woman has to do this – still – in 2009. We’ve come so far . . . and yet nothing has really changed.

    I’m sorry, too, that someone you trusted would do something so childish as to “out” you. That’s simply cowardice.

    Thanks for all you do in the online and writing community. You’ve made a difference and I hope not only will you continue on as James Chartrand, doing what you do, but that perhaps this will help – finally and truly – begin changing things for the better.

    Be blessed!
    ~Annie

  459. This whole episode reminds me of law professor Catharine MacKinnon’s comment in her sex equality class: “Why does a woman have to be just like a man to get what a man gets because he is one?”

  460. There’s a huge assumption here. That it’s the “maleness” of the name “James Chartrand” that made the difference. Professionals change their names all the time to try to gain an advantage. Maybe James’ real name is just a really crappy name. Maybe the name change did the trick just because it was a much better name than the original and had nothing to do with gender. Just sayin’.

  461. I’m sorry that you had to go through this. It sucks. If you haven’t yet, read “Blink”; it is quite relevant. The “women’s movement” is only an early first step. There is a long way to go for winning thoughts and minds. Happy writing to you… whatever name you use.

  462. @Mike B, always good to question assumptions. FWIW, James’s real name is, like James Chartrand, easy to pronounce and doesn’t have any odd associations or implications associated with it.

  463. Excellent post! I am a single mom and I had to work harder to make more on my Corporate Job and team full of men. I do not have any pictures of any of my kids on my desk nor do I talk about them much at work. I focus and deliver solutions. Your post is 100% accurate and true! Now, may I interview you for my single parent non-profit…PLEASE?

  464. What a truly inspiring, but disappointing story. Kudos for your determination, and a shame that it had to occur in the first place. It actually made me think of J.K. Rowling, she was in the exact situation as you, single mom, low income and few prospects. Never used her full name on her Harry Potter books so as not to draw attention that she was a woman. Interesting.

    You have talent, and that can never be denied you. I imagine it is liberating for you to now be able to fully enjoy the life you created all on your own.

    Frankly I would thank the outer, they did you a favor. They tried to ruin you, but you are actually going to be bigger.

  465. It is a filthy, hateful world that values our work less because of our plumbing and that coddles underperforming men just because they look the part.

    I am a programmer who happens to be female. I may resort to the same tactic when I look for contract programming work. It is a shame candidates for the nation’s highest offices cannot do the same. The hypocrites of the creative class certainly unleash all their misogynist rage at them.

  466. Its possible that your writing just got better and not that you were perceived as male. The glass ceiling is a myth that I’d appreciate you stop perpetuating.

  467. The way our (Western) culture devalues the domestic and caring for people – which overwhelmingly means women – is truly awful and stupid.

    Congratulations on finding a way to beat the system.

  468. You GO girl!

    I’m not in the least surprised – I’ve often thought that Sparkplugging would have gotten a lot farther if I were a man running it. I dismissed my thoughts as excuses… but now I know in my heart there was some truth to it, especially after reading this.

    Now that it is sold it’s a moot point. But I’ll support you in what you do no matter what’s between your legs. :)

  469. @ Robert Fay, comment #223. People like you are the reason this woman had to take a man’s name to make a living for herself. If you bothered to read her earlier comment, you might have noticed that she stated that assuming the pen name allowed her to be herself, since she displays more stereotypically male personality traits. Perhaps you should get to know people before making sweeping generalizations about what “females” do. It seems that you are too comfortable with a white male-dominated society, and that you fear notions of equality.

    James should not, under any circumstances, have had to resort to changing her name online in order to get the pay she needs to support her family. It reflects poorly on society, and we should all ask ourselves how we have let this kind of discrimination continue when slightly more than half of the population is female.

    Kudos to you, James for having the courage and business sense to pull this off. I agree with those who have said you should get a book deal— it’s a great opportunity for your financial success, as well as for helping raise issues of discrimination that have been glossed over for years. Great post!

  470. What a terrrible world we’re living in!

    I’ve never thought of people like that. I don’t know how some still follow those cliches. I regret for the attitudes like that to exist.

    But, women aren’t the only ones with such bitter experiences. I must tell you that having a Middle Eastern name is no better an attribute. You’re confined in your race, religion, ethnicity, etc. You won’t be treated like a James or Rose, as a Westerner, regardless of the gender.

    Like you’ve put it well, we’re not living history-long lives to fight against all these biases and narow-mindedness attitudes.

    Keep up the great enlightening work as people get to learn hopefully in near century!

  471. Blog Network Owner :

    Personally, I think it’s a load of sh*t that there’s gender bias in the copywriting world skewed towards men. Whenever I hire (which is 2-3 times per month), I bias towards women because I think when it comes to copywriting, women are more consistent and careful. So really, I don’t buy the feminist angle on this whole thing.

  472. Thommy,

    Yeah, that would be possible. Except that she applied for some of the same gigs at the same time with her pseudonym, to judge what the effect was on the offers she got. You don’t get a lot better between breakfast and your second morning coffee.

    Well, I don’t, anyway.

    Until later,

    Kelly

  473. Thommy, I will attempt to address your comment without using the word “idiot.”

    (attempting)

    (attempting)

    (attempting)

    Nope, can’t do it.

  474. @ James

    Brava! Take a bow. Truly. I heart you.

    I’m not surprised by your experience one bit. I just wish I had thought of that! :mrgreen:

    @ Kelly

    Wow, girl! Excellent support. You’re a good friend. Be proud. :)

    Mer

  475. What Sonia Said!

  476. @ Blog Network Owner – I think it’s great that you feel women writers are more consistent and careful (though I know personally that male writers can be just as consistent and careful).

    I’m just curious – what average rate do you pay these women? And have you ever haggled them down? Have male writers applied for your gigs? What were their rates? Not accusing – simply wondering.

  477. Hi James,

    Actually that Blog Network Owner is someone I used to work for. (I know that because we were just having this discussion via Skype and recognized the verbiage). He was my highest payer at the time and I left my gig at About.com to work for him almost full time because it was a very lucrative opportunity.

    In fact, I worked for him for several years. I referred others to him as well. He always accepted my proposals without haggling and was probably the least difficult client I had.

    He probably could have worked on his delivery, but yeah, he’s telling the truth.

  478. @ Deb/Blog Owner – That’s great, then. It was the tone of the comment that made me think there was something up with that, but I’m also from the school of never assume, which is why I asked.

    Still interested in the male writers questions I posed, of course, but hey!

  479. Mer—Some folks make it easy.

    :)

  480. Bravo to you for sharing your experience and never giving up.

  481. Thanks for sharing this story. Strangely, I was just pondering the other day on whether what I do would be differently perceived if I wrote under a male name. You have proven what my instincts were telling me. I am very happy for you, James, that you had the creativity and courage to use a male pen name to receive the success you deserved.

  482. A hot topic for a TV debate:

    “Gender is irrelevant to the content of Men with Pens.”

    James Chartrand v. Carolyn Elefant

  483. Wow! First off, congrats for all you’ve done to bring your family through tough times. That’s commendable.

    Second, that was one of the longest blog posts I’ve ever read word for word, VERY well written.

    Third, I had no idea that sexism was an issue in the Internet world (maybe I’m a bit naive). My wife just started blogging about one of her passions, aerobics. It makes me wonder if and how she’ll be perceived as a female writer.

    Thanks for the great story. Keep up the amazing work!

  484. Wow the energy of this post is amazing! The legs of it speaks volumes to the just how much life in the good old usa has not changed and the impact of disclosure on the human soul.

  485. After reading the comments here and at the various and sundry blog posts, I’m wondering how many women are going to play the home game. Is anyone now considering a virtual gender adjustment to see if there’s a difference?

  486. I think it’s probably too late for me to consider any virtual gender reassignment, since my real name is all over the web, but it would be an interesting experiment, wouldn’t it, Deb?

  487. I’d like to address that subject – should others follow in my footsteps and change their name?

    I don’t recommend it.

    Using a different name was, to me, a no-brainer. I’m not one to pass opportunity by because of a label, because of what people call me. But using a different name means that you need to be a very strong person, one that can face questions about your identity, your gender roles, and the societal definitions and stereotypes that surround the question, “What makes a man?” and “What makes a woman?”

    It’s sad that a simple name, a label that you use to call yourself, puts your person, your character and WHO you are under scrutiny. You have to be incredibly strong and know yourself well to be able to stand up and say…

    I am who I am. Regardless of what you call me.

  488. Michelle Davidson :

    Fantastic post — touching and thought-provoking. Thank you for sharing your story. We all need to be reminded that this type of thing still happens.

  489. James- I suppose there is a lot with making a life changing move like yours. Nevertheless it is an intriguing story, thanks for sharing.

  490. For my two daughters sake, I am glad I read this, I will pass it along to them. Thank you.

    Although your outcome is inspirational, the story is sad.
    My wife’s cousin has a motto, “all men are a–holes” frankly I can see where she is coming from.

    Seamus (Irish for James)

  491. Wow. Seriously, I am completely blown away by this – but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. But I am, and I’m disgusted and horrified and all sorts of mad. I honestly didn’t realize a pseudonym in this day and age would make such a difference and I’m sad that it so obviously does.

    So James, thanks for sharing. Not only am I enormously happy for you getting the work that you did, but you have some serious metaphorical balls to come clean – regardless of your “outing”. I think the fact that you have so many followers and that your story is spreading like wildfire will bring the issue to light. Doesn’t matter anymore if you want to be an activist or not. Either way, you’ve made a difference :)

  492. James, I’ve been considering writing under a male pen name for my own reasons, but I didn’t think there was a way to hide it from the person who writes the checks, which means the editor judging your work. I thought the format was “Here’s the title and pen name, and here in the corner is my real name, for writing the checks.”

    I also hadn’t been worried about concealing it, but that was before I read your article.

    May I ask how you got around that?

  493. Congratulations James on doing what you needed to do with honour and dignity! I remember a while back reading an article about Men with Pens hiring a woman and the effect that it would have had on the brand name 8=)

    Now I wonder how the criticism (I thought it unfair at the time and still do) must have felt for you. Knowing the backstory now makes the responses that I saw coming from you more understandable.

    I hope that letting this news out doesn’t hurt your brand and that you continue to do well, not just for you and your family, but for society as a whole. It is sad that you had to go this route to get the respect that your skills deserve.

  494. James,

    I’ve got to tell you, I’m pissed off. I’m pissed off because I believe every word in your story. I know it must be easier for men to get jobs than women, and I’m sorry.

    You have success, and I hope you continue to do so. I’ve been following men with pens now for a couple months, and I’ve got to tell you the name pissed me off because I thought it was sexist. Man, I was so right and so wrong.

    Keep going.

  495. Deb, I’d wondered that, too. But I think I’d much rather adopt a no-bullshit stance with clients since I’ve already established a strong career and presence. But it’s tempting to go with initials for the first name, isn’t it?

  496. You can set up a checque account in the business name so that the personal name isn’t an issue. In James case cheques could go to an account called Men With Pens.

  497. I’ll attest to your story. I’ve been writing for 20 years. Over the years I’ve used just my first initial to pitch for jobs and that always got me more work and more pay that when they knew I was a woman. Really sad that after all these years we are not that much further ahead. Keep up the terrific writing. And to all those condemning people out there: stop being so self-righteous.

  498. @Thommy
    “The glass ceiling is a myth that I’d appreciate you stop perpetuating.”

    Could you please tell me what planet you’re living on, so that I can move there too?

    Here on Earth, at least in the UK and USA (where I have worked for the last 20 years), gender bias is alive and kicking. You just have to be present in the average business meeting to realize that when a women makes a perceptive comment it is often ignored, and when a man later makes the same comment, people then think it’s original and brilliant.

  499. I love that this has spawned so many conversations all over the web and in the blogosphere specifically. (85 trackbacks!) I also love that people are taking the time to really think about their initial reactions to James’ story and question those reactions.

    No matter which side of the fence people end up on, good, bad, or indifferent, hooray for not sticking with the status quo simply because it’s the easy thing to do. Deal with your reactions. Question everything!

  500. Wow. You certainly had me fooled.

    I agree with the people saying that there is gender bias in the world today. I didn’t know it was common in the writing field, but that’s mainly because I’m not actually in the writing field. In the software development field, particularly while studying in school, I have to say that I found that there were some people who would judge my skills based on my gender. As a result, I found that when I was in online-only forums, I often tried to use a gender-neutral nickname. People would just assume I was male (how many girls hang out in the technical channels on IRC anyways, right?) until I trusted them enough to tell them otherwise.

    I’m impressed that you’ve kept this so long, and also that you’ve decided to come out and mention it now. More power to you, in my opinion :)

  501. James/Jamie, your “coming out” post was riveting for me to read because it was piece of evidence of the sexism that I live with, and that I see all the time, in the media, in life around me. I wrote a supportive comment a couple days ago, and also defended you when Carolyn the lawyer denounced you for the deception. I think she had a minor point about the mommy blog deception, but had lost all perspective, overlooking the sexism we must live with, which is the ultimate fraud, a constant working of deception that is difficult to fight and survive.

    All that said, I found your follow-up post – about how it takes a strong person to fake a male identity, and since most women don’t have this kind of strength, you don’t recommend it – extremely condescending. It takes a strong person to make a living with a female name and a female body. It takes a strong person to fight sexism with one’s true identity, on behalf of both oneself and other females. It also takes a strong person to see through society’s sexist depictions of women as weak, as lesser, and therefore ourselves as superior (“we couldn’t fit into THAT category, but other women probably do”). I know you didn’t mean any harm by it, but your coming out raised a lot of issues — because it was *evidence* of the struggle that the rest of us have. It’s up to each of us to figure out the best way to navigate. You did it one way, and some people thought it was a compromised way. Some other women might find this way, choosing a male persona, the best way for them as well. Others are going to continue to brave it with a female name, and some are going to organize to change society so that eventually, maybe not in our lifetimes, but someday, women will be treated with fairness and equal respect in all areas of life. Now THAT’S a challenge that takes a lot of strength. I hope you will join us. Our numbers need to grow.

    “I’d like to address that subject – should others follow in my footsteps and change their name?

    I don’t recommend it.

    Using a different name was, to me, a no-brainer. I’m not one to pass opportunity by because of a label, because of what people call me. But using a different name means that you need to be a very strong person, one that can face questions about your identity, your gender roles, and the societal definitions and stereotypes that surround the question, “What makes a man?” and “What makes a woman?”

    It’s sad that a simple name, a label that you use to call yourself, puts your person, your character and WHO you are under scrutiny. You have to be incredibly strong and know yourself well to be able to stand up and say…

    I am who I am. Regardless of what you call me.”

  502. @ Adriene – Thanks for your thoughts. I just want to correct you on something.

    1. I wrote “others” and that can be men or women – I was referring to people at large, anyone in the world, not women specifically. I even said it takes a strong *person*, man or woman.

    2. In regards to every person finding their own way, you and I agree on this one. What works for me won’t work for someone else and what works for them won’t work for me. We choose the ways that work best for us as individuals. All I gave was my recommendation, not the rule.

    So… I think we’re on the same side, yes?

  503. @Evan – It’s not only at teh time of payment. What She means happens at the start of this process where people don’t take you seriously when you are a women. There, you’d better not introduce yourself as a company. On the web, specially on the blogosphere, people tend to know people on a one-on-one basis, as individuals.

    What ou’ve mentioned is a company tactic that’s up to its directors to decide.

  504. As a client of Men With Pens, I was a little sad when I read this. I completely understand James’ reasons for doing what she did and I’m pleased it allowed her to leave a better life and support her kids.

    I was a little sad because I felt that I’d been misled. That the person I was dealing with was not the person I thought ‘he’ was. But the truth is, I really like ‘James’.

    In fact ‘James’ was one of the first people I told I was going to be a dad!

    When I first contacted Men With Pens, James took the time to make very positive comments on my blog and site, then suggested that we combine them into one awesome
    adventure.

    As all good cooks say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

    I got over being sad when I logged onto my site. It rocks.

    As for the various comments on photographs, I thought it a little odd too, but assumed it was because James wasn’t blessed in the looks department.

    Guess the person who ‘outed’ you isn’t on your Christmas Card list!

    Forget about it and move on.

    More awesome projects coming your way in 2010!

    This we did

  505. Who would have thought you are a woman. But it doesn’t matter to us:)

    You are even stronger than most (actual) men are because of your determination to raise your kids.

    So proud of you.

  506. Hi James,

    WooHoo. Now I have another blogging “sister”.

    I wish you all the best on your continued journey as you blaze the trail for more women in blogosphere.

  507. Well, James, you’re still OK with me. It’s a sad commentary on society that you earn more in the guise of a man than as the person you are. In fact, as a father of two girls, it tees me off. We should be well beyond that by now.

    Good luck, and much continued success.
    ~jon

  508. James/Jamie, I do think we are basically on the same side, but I also think that internalized sexism sneaks up on all of us, and we need to remember to challenge our thinking and assumptions when it does.

    You did write “others” but obviously the issue is about women getting around sexism. Several comments here posted by women expressed interest in doing what you did – to make a better living, to avoid the sexist treatment that you avoided by using a male name.

    It doesn’t make sense to me that you would recommend that “others” (ie women who want to avoid being treated as inferior because of their gender) not do what you did because it takes a particularly strong person to hide behind a pseudonym. I’m sure there are specific challenges to taking that route, but your whole post was about how you couldn’t make it financially and you were treated badly when you used your real, feminine name. Therefore, the conclusion one draws from this account is that it takes more strength to make it financially, and do those unnecessary rewrites, and put up with disrespectful treatment, if one keeps using one’s feminine name.

    Also, I just want to point out that you said you came out here as a woman because someone threatened to out you, and so you beat them to it. You didn’t do it because it was too stressful to use a man’s name, and wanted to return to using your own feminine name (which we still don’t know – and that’s fine with me, but just saying… it is sometimes hard to come out on the internet with one’s real name).

    You do have my full support in pulling this off. But just calling you on what I perceived was an attitude toward others (ie women) that you were trying to avoid being subjected to at the beginning of your writing career. Sorry to belabor the point, but recommending that women don’t do what you found it easier and more lucrative to do doesn’t jibe with the idea that individuals (in this case, women dealing with sexism) should do what works for them. Do you see my point? It’s hard every which way for most of us (ie, women dealing with sexism, and those women and men dealing with other forms of bigotry), so it would be nice if that were honored. It is fascinating to read your account, though, of how you lightened the load for yourself by taking a male name — and complicated the job in doing so. I’m glad you shared it with us, because it sheds light on what we (women) are dealing with every day of our lives.

    James wrote:
    @ Adriene – Thanks for your thoughts. I just want to correct you on something.

    1. I wrote “others” and that can be men or women – I was referring to people at large, anyone in the world, not women specifically. I even said it takes a strong *person*, man or woman.

    2. In regards to every person finding their own way, you and I agree on this one. What works for me won’t work for someone else and what works for them won’t work for me. We choose the ways that work best for us as individuals. All I gave was my recommendation, not the rule.

    So… I think we’re on the same side, yes?

  509. Did James do anything wrong? No, not at all. And that would be true even if he (is it OK to say he?) hadn’t been in a dire financial situation.

    I think it’s awful for anyone to feel the need to hide their gender, and it’s even worse that the fears turned out to be well-founded. Why should anyone feel guilty about wanting to avoid discrimination?

    That said, I don’t like being deceived, even if it’s a benign, immaterial deception. I’m surprised that more people haven’t said that.

    Once, a blogger I follow posted that she was stepping down from blogging for a while, saying something like it was too stressful. A week later, she posted that she wasn’t really stepping down, she had just gone away on vacation and didn’t want to tell the world that her house was unguarded.

    That’s such a small deception, and a totally justified one, and yet, it was still enough to throw me for a loop.

    I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s because when you know someone online, you have to take their word for a lot of things. If you trust them, and if one little thing turns out not to be true, then you wonder what else might not be true about people you know online.

    Stephen King’s pseudonym isn’t the same because I’ve never even had a conversation with him, and I don’t really know him on any level. He could turn out to be a woman, an android, or 1,000 monkeys on 1,000 typewriters, and I wouldn’t care. Who cares where fiction comes from?

    And “School Ties” is nowhere near the same. Someone’s religion doesn’t make up nearly as big a part of their identity to us as their gender does. And Brendan Fraser’s character simply didn’t disclose his religion, just like no one else did. He didn’t lie about it.

    Yes, I do consider James and Harry to have lied, not because of the masculine style they used, but because they posted fake pictures of themselves. (I assume they’re fake – James’ pic looks pretty masculine, and Harry’s looked extremely masculine – but I’ll gladly retract this if I’m mistaken.)

    But to reiterate, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what they did. You have to consider their intentions, and I know they weren’t messing with people just for kicks. It’s not their fault that we live in a broken society, and they did what they had to do to be treated fairly. Imagine how great the world would be if everybody were honest enough to have only one secret.

    I’ll quickly get over the minor disheartenment I felt at first. I read this post four days ago, and it already feels like old news. If everyone keeps calling him James and using masculine pronouns, I might even forget about this altogether.

    Anyway, for me, and for all people who don’t wish to be blinded by prejudice, James is still James.

  510. I am floored and in awe. I’m not even sure why people are saying things like, “you’re still awesome”, or “it doesn’t matter who you are, I’ll still like you”, or “don’t worry”. Because all I can think is that this is the most amazing story I’ve heard in a really really long time, and this is a TOTAL game changer. This has NO reflection on you whatsoever. No, I don’t feel duped. By you anyway.

    I feel duped by society though.

    If anything, I feel jealous that you had this opportunity for such an enlightening social experiment, even if it did happen out of necessity and by accident. I would love to be able to put my skills on the market as both a woman and a man to see how much difference it would make.

    In my humble opinion, this is one of the most important articles, and one of the most important events of 2009. I tip my hat to you. I will probably make all my clients or potential clients read this from now on.

  511. P.S. The only thing that could top this is if several of the top male writers, web marketers, social media gurus tried a similar experiment. Or even one. Any of you willing to take that challenge?

  512. This situation has spurred a huge amount of discussion on such a variety of blogs. I have spent the whole evening wandering among the many links reading blogs and comments, and there’s so much to digest and consider. Of the many comments here, I would just like to say that I agree with Susan Cartier Liebel about those who feel somehow betrayed – that there is truly little guarantee of “transparency” anywhere on the internet. I strongly disagree with Carolyn Elefant when she refers to “blogging as a tool to build trust” – I truly did laugh at that. Anyone who believes what they read on the internet is naive to say the least. James has presented a portrait of “himself” that turns out to be truthful in all aspects that really matter and fictional in only the matter of gender. I also disagree with Ms. Elefant that this was an “error of judgement” (for which she so magnanimously forgives James) – I think it was a completely correct course of action. Ms. Elefant’s righteous indignation is especially amusing as she reveals herself to be an attorney – one of the least-trusted professions.

    As an aside to those who would want to either promote or avoid being perceived as a woman while writing: men writing “naturally” – by which I mean, without intention to appear as female writers – virtually never use the word “thrilled”, and seldom use the word “nervous” except to refer to someone else, usually a female character. There’s a lot of other “tells”, but those two are the most conspicuous.

    James, I am very interested to see where this goes from here. And because you are the cause of my online peregrinations this evening, I hold you responsible for me having read the “Spearhead” blog and comments – after which I felt that I needed to take a shower with Lysol to get the slime off of myself. Just kidding. About blaming you, that is – not about the Lysol.

  513. Look Jamie,

    You’ve seen the proof. We do love you, regardless whether you are a woman or a man. You have conquered the online world with your mighty pen and the fact that you are a woman just goes to show that girls rule!

    On the more serious side of this story is the sad state of affairs of macho behavior.

    Living in Australia and having worked in a highly stressful environment for over 20 years in my previous life I can speak from experience when I say it is damn hard to prove your worth as a woman in certain industries.

    I often found myself working double as hard than the men in our team to be equally accepted. Not to mention the obvious oversights when it was time for promotion – just because I AM a woman.

    Even so I am shocked by James’ revelation I totally understand where he/she is coming from. Jamie was obviously desperate to change her situation and we all know desperation has powers beyond the visible comprehension of society.

    I’d say James has just scored another massive score on my card simply for the fact that she was gusty enough to own up to the truth.

  514. Gender bias – and other sorts of bias – seem pretty silly to me. Sliding on to the tangent of the corporate word … it’s difficult to find good employees – why would you want to create an artificial requirement like gender, race, age.

    Out of curiosity, did you also create a femal pen name “that sounded to me like it might convey a good business image.” I’m just curious if the reasons for getting gigs was completely due to the gender of the name, or partially due to the way the name sounds. Jimmy Chartrand might get less gigs than James Chartrand for example. Without knowing your name, it’s difficult to see what sort of image it projects.

    I don’t doubt that gender had a very siginificant role.

    $1.50 per article? Erg.

  515. While we’re on the subject of prejudice and discrimination, let’s not forget race, nationality and religion.

    If messrs (or mesdames) Ramakrishna, Rodriquez and Rowland apply for the same job, who do you reckon has the best chance of getting it? (The answer doesn’t make me proud to be white.)

    I recall a Jewish junior school friend, family name Schlier, whose parents changed it to Saunders – before we entered high school.

    So if your name sounds foreign, Jewish, Muslim or non-white, wouldn’t you think of improving your employment prospects by changing it?

    Gender discrimination is no different, nor the reasons for obscuring your gender.

  516. I am fascinated, disturbed, joyous, and alarmed. James, stand proud :-)

    Was this a betrayal of trust as some commenters have suggested? Not to me. If we’re willing to accept the false beauty and perfection presented to us in advertising every day, how is this different? What blogger chooses the worst picture of him/herself to present to the world, even though that may be the more “real” version of what we look like?

    I choose to follow the prose and the ideas. It does not matter to me if the author is male, female, or any other label. The writing matters.

    Now if I was in a personal relationship and found out the person I thought was male was actually female (or vice versa), yes, I would feel betrayed. But this is the internet, not a face-to-face in-the-flesh romance. I’m here to learn, and occasionally give back when I can. That’s the net-based relationship: a sharing of experience and ideas.

    I’m dismayed at the societal implications of the discrimination described by James. Yes, it exists. No, none of us know the extent because we each live in our own microcosm, unable to embrace how embedded this may be in our culture. The key point is James was affected and found a solution.

    Hopefully, that solution created enough respect and momentum that this revelation will not derail a career and persona that have been enjoyed by so many others.

    James, thanks for the great writing and for shining a light on your situation. Even as I was dismayed that this bias still exists, I was uplifted by your story. Rock on!

  517. I found myself, about 18 years ago, online and trying to hide from an online stalker. So I picked a gender neutral name, and didn’t talk about myself. This failed immediately as people seem hardwired to want to know what gender you are so they can know how to relate to you; this was interesting enough.

    When I was pressed to give over a name, I grabbed the name of a male friend and hoped that just not talking about my life in any way would do the trick. But I learned even more about humanity and the assumptions we make about gender than I could have ever imagined in the intervening years.

    As James says, my life changed. Suddenly I was treated very differently. I was given respect. My education was not challenged nearly as much, neither were my opinions. I was expected to be competent on a level I had never before experienced, and I had been raised in a ‘gender neutral’ household, thinking life was ‘fair’. What an eye opener.

    Men AND women were equally at fault in this. Women tended to idolize me in a way that was heady at first and then a bit creepy. Men confided in me and asked for my help, but did not expect that I needed help with anything unless I asked (this could be considered a downside, if one likes to be offered help all the time.) Women often told me when I disagreed with them on various issues it was because ‘I was a man’ and ‘I couldn’t possibly understand’, and I cannot tell you how often women have told me, “You’re such a typical male!”.

    I find I cannot let this online personna go, because it allows me to be treated in the way I wish I had always been treated. It is a shame, but right now (or perhaps always), life is the way it is. I wonder if in days past, those women who had dressed as men to enter the military or to get an education, know just how I feel.

  518. personally i think its a shame and feel saddened that in the trailblazing, although you have achieved much and good for you (sincerely), but it doesnt do anything for the plight of women, writing and due kudos.

    it kinda just underwrites the attitude, i think.
    i understand how you got there and why, but …

    kind regards >>> Gina

  519. I’m less surprised at James’ revelation than I am at people’s shock that she earned more under a male pseudonym.

    I’ve operated in niches in male and female names – essentially competing with myself to corner the market.

    The male persona consistently received less complaints, refunds, pre-sales questions, general whining and by far less people challenging the opinions/statements I put out there.

    It is what it is. And it’s a good thing to know.

  520. Bravo ! but sadly you have confirmed what I had already suspected – hence the nic Doc had been created to be gender neutral.. but most assume a Doc is male.. funny thing values and attitudes.. well no, not funny, but sad really !

  521. Hi James,

    I never suspected for one minute when you guys evaluated on my blog that you were a woman. And I guess I believed the statistics that things were getting better for women.

    Thanks for writing this, even if it was painful. Now I know what to do if I want to make money writing.

  522. I’ve held off writing this for a couple of days but, what the hell, it’s Christmas week. I hope you don’t have red hair James – not that it matters on the internet, thank goodness. I had a sad email from my son yesterday. He has just gone back to live in the UK and he says it is the first time in his life that he has personally encountered racial prejudice – he’s talking about the prejudice against redheads. What is wrong with us as human beings? Do we always have to form a group against some other group in order to validate ourselves? Sadly, anthropology tells us we do. Isn’t it time we moved on to homo super-sapiens? This is a post from a redheaded woman but I’ve got it good. Imagine if I was black, brown, yellow, spotted, gay, and had six legs and a stutter. Here’s a plea for greater acceptance of our common humanity. Happy 2010 everyone.

  523. The next Dooce?
    May you continue to find success.

    Jenn

  524. I’ve been following this discussion with interest. This discrimination doesn’t just hold true for genders; like others have pointed out, it’s the same for nationality, appearance, etc.

    The amount of prejudices held seems to be equal to ignorance level — isn’t that where prejudices stem from anyway? Ignorance?

    A poster up-thread mentioned the possibility of film rights for such a journey? This entire situation reminds me of the film starring Whoopi Goldberg — “The Associate”. For those who have not seen it, the film follows a brilliant executive on Wall Street (Whoopi Goldberg), who strikes out on her own. She crashes headlong into male chauvinism and typical gender bias. As a result, she assumes another identity and suddenly, her business takes off and the film follows her capers, and ups and downs. The film, while entertaining, is, however, a sad reflection of society. But, I found it uplifting at the same time.

    For what it’s worth, IMO: ability and talent has nothing to do with gender; it’s mainly concerned with the mind, creativity, soul and passion.

    That said, after reading the blog entry, I only had one reaction, which was simply that James did what was / is necessary to survive / provide for family and his method succeeded. Kudos.

  525. Not that surprising a story, really, if you know about this one:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/12/AR2006071201883.html

    Maybe you should start blogging as “Janet Chartrand” or something similar and find out if people think you’re “not as talented” as your brother James. :)

    When I first started reading the blog post, I assumed James was your name but you were female. (There are some women with men’s names – and statistically they do better in business and in school than women who have women’s names.)

    Going around with a moniker like “Jennifer”, which of course instantly not only says “woman” but to some also implies blonde, cute, and stupid, I’ve solved the gender-bias-online issue for myself by using my first two initials, a la JK Rowling. When I trust that my gender won’t be problematic for me in a particular arena, I’ll reveal my first name, but only when I don’t think it will cause problems.

    I agree with some of the comments above that suggest exploiting this whole situation with a book and movie deal, stat. You’d never have to worry about your income again.

    Jennifer

  526. As noted by most of the others here, that’s one hell of a story.

    I just want to thank you for providing an often hardheaded old fart a life lesson worth learning.

  527. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I also thought the internet was the one place we could all work on a level playing field. I see I was wrong. Maybe I will adopt a pen name too.

  528. Don’t stop anything you did what you had to do for you and your family. Any body would have gone on welfare but not you. I am a real estate broker in Red Hook Brooklyn for 23 years and every year it gets harder and harder. I am lucky because thank God I have my husband Vito to help me. I don’t know how any one can do it on their own it is not easy. I give you a lot of credit you stood on your own two feet and made it.
    Please, when you are ready I think that you should make a move of your story. Not for money or anything like that. But there are a lot of woman out there that are struggling and this will motovate more WOMAN to give them hope to believe in them self. That they can make it and if they have to use a mans name or what ever let it be. Less question are ask of a man then a woman even in today society. It is so easy to say I wouldn’t have done that but we weren’t in your shoes. People should not judge you they should applaud you because you did what you had to do to help your family. Also, you showed your children that you didn’t give up when the chips were down and that is not only a good MOM but a good ROLE MODEl. JAMES you make all woman proud to be a woman. I don’t care if you wear panties, thongs or go commando! Good luck and Merry, Happy New Year!
    Mary Gaglio Brooklyn, New York

  529. I just read your article online, your friend that attempted to oust you is a real piece of *&@! I wish you the best! You certainly did a fantastic thing. Happy Holiday James/Jamie!!! ; )

  530. Lisa, I think your story is awesome, in my life I’ve always wanted to be a man and life is a bit harsh for a woman these days, my favorite song is : if i were a boy by Ciara. Hope to give you a good perspective.

  531. I am completely anamored, floored and quietly wildy cheering!

    Nothing more to say than I just forwarded your story onto a budding writer friend of
    mine.

    I wanted to say congrats of coming out of the closet but didn’t want that to be misconstrued
    and decided to instead
    say, thanks for sharing pictures of your panties….or
    maybe not.

    Just congratulations and thank you will do.
    Mainly for your dogged determination, tenacity, and forging the way.
    Sneaky but totally
    WAY
    cool!

    I am sure your story will one day be shouted from the rooftops!

  532. I imagine it wasn’t easy for you to write your amazing story. It’s unfortunate you had to do this, but I would have likely done the same thing, if I were in your shoes. You are a smart and resourceful woman, best of luck to you.

  533. Thank you very much for sharing your experience. I found it very good to never giving up. I will visit your website more often in future. Patrick

  534. Great story. I have also noticed that the most important thing is to never give up. If you keep on learning from your mistakes, you can only succeed – eventually.

  535. I came to this article after seeing James’s picture on the internationalfreelancersday.com site. For a second I wondered if James was a good cross-dresser or something but I realize now she’s a woman with an impressive story behind the name.

    I’ll definitely be attending your session on the 23rd.

  536. I need to confess I do the same in my blog about technology, for Brazilian audience (Portuguese is my first language)… I was not sure in the beginning, but I already knew enough about the market…
    I got two different male names and a female one (my real name) . So, 1/3 of the time I use my own name, cause part of me thinks that people has to see woman writing about technology. By the other side, I keep the other 2 male names, just in case, I can retain part of my public.
    I didn’t feel bad about it because we had some famous Portuguese writers that had more than one name, for example Fernando Pessoa (great poet), he was a man but for other reasons he used to have more than 2 names for his writings…
    My blog is not a success, it is in the beginning (first months). I wrote here, cause I thought, “wow, I am not the only one that does that…” and anyway… you have an amazing post! Congratulations for all your achievements.

  537. I felt sad and depressed as I read this, but also resigned. It’s a pity gender colors so much of our thinking when it shouldn’t.

    Unfortunately, it’s not just gender. Ethnicity is also a problem. One of the first things people told me when I moved to Sweden, where I live, was to change my name to something that sounded more Swedish. Study after study shows that people with “foreign” names are less likely to get job interviews and get hired than those with Swedish names. But for better or for worse, I refused. So I had two strikes against me: female and non-Swedish. Not to mention a third: a native English writer whose real name is not Anglo-Saxon.

    Why don’t I make choices that would make my life easier? I guess because I’m a contrarian and have always gone against the grain in one way or another. “Fighting mode” feels almost natural to me. And my gender and ethnicity are so integral to my identity, I can’t bear the thought of disguising them even if it means an uphill battle. (But I do understand your choices.)

    It’s a long and tough road, but I’m out to change the world not myself, even if it sometimes feels hopeless. I have to believe that people can learn and change. It’s what keeps me going.

  538. A truly inspiring story, and it’s unfortunate that women have to do this in the modern age but sadly we are still a prejudicial society.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

  539. Kane Hendricks :

    Woohoo!!! Love ya work J!

    I’m an Aussie and my name is really Karen Hancock, (so I just made up that other name), but in a single instant, you have inspired me to malerise my business name (and possibly my real name lol) and as I’m gay and very independent and indiviual, I don’t really care what others think, it’s what I can do and who I am that counts for something :-)

    Historically, I worked my butt off, smiled and coquetted, drank my liver off and bit my tongue off having to dance around in a mans world whilst climbing the ladder to perceived success that I ultimately ended up jumping off out of sheer frustration. It’s time.

    I am so proud of JC for wising up to playing smarter not harder and for being sexier than the average Joe will ever be. Oooooh .. it’s so got me thinking of other glorious and worldly pseudos now…

  540. Ah, I don’t know. I am a man and I am having the same issues you had.

    Drawing the conclusion that everything changed because your name was now one of a man is a very false and dangerous assumption. Things could have changed because you believed that being a “man” would change everything. That would have given you the confidence to act in certain ways, which in return commanded respect from your clients and people you interacted with. Not because you were no longer a woman, but because of what your behaviour projected.

    All I see is a person who stopped being a victim and took charge.

    I’m glad it all worked out for you, but the core of your argument is just plain wrong, and dangerous for anyone reading this who may buy into it, and perpetuate the victim mode by having an excuse: I can’t make it because I am a woman. It’s difficult, because I am a woman. Not helpful at all.

    • Hey James, thanks for your thoughts, though there are some assumptions I’d like to correct quickly. I’ve never, ever have said, “I can’t make it because I’m a woman,” (or even thought it!). And I actually have also never thought or said, “It’s difficult because I’m a woman.”

      It was far more of a, “Hey, look what happened when I tried that experiment. Interesting!” And I just ran with it.

  541. Had to chuckle just a bit. I do a lot of phone work and have a deep voice “for a girl” (woman for sure at my age). People are surprised when then finally meet me. Usually it’s good for a laugh.

  542. Totally understand. :::raises female hand:::: Hope you guys are doing okay. :::hugs:::

  543. Eve Wood-Langford :

    One of the reasons why women have to work harder than men in the business world is because two thousand years ago western populations stopped worshipping male and female deities and became monotheists and womrn lost their ancient religious role and powers. When the story of Adam and Eve was interpreted in terms of the origin of sin on account of Eve’s perceived desire, women were deemed unfit for official roles in the priesthood. But the constituents of the Adam and Eve creation story pre-date the Old Testament, and when observed in an older light may be interpreted as an important ‘history’ long obscured in monotheism. At her origins the naked Eve was a heroine bringing an uplifting and world-changing event into the human story. (My book on the subject is: Eden: The Buried Treasure.)

  544. OMG… someone who manages to cram several blatant historical falsehoods into a one-paragraph post got (self?) published… should be a hoot to read.

    • Eve Wood-Langford :

      Dear David Dylan,

      Thanks for your reply. There is more, much more, to the beautiful Genesis story of the naked couple in the natural world. They existed long before the Old Testament was set into written form and are to be found in some of the world’s oldest literature: the epic poem of Gilgamesh. The Epic of Gilgamesh circulated in Msopotamia from whence came Abraham and his descendants in the second millennium BC. this ‘history’ also records the first man to enter the garden paradise of the gods (plural), and the story of a world flood in which the people and animals were saved in an arklike vessel. In the world of Mesopotamian polytheism, however, the story of the naked couple told an uplifting ‘history’ entirely different from its interpretation in monotheism. Try it and see!
      Kind regards

  545. Trevor Jones :

    Great story but a sad relection on our standards. Great work is great work – regardless of anything else.
    Keep up the good work. It is an inspiration to both genders to see what can be done with persistance, courage , skill and a little sneekyness! Well done.

  546. I love your story of doing what you had to do to earn income for your family. A small price to pay, taking on a male name, and a real indictment on our culture.
    Your writing is superb, whether coming from either gender shouldn’t matter.