Miles_FEATURED

Finding Miles

Intro from Jay Allison: “Finding Miles” took over a year to record and produce. In the crush of daily journalism on the radio, it’s rare to hear a story unwind over time. Sarah Reynolds writes, “I first knew Miles as Megan back in college. When he decided to transition from female to male, he gave me a call. He was slowly coming out to his friends as transgender — testing them, really — to see who he could still count on. The radio producer in me kicked in and I thought, this is quite a story about to unravel. I pitched him the idea and he agreed to do it: we would document his transition for radio.”This brave and intimate diary illuminates gender transition in an immediate way—from the mundane practical considerations to the fundamental identity transformation. Take some time to follow this path with Megan toward Miles. And talk to Sarah about her producing challenges, like editing a voice which steadily deepens over time from testosterone treatment.

Listen to “Finding Miles”
Listen to “Finding Miles_SReynolds”

About Finding Miles from Sarah Reynolds

Megan in March, 2004
Megan in March, 2004

I first knew Miles as Megan back in college. When he decided to transition from female to male, he gave me a call. He was slowly coming out to his friends as transgender — testing them, really — to see who he could still count on. The radio producer in me kicked in and I thought, this is quite a story about to unravel. I pitched him the idea and he agreed to do it: we would document his transition for radio.

We began in November of 2008. I taught Miles how to use the gear and he used it for just over a year. In the beginning, he would mostly sit in his room and record at the end of the day very quietly. Miles is shy (as he’ll tell you himself) and when he took the recorder with him, he would often walk around with the mic under his arm or in his bag. But slowly he grew comfortable and more willing to take the gear with him.

As he went, he would send me audio files through an FTP site. I downloaded them and listened along the way, jotting down questions and suggestions about what else I wanted to hear. We met up in person and checked in on the phone every few weeks and each time we did, I recorded him.

One of the most challenging things for me was producing through his voice change. Miles began taking testosterone about five months after we began our recording. If I didn’t keep right up with the tape each week and get everything I thought I needed, I wouldn’t be able to get it again. But as we know, the story always shifts as you go along and it’s hard to get everything you need – especially when you’re not doing all the interviewing yourself. Miles’ voice deepened quickly and at a certain point, I only had a deeper voiced Miles to reflect on what had already happened.

Miles in September, 2008
Miles in September, 2008

By the end of 2009, Miles had gone through surgery, was further into testosterone treatment, out at work, in life, at home and this chapter of his life came to a natural conclusion – always a good place to end a radio piece. I listened to every minute of tape and pulled together a story – only part of a story, really – but one that captures Megan to Miles and how he found a better space to fit into this crazy world of binaries. It was an amazing process to witness and one that still continues beyond this piece of radio. Miles is courageous for sharing it.


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About Finding Miles from Miles Taylor

I can honestly say that today I am not the same person I was when I began recording my story during the winter of 2008. So much has happened over the past 18 months, I’m caught between feeling like it’s flown by in an incredibly profound blur and thinking it’s also been the longest, most hectic &#$% year and a half of my life!

This piece was made from probably over a hundred hours of tape (a tip of the hat to my producer, though that’s probably the last time she’ll ever tell anyone “More is better than less!”). Frankly, I think I got the easy end of this deal; all I had to do was carry around a microphone.

Miles post surgery in May, 2009
Miles post surgery in May, 2009

Transitioning is a once in a lifetime experience very few people get to have–although one which I would never want to go through again. As I got closer to starting hormones, I knew I wanted to document it in some way: journals, photos, videos. And it was right around that time when Sarah approached me about making an audio documentary. I’ve never been one for the spotlight so I surprised myself when I barely hesitated before saying yes; I also knew I would be putting myself into very trust worthy hands. One thing led to the next and we got the tape rolling.

The more I recorded the easier it got. People generally wouldn’t describe me as a ‘talker’ so having to talk and talk and talk (and then talk some more, especially all about myself) was a learning experience all together. But once I got into it, the microphone became a therapist and, on some level, a friend. Transitioning is a very consuming process and more often than not, I found that I had little else to talk to my friends about. During this time, it was great having the recorder as an additional outlet. Most of the time I wasn’t thinking to myself that I was recording this for a documentary, I was recording because it was helping me survive.

I found that as I got further into my transition–hormones started, breasts gone, fully transitioned at work and 100% male in the public’s eye–the less compelled I was to sit down and record. I was burned out; I didn’t want to talk about it, I didn’t want to think about it, I just wanted to put everything transition related behind me.

I honestly don’t know what would have become of my life had I not transitioned. I’m still struggling to find my peace but I’m closer now than I have ever been before. And I am glad that I have it all documented–for myself and for anyone this may help. Special thanks to Sharone, Chris and Noreen for their support.

Tech Info

Miles used a Sony PCM D50 and a Beyer omni mic, courtesy of Transom. Sarah used a Marantz 620 and an Audio Technica Omni 8010 microphone when conducting interviews with Miles. They would often record interviews over the phone – Miles using his gear and recording himself, and Sarah using hers to record her questions. Sarah used Express Scribe to log and transcribe over 100 hours of tape and produced the piece in ProTools.


Additional Support for this work provided by
National Endowment for the Arts logo

Sarah P. Reynolds

About
Sarah P. Reynolds

Sarah P. Reynolds is a radio and multimedia producer. She produces and reports for NPR programs and several local public radio stations around the country. Her award winning investigative and reporting work covers subjects as diverse as the housing crisis, hate crimes and migrant workers, some of which has culminated in projects with national organizations working to change policy. Sarah also teaches radio production and has taught with Radio Rookies at WNYC and with several of the Transom Story Workshops as the Associate Instuctor. Find her here: sarahpreynolds.com or on Twitter at @sarahpreynolds.

More by Sarah P. Reynolds

Miles Smith

About
Miles Smith

Miles Taylor is a native Texan who now calls Boston home. He is a financial analyst for an international online retailer (and will talk endlessly about Excel if you let him). He is the proud father of a 2.5 year old dog; she is a boxer/spaniel mix and the two of them enjoy spending their time hiking and gallivanting anywhere you can stray from the beaten path.

Comments

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  • Joe Richman

    6.10.10

    Reply
    Only in a radio documentary does 100 hours = 30 min

    Sarah,
    Great work. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to turn a life, a year, 100 hours of tape into a radio story. This really captures a transformation and that’s a remarkable thing.
    I also loved the parents… they make the story universal. That scene can’t have been an easy thing for Miles to record. But it was worth pushing for.

    You and I talked at an earlier draft stage about some of the things the story was missing… scenes being a big one.
    I think the other is transitions. There are points when the chronology and narrative get blurry. Diaries (or maybe all stories without scripted narration) are particularly susceptible to flabbiness, lack of definition, feeling like a run on sentence. For me, transitions – beginnings and endings of chapters – are the most important thing. Scenes are really helpful for this. But even some time markers ("It is March 4th and today…") would help us move through this story and know where we are and we’re we’re going.

    It is so hard to make a narrative out of all this raw material and you created a lovely story.

    Diaries are great learning experiences because there are so many wonderful ways to screw them up. I’d love to hear what you learned and what you would do differently next time.

  • sarah reynolds

    6.14.10

    Reply
    re: scenes

    Hey Joe, thanks for writing.

    The transition was a lonely one for Miles and the best tape (recording quality and actual content) was when he was alone in his room. So, scenes were tough. He did go other places with the microphone, but often kept in his bag or on the table. As the months went on, he became more comfortable with the mic, but his voice started changing and it was hard to go back to those earlier times. Because (believe it or not!) I didn’t have all the tape I wanted, I used the letter as a way to move the piece forward in the beginning.

    One idea I considered was to have Miles narrate the piece after the transition, so you would meet him as Miles in the beginning and he would take you through piece. But ultimately, I felt this risked losing the real-time feeling of the story. I thought it was better to be with him along the way and a little uncertain about time than to know the exact time but feel distant from his experience.

    If I could do it again, I would have spent more time with Miles as a producer on the ground in the beginning — going with him to the store, to the doctor, etc. while he was learning the gear and getting comfortable with it. (We did most of our interacting through the year over the phone.) I think being closer to him might have helped me know what his apprehensions were earlier on in the process.

    As for the parents scene – this is one I wanted from the very beginning, but it took a while to get because Miles wasn’t comfortable approaching his parents –understandably. A year later after many conversations about getting this scene, he pushed himself to do it and out came gold! This was the last tape he recorded after 13 months of recording. So, it pays to be patient and take the time (if you have it) to push for the tape you really want!

  • Beth Maxey

    6.15.10

    Reply

    Thanks for this piece. I was very interested both by the show itself and how you handed the transition from a storytelling perspective.

  • Betsy Hanger

    6.30.10

    Reply

    I’m the proud mom of a trans son, and a podcast junkie — so it was with great joy that I found your piece in my Transom Itunes subscription today. Thank you both for the amazing story — so much like my son’s, and so uniquely, beautifully different. I honor both of you for your honesty, courage, and hard work.

  • Adrian Brooks Collins

    9.06.10

    Reply
    A Metaphysical Perspective

    Upon listening to this refreshingly direct and or unprocessed profile of Miles’ journey, I felt compelled to write what is perhaps my stubbornly consistent opinion of the motivation behind such medical gender reassignment procedures.

    I believe that those individuals who conclude they’re in the wrong gendered body, are suffering the hangover of having been their preferred gender in their most recent previous incarnation.

    To explain, for example: as Miles enacted shaving himself as a child with toothpaste; it’s because, he’d shaved himself as a man, perhaps on the frontier with a strait razor and a small mirror some 100 years earlier.

    We do have past live, all of us, and we’ve been both genders and every ethnicity.

    Coming into contact with a reader of the Akashic record, or learning how do so yourself will reveal the wealth of information there, that informs our behavior here, now.

    I just want to reach out to those who feel that they need to go to this medical augmentation extent, and encourage them to explore this metaphysical possibility first. I brought this news to a differently conflicted man. He was sexually shut down and meticulously organized. He consulted with an Akashic reader and was comprehensively transformed for the better. He learned he’d been murdered in his bed by his wife’s lover. He also learned he’d been a double agent in a French war and had to keep meticulous records of the advances of both battle fronts. He was killed there too. He was exceedingly grateful to me. Later, a psychic medium addressed me at a demonstration and confirmed the transformation he’d undergone, and the broad benefit it provided him and his spirit guides. They were deeply grateful.

    I know of which I speak.

    Sincerely,

    Adrian

    Adrian Brooks Collins
    Los Angeles

  • Sue

    9.09.10

    Reply

    Multiply Miles’ story by hundreds and you have the growing emergence of a courageous minority populated by transgender young adults and their supportive loved ones. Thank you, Miles, Vicky and Bill, Sarah, Transom, and NPR for allowing the story to be heard by anyone who will listen. It will open listeners’ hearts and minds. It will clear up misperceptions and increase understanding.

    We’re certainly living in a more accepting world today which helps to explain why we are aware of more transgender persons today than in previous generations. At one time, such conflicted individuals lived a frustrated, closeted life, and mental turmoil lead to a high suicide rate among them. And, in those days, the media would not have covered their stories.

    Yet, even today, large parts of our population have never heard the term transgender and their immediate reaction to a "sex change" is negative. You should be proud of your part in telling a true life story, so similar to the story of more American families than even you might guess, because it will make it easier for the next young person who becomes aware of her gender confusion to tell her parents and seek the help needed to make things right with less stigma.

  • Mama Ramsey

    11.29.11

    Reply

    Amazingly, I had a daughter named Megan, (who is now my son, Miles, age 26) who transitioned FTM a little more than 2 years ago. It was eerie to read about Miles T., and the feelings of both men were so similar it made the hair on my neck stand up. I am so proud of both Miles’, it was not an easy decision to make, to become who you always should have been. In a letter to my son, I told him ‘I couldn’t be more proud of you.. It was not easy and it was not pain-free, but I learned what you needed to teach me and believed in your conviction that you would finally be your true self. Your were patient enough to allow me my worries and confusion, and you are loving enough to share with me the tranquility and joy you now possess. You knew your truth and had the passion and resolve to move towards your life as you knew it should be. You taught me acceptance, surrender, vulnerability and gratitude. I trusted in the total and unconditional love I have for you and through that love you taught me that the only thing I had to do was move forward and support you with acceptance and joy for your happiness and contentment.
    I was determined to trust your judgment and leadership in terms of what you needed to be whole, what you needed in order to live your life in wellness and authenticity. I hope your Dad’s and my acceptance and love freed you to welcome all of your past identity into your present sense of self. The beautiful person you are today has a joy, a brilliancy, that you never had before, and that makes my heart happy! The difference in you is simply amazing, it is hard to explain the changes. But I believe the changes in me are just as dramatic.
    Thank you, Mama

    I hope if Miles T. is out there somewhere, he gets to read this, too.

  • Misha

    12.15.11

    Reply

    The part where he reads his parents’ response letter out loud made me cry. This is a great story. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Julie

    2.27.12

    Reply

    I’m a M-F woman more than 10 years post-surgery. I always groan when I hear these transition stories. I’ve learned first hand that you can’t understand the full story of this life decision by looking at just this period. The narrative of what preceded the transition is complicated and nuanced by what you have to learn about gender post-surgery often not knowable pre-transition … the full understanding of what gender means taking a fuller consideration of family (nuclear and extended), friendships (old and new), career / income stability, changes to sex life, poorly understood medical and psychological issues, etc.

    Transition is about fulfilling a dream, nurturing a drive, marrying feelings and behavior with “self.” But there is more to self than gender, and there is more to life than transition. For me it was an exhilarating time … but for many, many very complex reasons I couldn’t understand beforehand … that bloom has left the rose. I’m not the person today I thought I would be 10 years ago.

    • Maya

      5.08.12

      Reply

      Thanks, Julie for “there is more to self than gender”. And for sharing that part of the story of one’s life that is not told enough. I salute victory over personal trials to find one’s self. But I also fear that normative notions of gender identity, and multiple meanings of transitioning, need to be debated.

  • Liuna

    2.02.13

    Reply

    I just heard this story on Third Coast. I just thought it was so interesting because, my brother who’s name is Miles is dating a transgender guy named Chris. Chris hasn’t started the process yet, because they are both only in 11th grade. I am in 8th. Great story. :D

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