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After retirement, this engineer began a new career — and a new life as a woman

Paulette de Coriolis
Paulette de Coriolis


This story originally aired on January 19, 2019.

Paulette de Coriolis grew up in the 1950s, a time of postwar growth, Dwight Eisenhower and booming suburbs. It’s what many people picture when they think of normalcy.


“It was a nice time to grow up, except that there was no room for transgender people,” Paulette says.

In fact, even the word “transgender” hadn’t yet been coined. Paulette says she had no understanding of gender identity, and no role models. She just knew that she was a boy who liked to secretly try on women’s clothes sometimes.


Paulette continued to live as a male through school and college, through two marriages and a successful career in medical devices. Meanwhile, the world around her began to change. She started to see people with non-traditional genders popping up. First it was as objects of ridicule, on daytime talk shows and the like.

But eventually she discovered the Emerald City Social Club, where she became a fixture at the weekly support groups.

When Paulette was 62 years old she was about to retire, and ready to transition to living as a woman.

“My retirement party was on a Thursday, and on Friday I went full time. It was liberating,” she says.

Now Paulette has entered her 70s, and she did not stay retired. Instead she’s begun a second career as a therapist, specializing in LGBTQ issues.


Gabriel Spitzer is the Host and Senior Producer of Sound Effect, KNKX's "weekly tour of ideas inspired by the place we live." Gabriel was previously KNKX's Science and Health Reporter. He joined KNKX after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago. There, he created the award-winning mini-show, Clever Apes. Having also lived in Alaska and California, Gabriel feels he’s been closing in on Seattle for some time, and has finally landed on the bullseye.