The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

Sort Interviews by Affiliation or Theme

Brenda McComb Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen and Kalia Flocker.

February 24, 2015


“A Scholar and Advocate's Gender Journey”  February 24, 2015  Location: Kerr Administration Building, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

The bulk of Brenda McComb's interview focuses on her gender journey. In recounting the story of her life, McComb discusses her feelings of unease with her assigned gender from a very early age. She then recalls the coping mechanisms to which she turned, her experiences in counseling, and the process by which she came out as a woman to her colleagues. She describes her transition from male to female, including the application of hormones and surgical procedures, and she describes the support apparatus that she helped to create for the transgender community in the mid-Willamette Valley. Additional focused attention is devoted to the family ramifications of McComb's gender transition, as well as the professional impact that her transition made.

The session then shifts to an examination of McComb's career in academia, including her teaching and research on forest ecology and biodiversity. McComb also shares her memories of the Forest Science program at OSU from her tenure on faculty in the 1980s and 1990s. She next recalls her decision to move to the University of Massachusetts and her years as a faculty member and administrator in Amherst. From there, McComb describes her return to OSU, her work as Dean of the Graduate School, her membership on the OSU Board of Trustees, and her thoughts on the future direction of the university.

As the interview nears its conclusion, McComb details her involvement with the OSU Queer Studies Program and describes the ways in which she has helped other members of the campus community through gender transitions of their own. The session concludes with McComb's reflections on having arrived at her current position in life, both personally and professionally.