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Everything You Ever Wanted
to Know About Sex Change*
*but were afraid to ask

Last updated in 1997

Social Issues

Harassment

G E N D E R A R T I C L E S -This regularly posted Internet column provides educational information regarding transgender living. (TS/TG/CD/SO) Each

column has been written to inspire contemplation and dialogue. Authored by Gianna E. Israel, columns may be reprinted in any medium insofar as each article, its introduction and the author's contact information remains unaltered.

"H A R R A S S M E N T" #02 / May '96

We live in a society which does not promote respect toward persons who have different appearances, ideas or ways of living. Consequently, many transgender persons experience social difficulties ranging from subtle harassment to indiscriminate violence. This article provides useful information when dealing with these issues and specifically provides coping mechanisms for transgender persons.

It is common knowledge that there are individuals who cannot tolerate differences in others. At times such persons use intimidation, coercion, harassment, or even violence, in an effort to make others feel afraid. Depending on the level of harassment, such persons are known by different names. These include: perpetrator, victimizer, bigot, jackass, creep, scum, or jerk, just to name a few. For sake of clarity, I like to refer to these individuals as "bullies," because their behavior can easily be found on any schoolyard.

Bullies typically act with malice toward others who are different for a variety of reasons. Many do so because their behavior makes them feel powerful. Some bullies feel entitled to hurt others because they believe it is socially acceptable or that their actions will have no consequences.

Others are harassing because they believe that their viewpoint or way of living is the only correct one. Occasionally such persons are uneducated and not aware that others have differences or that their harassment is hurtful.

Whatever a bully's reason for harassing others may be, during a confrontation such reasons should not be introduced as a topic of discussion. Generally, a bully is happy to use such discussions in order to avoid acknowledging responsibility for their behavior. The Most Effective Way To Deal With A Bully, Is To Relay A Focused Message That Their Behavior Is Hurtful And Will Not Be Tolerated No Matter What Their Reasoning! Furthermore, another effective way to reduce harassing incidents in general is to understand prevention. Here are some pointers:

*Acknowledge your role in harassing situations. Nobody likes being a victim, however at times people invite harassment without realizing it. This may be particularly true when a person has been victimized in the past or feels extra sensitive when criticized by others. Sometimes it is possible to mistake another person's lack of interest in gender issues as a form of harassment. Occasionally in such situations a person may set themselves up for harassment by drawing unnecessary attention to themselves.

If you are uncertain whether you are being harassed, pass your feelings and information about the situation by several friends you trust. Ask them how they might handle the situation, or if they believe you are overacting, and then proceed with some extra insight. If you find yourself regularly being harassed by others, or suspect you may be continually setting yourself up for victimization, seek professional help and learn assertiveness skills.

*Think Ahead! If you are newly "Coming Out" or have never been out crossdressed by yourself, plan your activities with safety in mind. Travel with friends, or restrict your activities to locations where you feel safe until your confidence level rises. It is unlikely that there is going to be a bully around "every" corner. In fact, the more times you go out the more likely it is you will notice that most people really don't pay allot of attention to others. Some persons may however respond with curiosity if they have never met a transgender person. Their curiosity may be acknowledged with a slight smile, or simply ignored as routine. Finally dress appropriate to the occasion. If a person dresses in a manner designed to draw the attention of others, he or she should be prepared for that attention and even potential criticism.

*When encountering harassment do not feed into it. You can do this by simply ignoring the bully and his or her behavior. This advice is particularly useful when encountering offhand comments from strangers looking for a confrontation, such as out in the general public. Additionally, if your find yourself encountering harassment routinely from one particular person, avoid feeding into that person's behavior by not acting revengeful or antagonistic.

Acting maliciously in response to someone else's behavior only gives the harassing party further reason to bother you.

*If you encounter a person who is continually harassing, tell that person his or her behavior is hurtful and you will not tolerate it. State so in a brief, clear manner. Surprisingly, most bullies are scared off by these assertive words. If you feel uncomfortable confronting someone about their behavior, develop a "confrontation plan" with your counselor or knowledgeable friend. You may also take along a friend as a witness and for added support.

However if at all possible, stay away from persons who use violence or threats of violence.

*Set limits or boundaries to the amount of harassment you will accept. For example, you might say, if you continue to harass me I will ask someone to help me deal with this situation. You may also state that you will report

their behavior to a supervisor, the police or appropriate authorities. Or,

you may state you will choose to no longer associate with the person.

Whatever limits you set, stay with those limits or the person will not recognize you mean business and their behavior will continue.

*If you encounter a situation which becomes overheated, physical or threatening in nature, leave immediately. If you cannot leave, at least keep moving. A moving target is harder to hit, buying you time to find a way out.

If you must hit back in order to get out of a situation, do so. Once out of a situation, immediately contact friends, your counselor or the police for assistance. If you become a victim to violence because you are transgender, file a report with the police as well as with the violence prevention program serving the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in your city.

Do not allow the incident to go unnoticed. Otherwise, even if the perpetrator stops harassing you, he or she will likely continue victimizing others.

G I A N N A E. I S R A E L provides nationwide telephone consultation, individual & relationship counseling, evaluations and referrals. She is principal author of The Recommended Guidelines for Transgender Care, and Transgender Tapestry's "Ask Gianna;" an AEGIS board member and HBIGDA member.

She can be contacted at (415) 558-8058 , at P.O. Box 4244447 San Francisco, CA 94142, or via e-mail at Gianna@wco.com.

Telling Parents

G E N D E R A R T I C L E S-This regularly posted Internet column provides educational information regarding transgender living.

(TS/TG/CD/SO) Each column has been written to inspire contemplation and dialogue. Authored by Gianna E. Israel, columns may be reprinted in any

medium insofar as each article, its introduction and the author's contact information remains unaltered.

 

"TELLING PARENTS" #03 / June '96

Telling Mom and Dad that you crossdress, have questions about your gender identity or that you are making a gender transition, each can be a difficult process. This article explores preparing for that process.

Before actually introducing the subject to your parents, there are many questions which are helpful to examine. What do you hope to gain from disclosing? Most persons disclose to their parents with the hope that at the very least their parents will acknowledge the issue exists, and perhaps be accepting or supportive. Gaining this type of acceptance in many circumstances is not always immediately possible, particularly when the parent responds with rejection, denial or indifference. Occasionally, when a person least expects it, a parent may give unconditional support.

Whatever you feel your situation may be, before disclosing you should be prepared for a wide-variety of responses.

Is disclosing to parents actually necessary? Not always. Persons who share their gender issues with others, in many circumstances are best served by only doing so when telling is going to increase the quality of the relationship. While most persons recognize this when it pertains to friendships and co-workers, they are not aware that sometimes telling

parents about their gender issues may not be beneficial. This is

particularly so if the person has no experience talking about gender

issues with others or has no support system.

Most persons disclose their gender identity issues seeking some type of validation. This process can be a healthy part of defining one's sense of self, however it can also be misplaced depending on the circumstances.

For example, if a person's primary motivation for sharing originates in a desire to share experiences and needs, than these are good things. However, if a person's motivation is designed solely to gain emotional support in a time of crisis, they may find the parent so shocked by the

news that little support is gained. Additionally, disclosing during times of personal crisis may unnecessarily portray you as unstable. In most circumstances it is best to first seek validation as well as emotional support from persons familiar with gender issues.

Generally, the more invested you are in incorporating crossgender elements in your life the more essential it becomes to have a "support team." Utilize your support team to learn about disclosure, talk about your feelings, hear about the experience of others, talk about your own and get feedback on your situation. Having done these things you will then be better prepared emotionally to disclose to your parents. For example, you will be able to relay the fact that exploring gender is a healthy part of self-development, and do so with confidence!

There are a number of other questions you may also ask. How validating have your parents been regarding you or your siblings needs? How well do they deal with hearing difficult news? Also, what views do they hold regarding matters of personal independence, and gender or sexual identity issues? Your answer to these questions can lend important insight into how your parents may respond to your disclosure. If your parents have not been supportive of your personal growth and needs in the past, that is a fair indication they may not be so regarding this issue. If your parents are relatively accepting of persons having different gender or sexual issues, then they may so with you. As you examine these questions, take time to find out how others have dealt with parents having similar attitudes.

When faced with the prospect of disclosure, many persons are uncertain how much information they should tell their parents. Choosing how much to disclose can depend on several factors. These factors include their ability to receive new or complex information without undermining relationships. Also, you need to take into consideration your own self-interests, including to what degree you believe gender issues affect your overall life.

Examples of this process include a variety of possibilities. For example, a person who only intends to crossdress privately on weekends may or may

not disclose. Sometimes this depends on whether or not the person has concerns about being discovered. Occasionally in these circumstances it is better to disclose on your own, rather than having your parents find out through another source.

The transgenderist or transsexual who intends on living "in role" or making a permanent transition, obviously will need to do more disclosure. If you are convinced that living in role and having surgery are the right steps for you, be cautions how you portray these to persons not familiar with gender issues. In these situations it is best to inform others that living in role are steps of a "real life test" which will help you determine which permanent changes are right. Clearly this would include surgery. Disclosing information which portrays an interest in thoroughly thinking through changes shows good judgment.

As you prepare for coming out to your parents, remember that initially these issues can be difficult for others to understand. Do not give so much information that your mother or father ends up confused. Stick with the basics. Initially you might set the stage for discussion by simply stating you have been having questions about gender or that you currently are seeing a gender specialized counselor. Once you are prepared to come out, let them know how these changes will effect you and them. Invite questions. If you are uncertain what the future holds, confidently state so and let them know you will keep them informed of developments.

If your parents are important to you then disclosing in person is preferable, doing so by telephone is good when physical proximity doesn't allow face-to-face contact. You may prepare for the occasion by writing out your thoughts in a letter. Write out your thoughts, edit and pass your letter past several informed persons you trust. Try to avoid overemphasizing how anguish you have suffered or how desperately you fear losing them. Be confident. Try to save the more unsettling details for a conversation after your parents have heard the basics.

In my practice I regularly provided consultations to parents seeking information about gender issues from an objective, specialized source. You can do the same by providing your parents 3rd party literature that they can read about the issues you are facing. Examples of literature include:

Coping with Crossdressing (JoAnn Roberts, Ph.D.); The Uninvited Dilemma (Kim Stuart) or Information for the Female to Male (Lou Sullivan).

****G I A N N A E. I S R A E L provides nationwide telephone consultation, individual & relationship counseling, evaluations and referrals. She is principal author of The Recommended Guidelines for

Transgender Care, and Transgender Tapestry's "Ask Gianna" column; an AEGIS board member and HBIGDA member. She can be contacted at (415) 558-8058 at P.O. Box 4244447 San Francisco, CA 94142, or via e-mail at

Gianna@wco.com.

Spiritualism and Transgenderism

The Bible and Tgism

Compiled by Wendy Phillips

"But the Lord said to Samuel, Look not on his face, nor on the height of his stature . . . : for the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the mind." (1 Sam 16:7)*

"For as he thinks in his mind, so is he . . ." (Prov 23:7)." . . . Neither let the eunuch say, Look, I am a dry tree. For thus says the Lord to the eunuchs that keep My sabbaths, and choose the things that please Me, and take hold of My Covenant; Even to them I will give in My House and within My walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off." (Isa 56:3-5).

"Therefore if your hand or your foot offend you, cut them off, and throw them from you: it is better for you to enter into life limp or mutilated, rather than having two hands or two feet to be thrown into everlasting fire.

And if your eye offend you, pluck it out, and throw it from you: it is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be thrown into hell fire." (Mat 18:8, 9).

"For there are some eunuchs, who were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, who were made eunuchs by men: and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." (Matt 19:12).

"For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, butare as the angels of God in Heaven." (Matt 22:30)

"For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given inmarriage; but are as the angels which are in Heaven." (Mark 12:25)

The apostle Paul said the living saved would be likewise-as Jesus Himself already now is (1 Cor 15:42, 49, 52). And John the apostle agreed (1 John3:2). With the Lord "there is neither . . . male nor female . . ." (Gal3:28).

". . . the Lord has created a new thing in the earth-a woman shall encircle a man" (Jer. 31:22)"Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons." (Acts 10:34) He isn't concerned about one's sex. "For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church." (Eph 5:29) Obviously, a M2F TS who hates "his"own flesh to the extent of doing, or desiring to do, all possible, up to and including GCS (genital conversion surgery-SRS), to change it to the opposite sex cannot be truly male!

". . . I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. (Phil 4:11)

As for Deut 22:5, it anciently referred to idolaters who crossdressed as part of cult gay or straight prostitution (SDA BIBLE COMMENTARY, I, 1030). Ellen G. White applied it modernly as against 19th century unisex dress by some dress reform movement women then, adding that unisex dress causes confusion and a "great increase in crime" (TESTIMONIES FOR THE CHURCH, I, 460).

As for Deut 23:1 (& Lev 21:20), it applied to those who mutilated themselvesin honor of their idol (SDABC, I, 1033).

An Editorial - The One True Path

by Marla Louise Baldwin

The preacher stands before his congregation and does what comes naturally, he preaches. He also tries to maintain his flock and cause it to grow. What will cause a member of the congregation not to stray to some other preacher? Maybe prove that the path for that member is ONLY by following the true path and the only true path is through this one preacher.

A specific religion faces the same problem and use the same solution. "There is only one true path to god, that is through us and all other paths are falsehoods."

I have heard this approach elsewhere. There is only one true low price and that is through our car dealership. There is only one true country, so love it or leave it. There is only ONE TRUE WAY TO BE A WOMAN, and that is through SRS and full time living!

Sound familiar?
Ask most therapist.
Ask the government.
Ask society.
Ask some preachers within the gender community.
Hell, ask Geraldo!

Obviously, with so many making such a statement, it must be true! And by definition, all those transgender individuals who do not follow the 'true' path cannot be women.

Did I say 'by definition'? Yes dears, I sure did. For I have had 'womanhood' defined for me by many of the preachers of the one true path. They define womanhood as living full time as a woman with female genitalia. Convenient isn't it. If one believes this definition, the only way to achieve womanhood is to follow the one true path.

If one does not live full-time, if one has male genitalia or if one keeps the option of 'escaping' (?) to the male gender when one wishes; one cannot live the experience being a full woman and therefore cannot be a woman.

Bullhocky!

You've all heard of the 'Big Lie'. Well, here it is again. Tell it often enough and long enough and people will start believing you. The fact that it is obviously false is irrelevant. First, let's make sure it is obviously false. I have an easy logic and test. First, the logic. Gender has been defined, and it is generally agreed to be 'between the ears' while sex is 'between the legs'. If such is true, the second part of the lie is obviously false. The genitalia in and of themselves do not define gender. For some, the changing of the genitalia is necessary to achieve the balance and vision in their mind, and I cannot object to (and maybe even understand) this necessity for themselves. But when they try to force their vision on me or others, I will object strongly. The body is just a receptacle to carry ones 'self'. It does not define the self and as such, can be of any form. If my 'self' is woman, how can the fact that my plumbing is an 'outie' change this? It can't and doesn't. The lie starts to unravel.

The definition also requires one to live full time as a woman without the ability to retreat to a different gender. I guess the assumption is that somehow this creates a woman where there wasn't one there before. Although I'm not sure how. It seems somehow attached to experience. But there is no one experience that defines being a woman. Who lives more as a woman anyway, the individual who hides in her room but wears a dress 100% of the time or the individual who takes her female self out to society and interacts with it in many varied and rich ways, but only does it for part-time? How does living as a man IN ADDITION TO living as a woman detract from being a woman? Ah, but the test I promised. If this definition of womanhood is true, it should apply to genetic females as well as males. Many females may have less 'woman' experiences than many part time dressers and other woman may crossdress as well, but I've yet to hear anyone claim they are not woman because they don't have these experiences or live full time as women. The rule seems to apply only to genetic men. And if gender is between the ears, the chromosome pattern of the individual should not cause an exception to the rule.

So we are faced with a falsehood masquerading as an 'obvious truth'.

Why the 'big lie' exist is a bigger question. My best guess is that it is a fallout result of societies simplification of gender to binary poles. If the 'big lie' was true, it would still keep gender as a simplification and hide the 'successful' transgenderist away from societies view. It is much more difficult to realize that there can be people who are happy mixing the genders, or having 'conflict' between body and gender.

But the result is a limitation on ourselves. Rules and ideas that try to restrict us from finding that life path that is best for each of us uniquely. No, go back to the basics and search within your self. Gender is between the ears, and only there can you find out if one is woman or not. The body and experience are only relevant in how they form the gender in the mind. Do not believe the 'Big Lie' but find your own path to womanhood. That path may be the 'true path', because for some that is the right answer. But it can just as easily be a different path! Only you can know which route will lead you to your own needs and self. Ignore the preachers and search it out yourself.

"BASED ON A TRUE STORY"

excerpts from the transition diary of Katherine Collins

INTRODUCTORY NOTE

I am trying to make submissions to The Subversive [Melanie's gender-oriented cyberzine] which address "the spiritual side of transsexualism". Several times a week, I write a few thousand words in my "transition diary", detailing thoughts or feelings or events. I have been doing it regularly for two years now.

This writing is amazing to look back on. Every phase is so distinct, every step forward so tentative and yet momentous, and then so quickly left behind and forgotten as new developments overwhelm the old.

The "spiritual side" of the transition is proving to be the most important part of it, but also the most elusive. I am not forming precepts or coming to definite conclusions. My spiritual growth is a blind grope down a path I have never imagined; and so what I want to do is share with the readers of The Subversive some of the stages of that journey as I have experienced them.

In this and future issues, I propose to publish some edited excerpts from my diary-not the whole diary, as Melanie is doing, but in my case only those bits which bear upon spiritual matters (loosely interpreting that term). You will be spared a lot of my personal agonies over my appearance and my relationships and my work and finances, although all of that, too, is of course part of the larger story of any transsexual's life.

I started seriously working toward my transition in April 1992, first by just "dressing" part time in public, and, luckily, finding a partner (now an "ex") who was able to help me explore my female sexual side. I spent over a year working on my appearance, in order to make "full time" possible, and now, since July 1993, am "living full time", taking hormones, and day by day altering my social persona in the eyes of all who know me. I am scheduled for "SRS" in September 1994.

In The Subversive #15, I published two diary excerpts from September and November of 1992; and the first here is from December 1992, as the process began to deepen.

The Door * December 17, 1992

I think that my "trans-gender" status is a very great gift in my life. Of course it is also a huge hassle and expense, and sower of confusion and fear-but the gift of it is that I am blessed with the opportunity to go through a magic door.

I am crossing, back and forth, and straddling, the breach which is normally thought of as uncrossable, that great divide in creation, between male and female. I feel the power of this magic opportunity most clearly when I am out in the natural world. I felt it acutely when I was on my long, solo Scottish and Portuguese hiking trips, when there was no human contact for most of the day, and my true inner self could fall at rest where it naturally lay, instead of being influenced by people's perceptions of me. I have never felt more undeniably female-all of the female side of the universe was singing to me, calling out to me, and I was at home at last, welcomed and at rest.

When out in nature, I feel acutely how wide open is that "door". I feel that every step I physically take on a path is a step through the door; I feel male and female nature spirits around me, guiding me, welcoming me to a wider perception of who I am, letting me live half in "our" world and half in the spirit world, where nothing looks physically different, but which is teeming with those powers we have called fairies, dryads, dybbuks, etc. etc., which all fleetingly take a shape only to lose it again.

The essential elements of the universe-dark and light, dead and alive, male and female-are all one to them, they cross back and forth in split seconds. As one who is traversing the normally uncrossable, I am privileged to be a part of this company. This is a great adventure, something given to only a few, a journey to the unknown, and as great a quest as there can be in life, to become "other" and simultaneously attain oneself.

My soul, in this silly human body, is lighting up, coming alive as never before, traveling outward, reaching intently, becoming more of all and everything, all at once. It is a giant blessing and gift.

Stumbling In The Darkness * February 7, 1993

This is a night-time experience, not even a reality by the standards of day. This is another of those half-illusory nights of not sleeping until dawn, futilely chasing sleep with vodka, valium, and marijuana, shuffling down the hall, nightgown hem clutched up to my waist and tripping still; stumbling, bumping into the wall . . . . and thereby fulfilling one of the forgotten expectations of my youth, that some day I would be an adult in a big city in the midst of some complex, obscure, possibly existential dilemma, part of the world of literature and pills.

But when the grainy 16-millimetre images that fed my youthful imagination tossed up raddled, tousled, gender-uncertain faces, wavering between dissolution and absolution, who did I think I would be? Did I divine that I would stumble down that hall feeling like a transvestite, or like the archetypal over-the-hill drag queen, muttering and cursing with her makeup streaming down her face; or some other debilitated queer? Did I ever think I would stumble down that hallway feeling like a transsexual, like a creature from some fantastic fiction? Or like a woman? Or did I think my outlaw peculiarities would be somehow of a less affronting nature?

Tonight I knew, in some hidden recess of my being, that I had been destined all this time to come to this-that this is my path, that it has brought me to that stumble down the hallway in the dark-that it takes me toward some end which is hidden still, far beyond the darkness at the end of the hall.

NOTES * February 22, 1993

Last night, I had a very strong vision, about my progress toward transsexualism. Whether it was wishful thinking, or what, I don't know; but it is the kind of thing that I usually use as my guide, in making life decisions. I do rely on my "visions" and intuition whenever it doesn't seem completely crazy.

It was a very simple vision-simply the knowledge that forward, toward transsexualism, is the direction toward joy and life; and that backward, away from it (and therefore toward what?) is the direction of death.

I have long believed that anything that is not growing is shrinking. There is no such thing as stasis. So that is more or less the same thing. Transsexualism is growth. Anything else is not, and therefore is death.

Praying for Magic * February 27, 1993

The other day, I was walking on the street, looking up toward the sky, through the tree branches, trying to send my spirit higher in a rather literal sense, as if God and the truth and a sense of wholeness and rightness might be up there. The act of casting my spirit outward toward infinity quite simplistically made me feel that I was perhaps a bit closer to leaving behind the old life, the old male identity; as if a female identity were something purer and cleaner, more swept by the wind and clouds, something to purify my gaze and absolve my imperfections, something to be attained by reaching to a higher, better, sweeter part of my nature.

Most of that is nonsense, of course. But catching myself with this unconscious motive suddenly brought back to me a memory which I had completely forgotten since some time in my childhood. I remember it absolutely now, as if I had never forgotten it, but I probably have not thought of it for thirty-five years.

Back at that time in childhood when one still half-believes in magic-story-book magic, the power of the certain words or the magic wand-I used to cast my thoughts out and upward, and try to make them so clear and so strong, and so impossible for the powers of magic to ignore, that I would by magic be able to make a wish come true. And it was always the same wish: that I be turned into a girl. I remember time after time, lying in bed and thinking that I might wake in the morning and find it true, knowing all the while that it would not be so, and yet needing that thought as a buoy, something to sustain me as I went off to sleep in a world where things were inexplicably not right.

I think I had magic and religion all mixed together as one thing. Since we were not a religious family, I had no training and no ideology to give me any clear idea of what prayer was for and about, or how it was done, but it seems clear to me now that I was praying as much as I was doing anything else; for what is prayer if not trying to influence a greater power by the purity of your own desire?

And what was I doing the other day if not the same thing that I did thirty-five years ago? I was sending my thoughts, and I hoped, my soul, aloft to be transmuted. Perhaps that is what I am doing every day, in these writings, in my therapy, in my introspection: trying to find the magic spell that will not only give me the gift I seek, but also make it right, make it be God's will, make it be the work of the fairies who see a pure soul captured in mortal flesh and condescend to give it, if not freedom, a finer existence.

I want not only what I seek, but the blessing, that I deserve to have it.

Relationship's end: Loving The Wild One * February 27, 1993

Last night, after all day successfully dodging and running from my sorrow and fear and loneliness, as I got ready for bed, suddenly deep sorrow and loss could not be avoided. I prepared the wide, empty bed, and reached in the closet for the pretty white nightgown that Carol had given me-her first romantic gift to me-and the hurt little girl inside me started to despair, and to weep; and I clutched the bundled nightgown to my heart and for a moment vacillated in consciousness between the little girl and the adult, born-male person . . . .

The fight I had won all day, to remain in control and stay on some kind of productive work schedule was no longer necessary, nor was control in general. A moment more of self-conscious weeping, an adult trying to express something, and then I leaned against the wall, hand to my brow, and I was gone . . . . Gone. A dream has disappeared, another one; and perhaps all my other romantic dreams over the years were really substitutes for this one, dreamed by the little girl-maybe she is thirteen-who lives inside me, yearning to grow up, yearning for love and romance and someone she can give herself to. Some words for a possible song had come to me the night before:

"I put my arms around the sun
When I held you,
My only one . . . . "

That is my predominant impression of my love for Carol-holding her as I lay down, with her above me; looking up at her, admiring my prince, my boyfriend, my husband. The Wild One, who could take me somewhere I had never been; and she loved me for being young and sweet and pretty. She was above me, like the sky, stretching to every horizon of my world. She was above me like the sun, shining on me at last, and I held that sun in my arms so it would shine on me some more.

And her arms around me bound me to her, so I could let go and fall, fall all the way down yet never fall away, never hit any bottom because she held me and so I fell in place, away from care, away from fear, away from thinking or needing to care, but never away from Carol because our arms held us together, and our love held us together, falling together through an infinity; and yet the sun never falls, it is the centre, and so in all time and space I could look and see I held my arms in a circle around the sun. A young girl's dream-love to save me, love to set me free, yet never leave me alone.

One magic night, we visited the Yuba River, and swallowed some Ecstasy, and at one point ventured out under the wild profusion of stars in the country night . . . . this was at a time when it was still novel to me to wear female clothes, and so I felt all my female-ness spilling out, and I knew Carol felt I was her girl, and she was my man, so I felt new and bursting with growth, and joyous at being myself under the whole universe's big eye . . . . and we kissed under those stars, and she pressed something hard against me through her clothes and mine . . . . and later we made love and she held me, and I thought I had gone to heaven.

But it was only a dream. For all the mortal reasons I have relentlessly analysed elsewhere, no matter what I felt I was getting from Carol's love, she did not get what she needed from me. The awful reality intruded, that I did not have a free ride; it was not enough to let myself go and fall into her grasp. Like all first-love dreams of girls who fall in love with The Wild One, the dream evaporated, turned to something harder and sterner and easier to grasp, but as unwelcome as full daylight after a night of stars. It turned to human relations, the stuff of the adult world, where there are needs and compromises and negotiations and realistic understandings.

Last night, the little girl cried. The adult's body was leaning against the wall, but the little girl was lost, somewhere far away in grief and mourning, hovering on the lip of falling again, but this time with no one to hold her, falling into that infinity all by herself, with no sun in the sky, no arms around anything. The sun had turned angry, the sun had turned sullen and unwilling, the sun had turned away and was gone.

The little girl came back, found herself standing in the hall, and the adult tried to recover and prepare to go to bed.

The little girl had come back just a bit different. Only a little, but older and wiser, as the expression goes. And the adult realised that that girl has to continue to live and grow.

At first I thought perhaps she would be gone, if Carol is gone. I thought she had no life without Carol. But instead I think my time with Carol has summoned her forth, and she needs to grow, to grow up. If there is to be a complete adult woman in this body, she will need an adolescence. The adult's brain is working fairly well, but her emotional underpinnings are merely vestigial.

As I was slowly descending toward a tense sleep, I found my mind was back in time, picturing clearly a juncture of my life that was like a fork in the road. The reason my female self is only now beginning to grow from about age thirteen is that that was the age when I had to embark upon one road or another in life-the age of puberty, of course, and of increasingly gender-specific socialisation. Not knowing I had any alternative, and more importantly, not knowing I was making a choice, I went down the path which I can see so clearly now in retrospect. There is a process which I imagine is more or less the same for everyone, which I can recall participating in, with its slow day-by-day effect. That process is the building of one's social persona, which is related to but not quite the same as one's "self".

In learning how people react to you, you learn who to be. That which works well, you repeat. That which you feel expresses yourself clearly and to the effect you wanted, you learn to summon again. That which people tell you they think you are, you believe. There is scarcely any other way to know who you are in the world. Who they think you are becomes who you think you are, and you act as the person they think you are, which convinces them further that it is true, and they tell you it is true, and so little by little in some sense that becomes who you are. You can go your whole life believing that you are who you have always been.

I developed, from that fork in the road, at age thirteen, into something that I and others believed was a man. It took me years to fully comprehend that my inner feeling about myself in the world is widely divergent from what is usually understood to be the male sensibility.

So there is another path I can tread; part of my task is to go back and take that other fork, let that girl be socialised again, this time in a way that is more pleasing to her tastes and inner balance. In the meantime, the adult can also learn to live in the world as a woman; but she will never be whole until the girl catches up, to inhabit her.

A Thoroughly New Bottle * March 14 & 15, 1993

Last night, as I sat in the living room, taking a break from work, I was dressed in a comfortable skirt and sweater. I was smoking a cigarette, which I seldom do, and felt, I realised, like a somewhat different person, sitting there in my feminine clothes, and with my cigarette poised between my fingers. I suddenly felt a persona inside of myself which is struggling toward complete existence-the female persona, of course.

I realised that the female persona is somewhat different from the male person I have been for so long. I have been writing about the growth of the young girl inside of me, growing up to inhabit the woman who I will become; but in fact I have just barely begun to become acquainted with the female persona. The male must move over and make room, and then relinquish primacy, and then-what? Disappear altogether? I don't know-is there some process of assimilation?

In any case, I felt that the habits and attitudes and tastes of the female person were at that moment quite clear to me. Thus to my surprise I realised that there is a different person who I may become.

And it suddenly struck me, since I was understanding her as a truly different person-not just my male self in a skirt-that there is indeed a very good reason why, nearly universally, transsexuals change their names-and not just because they don't want to be a woman named Henry. One begins to understand the new persona as a separate person, with new, different, characteristics and habits. The taking of a new name is necessary, because everything and everyone must have a name. So for the first time, amazed, I seriously contemplated that I may need to do it, too. Perhaps keeping the old name will be a roadblock to really admitting the new persona. What changes, and what remains the same, in a complete transsexual transformation, has so far been a mystery to me. Now, after last night, it seems perhaps that the old wine of my spirit-my soul? -- will be getting a more thoroughly new bottle than I realised. It will not be just the body, the clothes, the carriage; not even just the emotions, the social assumptions, the spiritual attitude. It seems it may be the very basic manifestation of the individual, something which I had thought immutable, the very "self" which we think of as our core being. This is truly becoming a re-birth, much more so than I could have ever imagined.

I have thought I could keep the old name, because it is not particularly gender-specific. Perhaps I still may, but this is something at least to consider. My spirit has inhabited the male person for so long-and the male is now a bit reluctant to let go, I think. Will it fight to keep the old name, and if so, is it fighting to retain primacy, when it must let go?

Should I change my name to Katherine? That is clearly the name that awaits me if I choose to change it. My fictional "Katie" character has always been my surrogate. (Could I change my name and, since it is already established, let my male name be a pen name? That could lead to a very odd, schizoid life.)

This remains to be seen. But I do already know that I had better let Katherine in. And I may be performing a more profound act than I can possibly know.

Copyright 1994 Katherine Collins

"Based On A True Story" (Other Thoughts)

excerpts from the transition diary of Katherine Collins

Introductory note * November 15, 1993

Somehow Melanie  and I cooked up the idea that I would make submissions to The Subversive, which addressed "the spiritual side of transsexualism". Ever since we agreed to that, I have been wondering what form to give it. It is not that I have nothing to say on that subject, but rather, far too much.

Several times a week, I write a few thousand words in my "transition diary", detailing thoughts or feelings or events. I have been doing it regularly for almost two years now. This writing is amazing to look back on. Every phase is so distinct, every step forward so tentative and yet momentous, and then so quickly left behind and forgotten as new developments overwhelm the old. Inevitably, I hope to have the resultant bulky tome published at some point - heavily edited, one hopes, perhaps with garden shears.

The -spiritual side+ of the transition is proving to be the most important part of it, but also the most elusive. I am not forming precepts or coming to definite conclusions. My spiritual growth is a blind grope down a path I have never imagined; and so what I want to do is share with the readers of The Subversive some of the stages of that journey as I have experienced them. In this and future issues, I propose to publish some edited excerpts from my diary - not the whole diary, as Melanie is doing, but in my case only those bits which bear upon spiritual matters. So you will be spared a lot of my personal agonies over my appearance and my relationships and my work and finances, although all of that, too, is of course part of the larger story of any transsexual's life.

I started seriously working toward my transition in April 1992, first by just "dressing" part time in public, and, luckily, finding a partner (now an "ex") who was able to help me explore my female sexual side. I spent over a year working on my appearance, in order to make "full time" possible, and now, since July 1993, am "living full time", taking hormones, and day by day altering my social persona in the eyes of all who know me.

These first two excerpts are from September and November of 1992, when I had just recently started therapy and electrolysis, and the whole process was still all new.

Excerpt One: "Splinters of the Infinite" * Sept. 1, 1992

It never ends now. This transition is on my mind nearly all the time. It takes a lot of my energy, just thinking about it; and more energy, doing anything about it.

Day by day I see the new self emerging - sometimes summoned forth through applications of makeup and through careful dressing - and sometimes simply there, by surprise, staring me in the face from the mirror.

I am getting used to it, but it is also an astonishing situation. Sometimes it feels as if I have fallen into a dream, as if everything I am saying is the fantastic prattle of dreams, and that I shall awaken and shake myself and say, how incredible.

I look at myself in the mirror and realize how deeply into this dream I have fallen. It is infinite, like the reflected galleries of a hall of mirrors - the reality of my profound changes reverberates through my personal time and space, altering my relationship with the world, and with the cosmos. The dream is deep and multi-layered, and new meanings flash as one rounds every corner. And the infinite speaks back, and like the mirror, affirms what I know is there. It says, "Yes, I know." And it says, "Yes".

I had two visions - splinters of the infinite, sent my way, and through me. They are among the more palpable of the affirmations I have been receiving.

Both came to me in the same evening, several hours apart. Both came while I was being held by Carol.

The first: suddenly I was present in another time and place, in another body, in another life, in almost another world. It was the early days of civilisation, in Mesopotamia or Sumeria. We were thin brown people, Carol and I, poor, in a hot dry land. This harshness was to us simply the human condition, and our comfort was that my scrawny female body was being held by my husband, who was also small and thin and who loved me and wanted to make love with me.

And peculiar words came to me - "At last my bones are wanted upon this earth."

I don't think I have ever felt before that my body, and my self, as one, were welcomed and desired. I have been ill at ease on earth, like an unwanted guest. Inhabiting that brown body, so nearly nothing but bones, and its bones so nearly just another bit of brittle debris in a dry landscape, paradoxically made me feel more desired, and more at home in the world as a woman, than if I had suddenly been transformed into a buoyant pin-up queen. I was desired from the bones outward. My husband's arms around the frail package which held my soul gave me a sense of completeness, which echoed through to today, from the life of that person I perhaps once was, to the life of the person I am becoming.

Later - much later - lost in the wilds and visions of sexual energy, I felt strength and power running through me. My articulate imagination labeled it for me, with symbols I already knew. I knew them, but had never felt them within me before.

It was the female energy which in Puritan times was labeled as witchcraft. It is that energy which women today are reclaiming, and dedicating to the Goddess, and channeling through themselves once again. The symbols were of the supernatural: of spirits and fairies and magic, of demons, and of the dead and the living. They came from somewhere on or near the earth, and arched their way, through me, toward the sky. The dead yawned toward the heavens, and the living were rooted in the earth, and all the spirits between were in a twisting cycle, with energy far beyond my control.

I have no rational understanding of what I felt, of what came through me. It was a gift, for a moment, which I hope I will receive again.

I think there is no turning back in this process; it's far too late for that and I am far too certain of my direction. So whether it is all a dream, or stark reality, I am living it now.

Excerpt Two: "Ghosts In The Hall" * November 20, 1992

I feel a marked dissonance with my own body. Saying that, I realise it is almost the textbook definition of what being trans-gendered is all about. Still, it is currently disturbing me more than it has in quite a while. I catch sight of myself in the mirror - in either women's or men's clothes - and I am shaken. The appearance is so far from what I feel I am, that it is discouraging and depressing.

Despite the success of my hair additions, which give me a full, bushy head of long hair, when I look at my face in the mirror I see behind that to the greying, balding, middle-aged man which is my natural appearance. This dissonance is repeated when I survey my entire body, and see the portly stomach of the middle-aged man.

Then the dissonance rises to a din, when I hear the voices of those girls and women I might have been, but have never been, and will never be.

They are like ghosts running through the halls of my apartment. They surround me and follow me. Sometimes they follow faithfully like a shadow but of a different shape, and sometimes they run off in some other direction. At times I can follow - but other times I definitely cannot.

I have written before, at least briefly, about the feeling of having missed out on the childhood, the girlhood, that I wish I had had - and the adolescence, and the young womanhood. Instead I had some other life - not quite somebody else's, exactly, as I certainly lived it and made it mine. And it made me its own, to some extent. But it was not the life that I should have had, and it detracted from connection with a great many parts of myself.

It is, to say the least, challenging to develop as a middle-aged woman without having been a girl and a young woman. One of the missed connections was with my own sexuality. And now, only recently, one major way that I have been thrown face-to-face with my "lost selves", with the girls and women I "should have been", has been through sexuality. Its sly budding, that I missed having as a girl and a woman, I seem now to be having. And through it, I can experience and express the many unfulfilled young personae that I find in myself. I can live them out to some extent.

Even the fears help. Like any young girl, I feel a tremulous fear of the power of sex; but also a reluctance to turn away from it. I feel small and powerless before it, and yet it is coming from me, or through me. It is especially bewildering that my sexuality has the ability to affect others. My fears, my hesitation, my clumsy lack of experience, my confusion and embarrassment, are all conspiring to locate me, psychologically, in the mind of a young girl.

No part of this "transformation" process has been anything I have expected in advance, or could have predicted. I certainly did not imagine this - the inhabiting of myself by a young girl's undeveloped self. This can be wonderful, and I'm sure it is "healthy", but it is also adding to the uncomfortable dissonance between my inner self-image and my outer appearance. It is not my aim, as a middle-aged transsexual, to generally try to live in the world as a teenage girl. This would add infinitely greater absurdity to a social persona which is already going to be hard enough to integrate into the larger society.

The everyday self wants to continue as an adult being, able to handle the rigours of career and social relationships, and of intellectual perception. But the inner self is hungering for experiences - social, not just sexual - which I have not had. I want to get the affirmations I never had as a young person: to be seen and perceived and related to as a tender, budding young woman; to have my sweetness and romanticism, and desire to be pretty and have innocent fun, be perceived as part of a young female personality.

Every experience of maturation that I have had, I had as a "young man". To actually have those experiences again, this time as a young woman, is of course impossible. But as a replacement, now a powerful magnet exists in anything that is able to tell me, intellectually or intuitively, what it has been like for others and therefore what it might have been like for me.

In part, I am absorbing other people's memories, in order to have a past. I sometimes feel like the character of Rachel, in the movie "Blade Runner". She was a manufactured being, a pseudo-human, who was given someone else's memories so that she would believe she is "real". For years I have been reading fiction and memoirs by women, at first quite unconsciously choosing it, and have been gaining at least a bit of fellow-feeling with adult women.

Recently, the experiences of younger girls have become more vital to me. In a period of a couple of days, I saw a movie ("The Lover") about a 15-year-old girl's sexual and romantic awakening, and then began reading a memoir of the Beat Generation, in which Joyce Johnson vividly recalls her 13-year-old self, uncertainly exploring the world of artists and bohemians.

I sat in bed and read it, captured, as page by page she grows older and her experiences broaden, and I got further inside the details of the life of a girl in New York in the fifties. A spell deepened, which I did not want to disturb, either by stopping reading or by stopping to think too closely. I felt that the hall of my apartment was full of ghosts, moving back and forth. They were an almost overwhelming crowd. The spirits of girls and women had come forth and were a discourse, a traffic, a colloquium and communion of women, oblivious to me specifically, but connected to me, available to me, open to me as one of them. Were they archetypal people, or other people, or fragments of people? Or were they ages and aspects of myself, persons for all the days of my life in which my female self lived silent and dormant? I have no answer, but that day I was immersed in them, in a warm sea, and they seemed to be passing through my skin, imbuing me with their life.

Perhaps a lot of fragments of people, of personae, are slowly accumulating - all of those things which I might have been, all those experiences I might have had, all adding up. Will they make a whole person whom I can understand some day? Can I ever catch up on all that lost time? Can I, if not re-make my past, at least have a coherent sense of what it might have been, who I might have been, and therefore who I am now?

I need, if not to have a female past, then at least to have gone through layers of growth that can get me to a place of being female as an adult. I cannot leap from male to female, full-grown.

This process does not solve the problem of the physical dissonance, and may in fact make it worse. But I cannot deny the vividness with which I am absorbing new realities, through other people as well as through my own experiences. I know of the ghosts in the hall, in the room, all around me at times, inside me at times.

_ 1993 Katherine Collins

Interactions

"ARE GENDER SUPPORT GROUPS SELF DEFEATING?"

by Denise Anne Fell

As I write this, I freely admit that I have never had the so called benefit of a support group. From the observations that I have made, I feel that I am fortunate in that respect.

The idea behind a support group for any reason is wonderful, especially in an area as touchy as gender problems, however, from things that I have seen and heard, I also believe that they can be very damaging to individuals that attend the meetings. I believe that in order for a support group to work, there must be a leader. Not one of the girls, but someone who is far ahead of the others, or even better a member of the medical profession that has knowledge in the area of transsexualism. The second and perhaps the most important thing is total and complete honesty. Granted, the idea behind a support group is to offer support to each member, however, building false hopes and not being honest in order to make another person feel good at that particular moment can have far reaching consequences.

It is one thing to leave your home or apartment in the dark and go to a meeting in a dimly lit room and tell each other how good everyone looks. When reality strikes and that individual has to go out and face the world in broad daylight it becomes another story.

I wonder how many transsexuals, who are appearing in public for the first time will handle being laughed at by some little teenage girl. It happens and I can tell you from experience, it hurts. It can shatter your self confidence. It can make you doubt your ability and it can drive some that are close over the edge.

In addition to the comradely from these meetings, a time should be set aside to discuss current problems and issues involving the members as a group or transsexuals in general. Members should set up times when guest speakers can attend. Get someone to come in and give makeup demonstrations. Mary Kay and Avon should be more than happy to send a representative to show proper techniques. Have someone knowledgeable in wig styles come in and explain how to properly choose a wig. One that will not only match your skin tone, but will enhance your facial features. Sometimes what we think looks best is actually the worst for our features. These people have the knowledge to help the entire group succeed in their goal of becoming a woman or man.

One of the most important things that the members of a group can do is to learn to give and even more important accept constructive criticism. Above all be honest, it is better to hurt a members feelings in the security of a safe group than to fill that individual full of false hope only to have it broken into a million pieces when they first venture out into the world by themselves for the first time.

"Class Act"

by Melanie

Last semester I returned to college for the first time in 15 years. I had two purposes in coming back after all these years. One, I wanted to take a psychology class to help me understand what the "scientific" community thought of transsexualism and the differences in brain sex. Two, I wanted to "undo" my bad memories of college as a man and replace them with a college experience as a woman.

I did not know how my age might affect my social status, nor was I really sure how to be "one of the girls" in an educational setting. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. College these days is filled with people seeking second careers as the job market shrivels, so I was not alone in my bracket. Besides, I'm rather with it for a 40 year old chick (except I keep using dated phrases like "with it").

Anyway, I felt so much more comfortable this time around than I had before. One girl came over and introduced herself on the first day and we decided to be study partners. She was the first close girlfriend I ever had who did not know my past. We went several places together over the course of the semester: breakfast at IHOP, study sessions, shopping for bras, etc. That's why it was a tough decision to tell her about my past.

About this time in class, we were studying the nature of relationships. We learned that there is a significant difference between the factors that make a good short term relationship and what is needed to create a long term relationship. In the short term, first impressions are VERY important and very hard to overcome. However, in the long run, a relationship can only survive if the parties make "self disclosure" about all the things, good and bad, that surround their lives. If one wants to take a friendship from casual to close, one must disclose.

I fretted over the decision for weeks, knowing that I would not feel honest and could not let the friendship grow without coming clean. Yet, I did not want to jeopardize my relationship with the first woman to accept me as an equal. Close to the end of the semester, honesty won out. I waited until an appropriate moment, then told her as we walked back to my car, as I was taking her home that day. The way I filled her in was by letting her read two of my psychology assignments in which I had referred to my transition.

For the briefest of moments she was taken aback, but after just a few minutes, it was like I had told her something that brought us even closer. She saw none of the old me and simply felt honored that I had chosen to share with her.

Bolstered by this, I decided to take a chance and share with the entire class - partly for honesty, partly for curiosity, partly to get ready for the expected scrutiny of the press I will experience as a result of the  software I co-designed, and partly to gather some data that might help others in similar situations.

I approached the teacher, who was also my counselor and therefore already new my past. He said I could have a full class period to lecture on transsexualism. On the appointed day, he began with a brief discussion of human sexuality, then said, "We are fortunate to have with us in this class someone who has gone through the transsexual experience." Everyone looked around to see who it was. I got up and noted the surprised faces.

I gave a 40 minute presentation to good effect and received many words of praise for my courage, honesty, and success in transition. I had no negative effects after the class, and was involved in many more conversations, with both men and women that I had been for the previous part of the semester.

This experience alone is useful, but I realized at the time that hard data was even more important. So, before I started my presentation, I asked everyone in class to take out a sheet of paper and anonymously put down their feelings as I went through my lecture. At the end of the class, I collected their comments. I reprint here as a guide to what civilians think of transsexuals when forced to confront the issue in an unexpected moment.

**********************

"As a human to another human, I admire your openness. I think your intelligence helps carry across your story without shocking the listener. You carry yourself with such confidence that I feel comfortable asking you questions. As you noticed I used the word human. This is because I see you as a person, like me. Therefore your accomplishments mean more to me than your sexuality and I don't believe you need to "out" yourself unless it makes you feel better".

**********************

"I admire you for doing what you did because you really wanted to and you did! I don't think any different about you, but its nice that you're happy. Thank you, Melanie! You should be a guest speaker in many classes. I learned a lot.

**********************

"Damn"

**********************

"Surprised! NO WAY! I never knew anyone who was a transsexual. I'm glad you didn't relate to little boys because they turn out (most of the ones I knew) to be jerks! Sorry about generalizing! Honestly, it was scary to hear about it at first. But if you're happy, that's great! I want to find out what your name was as a man. You seem so much happier as you talk about the change."

**********************

"I never would have guessed it. It's amazing how well you took your whole ordeal. You also seem to know so much about the subject of sexuality. Have you ever thought about teaching in a university?"

**********************

"There's a million things going on in my mind, but I'm just completely shocked. I've never met anyone that was a transsexual. I don't know what to say. I never thought that I could accept someone like you, but I do. I give you a lot of credit for doing what you did and what you are doing. Good luck with your life!"

**********************

"It's your choice to do what ever you want, but I was always taught to live with what God gave you. After looking at your pictures, I really don't believe everything that you are saying. But I wish you happiness and a long, good life."

**********************

"I would never have known that you had gone through transsexual surgery. It is surprising, however, does not change the opinion I have of you from what I have seen. I can't imagine how difficult this must have been for you. I find it very interesting the feelings you had throughout life. As I sit here and look at you I can't believe you were a man. I would imagine it is interesting to see how people treated you as a man vs. how you are now treated as a woman. I think it's great that you are happy and feel comfortable sharing your experience with us."

**********************

"I found the lecture very interesting. I find that you're very comfortable with your new identity and I think that's great."

**********************

And the professor wrote:

"The students are RIVETED. Interested that you fantasized about being female at age 7. Your presentation is very matter-of-fact, so not so scary or sensationalized. "Picking the birth control pills out of the mayonnaise" really legitimizes your actions - that really shows me the depth. You will be interested in 'cognitive style mapping' which is a developing discipline within educational psychology."

**********************

My conclusions, based both on what I learned in theory and what I experienced in fact, is that the more you are comfortable with yourself, the more others will be comfortable with you. As for telling vs. not telling, I think honesty will always win out on the average. As for when to tell, first impressions ARE very important. Don't wear a sandwich board advertising your change. But when you have grown to know someone and feel the friendship might have long-term potential, then its time to tell. It may blow the whole thing out of the water, but better at the end of a short term relationship than in the middle of a long term one.

So, gather what you can from this experiment in disclosure, and please send in any experiences you have that can guide others to be more secure in their decisions.

**********************

Here are the two psych papers I let me friend read in order to share my past with her:

Synthesis Paper #1

by Melanie

As a transsexual, I needed to develop a whole new set of reactions and behaviors that were both socially appropriate to my new role and at the same time true to myself. I soon found that the difficult part was not in changing my actions, but changing the way I organized my thoughts from years of "training" as a male. I decided to employ a combination of Classical Conditioning and Cognitive Learning.

Unlike Pavlov, I could not directly stop the conditions stimulus that led to each conditioned mannish thought and wait for extinction, as I was not aware of the stimulus until after the thought occurred. But I could in each instance identify the stimulus and create a second order conditioned response of a new thought that I cognitively attached directly to the first order stimulus by connecting them together in an association. I would hold or repeat the new thought in contingency with the stimulus (essentially rehearsing the association) until I felt it had set into long-term memory.

Eventually, the new conditioned responses had been experienced more than the old in reference to the same stimuli, and slowly began to supplant them. Over a period of time, my mind adopted an entirely new wet of "appropriate" conditioned responses.

but a real surprise came when I read an article one day about the history of elementary school children visiting the old Griffith Park zoo. The article had pictures of several of the classes from my time in school. I began to look and see if I could find myself in one of the pictures, and then I stopped, amazed at myself. I suddenly realized I had been looking for a little girl.

Apparently, in the process of transferring the connection of stimuli from old Conditioned Responses to new Conditioned Responses, I had also diminished old memory cues and created new ones as well. From one pathway at least, I had experienced cue dependent forgetting in my long-term memory, but more startling than that, I had actually created a new cue pathway to the same memory that altered my understanding of reality. In a sense, I had rewritten my past.

********************

Synthesis Paper #2

by Melanie

As a transsexual, deciding if and when to tell others about my past is an area of much concern. In my first job as a woman, I did not share my background with other employees. I was accepted, but I felt I was lying to them. So at my next job I was upfront with everyone, but they were cold and stilted. However, I could not tell if it was their rejection or my insecurity.

This was one of my major reasons for returning to college after a twenty year absence: to make some new friends as a woman. but just how much could I loosen up and still keep my secret? As I began to relax and be myself, due to the effects behind Skinner's "Cyrano" study, any non-typical behavior was accepted as Opinion Molecules, and did not influence their assessment of my gender. Also, Solomon Asch's study of conformity came into play as the tendency toward conformity in the social atmosphere made it unlikely that anyone would mention anything should they suspect. This was aided by the Fundamental Attribution Error, which led them to assign the causes of any oddness in my demeanor to my disposition, not my situation.

To test this, I intentionally lowered my voice farther each day over a one week period in Psychology. I finally saw some curious glances and backed off to my original level. I had reached a MUCH lower voice than I could have with people who did not know me. The Primacy Effect in conjunction with Conformance and Attribution gave me much greater leeway than I would have in a "cold" crowd. These factors all served to support Familiarity as the second most important factor in short term relationships, and allowed me to loosen up a bit in my demeanor.

But I still felt incomplete in that I could not share my first thirty-six years. I determined to discover how important First Impressions truly are by developing some "test" relationships. I began performing at a local coffee house some weeks ago until they got to know me. Last night I delivered a five minute stand-up comedy routine as the "world's first transsexual comedienne." The reaction was initially one of startled surprise, but then admiration and comraderie. Best of all, I could be myself and still be accepted. Apparently, the Primacy Effect makes it better to give people a chance to know you first. In addition, because I no longer look, sound, or act like a man, the Recency Effect is diminished when I finally do disclose, as the only Cognitive Dissonance is in their knowledge not their observations.

But what about long term relationships with people I want to have as close friends? By far, the most important factor in a long term relationship is Self Disclosure. This leads me to believe that eventually sharing my past will not only free me to express all that I am, but is a prerequisite to any meaningful relationships to come. Certainly there will be an attrition rate of those who cannot deal with it, but those who remain will truly be my friends.

Physical Disability and the Transsexual

by Denise Anne Fell

Two subjects that currently are considered hot on the talk show circuit are disabilities and transsexuals or gender issues in general. Yet these are two subjects that are considered different and separate.

Take into consideration a disabled transsexual. Is there any reason that a disabled person should not be allowed to have their dreams of becoming the person they were meant to be. What comes first? The disability or transsexualism. Interesting question. It is my intention to show that a physical disability should not deter one from reaching out and grabbing their dreams. I am such a person. I am bilateral amputee. To say the least this has made my transition to date most interesting.

My background is no different from any of the older transsexuals on this board. I dreamed of being a woman from early childhood. I experimented with dressing whenever I could and being the oldest and assigned baby sitting duties I was afforded the opportunity on occasion.

I grew up in the 50's and early 60's. However, during this time this was not a subject for discussion. It might have been discussed behind closed doors, but as I grew up I felt that I was the only person in the world that felt this way. I honestly believed that if I told anyone of this desire I would be locked up for the rest of my life. It was a very frightening and confusing time of my life.

I grew up doing what society expected me to do. I was a male and to my knowledge at that time there was absolutely nothing that I could do about that. I dropped out of high school at the young and tender age of 18 and joined the U.S. Navy and went off to boot camp. I had my GED Equivalency Diploma months before my class graduated and I eventually ended up on submarines. This is something that had always fascinated me. The Silent Service. The exploits of some of the World War II submarines and submarine commanders were legendary. I felt that I had found my notch in life.

One day while visiting a local bookstore I found the book that I was looking for ("The Man With The Golden Gun") and on the next rack a book that caught my eye and forever changed my life. I found Christine Jorgensen's autobiography. The cover caught my eye and I read and re read this book. The relief to find that I was not alone.

My years in the Navy continued and I received a medical discharge on October 1, 1975. The doctors had diagnosed me with a bilateral knee disorder because I had pain in my knees and I was falling down. This was the beginning of a long road of self-discovery, not only to find out what the physical problem was, but finding out who I was.

My marriage ended. I lost my children and I was miserable. My first attempt of discovering who I was failed. My parents totally rejected the person known as Theresa. This was the first name that I chose.

The condition kept getting worse. I had more episodes of falling down and was eventually put into leg braces and crutches to get around. At that point the crutches were more for balance than anything else.

I began to have other physical problems. I began to lose bladder and bowel control. It became more and more difficult for me to get around on braces and crutches and I began to get painful spasms that would cause me to wake up at night screaming in pure agony.

The doctors tried all the medications (beta blockers) on the market for blocking spasms originating in the spinal cord. I had adverse reactions to all of them. I was at convinced that I was going to spend the rest of my life in pain or zonked out on prescription pain relievers. I was taking large doses of Tylox or Percocet just to get by.

I was then told about a procedure that could help stop the spasms. This is called a rhizomoty. This is where the nerves in the spinal cord are burned with radio waves and it is used to help control severe spasms. The only problem being that the nerves can regenerate if they are not burned completely through. I had two such procedures. The procedure is extremely painful and in my case did not last.

About 18 months after the second rhizomoty the spasms returned and the pain was even worse as the nerve impulses were traveling through damaged nerves. I was tired of the pain and I was tired of no help from the Veterans Administration. I went to a private neurosurgeon with my health insurance and after consulting with him I was given two choices. They were a cordectomy or amputation of the lower legs.

Not an easy decision to say the least. Two things helped me make up my mind. Keep in mind at the time I was living as a male, trying to be the person that society wanted me to be. I was not happy, but everyone else was. From my experience in playing wheelchair basketball I knew that people with a complete spinal cord lesion had some very bad problems. The worst being loss of sensation and the pressure sores that were caused by this. Also, I would have lost the ability to have sex. Not a real important issue, but still something to be considered. I opted for amputation.

On September 6, 1990 my legs were amputated through the knees. The amputation is called knee disarticulation and I went home from the hospital 4 days later. I was sore, but I was healing.

I went to some physical therapy and learned to walk on prosthesis, but they proved to be cumbersome and not practical as they were so heavy. I opted for using a wheelchair. I was far more mobile and it really gave me greater freedom.

My life really turned to the pits and I began to realize that the only thing that was going to make me happy was to be me. It took quite a while, but in early May 1992 I wrote the doctor that had interviewed me and accepted me for SRS years before and told him that I was ready to get on with the program.

I received my hormones and gave myself the first injection on May 20, 1992 with the second on June 6, 1992. The injections then followed every other week to this date. After the first couple of injections I really began to feel a sense of well being. I also began to experience the first mood swings. Nothing bad, just wanting to cry for no reason, etc. Life was certainly getting interesting. I also had a lot of tenderness around the nipples and was getting some slight swelling.

In less than 4 months I had so much swelling that it became obvious that something was happening to me. I was letting my hair grow and people began pointing fingers and whispering. I knew that it was time to do something so I went to mid-level management and told my story. In short, I was told that I could begin my transition on my job and that I would not be harassed. My co- workers were told and a tentative date was set for me to begin my Real Life Test. I actually began 4 days earlier than originally planned.

I can honestly say that one of the hardest things that I have ever done was go through the back door of the Federal Building on November 12, 1992. This is the day that Denise made her debut to the world. I went straight from work to the mall and rolled up and down several times. It was a Thursday afternoon and the mall was basically empty. I watched and I noticed nobody staring or giggling. It gave me a wonderful self confidence boost. I have lived for almost one year as a disabled female. My outlook on life is great. I am accepted as a woman. My greatest pleasure comes when I am addressed as Miss Fell.

I will admit that there are things that I cannot do. I cannot walk in high heels and I can't walk and watch my breasts bounce, and they are large enough to bounce. I can't change my own light bulbs, but I could not do that before I went full time. My point is that I honestly believe that a disability should not prevent a person working towards their goal. It does not matter if it something simple or something as complex as being accepted for SRS.

In my situation, I knew who I wanted to be, I became disabled and now I am on the verge of achieving this life long dream. A disability can come into someone's life unexpectedly anywhere along the way. I sometimes refer to able bodied people as TABs (Temporally Able Bodied) because you never know when you will take a fall, be hit by a drunk driver or be struck by a disease that can change your life forever.

The experience that I have gained has given me great insight. I look at life and I have come to some conclusions regarding the gender issues. I speak from experience. Although a transsexual does in fact diagnosis their own disorder, it should never be done without guidance from a trained professional. No matter what your background is. If you are a doctor, nurse, lawyer, psychologist, etc. You should seek guidance from an outside source. There could be far more involved than just gender issues. Also, one should never experiment with hormones without medical guidance. Hormones are a very dangerous drug and they are nothing to be played around with. You can kill yourself or cause great bodily harm. I know a PhD that is writing a book on hormones and the transsexual. In cases where excessive hormones are taken, taking female hormones can actually work the opposite and masculinize your body, doing more harm than good. This is just a word of caution.

In closing I would like to say that a physical disability or even your physical appearance should not deter you from reaching your goals. There are lots of disabled and quite homely generic females out there. Seek professional help with your hair, your makeup, etc. Most of this help is free of charge. All you have to do is be honest with the sales person and ask. You will be surprised on how helpful sales people can be. Remember, you may have to work a little harder to reach your goal, but it makes it all the sweeter when you reach it.

"Remembering to Forget"

by Melanie

I've gone through nearly five years since the first moment I seriously considered becoming a woman. I've had hormone therapy, RLT, SRS and learned to pass so well, that close friends are amazed if I tell them of my past. I get wolf whistles, horn honks and heads turning most everywhere I go. So what is it that makes me still feel like a man in woman's clothing?

No matter how successful I was, no matter how accepted I became, I still could not shake that inner feeling that something was missing, that somehow I was not the same as other women. And I desperately wanted to be. What more could I do? What else could I be?

Then it hit me: You can't become someone only by being like they are, but must also NOT be like they AREN'T.

What does this mean? It means that people and roles are not only defined by what the INCLUDE but also by what they EXCLUDE. But for me, this goes against the grain! Becoming a woman should be an ADDITION to my life, not a DELETION of any sort!

Any yet, I knew it was true. All I had to do was look around me at some of the other TVs and TSs I knew. How many times have you seen a gorgeous CD who slinks up to the bar and says, "Gimme a beer!"? There may be any number of ways a woman might order a drink, but that is definitely not one of them! The point being, this person had done all the right things to be completely passable, but had ALSO done something that was specifically not part of the role.

This is fine for passing, but what about for my mental state? Was there something I was doing MENTALLY that I needed to stop?

Yes there was. I was keeping the memory of Dave alive.

You see, all through transition, especially AFTER surgery, I enjoyed my new role by constantly comparing it to the old. Every morning when I awoke, my hands would find their way to the new smoothness between my legs and I would smile, thinking back to how it USED to be and how much better it was now. Then, throughout the day, every time a stranger accepted me, every time I attracted the interest of a man, I thought about how that never would have happened before, and the strangeness that it should happen now. What irony! What magic! What a mistake!!!

I was engaging in a mental activity that no woman has ever gone through. My whole euphoric experience was built on patterns of thought that were not appropriate to the feminine role. I had been everything a woman MUST be, but was still being something they MUST NOT! In a sense, I had not become a woman at all, but only a very successful transsexual.

But to give that up! To let go of that comparison that brought so much pleasure. What an emotional loss! Did I really want to do that? Who would know but me. Who, indeed....

Suddenly I realized that all through transition I had been telling everyone I met that I used to be a guy. I even carried an old photo of a bearded me in my purse to whip out and shock people. I enjoyed that. To me it was measurement of my success as to just how shocked they were. Every time it happened, I felt so PROUD of myself - so accomplished - so SPECIAL. And therein lies the problem. If I based my "specialness" on having been a man, that man would always be a part of me.

I had a lot of justifications for telling, of course. Mostly, it seemed the only truly honest thing to do. After all, I really WAS a man before, and wouldn't it be lying to keep it hidden? In fact, the closer the friend, the bigger the lie it would be.

Well, from a logical standpoint, that is true. Physically, I WAS a man. But what about the emotional side? Did I ever FEEL like a man, no. Did I ever THINK like a man, no. Did I ever THINK OF MYSELF as a man, no. I never felt like a woman either, but only because I didn't know what a woman was supposed to feel like. But for sure, I never felt like a man.

And what was my purpose here? To revel in a job well done? To have a way to become the center of attention at any party? Surely those are interesting powers and temptations, but was it what I really wanted for my life? Was it the kind of person I had fought so hard to be? No.

Then what was I to do? Did I need to hit myself over the head and become an amnesiac, waking up in some unknown park, wandering the streets of a strange city, then begin a new life never knowing of my male past? Maybe in the Twilight Zone, but not in Burbank. They don't allow that kind of thing here.

So how do you go about intentionally forgetting something anyway? Well, it depends on what you are trying to forget. Okay, then, what was I trying to forget? That I ever was a man? Not really... I don't think I could EVER forget THAT! What then? What else was there? If not facts... Ah! That was it! I didn't want to forget the I WAS a man, I wanted to forget what it FELT like to be a man!

All right... so how do you go about forgetting feelings? Well, actually, it happens by itself. The more you find yourself separated from situations that created those feelings, the less you will remember them UNLESS YOU CONSCIOUSLY KEEP THOSE MEMORIES ALIVE.

That was my problem, I had not let go. I was constantly regenerating those feelings by the very act of comparing the present ones to the old ones. Each time I did this I dredged up the old feelings and gave them new life.

The solution was simple: let it go.

Once I realized this, implementation was easy. When I awoke each morning, I still might examine the female nature of my body, but not so that I might compare, rather so I might simply enjoy it for what it was. On the street I would simply smile to myself in response to a wolf whistle because it made me feel good to be attractive. At work, my conversations lingered less and less on the gender aspects of my history and more on the things I had done, the place I had gone, and the current and future activities I was engaged in.

And I made a commitment: to begin to lie. No longer will I share my story with new friends or acquaintances. Depending on the situation, there are some who will find out, either by circumstance or from others, but they will NOT FIND OUT FROM ME. When I speak of my past, I will no longer temper the truth by saying, "when I was a child", but will bold-faced state "when I was a little girl" AND MEAN IT. Because although it may be a lie in terms of logic, it is God's honest truth in terms of feelings.

This week I have made an appointment to change my school records to Melanie from Dave, and I am beginning the process of altering my birth certificate and obtaining a legal name change. I have spoken with a counselor, and will be registering for the spring semester for continuing education at the community college. On Monday, I'm calling Parks and Recreation to find out how I can volunteer to help backstage at the local amateur theatre. And all of the new people I meet will only know me as Melanie.

Does this mean I will no longer write about transition and gender or no longer be involved in the community? No, the KNOWLEDGE I gained is valuable and is the basis for my current and future career. I intend to expand my efforts in these areas and explore the relationships between the genders as far as I can. But all this will be done under the name that I was born with, whereas all my personal relationships will know me only under my step-father's name that I have used since I was nine.

It may not be a perfect solution, but with the nature of my work and my career, a perfect solution is not possible. Yet it is a far better solution than I HAD been employing.

Now... now that all this is said and done, how do I FEEL? I feel like all the woman I ever wanted to be, because although I know I used to be a man, I can't seem to remember what it used to feel like.

"Cinderella Liberties"

by Melanie

Every transsexual gets caught up in the "Cinderella Syndrome", picturing a prince on a white steed sweeping her off her feet. Unfortunately, fantasies don't happen as often as realities, so it is always a thrill when a guy comes onto you, especially the first few times. The problem is, you have the body of a woman and the experience level of a little girl. It doesn't matter how sophisticated you were in the old role, none of that applies now. So as a new woman you are extremely vulnerable to male attentions.

My first encounter with a pick-up artist was before surgery as I was shopping in the shoe department at K-Mart. I was wholly focused on which heels to wear with my new white dress for my 20th High School Reunion, when an accented voice broke my concentration.

"Too many different styles", the voice said.

I looked up to meet the eyes of a rather handsome man of middle-eastern decent, his thick mustache curled up in a smile.

"I know", I replied. "It makes it too hard to choose." I smiled back.

Now if I had any sense at all, I would have realized that this fellow was not hanging around the women's shoe department looking for a pair of penny loafers. But, no, innocent me just appreciated the attention.

I was nervous, to be sure, as I was still not confident in my presentation, but he picked up the thread of conversation, and before I knew it, we were talking as we walked through the store. I headed toward the checkout line with two pairs of shoes, wondering what was going to happen next. While we stood in line, he asked if he could buy me a cup of coffee. I figured, what the heck, and agreed cheerfully (it was GREAT to get this kind of attention! I had never experienced anything like this before.)

As we waited for those ahead of us, he asked how much the shoes were. Being cheap (after all, this WAS K-Mart!) I had purchased inexpensive shoes at $10 a pair, and told him so. He offered to buy them for me. Well.... I may be naive, but I'm not stupid. I respectfully declined, saying I didn't want to impose, but in fact did not want to be obligated in any way - this guy was moving fast!

Eventually, I got through the checkout line (although not without being thoroughly checked out by this guy) and - as I had truly enjoyed his once over - I asked him where he wanted to get coffee. Actually, I was kind of looking forward to having coffee bought for me. Somehow it made me feel like I had some value. But he had other plans.

"It's too crowded in a coffee shop to get to know each other", he began. How about if we just sit in m car for a while and talk?"

Well, even I could see where this was leading, but still I felt flattered by the attention, reasoned I could get out of the car if I needed to, and as long as I did not let him drive me anywhere I would be okay.

"Okay", I said.

He had a middle-of-the-road car: no great shakes, but quickly explained, "My car is in the shop... this is a loaner." Then, he riveted those steely black eyes on mine, never looking away from my face, and began to tell me how he had been so attracted to me in the store that he just had to spend some time with me. He told me I was sexy and began to stroke my shoulder. Moving his hand slowly toward my breast, he described how "men are not like women: They first get the physical attraction, then they fall in love."

Of course, I knew this was all bull, even though I had never tried such a thing as a male. Yet, the attention was so intoxicating, his hand massaging my nipple, so heady. If I had not been male, he would have had me right then and there! But I had been male, and so could call up just enough objectivity not to succumb.

He told me that he wanted to make love to me and that we should go to a motel right then and there. I kept hedging, trying to get as much of this as I could without going any farther. He kissed me and said we should go. Still, I did not give in. He said, "Are you worried about getting pregnant?" I replied, "I don't think I have to worry about that."

Finally, I told him I would not go to a motel right then, because I had to think about it with a clear head. He asked for my number; I refused. I said he should give me his number and I would call if I decided to go. That's when he got really nervous, but seeing that the fish was about to steal the bait and run, he went ahead and gave me his number. But it came with the instructions: "Don't call except on Tuesday or Wednesday nights, and if a woman answers, say you are a customer at my upholstery business." Right.

Well, I escaped with my virginity that time, though if I had been post-op at the time, I rather think I wouldn't have. But did I learn how to stave off male attention? NOT! Some months later, I was working as editor of a feature film. One of the actors came in to see the dailies. Later, he found a moment with me alone and told me he recognized me from my support group meeting. I had not recognized him, as he was not there very often, and was not transgendered, but a "TS Shark" - one of those guys who has a special place in his "heart" for people in or after transition.

He wanted to have lunch, and I thought, "Okay, it'll be fun to have a guy buy me lunch." That went fine, and he was very gentlemanly. However, each time he came in after that, he got more and more "friendly", eventually telling me he wanted to start a relationship with me.

I was (and am) still married, but at the time, did not want to jeopardize my marriage, so I thanked him for the flattering offer, but declined. Several days later, we were recording sound at Universal Studios, and he came in to loop his lines. He sat next to me and kept putting his hand on my knee. That evening, the director, the producer, a friend of theirs and myself went to dinner near the studio. The fellow in question approached the director and invited himself along.

I realized he just wanted to close in on me and so I found a moment to tell the director what the problem was and that I would appreciate it if after dinner he would keep the guy busy while I went to my car. He agreed.

Sure enough, after dinner, I left in a hurry, and he was going to follow, but the director snared him. That didn't work for long, however, as I had not quite gotten to my car when he caught up to me anyway. It was in a dark alley behind the restaurant, and there were no other people in sight.

We started talking and he made a number of suggestions about how we might be involved. After several minutes he began to come on to me very strongly. He gripped my derriere tightly and pulled me to him. He tried to put his tongue in my mouth.

Now, I know what you are thinking: why didn't I just tell him to bug off? Well, part of the whole thing was my fault. The ol' Cinderella Syndrome kicked in and made me feel special that he was interested. I didn't want it to go any farther than talk, but I didn't want it to stop completely either. I liked where it was. Problem is: guys just can't leave it at that. I now know that they just keep charging ahead until they get resistance and even then they keep trying until they are sure the resistance can't be broken down.

Well, I was standing there clamping my lips together but even still, his slimy little tongue kept weaseling in and lapping up against mine. Why didn't I just push him away? For the same reason women everywhere are afraid to fight back: they are afraid if they resist they will get beaten up. Suddenly I understood the nature of female fear. Here I was in a dark alley, alone with a determined horny admirer whom I was sure was a lot stronger than I was. I just held out and didn't respond until some people finally came by and I had the opportunity to break away and tell him I had to run.

I shakily opened my car door, got inside, and was just about to close the door when he stepped in front of it, blocking it open. He told me he wanted me to know how much he was excited by me, took my hand and placed it against the bulge in his pants. I replied, yes, I could see he was interested. I can still feel him running his fingers across my lips when another group of people came by. I used the opportunity to close the door, waved good-bye and took off into the night.

Now, I'm sure he remembers it a different way. I'm sure he was convinced I wanted him as much as he wanted me. But that is because men and women don't evaluate things the same way. This kind of miscommunication is just what we have to learn to avoid as new women.

As a final example, there are two 7-11 stores equidistant from my home. One to the East, the other to the West. When I go to work in the morning, the West one is right on the way. I like to stop there for coffee on my way in from time to time. At least I used to until the counter guy got the hots for me.

The first time I met him, he riveted his eyes on me and started a conversation. The next couple of times he would always hold my hand when giving me my change. Finally, I went in and while getting my coffee was startled to feel an arm go around my waist. I looked up to see him smiling and asking me how my day was. I just rolled with the situation and said it was just fine, thanks and then paid and left. I could feel his eyes on me all the way to the car.

All the way to work I hated the way he had taken liberties and loved the way he found me attractive. Nonetheless, I determined not to go back for awhile so things would cool down. A couple weeks later, I went back and didn't even get to the coffee before his arm was around me. This time I was really beginning to feel harassed.

Still, the fantasy of having some guy so turned on by you that he makes those kinds of advances was narcotic. But I kept from swooning with it, paid my bill and left. I vowed never to return again. Several weeks passed and I had occasion to stop home for lunch. Afterward I decided to buy a candy bar at the other 7-11 which I had gone to exclusively since the last incident. This time, however, I was running late and knew I had to stop at the trouble spot or go without a candy bar.

Suddenly I got enraged. How DARE he make me feel ill at ease in going into the most convenient store. How DARE he encroach upon my freedom like that!!! So, I girded what loins I have left and pulled into the parking lot. I looked through the window and was relieved to see that there was someone new at the counter: maybe he quit!

I went inside, feeling comfortable there for the first time in months, and looked over the candy bars. No sooner had I picked one, but the guy at the counter yells to someone I couldn't see, "Okay then, I'll see you later!" He walks out of the store and MY guy takes his place!!! I couldn't believe the luck!

Of course he saw me immediately, riveted in on his prey and kept me in his sights as I came to the counter. My skin crawled in anticipation of what might come next. But he surprised me. He just made pleasant conversation! Things are looking up, I thought. He's gotten the message! After he gave me my change, he even offered me his hand to shake. Well, I thought, he's a gentleman after all!

I reached out and took his hand... and he grabbed mine and pulled me across the counter and into a kiss! And then another one! Right there in the damned 7-11!!! He released his grip, I smiled and left and haven't been back since.

Now, why did these things happen to me? Because I didn't understand men, that's why! Men are more aggressive than women. To them, the only time to quit is when they are convinced they can't make any progress at all. But I don't like to offend. And by nature am flattered by attention. As a transsexual, the whole concept of being desirable is better than sex - maybe even preferable to sex!

The combination of the two different points of view led to me being "violated" by these three men in ways I preferred not to be. But even as I was being kissed between the Lotto tickets and the $1.99 roses, I had the strongest surge of sexual desire I've ever experienced without foreplay! Even while I was being violated, I was being turned on!

What does all this mean? That when fantasy and reality collide, its easy to be of two minds. I know I am. And until I make up my mind, this sort of thing is likely to happen again.

Cinderella Liberties aren't just taken by the man, but are also given by the woman. We are both participants in the act. Until you can sort out how you really feel and learn how to communicate if your shiny new baubles are for touching or just for looking its a good idea to err on the side of caution. It's the best way to make sure you live happily ever after.

"What Comes After"

by Melanie

There is a tendency, when changing sex, to stare into a blank wall. The mind propels itself forward only to the moment of completion, then falls short of the other side, plunging instead into an abyss of uncertainty. One entertains fantasies of the life that will be without truly considering what will become. It is as if the Dreamer takes a tangent path like an illusionist's left hand, distracting the audience of our conscious from what the right hand is doing. Transition happens right before our eyes, yet we see it not: our attention is elsewhere.

What Comes After is not fantasy. It is not dreams or speculations. The reality of the New Life is not unlike the old one, yet so much different.

I have been reading "Orlando" of late, written by Virginia Woolf (who drowned herself in 1941). Losing myself in the twisted, ornate passages, I can see why. Orlando succumbs to the same foggy urging of an emotional imperative that I, myself, have suffered in the vortex, caught up between the masculine and feminine on the way from male to female; sometimes touching down in one land, other times remaining aloft in uncertain currents for weeks, only to alight once more precisely where I started. No doubt, Miss Woolf suffered similarly.

Orlando is a young nobleman, as we meet him. He is wealthy, respected, able, and lost. He can find no meaning or solace in his fortune, station, deftness or love. He leaves his country as Ambassador to forget his lack of focus through immersion in details of protocol. And there, in another land, he awakens one day to find himself female - yet, surprisingly, unperturbed by the fact. Through three centuries, Orlando seeks self-knowledge: some scale by which her essence can be weighed. She rises in society, then cavorts with call girls; expresses the essence of femininity, then dresses as a man to move more freely in the world.

From the Elizabethan Age through the Restoration and on to the Victorian Age, Orlando remained essentially unchanged; experiencing the same feelings from another point of view - but the person themselves continued unaltered. "And so she began...thinking...how very little she had changed all these years.", muses Orlando at the hand of Woolf. "She had been a gloomy boy, in love with death, as boys are; and then she had been amorous and florid; and then she had been sprightly and satirical; and sometimes she had tried prose and sometimes she had tried the drama. Yet through all these changes she had remained, she reflected, fundamentally the same."

These thoughts have been my own. How I have suffered that I feel unaltered in spirit, identical in outlook to he whom I have supplanted. How hard I have yearned for a sense of difference. Where is the change I risked so much to attain? When can I call myself "woman"?

"'After all', she thought, getting up and going to the window, 'nothing has changed.'", says Orlando. "The house, the garden are precisely as they were. Not a chair has been moved, not a trinket sold. There are the same walks, the same trees, and the same pool, with, I dare say, the same carp in it." My own diary mirrors Orlando's words: "Its strange to contemplate that someday, the changes I have set in motion may seem commonplace. The strangeness of my new body has become its normal feel, and the question, even awareness of what sex I am, what gender, never enters my conscious thought. What then of my life? The wind still blows, the sun still shines."

Where is the future I struggled so hard to achieve? I am still married to the same woman I have been with for almost 18 years. My children have grown some, but they are essentially the same. I live in the same house, visit the same friends, play the same games, both for fun and emotionally. Where is the change? When will I get there? When will I be a woman?

My friends say they first noticed it maybe a year to only six months ago. That would be about one year to 18 months after surgery. I only noticed it in the last month or so. All the little, slow moving things that add up to a big holistic change. In and of themselves, none are particularly noteworthy or noticeable, yet taken together, the overall effect is both substantial and basic.

Every part of how I measure who I am from the kinds of thought I entertain to the emotional responses that just happen to the physical shape and feel of my body to the level of my strength and the way my "insides" feel (from heartburn to exhaustion) have all moved just far enough from my former self to have stretched the rubber band of recognition so far that it snaps back with, "This is not the same person as the one you had in mind." I other words (fewer words!) I have changed gradually so much that who and what I am now can no longer be defined as who I was by any measurement. The stretchy state of shifting spectrum eventually has to result in red becoming purple, then blue, then green, then yellow. Yet, where upon that spectrum one becomes the other is a fool's consideration. Still, somewhere, somewhen, one wakes up, stares at the rainbow and says, "Well, yep. I used to be red, but damned if I'm not yellow now!"

So, that's the story - its not specific effects, but the holographic effect of all the little standing waves in the interference pattern of the dynamic process of change that have taken on a different pseudo-structure. I no longer entertain any doubt that I am Melanie now, not Dave. And such odd juxtapositions as conversations with old friends upon memories of the way we used to talk, getting made up in the mirror and then viewing a video tape from Christmas of five years ago, recalling an unfinished thought from before transition and realizing the logic no longer makes sense - all these little signs force one to accept that the self has shifted, though still feels like self. Then one has a choice of becoming scared and scampering, terrified, back along the path that is no longer there (as it is erased behind our heels as we journey) until we are lost and cold and alone OR ignoring the end of the road and pushing on past the light into the heart of yet another jungle OR "getting it" - that one has actually become. Becoming is no longer required. Transition never changes, it just changes direction. To stand at the corner of "Male" and "Transition" streets and take a left turn onto "Female" requires not becoming, but being. Two years after surgery (this January 9th). FOUR years after beginning to live as Melanie. SIX years after seriously considering this path. All the magic numbers line up - they have to: they're magic numbers! And when totalled, they add up to one. Me.

And what of Orlando? What of Woolf? Well, Orlando finds her answer, laying entwined in the roots of the same Oak tree she sat by as a boy - the Oak tree that has proven her only consistent focus throughout the turmoil of her self-consideration. Her eyes fly wide, her yearnings stop, her happiness begins. But Virginia does not share this revelation with us - it is for Orlando alone. Perhaps because the author had not found it for herself; perhaps because we all must find it for ourselves.

So, in the end it is not a change in our selves we must seek, but a change in our sense of ourselves. We will always feel like we no matter how different we become. Yet, we can stand back from ourselves, take a wider view, sense not the flow of one day into another but the dividing lines of months and years. We carry the past with us like a big tail - the wake of a boat, not sure if we should judge our path by the waves off the stern or the stars off the bow - and unsure if we are wagging the tail or it is wagging us.

"Am I pretty?" (Compared to what?) "Am I old" (When?) "Am I a woman?" (Says, who?) You'll stare into that brick wall, chasing your tail and leaving circular wakes until you get it: the wall moves with you. It is the horizon line of self awareness and we can't see anything beyond that. But we don't need to because its really just a matter of focus. For when we shift our view from the spatial "Who am I?" to the temporal "Who am I NOW?", then we see that the wall is really not a wall at all, but a mirror. And the edges of our own self awareness are not the ends of the earth, but the shape of things that came.

So, "Who am I?" becomes "How am I?", describing the the process, not the state. Being a woman is not a condition but a way of life. It is not a structure, but a dynamic. We will never find the answer until we realize that it lies in the kinds of questions we ask. We self-define; we are recursive, reflexive, and reflective. The farther away something appears, the closer it is to home. The wall before us in only dark because it is a mirror. The shining light at the end of the tunnel is the sparkle in our own eyes. Look deep into that light and see yourself.

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