Q & A
the Young TS
Dramatica and Transgenderism
In going through back-ups of old computers that no longer exist, I
found this article I wrote sometime around 1993.
It seeks to put transgender issues in perspective by using the
Dramatica theory of story (which I co-created) as a framework for
Here 'tis, verbatim....
All this is said to pave the way to the use of the Dramatica Theory in
the stories of our own lives. In fact, we can each cast ourselves as
the Main Character in our own story. And, using the software, can
actually see the real reasons why we justify, and why we conflict with
others. But even without the software, the theory itself holds many
valuable lessons in interpersonal relationships, and that is what I
learned to appreciate most fully in the past two months since losing
my boyfriend Andy (as emotionally described in the last edition of The
In our personal journeys, there are four Domains through which we must
travel. The Main Character Domain, where we learn about ourselves. The
Obstacle Character Domain, where we learn about others. The Subjective
Story Domain, where we learn about the relationships between people.
And the Objective Story Domain, where we learn about the relationships
There are many approaches to this journey. We might linger a bit in
each Domain, then move on to another, each time increasing our
understanding, each time taking a different path through the four,
sometimes even doubling back and resonating between only two Domains a
few times before moving on.
As for my approach (and the approach of many gender folk) I started in
the Main Character Domain and still haven't left it yet. That's why I
have trouble with relationships. I still don't understand others, much
less the relationships between people. But that is where my growth has
recently been, and I think I'm just about finished diddling with
myself and am ready to look toward others.
This is a good thing - for when Dramatica comes out, it will be
national press. For example, locally, KCOP, channel 13, will be
videotaping an interview with the company president and myself next
Tuesday on the product. And toward the end of May, Wired magazine is
doing a feature spread on us - focusing not on the product, but on
the people who created it (Chris, Steve, and me).
It is this sudden celebrity that I have craved for so long, that
scares me the most. After all, today I am just another woman int he
word. Next year I could be "that transsexual from Burbank who
came up with that cockamamie theory"! What a paradox -to spend
all this time trying to fit in, only to face the potential of a life
of not fitting in for a whole different reason!
So, I wonder, how will this affect my relationships? How will it alter
the closeness of my friends or the freedom of just walking down a
street or eating at a fast food joint?
To get a grip on this (and to further resolve my feelings about Andy)
I went to the Dramatica model to see what I could learn about
relationships. After all, there are relationships between characters
in a story, and if Dramatica really has all the answers then I should
be able to look to it for some clue as to my situation as well.
There were answers. Here they are:
Picture a square divided in fourths - four little squares that make up
one bigger one. In Dramatica we call that a "quad". Now
imagine where you might put two people in that square if you drew it
on the driveway and told them each to stand in one of the little
squares, but not the same one. They might line up any of three ways:
diagonally, "vertically" or "horizontally". In
fact, that kind of "pairing" forms the basis of Dramatica's
inter-character relationship model.
Each kind of pairing has a different meaning. Diagonal pairs are
called "Dynamic" pairs because they have the greatest energy
to them. Horizontal pairs are called "Companion" pairs
because they are most alike. Vertical pairs are called
"Dependent" pairs because they require each other.
Four squares, three pairs. Each a different kind of relationship.
We've all seen Dynamic relationships where two people are constantly
sparring with each other. "Personality conflicts" we call
them. In fact, this is the relationship we all enter into whenever we
fight with each other. But Dynamic pairs can also have a good side.
When two opposing forces come together, they can form a synthesis and
create something greater than the sum of the parts - new -
serendipitous. When someone plays "devil's advocate" or the
"loyal opposition" this is their relationship.
Looking back at the quad of four mini squares, we can see that there
are two diagonals, top right to lower left and top left to lower
right. One represent the positive Dynamic relationship, the other the
Similarly, there can be positive or negative Dependent relationships.
When each person complements the other - providing strengths to fill
in the others' weaknesses, it is a positive dependent relationship.
Each can watch the other's back. But when each party REQUIRES the
other to feel complete, then it is a negative Dependent (or
co-dependent) relationship, where each fears the loss of the other.
Again, there is a left vertical pair in the quad and right vertical
Finally, there are the positive and negative Companion relationships
(horizontal pairs). Positive companions, just as the name sounds, work
together, side by side, toward a common direction. But negative
companions have no cross talk, and although they don't conflict, they
also don't interact. They work independently of each other as if the
other did not exist. I'm sure we all know of relationships of this
nature as well.
Now, maybe we haven't sat around and figured all this out before. I
know I didn't. However, in designing Dramatica, that was my job. So, as
long as I was getting paid to do it for story, I just applied it to
myself as well.
BUT... as clarifying as that model might be, if it was really all THAT
simple, it would be common knowledge already. In fact, it gets more
complicated because both parties to a relationship seldom see it as
being the same kind. For example, a young man is going to the movies
with his girlfriend. His little brother tries to tag along. To the
little brother, he and his big brother are companions. To the big
brother, the little brother is a dependent. LB sees it as a horizontal
pair, BB sees it as vertical. The distance between the loose ends is a
diagonal, which we just figured out was Dynamic and that means the discrepancy
between the two views leads to conflict.
Just realizing that both parties don't see relationships the same,
multiplies the number of possible relationships times itself, (from
six to 36!).
That difference in perspective is what caught me with Andy at the end.
I look back now and see how much of the feelings I was enjoying I
actually manufactured myself. There was never any pro-action on his
part to be with me or take me anywhere. I thought he was just laid
back. In fact, he wasn't motivated. Still I saw the relationship as
co-dependent (which is that kind of love when your heart sings and
nothing else matters, when its on a positive lean) when in reality, he
saw it as companion. So, he though we were VERY close friends in a
sense, and I thought we were soul mates. Who was right? Who was wrong?
Neither one of us. He is my soulmate, I am his friend. But soulmate
(dependent) is a higher energy state than companion and as such
requires more of an emotional commitment. For a true soulmate, that
commitment comes easily -emotional trust - but for the friend, it has
too many costs attached (legitimately so) and they would actually hurt
themselves to make that kind of a commitment that to them is truly not
warranted by the degree of feeling for the other party.
So, Andy and I are friends now. We have downgraded the relationship to
what he always saw it as. I still love him, I imagine I always will,
because from my Main Character Domain, Andy as Obstacle Character
appears to be my soulmate, and denying would be lying to myself.
Still, from HIS Main Character perspective, I (as Obstacle Character)
am his friend, and that could last forever. Or could it?
You see, if THAT was all there was to the model in Dramatica, EVERYONE
would have figured it out by now. But there's more. (Didn't you know!)
So far we have been looking at relationships between people as fixed
states - different perspectives that are constant for all time. But
none of us are unchangeable. The "me" that is now is not the
"me" that was five years ago. Definitely not! And yet, both
personalities are still a part of "me" overall.
As people grow (grow better or grow worse!) they shift in the
paradigm. A relationship that begins as companion can grow into love
and then into hatred moving from horizontal to vertical to diagonal.
Many couples that start out deeply in love in a dependent relationship
wake up one day to find the "magic" or "spark" has
gone out of their lives. They find themselves merely companions and
assume that they can never get the love back.
In truth, we don't go just once around the track. Just as we visit the
four Domains in different orders that are constantly changing, so too
the relationships between people are constantly shifting through the
three kinds of pairs, both positive and negative. And, when we recall
that each party can see the relationship differently, the
possibilities not only for defining the relationship at the moment,
but describing the dynamic forces or wave forms of progression become
One partner may have a slow wave (low frequency) modulation through
their path in the quad. The other partner may have afaster (higher
frequency) shift in pattern. They drift in and out of phase, sometimes
being harmonious, other times in disharmony. And the two waves
synthesize and blend into a complex wave pattern of relationship
growth that appears absolutely chaotic. But its not. And, in fact, the
Dramatica model can predict the pattern.
But even that would be something that could have been figured out, yet
it is still more complex that that. We've been talking only about one
single quad. But in the Dramatica model, each of us focuses on the
attitudes and methods described by sixteen different quads! Some
pertain to our motivations. Some to our methods. Some to our means of
evaluating our situation.
Others describe our purposes or goals. We might conflict with someone
in terms of divergent motivations, yet be companion in terms of some
of our purposes. When it comes to methods, we may be dependent upon one
another. And each of these has its own frequency and sequence, seen
differently by each party in the relationship! Now, add a few more
people into a relationship like parents and children and bosses and
friends, and suddenly the whole issue takes on enormous proportions.
Still, the Dramatica model handles all that. That's what it was
designed to do for stories. And that's also what it has done for me.
However, just because I built the durn thing doesn't mean I have all
the answers. In fact, I'm constantly surprised by what the Dramatica
program's Story Engine has to say. Nonetheless, even when I am most
surprised, it always rings true.
So, there I was, focusing on little ol' me. Taking the Main Character
Domain to the max at the exclusion of all else. And now, I've seen as
deeply into myself as I can or care to. Its time to move on. Five more
issues of The Subversive and we reach the end of the Main Character's
side of the story. That will make 24 issues total. Just like Dramatica
where there are 24 scenes in each of four acts. My diary has been
presented in in three acts (a trilogy) and the fourth act is the
objective overview of the editorials.
I have to admit, I didn't plan it that way. But just as we get a sense
of the coming climax of a story as the third act ends and the fourth
begins, I now stand and the crest of issue 18 and look toward the last
six. Will the story end in success or failure? Will it resolve my
personal problems as well? For now, I just don't want to lose sight of
the fact that the climax is upon me as Dramatica will be released on
June 11. That will be the success or failure. And my ongoing
relationship living at home with my "wife" and two children
while trying to develop a lasting dependent relationship with a man in
my life will resolve into a personal sense that it all turned out for
good or for bad. All of these things are coming together in a most
magical way. If I didn't know better, I could almost swear I feel the
hand of an author at work in the story of my life. But what of the
next story as I explore the next Domain? Well, you as I will just have
to wait for the sequel . For that, as they say, is another story.
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