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The Zen of


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 understanding.

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 Subversive).

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 between things.

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 negative.

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 pair.

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 almost limitless.

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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