October 2, 1990
I'm standing in the ladies room in the Equitable Building at Hollywood and Vine where the worst thing just happened. Dorit, the intern I work with on the film, walked in on me when I had my make-
Today, Dorit was civil enough, but there was a strange tension between us. I was acting strangely because she was acting strangely. But maybe she was acting strangely because I was acting strangely. I don't know which one of us was freaking the other out more. She didn't say anything about the incident, but later in the day Victoria (the producer) said, "I hear Dorit walked in on you when you were doing your makeup in the ladies room. Did she say anything to you about it?" I said no, and that was the end of the conversation.
Dorit will be at the DGA (Director's Guild of America) screening tomorrow. So, in my "debut" in the film industry as an editor in front of people who can make or break your career, I now have Dorit to wonder about.
Yesterday, my face was all bumpy and lumpy from plucking out my beard the night before. I had only three hours sleep. I was three days off hormones. I was right in the middle of some serious PMS. My daughter's hamster had died two nights before. She called me up and asked me to comfort her, which I did in Dave mode because when Daddy is needed, Daddy will be there. Anyway, when I got home late that night I had to stay up until 4:30 in the morning to get the plucking all done. I sat there thinking about the hamster and my mother and my grandmother and my grandfather -
We had a little funeral for the hamster. We all went out at 7:30 in the morning and buried it in a Kleenex box in the front yard. I dug the hole on my hands and knees in the wet grass and laid the poor little furry creature down to rest. Keith had made a plaque to be put with it, and Mindi set up four birthday candles that we lit in remembrance. One of the candles lit the plaque on fire and Keith had to wave it all around to get the flames out. So, Gene was gone and we promised to get a new hamster later in the day.
That day, yesterday, was a long day. We worked until three in the morning. It was the latest night I spent working with Larry (the director) so far. I was willing to put in the time though, because we are struggling to get ready for the DGA screening of the movie. We don't have all the sound effects we need for this rough screening, so we have to create them live to a playback of the video tape. So here's Larry and Victoria and me on the floor of the office at three in the morning with pots and pans, yelling and shouting, rattling plates and sloshing water to make it sound like a bull is crashing through a ballroom and people are getting squirted with guacamole. It's certainly an image I'm unlikely to forget.
Today is THE day at the DGA. After only three hours sleep again I'm back at the office getting ready for the big screening.
Its about one in the morning. We had our screening at the Director's Guild. It was most exciting. The building is beautiful -
The picture was fairly well received, but it still needs a lot of work. Still and all, it was a lot of fun to watch people watch the movie and see them react to things I had done editorially.
I felt pretty comfortable. I don't know if I was being read or not. I really couldn't tell. So, I just proceeded as if no one suspected and enjoyed my moment in the spotlight.
October 3, 1990
It's the morning after our DGA screening. I know we've crossed the hump on Larry's project now. We still have changes to make and then we have to lock the picture and conform the negative. After that, my obligation to the picture drops significantly. I'll mostly be supervising sound effects and perhaps working on trailers with Larry, but all at much more normal hours. I'll be glad when I have a little more time because I have to begin working on the psychology book with Chris (my writing partner) and start work on the film treatment for Sid (a producer I occasionally wrote for) because both of those guys are hot and heavy to go with those projects, which could have great future potential. But due to Larry's project, there's just been no time at all.
I might direct again some day, but I don't think I'll ever edit again. You spend all your time making someone else's work look good. Even though you might get praised in the editing community, its still not my idea of a good time.
I'm just driving back from Fotokem where we viewed a workprint of some opticals we are having done. That was a most enjoyable experience because I was definitely getting some looks -
It was interesting going to get coffee there. I went to the lounge, but didn't know where the coffee was and asked about it, and the guy was real solicitous. It was just great! Later, Larry and I had lunch at some tables they have outside. Another guy sat down at our table and paid some good attention to me, and boy, I tell ya, I really enjoy all the male attention.
When its working, its better than anything else in the world, but when it doesn't work its worse.
October 4, 1990
I woke up this morning feeling very much unwanting to be Melanie today. But the time I had showered and gotten dressed, it vanished. This is my first day off in 10 days. I put in 150 hours in the last 10 days on Larry's film. At one point there I got 7 hours sleep in 66 hours. Its been very, very difficult, but it was a commitment.
However, today, on my day off, I can think of nothing I'd rather do than clean house. It's now about 4 in the afternoon. Earlier today, I found a use for the last two pairs of boy pants I have. There was a pool table in the back room where Mary and I have one bed and Keith sleeps in another. The house is so messed up because I've been away working for so long that the pool table just takes up too much room. So, I asked my dad to help me move it out to the garage. But since I don't have the muscles I used to, I needed to get more resourceful -
With that out of the way, the bedroom, which has traditionally been knee-
I told Mary on the phone that I didn't want to stop being Melanie tonight. But rather than make a little room for myself in the double garage, I think I may just stay out here in the back room. Hopefully, Mary will either get lonely enough for me or just tired of coming all the way to the back room to talk to me that she will invite me into the living room again, but this time as Melanie. She's due home in about 90 minutes.
When Keith comes home from school each day, I always try to have a surprise snack waiting for him if I'm home. Today I had a pizza waiting. I had decided to stay in Melanie mode, even after he came home. I do that from time to time with Mindi in the morning, but not a lot because I still speak as Daddy until its time for her to go to school, and then as I step out the door to take her I switch over to Melanie Mode. With Keith, I decided it was time to see if he could get along with it. So, when he came home, I just stayed as Melanie. And he didn't have a problem with it. It was wonderful. He still calls me "dad", which is fine by me because I want to be his dad, but I want to be his dad as a woman.
He just enjoyed the fact that his room had been cleaned up. He enjoyed the snack I made. I helped him with his homework. Later, Charlie, a friend of Keith's came to the door and I stepped out of the room. Keith told him that he had to finish his homework before he could play. Any minute now, his friend is going to come back... as a matter of fact, he just came to the door right now as I am speaking.
I have told Keith that if he tells Charlie who will be going to Keith's school next year, at that time everybody at his school will find out about me. I told him there is also a possibility that once Charlie goes home and tells his parents, they may not want him to play with Keith anymore. Even though I told him that it may cost him his friend, Keith has decided to invite Charlie in with me as Melanie.
So here he is.... I won't make a point of confronting him, but I'll be around.
Here we go... Charlie's in the house now, and I'm coming out as Melanie....
Okay, the first time Charlie saw me, Keith introduced me as Dad. Charlie looked like he thought Keith had just has a slip of the tongue. But the next time Keith called me Dad, Charlie said, "Dad?" I confirmed it saying, "That's right, I'm Keith's dad". I explained briefly about what sex change was and why I was doing it. I told him if his parents had any questions about this, I'd be happy to talk to them. Keith was totally nonchalant about it. He was completely unconcerned.
Still, my big concern now it how will it effect the kids? What's going to happen to them? No matter how much I explain myself, I know there are those out there who will ridicule my children or tell their children not to play with mine, just because of what I am doing personally. I can't understand that mentality, but no matter.... I guess the cat is out of the bag now.
An additional note. Keith and Charlie were out playing basketball and Keith asked me if I wanted to join them. I thought, "When was the last time my son asked me to play with him and his friend while I was dressed as Melanie?" So, we had a few good games of Horse, and I had a wonderful time playing ball with my son. This was perhaps one of the finest days I've ever had.
Later, when Mary came home, I just told her, "I'm spending the evening as Melanie." And she said, "I don't want you to do it out here." So I said, "fine", and went back to the newly cleaned back bedroom and enjoyed myself immeasurably. Mostly because the kids came back to visit me and we played Monopoly and had some popcorn and had a wonderful time.
About 10 pm after the kids had gone to bed, I realized I had charged myself up enough that I threw on a T-
I was worried about Mary and me splitting up. All through this commentary it has been my greatest fear. Yet, after all the risks of losing my family, my friends, and my career, I've come to realize that I will never go back no matter what the cost. Still, even though Mary cried earlier because I preferred to be alone as Melanie instead of being with her as Dave, when I did come out and do my Dave act, she was so pleased that she gave me a big hug and a big kiss. We shared a very pleasant evening.
I need her. I need her support. I need her love. Yet, I know now that I have the courage (or perhaps the insensitivity) to walk away from her if I need to to be me. However, perhaps that attitude is justified, for if I were to give up being Melanie and go back to being Dave, I know I would be so miserable and so tense that I would be no kind of parent and certainly no kind of a husband.
October 5, 1990
This evening, I went to get a smog check on my car. When I arrived it was almost closing time. I was wearing a tank top braless. I KNEW that was the right thing to wear to get a smog check! They said they were about to close, but I asked if they could do one more. The guy gave me the once over, then said he'd talk to his supervisor. His supervised looked me up and down, smiled and said, "Sure, bring it in." An interesting experience having my boobs determine if I am served or not.
During the service, I happened to be in front of a drawer they needed to get a tool from. Suddenly I feel an arm around me, and I turn to the guy who says, "Excuse me, honey..." and moves me over to the side. Slowly, a few guys start drifting in from around in front until there are four guys standing around watching me get my car smogged!
When they ran the results, it didn't pass. So, they did a little something back by the muffler to rig the results so that it did pass. And all because I wore the right blouse yesterday!
October 6, 1990
I remember a picture in a Sears catalog from about four years ago of a woman in her mid-
October 9, 1990
I just dropped Mary off at work today, about a block from her office. This was the first time we have gone anywhere together with me fully as Melanie. Her car needed some repairs today and I had already dressed, so I followed her over to Pep Boys, then drove her to work. I used Melanie voice the whole way there.
When I dropped her off, she put her fingers to my cheek as she said goodbye.
October 13, 1990
I had an idea for a statement against child abuse... You create a doll designed to be beaten. You can slap it, kick it, burn it, but when you are finished, it always says, "I love you." This could be a public service television commercial, except I fear some people would just think it was funny.
Okay, here I am outside of K-
I'm back here in the parking lot about half an hour later. It wasn't half bad! Even though my make-
A couple of the shoppers in the women's clothing section looked at me a little oddly from the corner of their eye, but they didn't do or say anything. They just maybe moved a little bit out of the way, but most of them didn't even notice. I went up to the counter and was read as at least being a little unusual by the checkout clerk, but again, no problem. Having developed a feminine voice really helps a lot, as it confuses the issue.
So, the trip was a success. I bought some new clothes, bought some sandwiches for my lunch and know now that I can go out and move in society. The more I can do to improve my look, the easier it will be, but I know I have the fortitude even when I'm looking pretty shitty, to go out and present myself as a female. At this point in my transition, I'm more comfortable presenting myself as a woman and being read that trying to present myself as a man.
I'm making this entry from the ladies room in the Equitable Building, just across the hall from the office where I work. Roberta from Universal Studios is coming over to view the worktape and discuss creation of the sound effects. I've spoken with her on the phone a few times, but we've never met in person. This should be interesting since, as I said, I look awful today -
It's now about 2:40 in the morning. I'm still at the office. We had a great meeting with Roberta. We spent about six or seven hours looking over the film and came up with a number of creative ideas to enhance its comedic value using sound effects. Roberta and I got along well. Again, I don't know if she read me or not. Maybe she didn't or maybe I was close enough to the role that it didn't matter that much. I'll have to ask her someday. But I'll tell you... at 20 minutes to three in the morning, whether or not someone read me as female has very little import.
Roberta said that the worktape we had was too degraded to use for the sound effects editing. The reason is that when you edit on tape, you simply make a copy from the original using only the parts you want. But when you need to make changes, rather than go back and redo everything, you just copy all the good edit parts and only go back to the original for changes. As a result, some parts of the worktape end up six or seven generations away from the original. They are muddy and unclear, and don't hold sync.
The solution is to take the numbers that the computer stored with every edit, clean up the math so they represent the final version and then create a fresh copy direct from the originals, but with all the final edits. In our film we have over 3,000 edits! Which means that suddenly there is a whole lot of extra work to be done, and guess who Larry wants to do it!
Now, I've been working seven days a week, 12 hours a day, and he wants me to continue. Problem is, my contract for the film was for only $10,000 to edit AND work on the sound effects. This extra work was never part of that deal. What's worse it, when I signed the contract I expected 40 hour weeks, and now its up to 84!! But even worse than that, the way the money was doled out started at $500 a week, but then as the project dragged on, Larry cut it back to $500 every TWO weeks, so I would still have incentive to continue. So here I am working 84 hours a week for $250 dollars!!! That's less than minimum wage! I'm trapped here is something akin to slave labor in order to meet my obligations.
I'm getting so tired that the numbers on the screen are blurring out in front of me. I just want to get out of this project. God, I don't know how I got into this situation. I suppose if I were single, it wouldn't be so bad. And if I weren't going through transition I could just sleep on the floor and let the old beard grow. But when I have to go in and out of this place at late hours all by myself down Hollywood Boulevard, it makes me very nervous. And if I sleep here, by the time I go out when people are arriving for work, I end up looking like a push-
It's a little bit difficult right now. And yet I feel light hearted. Why? Because it can't get any worse!
October 16, 1990
God, I hate it when the batteries run down on my microcassette recorder... it makes me sound like a man.
All my friends have been treating me with kid gloves. This they do because they liked Dave. I never realized how MUCH they liked Dave until I stopped being Dave. They cared enough for him that they want to be supportive of him, even when something is not working. So they don't give me a real world picture as feedback. They tell me that I look good all the time. Or they don't say anything when I know I'm wearing something stupid or mannish. But I have no way of finding out. They want to be so gentle that they don't tell me the truth.
In the early days, I wanted it that way. I didn't want anybody to be telling me how terrible I looked. I already KNEW I looked terrible! I knew there was a long way to go, and this was a way of bolstering myself psychologically. They could read that. But the situation has changed over the course of my transition to the point that I would really value accurate comments. They don't want to say anything negative, but its the negative that I can work on and turn it into something positive.
I just found out that the lady who did the make-
In fact, this lady had volunteered to Victoria (the producer) that if I ever wanted my hair done, shoe would do it. As it turns out, this same make-
October 21, 1990
I've been "spotting" music for the last few days with Larry and Roget, the French composer. Roget did not quite know what to make of me. Although he did not remember it, we had actually met at my office about two years ago for about five minutes when he dropped off a video tape of his music for duplication.
Finally, one morning when we were alone, I breached the subject and told him what my situation was. Afterwards, he was fine. I guess he just needed to be sure. The problem is, he calls me "Melanie", but uses the pronoun "he". So I'm sitting there with Larry and Victoria calling me "she" and "her" and he's calling me "he" and "his". He means no ill intent, but can't seem to break the habit. Still, he is a lot of fun, and we share a lot of secret smiles regarding some of the artistic considerations of the picture.
I've been working now for two weeks straight without a day off. Most days have been at least 12 hours. Last night was a 14 hour day.
October 25, 1990
The best way to get over the fear of discovery is to assume that everybody already knows.
I had been told that women had a thin layer of fat over the body that men did not have. I really didn't know what that meant until I went on this new dosage of hormones. Before where there used to only be muscle under the skin, now there is this very narrow insulation just below the skin. Instead of feeling hard, now I feel kind of spongy all over.
It definitely takes the edge off the angularity. When I look in the mirror these days I can actually see that my features have softened.
I tried a little experiment today. I put on the most masculine expression I could muster. I put my voice back into Dave mode. I marched up to the full-
October 26, 1990
I have an appointment this morning with the State Board of Equalization regarding back sales tax for my video duplication business. I have spoken with the fellow several times over the last two weeks, but always as Dave, since that is the name on the license. Today, he expects to be meeting with Dave, but Melanie is going to show up.
When I arrived at the state board, I almost slipped into my standard defense mechanism of telling people I'm transsexual right off the bat. This way, I don't get embarrassed if they figure me out part way through a conversation, and I don't have to worry about appearing foolish acting like a woman when they read me as a man in drag. If they know I'm transsexual, then they know I'm in transition, but just not there yet. They cut me a little slack because I'm still in training. (I guess that's why I'm more nervous on the street or in a store than one on one with people: out in the open, if I'm read, there's no way to explain I'm TS.) When it comes to face to face contact, don't worry about being read, worry about being sincere. Because TV or TS, if you are sincere, people in general will accept you.
This time, however, I did not use my security blanket. I felt very sure of myself and said, "What the hay," and just walked in as Melanie. I went up to the receptionist and gave my name and who I was to see. She called him on the phone saying, "Melanie is here to see you," never seeing me in any other way. I thought, "Hey, today I'm really making it!"
I went in and met the man: spoke with him for fifteen minutes. He never suspected anything. I told him I was there on behalf of Dave, and managed to evade any clear answers as to my relationship to Dave. It was weird speaking of Dave in the third person: "Dave wasn't able to fill out these forms earlier because he's involved in editing a major feature film." It sort of disassociated that old persona from myself, which made it strange to think of Dave and the fellow in front of me as "him" and me not. Eventually, I needed to fill in a form, and he needed to know if I was Dave's wife. I said no. He asked if I was related to Dave. I said yes. He asked if I was Dave's sister, and I replied I was not. Finally he demanded to know what relationship I was to Dave, and would not go any farther until I told him. So, I kinda had to spill the beans.
I told him Dave and I were the same person. Well, it took him nearly 30 seconds to figure it out. When things are working right for me, people just can't conceive of what I'm telling them. Once he found out, he just opened up with all these personal questions. I guess transsexuals are achieving something of a celebrity status: a rare and unusual breed. People are fascinated by why we do what we do. As a result of being topical and few, people ask you all kinds of personal questions they would never ask anyone else under any other circumstances.
So, I answered his questions. But, as I have learned, people don't want you to tell them what you want them to know, they just want you to answer the questions that are special to them. You're probably the only transsexual they will ever meet in their lives, so they want to get those questions in there, even if it embarrasses them to heck. They can find out straight from the horse's mouth what its like to grow a pair of boobs, what its like to walk around in society as a woman when you are still underneath a man. When they find out I'm married, they're really curious about that. "How can you possibly stay married?" "How can she possibly stay married to you." "What effect does it have on the kids?" Everybody is curious.
Well, anyway, the fellow told me that normally, when a business falls behind in their sales tax payments like I have a $1200 deposit is required. However, he said with all the personal things I was going through, he would waive that deposit and let me continue as is. I don't know if this was due to his normal good nature or as some kind of special dispensation due to my transsexualism. I don't care: I'll take it.
October 29, 1990
I'm here at the office alone and I'm going to try to run a little test. Lately I've been wondering if I could summon up my old persona. Not so much the way I used to feel, but the way I used to act. I've been so engrossed in trying to be Melanie, I haven't paid attention to what's left of Dave. So, I'm going to take a few steps here and try to walk like Dave used to.... This is amazing! The most amazing thing! I've forgotten how to walk like a man! I've actually forgotten! This is... I... I'm.. uh, dumbfounded. I don't know what to say... I don't know how to walk like a man anymore... My, God! I've forgotten!
Let me see... okay, I'm going to stand here. This is the outer office. I'm going to take one step forward... (laugh) I can't do it! Oh, man! Okay, how did I walk as Dave... How does a man walk? I can't do it... I can't do it! (laugh) I keep swinging my hips and I can't figure out how to walk without doing it. I'm blown away. I thought for a long time I could go back and forth, but that's not true: you have to give up one to be the other.
A phrase just came to mind that I thought I'd better record so I don't forget it. It said, "Give up, you've won."
October 30. 1990
It's about 7:30 in the evening. I'm here alone at the office. I've finally regained my composure. We had a major blow-
Still, I was thinking I would do that to honor my commitment to the project when the negative cutter called to say we had used the same shot in two different places in the tape. The first one was already cut in, so there was nothing to put in for the second one. Unfortunately, the second one was the important one. As a result we needed to completely recut the second sequence, which could not work the same way without that shot.
Well, Larry was very mad because he wants everything perfect. The first thing he did was call up the negative cutting place and told them to stop cutting until we checked all the numbers. In order to do that, he would get a computer program that would organize the data, but he wanted me to be the person to type all the data in by hand, thousands and thousands of numbers. Already for the conform I've had to put in 200,000 keystrokes and this would add another 100,000 to that.
I couldn't see myself doing all this extra work when I was about ready to fall apart. So I finally put my foot down and told him, "Look Larry, before you call them, I'm not going past this weekend with these hours. I'm taking Saturday AND Sunday off, and starting Monday I'm going on that 40 hour week."
Well, he got mad and slammed his fist into the door and made a big dent in it. I just sat there and he stormed off. Then Victoria came in and told me I didn't have enough commitment to the film. I'm only an editor and get no profit participation in the project. I've put in all this time and all these late hours. I've let this picture take me away from home in the middle of my transition when my relationship is in jeopardy. I haven't even taken my kids to the park for six months. Keith became too old for bedtime stories while I was tied up working late evenings. I've missed all of this in my commitment to their film.
I never signed on for 80 hour weeks. And yet, I am accused of not being dedicated. I was told I was thinking only of myself, that I kept changing my story of how much I would do. I told them I would do whatever it takes, but then that became cart blanche for them to take whatever I could do. So the hours go up, the effort goes up, and then when one thing goes wrong, I get blamed, even though we have all seen that shot in that place every time we run the picture.
So, I had had enough. I couldn't take anymore and I lost it. I turned around and slammed MY fist into the door, and with three slams broke a hole through the back side. I totally messed up my hand, which is all swollen right now, yet I am continuing on the editing.
After about half an hour, Larry's friend came in playing good cop. He massaged me on the back and told me I just had to hold out a little longer. No, I told him, I had lost too much.
I cried then for half an hour, but continued to work through the tears, solving the problems as I could. Eventually, Larry came in and tried to make peace. He told me that after 2 1/2 years of working with this project, now it can never be perfect. I don't understand his attitude. That's the wrong attitude to have on a film. You should never be so in love with any aspect of a project that you can't bring yourself to change it in light of practicality. Accept it and move on. No work should be that important. Relationships and people are what's important. Who cares after you're dead how long they're going to remember you.
I just stared at him. I wasn't going to argue. I simply told him, whatever you think you can try to do to force me to do this, bring it on. Go ahead and try. I don't care anymore. All I want to do is finish the movie and get back to my family. I told him I would still do a good, honest job. I would still give him the best I had and be a true professional about it. But only under the conditions that I had outlined. I said, "If you want me to continue to work under those conditions, I will. If you don't want me to come in, say so and I won't. If you feel you have to do something to me because of this, then go ahead and bring it on."
So here I am continuing to work on the conform, still trying to do the best job I can for Larry. I don't know what might happen to, for, or against me. I don't know what effect this will have on my career. But whatever it is, standing up for myself was worth it.