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Chapter 14  Universal Truths Next Chapter / Diary Home / Support Site Home Scroll down in center section to read the rest of this chapter

November 1, 1993

Today, Larry (the Director of the feature film I am editing) and I came to an agreement about my future hours for the rest of the project. I have agreed to work 12 hours a day still, but only for five days a week. I get both days of the weekend off!


Yesterday was Halloween. I took the kids out for trick or treat wearing a hobo mask that came down below the nose. My long hair hung out the back, and I didn't want to walk like Dave, but the kids kept calling me "dad". The other day I couldn't remember how I used to walk, but last night I found a way that I could. In fact, I guess this is how all men walk. You just tighten up your ass and make sure nothing moves. Just like the old days.


Everyone else has gone home. I've got to work another couple of hours until 10pm. Even though the weather outside is cold, the air conditioning shuts off in the building in the evening, so it is pretty hot in here. I decided the only way to ease the heat was to take off my blouse. So if you ever see the movie, and come to the scene about 3/4 of the way through where the dog comes out of the elevator, you'll know that the final decisions were made on that sequence when the editor was topless.

November 2, 1990

I just finished dropping Mindi off at school and realized I forgot to bring my lunch. But, since the make-up looks good today and the Electrolysis worn off a bit, I think I'm going to take my new checkbook and my new driver's license and go down and buy some food at the store. That's something I've always wanted to do. Since I'm still Dave at home, I haven't had to go to the store as Melanie yet. The last time I went to the store as a woman was before transition when I was wearing a wig and padding. I wasn't afraid then, because it was play. I AM afraid now, because if it doesn't work and this is really me, its not going to work at all.

But I'm not really worried, because today is the first real day of fall we've had. Its clear and crisp and the leaves are blowing across the blue sky. And I'm dressed the way I always wanted to be, in a pull-over elastic top and blue jeans. This is THE perfect weather, THE perfect clothes, and hopefully it will be The perfect shopping experience.


Well, I'm back in the car after my first successful shopping trip - and it was great! I walked up and down the aisles the way I wanted to walk; looked at what I wanted to look at. I stopped by the cosmetics. It was heaven. I wonder if you can imagine what it would be like to spend a whole year of your life afraid to walk into a supermarket. I didn't work for that long as a male, and I was completely unsure to try it as a female. Its terrifying. I don't want to be embarrassed. I just want to be me.

So, today I spent my first check on my new account at Lucky's. And even though my voice froze up a bit when I went up to the checkout counter, the checker didn't think anything of it. She didn't bat an eye. I was pretty much ignored. To go into the supermarket and be ignored may be the most thrilling experience I've ever had! Now, I know I'm going to make it.

November 5, 1990

I've just had my first weekend off with both days in a row in about four months and I feel wonderful! There was a surprise birthday party for Larry on Friday. I decided that going to his party would help put some of the bad feelings behind us. So I went to K-mart and bought a whole new outfit off the clearance rack. I found a green, flowered jacket with a cream blouse and a cocoa brown skirt. This was the first time I've worn a skirt in public since transition. I used to wear one every time I went out when it was just a game, but when it was real, I didn't feel qualified to wear one: kinda like I hadn't paid my dues and it would be play-acting.

But that Friday, I wore my skirt, and as I drove to the restaurant where the party was, I felt so free! Larry arrived and was very surprised. He was also very surprised to find me there on my first real day off in weeks. He gave me a warm hug. Larry's lawyer was also there and brought his two children as well. I had brought the party game winner's presents. The lawyer's daughter won one of the games and came to pick out her prize. She looked them over, but couldn't decide which of two to take. I said, "Why don't you take both?" She said, "Really?", her eyes going wide. I replied, "Sure, go ahead.", and handed them two her. She just turned spontaneously and gave me a hug. Suddenly, there I was, Auntie Melanie. I can't tell you the depth of fulfillment I felt when that little child hugged and accepted me as her friend.

When I came home, Mary said hi, but didn't look up because she didn't want to see me dressed in a skirt. I changed my clothes, but this time I changed into something more androgynous: a pull-over sweater, blue jeans, and foundation make-up only. I looked completely female, but not overtly female. And that's the way we went out to the Galleria shopping mall. We took the kids along.

I didn't change my movements, I didn't change my voice, even when I talked to clerks. I was just myself the whole time. Mary didn't have a problem with it. The kids didn't have a problem with it. I was so elated I stayed that way all weekend.

We had a wonderful time around the house together; cleaning up, doing chores. Sunday we went to the park. There were other families there with Dads and moms. Because I was androgynous, Mary could still see me the way she wanted, even while everyone else saw me as female. I haven't dropped out of being Melanie since a week ago, and I guess I never will again.

November 6, 1990

If I hurry, I can finish up the last reel of conforming (the worktape) today, in this nightmare of hours and commitment and deadlines and pressure. Last night and this morning, I used the same voice at home as I use at work. It's quite wonderful not to have to shift back and forth.

November 7, 1990

I'm on the road, heading down Hollywood Way, because today I get to work at Universal Studios! We're having our first day of recording on the Universal sound stage. This will only be my fourth or fifth trip to a studio, but never before to work. Today we are going to record a mariachi band for the soundtrack. After all my years in the business, this is finally like being on the inside.

This is only the second time I've worn a skirt since I began working as Melanie. I'm ready to go into the studio and make my debut among the professional people - not just in Larry's little office (my womb with a view) where I have been safe. I understand my name has been left at the gate...


I'm just about to turn on to Cahuenga, that borders Universal Studios. Last night (election night here in California) there was a tremendous fire on the Universal lot. For a time we feared that we would be unable to begin today. But, in fact, only one structure was seriously damaged, so things are supposed to be back to normal. Okay... here's the studio. I'm going to drive up and confront the guard and see what happens.


NOTE: What follows on the tape is an uneventful conversation with the guard, who found my name on the list, gave me directions to the stage I was interested in and sent me on my way. I was thrilled to pass so easily, especially past a gate that I had dreamed of crossing as a professional for so long. After that, the tape contains a full hour of technical conversation over the background of some rather out of tune mariachi music. Obviously, that is both difficult to transcribe (how you you transcribe music in text?) and boring as well. So, suffice it to say that as boring and ordinary as the day was, that is exactly what made it special. For I was simply working as a professional on a feature film, no regard or questioning of my sexual identity.

November 14, 1990

This Thanksgiving and the day after, I'll be director of photography on a video shoot with Larry directing. This is a different project than the feature, and it will be my debut as Melanie in that position - my first production job in the new role.

It's funny how comfortable it has become to wear a skirt. I was at a rental place earlier today, checking out some video gear and I sat down to look over the catalog. I felt this draft and suddenly I realized, "Wait a minute! I'm sitting here in a place of business, asking technical questions about video gear in a skirt!" Pretty darned amazing.

I get used to the role to where I don't even think about it, and then something comes up and whips me back to reality and I find myself saying, "I'm not fantasizing this, I'm really doing this - really living this life." Blows me away completely. I guess another year of this and there won't be any novelty to it anymore at all.


I'm really looking forward to this upcoming shoot. I'll be working with a full crew, telling them where to set the lights, working out the camera angles and operating it. There will be a number of featured players and thirty extras. I wonder what it will be like to be "crew captain" in my new lifestyle? It will be interesting to see what parts of my technique as director of photography remain the same and which ones change, now that I have altered my outlook.

November 16, 1990

Mary called up from work yesterday to tell me they were having a rummage sale there. She asked, "Does Mel like jewelry?" Of course I replied in the affirmative. She asked what kind I liked, and I told her I was kinda into bracelets. She said, "That's good to know!" When she came home that night, she gave me a silver twisted bracelet.

She told me that the one friend at work she has confided in asked her how she could possibly contribute to my transition like that. She replied that even though she still thought of me as David, David liked bracelets and she wanted to make me happy.

November 20, 1990

Last night the make-up/hairdresser friend of the Victoria, the producer gave me the free haircut I received as part of the deal to be director of photography on a video shoot for Larry. Now, I spent fourteen months growing my hair from a short male style down to barely touching my shoulders. I was very proud of this. In the last few weeks it finally reached the point where I can walk into stores or meet people for business with no one questioning that I was female. The style worked, the length worked: everything was working very well. Then, I got the haircut....

Now imagine, I had gone into my doctor's office who told me how good I was looking. I stopped to talk to his post-op nurse who's hair was the same length as mine. I came into the office wearing one of my favorite skirts, chatted with an intern from Canada who did not read me at all and then about 9:30 in the evening went in to have my hair cut.

I sat down, so thrilled, looking forward to this: my first female haircut in thirty years of wanting one. Thirty minutes later I looked in the mirror to see that my hair barely came down to the bottoms of my ears.

I came home thinking all the time, "Oh, it doesn't matter... My femininity doesn't come from the length of my hair - I'm not Samsonette, after all!" I kept thinking, "Well, its a feminine haircut. I love the style because its so soft and curvy. I don't think it makes me look older even though the lady next store is about my age, has a similar haircut and it makes her look fifty!"

I came home. I looked in the mirror: the mirror in which I had seen the image of an undeniable female in the morning. Now I saw the undeniable image of a 5'10" man in drag. Suddenly, every bone in my body looked larger. Suddenly the musculature of my arms seems to protrude, like the Hulk taking shape beneath my blouse. Suddenly the beard stubble stood out and flashed in neon colors. Suddenly I realized I had been butched!

So, I cried and I screamed and I yelled and I cursed. And at the end of it all, I went in and woke up Mary and cried and screamed and cursed. Finally she woke up and began to comfort me, which was just what I wanted so I could push her away and wallow in my misery. Which I did until I fell asleep.

This morning I woke up realizing the damage had been done and I couldn't undo it. It will just take six more months to grow it back to where it was. Six more months of the hell of being laughed at, stared at ridiculed and feeling completely unconfident.

I would say, this was just about the most perfect experience of my life.


This morning, my daughter upon hearing that I was not pleased with the length of my haircut said to me, "Daddy, I know why they cut your hair so short!" I said, "Why, honey?" She said, "Did you go as a woman?" Thanks, kid!


Its funny, I have been looking for signs all day that people are reading me, but no one seems to be. I go in the store and I didn't really see anybody who paid me the slightest attention. A little boy in the store said, "Hi!" I said hi back and his mom didn't read me at all. I went through the checkout counter with no problem. I went to the gas station, came up to pay and a lady in the mini-store tapped me on the shoulder and asked me how to get to an address. No recognition.

I still feel I'm readable as hell, but on the other hand, that may not be the case. Maybe it wasn't the hair that was making me passable but my own confidence in adapting to the role.


Well, I'm here at the office and I'm still trying to be miserable, but its very hard. Maybe part of it is that the hair I had as a male was still the part on the outside before the haircut. I still had that stigma attached by its black little roots. Now, all the hair that was there when I was Dave is gone: on the floor and in the trash and out of my life. What's here now is all the stuff that's grown in since I've been Melanie. Its all Melanie hair. Its all "me" hair.

Even if my hair is short, even if my face is bumpy from electrolysis: those aren't the things that make me female. I'm female because of the way I am inside. And even if people don't treat me the way I want to be treated, its not going to stop me from acting the way I want to act.

November 21, 1990

I went into the video equipment rental company to get checked out on the broadcast camera I'll be using on the project I'm "DP"-ing. The technician is a former chef and we talked about favorite recipes and Thanksgiving dinners while we worked. He never read me.

I went down to the bank to get my ATM card activated on my new account. I was helped by one of the women who helped set up my account and saw all my Dave ID at that time. She and I talked as she explained the procedure and SHE DIDN'T RECOGNIZE ME! I don't know. Its scary. I figure that as soon as I get used to the fact that I'm not going to be read by anybody, everybody's going to read me.

Thanksgiving and the day after, 1990

These were the two days I was Director of Photography. I had a crew of six people and was responsible both for operation of the camera and lighting of two adjoining conference rooms about fifty feet long. We had forty extras and several principal actors and support personnel as well.

Talk about being high profile! Half of the people I knew going into the shoot knew I had been Dave and the other half didn't, so it was a strange feeling being in front of them all and so many new faces as well.

I don't believe anybody read me, although I believe I heard someone ask another person if the DP was male or female. But that's okay: its not the same thing as being read when they can take you either way. Also the one being asked responded "female" and that apparently settled the question. There were no raised eyebrows when I used the ladies room.

Later, when I was setting up a shot, I heard two other people talking about how female DPs were getting more accepted in the industry. I thought, "how interesting to be representing the feminist front."

None of the crew members knew about my past, so it was a lot of fun when I would step in authoritatively to adjust a light and they would kid me saying, "Oh, I just LOVE dominant women!" Another one piped in saying, "Yes, I really enjoy being order around." To which I replied, "Oh, too bad! I left my black leather at home!"

It was the most fulfilling production experience I've had. As Dave I would have felt self-consciousness to the point I would undermine my craft. But this time I felt none of that: I was completely secure. More than I had ever been in production before. So, I was able to devote myself to the creative decisions required and truly enjoy plying my craft.

It was interesting to work in front of perhaps 55 people, who all perceived me as Melanie. It became apparent once again that the choice I've made is about I how wish to express myself, and that the choice was a very good one.

As a side note: this is easily the most complex work I've done as a director of photography. We are running extensive dolly shots, crane shots, trucking in and out: a lot of complex moves and set-ups. But no problems! Total confidence on my part both as an artist and as a woman.

An odd thought: I truly feel that I could go back to the old role of Dave in a pinch. But I would still act as Melanie. I wonder if that would be accepted or not? Once you find yourself, you act as yourself. Its just that sometimes you don't fit in where you are placed.

As a side note: yesterday I measure my bustline for the first time in six or seven months. Strange, how I never had the desire to keep track of measurements. However, this time I found I had finally achieved a full "A" cup, which I guess was kind of a rite of passage for me, although it holds no special significance. My femininity does not spring from the size of my breasts, nor from what's between my legs, nor the length of my hair nor anything else. It simple springs from the fact that I am a feminine person, and that is its own justification.

I'll be glad when this book is over because these entries constantly put me in the position of re-evaluating things I really have no need to anymore. I'm really getting tired of soul-searching, because there's very little left to search at this point. Sure, there's more physical stuff to go through with the surgery if I elect to go with that. I feel no pressure to move in that direction at the moment.

And so, when this book concludes, I will be glad to see it go. Not because I haven't enjoyed sharing the process but that the time for dwelling on this aspect of my life is rapidly passing. Its time to move in new directions.

Now that this problem is winding down, my interest in the humanities and the environment has skyrocketed. That's why when I put this most personal document to rest, it will be with a sense that the time to move on has come.

November 28, 1990

Mary and I have decided we don't plan on being intimate in the future. We're still keeping it open, its not like a wall between us. We just realized we hadn't been intimate in a long time, and it wasn't anything major. We still cuddle up, watch TV and cuddle under the covers on cold nights. We still wake up with our arms around each other, and we're very close physically. But as far as sexual intimacy: that's something I don't think either one of us wants to address at this time. We're much more content to enjoy our companionship and be in Mary's words, "Good friends."

I'm pretty much amazed that it doesn't hurt as much as I thought it would. I believe that is because over the last fourteen years, physical intimacy is not where our hearts were. We were more concerned with the loving and caring and being close physically, not in consummating the act of love making.


And I'm growing close to other people as well. Every morning my writing partner, Chris, shows up and listens to my tales of woe over coffee and then helps me see clearly. I told him today that I had looked over something he had written and that I used to think I was a better writer than he, but not any more. I told him that particular piece was absolutely brilliant - it had so many things in it I never would have thought of. He said, "That's why we're partners."

I realized that statement was weighted with the message that we would continue working together into the future. That, to me, was quite an exceptional bonding.

I have even experienced some bonding with Larry at the office. He has been hard on all of us, but always harder on himself. He has everything risked on this project and today the pressure got to him. He was at Victoria and she was at him. It looked like Universal Studios would not prepare the soundtracks to the level he desired and they were basically refusing to look at the list he had prepared of what he wanted.

In the midst of all this tension, my own problems often boil over. Last week I broke down several times and cried. Larry was always there to put his arm around my shoulder. I don't know if he did it to spur me into a sense of loyalty so I would put more effort into the project or how much of it might actually be caring for me and reaching out to someone in need.

Today, I think I understand a little better. When Larry was at the end of his rope, he came into the office and told he was really down, and I suggested a way he could get around the Universal limitations using his own gear here for virtually no money. Suddenly he had a way out of his dilemma. The film could turn out the way he wanted and it didn't have to crumble around him.

Later, he came in filled with sorrow at his harsh words earlier to Victoria, his wife and producer. He was crestfallen. Silently, he reached out to me and I hugged him. Then I looked in his eyes and I felt such a maternal instinct. He was a lost little child. He was no longer the oppressive slave driver, he was no longer the big business man, he was no longer the experienced director with seven feature films to his credit: suddenly he was just a little boy who needed comforting. I reached out again and we hugged, as a mother would do to a small child who is afraid of the dark.

After, his eyes were strong again. Somehow from my femininity, he received strength of a masculine nature: to once again do battle with the dragons that were plaguing him. I realized then the power of the relationship between men and women - mother and child, man and wife, brother and sister. Each needs their strength replenished, but cannot replenish it from the substance of which they are made. Only through each other can we find our strength.