Raised By Wolves
Part Three: Across the Great Divide
March 5, 1991
Today was the private Premiere screening of the feature film I have been editing, at the Hitchcock Theatre, Universal Studios. Larry (the director) had said he would publicly introduce me to the crowd of 300 people from the industry who are expected to show up. This was to be kind of like my "debut", and I wanted to make sure I was done up to the teeth. I already had the perfect dress, but I needed just the right jacket. So, I drove around all day trying to find what I had in mind. I tried Target, The Broadway - all the big stores, but had no luck at all finding just the look I wanted. Finally, I made one last desperation stop - Goodwill! And believe it or not, there on a rack, squished in between moth-eaten flannels and gravy stained silks was the most wonderful white demi-jacket with full length lace sleeves. Just what my black evening gown needed to draw attention.
Right next door to Goodwill was a nail salon, so on a whim I had my nails done for first time. I was a little worried that I might get read, especially since I didn't know the protocol. But, apparently, I was within range because the manicurist and I had a pleasant conversation and she never suspected. In the middle of the day I had to do some work on the computer and discovered I had to relearn to type!
Later, I stopped off to get some earrings and a new purse at K-mart. All accouterments purchased, I went home to get ready. Mary was coming with me, so we got ready together. This would be our first real public appearance together as two women out for the evening. Interestingly, I wear a black evening gown and Mary wears a black pants suit!
We arrive at the studio right on time, and are waved right in as my name was left at the gate. I'm really proud to show Mary how important I am getting, because I really want her to be proud of me. The studio is all lit up at night, something like a shopping mall. We follow the meandering crowed down the lamp-lit pathway to the entrance of the Hitchcock Theatre - the most prestigious screening room on the lot. Inside, the Hitchcock Theatre is much like any other big city theatre, except this one is for private screenings only.
Since we are a bit early, I hob nob with the other early guests. Eventually, we are all seated and the director gets up in front and introduces the cast and crew to the audience of VIPs. I am especially pleased when he asks me to stand and lavishes extra praise on my editorial efforts. I realize I've just been introduced to three hundred people as Melanie. Guess I'm stuck with it now!
The lights dim, everyone quiets down and the movie begins. I've only seen it in workprint form up until now. It looks so glorious in its fresh colors and Dolby stereo sound. The opening teaser goes by to positive laughter and then, there it is, my name, sixty feet across! "Edited by Melanie" in Panavision! Odd though, I find myself not so much awed by my own work and involvement, just pleased and satisfied.
I watch the audience react to some of the lines I wrote for the second unit material and respond to montage sequences I designed and edited. I hear several positive comments in the darkened theater about my editing. Finally, the ending credits roll, the lights come up and we all adjourn to the lobby where a reception has been planned. Without belaboring the point, just about everyone is talking about my editing. Other aspects of the film are hardly mentioned. Two of the stars, Shannon and Bobbi seek me out to tell me I made them look good. In fact, perhaps two dozen people go out of their way to flag me down and compliment me, many of whom I don't even know. Two producers ask for my card to call me about editing future projects.
Mary remains something of a wallflower, but tells me to go network as she was more comfortable sitting by the wall. During the screening we were sitting behind Trini Lopez, I saw him in the reception, and introduced Mary to Trini. Then I got his autograph for her to add to her collection. The crowd was beginning to thin, so I made my final farewells, completely fulfilled. Walking together through the studio to our car, we shared a closeness as two people truly in love.
March 15, 1991
Today I went with Mindi to a new-office warming party. This is the company Chris is VP of. We are still working every day on Mental Relativity, but it is nice to see him outside of the context of work we are doing. He has lovely new offices: two floors of a brand new building in the Valley. There are many people in attendance: business associates and friends. It's odd how I never have any nervousness anymore. My electrolysis is falling behind, but still I don't mind. I was just being me and looking for friends. Anyway, no one seemed to notice anything odd, and those that did know are completely used to treating me as a woman.
I met several old friends, Tom, Tony, Sean, Sandy, Programmer Mike, Chris, Steve, Arlene, Mark, Juni - even Chris' mom. She and I had a long conversation together (with the inevitable hug). She's so accepting, so supportive. We were in a little clique of cross-conversations. This was the first time I felt comfortable in conversation as part of group of all women. Boy, its great to talk about the things that really matter to ME and have the other women interested in what I'm saying. Conversations with the guys are completely different, but fulfilling in a different sort of way.
It was a wonderful party, searchlights, their name on building, roving waiters with lobster pastries, and even a magic show! Sim, one of the managers, was there along with his daughter. Mindi and Sim's daughter were all over the place, the only two kids there, everyone looking out for them. Mindi showed up trying to stuff a cigarette through a quarter so I knew she had been to see the magician again! Mindi, my friend Juni and I went out to my car in the parking lot to have a quiet place to talk. Mindi fell asleep in the back seat with her balloons while Juni and I talk of relationships and personal goals. The woman readers of this will appreciate the lack I felt all my life at not being allowed to discuss such things with friends. Now, its almost required! What a giddy kick! She is my first female friend and I can't get enough of this kind of conversation. Two hours later, her husband Mark showed up at car, worried because he couldn't find her. Juni and I just lost track of time. It's really nice to have someone to share with.
April 1, 1991
Yesterday was Easter, and I went to church for the first time as Melanie. The last time I attended was a year ago, but then it was still as Dave. The event that precipitated my attendance was my step-father's decision to move to Israel. As a born-again Christian, he wishes to be close to the holy land. Yesterday was the last Sunday before he leaves next Wednesday. So, I wanted to share church with him one last time.
I hoped not to embarrass him, as he had told his friends there about my activities, so there was no chance of just blending in. I dressed in a nice Spring skirt outfit, appropriate for an Easter Sunday. Mary and Keith elected to stay home, but Mindi joined me in accompanying my step-dad.
As I sat next to my dad, I realized that this might be the last time we would be together in the place that means so much to him. I know that even though my dad may never accept me as his daughter, he does accept me as his child with love.
He put his arm around me in church to show his love, and as we left at the end of the service, I received a big hug from the minister who said he was happy to have me there. This kind of Christianity that is NOT hypocritical says more for the value of that spirit than all of the verses in all of their books.
As soon as I got back from church, I immediately left for a women-only Right of Spring party I had been invited to by Maria, the lady I edited the commercials for. She was not giving the party, but was one of the principal guests. She has taken me in tow, of late, crossing many social barriers and thrusting me into new situations. Due to my work with Mental Relativity, she wanted to bring me into the group as a shaman, another teacher among a group of teachers. All of us have questions and all of us have knowledge to share.
When I arrived at the modest home where the party was to be held, I stepped across the threshold to find a completely different environment than one would suspect seeing the building from the street. It was like walking through a dimensional warp into something oriented more to the earth and its basic rhythms. It was definitely a female domain. She is an artist of simplicity and strength. Everything she works on contains feelings. As I am opening myself to these new perspectives much more in line with my true nature, things take on feelings, not just shapes.
Women will walk into a room and see the feelings. The placement of an object, its color and the open space on a wall are all noted not so much for their relationship as for the feelings they engender. In this house, the arrangement of the furniture, the colors and shapes all combined to create a sense of being almost animal oriented in the sense of being in touch not just with our rational selves but with the deep seated feelings that come from within us. Mental Relativity describes this in mathematical terms, but the actual experiences are very real.
This was a woman's house. It was a place not just designed to house a woman, but to share with other women. This mood was created within us identically.
The meeting never really began, but just got underway. We started with food and chit chat. Then the sage of the gathering began a session with a traditional Native American ceremony. We joined in a circle and moved around it in turns to speak of our lives, sharing what we wanted the others to know of ourselves. What a treat to partake of this openness as we opened our experiences to all those in the circle: sometimes with laughter, sometimes with tears, but always with empathy. There was common ground here: a communion I had never felt before.
As a child I remember wondering how the other boys knew to say or do this. When did their parents tell them? Why didn't my parents tell me? When did I miss the day of class when they learned this? How do I find out about it? I'm too afraid to ask. Maybe I'm just different: I'll just keep quiet and hold it all inside.
Juni and I have now become close friends, one on one. But until this day I had not experienced the group feminine; the group female. I don't know if only some of the women knew about me before I shared my past, or if all did, but it really didn't matter: I was accepted into the group.
When my turn to speak arrived, I immediately shared my history so as to be completely open, and this did not diminish the openness of the others yet to speak. I don't know if this would be normal for all women, or just for this unique group of free-thinking women who have come through suffering and pain and emerged with a subtle strength.
At the end of the meeting, each of us was to state what we needed most in support from the others. Then we all held up our hands and focused our positive thoughts on that person. I asked for help in having the strength to bring understanding to others.
April 3, 1991
Since a year ago last September when we moved into this house with my step-dad, Mary and I have not been alone with the kids as a family. We were so in debt when we came that there was literally nowhere else we could go. So, all of my efforts to go through transition have occurred under the eyes of the man who raised me since age seven.
My dad had lived in this house with my mother, my grandmother and my grandfather whose house it was. But my mother died in January 1989, clearing the way for my transition to begin. My grandfather died in June, and my grandmother died in December. When we moved in, my dad retreated to a single bedroom, electing not to participate in the running of the rest of the house. So, although we see each other and speak to each other every day, he seems more a house guest than my father. Adding to this his evangelical point of view as a born-again Christian (and his perspective against my transition, though still supportive of me as his child) makes for a strange tension that has filled this house for all this time.
Today, however, my dad left for Israel - the Holy Land - so that he could be close to the place Jesus walked. We arrived at the airport early and decided to have breakfast together. I was silent during the entire meal, as I knew I would begin crying if I even tried to speak. I was filled with such mixed emotions - to lose the last person who had seen me grow up, but to gain a household of our own again; to be out from under his disapproval, yet to be on my own for the first time in my life.
Mary realized I needed some time alone with my father so she took the kids off to the rest room. He and I sat there in an uncomfortable silence and then I just started to cry. He got up, walked around the table and put his arm around me and told me that he loved me and that everything was alright. Then it was time for him to go, so all together we went out to the gate. We took our turns hugging my father. We walked away. I turned back to look and he was gone, no longer standing there.
Strangely, as we drove home, I knew the house would feel different. When I saw the house, the light was different than I had ever seen it there before. The grass was yellow with a purity and intensity I cannot describe. It was not a completely pleasant feeling. Even the living room, which was painted blue, looked more yellow. As I walked through the house, every room felt strange, as if it were someplace I had never been. Odd how the feelings generated by a place can change because the emotional canvas has been repainted.
Later in the evening, my dad called from Israel to tell us he had gotten in safely. As soon as I heard his voice, the living room shifted back toward the blue - not all the way, but definitely closer to blue and away from the yellow. My feelings no longer thought of him as having stepped into a void from which he would never return. I knew he was gone, but now there was a chance that someday he would return. This altered my perception of the entire house. It is as if hormones don't just alter the emotions, but one's very perceptions as well.
April 5, 1991
If there were a way to color words... For example, if we were to have the word "Blue" and it could be colored to be bright blue or light blue or even colored to be red if we wanted... If you took the word "Blue" and you wrote it in red letters, that would make an emotional statement to a woman that would probably be nearly identical in all other women.
April 9, 1991
I voted today for the first time with my new registration as Melanie.
April 10, 1991
I just returned about an hour ago from the first school outing I've ever gone as Melanie with my daughter Mindi. The parent/teacher conference I had a couple months ago was my first contact in this role with any of the school personnel. Her teacher asked me at that time if I would like to go with the class to Descanso Gardens, a local arboretum. I said I'd love to.
So, here was the day, and I went along with five other moms on the bus to help with the children. We were each assigned a group of children to be responsible for. The teacher gave me a group of three other girls in addition to Mindi.
We rode in on the bus, sang songs along the way, told stories. Each group got its own guide, so me and my ducklings followed right along. This was is such contrast to the miserable experiences I had in school as a child where I never felt like I fit in. Even though I enjoyed field trips as a child, they were also my greatest time of nervousness because I didn't know what to do. The only reason I could get by acting like a boy was because I had learned what boys were supposed to do by watching them in class. But when I was taken out of that environment, I had no idea how I should react, and I was afraid.
Today started out with a lot of fear as well. I didn't know how many of the other mothers knew, or even if I had perhaps met some of them before as Dave. I wondered if any of the kids would find out or perhaps already were aware. Each of the sixty children was an opportunity to be unmasked. And here I was going from shade to sunlight to sidelight to reflections off pools, all with my electrolysis still incomplete and my make-up heavy. I just had to go on gut faith that everything would work out right. And you know what? It did.
We had such a fun time. I was parental, I was a teacher's aid. I spoke with the other moms. All in all, those terrible memories I had at this very same school almost a third of a century ago are a notch less hurtful than they were just yesterday.
April 14, 1991
Today was Mindi's eighth birthday party. It was my first birthday party for the kids as Melanie. There's still a lot of firsts to do I guess.... I barbecued hot dogs and served potato chips and applesauce outside on folding tables. Everyone had a very good time. It seems life is getting back to normality.
April 24, 1991
The work Chris and I have been doing on Story has led to an interesting understanding of "Becoming" someone new. You cannot become someone just by doing what they do, but only by also NOT doing what they DON'T do.
April 27, 1991
A quick little interesting note. I picked Mary up at the airport today, as she has been away for a few days at an African Violet convention. While waiting for her, I heard someone call "Melanie!". I looked around and saw a fellow walking toward me. It turned out to be one of the co-stars of Larry's feature. We had a pleasant conversation, then his ride arrived and he left. I found it interesting because never before had someone who had met me as Melanie recognized me in a crowd unexpectedly.
April 28, 1991
Last night I was outside until 10:30 waxing my car under the streetlight. The reason was that today was to be the first time my natural father would see me as Melanie. He had seen only a picture before. When I spoke to him on the phone recently I mentioned I might want to come visit him with my family. He told me I could only come if I went as Dave. I was shocked. He was always Mr. Logical - Mr. Reasonable. But here he was reacting emotionally to my transition.
I asked him why, and he simply said he couldn't explain, but it was just something he was having trouble with. In a way, I almost felt good that I finally I had gotten through to him emotionally after all these years. Here was something he didn't have a logical answer for.
He offered, however, that we could meet halfway between where I live, and San Diego where he lives. He suggested a coffee shop in Capistrano. So, I got myself ready and went down with the hope of finding out what the problem really was. I had worried all week about what outfit to wear. I had my nails done. I had my son Windex the windows. I stopped to get gas and paid the higher price for full-service so I wouldn't get covered in gas fumes.
Finally, I arrived and he met me very cheerfully. I was immediately at ease, but still not relaxed. We had coffee, then went to a nearby restaurant and had a wonderful Mexican lunch (my dad buying as usual!). Next, he suggested we tour Capistrano Mission, so we went in and waltzed about looking at the exhibits. He laughed and joked and I began to feel confident our relationship would survive this.
When it came time for me to leave, we stood by the car and he told me he had not changed his mind. I could not come down with my family and visit him dressed as Melanie. I asked him why? He kept saying that I was holding Mary back. That I shouldn't stay with her. That I should let her find someone else and move out. This is my own father speaking!
I've gotten the same reaction from the sysop of a gender bulletin board who told me that now that I was a woman I should move out. But why should becoming a woman have anything to do with staying with the person you have loved for all these years?
Still, my dad told me that I was sitting on the fence, standing in the middle of the road. If I was going to be a woman, I should move out and be one. He felt that I was not being fully committed to this change of life. I argued with him. I am now sterile from hormone therapy. I have put my career and relationships at risk. This is not a frivolous game. Every day when I take a pill I re-make that decision anew to continue with this life.
When I had finished, he thought for just a moment, and then, absolutely in character with the way my father has always been he said, "Very eloquently put, but I don't want you to come down with your family as you are." He told me he would check in on me from time to time, but I could no longer come to see him.
At that point I realized I had either lost him, or I never really had him. I began to cry in his car, and he did not offer an arm. When I brought myself somewhat under control, I told him I thought I had better go. I got out of the car and walked toward mine, still sobbing. I could see him standing, watching, out of the corner of my eye. He called to me, "I'll be seeing you.", but I couldn't even respond. I got in the car, tears running down my face, and drove off without looking back.
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