Boiled in Oil
Part Three: A New Covenant
Winding Up, Winding Down
Author's Reminder: After my break-up with Andy, I lost any interest in keeping a diary. I was still publishing the cyberzine, The Subversive, for the transgender community, however. Each month, my editorial revolved around the same personal issues I had dealt with in my diary. The difference being: the editorials were explorations of a single topics of concern each issue, rather than random thoughts regarding all of my concerns, as was my diary.
To bridge the gap until I returned as a diarist, I am republishing these personal editorials as a record of the events and experiences that occurred during these "lost months".
Well, gosh, folks, this is going to be a really thin issue of The Subversive. I INTENDED to write an editorial called "The LINE King" about Disney's blatant sexism. I was going to describe how Disney has always been sexist, creating a line between male and female, but in this latest animated feature they cross the line.
I WANTED to tell you all about Cinderella having to rely on magic, Sleeping Beauty having to wait for her prince to come, Minnie and Daisy always playing second fiddle. Then I was going to describe how The Little Mermaid had to have cosmagic surgery, say nothing, and try to get a prince to kiss her. Beauty sat on a pedestal providing moral guidance to the earthly Beast, Jasmine relies on her "prince" to spirit her off to a whole new world, and then we get "The Lion King".
I WAS going to talk about how this latest flick was the greatest offender of all, because the sexist issues are so taken for granted you hardly even notice that the mother has no relationship with her son, the female playmate just follows along wherever the male cub goes, and WORST of all, males have a divine right to rule. Gee, its truly AWFUL if the male happens to be a jerk, but us women still have to obey - no rebellion, no grumbling, just be supportive and silent. Of course, its MUCH better if a good male rules, but of course only a good MALE can overthrow a bad MALE.
Well, I WAS going to write a whole editorial on all this (I thought it would be great stuff!) but ya know somthin'... I ran out of time!!! What a stupid excuse! True, but stupid! You see, we released the story development software six weeks ago and things are happening like a bat out of Disney studios! Copies are selling left and right. We get phone calls and Email and press. For example, CNN interviewed us and that is going to be aired on Showbiz Today in a couple of weeks. Wired magazine interviewed us and that is going to be in the September issue.
We just had our first class for the software users earlier today. I taught the four hour presentation (which we videotaped for later sale) and, you know, I was really good. I made them laugh, I taught them something, I opened their eyes to new ways to look at stories. Next week we go to Montana to give a workshop in the writing theory and in September we present our work in Boston to M.I.T. After all these years of just trudging along suddenly things are going crazy!
So, you won't be getting that wonderful editorial this month. AND you won't be getting much else either. I just don't have time. And besides, after almost two years of The Subversive and three years of writing newsletters for the gender community, I'm starting to get a bit tired of the monthly grind. And also besides, I've kinda got this new life as a woman, ya see, and its very tempting to start living it.
However, I do have a commitment to finish out the next three issues after this, and I really do want to do that. Expect them to be thin, however, 'cause I just keep getting wrapped up in this new life stuff.
Speaking of that life, I will give you a few updates on things I've already mentioned. First of all, Mindi's (my daughter) physical condition. Good new y'all! It ain't Tourette! Both her CAT scan and EEG came out normal AND her condition is improving! Thank God!
It now looks like a minor fall from a tree that she had caused some damage to a few brain cells and left her disoriented and uncoordinated on the right side. Well, the disorientation is all gone now and she is back to her old self emotionally. The limping on the right side is almost gone and she can actually write legibly with her right hand again. At this rate, she might be just about back to normal by the start of school. But, I don't mind telling you how much all this messed with my emotions. I was really wrung out there for a while, crying four or five times a day, alone where no one would hear me so they wouldn't feel worse than they already did. But that's all behind us now, or nearly so, and I think we can pretty much lay this one to rest.
Next, some big news in the personal realm. I've decided that when I get my next royalty check from the software in October (the first check was a whopper!) I'm going to get an apartment of my own. I'll be dividing my time between my family and my new home to whatever degree feels right.
Its been a tough decision since Mary (my S.O.) and I have been together over 18 years and she stuck with me all the way through transition, surgery and a new lifestyle afterward (including my rather prolific experiences with several boyfriends). But ya know, I've come to realize that I've never really had a passionate love for Mary. I've always loved her as someone who was loyal and gave me incredible freedom in life, but there's hardly ever been moments of that wonderful spark when you feel like the luckiest person on earth just to be near someone special. I've had that A LOT with my boyfriends, but hardly ever with Mary. Not her fault, mind you, just that the best thing we had going was trust and consistency and somehow that isn't enough for me anymore.
So, I'm disentangling myself from this family very slowly. If you'll pardon the analogy, its kind of like trying to remove a brain tumor. If you just yank it out, half the brain goes with it. But if you carefully excise one tendril after another, you can remove the growth without damaging the tissue around it. I'll keep everyone up to date on this as things progress. I don't know where it will end up, but the direction its headed feels good so far.
Well, that's about it for now. I've managed to complete transcribing the next month of my transition diary which I'm also including in this issue. At the end of the three issues after this one, the very last month of my diary ends with my journey home after surgery. That's when I end The Subversive, a complete story in 24 parts (24 scenes) three acts (the three part trilogy of the diary) an Objective Storyline (my editorials and comments) a Subjective Storyline (the diary itself) all creating what the writing theory would see as a fully developed argument.
In the theory, every story ends when the Main Character makes a leap of faith deciding either to remain steadfast and hold onto their resolve (like Job) or to change their nature (like Scrooge) in the hope of making things come out right. That leap of faith for me will be moving into my apartment in October - living alone for the first time in my life. The outcome is rated by Objective Success or Failure and the Subjective appraisal of Good or Bad. Sometimes Success leads to unhappiness and hence is Bad. Sometimes Failure leads to growth and is therefor Good. But isn't it great when it ends in Success and Good - a true fairy tale happy ending.
When I didn't know how the theory and software would be accepted, Success or Failure was up in the air. But now, the Objective story has clearly ended in Success. Still the Subjective outcome remains to be seen. Will it be Good or will it be Bad? I imagine by the time the last issue of The Subversive goes to "press" we'll all know. This story is still being written, we'll just have to wait to see how it comes out.
According to the theory, a concise yet complete story will have 24 scenes. So far, there are 21 issues of The Subversive. The complete story of my transition has three scenes left.
I can feel the end of the effort coming closer. The way I look at the world these days - even WHAT I look at in the world (and in myself) is far different than on August 1, 1991 when I began my transition diary. I might never have noticed this difference if I was not confronted by my diary entries every time I prepare an edition of The Subversive. Things have a way of changing so gradually that you never notice your children growing or yourself aging until they are adults and you are elderly.
For a story to have meaning, it compares the Subjective journey of the individual struggling to choose the best course to the Objective evaluation of the path they take, step by step. The Subjective view of my transition is the diary itself, serialized in 24 scenes. The Objective view is provided by my monthly editorials (like this one) which offer the clarity of hindsight - the knowledge of how things came out.
The Objective story ends in an outcome of success or failure, while the Subjective story ends in a judgment of good or bad. The outcome simply states if the goal that was embarked upon at the beginning of the story is ultimately met. It doesn't matter if the Main Character decides along the way that the goal was not worth the cost or that it was actually the wrong goal. It doesn't matter it the goal itself is deplorable. Do they achieve it or not? That is the question.
In the Subjective story, goal is unimportant. Rather, the question is whether the Main Character finds personal fulfillment at the end of the journey. Sometimes, as in the movie "Rainman" the Main Character fails to achieve the goal (of getting the inheritance) yet grows to love his brother and therefore finds fulfillment. Obviously, the two sides of the story are tied together, not during the course of the story, but as the story resolves in the end. The meaning of the journey only becomes apparent as the story concludes, and this meaning is generated by a special nature to each of the last three scenes.
Now, when I started The Subversive, I made no conscious decision to fashion it as a compete story with both Subjective and Objective views. But due to my work in creating the theory, my subconscious has taken care of that for me. In the last months I realized that my own journey was coming to an end. The first indication of this was over a year and a half ago in January 1993, when I wrote an editorial about "Homesteading". I described how, like the pioneers, we must eventually cross a final mountain range, see a beautiful valley that is so much like what we were looking for that we can say, "This is as far as I go; this is good enough for me."
Some of us lay down roots earlier in the journey than others, but unless we homestead somewhere we keep wandering forever. The journey is not over by reaching a specific destination; its over when we stop.
Even before that, I had written articles like "Remember to Forget", which described how we cannot become like someone just by being like they are, but only by also NOT being like they AREN"T. The key to this aspect of metamorphosis is that it takes time. So that even if we end our journey (as I did in January 1991) time must still pass while we build upon the ground we have chosen to homestead. This is what is happening to me right now.
In the past six months, I have come to realize that the Subjective Story contained in my diary was the journey. The Objective story in the editorials is my effort to homestead. Both will conclude with the 24th scene in which the outcome of success or failure and the judgment of good or bad will be determined.
As mentioned above, each of the last three scenes has a special nature that sets them apart from all the others. In the second to last scene (number 22) the Main Character makes a leap of faith to either remain steadfast in their resolve (like Job or James Bond) or to change tack (like Scrooge). To the Main Character it is a leap of faith because subjectively, they cannot tell if the obstacles they face are indicators that they are on the wrong path, or just tests to their tenacity that must be overcome.
The next to last scene (number 23) is the climax in which initial success or failure and good or bad are determined. However, just because it LOOKS like success and good does not mean it will stick. That occurs in the last scene ( number 24) in which a second evaluation is made that tells the audience if the Main Character's decision to remain steadfast or change was only a momentary victory (or defeat) or will continue into the foreseeable future. This is called the Author's Proof. In the story of our own lives, the author is God and he never divulges the ending in advance.
So, even as I write these words, I do not know what scenes 23 and 24 will hold. Will my story resolve with success or failure? Will I find be fulfilled or not? Certainly, things look headed toward the positive, but the unexpected has a way of proving to be the spoiler at the last moment. For example, in the first part of next month I will be on a plane from L.A. to Boston to put on a workshop in the theory for M.I.T. Certainly something could happen on that trip that would throw the outcome of this story into a whole different context.
In fact, context is the key to meaning. We can describe the nature of what something is all we want, but we cannot determine its meaning until it is placed in the context we intend to examine it. That is the essence of the Main Character's leap of faith: to try and understand not so much the issue as to grasp the context of the "big picture" and then evaluate what is best. And that is essence of THIS scene - issue number 22 - and the ultimate subject of this editorial.
I made a leap of faith this month - right on schedule. Did this happen because I was aware it would be appropriate to the timing of my transition story or is the story well timed because it parallels the natural course of my journey? Who knows. But I did make a leap of faith.
Now, leaps of faith come in two varieties: the cathartic and the subliminal. The cathartic leap of faith occurs when the Main Character is aware of the choice and must make it consciously, as occurred in the Subjective story of my transition when I consciously committed myself to have the surgery. The moment I decided not to reconsider the issue no matter what, that was the Subjective leap of faith.
The subliminal leap of faith occurs when a Main Character is so focused on dealing with external issues that they dance around the problem, never realizing they have changed where they stand until the leap is over. This is the nature of my Objective leap of faith that occurred in the last two weeks.
Two weeks ago, I was in Montana, pushing the theory and software at a convention for educators. We were VERY well received. I had many one on one sessions with various teachers and writers. We also attended a banquet in honor of Peter Fonda for the 25th anniversary of "Easy Rider". He spoke for half an hour, then we all strolled across campus of Minnesota State University where he teaches and screened Easy Rider with him in the Cinema Department Theatre. During the banquet, my partners and I ran into an editing instructor we had all had at various times at USC cinema. Last year we talked to him and my partners reminisced, but I said nothing as I did not want to give away my past. THIS year, as they talked over old times, I joined in the conversation and said, "You know, I ALSO had your class!" One of my partners said to me out of the side of his mouth, "Oh, you're going to start THAT", meaning that I was going to bring up my transition.
Now, my partners are great. We've talked about how word of my background might cut into sales of the software. But they basically told me to just do whatever feels right and they will support any approach to that I want to take.
So, the instructor said, "I'm thinking back, but I don't remember you...." I replied, "I wasn't very memorable." And then I proceeded to join in the fun of recalling things about his class. Completely different from last year when I pretended not to know him. I had never intended to bring up my transition. Do you know what the subliminal leap of faith was yet? Here's another example....
I had a wonderful conversation with the wife of another teacher we had gone sightseeing with at the previous year's convention in Philadelphia. We talked about kids and careers and her husband and Andy, my ex, and a number of things. It only occurred to me afterward that I didn't know if the teacher or his wife knew about my past.
I wore a sexy evening gown to the banquet and checked out the competition, feeling up in the top percentile of good looking women. Any idea about what the subliminal leap of faith was?
I came back from Montana and realized I couldn't remember what the old male equipment used to feel like. I tried really hard, but for the life of me, I can't recall what it used to feel like. And then I realized I could remember what it felt like EMOTIONALLY to be male, either. "Remember to Forget" I forgot!
That was the subliminal leap of faith. While I was concentrating on the software and getting an apartment in October and the organization and effort of building a life, I had shifted my position so that I had stopped thinking about my past unless I was focused on the past.
You see, up to this month, EVERYTHING I did brought my transition back to mind. I couldn't go to the store or meet a guy or do business without wondering if I would have to divulge my history at some point. This is different from consciously worrying if you are being read. I haven't had that feeling for a LONG time. BUT, I'm still doing touch up electrolysis. I only have those clear hairs left, and only around the sideburn area, but there are still enough there that I still do touch-up electrolysis once a week to get rid of most of them and then shave afterward which last me for another week. But, I had been wearing my hair so that it covers the sideburn area as it gets close to electrolysis time. I wasn't worrying about being read - just taking precautions.
It is THAT attitude that had to stop if I were ever to lead a normal life. There is a big difference between admitting that you used to be a guy and did electrolysis to still trying to hide aspects of yourself so others won't figure it out on their own. Electrolysis is an open-ended deal for most. It is for me. I imagine it will never be completely over. (I saw some women at the convention who had FAR more facial hair than I would if I stopped electrolysis right now! And nobody thought THEY were guys!)
You see, there is an image of perfection you start out with - the bikini clad beach bunny, eighteen years old, blond, buxom, flat stomach, etc. And you keep working toward that image telling yourself, "Don't quit now, you're not there yet." But once again we get back to homesteading. I'm 41 years old. Pretty, but not gorgeous. Small boobs, and a bit of a tummy (though I'm thin overall). Now just how long do I want to keep feeling like I haven't made it before I settle down and say, "I'm finally here!"?
THAT was the leap of faith. While I was concentrating on business, I stopped assessing how I compared to that image. I started enjoying who I was, not yearning for who I would become. And, as indicated, it has taken time to reach that point.
Now this doesn't mean I won't stop trying to improve myself, but simply that I like who I am, even though one can always become better. Its the difference between wanting something and desiring it. "Want" means "lack". That indicates you aren't satisfied until you get. But desire means you are satisfied with what you have even though you can imagine something better. Desire motivates you to improve yourself, but not at any cost. Want drive you to achieve no matter what the cost.
I'm through with want and out for desire. I like who I am; I like what I am. Yes, I will keep doing electrolysis, but not because I'm afraid someone will figure me out. No, just because I prefer a more hairless face. I'll still get that apartment of my own, not because I'm trying to get away from Mary and the kids because they make me feel like a man. No, just because I want to create a more feminine environment for myself.
Its all a matter of which side of the coin you are looking at. Half empty or half full? Am I driven to journey farther and unhappy until I find what I am looking for, or is this "good enough" and I find myself lured to expand into new areas as well, all based on this, my new home?
That is the subliminal leap of faith. You are so intent at finding which side of the coin is best to look at that you don't realize you've walked around to the other side. So, having surgery is cathartic, right up front, in your face. Accepting yourself is subliminal, under your feet, behind your back.
The leap of faith has been made. The counter part of my Subjective decision to have surgery has been Objectively mirrored. Scene 22 is over. Scenes 23 and 24 lie ahead.
Well, here it is. The next to last issue of The Subversive. After five years of documenting my transition, I stand on the verge of ending that activity. That has been my goal: to put transition completely behind me. I should be glad. Yet sharing my most private feelings with you has become such a part of my life, such a part of me, that I'm afraid to let it go. What a dilemma: on one hand the notoriety as being something of a gender goddess, on the other hand life as a normal woman.
I had lunch with a friend from the gender community last week. In his words I was "every transsexual's dream." He spoke of my success in business, the look, the voice, the fame. Certainly there is attraction to that kind of aura. Yet it also comes with a price. If you are the queen of transition, you'll never be a woman.
Often I have written that one cannot become someone just by being like they are, but only by also not being like they aren't. And this is a classic case. In the last issue, I spoke of the "leap of faith" I needed to make to complete the "story" of my transition. Giving up the "Melanie Icon" is that leap.
To truly become who I have always wanted to be, I must give up the role of gender spokeswoman. I began that process almost nine months ago when I resigned as the head of the America On-line Gender Group and stepped down from my role as hostess of the weekly gender meeting.
Now, don't get me wrong. I am thrilled to be the founder of the AOLGG, and I am honored to have been associated with all of my friends in the gender community, both on-line and off. But transition is not a destination, it is a journey, and for the journey to be over one must put it behind.
I have heard so many in the community who have complained that as soon as someone has surgery, they seem to vanish from the face of the earth. That used to bother me too. I though these new women became snobs and didn't want to be seen in the company of transsexuals anymore. I though, "Not me... I'LL never leave! I'LL never dessert my sisters!" But here I am, doing that very thing.
Why? Not because I feel better than those in the community. No, I just feel "different". I go for days on end at work and the subject of gender never comes up. I go to movies and parties, business meetings and conventions and "transition" is never spoken of. In fact, the only time my mind is snapped back into transition anymore is when I'm writing The Subversive.
So, the leap of faith is to "let it go." Just "let it go." I need to move on, I need to be me. I need a life!
Part of this means getting the apartment away from Mary and the kids. And part of it is dropping out of the gender community.
I've tried to leave as many useful insights behind as I could. I've documented my journey, started the AOLGG and created my voice tape. But the time has come to "not be like they aren't" and put it behind me.
God, its so hard. I love you all so much. I feel for your struggles and rejoice in your victories. But I'm not really one of you anymore. If you're reading this, you're still in transition. And so am I until I'm gone.
You have all been so wonderful to me. The support I have received every step of the way, well, I really don't think I could have made it without you. So, all I can offer is that I have just one more step to take: issue number 24, and then its time to ride into the sunset. But each of you goes with me. Any success I have is due to you as much to me. No one can enjoy notoriety without those who appreciate one's work. And my work has been influenced and made real by my interactions with so many of you. So, you go with me, as my heart will be with you.
In the last issue I noted that the last two scenes in a story will determine success or failure and good or bad. In this case, good or bad remains unresolved until issue 24. But the question of success of failure can be determined right now.
The question is: Did I do what I set out to do? First we must determine what the goal that started this journey actually was. Clearly, I've had success in business with the release of the software. Certainly I have had success in going through transition while keeping my family together. But that wasn't the goal. The goal that pulled me forward from the very first day of my transition diary was simply to become a woman.
I was a man when I started. I wanted to become a woman. If I am still a man, I have failed. If I am now a woman, I succeeded.
No bells and whistles, no fireworks, just the honest truth: I am now a woman. I fit into society, I am accepted: all of my achievements in the "real" world have been made as Melanie.
So, yes, I have succeeded in the fullest sense of the word. But the good/bad question remains. That question asks if I have found fulfillment. And you know, I can't answer that yet. I'm right on the edge of knowing how I feel about all this. I'm just on the verge of seeing the big picture when all the myriad feelings generated during transition come together in holistic understanding. There is only one thing standing in my way, one thing remaining to do. And that is to put transition behind me and see how it feels.
So, I hand off the baton to someone else to carry. I've done my stint. I've said what I can and there are others right behind with much to say. By next issue, the last issue, I'll have a grip on this. We'll get our answer together. And finally, finally after all these years, we'll know how the story ends.
This is it. The VERY LAST ISSUE of The Subversive. I almost hesitated in writing this editorial. I mean, the moment I upload this to the BBS its all over - the end of the journey, the end of an era. But I didn't hesitate. In fact, I uploaded Issue #23 only five minutes ago.
So, how can I have anything new to say so soon? Well, I can't. And that's the point. Just like Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz", I've had the secret all along. There's no place like home. But home isn't WHERE I am, its WHO I am.
As soon as I realized I had posted issue #23, as soon as it sunk in, I knew that nothing had changed. I'm not really stepping away from anything; I'm already away from it. I really haven't been involved in transition things for almost a year. The whole key is: its over when it stops. And it stops when you stop. There's no destination, no finish line, no requirements. We each set our own parameters on when we will have arrived, when we will be satisfied. But we get so caught up in the pretty lights and scenery along the way, we forget we were going someplace. Well, now I've remembered.
The journey doesn't end when I get there, I get there when the journey ends.
So, only one thing remains to do: turn out the lights and go home.
Thanks to all of you for joining me in the story of my transition. Its been good to have you along. I'm glad it ended in success for we can all take heart in the knowledge that sometimes things actually work out.
Oh, and was it good or bad? Well, I guess I'll have to leave that one to you.
Author's Note: After I wrote the final chapter of Raised By Wolves, the first volume of my diary, I believed my search for personal understanding was over. It wasn't long, however, before I found myself compelled to express my questions and feelings again in words. Sometimes in letters, on microcassette recorder, or again as diary entries, I documented my experiences, half in the hope of finding and end to my angst, and half in the desire to share with others the benefit of what I had already found.
From these materials, the second volume of my diary, Boiled In Oil, was formed. While this work was underway, I had begun publishing chapters from the first volume in my cyberzine, The Subversive. As is often the case, the forces that drive us through life come in waves and cycles. It was no coincidence, then, that on the day I published the last chapter of Raised By Wolves, I also stopped creating the personal documents which ultimately became Boiled In Oil, effectively bringing that book, in fact this book, to an end.
But the end was reached not with a conclusion of angst, but more of a plateau of neutrality. For several months I hovered in this twilight realm, unfeeling, unthinking, and directionless. Then, through the course of events, I was nudged off center and found myself once more in the heart of the battle for inner peace.
I began to write once more, this time with a much more clear agenda: I wanted to answer the question, "Good or Bad", for myself. My final editorial in The Subversive had left it to the audience, but that was, in reality, a cheat. I did not provide the answer because I did not know it myself.
So, in December of 1994 I once more embarked on the quest for enlightenment. I had no idea at the time that this exploration would cause me more pain that anything I had previously suffered. And, I was not to know until the very end that I would indeed find my answer - a startling revelation I could not have anticipated that would bring all that had come before into a whole new perspective.
It is this new journey toward an age-old destination that begins the third volume of my diary, Skinned Alive....
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