Book Three:

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Skinned Alive
by Melanie Anne

Part One: Innocence Lost

Chapter 48

Occam's Razor

January 2, 1995

I suppose I should write something. After all, it is the beginning of a new year, and it seems that documenting my innermost thoughts and feelings has become my trade. Time to practice my trade.

I've been pondering this morning, as I am wont to do, how to find peace in this year. "Peace": what an odd word. What does it really mean, to me?

Always I have the feeling that there is unfinished business I must attend to before I can rest, before I can relax. And this resting time that I yearn for more than anything else, this "peace", what is it?

I recall that as a child I would spend hours pondering... no, that's not right... "communing" with any trivial observation that happened across my path. I would watch dust caught in a sunbeam with a strange fascination. I would examine the universe in a patch of grass in the front lawn. For hours I might sit unmoving while a breeze so light as not to be felt would, from time to time, embrace a leaf and turn it so gently that the imperceptible wind would be made minimally known.

I think these times, these wordless time, were the only periods of my life in which I was truly happy, truly at "peace".

Now, in my adult life, I have followed a reasonable muse to such inner reaches that I examine the very fabric of emotion as an intellectual endeavor. Understanding vs. meaning, that age-old conflict which truly has no resolution, plagues me now. Like particle and wave, they are both parts of our self-awareness, yet always to arrive at different conclusions or to propagate in dissimilar directions.

Understanding comes from logic, the particulate, when we see the parts, rather than the whole, and seek to describe the forces that bind them all together. We quantify universal Truths, and hope to document the mechanisms that make any item of consideration out of elemental parts. Then, we turn our minds upon the elements themselves and busily set upon the task of classifying these. There is no end to the job of searching downward to see "what makes it up": a perfect endeavor for the confirmed workaholic!

But the heart does not care what lies beneath. It does not look toward the base of the pyramid, for it would lose sight of the point. In opposite direction the heart flies, seeking the ultimate convergence of all parts in a single, shining Truth that is the end product and inevitable destination of all that was and all that is. Meaning: meaning by pulling together all the bits and pieces that appear to be unconnected, random, and find that they are all cogs in the cosmic machine.

This is also a fruitless effort, as infinity stretches in both directions from wherever we are at the moment.

Where then hides my peace? Not in myself, or any sense of myself.

Understanding and meaning do not exist "out there", but only "in here". We manufacture them. Do we really believe that a spiral exists in a sea shell, a galaxy, and the foam on a recently stirred cup of coffee? What do these things have in common, but for us, the observer?

It is the function of the mind to manufacture understanding and impose meaning. The mind is a limited thing. I has not the capacity to observe directly but a fraction of what goes on. The mind has critically insufficient depth, bandwidth, resolution, to take all it observes and find a separate nook in which to store the experience. So, when it runs out of room in the first few years of childhood, it begins to class together "similar" occurrences in a kind of shorthand, hunting through its collection of all available patterns for the one closest to what new observation is underway, then labeling it as such. Yet, we know that this is but a poor attempt to compartmentalize the holistic, to segregate nature from essence: "Is a sea shell a spiral? Yes. Is a galaxy a spiral? Yes. Is a sea shell a galaxy?

In looking for a pattern to class them both, we must approximate, losing much of their nature to get a grip on their essence, which leads to the creation of context. Inevitably, as we look deeply enough to see that these two spirals have additional qualities that are dissimilar, we use our same trick and map each dissimilarity against our palette of available patterns. "Yes, they are both of the same genus, but different species entirely." We split apart and fuse together, believing we will eventually come full-circle where the longest is also the shortest, the biggest: the smallest, and zero really does equal infinity. We run, driven by the demon, never stopping to consider that we are simply moving up and down a spiral and the ends will never meet.

Which brings me back to where I started: looking for peace.

As it is the mind's function to seek understanding and meaning, to find peace one must lose one's mind. Not permanently, though some have taken that route, but only when one seeks peace. We are both aware and self-aware, and it is the self-aware side that can find no satisfaction. If ever a body experienced pain, if ever pleasure was upon us, self-awareness sees that pattern when it scans for touch points. When a similar situation is at hand, the mind assigns it that label as something to be avoided or approached. Our self-awareness looks inside, draws a line from memory through observation and projects expectation. We fragment and we fuse.

For peace, one must get out of that cycle. One must be aware, though not self-aware. To observe without seeking understanding; to experience without seeking meaning: this is the process of peace. It is not to be found by improving one's situation. It is not to be found by improving one's self. Yes, a warm, protective environment is conducive to shutting down one's vigilance. Yes, a limber mind can more fully embrace the nuance of peace. Yet, these are but prerequisites that make it easier to give up our "selves" and float away, uncaring.

Alas, the violence of man and the capriciousness of nature are such that we seldom achieve a moment so tranquil we can drift down out of ourselves without fear. Even if our personal environment is at rest, our diligence is tweaked by newspapers, television, and that damnable unmuffled motorcycle that keeps belching down the street.

So, we seek to move to a better neighborhood, we work hard to mask the chaotic from our lives. As my son put it, "I've got to find something to take my mind off all these distractions!" Improving our environment and our minds becomes the purpose, and the old purpose of peace is forgotten. Once again, we run in circles.

Which brings me back to me.

I have spent my adult live in that circle. To be sure, I have made the circuit more than many, but the terrain is getting a little tired. I thought a clean and orderly house would be the answer. It is, but what was the question? I thought a strong pair of arms around me would let me drop my fears. They did, until the arms dropped me. Yet, in their own way, each of these brought me SOME peace. And perhaps, that is it. Peace and Purpose are on a cycle, seldom becoming all-consuming and mostly vacillating from one to the other. Perhaps it is best to admit that Peace should not be my Purpose, nor in my Purpose will I find Peace. Rather than trying to create a single context in which both function, maybe I should seek to balance the time I spend with each.

When physical needs threaten and/or relationships are less than protective, latch onto purpose. When all is in order and I do not have to look after myself: embrace peace. This feels right. I have been my happiest when riding in a car with a driver I trust enough that I fall asleep on the road. I wake up with peace. I love rainy days when my roof doesn't leak and I can weather the storm in cozy comfort: then, I am at peace. But when something threatens my finances, or I suspect a lover is untrue, purpose returns.

We all have the need to be protected. We all have the need to share with a like mind. When these things are in order, we can let go, and when they are not, we must hold on. The worst approaches we might take are to continue on, even though we are secure, or to suffer through without effort to improve things for fear of losing even more. What a trap we lay for ourselves; what a pit we dig. Life has become so complex, so networked that a small misstep can bring the whole thing down.

Look at the poor souls in government who make some innocent remark, which taken out of context, becomes the rallying cry of social injustice, and a whole career is ruined by some special interest group so vigilant, so fearful, that it is quite full of itself, and justifiably so. What kind of protections can there be in a world such as this? It depends on what your needs are.

Do you need national fame? Do you NEED a million dollars? Or are you content to know you will have food to eat and personal friends to laugh with? Ask Thoreau! He knew.

Well, this discussion is at an end. Whatever I haven't covered directly is clearly evident from the direction I've taken, and you get the gist. In the end, having explored this issue, I think I've arrived at an understanding, if you get my meaning.

January 9, 1995

A reply to a friend who wrote me with congratulations on this, my third anniversary of surgery:

You are so sweet! Thank you so much for thinking of me. You know, the first couple of anniversaries passed without much sense of anything being different. I didn't have any celebrations for any of them, including this one. Yet somehow, THIS day has felt special. Maybe its just having the story development software out in both Mac and Windows now. Maybe its that I've moved into the living room, away from Mary (at least across the house). Maybe its just the length of time. I don't know for sure, but you know, I just uploaded a new "Subversive" to the gender bulletin board. And yesterday I Emailed someone from the message boards about their breast surgeon. I'd never even LOOKED in the message boards before. And tonight I had a really fun conversation with the live-in girlfriend of one of the programmers. I just don't do that usually, burying myself in my work instead.

What can it all mean? I guess it means I've just run out of things to do and still be able to pretend I'm in transition. I can't keep holding back and waiting for it to be over, imagining that all the good things in life will come to me when I'm finally through it. Now I know I AM through it, and if life isn't exactly what I want to be, its not a gender issue any more and I'd better get crackin'!

Yeah, I guess that's it. I'm not satisfied here at home. I want to be a "real" woman. I want to be somebody's girl. And I guess I'm finally ready to go out and make it happen.

Strange, but that has such a positive and exciting thrill to it. I can hardly wait. I am my new self. Now I want my new life. I'll always look after Mary and the kids, but I think we all know I'll never be complete trying to keep on being the man of the house.

Don't get me wrong, there's no regret here at all. Suddenly I feel open, truly OPEN. Like I can meet anybody and go anywhere and do anything. I've felt it coming, and now, on this day, three years since I made the commitment, God, Elaine, I finally feel free.

Thanks again for your wonderful thoughts. Keep up the good work on the boards! You'll probably see me hanging around, not as the teacher, leader, or icon, but just makin' friends.

Love, Melanie

January 10, 1995

Another reply, this time to someone who wrote me about their concerns for their family as they embark on a journey of self- discovery:

You know, the stories of married TS folk are all very similar in many respects. The only real difference is whether or not the families stay together. Mary and I have stayed together for three years now since surgery, but I find myself pulling away. I've moved into the living room and set it up as my bedroom. I've been there three months now.

Its funny, but I always thought it would be the other way around, with her leaving me eventually. Well, people change. I still love my kids very much, but I think of Mary as my best friend now, certainly not my lover and not my mate. We tried love- making after surgery a few times, but it didn't do much for either of us.

I've dated a bunch since surgery and had several intimate relationships. Mary has been very open to this, supportive and accommodating. Yet, I find myself increasingly wanting to move out so that I can live alone and eventually live with some man I haven't yet met.

When we start on this path, we think we are a certain way inside and just need to change the package. Yet once the package is changed, it changes "us". In order to find happiness, one must be true to their new self.

January 11, 1995

I have much to say today, and I'm not sure I can put it in the best order right off. Still, I'm not going to edit this later. I just want to get the thoughts out.

I've been doing a lot of thinking the last few days. Not like I don't do that all the time, mind you, (and probably much more thinking than is good for me, a la "to be or not to be") but rather that I have been watching my understanding focus more clearly on a particular topic. Usually when I "think" it is either a linear progression (which I document here) or it is a fragmented journey, leaping from topic to topic, context to context without seeking any conclusion, only a thorough exploration. This time, however, I have thought in a spiral. My considerations have taken a CURVED linear path which carries me toward a conclusion even as it addresses many fragmented topics. In short, both my spatial and temporal senses (for once!) are working in tandem and leading me into ever tightening concentric circles until I arrive at the "Truth" which resides at the heart of my area of concern.

This Truth was made evident to me today, and I shall seek to explain it now. The subject is the nature of change.

My training is as a man. So, my attention tends to be drawn toward the linear. As a result, I have historically evaluated my life in terms of how things were going. (Do you see the linear constructs in the first three lines of this paragraph? Do you also see that this parenthetical is NOT linear, thereby indicating a change in my means of evaluation, and also perhaps foreshadowing the direction of this essay?)

Clearly, this very sentence is more in line with the parenthetical above, rather than the topic of the previous paragraph as a whole, which supports both the argument that my mind has changed, as well as the opening contention that I may not be presenting this in the best order. Nonetheless, I continue.

But you see, this IS the topic, demonstrated in the very fabric of the discussion of the topic. Rather recursive, don't you think? Let's get back...

I always thought of myself as who I was. True enough, for the moment, but true for no more than that. Because I had so many "givens" in my life, which is to say so many "justifications", I did not observe appreciable change in myself, even over long periods of time. I had a truly fixed mind set. What I saw as good and bad, as right and wrong with the world, what I had for dreams and desires remained remarkably consistent through the years. Because of this, I didn't look to myself for change, but rather looked toward my environment.

I wanted to have a clean house, I wanted to have some of the nicer things of life. I wanted friends. And I worked so hard to get these things. But Mary keeps a sloppy house and the money was never there, and no people I met were interesting enough to me to have as friends.

I saw things in absolutes: a clean vs. dirty house; being rich vs. being poor; having friends or not. And worse yet (or perhaps simply indicative of the same locked mind) I saw these things as unchanging: once the house is clean, it will stay so; once I am rich, I will not have to worry ever again about finances; once I have some friends I will keep them forever. Bull pucky! How misguided!

When I went through sex-change, I was it as just correcting another part of my environment: my body. I saw my inner self as being unchanging. I fancied myself as the ultimate steadfast character who never gives up, just changes their plans. There is a song I always liked that described a rather magical young woman by saying, "She never gives up, and she never gives in: she just changes her mind." Well that was me! Or so I thought for most of my life. I might completely shift directions, completely re- evaluate my desires and my beliefs, but it was always in response to new information, so I really hadn't changed at all.

That sums it up nicely! My motivations never changed, so I felt I had remained absolutely steadfast. And in a sense, I had. Because that which drives us is the primary way to define WHO we are, as opposed to WHAT. Our motivations tell us that we are "driven" to seek out good or bad, pleasure or pain. The specific item(s) we work toward (our purposes) can be anything, and can change dramatically, yet the essence of who we are remains the same. Of course WHAT we are changes with our purposes (and our methods), but WHO depends wholly on our motivations and our means of evaluation.

Let's look at that a bit closer. WE define WHAT we are by our purposes. OTHERS define WHAT we are by our methods. WE define WHO we are by our motivations. OTHERS define WHO we are by our means of evaluation. But this essay is about the subjective view, the meaning of life as seen from the inside, so I will ignore methods and means of evaluation at this time and focus on motivations and purposes: our personal WHO and WHAT. Specifically, MY personal WHO and WHAT!

My motivations never changed - not since I was a child, and in fact, I cannot recall a time when they were different. I can see difference in my son (as a contrast). When he was just learning to walk and talk, for those first couple of years, he had such a kind and loving heart. He always wanted to help, was open and giving. And then I got to him! I was never satisfied with the way he did anything, and complained about the quality of his help so often that eventually he completely lost the motivation. I changed him from the outside in. So isn't in funny that I thought I was unchanging?

But, of course, we don't live in who we were nor even who we might be, but who we are. And our blind spot is the progress of our own growth. We do not see the changes that occur in "I", for "I" can only see itself in the here and now. So none of us ever really "feel" that we have changed. After all, "how can I possibly have ever been somebody I'm not?" Which makes as much sense as anything.

We are victims of our environment as must as our environment is prey to us. Here is how it works:

If all we were concerned with was the present, we would simply work to resolve all the inequities in our lives immediately. We don't do that. Why? Because sometimes we think the inequity may go away on its own if we leave it alone. And that would be great, because often resolving a problem generates all kinds of physical and emotional costs. That's why we don't go to the doctor when we think something might actually be seriously wrong. We don't KNOW it is wrong, or clearly we would go. But since it might be nothing, we want to hold out as long as we can justify it on the chance the symptoms will just go away. And, in fact, the almost always do. That's what justifies it. Yet, clearly, the quicker we get into the ol' doc when something IS seriously wrong, the better our chances! But going in every time we have an ache or pain wastes our resources in all those costs that aren't truly necessary to spend. That's hypochondria. Two extremes. Where's the middle ground? There isn't any.

Actually, its ALL middle ground. Its just that each one of us has to define the borders for ourselves.

So, yes, I realized from the first moment I met Mary that she wasn't "perfect" for me. I could see all KINDS of things that I didn't like in her. But, durn it, I was lonely, I'd been rejected by all kinds of women (17 in a row!) when asking them out. I was working a 9 to 5 job at the time: 9 at night until 5 in the morning! After that last rejection, I went back to my windowless sterile room and wept alone at 3 in the morning for something like an hour. Life sucked. (Though in those days, I was so under the influence of my mother that I wouldn't even THINK a word like "sucked" much less say or write it. Which is why I had to wait until she died before I could pursue becoming Melanie, and also why I question how come I waited an extra 15 minutes to get a second reading on her extremely low blood pressure from the machine in the urgent care room where I was watching here while she slept, just before she died. But that's another story!)

Anyway, I switched to the day shift, and went out on two absolutely miserable dates, and then I met Mary. Hey, the rest is history!

So I got married and there were all these inequities between what I wanted my life to be and what it was. But I just suffered them because I didn't want to lose what I had and go back to being lonely, and I kept believing I could change things, given enough time. Well, here it is twenty years later, folks, and the house STILL isn't clean, the finances are STILL a wreck, and I don't have one more close friend than when I met her. What does this tell you about me? What does this tell you about YOU?

Did I get used to the mess? No. Remember I said that I never changed my motivations. I had a locked in mind set. I changed my purposes and my methods all the time. After all, that was how OTHERS rated who and what I was. And I even changed my means of evaluation. That only changed WHAT I was, not WHO. But on WHO I was I would not budge! That was ME, for heaven sakes! Don't tamper with it! Who would I be if I wasn't myself?!?!

Because I did not change, the inequities continued. Year after year, decade after decade, I ran 'round in circles, moving like hell and getting nowhere. Until this spiral thing started to happen.

Its so weird. Even sex-change itself didn't break the cycle. Even all those intimate relationships had no effect. What was it that made the difference? I don't know.

Isn't that a bummer! I know what happened as a result, but I don't know what caused it!

The result is that I first started feeling uncomfortable sleeping with Mary. Her arm would fall over me in the middle of the night and it got to feel like I was being raped. So I moved out into the living room to sleep. And the next thing I knew, I was putting her things in the back bedroom and moving mine to the living room. I NEVER intended to do that when I first came out here. But there I was, doing it.

I had talked about moving out to an apartment a few months ago. And for a while, I really felt I would (or could). Then the feeling went away, and I was right back where I started. Or almost, because I moved into the living room instead.

Now, I spend almost all my time in a different room from Mary, even from the kids, and I'm getting used to it, liking it even.

You see, when you hold on to who you think you are, you can suffer a multitude of inequities and never change to do something about it. You won't change you and you won't change your environment. This can go on for your whole lousy life.

But all you have to do is open the door just a crack - upset that delicate balance just a tad, and it starts a downhill run on all that pent up potential that will take you who knows where.

One of the earliest historic references to changing gender roles was a Marquis in France in the 1700's, as I recall. This guy was something of a philanderer, and he was called before the court. The Magistrate sentenced the man to live out the rest of his days as a woman. He was assigned a chamber maid to make sure that he did. The chambermaid was required to keep a daily journal of the man's activities, and it survived to this day. In it, she also documented his change in mental attitude, which was not required by the court, but turns out to be one of the earliest documentations of the long-term affects of role change, essentially, RLT.

The chambermaid described how day by day, the Marquis' "demeanor became more demure". I'll never forget those few words. I read them when I was in my late teens, thinking about being a woman, and, in fact, that journal became the inspiration for my own transition diary, of which this is a part. That, and Samuel Pepys.

The point of it being that changes in one's environment can change the person. That's the tenet at the bottom of behavioral psychology: that one's mind can be changed through "behavioral modification". In other words, act it out, stay in character, and after a while that's who you are. Role playing, and all that crap!

Well, that works fine, if you are willing to change. But if you are not, for whatever reason, you just won't. That's all. Just like my twenty years.

Behavioral psychology ignores Justification. It doesn't believe in the "fixed" or "locked" mind set. Of course, Freud did. But that's all he believed in. He saw every psychological condition as stemming from a specific event that led to a fixed attitude at one level or another.

What's the truth? That sometimes specific events lead to fixed mind sets, and sometimes overall environment or lifestyle leads to "locked" states of mind. And to change a mind, sometimes it takes working down to the inciting event linearly, and other times it takes creating a new holistic environment.

Half of what we are is because of what happened. Half of what we are is because of what surrounds us. "The root of all evil" versus "you are what you eat". Linear versus holistic.

How did we get way out here??? Weren't we talking about what I was thinking lately? Well, this is what I've been thinking. And I promised right at the beginning that I would almost certainly not present it in the best order.

Time to come to some conclusions. What does it all mean?

It means that as long as I tried to maintain the status quo with my family by sleeping with Mary and seeing the two of us as one, the fear of costs prevented me from changing myself and forced me to try and work out my ongoing inequities externally, causing me to run in circles.

Than, something happened. Maybe it was a specific event or series of events, or maybe just the passage of time. But even with all I could do, the ongoing inequities began to grow. I could not longer keep them in check; I didn't have the power. The inequities had not really changed. I had. Over time, in some long-wave slow growth, perhaps just from living as a woman for so long, just like the ol' Marquis, my motivations changed. I never saw it, because as far as I was concerned, I was still "me". So, instead, it seemed like the situation had changed.

With that balance upset, I could not longer balance the inequities against my fear of losing the good things, because the good things just didn't seem so good anymore. My new self wanted different things that Mary just couldn't provide. The longer those inequities remained, the more they rubbed against my psyche, causing friction and increasing mental anguish.

Finally, I could take it no more, and had to move to escape the pain, just like any organism that pulls back from that which hurts it (the hand away from the hot stove). It was not a considered move, though I was consciously aware of what I was doing. And it is not in my nature to attack the source of the pain. For some it is, and perhaps that's why other relationships don't last through surgery as mine did. My response is to simple avoid the source of the pain.

So, I've been avoiding Mary. And the more I avoid, the better I like it. But still, every kiss in the morning, every conflict over chores or money, makes me want to be separated from her any more.

The weirdest part is, she has not changed noticeably at all! She has grown to accept and adapt to the new me, to be sure. And she is even growing to accept sleeping alone. There seems to be no end to how much she can grow to accept. But she doesn't give in, she just changes her mind.

In short, she still refuses to put in the work necessary to keep a clean house, still won't keep a handle on the finances, but grows to accept whatever I do, as long as I stay.

And then, there's one more thing: closeness. I kind of hate to bring it up here at the end and quite out of the blue, but perhaps it is truly the one single thing that I can't live without that I tried so hard to, that she won't give me. Maybe the reason I focus on all these negative things that I've know about for years but only bother me now, maybe why they seem to have gotten worse is not because they ARE worse, or even more important to me, but that something new has been added to the equation. More precisely, perhaps there is a new equation with one more variable that wasn't there before: one more space that needs to be filled in. And as a result of this new consideration that wasn't even there before, now ever evaluation of my life contains an unfilled hole before it even gets started. I'm operating at a deficit to before I begin.

What is this new need that previously wasn't there? The need to be special to someone. That's what it is.

Actually, the need was always there in another form that I was able to fill. I just needed to be special. So, I became a director in the movies, and I became the first on my block to have a sex-change. And, I started the America Online Gender group and built it up until I was #1 on a pyramid of wanna-bes. And then, as soon as the group started attracting other post-ops, some who knew more than me and some who were prettier and younger (you get the idea, I don't have to be self-abusive here forever to make the point, do I???) as soon as I was not "unique" and special above all, I left. I just ran away.

Then I finished up the story theory and became "the world's leading authority on story structure". One of a kind again. More special that anyone else. And more alone.

Look at the tone of my recent writings. They aren't about conquering the world anymore. They are about being "one of the gang". Yeah, sure, I know. I really HAVE done some special stuff, but it was all done for the wrong reason - for the wrong MOTIVATIONS!

I've tasted intimacy now, and not just the "howdy do, let's make love" variety, though there's been some of that. No, the kind I'm talking about is when somebody sends you flowers, just because they like you. Or when your mate calls you up at work and says, "Hey, I was thinking, let's go out to dinner tonight!"

Mary never does ANY of that stuff. Never has.

I've tried. I tried it with Mary for years, and still do from time to time, but it is never returned. I always feel with her as if I'm just another person to her that she happens to know better than anyone else. (Would I be a woman today, if instead I had married a warm-hearted wife who did the cooking - instead of me - who cleaned house - along with me - or who just seemed happy to see me when I cam home from work? Who knows. And for that matter, who cares, 'cause it sure ain't gonna change things now!)

I want that kind of relationship: to the be most special person in the world to ONE person! Then, anyone ELSE who might happen to think you're worthwhile, so much the better. Gravy.

In the end, its probably both a number of specific events and experiences as well as the holistic nature of my changed lifestyle that made me want this. And I truly think its a much more healthy desire than to be loved by millions from afar. Certainly much more fulfilling - IF you can find it!

That is what changed my motivation from wanting to be loved by all to just being loved by one. And the one I got, don't love me. Not in that way, anyway.

So, that lack could not be filled by anything I did myself. No matter how I tried to adjust my environment, I couldn't diminish the hole. And when the inability to adjust things became obvious, my subconscious focused on the existing irritants of the dirty house and lack of help in the finances and projected the problem on Mary, refusing to see it in itself. I refused to "play the bad guy".

Someone recently gave me a pin to wear. It says, "No more Nice Girl!" Well, hail to that!

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