Book Three:

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Skinned Alive
by Melanie Anne

Part Three: Innocence Reborn

Chapter 66

Full Spiral

November 21, 1996

A great, low-level change has gently moved through my life. I have finally explored the last dark shadow in the unknown territory I have sought to understand since my early childhood. Seeing the lay of the land did not, of itself, provide the answers for which I was yearning. But being aware of all the parts of the puzzle of life, my subconscious slowly re-arranged them into a pattern - no, a series of patterns, that have gradually emerged and washed over me sequentially like waves over the last few days.

Each of these has healed my heart, filled the hole, bridged the gap. Each has brought an intuitive peace in an area which had always been skinned and raw. Collectively, my outlook has shifted from a quest to banish angst to a celebration of joy - all in the last few days.

Perhaps the most startling revelation I have experienced in this time is the awareness that I always wanted to be a man. Since I was very small, this has been my dream. As soon as I realized I was not like the other boys, I wanted to be. I longed to be as aggressive, assertive, confident, powerful, and directed as they were. I envied them that.

Hidden from me for all these years had been my all consuming desire to be like them. In light of this new self-knowledge, I find that I long to have led a life where I grew up as a young lion, stalking the halls of the high school, propositioning the girls, reveling in a belch, chomping at the bit to leave home after graduation and set out on my own. But I never enjoyed any of those feelings. And I felt no so much different as hurt that I had been denied.

Even today I wish I were a man. I watch them on TV and in the movies. I see them walking down the street, taking stock of their domain, taking charge, and I want to be one of them. But now I know I'm not.

When I was a child, I struggled to be a man. I learned to walk like them, talk like them - to pretend that I felt as they did, when I did not. At first I thought it was something I simply had not been taught. I had been sick a lot as a child and thought perhaps I had missed that part in school. Then, I determined it must have been my parents who withheld the crucial information from me, and I began to wonder why they didn't love me. It never occurred to me that I might not actually BE a man.

In the course of the last few days I have come to see that I never was a man. No matter how much I might have learned or studied, I simply could not be because, in fact, I had always been a woman and didn't know it.

When I began transition, I justified it by telling myself that I was attracted to acting feminine, and needed to gallantly explore how far those feelings went in order to be honest to myself. In fact, this was not true at all. Now I know that I was not attracted to being feminine at all, but rather, I was trying to prove to myself that I was indeed NOT a woman, so I could put that issue to rest and go on about the business of trying to be a man.

It was never my intention in the two years before my diary began to change my physical sex. I had enjoyed that fantasy over the years, but at that time I saw it as nothing more than an addictive erotic scenario - a means of escape from the rigors of trying to be masculine. My whole campaign into the realm of transgender was driven by the desire to "prove" that I was not a woman, much as a scientist might run an experiment to show that something cannot happen.

Deeper and deeper I charged, fueled not by the desire to get there faster, but by the frantic desperation that the opportunity to find refuting evidence was rapidly closing. If I did not uncover a convincing counter-argument - well, what THEN would I do?

I almost assaulted my friends with opportunities to talk me out of it, and I even believe I may have started the Transgender Community Forum on America Online in an attempt to gather "real" transsexuals together, so I could compare myself to them and be appeased that I was not like them at all - even more than I was not like men.

I shied away from friendships with women. I didn't want to know ANYTHING about that variety of human being. I explained this to myself as a fear of not being like them either, but now I know it was really a fear of being too MUCH like them.

Even after surgery, I never accepted myself as a woman. I made the voice tape to show how well I could do the act. "Look at me - I can pretend to be a man and then pretend to be a woman with equal success! Aren't I the great actor?" How COULD I accept myself as a woman, when I really wanted to be a man?

In the midst of this life-long denial, other forces were also at work. I was so driven by this quest for manhood that I had no time for a social life at all. Until my recent revelations, I had thought I was rejected by others because I didn't fit in. Then I amended that to the belief that I pre-rejected others before they had the opportunity to reject me. Now I know that I was so focused on this journey to prove I was not a woman that I saw every overture toward friendship as an attack upon my time - every moment spent with another as a threat to success. I could not take time to read, to go to the park, to raise my children, to gather in groups.

Consciously, I felt a great sense of destiny that I must fulfill to discover the secrets of the universe. This compulsion led to many great achievements, such as direction two feature films before I was 30, the creation of the story theory and Mental Relativity, the founding of the Transgender Community Forum, the creation of The Subversive and of my Web site. Yet all of these had no impact at all on the real issue - proving I was not a woman.

My sense of destiny was a ruse - a scam I played upon myself - the added twist provided by my conscious mind to hide the painful truth from my own awareness. That I wanted to be a man must be hidden because it was weak and also seemed unachievable after years of effort. That I needed to prove I was not a woman so that hope to be a man would remain needed to be hidden because I was secretly afraid I could not prove it. That I put so much effort into writing for the gender community had to be looked at as a public service, because the real reason (to show how different I was from them) had backfired when I began to get an avalanche of letters telling me what I had written about myself was just like the story of their lives.

Now you see why I didn't want to be praised for my work, and why, historically, I hated receiving letters of praise. Each letter was just one more nail in the coffin in which I was being buried alive. But my recent enlightenment has made all of this clear. I understand it now with my heart, and almost incidentally with my mind.

Perhaps my last hurrah in denying my womanhood was my breast enlargement surgery of a year ago. It was to be my final proof that I was not the "lesser sex". So, when the surgery was over, I found myself hating the results. I had so much more than I wanted! I cried EVERY day for the first three months. After than, I lived in a more delicious flavor of angst than I had ever experienced before. As a male, I had never felt trapped in my own body. But after the bust surgery, for the first time in my life, I felt trapped in a body I did not want.

I told myself it had to do with a self-image built into my brain. I wailed and whined that what I had selected at the doctor's office by choosing from pictures did not represent what it felt like to be on the inside looking out. Just last month I made an appointment with the doctor and complained to him how it was all his fault by not giving me a bra to wear before surgery that would indicate my final size - by not realizing that what one likes in the bodies of others is not necessarily what one wants for herself. And though these are good points and probably true, they were just another intellectual smokescreen to hide the horrible truth - that I really did like the new body - and the coffin lid had swung shut.

These last few days I have had no choice but to admit that I am, indeed, a woman. I always was, always will be, and can't do a damned thing about it. Acceptance - that is something I have never been very good at. I never say die, I'm always the first in and the last out, I always put myself aside to do what needs to be done. And I never met a brick wall that didn't eventually crumble by beating my head against it.

This time, the wall won.

At times I have hated the gender community because they were nothing like me, when in truth, I was everything like them. I have spent my life in search of the truth I wanted to find, and been blind to the truth that had found me. I have developed some of the most sophisticated and likely accurate models of psychology ever proposed, when what I really sought was a simple, emotional understanding.

Coming to all this, knowing all this my angst had nowhere to go but away. Sometimes I hate men because they do not think as I do. Sometimes I love them because they do for me what I cannot do for myself. But mostly I envy them for who and what they are. Yet, being the perennial pragmatist, I cannot linger here. Angst is gone and with it, the original source of my creative fervor. If I am to continue to be motivated in the arena of self-expression as an artist, I need a new muse. I have found it, and it's name is Joy.

Instead of an exploration of angst, you'll find my new work better defined as a celebration of joy. In finally accepting who I really am, such a great peace has settled upon me. In the months past, I have worked all day and all night on my web site, weekends as well, even while ignoring my family and friends. I would often sit at the computer for three days without showering or changing my clothes, cranking out some of the best work I have ever done. On several occasions I worked myself sick and collapsed in bed for days at a time.

Last Friday, I uploaded the final articles to my web site that completed what I call "the foundation phase". I knew I would not rest content until I had expressed the full breadth and depth of myself in my work. I needed every category I had explored represented, and represented with enough coverage to describe how deeply I had delved. This took over twenty megabytes of original material spread over two hundred and fifty web pages in a project lasting over a year and a half. When it was done, I could feel something inside my driven, workaholic, quest-oriented soul was about to change.

On Saturday, some of what I have written above began to congeal. On Sunday, I knew that more than one enlightenment awaited me. On Monday, the images of what had already become true to me heart began to unfold for my conscious mind. I understood, finally, my life's history and meaning, and with this understanding came the peace for which I had always longed.

In accepting myself as a woman in my heart, everything has changed. My whole world feels different. And the pain and heartache which were my daily companions since before Kindergarten are nowhere to be found. What a lucky person I am to find this at age 43. I might have gone to the grave never knowing.

I suspect each of us has a secret quest. I believe the true cause of angst is not what we are able to attain, but what we are unable to disprove. I think each of us reaches middle age carrying our own brand of lifelong angst. We all come to reach a point where we accept what we feared might be true, or we muster our resolve to deny it.

See the hopeful actress who is still doing nothing more than Community theatre. See the middle-aged businessman, putting on airs and cherishing dreams of a financial empire. See the old maid alone in her apartment reading romance novels. See the man who is so afraid of being vulnerable that he destroys himself trying to prove he is indestructible.

Each of us crosses that magic moment. Just as when we flip a light switch, there is somewhere in the course of that shift when the current begins to flow. The strong and weak forces of the universe converge both in the physical and the mental. In that twilight land between the two we must decide to hold on to our dream or to accept it as a mirage.

For some, giving up is a tragedy as salvation lay just one more step down the road, much as the Donner party was only a mile from the road to survival when they stopped to freeze to death in the snow. For others, holding on is a tragedy as the quest was hopeless before it began, such as Michael Landon's brave last fight against cancer.

There is no way to know which is the right choice with our limited human awareness. This is why we celebrate that moment in stories as "leap of faith" which confronts our hero at the "moment of truth". Scrooge chooses to accept in "A Christmas Carol" and finds true happiness. The vampire, LeStat, chooses to accept in "Memnoch, the Devil" and finds eternal misery. Anthony Hopkins' character in "Remains of the Day" chooses to reject and dooms himself to eternal loneliness. Dr. Richard Kimble chooses to reject in "The Fugitive" and exonerates himself while bringing his wife's killers to justice.

Even this very year, I had held out hope that someday I would return to being male - to ultimately triumph in my attempt to be a man. I began to hint to my friends that one day I might go back, cut my hair, change my hormones, wear the old clothes, adjust my mannerisms and voice. All this seemed very real to me at the time. In truth, I am absolutely sure I could have done it as I have done much more improbable things frequently in the past.

For a time, I was sure that was what I wanted. And because this is a leap of faith, there is no way to ever know which fork in the road would have led to the greener pasture. But sometimes you don't have to have the most, or the largest, or the best. Sometimes you can be content simply because something is good, even if there are many other things that are better.

I have made the choice not to go back - to accept myself as a woman. I do not suspect that I will ever lose my desire that I wish to be a man. But having lived as a male with a woman's mind that really wanted to be all male, and having lived as a female with a woman's mind that really wants to be all male, I find the latter a better choice.

If I continued this quest, what would I find? Could I someday discover that my work on the biologic differences between male and female minds in terms of Mental Sex was wrong? Is it possible that the brains of men and women really ARE the same, and there is still a chance I could develop a male mind? Even if male and female brains are different, might not medical science discover some way to physically or pharmaceutically change one into the other so that I could ultimately be just the way I wanted to be? Sure. Any of these things might happen. But still that does not change my emotional evolution to have ultimately accepted myself as a woman.

You see, the conscious mind needs to define and compare. It needs to seek absolutes, binaries and equations. The subconscious mind sees no such divisions, and simply drifts with the flow, responding with the sum total of life's experience to each moment as if it stood alone, rather than as a step toward something else. So while the conscious mind seeks to identify, the subconscious mind seeks to embrace.

At this point in my life, I can identify no more. In the arena of gender issues there is nothing I have not already cataloged and correlated several times over. I had been running in intellectual circles for some time. But my heart was always shifting, adjusting to the increasing press of repetitive experience, so that each circuit around the track etched a deeper pattern in my motivations, building a gravity well of conditioning that progressively attracted me away from belief and toward acceptance.

The name "subconscious" is a misnomer. It is not inferior nor subordinate to the conscious mind. In fact, it is truly a co-conscious in the fullest sense. When we think in logic it is a conscious endeavor. When we experience emotions, it is the co-conscious. But the description I have given above is for men only. For women, we think in the co-conscious, and experience the conscience. It is a matter of balance or priority between the two that determines a male or female mind. In fact, it simply comes down to which mind becomes dominant when they arrive at differing conclusions of equal weight and become shackled in a deadlock. Men will opt for the logistic, women for the emotional. The difference between us is as simple as that.

By growing up male, I had been trained to think in the conscious mind - in terms of logic, steps, and reasons. But the greater potential of my overall mind lay in the co-conscious with the emotional manner of thinking. Throughout my transition, I made all my evaluations - arrived at all my conclusions in terms of reason, which explains the great body of work I developed in my career. In accepting myself as a woman, it was not a conscious choice. In fact, my conscious mind only became aware that it had happened several days after the fact.

What actually occurred was that the sum total of my life experience gradually strengthened the weight or pull allowed by my "self" (which moderates between conscious and co-conscious) to favor the co-conscious more and more. For all I know, this may have taken forty years to reach a point at which my conscious reasoning mind and my co-conscious feeling mind were allotted equal power. For all I know, that balance of power may have teetered on a fine edge for months or years, sliding slightly one way or the other as life dealt to me situations better resolved by logic or emotion. But ultimately, the co-conscious has taken priority. I'm sure it was always sure I was a woman, as much as my conscious mind was sure I was a man.

So, there was no real "moment of choice" when I had to decided who I was, but rather just an extended, gradual shift in the balance of power from the dominance of one mind to the dominance of the other. Inside I feel as if I am more full as a person. And this indicates to me that of the two minds, the one that is inherently more powerful in me is now in control. Of course, that would define me as absolutely a woman by virtue of inherent capacity. Which makes it a definition and a product of my logistic consciousness. Clearly, there can be no certainty.

I stand content, however, knowing that in my experience I have never been happier. And even if euphoric joy could have been mine if I had only held out a little longer in the belief I was really a man underneath it all, what does that truly matter when each day is better than the last?

True happiness comes not from arriving at a state of bliss, but by sensing an ongoing improvement as life goes on. From this perspective, a small improvement appears no different than a large one - each has equal weight because it is the direction the emotional journey takes that determines positive or negative, not the size of the shift. So, again from this perspective (that of the co-conscious mind) one positive path is just as good as another. A sense of improvement need not come from actual advancement, but simply from the progressive build-up of experience from one happy day after another.

How happy can one be? There is a maximum capacity. How much can one fill the silos of joy before they overflow? More than you can experience is lost to runoff so that a full life is all that it can be. In that sense, my cup runneth over since last Friday. And each day that passes is one more day that sadder times would have to undo to rob me of this feeling. Happiness at maximum and more firmly held with each passing moment. This is joy. And in its grip, I can finally say the Reality is the stuff Dreams are made of.

November 22, 1996

I never thought I was female. In fact, I thought I was a worthless male. I thought I was damaged goods. I thought I just didn't have the "umph" it took to be a good man. I blamed myself and I blamed my parents. I figured something went wrong in my upbringing or perhaps I was weak in spirit.

I wanted so desperately to be a good man. I worked so hard at it. I felt that my desires to be a "girl" were dirty, and were a sign that I had a warped sexuality. I hated those fantasies. I tried so often to deny them, to purge them. Every time I gave in, I felt like a fat person who hates being fat but just finished off a bag of potato chips.

I wanted to rid myself of these feelings forever. All of my life I tried. Finally, I could no longer hold out against them. Not to appear weak, I decided to proceed into transition with my head held high, just as a man would do. I would be brave and confident. I would analyze my every feelings and document all that happened in a proper, male way.

I was absolutely sure that I would reach the point where I found conclusive evidence I was absolutely not female of mind, so that I could give up the evil fantasy once and for all and, rid of it, find enough additional strength to become the man I always wanted to be.

Of course, to make it work, I had to give the transition thing my very best shot. Otherwise, when it failed, I could blame it on lack of effort and would not be convinced that I wasn't a woman. So, I pushed as hard as I ever have, and worked myself to the mental bone - all in the surety I would ultimately be vindicated as the man of my dreams - husband, father, all around good guy.

After surgery, I became increasingly fragile, emotionally. I dropped deeper and deeper into depression. I carried angst with me every moment of every day. After my bust surgery, the pain only increased. And, as I said in my previous letter, I felt trapped in my body for the very first time in my life.

All of this was denial. Not denial that I was a woman, but denial that I could never be a man - not physically anymore, and worse, never mentally. I could not live with that concept so I blamed my troubles on everyone and everything else around me.

Thankfully, I quit my job eight months ago to live on the royalties from the story software. This gave me the time alone to be my own therapist all day long. It took me all of that time to unwind the snarl of my life. Half of the success came from writing about my feelings and the other half from publishing my work on the web where I could externally see who I was represented in the complete web site I had built, almost as if my thoughts had been made tangible and I had built them into a structure that represented my mind.

As I think of it now, I can clearly see that is the reason I was so driven to build my web site, and why my drive vanished last Friday. Each new item I added to my web pages became another part of my mind I could understand, looking at it from the outside. My choice of which articles to polish and post was dictated not by what made any kind of balanced logistic sense, but by what felt most in need of additional material to give it the "proper" degree of depth in that area of consideration. "Proper" was dictated by my own need to know myself in enough detail in each area so that I could see all the patterns that ranged across my whole life - the big ones that held holistic meaning.

So, even though on Friday I thought I felt finished because the web site was completely balanced. Now I see that it is neither balanced nor unbalanced - it simply reflects the range of my interests to the depth that I am concerned.

Which leaves me here: after having seen the last piece of the puzzle of my mind fall into place on the web, what I saw was a female mind. Not because of any one item or collection of items (after all, for any given issue, men and women can fall anywhere on the scale) but when taken collectively, the larger pattern emerged, showing me that I was not a man, could never be a man, and it was time to give up that dream and accept the alternative.

For me, the issue was never really if I was a woman or not - that was just a mental smoke screen to justify my efforts - but rather if I was or was not a man. As I have never, and I mean NEVER given up on anything I started any time in my life, this was a very difficult thing for me to do. But, I could not deny the feelings that came clearly from seeing what I had created on the web. And so, after all that had been said and done, I received that final insight consciously (which my heart had already known), admitted defeat, and by failing, won.

Melanie

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