Raised By Wolves
Book One: A Spy In Their Midst
From Journeys and Transitions by Melanie
September 1, 1989
A most unusual day. I had already scheduled to meet with Bill again today, as well as my weekly trip to the doctor. But late last night, when I was signed on to the "Feminet" computer bulletin board, Barbara Chambers, the sysop, came on-line to tell me she would be in Burbank on business today, and would I like to get together? Of course!
The Feminet board is the top system in the nation for communication among gender dysphoric individuals, so I was singularly thrilled to meet her face to face, instead of just on the network. I made arrangements with Mary to handle my extended hours as Melanie, which she graciously agreed to.
I arrived at Bill's and he had finally raised the courage to appear as Julie in front of someone else. He looks a little like Agatha Cristie! When I heard over the phone that he would be Julie, but didn't have a wig, I surprised him with a blond jobby I had bought, but never worn. He was thrilled, as he intends to come to the support group meeting as Julie, a big step for him!
Julie made lunch for me, but since I was late, we had little time for more than gossip before he went to the doctor for a vasectomy, of all things, and I went to my doctor for my hormone shot.
While I was at the doctor, I got a referral to an electrologist. I have had such mixed thoughts about losing my beard. As I have mentioned, it has been a shield and mask to me to bolster my insecurity as a male, and losing it would be tough to deal with. And yet, I just cannot feel truly female until it is gone, not to mention the practical benefits in dressing! We shall see...
As soon as I left the doctor, I went to meet Barbara at the airport. I arrived just exactly at the time we had agreed on. She had travelled as a male to see a specific client, which is the only time she is not in female mode anymore. So I had the singular honor of seeing her in more or less her original persona, although the physical changes made her noticeably feminine even then. (I wonder if the same will happen to me, and how I will deal with it?)
We came back to my house so she could change, then went to the Black Angus for dinner. I expected to feel very nervous (and also perhaps elated with an adrenaline high) during my second ever outing as Melanie that was not by myself - and the first time I would actually be ordering things at a restaurant and truly living the role of a female. ...Nothing. Absolutely NOTHING! The experience was very pleasant, but because of the conversation, the meal, and the company; not because of any excitement. In fact, I felt so totally at ease as Melanie that I frequently forgot all about my outside appearance and became lost in the conversation.
Sure, there were many times I was aware of an inappropriate gesture or tone of voice on my part, and yet, I felt more... I dunno... "comfortable", I guess, than I have ever felt before. And that, I suppose, is the real truth of the matter. Being Dave is not bad, not bad at all. But being Melanie is better, much better!
So life goes on, and so do I. Where and how far? I do not know. But still, I do not want to stop or return to what I was.
September 2, 1989
Today was my second support group meeting. This time, I was a lot more prepared - and not nervous at all. In fact, I spent the hour before I got ready making chocolate chip cookies for the pot luck!
Mary and I had gone to the store earlier, and she helped me pick out the right ingredients. Then, she was very supportive allowing me, to dress in the other room, closing her eyes when I had to pass by to get something. No freaking out on her part . As I left, I asked her if she wanted to see what I looked like, as I had done a knock-out job on my make-up and outfit. She declined, but said (surprisingly) "Maybe next time..."
Still, there was no nervousness driving to the group. But, strangely, I couldn't get into feeling like Melanie. I kept feeling like Dave in drag. The wig felt dead and lifeless, more like a mop than hair; my make-up like plaster and greasepaint. Overall, I felt like a clown. I began to worry that perhaps I had crossed the line and run out of steam on my path - that somehow, it had worked out of my system.
I found a spot to sit, and noticed that Bill had indeed come as Julie. I smiled at his courage in finally going in front of a group as his alter-ego. I was also happy that I had been honored as the first to see Julie yesterday.
During the next few minutes, I was amazed to find that my feminine gestures had become second nature. In fact, whenever I even consciously checked what I was doing, I discovered that I was completely consistent with a feminine image. I still felt like a truck driver, but I think (in retrospect) this is because I feel the hair is a cheat and the make-up covers the real physical me, even as it mimics or represents (or presents) the real mental me. And besides, I've heard that genetic women often have days when they feel like disgusting blobs for no apparent reason. All in all, it was an awful feeling!
I spent some time in conversation at the kitchen table with Julie and several other friends I had met last month. My real kick was when someone near the table asked who made the cookies, and another girl answered, "I don't know, but they're GREAT, aren't they?!" It's amazing to fall so easily into a mental attitude where the culinary arts become a status symbol and a badge of personal pride.
During the "rap" portion of the evening, Julie and I both spoke of the events that had occurred in the month elapsed since the last meeting. The speed at which we had "progressed" as well as the openness with which we related our story were met with more than a few raised eyebrows, but with even more supportive smiles.
One woman, the wife of a TV who is supportive of his "hobby", was very nearly incensed by our admission that we had actually kissed. This is largely due, I suspect, to her own fears of what a similar scenario would mean to her if it had happened to her husband. Such a situation would be intolerable to her, and lead to the dissolution of the carefully structured and balanced lifestyle she had crafted. But, in fairness, there is much truth in her warnings that this would throw a serious monkey wrench in Bill's (and Julies's) relationship with his wife. Which is why he and I had already agreed that such an incident would never recur.
Later in the evening, Julie shared her driver's license picture with another TV so they could see what each other looked like "in real life." I offered mine, specifically to break Bill of thinking of me only as Melanie, and hopefully deflate the attraction he held for me.
This was a difficult decision, as I need to explore much more fully my intimate feelings toward men, and I myself am greatly attracted to him. In fact, even as I was showing him the photo, I was aware that I may never again have the opportunity to experience a relationship with a man I can truly trust, Probably not with one I am so strongly attracted to, and certainly not in the near future when I need it the most.
It must have worked, since the next two times he referred to me in talking to the other TV, he called me "he", a mistake he had not previously made on any occasion. It hurt, but I knew I had done what was best for Bill and his wife, and my love for him, whether it is sisterly or more than that, is sufficient to put his needs before mine.
I arrived home, checked massages on my computer gender bulletin boards, and went to sleep.
September 6, 1989
Two nights ago, Mary made her first breakthrough in dealing with the physical changes brought on by my hormone use. Up until this point, she had refused to even see my arms or legs uncovered, as the thought of my being smooth and hairless was pretty much revolting to her. Therefore, it was with some shock to me that the following transpired.
I had strained my shoulder muscles moving heavy boxes over the weekend as part of our packing to go to the house on California Street. Mary had already rubbed some ointment into it the previous night, in the dark, so she didn't have to see anything. I, of course, felt rather dirty and ugly that she couldn't even bear the sight of me. This is particularly disturbing at the time, as I am desperately trying to bolster my self-image as a fairly attractive and feminine woman. Instead, I ended up feeling like a leper.
Well, this time I said it was rather foolish to go hide in the dark; how about if she just didn't look past my shoulder and she did it right in the comfort of the well-lit living room. She agreed. As she was rubbing the salve in, sitting behind me, she had to lean a little forward to get it on the front of the shoulder. I told her was kinda ridiculous to hide like this. I felt like the Elephant Man. How about if she just took a look at my chest and got it over with? She said she had been thinking the same thing herself. So I turned around and she looked. Her only comment was, "That's not any more than a fat man would have..." I said, "Not yet..." We left it at that, but later, she said, "I still hope you'll change your mind. If it doesn't get any worse than this, though, I think I can handle it." I told her it was my intent to go substantially beyond what I currently had.
The next morning, for the first time since she knew I had shaved my body hair, she did not leave the bathroom when I came in to undress for the shower. She stayed busy with her make-up and we didn't talk about it, ut she never flinched or left. Nothing else was said, but she obviously is coming to terms with this.
Last night, I had dinner with Mark, my long-time friend from my USC film school days. He had been the first I had told when I began to go public two months ago. I had kept him informed in person and by phone of the latest information, but the last I had spoken to him was on the day of my first doctor visit. After that, he had left for a vacation to England with his wife and has just returned.
At dinner, I filled him in on all the news, changes, and discoveries I had made. He remained the wonderful and loyal friend he has always been: empathizing with my troubles, sharing my joy, and keeping me humble by laughing at the ridiculous! Interestingly, I offered almost off-handed to take him to my next support group meeting. Surprisingly, he accepted, and will be the first friend to see me as Melanie, who has only known me as Dave.
I'm a little concerned, of course, as my mannerisms and voice will appear to be some kind of put-on or act, as opposed to the simple uncensored release of my inner self as it truly is. But we spoke of this, and he seems to feel he can handle it. I hope I can!
This morning, Mary again stayed in the bathroom while I showered. I suppose that I wouldn't be surprised by anything she does in the future! Certainly, my hopes of some sort of continued relationship in the same household are considerably bolstered. At worst, I imagine we would have separate beds, not share intimate physical moments, but live more like good friends, sharing a house. Perhaps that might even be preferable, as it could conceivably allow me to date the male population without fear of losing my most valued relationship.
This afternoon, four events happened that changed the way I think of myself. The first was a phone call I made accidentally to a wrong number. I was just calling as Dave, but when they answered the phone at the business I mistakenly reached, they stumbled for a pronoun, not sure if I was male or female by the tone and inflection of my voice. This was significant to me, as I was not trying to put on my Melanie persona consciously, but merely ask for information.
The second event was when I awoke from a nap at home this evening. (It is still light, even as I write this, as the days remain summer-long). I glanced at myself in the mirror and, for the first time, saw myself as more female than male. There was nothing specific I could put my finger on - perhaps a rounder face due to the hormones, perhaps the bangs that had fallen on my forehead (although my hair is still very short overall), perhaps the way I hold my lips, or glance with my eyes; I just don't know. But there was definitely something considerably feminine about my image in the mirror.
The third event, was walking up to the office here. There is a large, plate-glass window on the front of a shop, just before the office. It is slanted so that as you walk past, your reflection can be seen. I was not intending to check myself out as I walked past, as I wanted to get in here and start work on a film project I'm behind in. But as I passed, my image caught my eye and, for the first time, i read myself as female, even in "male mode"! In fact, in that brief moment - that tiny glimpse, everything from my walk to my carriage to the way I swung my arms read as female. It was indeed quite a jolt - a pleasant jolt, mind you, but a strong one. Imagine, looking in the mirror and seeing someone else!
The greatest, of perhaps most significant moment, however, was later when I rushed out to the post office to check my P.O. Box. As I approached the front door, a small boy came out followed by his father. The father looked up, saw me, and his initial reaction was to hold the door for me. Within a split-second, he re-read me and was so confused/embarrassed that he actually let go of the door and nearly let it slam in front of me! The significance is, that even in male clothing, even when I wasn't trying, I was read as female! WOW!!
September 11, 1989
Today was the first day of school after summer vacation for my kids. Both Mary and I dropped them off, but since she had to go to work, we took separate cars. I went in with my daughter to find the line for first grade. The whole time I was there I was surrounded by women - mothers - of roughly my age. It was strange to think that as the next school year begins, I could be one of them, instead of one of the few obtrusive men who were there seeing off their children.
I ran into the mother of a kid who was in Keith's YMCA Indian Guide tribe, of which I had been "Chief" for two years, then an advisor. We chatted for a while, but when another female friend of hers showed up, and then another, they moved off into their own little group, excluding me. I definitely felt left out and wondered how it would feel to be part of the "girl talk".
A little update on the last few days. Late September 6, just after my last entry, I got a call back from the electrologist I had been recommended to. Currently, he is Andrew, although for three and a half years, he lived as Karen. He has, however, just re-started hormones, with the same doctor I have, which is how I got his name.
We struck it off over the phone very well. He seems about my age, works occasionally in the video biz, knows a lot of the same people, and is/has going/gone through all that I have and more. We arranged for my first appointment on Thursday, next.
When I came home that night, I really felt the need for some commitment from Mary, one way or the other. I'm afraid I pushed the issue and worked myself into a tizzy. In fact, I began to cry so hard I couldn't talk. I felt totally alone. I desperately needed someone to hug and hold me and tell me it would be all right. But Mary didn't feel comfortable touching me, so I ended up in the back yard at midnight, sobbing away so loudly that the neighbors came out to see what was wrong. I've never felt so deserted and naked in my life. Finally, Mary came out and gave me a hug. But it was out of duty, not love. I could feel it in her arms. That was worse than no hug at all, and I completely fell apart.
I finally came in and my daughter, who was in bed, asked Mary what was wrong with daddy? Mary replied that daddy had "some problems" he was trying to work out. "Some Problems"! Suddenly, that struck me very funny - hilarious, in fact! I began to laugh through the tears. For twenty minutes I laughed. "I might never see my kids again! - HahahahaHAHAHA!!!!" The more depressing the thought, the funnier it was. I could barely catch my breath. I have heard about hysterical laughter, but until that night, I had never experienced it myself. Let me tell you, it's frightening. It is totally losing control of your emotions. Of course, I'm sure a lot of that was due to the effects of the hormones, but I was still out of control.
Finally, I brought myself down, went to bed alone, and cried myself to sleep. When I awoke I felt dead inside, but hurt nonetheless. I dragged myself into work and struggled through a lifeless day. Thoughts of suicide seriously drifted across my mind for the first time ever. In desperation, I told my partner, Tom, about what had happened. And lo and behold, he managed to say just the right things at just the right time. I don't know if it was accident or brilliance, but he saw through all the smoke and told me what he saw.
He said that I was looking at the worst case scenarios. I was trying to force the issues and suffer the grief now, so it wouldn't hurt so much later. He said I was causing most of the bad feelings with Mary, as all she had anymore was a miserable sniveling wreck instead of a husband. Instantly I realized he was right. He told me that this time of exploration should be one of joy. I can't do anything about the way I feel, so just take it day by day. In time, things will work THEMSELVES out.
Mary called shortly after that, and I relayed the conversation. She said that she had been trying to tell me that for weeks. Nothing is definite. She doesn't know what she'll ultimately do. For that matter, neither do I! She said, just take it slow, give us both time to adjust. And if a day of reckoning does come, it won't be a sudden event, but something we plan for and deal with in the most comfortable way possible.
Suddenly, my heart was lightened. And for the first time in weeks, I was no longer afraid. I told her I loved her, and also for the first time in weeks, she said she loved me too! Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we spent packing our household goods for the move. And these were some of the best days of our marriage.
P.S. Mary just called from work, and after chatting, I hung up by saying, "I love you." Again, she said, "I love you, too." And it wasn't put-on or considered. It was just natural, like this entire transition is, really: just natural!
September 13, 1989
I was working late at the office last night, editing music tracks for an educational film I had edited for a friend of mine, Brian, who had directed. Both Brian and Tony, one of my USC cronies, were with me helping to complete the project. At about 11:00 I got a phone call from Mark, who was also working late. I asked if he wanted to get together and he said sure, he'd be over right away.
I finished the project just as Mark showed up, and after we viewed the completed twenty two minute edit, Brian and Tony left and Mark and I went out for a drink. Mark drove and I talked, which is the way to Hollywood, but I was so caught up in my dysentery dissertation, that I paid no attention.
Finally, we parked and I asked where we were going. He said there was a little restaurant down the street. We set off walking and entered the facility. Without a word of warning, Mark paid his cover charge, then I had to shell out six bucks from mine! Some restaurant! Well, the throbbing disco music thundering from the door was the first indication that things were not exactly Kosher... Turns out, Mark had just taken me to a transvestite night club!
It seems Mark had told a mutual friend, Sean, about me. And Sean was forcefully opinionated that I was making a horrible mistake. In fact, he said that Mark was being a poor friend in supporting me, as it was his DUTY to try to change my mind before I ruined my life. He should be trying to save me from myself!
Well, Mark being a self-effacing Polish-Catholic lad from the mid-west and prone to impulse buying any guilt trip offered on the open market, he felt it was now his personal responsibility to show me the error of my ways. He went so far as to refer to himself as "The Ghost of David's Future"!
He led me through the writhing mass of horny flesh: half men and half women, except the women were men! Indeed, these men were some of the best looking women I had ever seen. The dance floor was alive with the sensual moves of mini-skirted, tight-shirted babes who flowed to the music as if they could see it and were outlining it with their bodies.
To Mark, this was a scene from Sodom and Gomorrah together again - with just a pinch of Dante's Inferno thrown in. He saw the old and the ugly, the lonely and the grief-stricken: the abandoned wrecks of pathetic former human beings reduced to outlandish parodies in their grasping efforts to quench the unbearable pain with even a brief encounter of pseudo affection. And there were several of these poor, burnt-out shells staggering through the ranks to be sure. But no more than at any hot-music club that attracts the discontent like moths to a nuclear bomb.
But I saw people, some like myself, but most of the transvestite persuasion, encountering other human beings in the manner and mode they felt driven to employ. I felt at home with the crowd, almost intoxicated by it, as I had never been in the company of so many of the lost souls at one time. And there they were, smiling, talking, dancing, flirting: guys in drag actually touching and kissing other men. Things I'd only imagined but longed to try. Here was a place where socially scorned behavior was the order of the day. Here, it was normal.
Well, Mark became increasingly frustrated that I was not put off by the pathos he wished to paint. In fact, after one beer, I told him that one more beer would have me wishing I had brought a change of clothes.
Now, I've only been in a night club of any kind two other times in my life. And I've been one to gravitate to the dance floor. But as I shifted my thoughts into Melanie mode, I could see that the thrill of getting caught up in the music and moving in sensual waves that sparked erotic attraction in the onlookers circling the floor had a drug-like effect on my mind. I could see myself out there, flaunting all I had, competing with every babe in the place for the attention of the male animals that cruised the periphery like sharks, waiting for their prey. Indeed, if there was not such a threat from AIDS and VD, I would've been back there the next night, done-up to the teeth!
Mark could see that he was failing. Finally, his uneasiness combined with a sense of failure, and he suggested we leave. I felt sorry for him as he struggled to understand what I saw that he didn't and vice versa. But I'm convinced that no one who is not themselves afflicted with the TS bug can truly appreciate the forces that drive us. To be sure, they can intellectualize the compulsion, but they can never empathize with the feelings of frustration and futility in leading a life in the wrong gender mold.
I hope he is not too depressed. After all, he is one of my few closest friends. And out of all those who have now shared my secret, he is the only one to take the time to try and make an impact; the only one who is so concerned for my well-being that they suffer on my behalf.
But someday, I hope he will realize that I AM female, I ALWAYS HAVE BEEN female. And no one, no matter how well-intentioned, can convince me to be other than my true nature. But, thank you, Mark.... Your effort last night was truly one of the most comforting expressions of brotherly love I have ever received.
September 14, 1989
I'd been putting off this moment since I first seriously considered following the path to SRS. But here I was, laying down on the treatment table to have someone begin to permanently remove my beard.
What a terrifying concept: that the mask I've hidden behind since puberty, the major outward symbol that I was masculine would be stripped forever from my face; that should I ever change my mind, I would be naked to the world, forever struggling to prove myself for the rest of my life.
For me, the hormone therapy, even the surgery itself was psychologically minor compared to the loss of my beard. For the results of these other steps can be reversed or hidden from the world unless I choose to reveal them. But the daily stubble, the 5 O'clock shadow, is undisguiseable and its absence undeniable.
This simple act became for me the major mental boundary line between flirtation and commitment. As one persona had put it on one of my bulletin boards, "Electrolysis really separates the boys from the girls." And so, after months of putting it off, the time had come to take a stand.
All morning I had spent with my dad, trying to keep my mind off the clock. The appointment was at noon - HIGH noon.... And I struggled to lose myself in picayune details. But nonetheless, the time arrived, and I had to go or forever hold my piece. So I went. There was really no other choice.
The drive was uneventful and the directions good. And after knocking at the front door for several minutes, I went around back just as Andy/Kathy appeared from the back room. Even though Andy was currently living in male mode, I could easily see the two modest bulges beneath his loose T-shirt. There are some things that always remain.
He greeted me and ushered me into his tiny studio. Crossing the threshold was like stepping into Berkeley in the sixties. Incense and classical music fought for airspace in the converted garage, while a Taoist goddess presided serenely over an offering of scented candles. A slick, high-tech computer nestled among dirty laundry and ancient herbal remedies, "This one enhances the female aura, try some?"
I, as usual, launched into an extended telling of the story of my life, while Andy made Cranberry Mist Tea. Having completed my nervous spiel and exhausted my supply of pre-selected prying questions, I stood in silence while Andy struck a small hammer against a display of six differently tuned bells as a Taoist prayer to the goddess. Supplication made, we drifted to the table where the event would be committed.
There are two types of electrolysis, Andy explained: Straight electrolysis with a DC current, and Thermalysis (or "Flash" with an AC current. There was, for the undecided the "Blend" method, combining both in one needle. NEEDLE, not probe, not pointer, but NEEDLE! The first method was permanent but took nearly one minute per hair, although relatively painless. The second, a 20% regrowth at only 10-20 seconds per hair, with a higher level of pain. Then, the combined method with an 80% regrowth rate, just 5 seconds per hair, and suffering beyond human comprehension. I opted for that method.
My reasons were cowardly: If I could take the pain, the results would be less than permanent. Most of my mask would return home to daddy if I turned tail and ran. So the dials were set, the alcohol dabbed across my two-day stubble, and Andy's face appeared distorted through the magnifying light as he hovered over me, pondering the eradication of my security blanket.
We began on the upper lip, which was the most sensitive area both physically and psychologically. The first few tentative stabs were easily tolerable - not pleasant by any means, but well within my pain threshold. For nearly 30 (I am proud to say) minutes - THIRTY MINUTES, one half hour, one 48th of a day, I suffered in silence and bore my pain like a man. But then, the more sensitive areas were violated and THESE hairs had an attitude. Each one felt like hypodermic needle piercing my lip and skewering it through. Some were worse than others. It got so I could anticipate the pain of the current by the pain of the probe's initial entry. I tried to hold on, I really did. But this became easily the most excruciating experience I have ever endured. And finally, I could endure no more. I asked to try the blend method, and found it much more acceptable in pain level. So we continued for the remaining time in that style.
I had been told that this method led more frequently to scarring and, in addition, took four times as long for an initial "clearing". But "Flash" is definitely not for the squeamish. Eventually, after what seemed like days, the session ended. I dropped thirty sweaty dollars from my pocket to the table and verified next week's appointment.
With growing anticipation, I strode to my car to view Andy's handiwork in the rear view mirror. I slipped into the scorching plastic seat and tilted the mirror to reveal my face. My lip was quivering and swollen, but I could see small, almost miniscule patches where hair would grow no more. And suddenly a chill of joy ran down my spine with the thought that in a matter of months, I would have a face as smooth as any woman's. I started the car and pulled out into reality with a smile on my face, as I knew the threshold had been crossed and the commitment made.
September 16, 1989
Only one note for today, but a major one indeed. As the day wore on, with us moving our possessions by trailer to our new abode, Mary and I began to have more and more fun with each other. Later, when my step-dad took the kids for their weekly overnighter at his house, we got even closer. Finally, after a particularly fond enjoyment of something or other, I mentioned I'd really like to make love to her tonight. Well, later, just before bed, I broached the subject again, and incredibly, she was VERY interested.
Without going into private details, suffice it to say that we had a most enjoyable tryst. This was the first time we have been intimate since I told her I was serious about SRS two months ago. I don't know if this is a sign that things can work out, a final stab at some kind of normality, or a goodbye, but it is definitely preferable to the leprous feeling of being outcast that I have endured for these last eight weeks. I love Mary very much and hope my chosen course will not force our separation.
September 20, 1989
Today was my initial visit to Dr. Smith, who had come highly recommended by both Natalie and Barbara from my support group, and Alan/Kathy. I had been yearning for this day, not knowing exactly why I was going except for safety reasons, but suspecting that somehow I was missing the boat, or not with the program.
I paced around the office all morning, trying to busy myself with work, but unable to keep my concentration on the job. Finally, it was close enough to leaving time to take off, which I did with no further delay.
The location of a doctor's office shouldn't have that much influence on one's evaluation of him. But somehow, my weekly trips to the Doctor in Hollywood had always seemed rather "seedy". After all, Hollywood is home to every kind of immoral or lewd profession known to man. Prostitutes, both male and female graze the streets like so many cows in heat, and sex shops and X-rated movie houses abound.
So every journey to that office passed through this decadent hive and left me feeling "dirty" just for having passed through it, as if the sins of the soul and corruption of the body had somehow rubbed off or polluted my being merely through the sharing of air. And also, although I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to express myself as Melanie, I felt as if I were in costume or "clown-like", as I had to cover up my beard and don a wig in order to pass as something I had not yet become. In fact, that very attitude had led me to refrain from outings as Melanie for nearly a year, mainly because I felt like a liar for "false advertising" something which I could not deliver.
In any event, Dr. Smith's office is in the San Fernando Valley (my home stomping ground) scant miles to the north of Beverly Hills and smackdab in the center of a burgeoning industrial complex of modern high-rise buildings. (High-rise for California, of course, meaning six or seven stories).
I opted to park in the expensive three level structure, rather than searching for a metered street space, allowing myself this small luxury as a reward for my diligence in looking after my health and courage in following through. (I love to pamper myself when I feel I deserve praise!)
I arrived on the seventh floor and entered the suite. My first impression was an overwhelming sense of warmth. This was not the typical medical sterility I had become accustomed to, but a bright, cheerful environment whose function was to care for the whole person, body and soul. (I get a lot from wallpaper and indirect lighting!)
I approached the reception window and was greeted by a smiling Dorinda, a cute blond girl who held no pretense or revulsion, not even condescension in her face. Indeed, I suspect her face to be incapable of holding such an emotion, even should the need undeniably arise. Still, I was operating at about 80% male mode, as I still fall back into the old ways whenever I get nervous. Her manner was so open, however, that by the time I was called inside, I had lowered down to 70% male mode and was tenaciously trying to hold on to that!
The door opened, and Chris, the male nurse (completely hetero and proud of it!) ushered me into the examining room. In spite of his definite anchor on the world of "normal" preferences, I soon discovered he possessed an overwhelming empathy for people in my situation. "Gender Dysphorics are my favorite patients...." I truly believe him.
He asked me several questions, but more importantly, offered several answers on his own that I had to pry from my other doctor. He gave me whatever information he thought might be useful to me, set me at ease, and went out of his way to explain what things meant, and the procedure they normally followed. He even brought me a cup of "Swiss Mocha" (which happens to be THE coffee I will die for - I carry a tin in my car for emergencies) and introduced me to another TS who came in for a check up. This other patient, Elizabeth, and I had a wonderful conversation while I waited for the doctor. And by the time Dr. Smith arrived I had fallen to about 50% male mode and dropping.
Dr. Smith, ah, Dr. Smith! Short of height but tall in stature, he strode into the room with a confident friendliness that stripped my well-built defenses in a single, gentle breeze. Looking like a genetic blending of Paul Newman and an elf, his easy manner melted whatever preconceived dignity I thought I possessed and plunged me instantly into Melanie, the center of my being.
Never before have I given up my mask so easily, nor expressed myself as Melanie so naturally. And this, mind you, in male clothes: an event which I would have thought impossible. Mixing my modes? Unheard of! Unthinkable! Happening before your very eyes!!!
As I heard his concise and educated discussions of the therapy he offered, his humanity penetrated my soul, and Dave (if there ever really was such a beast) vanished without a trace. This man spoke to ME, not the carcass that faced him, but the woman hiding inside, peering through the bushes nervously.
Dr. David Smith is a seer, but he is also blind. No, his eyes work perfectly, but they are notable for what they do not see. He is blind to the physical incarnation as if it were transparent. And he SEES the soul as if it were a glowing gem suspended in a jelly-fish.
He spoke to ME, as if I already WAS a woman. And he seemed not the least distracted or even aware of the body that I wore. And yet, I was here to alter the body, and his job was to get that done. The incongruity of his concern with the inner person, while his vocation was the outer, only served to strengthen the calm certainty that I had not only found protection for my body, but a refuge for my psyche.
There are so many nuts and bolts of medical data he covered, and I shall cover them as well as they are applied. But the true value of today was not what I learned, but what I felt. And I felt good - very good indeed.
September 21, 22, and 25, 1989
I'm afraid (don't be afraid) that I have fallen behind in my diary entries. Heaven knows, I've tried! But the best laid plans of mice and... well, whatever the heck I am.... So here is the brief, bite-sized, shrunk-wrapped, condensed reconstituted honest to gosh truth, as told by proxy.
On September 21st I had my second electrolysis session. THIS time I came prepared! I bought a bottle of KANKA topical oral anesthetic with the last three dollars to my name. I applied some in the car before I left. My entire lip went numb, even as the stuff stained the skin a bright, obnoxious orange (you're only supposed to use it on the INSIDE!)
But, beauty was secondary at the moment, as the pain of my first trip remained fresh in my addled mind. So, I applied another liberal coat just before I entered Andy's lair.
What I was not aware of was that topical anesthetics work only on the mucus membranes and do nothing for the interior of the flesh. What a wonderful surprise when the process hurt even more than last week (I would've sworn an impossibility!) as the nerves went into over-drive to compensate for the partial loss of sensation. Well, live and learn (in agony!) I always say....
Friday the 22nd was my first day as a no-show at the Hollywood doctor. I truly missed the opportunity to go out as Melanie, but simultaneously enjoyed the freedom of not having to work out all the logistics, rush around, and only relish my female self for a lousy hour before all that work had to be undone.
This feeling grew into the certainty that a dual life, such as Mary and I had discussed, while great on paper, would be harder than blazes to accomplish in reality, and for all practical purposes was impossible. However, I also determined that I should move toward full-time living as a woman over a period of months, rather than in one bold stroke. This gradual change would be better for my friends and easier for me, as my mannerisms and voice could shift slowly to my new station.
In line with these thoughts, on Monday, September 25th, I began my First Official Day of Androgyny (or F.O.D.A. for short!). For twenty years, I have worn a belt nearly every day of my life. But this day, I merely switched to a tucked in T-shirt. And my beloved laid-back courderoys gave way to unisex blue jeans. The part in my hair was lost as I brushed (not combed) it straight forward in rather appealing bangs. Overall, this manner of dress could belong to either sex, and therefore is my authorized uniform during the transitional period.
So much for catching up: I've been way too efficient, and it might just be habit forming.... (Written on the 26th of September to catch up on days I hadn't felt like writing. The following entry is from the middle of that period, the one day I DID feel like writing. Due to financial difficulties, Mary, the kids and I were forced to move from our wonderful three bedroom rented house in the Burbank hills to the house I grew up in, in the flatlands of Burbank.
This move came in the middle of the rift that had developed between Mary and myself over my transition. It seemed to be the worst time that an unwanted change of location could have occurred. Nevertheless, there was no choice in the matter, so we packed up our belongings and said goodbye to the last house we would ever share as a "normal" family.
Mary had gone to Las Vegas with a girlfriend the last weekend we had to pack: the first trip she had made without me since we had been married. I found myself sitting alone in the empty corner of the bedroom where we had last made love, crying for half an hour. That night, I drove to the family house and slowly increased my speed until I was driving at sixty miles per hour along the residential streets. I weighed the advantages of simply driving into the side of building and ending it all. It was a tempting scenario. But as I neared my new address, I gradually slowed, having flirted with suicide, but not seduced by it.
The following weekend we packed the last few items that remained at the old house, locked the door on our happy family life, and relocated to our uncertain future. That evening I wrote the following entry.)
September 23, 1989
As I sit at the keyboard this evening, my mind is filled with strange emotions. It is 10:30 and it is our first night in our new home.
Perhaps the term "new" is a misnomer. This is the house I grew up in from age one to age seven. It is the house of my earliest memories, my formative years, and the beginnings of my need to be female. It is my Grandfather's house and he is dead. He died on the 25th of June at age 83, a bitter man, alone and defeated. And now, I live in his house.
My Mother died on January 30th of bacterial pneumonia infecting the sack around the heart. That is what the death certificate says, but the real cause of her death was my grandfather. All his life he had withheld even the tiniest show of love, approval, or even affection from my mother. And she spent and ultimately lost her life trying to obtain these.
Shortly after I was married in 1976, my parents were forced to leave the rented house we had lived in for 12 years, and elected to move into my grandfather's house to help take care of him and my grandmother. A few years later, they brought back my grandfather's sister, Kay, from Washington state, as her husband had died some time previously, and she was slipping mentally.
Within a couple of years it became apparent that Kay had developed Alzheimer's disease, and her ability to take care of herself suffered greatly. At the same time, my grandmother began to slip into paranoia and mental confusion. My grandfather started losing the ability to discern reality from fantasy.
And so, my mother and step-father took care of these people with the patience of Christ himself, and humbly subjected themselves to my grandfather's overbearing and aimless wrath, which grew almost daily as his illness progressed. Ultimately, my grandmother suffered three strokes in quick succession. She was unable to respond coherently, to speak or even to be more than marginally aware of the world around her.
Due both to my mother's and grandfather's wishes, and against doctor's orders, my grandmother was released to home care. She was permanently on a feeding tube, was incontinent, and required care every 3-4 hours, twenty-four hours a day.
For two years, my parents struggled to provide humanity to a household weakened by illness and withered by the cancerous bile of my grandfather's anger. Eventually, Aunt Kay was placed in a home. But my mother continued to care for her parents to the point that she did not leave the house, even to cross the street, for six months straight. Eventually, she caught the flu, and due to her weakened condition, it developed into bacterial pneumonia. And yet, she would not go to the hospital because she wanted to continue to care for her mother. Also, my grandfather constantly chided her for slacking off in her duties. When she could not longer get out of bed, she finally agreed to be taken to the hospital, but by then, it was far too late.
I sat with her in the emergency room of the County hospital all night, waiting for care. She had no insurance and would not be accepted into a standard emergency ward. All that night, I struggled to stay awake, as I had only had two hours sleep the night before. Several times I mentioned to her that I would have to leave soon, which I regret to this day. But every time, her condition worsened and I stayed on. Her blood pressure dropped to 80 over 40, and I waited for a second reading on the machine before I called for help, again to my regret. Instead of holding her hand and touching her face as I had on and off through the night, I was sitting in a chair across the room when she slipped into unconsciousness. Later that day, she died.
When we brought my grandfather to see her body in the hospital he looked at the remains of the daughter he drove to death, and his only comment was, "Well, you had to go and do it. You had to die on my birthday." I will always remember the date of my grandfather's birthday.
I placed my grandmother in a convalescent home for her health needs, and face the wrath of my grandfather for the first time myself. But as he realized he needed me for transportation and food, he softened and at least tolerated me.
My step-dad continued to live in the house and take care of my grandfather. A noble act considering he felt the man had caused his wife's death. My grandfather finally entered the convalescent home to be near his wife. But when I last saw him alive, a week before his death, he did not know who the woman across the room was. I rubbed his back with ointment as he had requested, my fingers bobbing over the bony protrusions under his parchment skin. I told him I would see him again soon. I left. He died.
And so, when I returned to this house several weeks ago to plan our move, and was alone in it for the first time in my memory, I found myself pulled to my grandfather's room, the very room I had grown up in as a child. I stood in the center, drinking in the present, drowning in the past.
I cursed my mother for the memories of the doll house, stove, and refrigerator she had bought for me, knowing that these toys had been partially responsible for creating a female personality within my body. I laughed at the memory of waking up from my afternoon nap to a gingerbread man, placed on a shelf by my bed as a surprise. I could see the coloring book bear that I had painted "orchid" and remembered that the bear had been given a different colored balloon every night I had avoided sucking my thumb. Eventually, the bear had a whole bouquet of balloons and I never sucked my thumb again.
All these things and a thousand more, the highlights and hurts, the love and the warped directions leading to transsexualism, all flooded over and through me. And I stood in the center of the room and cried.
And now, on this first night, I feel all these things again. And as this house must be sold in a few short months to pay for my grandmother's continued convalescence, I am overwhelmed. I am coming home: home to the causes of my pain and the source of my love. But I am here to prepare the house for sale. And in effect, I am selling off my past.
So now, as I am about to embark on a new future, a future as a woman: now, as I begin the six month transition to full-time living in my new role, I come to bury memories, to lay to rest the roots of my personality. And I find it ironically appropriate that these should coincide. As I begin a new future, I bury the past.
I have come full circle, to face the causes of my needs and revel in the roots of my strengths. Soon I must move on to a new life and leave the old behind. I will be a new person who only vaguely resembles the one who blossomed here so many years ago.
And I must leave all that behind, perhaps more completely than one should be forced to. But for a little while longer, I have my memories, I have my past, and David is not yet dead. For a few brief moments I am a small child running through the tall grass, amazed by everything and joyful just to be alive. For a few brief moments, I have come home.
September 28, 1989
Today was the fulfillment of a life-long dream. It was my coming-of-age, my initiation, my rite of passage. Today I killed my mustache.
I had fantasized about this monumental event for years and planned it for weeks. The concept of having an absolutely smooth face is so exciting, so sexy, so feminine, that even now, six hours after, I can barely contain myself.
In the West, we believe Man's soul can be found, if anywhere, in the brain. In Eastern religions it inhabits the heart. Since puberty, my psyche resided in my upper lip, the symbol of my manhood, the likeness of my self-image.
But today, it's home of twenty-four post-pubiescent years was wrested from it. And like a game of "Musical Lips", the theme song ended and Psyche found itself without a chair to sit on.
So, now, this poor homeless wretch must find new accommodations: an abode more suitable to its new stature; more appropriate to its changed self-image. Perhaps it will lodge in my developing breasts. True, cramped quarters at the moment, but when plans for expansion are fully realized, Psyche will hopefully enjoy a palatial estate in keeping with the manner to which it wishes to become accustomed.
The deed is done; the commitment made. The relief, amazing; the joy, uncanny. I have joined one club and turned in the executive washroom keys to the other. And surprisingly - at least to me - there are not only no regrets, but an unequalled sense of completeness beyond anything I have ever experienced. I feel content. I feel female. I feel good.
(The Transition Diary series will continue in the next edition of The Subversive)
Copyright Transgender Support Site