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On Sunday I said I wanted to send e-mail to you; and then on reflection I realized that what I was thinking about, and might have to say, is very likely not terribly interesting to you. This is because I have been reading your diary entries, as serialised in "The Subversive", and I know you have said that it all seems very long ago now, as if a different person wrote them (which I can understand). I also began to think that my responses to what you wrote so long ago would seem to you like a one-sided conversation - a monologue - because you composed your side so long ago that it is hardly something you would still have in your mind.
So I don't want to bore you with my largely personal ups-and-downs; and yet I have found so much of interest, use and relevance in your diary that I still want to make some response, if only to let you know what impact your writing can have on someone else. And perhaps it may interest you, a bit, to discover some of the things which I have found I have in common with your experience. That has certainly been for me one of the values, and in fact, reassuring factors, of reading your diary - the discoveries of some thoughts and feelings and experiences which we both have had. It makes me a little less prone to think I am off my rocker, to discover that someone else has had the same experiences. This is one area in which one hopes one is NOT unique.
I don't know what, if any, the struggles are for you now, in continuing to assimilate the meaning and scope of the transsexual experience - I wonder, does the "adventure" of it go on, as years go by after the SRS, or does life start to present totally different realms to explore, and the gender business fades? If "the gender business" continues to be of interest, perhaps a few of my comments will be not totally irrelevant to you.
To remind you of my position: I am relatively early in the transition - just about to start hormones next week, in fact, and yet already living about 75% full time. The reasons for the "75%" aspect of the "living" are two: first, that on the days when I must grow my whiskers for electrolysis, I feel pretty silly trying to look feminine; and second, I live in rough-and-gritty Oakland, although when I go out I mostly go to San Francisco. So around my neighbourhood (grocery store, etc.) I "tone it down" a bit. But even my most "male" look is at best androgynous. So my 25% non-full-time is not much of a cover - it's mostly a question of whether I wave that extra-red flag of a skirt instead of pants. But in San Francisco, I am totally out, and I will be moving over there in a few months. And to all but a last few people in my life, I am also totally out.
So it is becoming my real life, very rapidly - there is less "back-and-forth" between two outward identities than in your seemingly protracted see-saw between Dave and Melanie. I don't need to tell you what a liberation it feels to "be Katherine", after waiting so long for it to be possible. I was ready, internally, a long time before I had my "look" together - I'm sure you have read me, on AOL, bleating about my hair problems. So rather than back-and-forth like you, I have had a different frustration: many months of wanting to start my full-time life, and knowing that until the hair arrived, the best I could present would be "gender fuck" (charming term), which is not what my point is at all.
That wait was very frustrating, but at the same time, I continued to grow internally and have more and deeper revelations about the nature and specific character of the new persona growing within me - Katherine, as opposed to Arn, who I was as a male. I am amazed, in fact, when I realise that in the last 18 months I have come a long way toward understanding and becoming Katherine, and all without RLT or hormones - it has all been spiritual and intuitive. So now that I am entering the real, physical world of the transition, what further, even more dramatic changes will I experience? I doubt if I can even imagine.
All right - what things stick in my mind from your diaries? Actually, as I have been reading through, there have been dozens of things that leapt out at me, but a few are prominent in my memory now. One was something that I read, not too long ago, at just the right moment, when I was having a very hard time. It was the period in your transition when you were first trying to present yourself to the world, and specifically to various work colleagues, and were going in to work mostly as Melanie but still occasionally having to go as Dave. One day you remarked how much you felt like "Dave in drag" - that the inner feeling of Melanie was not there. It made you doubt yourself - you asked "is this all there is?". You also wondered if it was "the sign" that it was all a mistake. You said: "Maybe it's the fateful warning sign I have been awaiting for so long that asks, 'What the hell do you think you're doing?' And it asks in a male voice."
Well, my only point is that I read that just after I first got my "new hair", and had been expecting to have a huge, instant, inner liberation, and that Katherine would be ready and fully able to take over this body and this life, as soon as "the look" was prepared. But it was not so! And I still (only a few weeks later) have days when I feel very divided, and like an impersonator. But because I know who you are NOW and some of what you feel about yourself, it was encouraging to know that you too went through that phase of grave self-doubt, and had that "male voice" admonishing you for your presumption.
You also noted, at one point, that your male clothes and persona felt like drag! I certainly know what you mean there. I don't know if I could really pull off the totally male person any more (if I ever did). I'm afraid that I will have a chance to find out some time in the next few months, when I go to Canada to see my Dad. I don't know what my ultimate decision will be as to how/what to tell, but I know I won't tell much, if anything, this time out. Should be an interesting and creepy experience to be "Arn" again after being so much of Katherine.
You wrote: "For every day as my body changes, my mind is freed. And there will come a time when both are unified and my dream of walking through the High Sierra in blue jeans and tank top, slender, female, the wind tousling my hair, will be a reality, then a memory instead of a fantasy." - and it brought to my mind some of the most important, fundamental experiences and realities about my transition. Basically, I have found that the deepest and truest confirmation of my femaleness comes from being in nature, usually alone; and I found it fascinating that your image, of the walk in nature, should be so central a one for you as well. I don't know if you ever, in fact, had experiences that made that image be so important to you, or whether it was intuition on your part.
About 3-1/2 years ago, when I was living in England, I was just at the point of no longer being able to deny my need to deal with the TS issue. I was starting to explore it internally, and tell a few friends, seek out groups, and so on. I have always been an avid walker, and I went on 2 solo hiking trips, of 2 weeks each, one in the mountains of Portugal, the other in the Scottish highlands (ancestral territory). On both walks, I was alone about 23-1/2 hours a day - just me and nature (or me and sleep). It would take me longer here than you would want to read, to really describe the experience, but essentially, I did not have "society" constantly reflecting back to me that I was male. And the balance that settled within me, in my natural surroundings - and in relation to the essential forces of the universe - confirmed for me more deeply than anything ever has that my own being and essence is female. I felt, as I said in some writing about it, that "all of the female side of the universe was singing to me, calling out to me, and I was at home at last, welcomed and at rest".
The temptation is great to go trying to describe that experience more fully, but you get the idea. So, if there is no other point here, let me encourage you to take that walk in the High Sierra, and experience the nature spirits reflecting back to you in all their infinity the enormity of the truth of your femininity.
One passage in your diary brought me great pain - not that it is your fault. I am at the moment very lonely. I work alone at home, day after day alone; my dearest friends are thousands of miles away, I have no "relationship", and I am not only going through this fulfilling but frightening transition, but also I am taking some enormous career gambles (too detailed to explain here), with dwindling finances and no equity or security of any kind. It is a time of great fearfulness, as well as joy and fulfillment - in both work and "life". And I have no one to really share it with. My most recent relationship, which ended earlier this year, wasted only 9 months, but brought to me, for the first time ever, the real enrichment and confirmation that a relationship between a man and a woman can bring. (With me being the woman, naturally - and, interestingly, the "man" being a FTM transsexual.)
I hope I do not intrude too much in the deeply personal parts of your diary; but the passage I am referring to is when you were first getting together with Alan. Here is what you wrote:
"I woke him, as I had to get home soon and pulled him to me. I felt so female, so wanted, so sensual. He rolled over on top of me, gently spreading my legs and pushed my knees up in classic missionary position. And then, with all our clothes on, made love to me, his woman.
"My responses were so natural, so uninvented. For the first time in my life, I knew how I should behave, not from the mind, but the heart. I have never enjoyed anything so much as being made love to in that manner, my head cradled in his hands, his strong yet gentle thrusts pushing undeniably against me. Even now, my insides go mushy just thinking about it.
"God, its always been so hard to be male, to try and figure out how I should act, what I should say. Every move second-guessed. But now, as Melanie deep inside, I act by instinct, without consideration or censorship. Moves I've never practiced are my true nature. And the future? Day at a time... just a day at a time.+
(End of excerpt)
Here is a portion of what I wrote in my own computer diary after reading that:
"I cannot avoid the searing pain which reading those words bring to me. I remember the feeling that Melanie talks about - the naturalness, the unstudied quality, the confirmation of my femaleness, which comes from letting the deep well-spring of female feeling loose, just standing back, letting it go. I remember because I had it for a brief period in my life, when things were good with Carol. I had never known that such a thing was possible, that such feelings existed. Sex to me had always been a trial, a study, a job - something to be feared and laboured at, a mystery as to why it was supposed to be so great when it patently was not great at all - the little physical pleasure of it in no way made up for the tremendous effort and embarrassment and confusion.
"But then it was easy - all I had to do was let it be. Carol remarked on my female nature, how genuine it was, how it flowed from me. I felt I could uncover my fears and vulnerability, that it was okay, I didn+t have to be strong and knowing and skillful. Melanie also writes about leaning on Alan+s chest and crying, and having him cradle her head and say 'It's all right... Let it out, babe...'
"Who will ever call me Babe? Who will ever let me cry? When will it not be an imposition on someone, when will my vulnerability be the other half of someone+s male nature? When can I stop having to be stoical and strong and get myself through every day, by myself? Someone has to be strong around here, and I+m the only one here, and so it+s always me. It is too much to bear forever.
"I have spent all of my life locked in the male cage, and I am out now, and my emotions are very raw and vulnerable. I think I should be allowed to cry. I think I should be allowed to not be strong sometimes. And I am angry. Angry that I still have to be alone, angry that I have had to be male. I am angry that no matter what I do in my life I seem condemned to be alone."
(End of excerpt)
There is no reason for me to burden you with that particular confession and longing, and so I apologise if it seems gratuitous. But your writing sparked in me the memory of that deep feeling of being sexually female, which, along with the confirmation from the nature spirits, has been the deepest experience of my emerging femaleness. I had almost forgotten it until I read that passage of yours, which suddenly triggered the memory and the emotions. I had unconsciously tucked away that memory, because it brought me too much pain to remember - but I must remember, so as to be open to the experience again. I must let that sexual part of my femaleness be available. Life is too short to let that go on being denied.
As I said, I could go on with reactions to your writing. But that is probably enough for you for now. I hope it has been in some way interesting for you and not just a giant bore, to wade through my largely self-absorbed observations. For some reason, I felt that your generosity in sharing your diary merited this response, so I can only hope it seems to be some kind of reward and not a punishment.
See you on line - and there is a fair chance I will be in L.A. in September, so perhaps I could even see you then.
All the best -
Katherine Collins (KatieRC)
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