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Number 17

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"Where dreams are the stuff reality is made of"

A Special Message from Melanie

Happy New Year to all of our 350+ members of the America Online Gender Group! As this year starts, I am really amazed to look back and see how much we've grown in the two and a half years since we began. In June of 1991 I signed on to AOL and was AMAZED to find that there was no organized support for gender folk anywhere in the system. I hate it when that happens!!!! So, I started holding meetings in a public room called "Gender" that soon attracted some regular attendees and moved into a private location. Among the first to add their support to the effort were Marsha J, our current Gender Conference Secretary, and Elaine P1, who helps with the greetings and fills in on taking the log.

This was obviously a service whose time had come, for we quickly grew to over a hundred members and the people wanting to get into the room exceeded the number that could fit. We then received a generous invitation from the Gay/Lesbian community forum to use their conference room, which could hold twice as many at a time. Late last year, however, we maxed out THAT room several times, and are now in the process of obtaining a SECOND additional night for the Gender Conference and perhaps even a THIRD for the crossdresser's meeting of Alpha Omega Lambda.

Our ultimate goal is to create a forum of our very own, here on AOL, where all existing and many new services for the Gender Community can be found in one easy to reach location. I'll be very active in the future to bring this about. However, we now reach the purpose of this message. As of the beginning of this month, I have retired as the host of Gender Conference.

Why, you may ask, do I suddenly choose to step away from the community I have spent two and a half years nurturing and supporting? Well, to be quite honest, I've grown out of it. Not that I am BETTER than the group, just a bit different now. You see, I had my surgery on January 9th, 1992 - over two years ago. And my life now, is that of a normal forty year old woman.

This brings up the two major reasons for my retirement. One, I have moved so far away from the anguish and frustration and hope of transition, that I just can't relate to those emotions at a personal level anymore. I really can't tune in to what it all felt like. Just like childbirth, you don't remember the pain. This means that I have watched my effectiveness diminish as my relationship with individuals needing support changed from empathy to sympathy. That is not the point of view needed to boost attitudes and hearts.

Reason two is that for some time, I have only thought about transitional issues when I was in the conference or working on my online gender magazine, The Subversive. Transition is no longer a part of my life, but by attending the conference every week as host, I couldn't put it behind me. I need to move on, into the fullness of womanhood, and let myself finally say to myself, "Its over."

So, reason one is altruistic, and reason two is quite selfish, but they both resulted in the same decision: that it was time to step aside and let others take the reins who are closer to that chaotic time of transition themselves.

This leads me into an introduction of the two new hosts of the Gender Conference, GAnnSmith (GLCF Wendy) and JanetA9456 (GLCF JCA). Gwen is exploring her own future as she ponders the possibility of transition and Janet is well into RLT, living in a new gender role. Both of these generous people who have volunteered to give of their time are kind and insightful and will carry on the warm, family atmosphere of the Gender Conference we have all come to expect.

I, myself, will continue to publish The Subversive and upload other articles of importance to the Gender Issues folder. I will also continue to work for an expanded Gender area, and the ultimate forming of our own Gender Forum. These are contributions I can make without the immediate tugging at old memories and scenes that occurs in the interactive conference. Of course I will stop by from time to time to say hello to old friends.

Well, that about wraps it up, except to tell you all how much YOUR support has meant to ME. You didn't think it went only one way, did you? When I had my surgery, I received dozens of floral arrangements, cards and even gifts from online friends. So many, in fact, that I was able to give some to my room mate who had only received one. It really brightened her stay. And when I was down or stressed out or unsure of my path, there was always a friend ready to take a more objective view and show me the options.

You have all meant so much to me, and you will be in my heart always. So, I begin another transition: to move from the limelight and close the door on the past - to finally bring down the curtain on a time in my life that was more special that I could have imagined and get on with the ordinary life that was my reason for doing it all.

So, may this New Year be the one in which you find the peace you have always wanted. And my deepest thanks for helping me find mine.

Updates and Useful Information

Subj: Gender Forum
From: MelanieXX
To: Name Withheld by Request (The person in charge of the Lifestyles and Interests area of America Online, who handles all forums)

Hi again! As you recall, I had contacted you in the past regarding bringing a Women's Forum to America Online. This note is about a slightly different subject.

For the past two and a half years, I have hosted the Gender Conference in the GLCF. I founded this conference to support crossdressers and transsexuals who are trying to come to terms with their gender, which is completely different from their sexuality. That is important to the rest of this letter - to understand that gender (masculine and feminine) has no direct tie to being male or female nor to one's sexual preferences. In fact, 95% of all crossdressers are straight, and half are happily married, most with children.

When I began the conference, there was no existing gender community on America Online. This was odd, since CompuServe and Genie had well-established, officially sanctioned areas for gender folk for some time.

So, I took it upon myself to establish a support network here on America Online. I began with a private room meeting and two members. This quickly grew to capacity, and we were very fortunate (and still very thankful) that the GLCF offered us a home in their forum.

We gladly accepted. Since that time, our membership has mushroomed to over 400 ACTIVE members!!!! Our conference is the best attended in the entire GLCF, often maxing out the room at the 48 limit for 10 or 20 minutes at a time. We recently applied to the GLCF for an additional conference day to ease the load, and that has been approved.

Also, we requested a folder of our own (Gender Issues) where information about psychologists, support groups, medical information, coming out, online magazines and many other services could be found. The GLCF approached the powers that be (perhaps yourself, I do not know) and received approval for such a folder.

This folder has now become one of the most active in the entire GLCF, with approximately 200 files and well over 25,000 downloads in just these few months.

As you can see, our meteoric growth has resulted in a lot of interest and a lot of demand for services. Unfortunately, it has also resulted in a lot of frustration because our services are scattered all over the GLCF within their framework.

Here are the problems I wish to address:

1. As a result of having such a large and popular folder AND the way in which the GLCF is built into the software, all of our information is mixed up throughout the list. Members who wish to find something have to wade through several screen changes just to make sure they have gotten all the information available.

Our solution would be to sub-divide the Gender Issues folder other folders, each with a topic category that could be grouped together. This would not add any disk space, but merely re-organize the information so that it is more accessible.

Unfortunately, Quirk tells me that can't be done within the software limitations of AOL, at least not within the GLCF. The only option would be to make new folders in the main menu, but that would not be of interest for 90% of the GLCF membership.

2. Our services are scattered everywhere in AOL. Right now, there are some in private rooms, some in the medical area, some in the "exchange" some in the "heart to heart" area of the GLCF, and of course in our Gender Issues folder. And the problem is getting worse!

We are growing at 10 -20 new member every month! We have done this since we first came online. At that rate, by the end of this year, we will have almost 600 members.

As word of our group spreads across the Internet, more and more people who use CompuServe and genie are attending our group, and often comment on the lack of a centralized area for support and information.

I asked Quirk about the possibility of bringing our resources together in the GLCF, but was told that, unfortunately, the software cannot be set up that way. Quirk suggested that the only way to accomplish this was to set up a Gender Forum independently.

And that is the thrust of this letter. I realize that disk space is at a premium (although you had mentioned things could open up starting this month). In any event, in our case, we are not asking for any additional disk space, just a gathering together of the space we already have.

I am officially requesting a new Gender Forum to be created on AOL. Initially, we would merely bring together our existing services from where they currently exist. The overall cost would be the programming time to make this happen. However, with four hundred members now, and growing at the rate we are, AND with the number of uploads and downloads our group generates, the increased activity if all services are easy to locate would more than justify the effort.

I also wish to request the keyword "Gender" be added to allow direct access to the board. The word "Gender" is used internationally by the gender community to locate services on BBS and servers everywhere.

Now, I don't know what your experience is with transgendered people. Perhaps you know several, perhaps you have never met any. I don't know if you have any pre-conceptions. Just in case, let me impart the tiniest bit of information.

First, I had sex reassignment surgery two years ago. I am still married to the woman I joined 18 years ago. In fact, today is our anniversary! We have two children, a girl 10 and a boy 14. I go on my daughter's Girl Scout camps as the camp cook. My son is in Sea Cadets, looking toward a Navy career. They are both in the advanced placement programs in their respective schools.

I am a technical consultant and manager of a major R&D program for a large software company here in Burbank. My responsibilities include organizing an army of interns who are preparing written material based on my theories.

Although some of our members do look very male (certainly many of the casual crossdressers) those of us who had always felt like women since being 4 or 5 are generally wholly integrated into society. No one knows about our past unless we choose to share it. For example, you can download my picture if you like from Gallery III (Keyword, Gallery).

Many of our members are professional people: we have the head of a major psychology school, an air traffic controller, and MD. We are not a "wild and crazy" group of men dancing around in skirts. In fact, we are a responsible group of transgendered individuals seeking enlightenment, information, understanding and support.

Well, you get the idea. That is who we are. That is what we have done for ourselves (with the help of the GLCF). And that is what we request of you: the establishment of a Gender Forum that could responsibly and supportively offer services to our growing community on America Online.

Thank you for your time in reading this lengthy letter, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Subj: Fwd: Gender Forum
From: Name Withheld
To: Melanie XX

Hi Melanie,

Right now we have several projects which we are working on which we must first complete. Unfortunately at this time I am booked with projects for at least the next six months. I will be happy to send you an information package for you to complete which goes over a list of things which we look for before creating a new area. At this time we receive hundreds of proposals and requests for new areas. Thanks for your interest but due to the number of projects and number of area we presently manage in Lifestyles, we will not be able to pursue this project for a long time. I appreciate your patience and understanding.

I will send you an information package for you to complete and look forward to reviewing it.


Subj: Re: Fwd: Gender Forum
To: Name Withheld
From: MelanieXX

Thank you for the quick reply! :) Yes, I would VERY much like to receive the information package on creating new forums. I understand that it will be at least six months before any action could be taken. I will look at this as time to prepare.

I do not mind waiting at all. However, it is important to me to know that we are "on the list" and that we are working our way toward the top of the list.

So, please tolerate me if I send you a one paragraph note every month or so to see if it is down to a five month wait, four months, or whatever.

I know that "six months" is just a ballpark figure that will no doubt change (and probably grow longer) as unexpected jobs slow down the timetable with existing projects.

The one thing I hope doesn't happen is that each month I write you and each month you tell me "in six months". That indicate no progress at all.

Maybe its just me (I'm this way at work too - and the HATE it!) but even if I heard that is was five months and 29 days, I'd feel like it was progress.

Anyway, I really look forward to getting your package.

By the time six months is up, we will have 500 members. Our little home in the GLCF is already busting at the seams, and by June we will be hanging out in places best kept under wraps! (Gee, that's a REALLY disgusting thought!) ;)

So, thanks again... send the package as soon as you can.... I will fill out the information requested, and use this time to prepare for a forum in what is already one of the most active topics on AOL.


UPDATE: This week I received the "official" application to create a form on America Online. It consists of several pages of questions and opportunities to provide information. I am currently preparing our materials and will be submitting our proposal sometime this month.

Melanie's Wise Words of the Month

We had been talking about getting our cats "fixed" at the vet. My 10 year old daughter Mindi turned to me and asked, "Now that you've had surgery, do you consider yourself neutered?" I though for a moment then replied, "No, I consider myself spayed."

May you never find occasion to say, "If only....."

The Subversive #17

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