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Letters To and From the Editor

A reply I wrote to an email friend who had discussed her early days of becoming aware she was not like the other little boys.

I've read your letter with interest and empathy. I've been there too, at least for most of it. You know, growing up transsexual is just being someone with potential who can't apply it. You're a girl inside but with nowhere to expend that energy. You don't have the other kind of energy, can't fathom why the "other" boys act like they do (what could possibly drive them to do THAT?) so you just coast through life, unused potential. Then puberty hits. Suddenly your emotions are killed. Feelings that were part of you are made dead and inaccessible. Your soul dries up. You wander like a zombie through your own live, pulling on locked doors asking "is this the way out?" but no one hears. You try everything three times, and when they all still fail, you look inside and say "maybe the answer in in there". So, you dig away all the scar tissue, ripping your heart apart in a deconstruction more painful that you would have believed you could endure. And finally, you get to your heart of hearts. You see what makes you You.

Its a frightening Truth. There's no escape, no way out of the dilemma, nothing to undo what is. You simply have to adapt. So you cut off whole chunks of yourself and scatter the ashes. You wait for young, new growth to appear above the surface. A whole new personality begins to emerge from the rich soil of the previous "you" laid waste. You guard it, but it is still trampled on. You nurture it, but winds still blow. Yet the desire to bloom will not be stopped and one day, in spite of the beasts and the blizzards, you open up to the world, a new you, a beautiful soul, strong without scars, caring without sacrifice. You've changed so the world is different. Nothing looks or feels the same. But you aren't there yet, you've just begun, and every day brings more richness to your emotional self: more non-verbal language with which to speak with your heart. We won't grow old, we'll grow deeper in hue. And when our season is done, like dried flowers, we will continue to bloom: liked dried flowers, fragile and delicate, but with a radiance that can only be borne through experience.

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Another reply to one of my email friends who was worried about the issue of disclosure.

You bring up some important and personal issues regarding disclosure. Its something I have given A LOT of thought to, especially recently. Here's what I think: There is no right or wrong answer that applies to everyone in this case. It really depends on your situation and your outlook. Meaning, that even the same person may have different responses in different situations, or as they grow and develop in different ways.

I can tell you how I feel about it for myself at this time in this place. If I were not still with my family, I would NEVER bring it up. Still, I would confirm it if confronted. To me, that is absolute honesty. If it was no longer part of my life, I could simply not talk about it. What then about referring to my past "when I was a little girl" and the like? Well, to me, there are two parts to the past - the physical part and the mental part. If I was talking, I would be thinking of my "self" not my body, and therefore, would feel quite honest saying "when I was a little girl". Sure, I cold always avoid the issue by saying "when I was little", but that's exactly what it would be - avoiding the issue. Now, what if I wanted to talk about being in Boy Scouts or some other male-only situation? Well, if I TRULY left the past behind, I wouldn't WANT to talk about it, so no problem.

The difficulty is, that none of us ever really want to leave EVERYTHING behind, forget our past COMPLETELY like an amnesiac. And every time something from the past comes up that doesn't fit in to the new life, you disclose.

So, what to do? Well, you know from your psych classes that first impressions really DO carry a lot of weight. In fact, they are hard to change. Which means that when you are living completely as a woman without any trappings of a male life CURRENTLY in your situation, then people who meet you as a woman, will have a heck of a hard time imagining you as anything else. The only danger would be if they found out and then YOU perpetuated their thoughts about your old life by sharing and sharing and SHARING, until the impact of that familiarity outweighed their first impressions. Then, you would always be a transsexual to them.

You see, you can't look at it from YOUR perspective to understand how they feel. Turn it around and imagine how you would feel if some woman you have known for a while turned out to be post-op. Imagine that. Unless she talked about it all the time, wouldn't you have a hard time thinking of her as anything but a woman?

Well, that's all well and good for people who can deal with it, but what of those who can't? In that case you are going to lose friends or a job or a grant or something because they can't come to terms with even knowing about your past. And therein lies the temptation to lie. I tried lying once. I denied my kids were mine, said they were Mary's and that I was just her roommate. I felt like crud for days until I came clean with the person. I just couldn't deal with it: it was a slimy, nervous, hiding feeling that I didn't like at all.

So, I don't do that anymore. But, for me, its a bigger problem than for many. I still live with my wife of 18 years. I have two children. I've kept the same friends, so they all know. Most if not all of the people at work have been told by co-workers. So, If I meet a guy or a business associate, there is no way for me to tell if they know or not. In that kind of situation, all I can do is be myself, count on first impressions, not volunteer the information but confirm it if asked.

In your situation, your whole career might hinge on secrecy. The thing to do is Consciously weigh both sides of the issue. How do you feel about hiding it? How do you feel about lying about it? How would you feel if you lost your position over it? Weigh all the options, not of what makes the most sense, but of how you FEEL. Then you can make the decision that, no matter how it comes out, you will be most able to live with.

I hope some of this is useful to you. Let me know how you decide. Love,
Melanie

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Subj: Your Video & What I Learned
From: gee@regentdb.osrhe.edu
To: Melanie XX

Melanie,

I have been remiss in writing, dear heart. My deepest apologies. I have been practicing my feminine voice technique diligently in the weeks since your tape arrived. I have made tape recordings on a hand held micro cassette recorder, and have spent hours talking to myself, and to the radio, in my car.

I will tell you about my first experience out with my new voice. First, however, I want to tell you how much I enjoyed your diary from January 1990. I had thought of you as a film and television professional. I did not know that your were a writer, too. I am a writer. My work appears only in legal briefs, or law reports. I wrote the briefs over more than thirty years, during which I was in the private law practice. In 1991 I decided that I did not want to do that any more, so, after a sabbatical, I went to work for the Oklahoma Appellate Courts where I have written opinions for various judges over the past three years. I have written much else, of course: history, commentary criticism. Except for a few things published in the paper, I have not submitted anything for publication.

When I started trying to put the good advice you gave in your video into practice, I decided to use a tape recorder. As an exercise I read Linda Loman's lines, from the _Requiem_ scene, at Willy Loman's grave, following Willy's suicide, that end Miller's _Death of a Salesman_. ("Forgive me dear. I can't cry. . . . I keep expecting you Willy, dear, I can't cry. . . . I made the last payment on the house today, dear. And there'll be nobody home. . . We're free and clear . . . [Sobbing.] We're free. We're free . . . We're free . . .") I decided to try it because Linda would have been about my age, and her lines are as feminine as any I know in literature. Well, it was pretty amazing -- and moving. The reason it was moving was mostly Arthur Miller's words, of course, but this old girl did her part.

My support group met last Wednesday night. I used the techniques I had learned from you, and they worked gratifyingly well. I was surprised at how easy it has become to sound feminine. Part of what you said in your video brought back memories of the _mezza voce_ technique that I learned in my vocal music days in high school and college. Although I have far to go, the development of my feminine vocal presentation thrills me. I would never have had the courage to try it, had it not been for the inspiration I got from watching your wonderful video.

I have extolled the virtues of _Melanie Speaks_ far and wide. Whether I have succeeded in convincing others to buy your video I can't say, but I have certainly tried to do so. You are a sweet lady, and you do good work.

Hugs,

Gee

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