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Number 21

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"Where dreams are the stuff reality is made of"

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Explorations

by , Editor

Well, gosh, folks, this is going to be a really thin issue of The Subversive. I INTENDED to write an editorial called "The LINE King" about Disney's blatant sexism. I was going to describe how Disney has always been sexist, creating a line between male and female, but in this latest animated feature they cross the line.

I WANTED to tell you all about Cinderella having to rely on magic, Sleeping Beauty having to wait for her prince to come, Minnie and Daisy always playing second fiddle. Then I was going to describe how The Little Mermaid had to have cosmagic surgery, say nothing, and try to get a prince to kiss her. Beauty sat on a pedestal providing moral guidance to the earthly Beast, Jasmine relies on her "prince" to spirit her off to a whole new world, and then we get "The Lion King".

I WAS going to talk about how this latest flick was the greatest offender of all, because the sexist issues are so taken for granted you hardly even notice that the mother has no relationship with her son, the female playmate just follows along wherever the male cub goes, and WORST of all, males have a divine right to rule. Gee, its truly AWFUL if the male happens to be a jerk, but us women still have to obey - no rebellion, no grumbling, just be supportive and silent. Of course, its MUCH better if a good male rules, but of course only a good MALE can overthrow a bad MALE.

Well, I WAS going to write a whole editorial on all this (I thought it would be great stuff!) but ya know somthin'... I ran out of time!!! What a stupid excuse! True, but stupid! You see, we released our story software six weeks ago and things are happening like a bat out of Disney studios! Copies are selling left and right. We get phone calls and Email and press. For example, CNN interviewed us and that is going to be aired on Showbiz Today in a couple of weeks. Wired magazine interviewed us and that is going to be in the September issue.

We just had our first class for our story development software users earlier today. I taught the four hour presentation (which we videotaped for later sale) and, you know, I was really good. I made them laugh, I taught them something, I opened their eyes to new ways to look at stories. Next week we go to Montana to give a workshop in the software and in September we present our work in Boston to M.I.T. After all these years of just trudging along suddenly things are going crazy!

So, you won't be getting that wonderful editorial this month. AND you won't be getting much else either. I just don't have time. And besides, after almost two years of The Subversive and three years of writing newsletters for the gender community, I'm starting to get a bit tired of the monthly grind. And also besides, I've kinda got this new life as a woman, ya see, and its very tempting to start living it.

However, I do have a commitment to finish out the next three issues after this, and I really do want to do that. Expect them to be thin, however, 'cause I just keep getting wrapped up in this new life stuff.

Speaking of that life, I will give you a few updates on things I've already mentioned. First of all, Mindi's (my daughter) physical condition. Good new y'all! It ain't Tourette! Both her CAT scan and EEG came out normal AND her condition is improving! Thank God!

It now looks like a minor fall from a tree that she had caused some damage to a few brain cells and left her disoriented and uncoordinated on the right side. Well, the disorientation is all gone now and she is back to her old self emotionally. The limping on the right side is almost gone and she can actually write legibly with her right hand again. At this rate, she might be just about back to normal by the start of school. But, I don't mind telling you how much all this messed with my emotions. I was really wrung out there for a while, crying four or five times a day, alone where no one would hear me so they wouldn't feel worse than they already did. But that's all behind us now, or nearly so, and I think we can pretty much lay this one to rest.

Next, some big news in the personal realm. I've decided that when I get my next royalty check from the software in October (the first check was a whopper!) I'm going to get an apartment of my own. I'll be dividing my time between my family and my new home to whatever degree feels right.

Its been a tough decision since Mary (my S.O.) and I have been together over 18 years and she stuck with me all the way through transition, surgery and a new lifestyle afterward (including my rather prolific experiences with several boyfriends). But ya know, I've come to realize that I've never really had a passionate love for Mary. I've always loved her as someone who was loyal and gave me incredible freedom in life, but there's hardly ever been moments of that wonderful spark when you feel like the luckiest person on earth just to be near someone special. I've had that A LOT with my boyfriends, but hardly ever with Mary. Not her fault, mind you, just that the best thing we had going was trust and consistency and somehow that isn't enough for me anymore.

So, I'm disentangling myself from this family very slowly. If you'll pardon the analogy, its kind of like trying to remove a brain tumor. If you just yank it out, half the brain goes with it. But if you carefully excise one tendril after another, you can remove the growth without damaging the tissue around it. I'll keep everyone up to date on this as things progress. I don't know where it will end up, but the direction its headed feels good so far.

Well, that's about it for now. I've managed to complete transcribing the next month of my transition diary which I'm also including in this issue. At the end of the three issues after this one, the very last month of my diary ends with my journey home after surgery. That's when I end The Subversive, a complete story in 24 parts (24 scenes) three acts (the three part trilogy of the diary) an Objective storyline (my editorials and comments) a Subjective storyline (the diary itself) all creating what our Story Theory would see as a fully developed argument.

In the Story Theory, every story ends when the Main Character makes a leap of faith deciding either to remain steadfast and hold onto their resolve (like Job) or to change their nature (like Scrooge) in the hope of making things come out right. That leap of faith for me will be moving into my apartment in October - living alone for the first time in my life. The outcome is rated by Objective Success or Failure and the Subjective appraisal of Good or Bad. Sometimes Success leads to unhappiness and hence is Bad. Sometimes Failure leads to growth and is therefor Good. But isn't it great when it ends in Success and Good - a true fairy tale happy ending.

When I didn't know how the theory and software would be accepted, Success or Failure was up in the air. But now, the Objective story has clearly ended in Success. Still the Subjective outcome remains to be seen. Will it be Good or will it be Bad? I imagine by the time the last issue of The Subversive goes to "press" we'll all know. This story is still being written, we'll just have to wait to see how it comes out.

And now for the next installment in a serialized presentation of the book:

Raised By Wolves

Book Three: Across The Great Divide

From Journeys & Transitions by Melanie

October 2, 1991

The century mark: One hundred days until surgery and counting....

October 7, 1991

Ninety-four days until surgery and counting.... Today we received the affidavit in the mail that our lawyer prepared that will allow me to have surgery without the need for divorce. The one-page document simply states that Mary is aware of the nature and implications of the surgery and has no objections. Before she signed, she asked me only one question: "Are you sure?" I reaffirmed that I was sure of this as I have ever been of anything. During her lunch break, Mary and I went down to the local Notary. where she signed the paper in his presence and had it duly notarized.

So, the final legal obstacle to surgery has been overcome.

October 11, 1991

Ninety days until surgery and counting....

Last Wednesday, we had to attend a meeting regarding Mindi that was called by the guidance counselor. Mindi is a bright girl, so when she finishes her work early, she strikes up conversations with the other kids to keep from getting bored. Unfortunately, her teacher found this disrupting and confronted her about it several times. Eventually, Mindi felt put upon, and (being bright) used my upcoming SRS as an excuse.

Next thing we knew the principal had called a special meeting for us to attend. The principal was there, the teacher, the guidance counselor, a special education representative and the district psychologist. This had always been our greatest fear: that somebody would get a bee up their bonnet and we might end up losing custody of our daughter.

They were all very cordial, but very stern. They asked questions of each of us and of Mindi. They talked amongst themselves. Finally, they admitted that they couldn't find any indication of any problem (with the implied threat that if they had, they would have taken some sort of action.) However, they told us that with a situation like this there MUST be some psychological damage going on. "But", we protested, "there are no problems that any of us can see..." "Yes", they said, "but there must be some that we can't see - that Mindi won't talk about to you. Therefore, we want her to see the psychologist for counseling and the two of you as well."

At this point, the teacher who had started this whole proceeding to begin with recanted, declaring that if she had met Mary and me first (you see, she hadn't even met us when she called the meeting) she would never have brought the issue forward. However, the group decided that since she had brought it forward, and now that they were all assembled, they must act to protect Mindi's interests and so we "should" attend the counseling sessions (or they would take their aforementioned "implied" action!)

So I told them, "You're saying that you want to take this wonderful girl who is my 'little sunshine' who doesn't have any problems or symptoms that any of us can see and start digging around in her mind because there must be something there? In your zeal to protect her, you're going to screw her up!" I told them that she was a sharp kid and that she would see the intent behind their questions and play their game, giving them the answers they are looking for.

However, we agreed to meet the psychologist (who was present at the meeting) at a future date to be determined in order to avoid them taking further action.

*****************************

This evening was Keith's back to school night. One of his classes is woodshop. I had gone to that school myself, and had taken woodshop when it was a boys only elective. Nowadays, of course, its co-ed. But still, it was a bit strange to sit in that room with all the other parents, realizing I was the only woman there with memories of having taken that class.

Another stop was at the boy's locker room. Somehow, it seemed a lot different than I remember it. In fact, I don't really remember much about it at all, which is not surprising, because what I do remember are mostly the emotions I felt, which were those of being uncomfortable, feeling out of place, different and inadequate.

October 12, 1991

All the pieces of myself have been reassembled in the original place they never were.

October 13, 1991

Eighty-eight days and counting....

October 17, 1991

I brought Mindi to work today because it was a "teacher training day" at school. I had looked forward to this for a couple of weeks, since I knew it was coming up. I planned on introducing my daughter to the other employees, having lunch with her, showing her what I did there - in short, having a special time just sharing the day together.

However, no sooner had I arrived at work, but I began to get negative vibrations from Chris (my writing partner and VP of the company) that he was not pleased she was there. Oh, there was nothing overt: Chris was his usual pleasant self, but there was something.

So, I set up Mindi in the conference room with a video tape of her favorite movies, and she only came out twice all morning to tell me something. Now, normally, I go to lunch most days with Chris. So, around noon I asked him if that would be the plan, hoping that he would join Mindi and myself for some friendly time together. Not only did he decline because of backlogged business duties, but he said that it would probably be best if I took the rest of the day off.

I had my heart set on being there with Mindi, and it was all snuffed out, just like that. It struck me like a brick. Not only were all my plans dashed, but it seemed like a personal affront to my integrity at having brought her there in the first place. I'm sure he was being nice and practical, as men are, but for heaven's sake, he didn't show any sensitivity at all.

I took Mindi and went home. But first, we stopped at the mall and did some shopping together. We picked out a few things, had lunch together there and went home.

I couldn't stop thinking about being sent home. It really disturbed me, no, it HURT me deeply and I didn't know why. Then, it occurred to me that I had allowed myself to feel protected by Chris. I had assumed he would look out for what would shield me from hurt, and instead he had done something to hurt me. I'm sure it was quite unintentional, but I still felt like I had been betrayed.

You know, there's no word in the male language for "to feel protected". You can BE protected, you can PROTECT someone, but there is no single word meaning "to feel protected". That's because it is a feeling women have and men don't consider. So, there was no way he could intuitively understand the harm he had done me.

Still, that did not alleviate the pain. I began to cry because his protection had been withdrawn. At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to have my phantom husband put his arms around me and tell me everything was all right, and that he would always be there for me. I really needed someone I could believe in to protect me from the big, bad world out there.

I got over the tears, and Keith came home. I had brought home an extra cookie from the mall that I was going to have, but I gave it to him. To him, I know it was just a cookie, but to me, it was a symbol of my love for him. It was something I really wanted for myself to feel better, which made the act of giving it, the symbol of my love. I began to think that maybe that is the strength of being a woman: to be able to illustrate the love she has. That kind of devotion is something men need to be able to count on, so they can take care of battling back the world for us.

I thought to myself, "Okay, Keith, you're out there, struggling to make it in school, to choose a future, to make something of yourself. Here's a little something to show someone cares." I did this because I remembered a time when I was still living with my parents and we only had a couple of dollars left to our name. I was working the night shift and every evening, my mother would make a lunch for me to take. One night I opened the bag to find several slices of deli roast beef wrapped up in foil. She had spent our last money as a family to buy me a treat, without saying anything about it. She left a little note in the bag saying she had just wanted to do something special for me.

Every time I think about that, I cry. That she would take the last that she had and spend it on me. Now that my mother is gone, I think about my aunt who is in a rest home with Alzheimer's. She doesn't remember any of us. She doesn't even remember who she is or how to eat. So we've left her there without visitors for months. Finally, we visited her several weeks ago. She was like a baby: she reached for our touch, she held our hands, she smiled when we spoke kindly to her. And even though the mind is no longer present, the emotions are just as strong as ever, and we leave her there.

My grandfather was like that. My grandmother was like that. My mother took care of them at home, alone in this island of misery with no one to console her.

With all of these feelings inside me, I decided to sit down at the computer and write a letter to my post-op friend, Lauren. Our feelings are so close and about the same things. And I sat down, and the words just came forth: the culmination of all I have felt: the most concise and beautiful and glowing terms - everything I had within me. It came together all at once. Straight from the heart. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever written. Each new word I put on paper, each phrase, pulled me ahead as if it had a life of its own.

At the high point, when I could see then ending of all this, the completion that summed up all that was me, Mary called on the phone, interrupted the connection to the computer line, and all the data was lost.

I got really upset. And the kids had been very happy. I had given Keith the cookie and spent the day with Mindi. While Keith spoke on the phone to Mary, I began swearing in the other room. I know she could hear me. I'm sure it spoiled the rest of her afternoon and that she is having a rotten time right now. Keith went into his room, dejected. I kept yelling every time he made the slightest noise, as I struggled at the computer to recreate those beautiful words. He tried so hard to move quietly, but I jumped on every sound he made and told him to get the hell away from me. And Mindi came to me with joy over some little thing she had seen on the television. I ripped her up emotionally because of the way I felt.

And so, in the face of my growing understanding that the best thing a woman can do is give love, I've given hate. I've given misery to those around me. And this was not for something they had done, but just because of something that happened when they were around: about the worst reason a woman can have for being upset with someone else.

Every day in my countdown, there are a couple of moments when I think about what happened in my life that I could have prevented and what didn't happen that might have been. And then I think about my family and Mary's devotion to me - much more than my devotion to her. She's stayed faithfully by my side through all of this, even when I had relationships with others. And even now, I don't wear my wedding ring any longer, just so I will get hit on by the guys. I chide myself raw for not having the strength of soul to "bear what cross I have been handed", as my step-father put it, to accept a miserable situation and stay with it to the end.

I solve my own inequities by spreading them amongst those around me. This is a very bad thing I do. I look to others for the strength I need to carry on. And people call me "centered"! I look to Chris for stability of situation, I look to Mary for stability of condition, I look to my children for devotion and love, I look outside the family for physical intimacy, and I sit selfishly in the center, allowing others to bear my burden, providing emotionally for me.

October 18, 1991

Last night, I was still in tears and I went to bed feeling very, very sad. I felt guilty for all I had not done for other people; I felt guilty for what I was doing TO other people: helping myself at their expense. I lay in bed, trying so hard not to cry with Mary there next to me. I screwed up my eyes and pulled my lips tight in an attempt to hold it all in without sound so she wouldn't be aware, hoping all the time she would be.

Finally, she realized what I was doing and asked me why I was crying. I pulled myself together and told her that I had always lived in a fantasy world. Now I am faced with reality. I'm faced with changing something that is immutable. Once I chipped a tooth as a small child, and even at that age I conscious came to the conclusion that I was then imperfect for the rest of my life. Something had happened that could not be fixed. When I had my tonsils out, I felt like even more potential for "purity" had been lost. After a car accident that I was nearly killed in, the relatively minor scars on my fingers still made me feel like I had lost something that could never be recovered.

For me, perfection has always been important. Nothing is worthwhile unless it is complete. I've learned that I can only create that perfection in my fantasy world, where I can fashion anything I want. This was a place I could retreat to get that flawless moment. My mother used to tell me that your memories could never be taken away from you. Now I understand that she looked at things the same way I do. The reason she tried so hard in life was to create as many real perfect moments as she could to add to the collection in her memory.

I imagine that is how many women mess up their lives. When they find they cannot manipulate their environment enough to create positive moments of perfection they discover it is much easier to create perfect negative one. Even in their misery they end up with pearls to hold onto.

Women hold within themselves the nightmare and the dream.

October 21, 1991

Eighty days and counting.

October 26, 1991 1:23 AM

Day seventy-five and counting. Tonight was Chris' Halloween party, and it was incredible. I came dressed as a sexy witch, all in red. I wore a red teddy, braless, with fishnet stockings, red heels and a pointy hat. At one point I sat down next to the programmer who is working on the story software we are developing. He turned to me and said in a very serious voice, "You know, its really scary...." I said, "What's scary?" "Your costume," he replied. I knew my costume was interesting, but I hadn't thought of it as particularly frightening, so I asked him, "What's scary about it?" "It looks good, " he said, "and THAT'S scary!"

October 28, 1991

Seventy-three days and counting. Chris related something to me today that he had heard at the Halloween party. Chris' brother, Richard, was at the party along with one of his friends. Richard's friend had heard about my transition, and at one point Richard asked him if he had seen me yet. His friend replied that he had not. Richard pointed me out and said, "That's Melanie in the red outfit." His friend's jaw dropped and he said, "No way!!" When Richard assured him it was me, his friend said, "That can't be Melanie! I happened to catch her eye a few minutes ago and her eyes said 'woman'." I thought that was kinda neat.

Also today, I called Doctor Biber's office, just to make sure everything was in order. They re-assured me that things were all set. The only remaining item they needed was my psych evaluation which I am getting from Dr. Jayne this Friday. So, all I need now is the money.

I find myself thinking, "Wow, they let people like ME do this? This is so simple! Full-time? I do that every day! Hormone therapy? No big deal, I've been doing that for over two years now. Life has really changed here....

(The Transition Diary series will continue in the next edition of The Subversive)

I urge you all to keep a diary of YOUR personal journey, whether it be through transition or not. The attitudes and even the order of events becomes cloudy through time, and I am continually amazed to re-read things that memory would have me believe had happened differently. If nothing else, it is a good way to see long-term patterns in yourself that you cannot see except in retrospect. That objective view alone is worth the inconvenience of keeping a journal.

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

The Subversive #21

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