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"Where dreams are the stuff reality is made of"
I'm back! I suppose I was never gone, really. Just a leave of absence, you might say. Or, perhaps a leave of abstinence. Whatever.
When I started the America Online Gender Group (which was later renamed the Transgender Community Forum) in July of 1991, I had just come from Prodigy, where I had struggled to publish an online gender newspaper called, "The Subversive". Prodigy was such a crusty old system, that the logistics confounded me, and I was forced to flee to greener pastures.
That's when I came to AOL. I had been a member of AOL back when it was Q-link and we connected at 300 baud. Even then, there had been a small, clandestine gender community, so it was my expectation that I would find it thriving in this expanded incarnation. Imagine my surprise when I scoured the boards and found virtually NOTHING for gender folk! This was all the more amazing, since there was a highly visible, active, gay/lesbian area. HUGE, it was! And yet, no gender people.
Well, I set about to change that. I decided to set up a private room as a meeting place, and posted notices all over the system (in appropriate areas) inviting all interested parties to attend. In the first meeting, we had four people, including myself. It didn't stay that way, however. Within a couple of months, we had a dozen, and before the end of the first year, we were regularly maxing out the room at 23!
It was about that time that we came to the attention of the Gay and Lesbian Community Forum, who made a gracious offer for us to move into their conference room facilities, which would more than double the number of people who could attend a meeting. Good for them (and their online political clout) and good for us!
So, we moved right in. I hosted the meetings there for about 2 years. During that time, our online membership grew to over 500! For extra services, I petitioned for and obtained our own Gender Issues folder, where, for the first time on AOL, our whole community could upload and download files and GIFs, even it they did not attend the meetings. What a wonderful thing, I felt, that those who were still terrified of discovery (as I recall in my own memories, even to this day) could explore their inner selves without fear.
Well, during this time, I was going through my own transition, and on January 9th, 1992, I had what is now coming to be called, "gender confirmation surgery".
To get a feeling for that time, you must realize that even today, I am still living with my wife of 20 years and our two children, my son, age 15, and my daughter, age 11. And I'm living in the very house I grew up in, which I inherited in 1989. AND, since before surgery, I was and still am working at a company started by two friends I have known for 15 years! Obviously, it was very hard to pretend I had been born female and put the past behind me.
Hosting the weekly gender meetings got to be a grind. It was just one more reminder of my false male side that kept getting thrown up in my face. The pressure grew unbearable. What did I go through all this for, if I was to feel as if nothing had changed?
You see, after a time, you get used to anything. I became used to being female. I no longer thought about the gestures, the voice, the facial expressions... it was all on autopilot: just another part of me. I felt "just like me".
How was I to know that things were better, if not by looking at myself? Only by looking at my environment to see what things had improved, what pleasures I could partake in that were forbidden to me before.
So, I started having affairs. I made love to men and women and flirted with old friends. I'd spend my weekends for months at a time in the arms of someone else, only to return "home" on Monday and go off to work, all with people who knew my past. What a warped way to live! And the worst part was hiding my past from my lovers! "Let me introduce my roommate, and her two kids..."
Well, to be fair, I always told my lovers my background BEFORE we went all the way, but we got pretty far sometimes before I let them in on my little secret.
But I didn't WANT to have a secret! But I didn't want to leave my loyal family either! Bummer of a dilemma... That's when I decided to leave the America Online Gender Group in other capable hands, and retreat to my odd little life for some solice.
Now, that didn't resolve my problems of having a secret, but it did take the pressure off. I could lie to myself when with a lover that we were just two young love birds building a nest. And I could tell a different lie when with my family, and imagine I was still "daddy" and "husband" and master of the house! Talk about paranoid schizophrenia!!! But, it worked. For a while.
I was still publishing "The Subversive" at the time, even after leaving the hosting position and resigning as head of the AOLGG. I felt I had an obligation to finish that massive work, since I was serializing my transition diary and didn't want to leave my readers hanging.
If it didn't make a difference to the readers, I would have dumped the project cold. But I got letters, you see. HUNDREDS of letters!!! Poor, desperate souls would pour out their feelings, telling me they had never understood themselves so much as when reading my diary. They explained how they had denied their inner selves and lived in misery until my words gave them the courage to grow into their true being. I even had one letter from someone who told me they had been reading "The Subversive" with a loaded 9mm pistol next to them, gathering the courage to end it all when they came to a part of my diary that drove them to tears. Uncontrollably sobbing, they realized that they were not alone, put away the gun, and by the time they wrote the letter, they were several weeks into therapy on the road to transition.
How can you walk away from something like that!!!
Of course, it took its toll on me... "Melanie: Goddess!!!!"
But that passed. It wasn't easy to get by it though, especially when everyone you talk to is saying you are the greatest thing since sliced off genitalia! Still, after a while you either become completely grandiose, go mad, or simply realize that "fans" aren't really loving YOU, they are loving THEMSELVES the way they see themselves REFLECTED in you.
Yeah, that's what I am... a mirror! Some mirrors are the fun house variety that make us looks like odd monsters. Others are truthful mirrors that reflect an exacting image. And then there are mirrors such as myself, that manage to take the most embarrassing and shameful parts of ourselves and send them back as qualities worthy of sainthood.
Its a strange perversion that exists between you and me. We are both parties to it. And yet, that is no different than with any author. And in defense of the process, we must realize that the purpose of the "self-improving mirror" to improve self. When we can shake ourselves out of depression, we just might find the courage to REALLY make things as bright as we have seen they could be.
That is what stories like "A Christmas Carol" are all about; not to condemn but to offer hope. Hope... what a wonderful word. Where hope exists, anything is possible. It may not happen, mind you, but it IS possible. And that alone is enough to drag us out of bed one more day and propell us back into the fray.
Which brings us back to me coming back. I've had a few months off from the battle. A little R&R behind the lines. Nice place: behind the lines... But, I've grown tired of all that. I yearn for the smell of smoke as the hearts and minds of bigots are seared to a crisp. I long for the "Cause" to promote, singing picket-line songs as we lay siege to the very foundations of cultural bias.
So, I'm back. What I WON'T be doing is hosting any more meetings, or cranking out a monthly edition of a newsletter. But I'm not going to lose myself in that heartless, cloistered society anymore, either.
Every once in a while, I'll share my journey with you: ongoing diary entries, editorials, thoughts, information and events. I'll post it up here on my web site and let it go where it will. And I'm not being entirely altruistic. I get just as much out of this as you do. For me, I can freely express all the inequities and triumphs that spin my head around to a group of people who are the only kindred souls on the planet who can truly understand what I"ve been through. And for you, I hope to be a good mirror.
So, with that behind us, let's replay my two week trip toColorado for surgery, and then continue into territory unknown....
From Journeys & Transitions by
Monday, January 6th, 1992 - 9:15pm
So, here I am, sitting on the train, shooting into the dark at 90 miles an hour.
Chris and I arrived at the station at 7:30, fully an hour before the train was scheduled to leave. I had not stopped for dinner, so we berthed at the Union Station Cafe. After the brief but satisgying repast, we joined the queue assembled before Gate "E".
I had intentionally worn comfortable and non-suggestive clothing so as to avoid male attentions on the trip up. It didn't seem to be working. Of course the lack of any real competition surely had its effect, as I have discovered that male interest is a sliding scale, based upon what's available.
Finally, the gate opened and Chris, followed by myself, trudged along with the other intrepid travellers and made our way down the endless tunnel leading from the Grand arches of Untion Station to the boarding platform.
Our train was waiting: the Southwest Chief - a slick, streamlined, snake harkening back to the wooley days of yesteryear by its antiquated name. I had never been on a train before, so this trip whose destination will thrust me into unexplored territory began with an untried experience as well.
The connotative images of trains famous and renouned layered over the more moderate denotative function of this modern relative. Orient Express, Trans Siberian Railway, Von Ryan's Express: the lore of the breat Iron Horse reared up in majestic posturing, sharing with me a taste of the sweet savor of diesel fuel I had always wondered at from afar. Railroad buffs don't cherish their steeds from wathing them run, but from riding on their graceful, het muscular backs.
Suddenly a thought struck me: This train was a "loc" "emotive" for me - a process toward a place that had as much meaning in the journey as the destination. Just as the very nature of this simple Amtrack vehicle was stepped in spill-over from others of its ilk, so too would I soon become an icon of every loving mother and jaded hooker who ever touched on man.
So, in the darkness, here I sit - images of engines driving hard upon my mind. A tiny light in front pin-pricks at the great black beast until it has run its season and retires, spent, in favor of the day.
Tuesday, January 7th, 1992 - 10:00 am
The night was passed in spurts of sleep; interrupted alternately by turbulance of passage and vivid waking dreams. Often I would be jolted councious to an eerie perception of shifting shadows and slumbering shapes. Each glimpse melded into my semi-sentient musings, incorporating train stuff in the fabric of my wistful weavings.
The soft pulsing of the engine spoke of gentle sensual thrusts. The rocking of the carriage moved me in its slow embrace. My mind turned to thoughts of actually being a woman, joining with a man. The hesitations of a life being told implicitly that such was wrong, replaced with theurgings of society now to partake in full. Suddenly, the outside world turned topsey turvey - wrong is right and up is down. All the forbidden fruit is offered on the "blue plate special".
My very being was staggered by the sudden decompression. Tentatively at first, I loosened my grip on the "givenes" I had neever dared to question. The waters were warm and inviting. For just a moment a fingerhold on one world and a toe hold in the other. And then, the leap of faith: I let go.
Suddenly I was plunged beneath the surface, turned 'round in the soft power of a swirling vortex until I lost all sense of the surface. I held my breath until my lungs burst, spewing out the last remains of an old atmosphere and taking in the first gasping gulp of a new.
I knew wwhat it is to be female - to be a woman, both in relationships and interrelationships. My whole perspective shifted, and that definitive change in self-image I had anticipated for so long began to occur.
Tuesday, January 7, 1992 - 4:25 pm
All day I have hovered between waking and sleeping. At times I am quite alert, racing forward to grab a snack or taking a quick constitutional in the frozen air of Albequerque - the only major stop of the journey. Other times I drift away, nesteld deep in my seat, hypnotized by the passing scenery and endless swaying of the train.
My emotions gently shift and slend as I review my whole life in connotative order, then expand the ripiple to include the future. No decisions sought here - its past that time. The point is familiarity with my own feelings so that every thing has been properly labelled and tacked in its place.
We just pulled into Las Vegas, New Mexico - a small town on the route, and our last stop before Colorado. Snow has drifted and disappeared from the ground all day as we traversed many altitudes an ranges. Currently, the skies are clear, more clear in fact than any time so far in our journey.
When we arrive in Trinidad three hourse hence, it will be dark. There will be no feelings attached to this town until tomorrow morning.
We have begun to move again, slowly picking up speed on the way to my destiny, for truly it is that. And destinies can be good or bad. Only time will tell if all this effort leaves me joyous or regretful. And no time can tell if it is a better decision than others I chose not to make.
We've picked up steam and are slicing ever quicker through the high prarie, even quicker in the waning sun to the seat of my future.
Tuesday, January 7th, 1992 - 6:00 pm
My brain is signalling "601... 601: which is the computer code for "out of processing space". The size of the change about to occur in my life is so big that my mind runs out of room before it can determine all the ramificaations. So, it gives up, dumps the program, clears memory and starts over again from a different point of attack. But, before a few minutes have passed, it has to give up on that approach as well. Its been like that all day, and its driving me crazy.
The actual desire to have surgery is not in question here, but rather what it will mean to my life. All my ponderings of the past few years have stopped short at that point. "The crystal ball grows cloudy", the fortune teller says, and draws the curtains on the show.
Its not that I can't see the future - not really. No, its that I cannot accept what I am seeing. l The sense rebel, as the glimpse afforded holds no meaning in all past experience.
Me, leaving Mary and living with a man? Me, truly a woman in mind and body? Me, mind changed so far in composition that my memories fail to identify the speaker as myself?
I am changed. I am a new person. The consciousness that was Dave is as dead as if he'd fallen from a plane. Only his motivation remains, but, godammit, those are changing too! The whole of me is mutating into some unknown alien form. The question no longer is what do I want, but who am I now? But its all too late to change. The only part of this thinking being that remains the same is the resolve to finish what it started.
Wednesday, January 8th, 1992 - 9:50 am
I just sat down in one of those overstuffed atrocious green vinyl waiting-room chairs that were all the rage in the 50s. Moments ago I concluded my appointment with Marie, Doctor Biber's secretary. As soon as Dr. Biber is available, I'll be called in for my examination. Until then, I have time to write.
Oops! Dr. Biber called me in so I had to stop there and continue now:
I awoke this morning before the wakeup call and lay beneath the covers emotionally neutral, trying to see how I felt. Before I could sense my mental lean, the phone rang with my 6:30 wake-up. I threw off the covers and literally jumped out of bed in the attempt to stir something up physically since my mind seemed impervious to gettin in gear. It worked. Just the simple action of getting the adrenaline running started the mental motor as well.
Before anything else I called Mary as I had not done so the night we arrived. I had misjudged the time difference and woke her at 5:45 am. Nonetheless, she was warm and cheerful. Having already decided to go through with the surgery, I asked Mary if she felt it was the right thing to do, hoping to have good feelings accompany my decision. She told me that I was happier, calmer and more together over the last couple of years, and if she wasn't happy she wouldn't be there. Just like my dad at his last visit, she told me, "Yes, its right for you." What a woman!
I spoke with both the kids who seem completely unaffected by the whole thing.
Next step was to take my shower and get dressed. Odd, but I just realized that I didn't even pay any attention to that space between my legs. I was so forward thinking as to what I needed to do today that I zipped through the shower almost unconsciously. Getting dressed was quick and carefree as I had laid out things last night before beed. I put on mymake-up, plased that I had done electrolysis last weekend, as even two days without shaving had shown no visible stubble.
Chris and I met at 8:00 for breakfast, then walked through the bbrisk morning air down Main Street to the First National Bank Building, home of Biber's office. The building itself was like most of Trinidad: Wild West frontier architecture dating back to the mid to late 1800s. We entered the ancient elevator on one side and got out on the other at the fourth floor.
I asked the receptionist for "Marie", Doctor Biber's secretary, and was directed 'round the corner to an office on the left. I walked into the open door, introduced myself and was asked to sit in the single straight-back chair in the corner. Chris was dierected to the waiting room.a
The office, like the building itself, smacks of its 1880s construction, apparent most in its small size and location at the end of a twisting convoluted hall. The furnishings must have been made in the fifties: the overstuffed green vinyl waiting room benches with silver steel tube arms - you know the kind.
Marie asked me to fill out several forms, checked the paperwork I had brought, and gave me some informative leaflettes. We shared pleasant conversation amidst the seroxed sheets and then I returned to the waiting room to await Doctor Biber's call to come into his office. As you have read, I was called in by Doctor Biber almost immediately.
Update! I am in my hospital room and the nurse just came in to warn me that she would be back in fifteen minutes to prep me for surgery, and that it was time to put on my gown. So I did that and now I'm writing this while wearing nothing but the delightful white gown with the blue polka dots, and my socks. As I understand it, prep consists of shaving all my pubic hair and painting me orange...
Well, back to my meeting with Biber... Nope! She's back! Time to get prepped... Yeah, team!!!
Gone again to get more supplies...
So, biber calls me in. His office is about the same size as Marie's, cluttered and small. He sits me down and starts asking questions and taking notes on a lank piece of typing paper in longhand.
I am now completely hairless from the neck down. I had a pleasant conversation with the nurse while she shaved my genitals. I even received a phone call from a friend during the procedure. And I thought I would be bored! But wait! The entertainment scheduled for this evening wasn't over yet! For the Second Movement: THE ENEMA!!! (Part One: "Let's get to the bottom of this." Part Two: "You look a little flushed.")
Okay, so I've had two phone calls from friends and I'm back to the tale.
So, Doctor Biber takes the notes. I show him some "before" pictures and he shuckles. I'm sent into the next room to strip for the physical exam. Incredibly, its even smaller than Biber's office! But it is a warm room (heated by the ancient radiator in the corner) and I get no goosebumps while standing there naked.
Biber enters and has mylay on the examing table. He pokes, prods, and stretches, then proclaims, "It's not the biggest in the West, but it will do." Anticipated depth four to five inches with another one to one and a half inches from stretching by dilation.
I'm left to dress, then sit again at Biber's desk while he outlines the schedule to come. He smiles, shakes my hand, and I'm off to pick up Chris from the waiting room. Chris and I walk back to the motel, arrange mythings, then start on a journey of discovery. We follow Main Street to a side street that leads up the hill past some truly wonderful old buildings att the way to the top of the hill.
What a marvelous view of the city, nestled across the picture postard valley - the white Rockies etching the horizon. Time is growing shorter, so we retreat from our perch and stroll the city until we find a small cafe and have lunch.
As we pay the cashier, I notice on the newstand a pulp magazine touting "A baby for James Bond sex change beauty!"
Back at the motel, I call the cab company, knowing full well that by my destination, theyknow exactly why I am here.
Mount San Rafael Hospital is a tasteful, modern building, designed to blend into its natural setting. Inside I step into the Admissions Office and meet Roberta Marie, the administrator who handles all of Biber's patients. She taks my checks, accepts two credit cards to be protected in the safe, and takes me down to the lab. There, I have blood taken and leave a urine sample. I enjoy an interchange with the lab nurse about the many renditions of butterflys she has gracing the room.
Back to Roberta Marie's where I feceive final information and am led to my room. I spend some time unpacking, then relax on the bed, watching TV (39 stations on cable!) and listening to the radio with my headset. Chris relaxes in an uncomfortable chir with the latest Stephen King novel he has been reading since Burbank.
Finally, I pull out my notebook and begin to write, which brings us to where this started.
It is now 9:57 pm. I'll be awakened in seven hours for surgery. The nurgse has just left after providing a sleeping pill, which was washed down with water - a small treat to my dry moth since I am not to eat or drink after 8 pm.
Well, this is it. Right or wrong, for better or sorse, forever from now on, the die is cast. I feel no fear nor anxiety. In fact, I feel nothing at all. Perhaps to avoid nervousness, my emotions have shut themselves down until after the fact.
What a strange feeling that after all the pain and yearning and drive I should be emotionally neutral on the eve of completion. But from here, it seems like such a small thing. A little tag of flesh that worlds revolve around.
My mind grows fuzzy already from the effects of the pill. I'll close for now. All is said, and soon all will be done.
Thursday, January 9th, 1992 - 4:44 am
The day I have waited all of my life for has arrived. I awoke at just past four after a solid night's sleep. Mused and pondered for a while with a smile on my face. Then took several minutes to engage in the "Obligatory Last Masterbation". That successfully completed, I decided to continue this log like a good little reporter. So, here I am, on the verge of the greatest change I ever expect to make.
So few things begin as a double dilemma - the first being between body and mind and the second between mind and mind. To resolve the negative potential, one must change both body AND mind. And so I have. I am no longer the person I was. Who I am has shifted and grown as I changed the state of my consciousness, even while maintaining my subconsciousness. What I am has been partially changed by hormones. My physical self is certainly not what it was.
But both of these are temporary, or at least changeable conditions. I could go back to the way I thought and I could go back to the physical self I was. That is about to change in a scant two hours. By the stroke of a knife, my body will be altered permanently. And by this certain knowledge, my subconcious is changed forever as well.
That is the nature of a leap of faith: to close off your optioins and burn your bridges behind you. To take a step from which there is no return. Throwing yourself into a future where the odds for success are fifty/fifty, and no guarantee seems more likely than another.
I cannot know the nature of the outcome. If I could, there would have been no dilemma in the first place. Just a problem to be resolved step by known step, where each advancement you make puts the next in sight. But dilemmas skip a step and you must leap into the fog on the assumption and hope that if there was something to stand on all the way here, there will be something to land on behind the mist.
So I take my leap this morning. It is 5:03 am. At any moment they will come for me, and I am ready, truly ready to go.
If there is a place to stand on in the mental sense, I'll be truly happy. if there's a place to stand on in the physical sense, I'll be alive. Either way, I am prepared. And either way, to my personal friends and relatives, and especially to my family, thank you all.
A final note:
Mary, Keith, and Mindi,
I love you all so very much. No one could ask for a more supportive and lovign family than you. This has not just been my struggle, but yours as well. And I am truly aware of how much my choices forced you to deal with. Words cannot express the love and respect I have for you all.
I hope with great eagerness and anticipation to see you soonh. But shold something untoward happen, be at peace that I lived my life as I wanted to, and entered the operating room more full of joy and completion than I have ever experienced before.
So, I close, fulfilled already. Already enjoying my new life even before surgery. So know that should something happen, I'm already there. I cannot be deprived because I'm already there.
I am happy, I am at peace, I love you all.
David, and Daddy, and Melanie
NOTE: The following is taken from my handwritten journal. The letters are slurred and scrawled in such disarray that if I hadn't written the text myself, I'd never have been able to decifer it later.
Its done! I'm back in my room and doing well. I awoke during the end of surgery, so by the time I got to recovery, I was already quite alert.
They checked me out for a while, then sent me back here. I'm still pretty groggy, so I'll take a quick nap for a while.
But the important thing is: I FEEL GREAT!!!
I've been a woman for about nine hours. Strangely, I don't feel much difference! I guess that shows how successful I had been in thinking of myself as a woman before surgery. The pain is not nearly as bad as I had been told to expect. The injection from surgery completely wore off two hours abo and I still don't need a pain killer. I suppose I should have one to help me sleep, but the overall is that it is only like a bad bruise. I'll fill in more details tomorrow, but today I am very tired and keep drifting in and out.
Friday, January 10th, 1992 - 11:12 am
My second day as a woman. I guess all I can say is that for the first time in my life I feel normal. No fireworks, no marching bands, just plain normal. I am balanced, the internal conflict is gone. I find that I see myself as a woman now, no longer transsexual or male.
Testosterone is just about out of my system now, and I am completely estrogen based. That DOES feel different.
Look at me! I'm just who I want to be! I've spent most of the time drifting in and out. Until now, I had not felt motivated to write. During the day, the pain has gotten significantly milder. Once or twice, however, I reached a little too far and quickly and flet the mule kick me right between the legs. Fortunately, the nurses were all set with painkiller injections: the gift of the gods.
As I lay here, the reality of it all is slowly solidifying in my mind.
Monday, January 13, 1992 - 7:25 am
Finally my strength is back. This is the first day I have really felt up to snuff since surgery. Saturday and Sunday were pretty much write offs (no pun intended) Even though my pain receded slowly but continously, I had fogotten that the bowels shut down after surgery for up to four days. The overall effect was for one kind of discomfort to segue into another. This left me getting motivated to become more mobile only to find myself unable to move. Just rolling over on my side to get a pain killer shot was a major exertion requiring an hour of recouperation. I had no idea at the time just how weak I was.
The entire staff here has been amazing. In all my experiences with hospitals during the years preceding my grand parents deaths, I have never encountered such kind and caring people. The lady in charge of the kitchen came by in between meals to see if...
The last entry was interupted by the most emotionally postive experiences of my life: The "Biber Button" was removed. named for its resemblance to a navel, the Biber Button is a round wad of brown surgical gauze that is positioned two thirds of the way from the navel to the vagina as an anchor to a wire that pulls the abdomen down into a more female curve.
Through the last few days, my tentative gropings were always interrupted by the protrusion of the button, feeling much like a dried penis stub. So the thrill I had of seeing mynew form was incomplete. But just moments ago, the nurse informed me that today was "wire day" and bent over me to snip the last link to my male past.
A tiny little snip, then, "take a deep breath," a sudden tug, the sensation of something being pulled out of my insides - over almost before it was felt. I looked down and my physical womanhood finally lay before me. My God! All these years and all this way. The hyears of dreaming, hoping, hurting, all behind me now. Realithy has shifted; the past is the dream. The future is territory unknown.
Somtime in the a.m.
I called in some voice mail to be played at the company meeting later in the day. I said,
"Hi all! You've heard of Postcards From the Edge? Well this is a postcard from OVER the edge. Of course, the question of the hour is: Was the surgery a success? YES!!!! It looks like I was born this way. Biber is a miracle worker. (Only my hairdresser knows for sure!)
"Actually, it was a pretty heavy surgery. It takes a lot out of you (so to speak). However, I'm bouncing back fast and can hardly wait to get back and show everybody my scar.
"Seriously though, I want to thank everyone for their support. When I was looking forward to this it was just one step at a time. But now that I look backward, I realize the magnitude of what I've accomplished and wonder how I did it. In truth, you can't do it by yourself. You need the support of those around you.
"Thank you all for your acceptance and friendship, and I'm looking forward to seeing you all back at work next week."
My roomate just ordered a pizza. I realize I have not yet even mentioned my roomate. Looking quickly back over my journal here I realize how fragmented it is, due to my post-surgical fatigue, which rears up once again as I write these words. So, tomorrow I shall fill in what gaps I can during my last day in bed before taking my first step as a woman.
Tuesday, January 14, 1992 - 3:07 pm
I just met Cathy, a sister transsexual who is scheduled for surgery tomorrow morning. She's younger, prettier, gentler, and sounds better than me, dammit! What a cruel twist of fate! Just kidding, just kidding... sort of!
Actually, she's very sweet and has obviously chosen the right course for her personality. Cathy is here with her sister, who looks very much like her. Dorothy, the anesthesiologist, introduced them to Steph (my roommate) and myself and left us alone to talk to them about our experiences. They just left to organize their things and will be back later with fresh questions.
Now to fill in some gaps.
Picking up just before surgery, immediately after the last pre-surgery entry:
Dorothy came in and started my IV. Another nurse gave me a pre-surgical injection. Chris shot some 8mm video for posterity, and then, in the midst of all the commontion, they came to take me away.
In ordered frenzy, the team liberated my bed, rolled me out of the room and down the corridor. I looked up to see the stereotypical movie angle of the patient's POV of ceiling lights flashing by. I returned my gaze forward and saw the operating room doors loom up. Chris stepped ahead into view (I believe to make sure I didn't want to change my mind at the last moment.)
I knew this was my final chance to bail out: the last opportunity to remain male. I smiled groggily at Chris, raised my hand in the "thumbs up" sign and said, "See you on the other side." The doors swung closed behind me.
The gurny was sheeled along side the operating table, and I was asked to raise myself up and over onto the surgical slab. I was told to roll onto my left side and pull my knees to my chest, my shaved genitals coldly exposed.
My last feeling was the satisfied certainty that nothing could stop this now. I was really going to be a woman.
The next sensation I had was a gentle tugging feeling - like when you are sound asleep and someone is trying to waken you without frightening you. My mind was very cloudy as it rose out of the depths, but eventually I recalled who and where I was AND what was going on. As my senses returned, I realized that the tugging was something they were doing between my legs: I had come out of the anesthesia while the surgery was still going on!
My first reaction was to tell them, so I could be put under again. But I have always been somewhat nervous about anesthetic and figured that as long as it didn't hurt I'd rather not take that chance twice. So, I didn't move and didn't talk and let them tug away.
I don't know exactly how long it was that I remained motionless, as my time sense was not very functional at the moment. But it didn't feel very long before the tugging stopped and then gently wheeled me away to the recovery room.
(When I brought this information up to the anesthesiologist, she was convinced at first that I had only imagined it. However, when I described the feelings and mentioned that I had heard people talking - though I did not recall the words - she agreed I must have come out of it early. In fact (she confirmed) at that point, the actual surgery was completed and they were stuffing in yards of surgical gauze called "packing" to keep my vagina open while it healed.)
Once in the recovery room, I woke up quickly, which somewhat surprised the surgical assistant who was there to monitor me. He was a really kind young guy - something of the anthletic type, blondish, muscular, that I had met on the way into surgery when the team introduced themselves to me. I told him about waking up during the end of the procedure and he merely commented that it was very odd indeed.
Once that was off my mind, a stray thought lodged in my mind. I looked up at him and mused to myself, "You're a man, and I'm not."
I drifted in and out of sleep as they checked on me from time to time, but eventually was awakened for the short gurney journey down the halls back to my room. And this is where my earlier account resumes.
Wednesday, January 15, 1992 - 7:00 AM
It occurs to me that each of us is a pioneer. At the moment of our birth we awaken to find ourselves in territory unknown, without a map. It is our simple purpose to spend our lives looking for a way home, and in the end, we do.
Regarding the above paragraph.... I awoke at seven and opened the window drapes to see the frozen landscape before me. I began thinking about my daughter Mindi, someday at her wedding. I would be wearing a dress... No, I would wear a tux - I'm not proud! I still want to "give her away" as her father.
I thought about Keith - wanting to be his buddy, his dad; not to lose him to another male role model. I want to give him some understanding of life, some wisdom that will help make the journey easier, some hope to help him overcome the bad times.
I thought about Mary and what our future would hold together.
Then I wrote the thoughts above.
It has been an eventful day. Just after my last entry, they removed my catheter. Drawing the fluid from the balloon that had been inflated in my bladder to hold the catheter in place, the nurse then pulled the tube from my urethra. I was free!!!
After six days flat on my back in bed, I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and put my feet on the floor as a woman. To me, that was when I felt I had made it. I walked about four feet to the chair they had prepared for me and at my breakfast Sitting Up!
The next few hours were spent in short journeys around the room, followed by ever decreasing recouperation periods in bed. But I had a mission: I was charged with the sacred duty of learning how to pee like a woman. Problem is, muscles, nerves and the drainage duct itself have been moved. So the brain actually doesn't know how to do the job: what mental buttons to push. Which means, weak as you are, painful as it is, you sit and you push and you relax and you pray, and nothing happens.
For five hours I made painful trips to the restroom with negative results. Due to the almost unbearable pressure building in my bladder, I was temporarily catheterized to drain me back to zero. This was just a temporary reprive, however, as if I was not able to go in another five hourse, I would be recatheterized for one more day with the model I had endured the past week. No more mobility, not to mention the pain of having the catheter re-inserted, this time WITHOUT anesthetic!
And what if THAT didn't work? What if I had to go back to surgery? What if THAT didn't work?
At 3:30 pm, eight hours after the catheter was removed, I peed.
I was happy.
Friday, January 17th, 1992
After my initial relief on Wednesday the remainder of the day was frought with fear and pain. I was completely unmotivated to write, so I will catch up on those events now.
On Wedneday afternoon, I found that drinking water as regularly as I had been told led to restroom trips every twenty minutes or so. The first couple of times were increasingly easy, although still difficult and sore. But soon, the burning pain began to increase. And the surging flood of relief became a trickle. Soreness and pressure built up and troubled me throughout a listless night.
Thursday morning, I found myself contipated as well. The old fears of a surgical mistake welled within me. I complained to all who came to check, was given more laxatives, but remained bound. I kept remembering that I was due to have the "packing" that had been stufffed into my vagina removed the next day. It was my desperate hope that its removal would ease the pressure and allow all systems to function again.
Throughout the day and into the night I slept naught, jolted alert every twenty minutes by the burning pressure to relieve myself in excruciating pain. Finally, dawn was upon me, and ultimately, the moment of unpacking.
Early this morning.
Unpacking was supposed to occur at 7 am. I watched the clock likea convict on death row, waiting for a pardon from the governor. The hands reached seven, then seven-oh-five. I had to wait an extra 30 minutes for them to come in. That may not seem like much, but under the conditions it was awful.
When the nurse arrived, she undid my tampon from the "garter belt" and began to pull the gauze from my new vagina. It was not unlike the standard magician's trick where they pull yards and yards of scarves from their pocket. I felt like I was being unravelled. She kept pulling and pulling and more and more gauze came out - all in one long piece.
I had been warned that the smell of this proceedure was perhaps the worst one could experience. Well, it wasn't THAT bad, but it wasn't pleasant.
FINALLY, the end of the gauze snake left me. For the first time, there was nothing attached, stuck in or connected that wouldn't be there for the rest of my life. And the best part was, all the pressure was gone.
Before I had a chance to consider all this, the nurse showed me how to dilate. In Doctor Biber's program, you are provided with two silicon rubber, lifelike dildos: a small pink one and a larger purple one. You cover it with a condom (to prevent germs), then squeeze a liberal supply of KY jelly onto the top. All this was shown to be by the nurse, and I commented that topped off like that, the dildo looked like a rich dessert!
The nurse observed while I inserted the dildo for the first time to make sure I had it right. No problem. Its strange, but the feeling of having something penis-shapped inside me seemed so natural - almost as if all the programming was always in my brain, just waiting for the body to get it together.
The big surprise was that as the dildo remained inside me, I began to feel aroused. What was this? I made a mental note to explore that sensation later, in more private conditions!
After dilation, I went to the restroom and was overjoyed to find that all systems were "go".
Shortly thereafter, I got a call from an ABC television crew that I had heard from the nurses was doing a story on Doctor Biber. They wanted to film me as I left the hospital and got on the train. Not being one to shy away from the spotlight, I agreed.
Doctor Biber came in to give me his post-op care instructions and a couple of warnings about VD, Aids, and various female infections to which I was now prone. I had my picture taken with him.
For the first time in eight days I was able to take a shower. What a wonderful feeling to have all that slime washed away! I got dressed, did my make-up, visited Cathy who had just had her surgery that morning and said my goodbyes to the staff.
The ABC crew arrived and made their introductions. The Sister arrived who drives the post-ops to the station. The crew set up some shots while I loaded the trunk, then followed us out to the station.
It was a cold, cloudy day as I stood alone by the tracks waiting for the train (heavy handed phallic symbol) to carry me back to the real world. At least, thats the way it looked to the cameras, I imagine, with the kinds of shots they were setting up. But, the train was running late, and the crew (gentlelmen and ladies all) had other set-ups to document, so they left me there at the station and went their way.
I sat in the old building - just another relic in a town built mostly during Gold Rush days - and made pleasant conversation with a family journeying to the city. Conversations happen easily in Trinidad, as a single girl, travelling alone, is instantly recongized as a product of the town's chief industry. Still, everyone I met during my stay (including this family) were open and friendly and warm.
Finally, the train arrived. We boarded, going to our separate accomodations. As per recommendations from gender pamphlets, I have taken a sleeper car for the trip home, allowing for privacy during dilation, which must be done every two hours for the first month or so after surgery.
I settled into my compartment, feelings very free, very complete, and very female. Just placing my bags, snacks, and cassette player in the various nooks and crannies of the small cubicle made me feel better - decorating my temporary home. I felt so cozy and secure: the struggle was finally over.
Once we got under way, I left my compartment and staggered down the swaying corridor to the restroom. Peeing on an Amtrack is an experience in itself, but doing it while getting the hang of the equipment is another story altogether! Still, I was pleased to find that the pressure was fully gone and the time between trips was increasing. On a rather gross note, perhaps the strangest feeling of all, was going "number one" and "number two" at the same time!
What better segue than that to talking about lunch. Meals were included in my ticket, which was a good thing since this surgery has depleted my financial reserves to the point that Mary and I have maxed out all our credit cards and refinance the house to pay for it AND I have less than $20 left to my name.
I sat down to the table with three other people: two a couple travelling on vacation, and the other a rather nice looking young man who was visiting relatives while on semester break from college. We all had a pleasant conversation. But the best part for me was sensing that the college man found me attractive and knowing it was okay. (A telling phrase, "okay"? Well, yes, not because I thought of men that way before, but because now I can without social disapproval.)
So as not to arouse suspicion, I had not brought to lunch my doughnut - the inflatable circular air pillow that keeps one's underside from touching the seat. Still, the soreness was not that bad, as long as I shifted my weight from one thigh to the other occassionally.
After lunch, it was time for dilation again. I locked the door to my compartment, got everything ready, and had the experience of a lifetime trying to keep everything in position in the tiny box of a room on a moving train! I peeked out the window while we were moving. There I was, "doin' it" in Albequerque!
Quickly, my strength has returned, the soreness is almost gone, and my thoughts begin to turn forward toward seeing Mary and the kids again, and beyond.
Here I am, once again sitting on a train, slipping down the golden rails at ninety miles an hour. I am on my way home. The sun looms large in the panoramic window of my sleeper compartement. Strange how this trip, bracketed by these two elegant surreal journey's seems to have passed in the twinkling of an eye.
Saturday, January 18th, 1992
So, here it is: the end of my journey - not just by train, but the entire train of events that describe my life for the last two and a half years.
This diary began on August 1st, 1989, the first day of my transition, and ends today on the last. For there is no more to change; no more patterns of thought, no more biochemical balances, no more physical characteristics. When shortly I step from this train, my journey will truly be complete.
Naturally, my thoughts turn to the tfuture. But those musings are not the "what ifs" of someone wanting to be, but the "why nots" of someone who is. From the first day I recored my thoughts, my feelings have been public domain. I strove to describe accurately and withhold nothing. But now, the usefulness of the sharing of my experiences is at an end. And ownership of my most intimate self returns to me. I shall not withdraw from sharing what has happened, but from here on will let others understand the meaning of my future life by my actions and through my deeds.
As we pull into the station, I think of Mary, Keith, and Mindi waiting to reunite with me as a family. It is not an end, but a beginning.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. May you find as much peace at the end of yours.
Well, that's where Subversive 24 ended. An appropriate place, to be sure. But now its time to begin a new story....
Mary and the kids picked me up at the station. What an odd sensation it was to realize she and I were truly two women now instead of man and wife. Still, that was just the logic of it. My heart told me nothing had changed between us.
I arrived home to find loads of Email from Mary and Keith. I responded as follows:
Thank you so much for your wonderful notes. It means so much to-me to hear you write the things you have trouble saying. Thank-you for your love.
I had a lot of time to think at the hospital. And it became very-clear to me that you and the kids are the focus of my life. Now-that I am who I NEED to be, YOUR happiness is my prime concern.
I know this is not the life you expected, but it is a good life,-nonetheless. And I shall devote myself to making it ever better-for both of us, and the children as well.
I won't get smaltzy ('cause I know you don't like that!) but-simply say "Thank you" with all the depth of feeling that can be-attached to those simple words.
I intend for us to grow old together, to prosper, and to never be-alone. Here's to the rest of our lives!
All my love, ALWAYS,
You truly are a special boy! How many fathers could go through-what I have, and still enjoy the love and sharing with their son,-the way I do? You are the sunshine of my life.
Now that I'm back, my focus will be much more on family, and less-on myself. So look for more trips and outings, more family games-and activities, and more time between father and son!
Thank you for being accepting, and thank you for being you!
January 19th, 1992
I'm back and I'm better than ever! There was very little-bleeding from the surgery at all phases. In fact, I was on-Light Days mini pads before I left the hospital. My roomie,-unfortunately, was a gusher.
Dr. Biber's work is amazing!!! When the stitches are all gone, no-one will be able to tell I wasn't born this way. I knew he was-good, but he's absolutely a magician!
Dilating for me was very easy the first time. No pain (on the-small dilator) and after about five minutes, the sexual sensation-was so strong, I had to start rocking my hips! You know, that-was what amazed me the most: I woke up from surgery, everything-on the outside of the body was numb, but I could already feel the-warm glow of sensuality from deep within. How DOES he do-that?!?!
The train ride was wonderful! Sleeper compartments are a-MUST!!! The lady who is the "dorm mother" for that car, brought-a blanket and sheet, and tucked me in the night I was returning. -COZY!!!
My most favorite time was having meals in the diner car. Since I-was alone, I was placed at a table with other by the conductor to-save space. And, bless his heart, at dinner he sat me next to a-handsome young single guy on his way to Flagstaff. I spent all-dinner flirting!
Dilating became harder as I was farther removed from the effects-of the packing. But I was prepared! When I got home, I saw that-the vibrator I had ordered had arrived by mail. Last night,-while the family slept, I tried it before the Biber dilator, and-it opened everything up with no pain or discomfort at all. The-Biber dilator slipped in with no problem after getting things-"warmed up"!
January 23, 1992
I've finally regained my strength after that first day back to-work. Yesterday, I ended up taking a nap for an hour on the-couch in the meeting room at work, then two more naps at home-before finally going to bed at 11 pm.
Am I being treated any differently at work? It's hard to say. I-sense some small difference, sort of like my co-workers have-stopped holding back the final five percent of acceptance, just-in case I had changed my mind. But the effect is so subtle, and-I was accepted so well before surgery, that it could just be my-imagination. Certainly, nothing substantive is noticeable.
As for myself, with Chris' help, I was so together before I left-for surgery that there have been no fireworks or "yippee!"s in my-own attitude either. Rather, it is more just the absence of-worrying about my gender vs. my sex anymore. Clearly, whatever-body map with which my brain was encoded is much more alligned to-this form than the other. And only now that I have something to-compare with do I realize how uncomfortable I was with the other-equipment.
I had my first pelvic at my doctor's on Monday, and since he is-the local authority on TS folk, it was pleasant to hear his-praise of Biber's work. That Trinidad guy really IS a genius!
January 24, 1992
My first post-op orgasm!!! (I can't believe I'm talking about-this.) God, what have I become (no clues!) This is my 2nd week-anniversary of surgery, so I guess I just wanted to celebrate. -You see, there's this really comfortable couch in the meeting-room, and work was really boring, and... well....
January 25, 1992
It's 7:15 AM on Saturday morning. All the family is asleep, save-me. In about an hour, it'll be exactly one week since I pulled-into the station and returned home to Mary, the kids, and the-rest of my life. What a wonderful and pleasant time it is to-reflect, wordlessly on the twisting, precarious journey that-brought me through the cliffs and chasms to the peaceful valley I-now call my home.
Yesterday was our sixteenth anniversary. Of course, with all the-goings on of the last week, I forgot! But that was not a large-sin 'round here, as when we went shopping last nite, I bought a-whole cornucopia of Mary's favorite goodies at the supermarket,-and she nearly glowed with the attention.
The house is a wreck, the yard is a mess, the finances are in-disarray, but I'm back now, and while the others sleep, I'll be-cleaning, organizing, and making breakfast, so they can awaken to-house in order.
It's amazing that it is only two weeks since surgery, and already-I'm essentially back to 100%. Biber truly is a genius/saint. -The best part is, already I feel like I was this way all my-life. The whole package clearly fills some indefinable "body-expectation" that my brain had always carried.
I am beginning to see small, subtle, slowly moving changes in my-friends, co-workers, and myself now. The sexual tension is-gradually building up between me and the menfolk at work. And I-think we're all enjoying it. It's kind of like before surgery,-they didn't think of me as a man, but hadn't classed me as a-woman yet either. I was a category unto myself: accepted, a-friend, but neither fish nor fowl (although possibly FOUL!)
Now, they are accepting me as the genuine article, and they don't-even know they are doing it. It is such a gradual shift that it-completely escapes their consideration, as well it should!
January 25, 1992
I can see how attitudes toward men (and attitudes toward self)-will gradually change with time. I wonder what it will be like-to think of myself as part of a particular group? I mean, I-never felt part of the group of men, so I didn't identify with-them. Then, during transition, I didn't feel completely part of-the group called women, since it was only internally true, not-externally. I did feel like me, however, but that is just a-group of one.
But now I can feel the embryonic tuggings of a new self-image. -Nothing strong enough to define yet, but just edging in on the-fringe of my awareness. By others, I was completely accepted, at-least in any way I could measure. But allowing myself to feel-part of any group? A new concept for me!
If there is a "them", there must be an "us".
My feelings toward men, I'm sure, will lag slightly behind my-feelings toward women. For as I allow myself to drop my final-isolationist protectionism and admit, "I am one of us" in a very-basic, emotional way, I will see myself for the first time as not-unique, but similar to others.
To truly have a peer group: what does that feel like? I'm eager-to find out. But things of this nature cannot be rushed, and-will come in their own time.
January 28, 1992
The one thing I was always afraid of was choosing NOT to follow-the path to wherever it led, then laying on my death bed-wondering... wondering....
Well, of course, that is no longer a fear on my part. The hard-part is when you make that leap of faith as they wheel you-through the operating room doors, having no way to be sure if you-are making the right choice, but only being sure that the other-choice hasn't worked for you.
The best part is when you wake up and realize that as you search-your soul, on THIS side of the leap of faith, all doubt is gone. -You KNOW you made the right choice. But you'll never be able to-see that before the leap. That is WHY it's a LEAP of FAITH.
You can't make that leap; you SHOULD NOT make that leap until you-have explored all other alternatives to be sure that the answer-does not lie elsewhere. You still can't be sure it lies beyond-surgery, but you CAN be sure it is not on this side. So, maybe-there is no answer for you: like a blind man who wants sight, but-it is physically impossible.
Sometimes there really ARE things that are mutually exclusive,-and problems that really can't be solved. But they will NEVER be-solved on this side of the leap. Only by taking that blind step-do we even have a chance.
Finally, don't forget to visit my home page at http://heartcorps.com/melanie/ to see what I've been up to lately. See ya!
THE SUBVERSIVE WILL CONTINUE....
The Subversive 25
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