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Editorial: The Last Subversive!
Melanie talks about the end of five years of editing and publishing "The Subversive".
Transcript of Melanie's Guest Speaker Appearnce on the Microsoft Network!
Straight from the horse's hind.
"The Misadventures of Melanie":
Explore the first episode of a cutting-edge multimedia comic strip that takes you to a strange, new world!
Melanie's Killer Hotlinks #4
Cheech & Chong, Ren & Stimpy, Sailor Moon, Independence Day, and Much More!!
A Woman's 50 Rules for Men:
To live by
A guide to mastering Elizabethan insults.
A Computer Doodle:
Just a stupid sketch without a home.
Send a SMILE!
We'll mail your friend a crisp one dollar bill - on us!
Melanie's Personal Journal and Chronicle of Adventures
Chapter 32: The "Other" Sex
Most of the links in this issue
have been removed due to
Melanie separating her
current life from her
The Last Subverisve!
Well, here we are: at the end of yet another era. Sometimes my life seems not so much made up of moments as a continuous chain of monumental transitions. This time, I'm calling an end to a pet project for which I have devoted innumerable hours and countless sleepless nights. Yep, after five years as its publisher and editor, I'm bringing this issue of "The Subversive" out for its final curtain call.
Why? Good question! To answer that, I need to recount why I started "The Subversive" in the first place. In 1989, I began a personal transition from male to female. At that time, there was no general access to the internet, and BBS systems were few and far between. I had signed up for an online service called "Q-link", which was designed for users of the old Commodor 64 computer, and was, in fact, the direct ancestor of what ultimately evolved into America Online.
I met a few gender people there, but at 300 baud and with the clunky communications system, I decided to seek greener pastures and switched to Prodigy as soon as it became available. In those days, one could not speak of gender issues in a public forum without having one's membership cancelled summarily. So, in seeking information and support of my journey, I left a "coded" message on Prodigy with a few buzz words that might get me in contact with others on the same path. In fact, the plan worked well, and I met a number of other gender folk, each looking for a deeper understanding of themselves and their world.
At that time, I was working in the film industry as a writer/director/editor. So, being the creative type, it was quite natural that I should begin to consider the need for some form of multimedia communication to keep our little community of four or five people in touch. My solution was an email newsletter for which I wrote articles about my experiences and edited and published articles by others as well. I called the newsletter, "The Subversive". Why? I just liked the notion of an "underground" that worked for change in the shadows to which we were relegated by society.
There were severe limitations, however, to what one could do in the email. For one thing, Prodigy limited its message size at that time to about 2K of information! As more and more people began to contribute material to "The Subversive", it grew to the point I had to send everyone three messages just to get everything to them. What was worse, Prodigy didn't have any capacity for mailing lists, so each and every person on my list had to have the newsletter sent individually, one by one!
Well, that's about the time America online was picking up steam. I heard they allowed messages up to 32K! And better still, they had a system for mailing lists where you could send a single message to scores of people all at once! So, I left prodigy and joined AOL instead.
Once I signed on, I found AOL to be so large and diverse compared to Prodigy, that I figured a gender community was already well installed there. I gave up any plans for continuing "The Subversive" and went looking for the community so I could just be a part of something as a member rather than a leader for a change. Problem was, there wasn't any!
Oh, I found the Gay/Lesbian community alright. They were high-profile and even had their own forum and "keyword" for instant access! But mention of ANYTHING pertaining to gender was absolutely and completely absent! I was amazed. I couldn't believe that in a community so large as AOL, there wasn't a single public message from anyone regarding gender issues. Being the self-motivated type, I decided to remedy that. If I couldn't be a member, I'd just have to start a group of my own! So there!
The first thing I did was post a notice in the Mental Health area, the Human Sexuality area, and the Gay/Lesbian area announcing a meeting for gender people in a private room called, of all things, "Gender". Private rooms: that was a concept Prodigy didn't have and didn't even consider for a couple more years.
The first meeting brought in three people. I was thrilled! It may not sound like much, but with all the technical and political difficulties on Prodigy, this was a piece of cake! Our first item of business was to set up a regular weekly meeting time in Private Room, "Gender". Through our original members, word spread quickly, and all those folk who had been yearning for a place to find support and information came out of the shadows where they had been hiding. Within weeks, we were regularly maxing out the room's limitation of 24 people, and interest was high.
Once again, I saw the need for a newsletter to keep the group informed. So, I started another email publication, this time called, The Gender News, so as to differentiate it from anyone who knew the old "Subversive" on Prodigy. With the larger message size and mailing list capability, The Gender News helped bind the embryonic gender community on AOL together.
About this time, the Gay/Lesbian community was seeking to expand its position on AOL. They noted our popular meeting and offered us use of their conference room once a week which would hold twice the number of people we could currently handle. This worked for us in allowing continued growth, and also for them in giving them more presence to use as leverage in getting additional resources from AOL (like disk space, keywords, and more conference rooms.)
Some of the members of our little group were quite vocal in opposing the move, as they felt they did not want to be so closely associated with gays, as they were heterosexual crossdressers who were proud of their sexual preferences. Although I respected their feelings, I always found this quite amusing: that of all the cross-dressers in the group, these few could wear women's clothes and then be prejudicial against associating with gays (lest they be labeled so themselves!)
It was about this time I first began to realize just how much difference there really was between transsexuals and crossdressers. I won't go into details here, but suffice it to say that I have found them to be two completely different species. In fact, I have a LOT of trouble relating to crossdressers - not that I don't like them, but just that I can't really appreciate where they are coming from.
It was at this point I had to make a decision to create an all transsexual group, or to try and hold the divergent special interests together for the sake of a stronger community. I chose the later, though I didn't not know at the time just how much stress and strain that would put on me!
I began hosting a weekly meeting the Gay/Lesbian Community Forum which replaced our earlier private room meeting. By being in an official conference room, we gained tacit approval by AOL itself, though we still could not even use the words "crossdresser" or "transsexual" in a public room!
In this oppressive atmosphere, it was a constant effort to nurture the young community. I fought hard for our own keyword ("Gender"), our own space on the Gay/Lesbian bulletin boards, and ultimately for our own Forum, which we could design according to our specific needs.
About this time, even the new conference room began to max out at 48! I was doing two hours every Sunday evening as host of the meeting, dealing with people's tender feelings, trying to be supportive and caring, insightful and witty - trying to help the group grow and feel good about itself, while doing a little song and dance to accommodate my desires as an artist and performer as well. What a strange, heady, mix that was! To be the consummate wit and entertainer, even while serving as a therapist and mother to several hundred needy people! I really got off on it, and lost myself for a brief while when I began to see myself as a star, rather than a servent of the people, as it were.
I was going bats personally! The strain was so great at work (trying to develop a whole new theory of story on a timetable) and at home, trying to hold my family together, do justice to my young son and daughter, and to work out a new relationship with Mary, that I had something of a breakdown. I walked into Chris's office and quite my job. I called up Mary and told here I was never coming home. I wanted to go to Arizona and be a waitress. Fortunately (I think) they talked me out of it, and I ended up taking a week's paid vacation and then going back on a four day schedule instead of five. It was then that I decided to cut The Gender News down from a weekly to a monthly so that the stress and pressure of cranking out the publication would be less as well. I also decided to rename it "The Subversive", after my old publication on Prodigy.
Why did I want to rename it? I was following my path through transition, living full time, having surgery, and trying to get on with my life. I didn't want to be known only for gender issues, but as a creative artist, I wanted to express all sides of myself in an accurately balanced fashion. After all, I felt transition was something to go through, not somewhere to live. So, I renamed the publication, "The Subversive", which more or less described how I saw myself functioning as an artist and philosopher in society.
The Subversive was growing too. My email list was almost up to 200! But since even AOL couldn't accommodate more than 75 names or so on a list, I had to send the same issue out three times. In those days, 1200 baud modems were the max, and the issues were expanding to over 100K, once a month. Also, connections were unreliable, as was the AOL software, so I often spent a quarter of an hour trying to upload to one third of the list, only to have the system hang right at the end. It was driving me crazy! I finally called an end to the email subscriptions, and simply uploaded the file to our new gender bulletin board.
Still, with work and family and Subversive and Conference hosting, the pressure had slowed but was beginning to build toward another eruption. Recognizing this, I decided to step down as leader of the America Online Gender Group, and turn it over to others who were still going through transition and could better relate to the needs of the community. So, I called a "Constitutional Convention" in which the organization and ground rules for the AOLGG were codified. This allowed me to leave without guilt, as I was not abandoning the community, but laying a foundation and then giving the blueprints to another construction company. At least, that's how I felt about it: one last noble effort before moving on.
Quite frankly, I wanted out! My baby had grown up and was eating me alive. It was voracious. If that was the only job I had, it would have been enough. But, with all my other responsibilities and interests, coupled with my desire to get past all that and move on with my life, well, it only made sense to back off.
I backed WAY off. I didn't even drop into the community except for a couple of times during the whole next year. Even today, almost three years later, I've only been back a half dozen times, other than to continue to upload text versions of "The Subvesive".
"Text Versions": that's important to this story of why I'm ending publication. From its first appearance on Prodigy as email through its stint as "The Gender News", and ultimately as a subscription and then uploaded files on AOL, "The Subversive" had always been a text-only publication. This wasn't by choice. As an artist, I would have LOVED to explore multimedia in "The Subversive", but the technology simply didn't exist in those days. I did my best to incorporate poems and such, but as for my music, video, and graphics, well there was nothing I could do.
Then, along comes this thing called the World Wide Web. Suddenly, I'm presented with the capability to publish ALL of my artistic creations for all the world to see! I'm stoked. I start to research. It takes six months before any server in the country makes space available to non-commercial interests. But, this is the beginning, and no HTML editors exist, no instructions about how to do it. A Web browser comes out on Prodigy, but still nothing on AOL. So, I go back to Prodigy as a second service, and see what the web has to offer. I download all kinds of files about HTML and teach myself the basics. I contact the server company and set up an account - then hack through a jungle of technical requirements I don't understand at all. But finally, after three weeks of staying up all night, working all day, then returning home to web work all night again, I managed to get my first page up on the Web. I cried.
First thing I did was set up a home page. For the longest time, I grieved over whether or not I wanted to make my past writings for the gender community available publicly. I was trying so hard to be accepted as the co-creator of a story theory and to put my past IN the past. But my sense of conscience urged me to share work I knew could benefit others, and my ego refused to let me hold back what is probably the best writing I will ever do, since it came from so deep inside my angst.
Finally, I relented and created a parallel web site just for gender things. You could get from the gender site to my "public" site, but not the other way 'round. This way I could keep one foot in the closet.
For the gender pages, it was a natural thing to give "The Subversive" a face-lift, adding backgrounds, colored text, and so on. Intrigued by the possibilities, I began to see "The Subversive" as a means of introducing new work. I figured if I kept enough gender stuff in each issue, I could get away with presenting some Story Theory, some Mental Relativity, and even some songs and pictures. Heck, I had a following from my writings, and that constituted something of a captive audience. They had to put up with my art in order to get more gender stuff.
So, new issues of "The Subversive" began to drift further and further away from a gender-centric publication to a one-woman show, much like a painter might have, or like an album put out by a composer. In fact, after just a few new issues, the only gender thing remaining was each new installment of my diary, which (since it is published about four years after each entry is written) is still concerned with my gender identity way back when.
Since gender was such a small part of my new work, I thought the balance was just about right to be truthful, yet representative of who I am today. So, with gritted teeth, I put a link to "the Subversive right on my public home page. Man, did I worry about that! As it turns out, however, reader response is very positive, and in truth, 90% of those who visit my home page arrive at it from my gender page anyway. Oh, I don't have anything against being popular with the gender community, but I would also like to find a little critical acclaim from the general public as well. Just the artist in me seeking approval.
Buoyed by the response, I took another plunge and added a link to my entire gender site, effectively merging the two. I felt a little uneasy about this, since the amount of material I had written for the community was quite a bit more than the new, creative material I had recently been publishing. So, I worked very hard to equalize that by converting my huge backlog of artistic endeavors into HTML format and posting it as quickly as possible. To attract people to this material, I added a "What's New" feature linked to my home page, my gender page, and "The Subversive" main page.
At first, I introduced my new work all at once in "The Subversive", then doled it out, item by item in "What's New". This was fine for a while, but then I began to get impatient with how long it took each new issue to come out, thereby delaying the presentation of my work on my site. Finally, I decided to first post each new item to "What's New", THEN publish the work as a collection of my recent material in new issues of "The Subversive".
This created two problems: One, "The Subversive" was now redundant, as there was nothing really new appearing in it. Two, "The Subversive" was always built around my diary entry, but now, I might have several diary entries published close together without enough new material to form a "Subversive". Or, I might go for so long between the publication of diary entries that "The Subversive would be too large with all the other material it would have to contain.
It was at this point I realized that I didn't even LIKE doing "The Subversive" anymore. Time that I might spend working on new projects had to go into formatting old material, just to present it in that publication. I was feeling under all sorts of pressure and obligation to my readers to get the next issue out. I even hired someone to help handle the formatting and to edit the thing, but the time it took me to supervise was almost as much as to do it myself.
That brings us pretty much up to date. "The Subversive" was born in another technological age. It served as a medium of communication to a community I have outgrown. It functioned as a forum for personal expression until a better forum came along. It did it's job, it touched many lives, and enriched my considerably. What better time to call an end to it's impressive and worthwhile run: at the height of it's prime, and with the biggest, most ambitious issue ever.
I will continue to post all my new material to "What's New". AFter it appears there, it will also be integrated into the appropriate category on my web site as well. Currently, I have over twenty meg of information on my web site, representing more than 250 web pages or original material. This to me constitutes the body of work I have sought to present since the beginning of my career. It is all that I was and all that I am, weighted an balanced to reflect both the journey and the current destination.
That destination will change slightly, every time I add another page to my site. And who knows, perhaps ever once and a while a new issue of "The Subversive" might pop up, just to gather some of the bits and pieces together as a means of saying, "This is what it looks like from here."
In closing, I want to thank all of you who have been with me from the start, as well as those who have just discovered "The Subversive" and are only beginning to delve into the earlier issues. It is you for whom I create. An artist is nothing without her audience. I look forward to presenting many more years of new endeavors, in this and other as of yet uninvented media.
For now, join me from time to time in "Melanie's World" as a gateway to everything I've published, arranged like the lands in a theme park, where you can explore as deeply as you like, or sample a taste of many different perspectives.
You have been and continue to be a wonderful audience.
For a complete collection of all past issues
of The Subversive visit:
In the belief that information should belong
freely to the people,
The Subversive is made available on the World Wide Web at no charge.
Copyright Transgender Support Site