Melanie's FFS Journal, Melanie's Transition Diary, Melanie's Home Page, Transgender Support Site

The Destruction of Melanie Anne

Preparation for Feminizing Facial Surgery (FFS)

Ninety Nine Days

In can’t believe I’m going to do this.  After having seen Teresa go through it with all her pain, discomfort, and the full year it took to completely recover – after having gotten by for so many years in my youth without doing it, and even after wholly recognizing the cost, the risk, and the magnitude of the endeavor, I have become resolved to follow this course through to its conclusion, be it bitter or sweet.

In ninety-nine days, I will have my face changed to that of a stranger.  I will become that stranger, and have to live with her in my mirror for the rest of my days.

You may know my story from my earlier diary, more of a journal really, which covered sixteen years of my journey that began with my commitment to surgically change my apparent sex from male to female, and ended with my final upheaval through all my rationalizations, justifications, and blind spots to fully embrace the true nature of my soul.

And yet, though the state of my gender was physically altered to be fully female in look and function, and even in the context of the knowledge I discovered along the way that illuminated to me the intersexed nature of my corporeal self (which I had not know until most recently), and even in the afterglow of complete internal peace, self acceptance and contentment of spirit, there remains one final endeavor that stands between me and a final resolution of completeness.

I must change my face.

As a result of being interesexed, my body and face were androgynous.  And thus, in my earlier life I cannot recall a time at which I did not feel inadequate as a male.

I wore clothes of a certain nature to hide my thin wrists and my wider than male pelvis, and my arms which turned outward like a girl’s when held to my sides.  My face was pretty for a boy, and far too soft for a man.  I tried sporting a beard on a couple of occasions, but I just couldn’t stand how it made me feel – not physically, but emotionally, almost as if I was being suffocated by my own facial hair.

In those days, I did not know I would pursue my erotic fantasy (as I thought it was) of becoming female.  I did not know that I had been born female of brain, mind, and much of my body, for I had the one prerequisite between my legs for joining, or rather being assigned to, the male clan.

But the beard made me so emotionally distraught, it was almost claustrophobic.  And in the end, I compromised by wearing a mustache for many years.

Eventually, I came to understand why I could never relate to male peers, even in my pre-school years, and why I never came to grasp how they thought or why they acted as they did.

And I cam to understand why I never came to the conclusion I was actually female of mind, since I rejected by girls whenever I would approach them in a friendly manner beginning in kindergarten.  The simple truth was, I couldn’t relate to boys because I thought like a girl, and girls rejected me because I looked like a boy.  Both genders found me uncomfortable to be around because I acted like one gender and looked (or at least was pawned off to be) the other.

But in time, I correct that discrepancy with sex reassignment surgery, with years previously of living in the new role so that I could drop the pretense and physical mannerisms I had adopted as second nature to mask my first.

Though I didn’t have my surgery until a month short of my thirty-ninth year, I was quite young of face.  And, being androgynous, it was much easier for me than most who have taken this path to simply shift from accenting my appearance so that it was perceived as being one gender to appearing as quite the other.

And I was arrogant in those days, looking down upon those who were not so fortunate of countenance as being less “authentic” or of a lesser statures among our motley group of social outcasts.

But age takes it toll.  And though the skeletal structure of my body and face still lean far into the female, the drooping of my soft tissues and the weight than gathers around one’s mid sections (especially in one’s late forties and early fifties) eventually takes it toll.  And marginal features that at one time were seen as the female side of androgyny slowly become perceived my often as being on the male side.

And those who gloat at an earlier age of their ability to move through society unscathed sudden find themselves in a reversal of fortune in which one is faced, almost every day, with strange looks from women one encounters in the normal course of commerce and social interaction.

Rather than being accepted, one again senses being branded as an outcast: is not included in group activities, is not invited to attend, is kept at arm’s length by all new acquaintances.

Besieged by an expanding environment of isolation, confidence is lost.  Arrogance seems a lifetime away.  And one wakes every day with a growing dread of the simple act of leaving the house and interacting with others.

Going to the market becomes a task requiring great force of will.  And this is made all the worse by having finally fully accepted, embraced and enacted one’s actual nature, discovered and invoked only with the last year, since the discrepancy between how one must act in order to be truly freely expressive of one’s self and the manner in which one is treated and how that expression of self plays to others in the context of one’s appearance – the discrepancy has become so vast that it becomes a Herculean act of sheer will to continue to act as one is, rather than once again hide behind a false persona more in line with the questionable external nature of one’s gender.

After years of this, and especially after seeing my mate go from a far more precarious state of face than my own to an obviously beautiful older woman without question, simply put, I can no longer avoid the necessity of pursuing the same course myself if I am ever to find relief from the tension and fear.  As Teresa puts it, to be able finally to fit in, rather than simply trying to blend in.

And so, in ninety-nine days I am planning to have my face altered to that of a stranger.  The good Doctor O. in San Francisco will peel back the skin of my forehead, grind down the bones of the slight brow-ridge above my eyes, recast my nose to improve on an earlier job I had done on that area, peel back my lips to expose my jaw, remove the chin, reshape it and replace it, and possibly even break the jaw to recast it, as well as grind down the bones.

It will be painful.  It will be expensive.  It will be risky.  But if it all works as planned, a year later I will also live in the world my mate has now entered.  And I will be able to go anywhere, in any light, in any condition of sickness or health or weight or tiredness, and never ever have anyone question my gender again.

Why ninety-nine days?  That would be the fifteenth anniversary of my sex reassignment surgery.  I would fall on January ninth, after the Fall season and the holidays, after visits to and from friends and family, so that should the worst happen, my last experiences, and the last memories of me by those I would leave behind would be from my favorite time of year.

The appointment has not yet been made, as there are still intermediate steps.  Though Dr. O. performed  minor surgery on me nine months ago when he feminized my upper lip, I have not had the full battery of x-rays and his detailed consultation in which he determines the particular procedures, their extent, and their cost.  That appoint IS made, for two weeks from today, October 16th.

And I must also arrange for several tens of thousands of dollars to pay for the surgery.  Though I am within days of finalizing an equity loan on the home in which my wife still lives, I cannot bring myself to risk her habitat or my financial future through my expenditures and actions.  Nor do I wish to incur her wrath by simply spending the money without her consent.

So process must be successfully negotiated to ensure her and my security, even while directing funds to this risky endeavor and after having swayed her to support me in same.

I am a writer, and though I cannot help myself from jotting down my experiences in this pursuit (for in truth, writing about my feelings is the only way I can defray their intensity, being therefore almost always the reason why I write) I wish this part of my path could remain private, as in the context of the completeness of my inner journal, it seems almost perfunctory if not for its unusual nature and the magnitude of its ramifications.

But being the good diarist and reporter of the inner scene, I have now begun my documentation of what should prove to be one of the strangest intervals in an already odd life.

What happens next, you and I shall discover together.

Melanie Anne,

October 2, 2006

Ninety Eight Days

I am afraid.  Not of the post-surgical pain.  Not of the risk of dying on the table.  I am afraid of being complete.

You know, there are too many stages in transition, transformation, transcendence and beyond to even list, much less describe.  I have documented all that I have encountered in my previous journals.  But even once they have all been met, dealt with, and put behind you, there is still one more step.

Once you are “done” both inside and out, unless you are blessed with a face (and body) that is so undeniably female at a skeletal level that you are never and will never be noticed, much less questioned – barring that kindness of fate that I have never fully encountered in any others, yet partially in all of us – then no matter that there is nothing left to do to ourselves, we must still deal with the perceptions of others.  And so, not because we require it, but because it is required of us, we have no choice but to alter those external qualities (if we can) so that we no longer suffer, or if not in actual fact, no longer fear exclusion or distance in the social arena due to any discrepancy between our natural, undisguised appearance and the cultural expectations of the physicality of our gender.

This much, while philosophically deep, can be grasped, incorporated into one’s thinking to be ultimately felt more than considered.  And once it has been blended into the background of one’s emotional atmosphere, the necessity of the act is accepted without question and ceases to be an issue.

Then, through that sullen resigned fog, a new concept begins to emerge.

I’m sitting on a railroad track, typing this journal while beyond the screen of my laptop I watch the locomotive bearing down on me from the distance.  This is a very delicate fabric that I weave to hold my mind together against the magnitude of what I have set in motion.  I dare not even breathe, lest the web be torn asunder.

Still, that congealing notion continues to materialize and ultimately becomes caught in my gossamer neural network.  It takes form.  It is the fear of completion.  More precisely, not the fear of completion itself, but the ramifications that follow.

The first of these to define itself is the permanence of the surgery.  It might seem almost ludicrous to worry about permanence after having had sex reassignment surgery, breast implants, and many years of hormone therapy.  But in truth, no one sees what’s inside your pants unless you show them.  Breasts can be removed as they are in a mastectomy.  The effects of hormones can be largely reversed by going off estrogen/progesterone and taking injections of testosterone.  But once bone is removed from your face, there is no real means of putting it back.  The changes I am about to undergo I will not only live with for the rest of my life, but will be used to classify and define me by all that I meet for the remainder of my days.

Think of it!  To have one’s external nature irrevocably altered in a manner that cannot be reversed or hidden, and must be presented to the public as representing oneself.

Up to this point, there was always the possibility of going back, however difficult of unlikely that might be.  And this resulted in a mind set in which I never felt like I had crossed the line of no return.  That line now lies before me, and in short order it will lie behind.  What will that feel like?  How will it feel to live in a body that can no longer pass as male no matter how hard I might try?

In all the years I have traveled this course, most nearly every day at least once, I pull back my hair and examine my face in the mirror.  And each time there is no mistaking that without make-up, with a short haircut, and without an intentionally female expression plastered in place, my face might easily be mistaken for male.

It is, as Teresa has said, the same face that your parents and relatives had seen when they called you a handsome young man.  And though through your manner and attire there have been stretches of time in which no one questioned your nature as a woman, you yourself cannot escape the knowledge that you still wear that same face.  And sometimes, when you are tired, depressed, or when the light catches your features just right, you see the man you used to be staring back at you in the photograph or the mirror.

But what will it be to lose that?  What will it be to see a stranger in the mirror, or at worst, someone who looks like your old male persona’s sister?  And what will it be to never see your old physical self again?

From this thought a second major consideration comes forth: what is it that you will lose in your facial character, in your apparent identity, after feminizing facial surgery?

Though you have changed your gender role, certain facial attributes that contributed to your sense of self, to you self appraisal of identity in your old role remained as markers of your character in the new one.

Perhaps you have “flashing eyes” or a jaw line that indicates strength.  Even if you were “blessed” with an androgynous face (as I have been) in which such a feature “plays” both when presenting as a male or as a female, the subtle nature of it changes in interpretation.  So, while as a male, it gave the impression of integrity perhaps, or reliability, as a female it may be giving you credibility or an aura of authority that most women simply can’t command and have no means of enjoying.

To lose that.  To lose features by which you have defined yourself since birth, how will that alter your sense of self in the months and years to come.  Others will treat you differently.  And the impact of their interactions will eventually erode any vestigial confidence or ownership of the old qualities you used to take for granted.  Your world changes as does your inner self-scape.

Do I really want to be the kind of person, the kind of woman who would no longer possess these qualities?  To I really want to become that kind of woman?

Perhaps there are some procedures I really shouldn’t have, or at least some that I should make sure the surgeon pursues less aggressively.  Do I put myself at the mercy of all the alterations that will most feminize my face regardless of the qualities lost, or do I choose (or perhaps settle for) a partial feminization by picking attributes selectively that will still resolve any fears of social mis-reading but will maintain traits and qualities dear to my heart?

No, I am sure that once full feminization surgery on my face has been completed I will discover that those lost aspects of image and identity will strike me as never having been true pieces of myself at all.

I am sure that while others might “objectively” see me as being diminished or weakened in look and nature, I will come to think of those attributes as barnacles on my soul that had attached themselves to my true self through my efforts to blend into my former role.  And once encrusted upon my spirit, they became so familiar that I began to think of them as mine.

But as the surgeon peels back the skin of my forehead and grinds away at the bones, he is also psychically grinding away the barnacles on my soul, feminizing my countenance and simultaneously revealing the femaleness of my id.

From the inside then, it will not be a diminishing or a loss, but a cleansing that leaves me feeling free and pure.

And yet, one more consideration remains from today’s speculations….  I have spoken of permanence and of loss, but what will I gain?  What does it feel like to wake up in the morning without having my first thought be to adopt a facial expression that will make me look feminine?  What will it be to get up and not have to first check the mirror to arrange my hair on my forehead and around my jaw so that it hides what I consider to be masculine features?

How will it feel to walk into a crowd and know without a shadow of doubt that I will be taken as the woman I am, and that no matter how close someone approaches, or whether the light is coming from the front or the side, that there is no angle at all in which I look male?

What freedom will that be!

Can then I finally put behind me the gender issues that have plagued my heart since my earliest memories?  Where will my thoughts go when they are not chained to the constant monitoring of people’s reactions to my gender in the subtle movements of their eyes?

I want to know myself fully as the woman I am, but I cannot put aside those fears or the endless vigilance until I live on the other side of the knife.

Teresa has told me of how she has left that fear behind.  She has shared how she looks outward now at life through her woman’s eyes and simply enjoys being the woman she is.

I hear the words.  I picture the image.  But I cannot know the experience for myself.  Not yet.  But I will.  I will….

Ninety-Seven Days

Eagerness to the point of anxiety.  I’ve been struck throughout the day with alternating flashes of yearning for the sense of completion I’ve been looking for all of my life, a sense of wonder at what life might be like when I truly feel like a woman not only on the inside but the outside as well, and a sense of dread that something will untoward will throttle my plans from over the horizon.

God, the intensity of the feelings.  I can almost feel what it will be to look out from that new face and to know how I appear to others.  I’m sick of the old one.  It just reminds me of all the pain and suffering I went through to get to where I am.

I want a clean break, a fresh start.  I want to pick up my life from where it would have been if I had just been born the right way in the first place.

My business, my career, all of them were built to satisfy the expectations of others, the responsibilities my false male persona had taken onto itself as being part and parcel of the role.

But inside, I hurt.  Oh, God, I hurt so much.  I masked the pain with creativity and accomplishment, and busied myself to the point of exhaustion, to the point of having no time for any other aspect of life, just so I wouldn’t have to stare into the gash across my soul.

Yet it hurts so much now.  Knowing I will no longer look the part of the diligent provider, the strong shoulder to cry on, knowing that so soon I will look as delicate of spirit and will be assumed to have a heart as easily bruised as it truly is, I can no longer play the role of the stalwart rock in the remaining interval.

My strength is crumbling, my pretense blows away like dust.  Daily I become more unable to hold back the expression of the woman I have always had inside, the one I hid even for fifteen years after sex reassignment surgery.

I want this done.  I want it over.  I crave the sense of completion and normality that the surgery will bring.  But I am also afraid of going beyond becoming female and becoming so physically feminine of face that I will no longer have access to those shields and protections of strength and entitlement to attention, to being listened to, to being taken seriously, that I have always used to fall back on, to count on, to hide behind, build upon.

That’s it!  I’ve been searching for the source of my fear, and that’s it!  I know how men think about women.  I know the lack of respect, credibility, seriousness with which they treat feminine women.

I am that feminine inside, but like all of us, we tend to bend our nature to match expectations of our behavior based on our appearance.  Certainly I did that in my decades in the male role.

Post sex reassignment surgery, for the last fifteen years, I was able to act far more freely with my natural gentleness and femininity that I had ever been allowed before.

But I have still been held back by my strong chin, my slight brow, the shape of my jaw.  While all androgynous, these features are also all strong for a woman.  And so, I have been taken far more seriously than I would have been had I looked as gentle and delicate as I really am inside.

And because I was treated that way, I grew into the part.  I became a strong woman, in action and thought, even if not in nature.  And I have tackled life and faced foes, and conquered business and adversity.  Yet through it all, it was only my force of will that drove me, while inside, my true nature was still being denied.

If I had been born with the same facial features I currently have, but untainted by testosterone, I would have looked so soft and fragile, I never would have developed the strengths I have.

But, God help me, I HATE those strengths.  They are not me.  They are traits I developed to meet expectations based on my testosterone ravaged appearance.  And though I look far more feminine naturally, that others who have made this journey, that persistent strength of features has prevented me from fully releasing the bonds of the past and expressing myself in ways that would be inappropriate to someone who looks as strong as I do.

The fear, then, is that once the facial surgery is over, once I see my new feminine features in the mirror every day – once others begin to treat me as being that delicate and unable to deal with harsh endeavors, I will be unable to resist the siren’s song to drop my protections and fall into that role because it truly reflects how I am, how I would have behaved if I had simply been born a normal girl.

And since I have had to rely on myself all of these years for my income, my security, my status and station, I am terrified of having these things ripped from me.  How will I support myself? Who can I rely on?  Who will protect me when I not only can no longer protect others but can’t even protect myself.

I am already seeing these traits erode in me because I yearn so intensely for a face that reflects myself accurately that , having made the commitment to go through with the surgery and therefore seeing it as a done deal in the future, I can’t hold on to the façade of my false strengths any longer.

So, day by day, I find myself less able to invoke the defenses and offenses I have relied on,.  And day by day I become more afraid of the present and am becoming almost terrified of the future.

By nature, I am not self-reliant, but I have learned to be, yet hate being, yet am terrified of not being.

I have not shared much of this journal with Teresa.  She has already been here in whatever way was appropriate for her on her way to facial surgery.  And this is too delicate a series of thoughts to bring out into the open at this time.  But I just let her read the section above because I was thrilled to finally understand the source of my fear.

Turns out, a year after her facial surgery, she is just coming to terms with her own self discoveries, her own growing understanding of who she really is once the façade was gone.

And, as oft happens in our relationship over the years, we move in a double helix around each other, either alike or complementary as we grow and change.

She tells me that just in these last days she has come to embrace her strengths, and after dabbling with a less self-reliant persona, now realizes that her personality is not the same as mine in this area.  She truly is and wants to be self-reliant, and as such, not only will take care of herself, but of me as well.

She tells me I can rely on her, she will stand between me and danger, she will prevent me from walking into traps, she will protect me from the world at large, and is even more attracted to me because of my need for a protector.

I believe her; I hope this is how it settles out.  I will stop fighting the loss of my inner strength and will trust in her enough to cautiously peel away my own protections and rely on hers instead.

Ninety Six Days

We drove from California to Oregon today, and tomorrow it’s on to Washington state.  The occasion: a visit to my dad and a reunion with my two sisters (and possibly one of my brothers) that I haven’t seen for twenty years.

My dad used to live in San Diego for the past 30 years.  For most of that time, I resided in the L.A. area, so I used to visit him all the time.  But, for the early part of my life that wasn’t true.

My mom and dad divorced when I was a year old.  And at that time we went to stay with my mom’s parents.  Even after my dad remarried and had four more children, he still drove over to visit me almost every weekend until I was 12, and then every two weeks until I was 16.

At that point he told me that I was old enough to trade visits with him, and that is what we did, seeing each other every three months or so.

It was on my first trip to see him that I met my half-brothers and half-sisters, the oldest of which was several years younger than me.  Remarkably, I was welcomed into the family as if I had grown up there with them all.

Oh, I had been nervous, I had even come in trying to impress them all with my accomplishments and such, and the darned thing was, they actually were impressed.  I was the oldest child of our father, and that alone was enough to garner me respect that I probably didn’t really deserve.  Made me feel petty for my pompous, high-hat attitude.

But that passed quickly, and in the remainder of that get together and all that followed, though we only saw each other for a few days scattered over the years (including later trips accompanied by my wife and kids), we established a genuine appreciation of each other.

Later, all the kinds migrated up to Oregon and Washington, one by one, in some sort of almost genetically driven migration.  Last year, at 78, my dad sold his home just off the beach, and followed them up.  And in fact, Teresa and I are considering a move to Oregon ourselves this coming year.

During the move last year, my dad stopped by to see Teresa and myself at the house we later sold to finance her facial surgery.  That was his first meeting of her, and we all had a wonderful time.  My daughter even came up see him while he was there.

But I haven’t seen him since.  Now, my mom died at 62, some 17 years ago.  So it is not surprising that one gets a little edgy or anxious about getting more time with one’s father when he hits 80 (even if he celebrated his 80th birthday by running five miles – he usually runs just a mile a day).

Now my dad is more fit and sharp than any other 80 year old I’ve ever met – he’s more like 60, to tell the truth.  But, you still feel that time is precious.

Teresa and I have been planning to see him since his visit with us, but it also needed to be considered that I hadn’t seen my sisters or brothers since well before my transition, and that was a whole different situation.  The girls have sent me Christmas cards every year, but being the procrastinating sort, I seldom responded, even with a return card, and even less often with a note in return to theirs.

Our correspondence never touched on that issue of my life, but simply kept each other up to date on what our kids were doing and how things were in general.  But the last few years, I’ve made more of an effort, so the prospect of at least possibly seeing my sisters loomed, and my brothers (who might take my life choices a little differently) remained an unknown quality.

Ultimately, my daughter decided to visit my dad, and made the trip a little over a month ago.  While there, she met my sisters and they expressed their eagerness to see me when I finally made the trip.

And so, here we are, in a Best Western in Eugene Oregon, watching the late news, and getting ready to catch some sleep before the final five hour leg of our journey tomorrow.

How do I feel about seeing them for the first time as the person I have become?  How does this play against the countdown to my facial surgery?

First, it is a shame I haven’t already had it before I meet them.  Teresa mentioned that yesterday, but I didn’t care at that time.  Yet as we have gotten closer to the moment, it has really begun to bug me that I’m still on this side of the knife.

Additionally, there is an effect that happens as you wait for FFS.  Though for years I have been confident of my appearance and only occasionally run into problems that shook my confidence, once I made the commitment to make the change, I have come to be far more critical of my looks than I ever was before.

It is amazing how much your appearance can change to your own eyes, depending on where you are coming from.  While just days ago I could see myself as bordering on beautiful and question the need for surgery, today I came to feel that I was old, ugly, mannish, bulky, and ridiculous if I acted with the femininity that had, of late, become so natural for me to express.  My voice became a cackle, my motions stilted, and even my walk was disjointed and unable for me to force back into a graceful manner.

I spoke of this with Teresa and asked if she had discovered any way of coping with this perception effect during her final three months before surgery, and she replied that she just had to buck up and tough it out.

Well, I can do that if I know it is the only available way.  But add to that the fact that we were two days late in our hormone shots this week and the effects of low hormones had just kicked in like PMS, and I had a situation in which I felt I looked like crap and couldn’t shake it.

The only result was that Teresa herself (also suffering from the low hormone levels) shared that she was feeling she still looked like a transsexual to her own eyes in the mirror.  And this, after how confident and pleased she had been in her appearance every day since FFS including even during the first part of our trip this morning.  I’m sure my commentaries and questions were major contributing factors to that mood as well.

I should be holding her now, helping her feel loved and soft and feminine, but here I am, doing my duty to continue this journal.  Ah, the writing life!

I can tell you this:  my mood has improved in the last few hours.  I don’t know if it is from the pizza we had tonight (dieting is hell, and I’ve been dieting for a month now, in the attempt to see how much of my assessment about my appearance was due to the extra pounds), whether the boost is from the hormone injections we had two days ago finally kicking in, or if I’ve just worked some things through.

Don’t care, really.  Point is, I’ve traversed this minor ice age of emotion, once more see myself as attractive in the mirror and wonder if I should do this thing at all, and am sending positive energy back to Teresa as well.

Okay, I’d like to write more, but I really must get some sleep to look good for tomorrow and must give Teresa the attention I want her to have.

I haven’t even had my consultation with Dr. O. yet, so any speculation is really way premature.  I also want to send pictures to that artist in England who alters them to provide an advance view of the changes FFS will make to one’s face.

Armed with these two sources, I know I will have enough data to finally make some intelligent choices about which procedures I may or may not want to undergo.

Though there will be frequent shifts of mood, if I keep my eye on the long term and take things one step at a time, I’m sure I will make the right choices and achieve the best possible outcome for my own needs and desires.

Ninety Five Days

Well, we made it up to Redmond, Washington (where my dad lives, and also the home of Microsoft.  He has built a wonderful home here in a brand new upscale housing development the likes of which I can only dream of someday having a place of my own.

My dad is such a cool guy.  If you made a list of all the things that would make a great father, that’s him.  Even Teresa just commented to me that although she had already met my dad when he visited us, spending time with him here, she found she really likes him – not just because he’s cool, but because there’s a real affinity.  And I agree.  My dad is clever, easy going, funny, supportive – God, it sounds like some parody of the Boy Scout Oath!  But that’s my dad.  Oh, and he is also non-judgmental, pragmatic, and open-minded as well.  And though he is eighty, I’ll bet no one who ever meets him thinks he far beyond sixty.

Well, after a wonderful evening which followed a wonderful dinner out at the country club, his wife went to bed, and my dad, Teresa, and I sat around the kitchen table chatting casually over hot cocoa.  And in the course of the conversation, I couldn’t  help it – I explained about my desire to pursue facial surgery.

He, of course, had met Teresa before her surgery and has now seen the results.  And I somehow managed to convey the situation in far more concise, passionate, but measured terms than I have in this journal.

As is his way, he listened with interest and bemusement and true thoughtfulness, support, and consideration.  And he offered his perspectives as hopefully helpful angles on the issue.

After I showed him the slight “brow bossing” I have, he commented that to him I was very attractive and didn’t need to do anything, but if I myself truly felt the need to have surgery, and if it was important to me to go through it all, then I should go ahead as it would be required to satisfy my personal assessments.

He actually understood my feelings and concerns, and though from his point of view they were unfounded, he was still supportive that I should follow whatever course I had determined was the best pathway to resolving those issues.

What a wonderful father I have.

As that part of the conversation drew to a close, Teresa told him how much I love and appreciate him, and how often I speak of him, thereby embarrassing us both.  But I said to him simply, “I’m proud of my dad.”  And he replied, “I’m proud of my dajughter.”

What a dad.

Well, we’re going off to bed now, about 10:15.  Tomorrow he plans to take us to Seattle to see the old town and also to tour the underground, which is the original Seattle that was eventually built over because it was too low to sea level on the mud flats on which the original city was constructed.  Apparently, you can see all the old storefronts, below street level of the current city, by touring the underground.

When we return in the late afternoon, my two sisters will drop by to join us all for a dinner trip out to a nice restaurant.  And then on Sunday, they and also one of my brothers will arrive her for dinner at the house (and of course, lots of time for conversation).

Strange situation, meeting the three of them after twenty years, and presenting myself in a manner they have only heard about but not yet seen.  And on top of that, introducing my lesbian lover.

But, if the kids (now in their 40’s) haven’t changed, then they are still just like my dad – warm, wonderful, accepting people who will once again make me feel truly part of the family I never grew up with but have felt so close to over the years.

And, as for facial surgery – well, today I look better than I have in months (to me).  I think a large part of it is that I have been dieting for so long with a low-fat approach.  But that has left my face looking gaunt.  Last two days, I ate low-cal, but high fat.  And that has filled out my cheeks, softened my features, and made me look just like I would hope to look after surgery.  But I already look like that now, today.

So why am I still considering surgery?  It is only one good day, after all.  And if it requires me to keep eating low-cal and high fat, I’ll probably feel that I can’t let gender issues go.  I can only let go if I look female to myself all the time, regardless of any extenuating factors.

But it does rob one of one’s motivation, or at least lessen it.  After all, if I just do a few things and can look just as I want to, how can I be very driven to have surgery which might actually change my looks to something I don’t like, just to become more genetic looking.  Trading beauty for absolute female facial identification.  Do I really want to risk losing a look of face I truly like to be replaced with one I can’t stand, but that is never misread as male.

Blessed I am with such a face.  But cursed as well, for it would be much easier to make this choice if I looked so masculine all the time that there really was no choice.

Teresa, in trying to be supportive, almost seems to flip flop in her stated opinions as she seeks to support my capricious ones.

She has been urging me so strongly to get the surgery, telling me how she never worries anymore and how this has brought her such peace.  But when I tell her how good I look to myself today, she says, “that’s what I’ve been telling you – you’re beautiful,” and yet last night she said, “I never saw the features you were talking about, but you have pointed them out so much that now I can see them, and now I agree with you, you definitely need surgery if you are to put this all behind you once and for all.”

It is a confusing time.  I imagine that if I looked like this to myself all the time, every day, I wouldn’t have surgery.  I imagine that if I looked like this to myself for even a long string of days, I wouldn’t consider surgery until such time as I saw bad reactions from people again.

But if I know that putting my hair in a pony tail and going out in public when tired always gets me soft-clocked, can I live with that, knowing I don’t look like a woman when I present myself some ways, but only when I avoid certain hair styles, manners of dress, and lighting conditions?  Could I ever really live with that?

Probably not.  So my chore now is to gather more data.  I need to keep my appointment with Dr. O. and have him tell me what he sees – hear what he would do to further feminize my face.  And I need to have that English artist do a series of post FFS pictures for me so I can see what those changes might look like.

In fact, I should have them do two sets – one with pictures taken on a good day, the other with pictures taken on a bad one.  Then I can see both what might happen to the looks l like and also how the bottom line might improve as well.

Teresa also suggested having the artist do pics of her from her pre-op pictures, so we could see how accurately the artist’s work parallels the actual results.

Armed with all this information, I expect to finally have enough data to determine what I will want done (if anything or everything).

In the meantime, I have to get to bed if I am to get enough sleep to look genetically female to my eye tomorrow and have that look last long enough for a multi-hour outing to Seattle and the first meeting in twenty years with my sisters later in the evening.

Ninety Four Days

As almost always happens in my journals, I find that emotions can turn on a dime, and that my mood, perspective, and attitude is apt to shift several times over the course of twenty-four hours.  And such was the case between the last entry and this one.

Let me begin by saying today went far better than I would even have imagined.  After a fine night’s sleep , Teresa and I ventured into the kitchen and made coffee and cocoa for ourselves.  After a time, my dad joined us, and then his wife.  We sat around over hot drinks, chatting, and then approached breakfast.

Part way into that venture, my sister Becky arrived to go shopping with her mom while my dad took Teresa and me into downtown Seattle for some sightseeing.  But let me speak of this first reunion with my sister.  The greeting was just as warm and open as it had always been in years previously.  It was as if no time had passed at all.  What’s more, it was as if I had never been any other way than I am now.

I still don’t understand how that is possible, but there it is.  As for myself, I felt so completely comfortable just being as I am with her as well.  You know, after my Cocoon House experience with Teresa where I first dropped my guard and dared to venture into that most private part of myself where I had kept my most vulnerable feminine self safely hidden, I had finally come to fully expand into that essential truth of my nature.   But I had never ever shown that  actual me to my dad, my sisters or my brothers.  Yet here I was, just being myself, and it was as if I had never been any other way.

We parted to our various agendas, and my dad took us to the Seattle Underground – the original level of the city when it was first built on mud flats – an historic city beneath the city – the entire first floor of the original town which was covered with the streets and sidewalks which are suspended ten to thirty feet in the air above.  From the top, they look like regular sidewalks, but it is hollow beneath them, as they are actually just the ceilings to the first sidewalks below, creating a maze of tunnel–like corridors ranging over thirty-three blocks.

After that tour, we explored the Farmers’ Market – an interconnected series of buildings constructed in the late 1800’s that rise five stories from the waterfront and contain literally hundreds of shops from wholesale flower vendors to restaurants and cafes, and peddlers of all manner of produce and handicraft.

After a lengthy excursion and a hot bowl of chowder, we returned home and spent a quite hour before arriving at one of the finer local restaurants to meet my other sister Stacy and also Becky again, this time with her husband.

Once more, the warm feeling of family was there as if we had seen each other every week for years.  And Teresa was fully included in this emotional atmosphere as well.  Becky’s husband even greeted us both with hugs.

This is like living in a dream.  The family I haven’t seen in twenty years still loves me, and embraces me even after never having met me in this form before.

Now, does this all touch on facial surgery.  Peripherally, it does.

First, when going to the Underground, I was very confident because it was all below the earth in artificial light.  At first, when the  one o’clock tour group was seated in the old saloon for an orientation, I was not sure how female I looked in face.  I was getting some looks, but they were almost always eye-contact, which usually doesn’t happen when I am getting “read.”  In those cases, they almost always look away as soon as they see me see them.

But here, even if there was no smile exchanged, it was just eye contact and then our eyes moved on.  So I felt things were going well (as direct sunlight is often my enemy) these days, especially from the side, especially at close range).

Still, I was quite nervous – just like the old days when I was first trying to pass almost twenty years ago.  Teresa asked how I was doing, and I explained.  She then commented that the smile I was wearing was very believable – until I told her how I was feeling, she had assumed from my expression that I was not worried at all.  She then said she now understood how she could have missed becoming aware of my concerns for so many years, as I had learned to fake confidence quite effectively.

Well, although I was somewhat fearful of being pegged, I tried, as usual, to focus on the positive experiences of the moment, and set my mind to wrap around the tour itself, as we trudged along three underground blocks of the old city.

Teresa, on the other hand, was so good looking, so natural, and fit in perfectly with all the other women.  But as I examined the faces of the other women, especially their foreheads above the eyes, it was clear to me that if I pulled back my bangs or was seen from the side, the gentle rise of my bones above the eyes would be visible, and anyone seeing it would find my face somehow not right for a woman.  What’s more, it made me feel not a part of that group, different from all the other women.

Oh, how painful is it when you see every other woman’s forehead in the room go smoothly and flatly directly to the bridge of the nose, and yours bulges out.  And how painful is it when your mate of eight years who used to have a forehead that protruded far beyond your own, now had a forehead just like the other women’s, making her clearly part of that group, and separating her from being the same sort of creature as me!

God, I hat that feeling.  I must end it.  I must have it gone.

After the tour, at the Farmer’s Market, I was mostly in artificial light, but during our chowder we sat at a table near the window, overlooking the waterfront far down below.  And the sun blasted in directly to the side of me.  Teresa, across the table, still looked her usual newly beautiful genetically female self.  I could only guess how I looked.

I did catch a number of the other diners staring at me in that setting and situation.  But did they read me, or not?  I still do not know.  I did make eye-contact with several of them, but most didn’t look away.  I’ve been told by two different people in the last year that I look almost exactly like Julianne Moore.  So is that what they are thinking, or are they pegging me for possibly being a transsexual?

I do not know.  Certainly, there is nothing overtly negative about these looks, so it isn’t as bad as my early days.  And my own fears may also be amplifying my assessment of the staring, which may not be any more attention than anyone else gets as we all scan the faces of the people around us.

But, I can’t help but wonder.

The evening, however, is always my friend.  I look so good in the light of the night that I am often flirted with and people go out of their way to catch a glimpse of me.  You see, I was born pretty.  But that has nothing to do with looking male or female, as either sex can be pretty.

But as women age, they tend to look more masculine.  So, while I might still have the pretty factor, my androgynous face has shifted over the years from leaning toward female to leaning toward male in the full light of day.  But at night, in the soft lighting of a restaurant, those telltale shadows are missing.  And all that is left is a very pretty androgynous face that leans heavily toward the female.

So I know I look good after dark.  And therefore, my fears evaporate.  And meeting Stacy and Becky’s husband in that circumstance was so positive for me.  And for them, it provided a first impression that clearly cast me as I wished to be perceived.

The timing and schedule of it all worked much to my favor.

But that, of course, is just indicative of the problem.  If I slept days and only went out after dark, I would have no need at all for the surgery, though I might still desire it.  But because I must also live in the light of the sun, I cannot avoid the surgery if I am to ever find peace and security, socially.

As I examined the bone structure of the women around me, I realized I was so envious.  I wanted to be identical to that – I wanted to have the same  absolute interpretation of gender that they had, that Teresa now has.

So, on the one hand, I am wholly warmed by the re-embrace of my extended family after all these years and after all these changes.  And I am also grateful for the ability to feel at ease in the evenings, and to mostly have confidence I am passing during the day.

My life is truly blessed.

But on the other hand, I can no longer suffer the uncertainty of how others see me, and having now researched the differences of male and female bone structures, while I am aware that I have a face far from masculine, I long even more for one that is truly and fully feminine, just as Teresa’s is.  And I want it as soon as I can get it.

Perhaps I am ungrateful.  Perhaps, like Michael  Jackson, I don’t know how to quit when I’m ahead.  But, God help me, I want it all and I want it over.  And I’m afraid I cannot stop until I achieve that or die trying.

One thing is for sure.  As with SRS and my breast and nose surgeries, I can ask myself, “If I go to my death bed without doing this surgery, without having that experience I must have of seeing a real woman in the mirror, of becoming a different person facially, of the churning of the stomach when one contemplates that surgery was done, your face is changed forever, you are now someone else, you are permanently made female on the one area of your body you cannot hide – if I go to my death bed without experiencing the thrill of these things, will I go gently into the night?”  No, I could not.  I would feel I had missed my only chance to have a hyperspace journey into a weird world that might also just resolve all my remaining gender concerns and make me feel completely normal.  I have to have this experience – I have to see what that is like.

And so, I must have it.  I must have it all.  I must have it soon.  Or I must die trying.

Eighty Nine Days

You’ll notice I skipped a few days.  As I’ll relate in a moment, the day after my last entry was another fully packed one.  By the time I got to bed it was late, I was tired, and we had to get up early the next morning for the drive home.  The next day, Monday, was a long drive, followed by the rest of the drive on Tuesday.  With all the events of the weekend surrounded by four days of long distance driving, I became increasingly exhausted and simply didn’t have the energy to write at that time.

So, here I am, at least partially rested on a Wednesday afternoon, mostly caught up with business, unpacking, and household affairs, and ready to document the unfolding of the recent past and my current outlook for the future.

Okay, Sunday then….

My dad’s home is wonderfully comfy and cozy.  He was a notch or two above the financial status of my mom’s side of the family, and a couple notches more sophisticated (in a social sense) as well.  So, for me, it was always a treat to feel part of his world, and entitled to it (I felt) by virtue of the blood that flowed in my veins.  In fact, there is a strong sense of blood-tie in the whole clan, my sisters and brothers, my dad, and me.

As a result, being so warmly accepted the night before, it was especially gentle on my heart’s contentment to feel I had come home again, especially since my mother and grandmother and grandfather (on my mother’s side) are all gone now, and my only remaining connection to blood relatives is through my father.

You can imagine, then, how pleased I was when both of my sisters decided to join us for a walk on Sunday morning in the forested preserve behind my father’s house.

Everyone showed up and we all headed out back for an hour’s stroll in the rain forest.  Teresa took pictures of our little expedition, in addition to grabbing a number of excellent shots of the many varieties of mushrooms that covered the ground in staggering quantities.

The hike was a good opportunity for everyone to pair off in different combinations, moving in and out of groups of two, three, or more, and having a chance to get to know each other one on one.

I enjoyed some very fundamental re-bonding with my sisters, and though I could feel a new form of closeness growing, I kept worrying about my appearance.  I was grateful that it was a typical overcast Seattle day, because that lighting is far kinder to my face than full sun.

Funny how that didn’t used to matter once my initial transition was over, but the toll of age has been a reverse transition back into readability if ideal conditions are not present.  (And that, of course, is my primary motivation for obtaining FFS.)

I guess women also age to the masculine, but in the case of fully genetic females, this process simply moves them to some degree toward center.  But if you are of androgynous countenance, then the normal aging process moves you past center and into the realm of the suspect individual.

In any event, we all had a good time on the walk, and afterward we split up to reconvene at dinner with the addition of my brother, Dan, to the crowd as well.  Come time to think about preparing dinner, my dad and I went off to his favorite “bake at home” pasta shop (a really wonderful place with a magnificent array of specialty foods) and then to the supermarket for other culinary supplies.

Before leaving the store, my dad bought me a cup of coffee at the in-store Starbucks.  You know, I’d never really gone shopping with my dad before.  All these years, all those visits, and this was our first shopping trip for groceries.

Upon our return, we noticed that my brother’s car parked in front.  This was a big moment of truth for me.  I anticipated that my sisters would be accepting of me, but my brother, well, I had last seen him when he was 12 or 13.  And I’d only ever met him maybe five or six times before that.  Since those days, he has grown into a rugged outdoorsman who has climbed mountains and led expeditions all over the world.

Most lately he has just returned from Peru, which although mostly a sightseeing trip, also included one climb.  He then stopped by Hawaii, and afterward attended the wedding of a friend in Carmel, California, before ending up back home just a week ago.  Unexpectedly good timing for something of a reunion for a relationship that never really established itself in the first place, a quarter of a century before.

When I entered the house, Dan was sitting on the couch next to his mother, and I came boldly forward to greet him.  He rose, and we exchanged a tentative, cordial but not warm hug.

We spoke for a few minutes and then my sister Becky called and reminded me that since she and her husband, Bret, had invited us to see their home, we had better go do it or there would not likely be another chance before we left.

So, I began to get directions from her over the phone when Dan stepped in and offered to drive with us and guide us to our destination.  Surprised me.  I had thought by virtue of his guarded greeting that he was perhaps going to want to keep his distance.

But, in the car, he conversed enthusiastically with both Teresa and myself.  He’s a big guy (tall and muscular, though not bulky) so I opted for the back seat while Teresa drove.  And throughout the trip, Dan would turn back to include me with a comment, a wink, or a smile.

Once we arrived, we all piled out of the car and got the grand tour.  Becky and Bret live on two acres in a converted farm house in which they have done wonders.  Becky’s decorating and Bret’s carpentry skills have transformed the place in to a cozy family home.

We met the outside dogs, took a look at Bret’s workshop and at the in-floor water pipe heating system he installed.  Very impressive.  And, we chatted with them and with Dan for awhile before determining it was time to return to my dad’s house for dinner.

Dan and Teresa and I continued our lively conversation the whole trip back, and returned just in time to see my other sister, Stacy, arriving with the makings for dessert.

We entered the house together, and preparations began for the traditional Sunday Family Feast.  As I had learned, since my dad and Roxie moved up to Seattle, the whole clan had gathered most every Sunday for a family dinner – a chance to enjoy each other’s company and to share the events of the week.  And here were Teresa and I, participating as members of the family, even after my absence from interactions with my siblings for two decades.

It was a typical Hollywood movie family gathering with everyone chipping in to help prepare various parts of the meal.  (I learned that they all enjoyed cooking without exception – and of course, my brother Ben has worked as a chef for years.)  Teresa grabbed a candid photo of my two sisters, my brother, and myself, all peeling apples from Stacy’s tree for our dessert.

During dinner, clever conversation was bounced around the table, and I hadn’t felt such a positive family mood since probably when I was a child at Sunday dinner at my grand parents’ where we all came together in the same way.

After dinner, Teresa and I showed a slide show from our recent backpacking trip in the Yosemite back country, up and over Donahue pass.  We prefaced it by saying that we realized this was rather tame compared to what Dan has done, but we hoped they enjoyed the flavor of it.

In fact, the whole family hikes, backpacks, and so on.  I was actually quite amazed at how many favorite activities seem almost genetically determined among us, since I fit right into the same genres without knowing the others played in those realms as well.

After the show (which I think established Teresa and myself as also being intrepid and rugged members of the family), the group slowly broke up, and I bid my farewells to my brother and then my sisters as they all returned home to prepare for the week to come.

Roxie went to bed and Teresa and I sat up with my dad for a while, just chatting in general in an enjoyable banter.  And finally, we all went to get some sleep as well.

On Monday morning, Teresa and I awoke early.  It was a wonderful morning.  Everyone had been met, interacted with, and gotten closer to.  There were no sour moments or awkward scenes.  We lay in bed for a while, frisky in each others arms and then gently drifting in the gray light of the early morn.  But, eventually it was time to get up, get showered, and get packed.

We met my dad in the dining room, and he prepared our final breakfast together for this trip.  After a fine day-starter, he and Roxie prepared to leave for an appointment they had, and Teresa and I loaded the car.  All four of us left together in our separate cars.  In short order, Teresa and I were back on the freeway and once more headed toward our home in Northern California.

We broke up the trip into two days, spending the night in a motel on the Rogue River.  During that time, we had plenty of opportunity to review our weekend and compare notes.

One point Teresa brought up was that not once during our stay did the subject of my transition come up in conversations with my siblings.  It was as if I had been born this way and simply hadn’t seen them in many years.  I hadn’t even thought about that until Teresa mentioned it, and then it seemed so odd.  In fact, as I was writing today’s entry, I paused to tell Teresa that everything went so well, it felt more like I was writing an unrealistic fiction than a journal of actual fact.

Over the two driving days and today as well, the subject of my approaching FFS was oft discussed between the two of us.  Depending on how much rest I had, how I had my hair, and how the light was striking me, we ranged from feeling that I should wait for surgery for at least a year to give the changes in my hormone therapy a chance to complete their work and for me to lose weight to being certain that I should have the surgery as soon as possible.

In the end though, it was reaffirmed that although I have good days when I know I can’t possibly have any problems and feel fully confident in my appearance, those days are fewer and farther between with every year, and the degree to which I appear like a TS or a man is also increasing with time.

Therefore, there is no way to avoid it.  I must have surgery, not for the good days, but the bad ones.  In addition, I’m tired of this face.  I like it – I like it a lot – but I’ve seen this face around on too many occasions over the years when my life was very unpleasant.  This face reminds me too much of them.

And I want to never have to worry about what gender people will think I am, even on the worst of my days.  I believe I cannot feel any new emotion this side of surgery.  I’ve felt it all.  But I also believe that there will be emotions to experience on the other side I’ve never even imagined.

Pre-happiness is what I’m going through.  I’m not happy yet, but everything is going my way and headed toward an event that I expect to dissipate all obstacles to real happiness once and for all.

It feels like Saturday morning as a child.  School is out until Monday.  I don’t have to worry about catching up on homework until Sunday.  But today, I might go someplace fun and exciting with my parents, join the family in some project or home improvement, leisurely sit and read a book, or saunter down the street watching the clouds and following the shadows as they slowly slide across the ground.

I have no worries except in considering how to break the news to Mary and Mindi.  I don’t think I can make either of them understand why I am going to do this, so my whole purpose is not to seek their approval, but to soften the blow.

Lastly, Teresa suggested that I don’t necessarily have to wait until January.  I might have the surgery right after Thanksgiving if they have a date open, and I would already be healed enough to celebrate Christmas by the time my daughter comes up for the holiday.

If that turns out to be the case, it is no longer eighty-nine days until FFS, but as few as forty-nine!  So, after my appointment with Dr. O. in five days on Monday of next week, we may very well have to change the numbering scheme on this journal.

Eighty Seven Days

I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned in this journal yet how I intend to pay for facial surgery, but I’m too lazy to read the whole thing over and see if I did.  So, here it is (again?):

Basically, as I was closing in on making the commitment to have surgery, Teresa and I began to talk more seriously about how to finance it.  She offered to go to work and put all the extra money into the fund.  And, we talked about selling everything we own.  We considered moving up to Oregon where the rents and cost of living are far lower than here in California, and since I make my income from sales on the internet, the money would stay the same while expenses went down, leaving us a net gain we could put away for FFS.

But ultimately, though each of these plans had some merit, it would probably take as much as two years to raise the money.  Now, this wasn’t a fatal flaw, as Teresa had certainly waited that long and longer for her surgery.  But, as of this writing, Dr. O. is somewhere in his late seventies, I’ve heard, perhaps even seventy-eight.  I can’t imagine he’d want to practice (or even be able to) at eighty, though as I’ve mentioned, my dad is eighty and quite capable.

So, it would likely be that if I had to wait two years, Dr. O. would no longer be available and I’d have to go to another surgeon.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but since Teresa’s results have been so good and since she is such a detailed researcher that I’d hate to arbitrarily be forced to use another doctor due to circumstances beyond my control.

(As a side note, I’ve found Dr. S.’s work to be less aggressive than Dr. O., and therefore the results are not as dramatic.  I just saw the first results from Dr. Z. in a page Teresa found on the internet, and his work looks, at least in this one case, are nothing short of extraordinary.  But, the subject was just twenty-one years old.  And in addition, Dr. Z. doesn’t lower the blood pressure as much during surgery, so there was FAR more swelling in the patient pictures I saw, FAR worse at a month than Teresa was at a week including eyes swollen shut, lips the size of sea slugs, and bruises enough to change your species.  The only other option of note are the doctors in Thailand, but they don’t seem aggressive enough, and they just had a military coup a couple weeks ago, and in the “after” pictures I’ve seen from them the patients end up looking slightly Asian.)

Assuming, then, that Dr. O. is my best choice, none of the options we had considered would be fast enough.  As karma and destiny would have it (and the two of these are oft at work in both my life and Teresa’s), last year and this year have been very bad in my business.  After many years of making a consistent amount, last year my income dropped by fifty percent!  And this year is only a little bit better.

As a result, I simply don’t have enough money to pay my taxes this year.  And, due to other slow years, I already owe three years of back taxes to the IRS.  So, it looked like I was doomed, once and for all, and headed for bankruptcy.  But then, the Powers That Be alerted me to another option I hadn’t considered.

I inherited the house my wife, Mary, lives in down in Southern California back in 1989.  To get the loan for SRS (and other bills) we put a mortgage on it back in 1991, and with my credit and the fact I wanted to protect Mary if I died on the table, I put her name on as joint owner.

Years later, after I had already left and moved in with Teresa, Mary wanted to remodel the kitchen, so she took our an equity line in her name only for $35,000 (which also paid off some of our joint bills).

Well, it suddenly occurred to me that after all these years, a Southern California home in a nice neighborhood was probably worth a lot more than it was fifteen years ago.  In fact, it had gone up in value to about two and a half times its value back then.  As a result, even with my rotten credit, the low loan to value ratio should open up a lot of extra available money at a good interest rate if I refinanced the equity line.

So, I approached the four biggest mortgage companies, got one decline, one awful offer, one good offer, and one GREAT offer!  We went with that one.  And surprisingly, Mary (who historically would have been very much against such a thing) was completely in favor of it!

Well, it turns out that I can get enough money our of the house to not only pay this year’s taxes, but to carry me for over five years, even with my lower business income should it not improve, and by that time I’ll have paid off my car and my back tax payments to the IRS, freeing up enough cash flow to start paying off the equity line!

Now, you may not believe this, but I was so worried about not having the tax money (which is due, with my extensions, a week from now, that it never occurred to me to think beyond that.

So, Teresa and I were still talking about jobs and moving and selling things to make the money for surgery in two years, when suddenly it struck me – there would be enough money in the new equity line to cover all my needs and ALSO cover all the costs of surgery.

But, how would Mary take it?  I needed this so much, but would she allow it?  Or should I demand it, rather than ask?  How should I breach the subject?  And even if she did agree, what would be the emotional costs?  Would they scuttle my newly warmed relationship with Mary forever?  And for that matter, would the surgery do that anyway, once my face it unmistakably that of a woman?

Whoa.

How did it turn out?  It hasn’t yet.  On the road back from Washington I called up the loan company to check the status, and everything has been approved.  All that remains is for Mary and me to sign it.  We have to be in the same place at the same time.  Mary volunteered to meet me halfway between here and there even though that is a four hour trip for her.   But, with her health problems of the last few years, I don’t want her to strain herself that much.  So, I set the signing for to be at the house in question, meaning that I have an eight hour drive the day after tomorrow, get there about an hour before the notary is to show up, stay the night in a motel, and then drive back up the next day (Sunday) and try to be rested enough for my x-rays and evaluation consultation with Dr. O. the following day after a three hour drive to San Francisco.

Now, just recently, after years of insisting she wanted to stay married, at least on paper, Mary suggested maybe a divorce was the best thing at this point.  When I replied that I just wanted her to be happy, so whatever she decided I would support, within a few days she determined she really wanted to stay married.  And what’s more, her usual sad demeanor became happy, cheerful, and completely proactively friendly.

It was during this time that I had brought up the plan to refinance the equity line, and her positive response, though not historically characteristic, was equally positive and agreeable. Even Mary herself commented that she had told our son, “What’s wrong with me?  Normally I’d have all kinds of objections to this, but I find myself quite in favor of it.”

So if you were Mary, how would you react to my eventual disclosure that within weeks of asking her to sign herself into debt (along with me), I plan on spending about one fifth of it to make myself look less like her husband than ever?  If it was me, I’d think all this was a preplanned scam to trick her into financing my surgery.

I still don’t have any idea how to tell her about this.  If I tell her this weekend, it will be right on the heels of signing the loan.  What’s more, I won’t yet know exactly how much it will cost or when I’ll be doing it, which I won’t find out until two days later.

If I wait until I come down to see her again it will be over the Thanksgiving holiday.  If I tell her before the dinner, it will ruin it.  If I tell her after the holiday, she’ll think all the good will over Thanksgiving was just to butter her up.  And, if I wait until then, it might be just days before the surgery is scheduled and come across as if I’m waiting until the last moment to rush it all past her.

If I tell her between those two time it will be over the telephone, so it will be impersonal and I won’t be able to show her the pictures that illustrate why I want to do it.

So what will I do?  I haven’t got a clue. But one thing is for sure – I have to tell my daughter.  She insisted on flying up to San Francisco for Teresa’s surgery, to support both Teresa and me.  Later, in Lake Tahoe when Mindi was visiting us up here earlier this year, I mentioned I was considering the same surgery, and she was more upset than I’d ever seen her.

She told me that she couldn’t abide my taking that risk – soft tissue surgery, sure, but she knew I didn’t need the surgery, and she couldn’t stand the thought of losing me.  (Mindi and I are so close that we call each other almost every day, and share all the details of our lives.  She often phones me just to share what she is having for dinner or to ask tips on spicing.)

A few days later, I called her up and promised I would never have that kind of bone surgery.  And now I have to tell her I’m going back on my word.  What’s more, because she had told me when I had my lip surgery last year (and had mentioned I almost didn’t tell anyone in advance) that she would be unforgivingly pissed if I ever had surgery without telling her.

Now, she so misses me and wants to see me (even though I’ll be down to her house for Thanksgiving and she is coming up for Christmas), that she is losing sleep after a long night out of town to meet me for breakfast on Sunday, the day after I sign the papers with Mary.

So, if I am to tell her in advance with a chance to explain my reasons in person, I have to do it before I know the full extent of the surgeries I’ll be having and during a breakfast when she is sacrificing sleep just to see me.  Another major bummer.

Bad enough to have to face such a painful and risky surgery, but to have to deal with this shit?  Well, I guess it is my penance for putting Teresa through the emotional wringer when her days were counting down to surgery.  Your own Karma always ends up biting you in the ass.

Well, I had much more to say tonight, and a lot of it positive.  But I find myself pretty much drained by this unexpected little explanation, so you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow to hear the good and optimistic stuff.

Oh, what the hell, it’s still an hour and a half to bed, thirty minutes left on CSI tonight, followed by a new episode of “Shark” with James Woods, so I guess I’ll give it a try anyway, after a brief break to make some tea.

What, Ho!  I have returned.  But not before I got a call from Mary.  She wanted to tell me that after we signed the papers for the loan, she wanted to make a dinner for me.

Eighty Six Days

Rats!  I was just about to add to that entry last night when other events transpired (of which I shall soon inform you) that ate up the rest of the evening right up through bed time.

I shall attempt same today.

First, to pick up where I left off….

When we last visited our saga, Mary had just called to tell me she wanted to make a dinner for me after we signed the loan papers.  Not a big deal, you might say, but Mary hasn’t cooked a meal for me in perhaps twenty or thirty years.  So, you can imagine my surprise.

It is very much in-keeping with her recent run of high spirits, but is it just a friendly thought or a purpose to it?  Or do I just suspect everyone including myself?  Either way, it will certainly be a welcome treat.

But last night, I’m thinking, “Here I am, about to drop this bomb-shell on her.  And she’s been so happy.  And she’s going to think I set this whole loan thing up as a scam.  And now she’s being even nicer, and in such an open way – just like the best years of our marriage….”

I felt so bad – how would I ever get this surgery without hurting her feelings?

Then I told her I was really looking forward to the dinner, and after, once we had visited, I’d head off to the motel for the night and back home the following morning.

We closed the conversation with a very positive feeling in the air.  But just as I was about to sit down and write again, she called back.  She said she just realized what I had said about where I’d be sleeping.

You see, every other time I’ve come down alone since moving in with Teresa, I’ve always stayed there at Mary’s.  But she and I have different comfort levels of housekeeping, and though I’ve enjoyed the extra time together, I’ve been a bit ill at ease in that environment.  (Plus, there are all kinds of black widows right outside the window, and I’m convinced that some of them are hiding under the furniture.)

So Mary was upset that I didn’t want to stay there and was feeling a bit rejected.  I absolutely can understand that.  I explained to her my reasons, and she accepted them, but the conversation ended on just as down a note as the previous one had ended on an up note.

The pressure seemed pretty heavy to me at that moment.  So after pacing around for a while, I determined that there was one thing I could do to relieve the crunch: I could call Mindi and tell her about my surgery plans over the phone to get at least that one hurdle out of the way.

I caught her on her cell phone in her car on the way home from a night class at school.  Although I know I came off as being completely fragmented, I managed to cough out the situation and come clean.

She took it surprisingly well.  In fact, the first two things she said were, “I kinda suspected you’d do this eventually,” and “Of course I’ll be there during your surgery.”

I know she was disappointed, and she doesn’t agree that I need this (anymore than anyone agreed with Teresa when she tried to explain how important it was to her), but at least she made a point of telling me she supports me, loves me, and that the only thing she doesn’t like about it is the potential risk, because she doesn’t want to lose me.

I wish I could have told her that my life is at a road block.  That I have run out of feelings to have.  That every day I wake up to the background noise of the fear of being read, and the disappointment when I first see my face in the mirror before I get my hair done up to compensate for the features I want to change.

But that would just have depressed her.  And if I had told her that I simply can’t lose.  Whether I awaken to a beautiful new face, a disfigured one, or die on the table, any way it comes down, the pain of gender issues is over the moment I go to sleep in the operating room.

I no longer have any internal work to do.  That was completed with the end of the third part of my diary trilogy.  And in the epilog (Journey’s End) I described the lay of the land in which I then found myself.

But there is still external work to do.  And quite honestly, there are some problems that just can’t be solved inside your own head.  The apparent gender of your face is one of them.

After deeply felt farewells, I put down the phone and considered….

Buoyed by having put my disclosure to Mindi behind me, I found myself to be quite happy, feeling free, and in control.  And then it struck me – the solution to my ethical and emotional dilemma of signing the loan papers and then figuring out how and when to tell Mary about spending thirty thousand dollars for the surgery.

I would tell her before she signed the loan papers.

What, am I nuts?  What if she chooses not to sign?  Well, I could then simply keep all the money that customers send in for products for a month, delay sending them the products for four weeks, and that would raise the cash necessary.  Would I go to jail?   Maybe.  But I’d go with a girl’s face.

More likely than jail, we’d just have a lot of angry customers, many of whom would cancel their orders.  Of course that would mean the business might fold and therefore I couldn’t make the payments on the house, and Mary would have to take them over or lose the house, and that would really put a pinch on her finances.

But don’t you see?  My ethical dilemma is resolved.

If I tell her how important this is to me before she signs, then there’s no chance I would be misleading her, scamming her, or taking advantage of her.

And, since Mary already has borrowed thirty-five thousand from the house in an equity line of her own (that we are paying off and folding into the new loan) that she used to remodel the kitchen and other items, ethically I’m entitled to the same amount to remodel my face.

So if she denies me and doesn’t sign, then I would be the one wronged in an ethical sense, and therefore, if the only other course available to me would be to put my business four weeks behind in filling customer orders, I’d simply have no other choice.

Of course, I’d still send the customers their stock – I’m not going to steal from them.  But I would be doing it four weeks late, and that, well unfortunate for business, and for them, is an ethical mis-step of a much smaller magnitude to my way of thinking.

Naturally, I don’t expect it to come to that.  But, the main point is that I would think very poorly of myself if I had Mary sign and then told her.  But telling her first, to me, is the only ethical choice available.

Once I realized that I didn’t have to violate my own code, I felt the clouds clear.  I found myself concerned no longer for myself, but only for trying to ensure that my choice to have surgery had the least negative impact possible on those around me.

My first thought was that even though Mary said nothing in the phone conversation about her disappointment that I wasn’t staying there, I knew that negative feeling existed, and I should try to do something about it.

So, I called her up again and addressed the issue.  We started out in a serious vein, but within moments we slipped into a hilarious interchange of hissy-fit comments and ludicrous accusations of who had who’s goat.

By the end of the call, we were both in the best of spirits.  And though I suspect there will be more downer emotions to deal with when I explain my plans, at least the ethical dilemma is resolved.

Now… I promised you some really upbeat stuff, and that’s what I intend to deliver.

I’ve been keeping short little snatches of phrases in my notebook over the last couple of days with transient thoughts I’ve wanted to include in this journal.  Though they are interesting and worthy enough to expound upon in great detail, it is late again and I have to get up at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning in order to make the eight hour drive down to Southern California to arrive in time to tell Mary of my plans and sign the papers.  So, I’ll just spew these out, if you don’t mind, and get packing.

Here goes…

Even if you resolve all your angst and get right with yourself, the bad may be gone but you may not have experienced all the good.

Much of your true personality was left zipped up on the hard drive of your mind because it just didn’t match your face.

People tend to act as they look and then look like they act.  The natural contours of your countenance determine the basic parameters of what kinds of personality traits society will accept from you.  Then, learning to mold your inner self to those restrictions and requirements, you accessorize yourself with clothes, make-up, mannerisms, and even interests, involvements, and affiliations to seal the deal.

So, the changing of face is a big deal.  People’s expectations of you change.  And since the face you see in the mirror reflects a new stereotype, you find yourself expecting different things of yourself as well.  You feel as if you have truly become a member of a different group and have been booted out of the old one.

And as that happens, you can finally unzip those inner files and let the fullness of the woman you were meant to be sally forth as newly integrated parts of your homogenous being.

This is all fine in theory and in concept, but it is impossible to truly know what joys may come when you have arrived on the other side.  You might get rid of all the pain and negatives on this side, but you can’t even fathom the nature of the joys on the other until you actually get there.  It is like a foreign language until you find yourself speaking it.

Surgery becomes a veil you cannot see beyond.  In contrast, SRS really isn’t much of a dividing line.  For me (and many others I’ve talked to) it was just completing some work you needed to do.  All the inner work and all the inner changes in that regard were already completed long before that procedure.

But with FFS, it is not just your gender identity you change, but your whole friggin’ identity proper.  And that is something for which there really is no preparation.

In fact, it is so far out of the realm of anything you can really prepare for, that as a writer, how can I possibly resist having the opportunity to experience it.  What a grand and rare treat to actually watch yourself become a different person from the moment you first look in the mirror to the one year mark when virtually all of the swelling is gone and your new features have set in place.

Who will I be?  What kind of a face will I have?  What would I think today, if I encountered someone who looks identical to how I will soon look?  What assumptions would I make about their personality based on their appearance?  How would I treat them?  How would I expect them to act?

To become this mystery woman a few short weeks from now is absolutely going to be the thrill of a lifetime.  For that (now that I have resolved my ethical dilemma) is how I think of it:  The biggest, most wonderful, most mysterious thrill ride a human being can take.

It certainly was for Teresa.  And though she plays her feelings about such things pretty close to the vest, living with her every day, I have been able to catch glimpses of what it must be like.  And, as a writer, I’ll take the opposite tack and do my best to share with you the feeling of the experience.

Something that comes to mind is Teresa’s comment to me, made on several occasions during our years together before her FFS that she envied my lack of a brow ridge and even envied the annoyance she knew I (and almost all women) have when showering and the soap runs down right into your eyes because there’s no protruding bone to act as an awning.

After her surgery, she not only has no brow ridge, but has no brow “bossing” (the raised area along the eyebrow line).  I still have my slight brow bossing – not much by male standards, but just far enough out of the female range that I do better in bangs and really can pull my hair back in a pony tail without risking some odd looks.

So, for the last year, it has been my turn to be envious of her in regard to the same thing – to have the soap run even more freely into my eyes than it does now.  What a joy that will be!

And another thing.  When you are close to someone – especially really close – you don’t see them as they are but as you know them to be inside.  I remember this one girl who worked at the same photo lab as my friend and me during a Summer job.

When I first met her, she had these enormous, and I mean ENORMOUS buck teeth.  By the time she left that job at the end of the Summer, she didn’t have them anymore.  Well, of course, she did.  But to me, I had fully stopped seeing them as being large and in my filtered view of her, based on her soft and feminine personality, I had subconsciously reduced their size to normal.

When I first met Teresa, the first things I saw were her flashing eyes and her huge, square jaw.  They were like parts off two different people.  But by the time she was to have FFS, I couldn’t see the reason for it, nor could anyone else who knows her.

Teresa just ran into that with me.  Over the years she kept telling me how pretty I am, how beautiful my face and profile.  It took all kinds of photos and point of things out before she was finally able to see in me the same kinds of issues that in her own face had driven her to surgery.

Granted, my case is not as severe or dramatic, as I am far more androgynous that she was, but I finally did shake her out of it (withholding judgment as to whether that was a good idea or not).

But, in this light, she mentioned to me the other day that I had the perfect face for a transvestite because I could be read for brief periods of time as either male or female depending on what clothes I am wearing, how I act, how I hold my face, and if I have make-up on.

Since I’m not a transvestite, it is a really frustrating face to have.  But the one advantage is that the changes will be very subtle, and therefore it has become easy for me to project ahead and to actually feel from inside my head that my face is already as it will be.

Of course, this all shoots out the window if I look in a mirror, but barring that, I find myself opening up more and more of those zipped up files based on how I can feel that I look.

Naturally, some of these manners of thought and behavior are not consistent with societal expectations of my nature based on the actuality of my present face.  So, while I can express them at home in Teresa’s presence, I must be careful not to express them in public until my face is altered in such a way as to make these personality attributes socially acceptable.

Sure, I can’t hold it all back as so much of it is subconscious, but with surgery looming soon, I guess I can afford the small but growing amounts that trickle through, as it won’t be long before I need hold nothing back, ever again.

The final note I wish to convey before I get to packing my suitcase to drive for eight hours, confront Mary with my incendiary news, and sign the papers which will enable this dream is this:

Two nights ago in bed, I felt as if the surgery were already completed and healed, a year in the future.  Teresa was holding me and we began to move together as lovers do.

I found myself fully embracing and expressing all that had opened up in me.  Without making any conscious choices to do so, I could sense the energy signature changing within me.

The motions I made, the manner in which I spoke and touched her, it was as if I was a different person, more real and genuine to myself than I have ever been.

Teresa sensed it, and afterward we spoke of many of the concepts I have delineated above.  The end result is that these feelings alter me internally more and more each day.  I find myself feeling truly normal, truly content, but I know this is only because I have made the commitment to have surgery.

If I suddenly could not do it, for any reason, the old background noise of fear, of being a halfling, of feeling like a male head stuffed with a female brain and stuck on a girl’s body – these terrible things would return in an instant.

So, let’s pray the good doctor remains in good health, that Mary agrees without too much negative energy to my expenditure, and that I (and those around me) remain safe and well until this wonderful, mystical, magical, unpenetratable transformation is forged in reality.

Eighty Four Days

Well don’t I feel like a heel….

I’m back home now, having made the 6 ½ hour drive down to Southern California, spent the night, and returned a few hours ago.

When I arrived there, it was about ninety minutes before the notary was due with the loan documents, making it time to think about lunch.  So, I stopped at a 7-11 to buy myself one of their rat meat hot dogs.  (Actually, I like rat meat.)

In fact, thought I, why not get two hot dogs!  After all, it is a road trip day, and who expects one to continue to diet on a road trip?  So, I doubled my order.  But, as he was stuffing the cylindrical flesh into the bun, I discovered it was quite a bit larger a portion than I had expected.  (They really do give you your money’s worth at 7-11).

I knew I couldn’t eat them both and still have room for Mary’s pot roast dinner, so I smothered one in chili and cheese and then left the other plain to give to Mary, as it had occurred to me that she was working so hard to clean the place up for the notary that I suspected she probably hadn’t eaten lunch.

And while I was at it, I noticed there was but a single red rose left in their countertop bouquet bucket.  I asked the price, and it was just a couple of dollars, so I thought, you know, I haven’t brought Mary a flower in a while – haven’t even seen her in months.  And she’s been working so hard on the house – she really deserves a little thank you.  The rose was added to the dogs.

But as I walked to the car it occurred to me that if I gave her the dog and the rose and then told her of my plan for surgery and where I would be getting the money, it would diminish the joy I wanted her to have from the two items, as it would seem they had been manipulations to butter her up.  In fact, I never thought of using them that way, yet I was sure they would be interpreted that way.

But what to do?  During the trip down I had mostly kept a clear mind and simply listened to music.  What else would have made sense with all the tensions of the time soon to come when I had to break the news?  Still, from time to time, the consideration passed my mind as I occasionally took a stab at trying to figure out the best time to spill the beans.

Yet now, armed with rose and dog, how would I handle the whole thing?  And as I drove the final two blocks to the house, a plan emerged.  When I arrived, I’d just let her see the gifts but blurt out that before she thought I was trying to bribe her, I wanted her to know that I wanted to use some of the equity money to get the same kind of surgery Teresa had, and that the rose and dog were just because I was thinking of her.

So, that’s exactly what I did.  And you know how she reacted?  She said, “Well, it’s your money since you’ll be making the payments on it.  Just don’t overextend yourself and get into trouble trying to make the payments.

And that was it.  No explosions, no tears, not hurt feelings.  She gladly accepted the dog and devoured it with relish (actually, with nothing on it, but still with relish).  She had not, in fact, eaten lunch at all.

And she put the flower in a vase, and then we talked about the notary, joined together in some additional last minute housework, hobnobbed with our son (who lives with her) and watched a little television.

The notary (a woman) arrived a little late, but it only took ten minutes to sign all the papers.  And then…  well, then Mary and I simply had a fun time visiting each other.  In fact, it felt like the most emotionally honest day we have spent together in years!

So after all that worry, and after all those aspersions I had cast on Mary’s character, it turns out she was completely supportive, and it only took the first thirty seconds of my visit to resolve the whole thing painlessly.

What a heel.

Oh, and the pot roast?  She made it because she didn’t know if Teresa would be coming down with me, figured we might decided to do a quick turn around and head right back up to Northern California after signing the papers, and thought we might night have enough time for a proper dinner.  So she made one for us (or me) depending on who came down, just to make sure we ate well before we left.

What a heel.

As my mom used to say, “The only exercise I get it jumping to conclusions.”

Well, Mary had made a real effort on cleaning up the place.  So much so, in fact, that I scrubbed my plans to stay at a motel, and spent the night comfortably on the couch wrapped in quilt she washed for me that very night.

I only got about five hours sleep because we stayed up late and had to get up at 6:30 in order to get ready to meet my daughter for breakfast at IHOP.  In the morning, however, we got a call from Mindi while we were getting our act together.  She said her car had broken down and she wouldn’t be able to join us.

Mary and I decided to go by ourselves, and had another wonderful time over cinnamon rolls, hot chocolate, bacon and eggs.  Mary was set to go with a friend to an autograph show after breakfast, and arranged to have her friend pick her up at the restaurant.

We left at the same time, bid our goodbyes, Mary came up and gave me a friendly kiss, and I went to my car, pretty much stunned by how gentle and problem free the whole dreaded weekend turned out to be.

Eight Days

That’s right – eight days.

Did I skip a bunch of entries?

Nope.

I left So Cal and drove back up to No Cal.  Really tired that night (Sunday).  Told Teresa all about the events of the day in detail and then fell into bed exhausted.  Tried to get some sleep since I had that appointment scheduled for the very next day (Monday) with Dr. O.   I’d made the appointment before I ever thought of financing the surgery with the equity line.  Figured I could get the full appraisal by the Master, and then if he retired or anything happened to him, I could go to another surgeon armed with what the Artist had determined needed to be done to my face.

But, in the light of the events of the weekend, I could have surgery at the first available date.  And it turned out to be eight days from now (Tuesday) on October 25, 2006.  Took the date.  Just walked in with my X-Rays, talked to the Doc, saw his business manager and nurse assistant, Mira, and was offered a date that had been keeping open for someone else who wasn’t going to be able to make it.

I’ll give you all the details in a bit, but the point here is that this whole durn thing has just paved a road ahead of me every step of the way.  Usually you have to wait at least a couple of months to get in, but her I just walk right in, get Dr. O’s appraisal of what was needed, and get offered a date just nine days from that moment.  Unheard of!

Now, I’ll tell you, it really fucks with your head.  No time to worry or to prepare, just shift right into full overdrive and take care of all the details – that’s all there’s time for.

But I digress.  Let’s see how it unfolded in a more linear form.

So I pull into our town just before dark – the end of my second seven-hour drive in two back-to-back days.  I was tired.  I was ready to drop.  But I was also elated that everything worked through so smoothly.

Told Teresa all about it, and was hoping to make a journal entry that night, but it was getting later and later as I took care of all the little chores I had to complete before our trip to San Francisco in the morning.

San Fran is a little over three hours from here, so we would have to leave early to make it to the Dental Imaging X-Ray place in time to get the shots before seeing the Doc.

Since I hadn’t slept more than five hours a night for the last week, I really needed to get to bed if I were to be at all cogent when I discussed my options for surgery the next day.  So, as the clock wound I eventually had to blow off the journal entry and just slide into bed for another restless night.

Next morning, (Monday) it was all hands on deck as we got ready to go.  No time to write then, as we were up at 6:00, showers, breakfast, and on the road by 7:30.  No time to write then!

It was a beautiful morning.  We live in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Lake Tahoe at about five thousand feet.  It was a bright Fall morning with sporadic clouds until we drove down into the San Joaquin Valley toward Sacramento.  There at the lower elevations about twenty minutes from home a light storm had blown into the area, and a gentle rain was falling as ate up the miles in the flat lands.

Rain has always been a good omen for Teresa.  It almost always rains whenever she moves from one home to another or embarks on any major endeavor that will ultimately turn out to be a blessed venture.  Since we have been together, that luck has held me in its thrall as well.  So, we had rain two weeks ago when visiting my dad and siblings, and there was precipitation today as well.  After a time, it cleared up leaving a blustery day with bold and wispy clouds rimmed in golden halos.

There was a major traffic jam caused by an accident between a car and a crane just our side of the Bay Bridge, so our good time was slowed somewhat.  Nonetheless, we showed up at the Dental Imaging facility just ten minutes late for my 11:00 appointment.

(Now, I am a timid sort, so I actually had asked Teresa to make both my Dr. O. appointment and my X-ray appointment, as I was too shy to do it.  Yeah, I know, it’s a chicken shit way to be, and seemingly out of step with my wide profile on the internet.  But that’s just it, you see.  As long as I’m in front of a crowd, it doesn’t get too personal.   But put me in a one on one situation, and I just freeze up.

It’s not that I have trouble on the phone – I just take charge of the situation and run the conversation.  But when I have a personal interest in something, rather than a business or logistic interest, I shrivel up in timidity.  And it doesn’t help that with the upcoming surgery, more and more of the real, delicate, fragile, breakable, shy, withdrawing, vulnerable me is pushing the bold, together, in-your-face but utterly false persona of “The Melanie Anne” right out my ears and onto the floor where those attributes lay thrashing, gasping for breath, as they whither and die, never to return to sink their tentacles into my mind, but leaving it, therefore, a quivering mass of jelly since that was the only backbone I ever really had.)

So we arrive at the X-ray place, and – oh, crap – I look like shit.  I mean, I’m so readable my own mother would recognize me.  But I knda arranged that.  I wanted to be “au natural” for Dr. O.  Why?  Well every other time I’ve gone in I’ve been rested and cheerful (smiling) with nice clothes and perfect make-up.  And I’m really good (or have been until recently) with hiding the masculine flaws through good presentation and subterfuge.

But that image isn’t what’s giving me problems with readability these days.  It is the unadorned truth beneath that makes all the stuff above it merely icing on a rotting cake.  So, if I show the man the peeled grape (it make shock him), then he’ll be more apt to appreciate the accurate nature of situation and choose a more aggressive approach to my sculpting than he would if my charms were still in place.  But take away that allure and I’d fit in better at a lumberjacks convention these days (or so it seems to me) than even at a TS ball.

The down side is that since the doctor appointment is right after the X-rays, I had to show up for them in that mode as well.  And boy, did I get clocked.  I hadn’t felt in years that “deer in the headlight” emotion of being hit with a spotlight, nowhere to hide, nowhere to run, and everybody seeing you not only for what you are but for how poor you are at even pretending to be what you aren’t.  (As Simon & Garfunkel once said, “Hello darkness, my old friend….”)

But can you imagine – 17 years after going full time, 15 years since SRS, and I absolutely know that I look like a man in drag to everyone who sees me.  You can see it in their eyes.  You can see it in their manner.  You can see it when the stare at you, even from a fucking distance!  God, the whole damn thing is coming down – nothing works anymore.  I’m trapped right out in the open, beginning to feel like a man again, playing at dressing up in women’s clothes.

And the worst part is, you get so spooked you actually start to act like a second class transvestite.  And, of course, the receptionist is kind, and so is the X-ray technician, also a woman, but it doesn’t help at all that they are about four foot three in height, you are five foot ten, and the entire office is the size of a broom closet so you are constantly standing right next to one or both of them at all times.  And then to talk to you, they have to look up into your eyes from their God Damned tiny little faces.

I’ll tell you the same thing I’ve been telling Teresa:  “Give me liberty, or give me death!”  And I mean that.  I really mean it.  When I’m sitting in my own home, watching the second movie in “The Matrix” trilogy, alone with Teresa, life is good and it doesn’t matter how good or bad I look.  Teresa (one year post-op from FFS tomorrow!) looks so fine, so genetic, and so beautiful on top of it, yet I’ve lost all my envy, all my jealousy of her female face and, rather, am simply comforted to be sharing such comfortable time with the woman who loves me.

But the knowledge that even just a year ago, I felt so confident that I might have any delivery man come to the door with me in any state of dress and been glad to see them.   Yet now, I dread all human contact.  It has gotten so bad that I can barely bring myself to go to the market or the post office.  True, I can still muster up the old blustery chutzpah, but the amount of psychic energy it takes, and the emotional drain that is its toll is so great that there is a constant, growing background noise of pain and fear, even behind the most pleasant momentary experiences.

And it has reached the point where I am at the end of my rope.  There isn’t anything so wonderful that is so worth living for that if FFS were not available to me I could continue on in this life.  No joy or love is enough to make life bearable if FFS was not in my future.

Hey, I’m not advocating suicide or anything, but a word of advice….  If you find yourself just beginning to get “read” after years of successful post-op living, don’t wait.  Find a way to save or raise the money as quickly as you can, because it just gets worse, and you will need to go to one of the doctors practicing facial feminization before your will to live leaves you entirely.

Maybe I wouldn’t kill myself if for any reason I couldn’t get FFS, but I would simply sit down in the snow and wait for the elements to take me, figuratively of course.  I’d lose interest and motivation in anything other than finding a way to drown my woes, and would probably become a drunkard or a drug addict, or more likely than not, engage in my personal demon – eating – to the point I was too fat to fit out the door and, like my mother before me, let my health deteriorate until the body could no longer stand the strain.  (She died when she was sixty-two).

Okay.  So she sits me in a chair and sticks probes in my ears to hold my head steady, and has me look at an illuminated X-ray on the wall showing the inside of Homer Simpson’s head with a great big skull and a brain the size of a walnut.

She snaps a picture from the side, turns me around and takes one from the side, and then has me stand up with my head inside a weird little machine, like a vertical cat scan.  I’m directed to place my chin on a little platform, bit the plastic stick in front of me, and hold steady while the whole helmet-like assembly rotate around me.  This, apparently, takes a continuous picture of my entire jaw from one side to the other.

I’m taken out of the lead aprons and return to the waiting room with Teresa while that final scan is developed.  Ten minutes later, X-rays in hand, we leave, and I’m damned glad to be out the most humiliating situation I’ve suffered in years.

Outside, we realize it is still over two hours until my appointment with the Man.  So, we head out toward the area of his office at Davies Medical Center and drive around the streets looking for a good place to have lunch.  Eventually, we settle on Indian cuisine at one of the numerous, tiny but intriguing restaurants in San Francisco – perhaps the best city in the world in which to eat one’s way through.

There weren’t too many people in the place (thank God), so though I was sure in my own mind that I was seeing condescending expressions in people’s eyes (while Teresa was amicably received), there was nothing so avert as to spoil the meal.

At the end of the feast, we walked the short block and around the corner to where we had parked.  I had become so shaken in my appearance that even that small journey was excruciating.  I found myself engaging in an ongoing conversation with Teresa so as both to distract myself from my pain and also to divert attention to her from me, relying on her absolutely genetically female looks to sustain us both.  My, how the mighty have fallen….

Once safely back in the confines of our car, we set off for the good doctor’s office.  Though we were going to be early, we had brought books to read in the waiting room until the appointed time.  Yet when we arrived, Tatiana (the receptionist/assistant) told us the doctor would be available in short order, and she’d get started by taking our pictures – Teresa’s set as this was just two days short of her first anniversary of FFS, and my pre-op set.

As soon as we were finished (with lots of friendly chit chat along the way, as we have been in and out of there so much in the last year – ten times, I think – that we’ve become close to both the office and surgical staff, and they with us) we were directed to the examining room.  And it wasn’t more than a few moments before jovial Doc O. cruised in.

We were all glad to see each other again.  He took a look at Teresa, gave us his impressions of the FFS DVD she and I had produced, and shared a few of his recent activities.  Then, the attention turned to me.

He hadn’t been aware that I already had my X-rays which Tatiana had, in fact, already placed in the file folder he was holding.  He took out his little ruler and did some measurements on my face, then put the X-rays on a light table and showed me what he intended to do.

As I suspected, his original cursory examination months before while we were in for a progress report on Teresa in which he thought I wouldn’t need my forehead moved back was influenced by the successful manner in which I hide and distract my features through use of hair, make-up, clothing, and facial expressions.  This time, I was informed that the forehead did, indeed, need to go back.

But that is what I have wanted most – a forehead like Teresa’s, so amazingly smooth, gently curved, and open at the eyes.  A forehead so unmistakably female that you can’t possibly ever get read again.

And that is just the beginning.  He is giving me the whole package – changes I so desperately want.  He’ll smooth my orbitals, move my chin up and back nine millimeters, shave the back and sides of my jaw, move my hairline down, lessen the hair recession at my temples, and more.

As you may have read, I already had my upper lip shortened, which helped my lip a lot.  But it also did not go far enough in terms of having more pink part of the upper lip showing.  So, my lip is currently as thin as it ever was.  (In fact, perhaps part of the reason I have been read so much more is that the shortened lip doesn’t look right without a wider lip as well, and further, it makes my chin look longer by comparison.)

I was specifically going to ask him about trying to put more curl in it, if he could do that along with the other procedures at the same time.  But before I had a chance, he brought it up himself.  In fact, he will be doing an upper lip augmentation, inserting additional tissue in the lip to make it fuller, and rounder, and as a by product this will further curl the lip, and also make the area below the nose to the lip appear even shorter.  Just what I wanted!

I was also concerned that if I did a trachea shave, I would have problems with my voice.  And, since I have a very small, almost unnoticeable trachea, I don’t really feel it needed reduction anyway.  But again, before I could bring up the topic, he told me that with the little amount of reduction he could do, and where it was needed, it would risk my voice, so he wouldn’t do that.

In short, I got everything I wanted, got everything excluded that I didn’t want, and am set in just seven and a half days to go under his knife.

Lastly, we were ushered into Mira’s office, where we all had wonderful laughing conversations, and eventually got around to the monetary and scheduling specifics.  Due to the equity line, I can afford the procedures, and due to someone who can’t make it for whom they were holding a date open, I was offered a spot only nine days from that moment.  I took it.

In conversation, we discovered that my appearance problems are not at all uncommon among long term post-ops.  They apparently get people in the office all the time with the same story – years of successfully living in their desired role when it all starts to unravel as they get into their forties.  No one can yet explain it, but it seems almost unavoidable.  Fortunately, Dr. O. can fix it.

The trip home was uneventful, and the evening one of disbelief.  I called my daughter and gave her the date as she insists on being there, and also shared that information with the rest of the family.  That was the end of this karma filled day.

Now today, we were both zonked, Teresa and I, due to lack of sleep.  But we had a lot of errands to do.  And, I had to attend to the details of making sure the money would be here in time from the equity line, and how to get it transferred into a cashiers check for Dr. O.  Still some legwork to make sure it all happens in time, but everything is set in place.

This evening it has been a little weird.  As Teresa has now told me, it is just 176 hours until surgery.  When we ran our chores today, we did it together, and I was terrified the whole time, but with Teresa by my side, got through it without any obvious readings.

At home, the magnitude of this change kept slamming me in my stomach, like a thousand butterflies having sex.  And I felt the usual pre-surgical fear (and old friend) rising as it always does around this time, but perhaps more so this time as the surgery will last almost ten hours.  But the fear is not an obstacle.

You must find death preferable to continued life under these conditions before you are truly enabled to fully receive the benefits of surgery.  Only through a symbolic death on the table can one be reborn as a new creature.  You are still the same person, but you lose your identity, which is replaced with a new one.

Teresa was also working her magic tonight.  First, she received email about an apparent controversy regarding some of the things I had written in my Journey’s End iterations.  Strange, I didn’t realize anybody read my stuff anymore, and beyond that, even if they did that anyone would care what I had to say.

Well, she got a second letter from a completely different source on the same subject tonight!  Which is weird since I posted those essays months ago and she’d never gotten any mail on it at all before, now, two in one night – both from long term post ops that agree, and both of whom pointed out that anyone who isn’t long term seems to find my words incendiary.

Well, Teresa had never read those articles before, but she started tonight – too much coincidence so it must be some sort of omen.  And in the articles, she discovered the seeds of all I am going through right now (and read some of them to me).

She also put on the second part of the Matrix trilogy.  And only part way through did I realize she was hitting me with another movie the same way she had at Cocoon House a year ago.  This movie is based on the theme that you have already made the choice, now you need to understand why you made it.  And people keep turning into agents and such.  Well, if that doesn’t speak to my inner thoughts of the moment nothing does.

Finally, as I’m finishing up here, we’re watching a repeat episode of David Letterman.  And as luck would have it, his guest this evening is Julliane Moore.  Now, this is weird because I’ve had two people who have viewed my gallery of nude pictures on the internet independently tell me that I look like Julliane Moore.  So, here I’m about to change my face, and here she is.  And even weirder, I’ve never seen her before because I haven’t watched any of her movies.

I can see the resemblance, but that is about to change just 175 ½ hours from now.  I may look like her at the moment, but never again.  What will I look like?  I don’t care.  I really don’t care.  I just don’t want to look like this anymore, and I absolutely don’t want to be seen as a guy ever again.

But most of all, I want the feeling deep inside that I have jumped to the other side of light speed.  My “us” is a different group.  And instead of feeling like I am a man’s head on a woman’s body, I finally feel complete, integrated, whole, and fully female from bottom to top.

One Hundred and Fifty Three Hours (just over six days)

After running errands all day in preparation for surgery (dropping off prescriptions, long road trip to verify funds would be available in time from equity line, buying supplies for Cocoon House, etc.) Teresa and I arrived home late, watched the end of the middle Matrix movie, and then slid into a discussion of what FFS was really all about.

For Teresa, it was to remove the male bone that had grown upon her female skull and thereby reveal the woman’s face that had always existed underneath that bony overlay.

For me, it is to stop being a physical halfling and to finally be just one creature, not some poor half-breed that is neither fish nor fowl.

Do you see the fundamental difference?  Teresa grew up knowing she was female inside, learned of SRS when she was 13, approached a doctor to get hormones when she was 15 (but was denied) and finally got approval to start them when she was 19.

I grew up thinking I was just an inadequate boy, then an inadequate man, being completely unlike all the other males but still one of them.  I never thought I was a woman in a man’s body, though Teresa thought that from her earliest memories.

And yet, we both see FFS as the means to salvation.  We both have felt like a male head on a female body.  So, how is it that we can be so much the same in the nature of our pain and our solution, yet be so different in our life experiences and self-images?

It is simple – Teresa was outgoing and had friends of both male and female all her life, while I am introverted and hardly had any friends my whole life and never had a female friend, even to this day.

So, for Teresa, she could easily see that she did not think like any of the other boys yet thought exactly like the girls.  And so, her self-image become a female one, stuck in a male body.

For me, I immediately (at age three) discovered I was not at all like the other boys.  But my introverted reaction was to feel inadequate and to withdraw from any social contact with others so that I wouldn’t be found out and made fun of.  And so, I never go close enough in friendship with any females at all, and therefore never discovered that I was just like them.

The end result was that I felt like a flawed male.  And though I always had fantasies from my earliest memories of becoming a girl, I never thought I really was one.

I learned to create an act of being male and hiding my flawed nature.  And I learned I could speak to crowds and be on stage and I would be so far away from direct contact that my “act” would play believably because no one could see the cracks or imperfections in my mask at that distance.

But one on one relationships or in small groups, I was terrified for I knew it would only be a matter of time before they, being close enough, would see through my act and discover the flawed male that I was.

I recall at age thirteen, lying in my sleeping bag under the stars in the middle of a row of sleeping bags, each holding another boy in my scout troop.  And I recall looking up at the stars and pleading with God to turn me into a girl while I slept.

I never thought I was one (as explained above, I never had a girl friend or got close enough to them (due to my feelings of inadequacy and my timidity) to have discovered how much like them I was.

As I got older, my sexuality grew in intensity.  Along with it, I started to turn my desire to be female that I had since I was five years old at least into an erotic fantasy.  And that just made me feel even more alone, not male, not female, and stuck with this deplorable fantasy as well.  In fact, I couldn’t reach orgasm without imagining myself to be female until I got married and had a partner I could touch.

Since my earliest memories, I felt so inadequate that in school, if I was going down a hall and someone came in the other way towards me, I would turn and walk out of the building, pretending I had forgotten something rather than pass them in the hall where, by being the only other person there, they would focus too much scrutiny on me, close up as we passed, and immediately see how inadequate and different I was from a normal boy, from all the other boys.

When I got married, I would often pretend to scratch an itch on my face as I passed people, so they could see my wedding ring and would be forced to revise their initial opinion that I was sure they had that I was  an inadequate male, and they would be forced to admit that obviously, due to the ring, at least somebody fond me worthy.

In transition, I was still convinced I was a flawed male, but I gave that flaw a new name: “transsexual.”  I defined that as a man who wanted to be a woman.  And that was, I believed that the time, my nature and therefore the reason for my not fitting in with the other boys and for feeling inadequate as a male.

I continued to think of myself as this way until, if you can believe it, a year ago.  Oh, I felt like the “genuine article” a “true” transsexual, while I thought of almost all the other members of the TG community as men who liked to dress up, essentially as cross dressers.

The one exception to this was Teresa in whom I felt the same genuine nature of being “female of spirit” yet, clearly by virtue of her body, as with mine, a transsexual as well.

I became prejudiced against all other transsexuals, seeing them as silly pretenders.  I left the community.  I refused to associate with them.  And when Teresa and I moved to the mountains six years ago, I cut off all social contact with the world at large, intentionally limiting my social circle to just Teresa and the occasional guest or visit with my family.

But I still did not feel like a woman.

And then, a year ago today, Teresa had her FFS.  She was wheeled into her room having come up from recovery.  After the nurses placed her, moaning, in the bed and finally left, I came close and got my first look at her new face.  Though wrapped and covered almost completely in bandages, the outline of her new bone structure was so obvious, even under all that, that it was instantly clear the cover of the book had changed, and that Teresa has crossed some magical boundary and had actually become a real woman.

The person who was my mate, just nine hours ago had been just like me, a halfling.  But now, in that short span, she had become a real woman, actual and truly.

When I saw this, my heart sank.  I held back tears for her sake.  These were the first words that came into my mind: “I am alone.”

And I was.  And I have been for a year this very day.  For the last twelve months I have remained a halfway creature, while Teresa has been a woman.  And I remain so today, and for 152 more hours.

Three days after her surgery, at Cocoon House, Teresa (even in her pain) worked her psychological magic upon me and made me, for the first time in my life, access the deep female spirit and femininity I have always kept so bottled up in myself that I had never even seen it.

Over the course of the last year, it has grown to the point that I have dropped all but the last few tattered remnants of the fake male persona I started with and the fake female persona I overlayed upon it.

What emerged was a true connection with my true female mind, heart, and spirit – a true understanding that I have always been female inside, but due to my timidity and therefore lack of female friends, I had never send before.

Yet, as I unveiled more and more of myself, that true personality fit less and less with my halfling face.  And so, I got “read” more and more as the year progressed and as my manner and means of expression diverged farther and farther from a personality that might have formed in a girl with a face like mine.

Then, I had the lip surgery.  And though it feminized the lip, by shortening it, my chin and jaw looked much larger than before, and not balanced.  Indeed, from the nose down, overall, I looked even more male by comparison to the new, tinier upper lip.

And so, with my manners not matching the cover and with my face not appearing more masculine in relation the one enhanced feminine feature, I progressively got read all the time.  Like today, for example, when I was read by the nurse at my doctor’s office as she gave me an EKG needed for my pre-surgical work-up.

In my experience, in my mental journeys I’ve encountered many concepts like infinity or time that are beyond the capacity of our human minds to truly grasp and embrace.

We might visualize them or symbolize them.  We might speculate how we could be there at the end of infinity, or travel in time.  But we can’t actually physically and experientially do it.

But changing one’s face through FFS and truly becoming female is the only such concept that is beyond our ability to mentally embrace that is actually attainable.

I don’t care about DNA or chromosomes. I can’t see them.  They are just conceptual constructs as well, patterns created in the mind to make non-observable attributes more mentally accessible.

Our minds do judge the book by its cover, even if we “know” better, or at least intellectually conclude differently.  So, when I saw Teresa after FFS, my senses and my heart told me she had actually truly become a woman – an impossible thing, and yet there it was, in front of my own eyes.

It, therefore, reads to the heart as a miracle – an undeniable truth that we can see, but that flies in the face of what we know to be microscopically true.  So our hearts are in dilemma with our minds.  What is truth?  Reality or perception?  Do patterns really exist at all, or do they require a mind to perceive them?

I have no answers for these questions, but I can tell you that Teresa looks, feels, sounds, and acts like a woman, and a very feminine one at that.  So what do I have to deny her nature, other than my knowledge of where she started.  But is a table not a table because it used to be a tree?

No, Teresa is a woman, and even under the most restrictive scrutiny would absolutely be considered one for all practical and observable purposes.  Therefore, she not only feels like a complete woman, but presents as one as well, absolutely, under all conditions and at all times.

In other words, observationally, she is not at all different from any other woman on the planet.

But me, though I have now grown over the last year (with Teresa’s  proactive help, support, and guidance) to fully discover that my mind and heart are as female as hers – as any woman’s, my body is only female from the neck down.  And so, I am left in this in-between world for yet a few days more, feeling like a female mind in a male head on a female body.

My only dream; my only yearning, is to wake up in the recovery room and, aware of how Teresa had become a real woman, know that this had also now happened to me.  To feel complete for the first time.  All of one thing and none of another.  To have ended life as a fragmented creature and to have achieved unity, so that I am no longer different in various ways from either the company of men or that of women, but fully belong and will fully be accepted without question as an equal member of just one of those camps, and clearly, permanently, and wholly not a member of the other.

One Hundred Forty Three Hours

Woke up this morning in a really good mood.  Spirits high, and peace in me belly.  Strutted around the living room floor in my robe with my hands clasped behind my back like a captain on a ship, knowing that we were on course, everything was done that had to be done, and only a smattering of minor chores remained over the final five days of the voyage until we reached port.

Against this blissful backdrop some truths appeared to me, not unlike Joseph Smith’s golden tablets.  Teresa had crossed the room to where I was sitting (here at the computer) and we began what started as our normal pleasant morning interchange, when I saw the first of these scripts appear and spoke to her of what I saw, more reading them in my mind’s eye than inventing the words myself.

I explained that I now knew that in spite of being a full year (as of yesterday) beyond FFS, Teresa still felt incomplete.  She still needed reassurances, gentle caress, and kind words extolling her femininity.  I had wondered how this could be since she had clearly been so transformed by the knife of Dr. O.

But my imaginary tablets continued with virtual text that explained Teresa had only experienced FFS from the inside.   She had no way of knowing how much of a change was made when seen from an outside perspective.

Sure, she had known many (in her research and interactions within the community) who had undergone the very same procedure, but she either had not met them before their FFS, or had only seen “after” pictures since and no meeting in person.

Further, these are people she only knows casually as acquaintances, pen pals, or occasional friends.  So she had no baseline of how she might have perceived them both physically and mentally in a long term relationship.  And therefore, there was no “control group” of feelings and assessments against which to judge the magnitude of the changes brought about both in countenance and personality by the FFS procedure.

The tablet then told me (and I passed on to Teresa) that she and I were in a truly unique situation.  When she had asked of Mira at Dr. O.’s office if there had ever been a relationship couple, such as ourselves, who had both undergone FFS, the answer was, “no.”  This has never happened before.  The closest was someone who came to support their friend and then came back the next year to do it themselves.

No, as you know, I’m not really interested in doing anything unless it is the first, best, biggest, or most important in the history of the planet.  I created the world’s first TG support web site.  I founded the Transgender Community Forum on America Online.  I co-created the Dramatica theory of story.  I co-created the Mental Relativity model of psychology.  Nope, if I can’t do it first, best, biggest, or most important, it holds not fascination for me other than the specific goal it represents.

Imagine my thrill then, when I learned that we were the only two who had ever had this experience together – ever!  Being one of Dr. O.’s thousand is okay, I guess.  Makes you kind of special.  But being two of the only two is better!

So, Teresa is still incomplete because she’s only experienced her change from the inside.  I am incomplete because I’ve only seen it from the outside.  But now, I shall experience it from inside and she from outside.  At the end of the two year process of surgery and healing for us both in succession, we shall both be complete.

She is so like me, and I like her, that I know what I feel will be identical to what she felt.  And since we are so much the same, Teresa will now see in me the external changes she knows must be what also happened to her.  By seeing herself, in me, from the outside, her shift into a new self-image shall be complete.  By knowing what it is like to be the person who I’ve already seen altered from my external perspective, I will also fulfill my spiritual destiny to become a new creature.

Teresa was stunned with this revelation.  It rang so true to her.  In response, she summed it all up by saying that neither one of us had really gone first.  We traveled along this path side by side, one taking the internal road and one taking the external, then shifting positions.  We both began this grand transformation of spirit together, trod the ground together, and will complete it together.  Split into two surgeries one year apart, spanned by two recoveries of one year each, Teresa and I will complete the course together, hand in hand, a year from now when my healing is complete and her observance of the magnitude of that change has concluded.  And in the end, we will finally be made whole, each having seen both the inside and the outside, projected the outside on ourselves and the inside on each other.  We will have, by some tricky means, stepped through the looking glass as we swung each other in a whirling dance from one side of the mirror to the other until our momentum has carried both of us to the other side from which there is no denial, no return, and no desire to do so.

We paused and pondered the truth of these words which were handed down to me, and then I focused my attention on the other tablet.  It was called “Genuineness.”  It spoke of a simple truth so obvious that I had never seen it before.

There are those in the community that strike one as being real women, regardless of how good they look, act, or sound.  And there are those who clearly are not real women, no matter how good they look, act, or sound.  How do we know this of them?  What is it that makes them seem true or false?  The Cowardly Lion in Wizard of Oz might have answered, “Courage!”  But the second tablet said, “Genuineness!”

When one is genuine, said the tablet, one cannot present oneself as other than one is.  So, if someone who looks, talks, and sounds like a man says he is a woman, if he is genuine, you will sense the woman within him and that is how you will think and feel of him.  Your soul will see them as a woman and ignore the bag of flesh that holds captive that female spirit.

But if someone is not genuine, even if they are the spitting image of all feminine ideals, they will not ring true.  You will sense the duplicity between their presentation and their nature, and will see past the physical as easily as you did with the genuine spirit to see the true nature of the soul within.  In truth, no matter the bravado or accuracy of our disguise, we all wear the emperor’s new clothes.

Genuineness, continued the tablet, is not specific to gender.  It pertains to how any individual presents itself in regard to any quality or attribute it purports to possess or lack.  If what a person says or even infers about himself or herself is accurate, we see them as genuine.  If it is intentionally not accurate, we see them as false.  If it is unintentionally accurate (i.e. the Freudian slip) inaccurate (pretense or denial) we see them as genuine but mistaken.

Those who group together in harmony are the genuine souls in this world.  They may be of any religion, ethnicity, political party, gender, gender identity, sexual preference, or physical form.

Those who are not genuine bounce off each other like bumper cars – ricocheting through life, trying to attach themselves to anyone whom they believe will bolster the illusion they are trying to create for the world and perhaps even for themselves.

There is no lesson to be learned, concluded the tablet, merely wisdom to be imparted.  Seek out those who are genuine and shun those who are not, as the former will redouble your own energies while the latter will merely sap them.

The engine of creation may be powered by the undulating potential between positive and negative energies.  This we cannot, nor should not change.  Yet each individual soul has a choice as to which side of the battery we which to contribute.

Teresa and I have chosen our side.  As you must choose yours.

Spent, the tablets vanished before my eyes.  Teresa and I pondered what we had heard, then each turned to her respective computer and began to pound furiously on the keys.

As usual, Teresa’s efforts were toward someone just starting out in the community whom she is mentoring.  And, equally as usual, mine (as you have now read) were more toward the ether at large and anyone who might pass by long enough to listen.

It has now been writ as it was shown to me.

Timeless

It is still some days until facial surgery.  As the time has counted down I have found it increasingly difficult to hold onto my old way, my old self-image.  More and more I feel as if the surgery is already done and healed.  I sense myself the way I will be, and feel as if I am that way now.

I have come to dread looking in the mirror lest it break the spell.

I awoke at 4:30 this morning after six hours sleep.  That’s more than I have been getting in a night since I knew the funding would be available.  Still, after a cup of cocoa, I came back to bed around six, was held by Teresa, then held her for a while.

About seven, Teresa asked to hold me again.  Neither of us has been sleeping well at all, both with nervous anticipation of what is soon to come.  So we often lay in bed in the mornings for some time, just snuggling and gently speaking of our feelings, our understandings, our hearts.

As she moved her hands gently over my breasts and lightly caressed my body, the sensual non-sexual nature of her touch was so in phase with the experience I was having of feeling as if I was already done.

And in this blissful state, the fog that has surrounded me for so long began to clear.  It was as if all the complexities and steps of getting to this point were replaced with a simple understanding – so simple that at any earlier point in my journey I would have found it trite.  Perhaps you will too….

I used to wonder what it would be like after facial surgery to see a stranger in the mirror.  Now I simply understood that the angst that has hounded me was because I have always seen a stranger in the mirror.  Every day, every moment, I have known that the face I still currently have is not who I am.  But after surgery, I will see something new in the mirror for the first time: myself.

Trite?  You betcha.  But only until you reach a point just before FFS and, as Teresa puts it, start seeing over the fence ahead of time.

Another word about that.  All of my life I’ve tried to hold on against all adversity, both external obstacles and internal sufferings, so that I would do what was right, bear my responsibilities, help others even at my own expense.  There’s nothing wrong with that altruistic approach to life, but I have found over the last couple of weeks that my grip is loosening.

I have always equated the self-image I devised as a tool for being productive and efficient in business, capable and worthy as a mate, useful and compatible as a friend.  And there is, it turns out, absolute accuracy in my assessment.

With the face I have, no matter how I might have wanted to, expressing my most feminine inner self was impossible – it just wouldn’t play with anyone – even me, as I hung my self-image on the countenance of that stranger in the mirror.

But once actually see my real self in the mirror, well, with the face I will have, it will so reflect the truth of my inner self that it will be impossible for me to hold it inside any longer.  And, as corollary, it will also be impossible for me to hold on to attributes of character that are not really a part of me because they no longer fit with my face.

And there is the problem.  Those attributes are logical, orderly, and form a web of organized thinking.  With them, though not suited to business by nature, I have made a good run of it.  Without them, I suspected I would be literally incapable of handling my own business affairs.

Then, there are the sacrifices I have made emotionally to ease the way for others, my wife, my children, even Teresa.  I have tried to be the protective one, the strong one, as did my mother before me.  But though I am able to project such qualities, I truly do no possess them.  They are just as superficial as the false image on the front of my head.

Losing the ability to force myself to act as I do not feel in ways contrary to my emotional peace and stability puts so many others at risk, and leaves me virtually defenseless.

After facial surgery, I cannot avoid this, and will be forced to accept it.  Yet, on this side of that day, I have been trying so hard to hold on, to hold out right up until I fall asleep on the table so that I could put my affairs in order, not because I expect to die, but because I expect to become incapable of doing that later.  And if I don’t get it done now, I put those that I love at risk.

So, day by day, I’ve struggled to ensure that all the information needed to keep the business running, all the passwords and systems and procedures are known by others in my family so that they (who already work with me in the business) can handle them once I am no longer able.

Many women are just fine at business, and many are amazingly capable at all of the things I am leaving behind.  But I am not one of them.  I have had no heart nor natural talent for it ever.  And the only reason I succeeded was determination, perseverance, and force of will to subjugate my inner self and enslave her to a career she does not like and to which she is not naturally suited – all to protect myself and my extended family.

The problem now arises that as I pre-experience the feeling of having that new face that is really my true face, I find my ability to continue holding onto these false traits eroding.  More and more frequently, I slip into the person I really am, and find myself quite literally unable to do what needs to be done.

There are so many other areas in which I will excel when I have been made whole, but these practical realms are not among them.

I cried a little in Teresa’s arms this morning – I don’t think she knew as they were tears without sobs, just rolling down my cheeks onto the pillow.  I said to her that I was sorry that I couldn’t hold out all the way to surgery.  I hoped that I haven’t let anyone down, but I was at the end of my rope.  I just couldn’t shoulder that burden another step no matter how much I might want to.  She told me the only person I had let down was myself by carrying that load to being with.

And then, as we lay there, my thoughts turned to some news Teresa had shared with me over the last two or three days.  I may have mentioned this earlier (you see, I no longer recall every word I write as I always did in the past up to a couple weeks ago) but apparently the essays I wrote at the end of my diary in a separate collection called “Journey’s End” have created quite a stir in the TG community.

In Journey’s End, each of the eight essays focuses on what I have considered a primary gospel of the Transgender Party Line.  You see, us icons get all full of ourselves.  We are so damned insightful, so charismatic, so full of shit that when we say something, others (who are hurting, needful, lost, frightened) latch onto every word as if we were speaking from on high.

The community acts like an organism unto itself.  It gathers all the pontifications of the best and the brightest and averages them together into pillars of dogma that multitudes of shaky people rely upon to keep them stable.

People starting out in the community are really scared, unsure of themselves, not knowing whether they are even TS much less women.  Making contact, even by opening a browser window to a support web site is an incredible feat of courage.

Once they discover than an organized community exists, they long to be a part of it.  They have felt alone for so long, different from all their family, friends, and co-workers, that they follow the siren song of the “COMMUNITY” and try to learn the ropes.

They look to their new peers for support, and wish to be accepted as one of the gang.  So they read the articles, visit the web site shrines, and kneel down to worship at the Pillars of Dogma because everyone else is doing it.

And woe to the poor free-thinking soul who may see some flaws in the Gospel, some lies in the Truth.  They either have to swallow it whole and profess complete faith in the Religion of Transgenderism and the Holy Church of Inclusion, or utter their doubts, in private or public forum.

If they are newbies, the old-timers smile and explain to the acolyte that if they have faith, in the years that follow they will come to see the Truth.  The poor lost soul must either lie to their own head and heart and rationalize the untruth into their craving to belong, or hold out and continue to proclaim that the emperor has no clothes.

When a stalwart soul refuses to join the party, the response is swift and severe.  They are ostracized socially, and excommunicated from the Holy Church of Inclusion.  No one will be their friend, and the are marched forcibly from the city gates which are slammed shut behind them and left with no choice but to wander in the wilderness until they stumble on the True Path or perish.

Should an old-timer, such as myself, come out and question the tenets of the Law, she is seen as a betrayer, and false prophet, or just some looney woman who may have had something valuable to say at one time, but has clearly lost it, poor dear.

Look, folks, there is value in organizing for it brings people and ideas together.  But when consensus calcifies into fossil, the evolution of understanding ceases.

Maybe I’m right with what I have to say in the Journey’s End articles.  Maybe I’m wrong.  But is it not the greatest wrong of all to be completely sure that you actually truly know anything?

When I teach my weekend writing seminar (yes, I have a completed separate and functional life outside of all this), I always tell my students at the very beginning of the class that if you ever believe anything one hundred percent, you have closed your mind and eliminated the possibility of even perceiving a better idea should one come along.  So, say I, take all that I say with a grain of salt and a good deal of healthy skepticism.  Neither swallow it whole nor reject it out of hand, for either of those extremes leads to a closed mind.

Honestly, I thought my journey was over when I finished the last part of my diary dealing with Teresa’s facial surgery and my own lip surgery.   But it felt like there was still something left to do.  That’s when the Journey’s End project gelled in my mind.

The concept was, that if I really had completed my head trip from transition to as close to womanhood as one can get who was raised and lived as a boy in a male body until age 38, then I really ought to share with those who have followed my journal what things looked like from the end of the trail.

This evolved into the eight essays, each designed to rattle one of the key pillars of the community’s Truth.  The purpose was to shake things up a bit.  Get people to talk about issues that had come to be so widely accepted that no one questioned them anymore.

Maybe the Earth is flat.  But don’t we owe it to those who follow behind us, don’t we owe it to ourselves to consider alternative explanations before we pass our views on as incontrovertible Truth to those starting down the same path?

So, am I wrong about what I say in my essays?  Sure, why not?  Am I right about other things I say in them?  Probably, after twenty years experience in the field.  But that’s not really the point.  What’s important is that you, the individual reader, make up your own mind.  Consider that which you have just taken as a given.  Have the courage to stand on your own mental legs before you climb up that stairway to heaven paved in Doctrine.  And if you find some holes in argument, some facades that really have nothing behind them, be most courageous of all, if you can, and express your doubts openly.

Just five years ago, college professors could lose their tenure and researchers could lose their grants if they so much as suggested the possibility that there might be a difference in the way male and female brains worked, or that (statistically) men are better at parallel parking and that might be physiologically based.

Now we know that while any given individual may excel in areas traditionally associated with the other sex, there are, in fact, very real differences in the abilities for each sex in some areas when compared to the other.

And, even today, anyone who suggests that one race might be better than another at a particular sport is called a bigot, forced to publicly apologize for their insensitivity, and forced to pay a huge fine.

Of course, anyone with common sense can tell that the part of the world any given race hails from is likely to have built certain physical traits and abilities into them that, when translated to sport, make one group better suited ON THE AVERAGE than another to play that game.

But the real game that is played is when the “Authorities” (which means anyone with a following) proclaims that the teachings of Galileo are blasphemous, forces him to publicly recant, and shuts him off from further communication from the masses.

I told you that the TG community, like any group, is an organism unto itself.  And like any organism, its primary function is survival.  AND like any organism, survival is an instinct, not a conscious decision.  So even if there is nobody at the head of the Community, the body still lashes out at all who threaten it, be they new creatures venturing into its domain for the first time (such as newbies), old foes (like the Religious Right) who battle it over and over, or trusted old timers (such as myself) who rattle its cage.

As I thought of these things in Teresa’s arms, I realized, finally, why I am writing this new journal about the days leading up to my own facial surgery.  (You know, a lot of writers know what they are going to say, but now why they are saying it.  Just as in “The Matrix,” part three, the point is brought up over and over again that it is not about what decision you are going to make – you’ve already made it.  The real issue is to understand why you made that decision, because we can never see beyond a decision we don’t understand.)

Ever since I decided to have facial surgery, I couldn’t  see a future beyond the end of the year.  January and beyond were a blank – nothing planned, nothing in the works, no expectations.   That had never happened to me before.  I always have so many irons in the fire.

At first I was fearful that it was an omen I would die on the table and therefore that there was no future to imagine.  But then I came to realize that I simply didn’t understand why I made my decision to have surgery.

It isn’t to fit in.  It isn’t to avoid being read.  It isn’t to be pretty.  It isn’t to become a woman.  No, none of my own dogmas applied here, though each was a tempting justification.

The simple truth is I just want to feel normal.  Not for anyone else, not by anyone else’s definition.  I just want to feel normal.

Now, will the surgery also resolve a lot, if not all, of the handy justifications I listed above?  Of course it will.  But until I understood the real reason I made the decision to have surgery, I simply could not see beyond it.

Since then, the future has opened up to me again.  I know we will move to Oregon in the Spring.  I know I’ll be exploring my art and my writing in ways that have nothing to do with the community.  And, equally notable is what I don’t see in my future.  I don’t see myself ever involved in the community again.  I don’t see myself ever writing anything for the community again.

Will I leave up the web site?  Sure, it has helped many people in the past, and will probably continue to do so.  But I am so far from the person who wrote that first diary entry back in 1989 that I really can’t relate to the poor transitional creature at all.

Finally, this new journal that I am writing.  Why am I doing this?  Why did I make the decision to venture one last time into this forum?

In understanding why I decided to have FFS, I also came to understand my purpose in this new series of entries.

At first I had felt that Journey’s End capped my inner journey but that the trip through FFS and its aftermath would be the completion of my physical journey.  From that point of view, I expected to continue writing all the way up to a year after surgery when I will be fully healed, as I have seen with Teresa.

But this morning I concluded that I really was only supposed to continue the journal up to the moment of surgery, for the healing is not really part of the journey, just the aftermath.  The surgery itself is the end of the physical transition for the healing happens by itself.

Yet, even that didn’t seem right.

As I lay in Teresa’s warm embrace, the words just popped into my head.  I finally understood why I was writing this new journal, for the words were the title of the journal: The Destruction of Melanie Anne.

How elegant an exit is that?

When I first began penning my thoughts in 1987, I was a newbie, and I wrote with the other members.   Gradually, I became experienced and wrote articles to the other members.  Finally, I somehow evolved into a notable authorize and wrote at the community.  But here, in this final work, I’m writing beyond the community.

I’m writing about people, not about labels.  I’m writing about understandings, not truths.  I’m writing about knowledge, not dogma.  I’m writing about confidence, not arrogance.  I’m writing about insight, not blind acceptance.

I’m writing about me, not you.

In Journey’s End I have shaken the Pillars of Dogma in the Transgender Community.  And I hope it has the intended effect: to re-open the discussion of almost sacrosanct mantras and chants that are so far removed from the reasons they were established that no one can remember their purposes and simply recite the litany.

But there is one final pillar to bring down.

The other day I read a note posted on a TG web site two which someone had sent me a link.  It referred to the people most influential in the history of the Transgender Community.  The list began, “Christine Jorgensen, Renee Richards, Melanie Anne….”

It was then I realized that although my message has always been one of pragmatic open-mindedness, simply by virtue of calling it as I saw it, I had become one of those Pillars of Dogma myself.

People are reading my work and, due to the notoriety I have achieved over the years, are taking it at face value without question and without thought.  Success seems to carry within it the seeds of its own Failure.

And that is when I understood when I should end this journal, and what I should say.

Admire, if you must, what courage I may have shown, what insights I may have had to offer, and the volume of work I have produced.  But don’t hold it up as a Gospel.  Don’t buy into it so completely you are unable to consider alternatives.  And don’t, under any circumstances believe that anyone as a closer connection to God than you do.

Every individual is the ultimate authority for his or her own life.  Each of us can speak to the Almighty with as much entitlement as any other.  And most importantly, each of us is the very best and only true authority on what is happening inside our own heads and hearts.

And so, as I leave to lead a normal life, I offer the final gift I have to give:

I invoke Cincinnatus, I bring down my own pillar, and set us both free with the destruction of Melanie Anne.

Read Melanie's Post-FFS Journal

Copyright 2006 Melanie Anne

Melanie's FFS Journal, Melanie's Transition Diary, Melanie's Home Page, Transgender Support Site