Reflections of a fourteen year post-op


(Taken This Year)

Hi.  I'm Melanie Anne.

I'm 53 years old, a professional teacher of fiction writing, parent of two, still married to my spouse of thirty years but living with another woman, my soul mate, for the last eight years.

I'm also a fourteen year post-op from sex reassignment surgery.

Welcome to my life....

Lay of the Land

Since I first began my transition in 1989, I kept a journal of my experiences called, appropriately enough, "Journeys and Transitions."  In it, I documented the immediacy of my quest as it unfolded, including all the questions, doubts, and speculations I passed along the way.

When I had SRS in January of 1992, I concluded my written record with the twenty-fourth chapter, convinced that the journey was finally over.  But the new experiences and considerations of the post-op life soon had me back at my computer, adding chapter after chapter until 1997, when life had settled down into a predictable routine.

There it lay, for nearly nine years, and in all that intervening time I had no desire, motivation, or inspiration to add a single word.  By then, I had moved out of the house from my wife and kids, and moved in with a wonderful post-op woman who filled all of my heart, and with whom I could share the most private and personal conjectures about my self, my life, and the philosophical meaning of it all.

And then, the bomb dropped.  After years of stability, in 2005 my soul mate and life partner decided to have Feminizing Facial Surgery (FFS).  This is a procedure wherein a skilled surgeon completely resculpts the bones of the face to remove any vestiges of male structure, thereby creating a completely female look.

This pending change pierced an arrow through my heart.  Not only was the face I had fallen in love with about to be radically and permanently altered, but suddenly all my own fears of passing, of appearing to the world authentically female, were brought to the surface again after all those years.

As a writer by trade, it is not surprising that in this time of extreme angst I once again turned to writing a journal as a means of dealing with emotions so strong they threatened to sink me once and for all.  For the first time, I was writing not about changes happening to me, but had walked through the looking glass to adopt the role into which my own transition had put others.  This time, I was remaining the same, and my loved one was altering herself.

This new diary began a week before her surgery, and continued for four months and another forty-one chapters.  In its course, I came to understand the other side of the equation.  I discovered the obvious - that when a loved one changes, it changes you as well.  That no matter how much they are suffering, you also suffer.  And that you cannot survive unless you pro-actively make major adjustments to your own sense of self, even to your actual identity.

When it was over, I had grown far stronger, and as it turned out, our relationship was closer by far than it had ever been during our previous years together.  So once again, I wrote a concluding summary of my experiences, laid down my pen, and walked away.  And once again, I believed that was all I would ever write on the subject.

Yet here I am again, some four months later, once more taking up the quest to express my feelings and understandings of the transgender journey.

But this time, it is different.

Three days ago, my soul mate (Teresa) and I traveled about an hour from our home in the Sierras to see a pre-op in Lake Tahoe who will be leaving for Thailand tomorrow to get her surgery.

Teresa, over the years, has continued to act as a mentor and guide for those dealing with transgender issues.  While I have written and posted to the community at large, she interacts and tailors her wisdom to the individual.  This has almost exclusively been done via message boards, email, and over the phone.

But this time, she had a special request from this person to come meet with her.  Normally, I would have not wanted to be involved, as I have found that the farther I got from my own transition, the more uncomfortable I became when in the presence of those in the middle of it.

(In speaking with them in the past, I had not realized how self-focused I must have been in my own transition, and how much I must have seemed to have a one-track mind and a single subject interest in conversation.  Once surgery is well behind, it no longer becomes the sole concern of life, and recedes into a normal balance with the ordinary concerns of life in general.)

Nonetheless, I asked Teresa if I might accompany her, since I had not really met with anyone at that early point in the process in years, and especially not since the conclusion of my final FFS journal and the insights it had brought me.  I was curious to see how my view of the world might compare to someone in the midst of it in the here and now.

And what an experience that was.  My first impression was, "My God, how young she is!"  This individual was "just" twenty-five - less than half my age, two years older than my daughter and two years younger than my son!  In fact, Teresa later mentioned to me that she (Teresa) had transitioned five years before this girl was born!

Now that's not so startling, but you see, I never really thought of myself as 53.  Sure, I was aware of the age, but, quite honestly, my whole family heritage is of people who look about 15 years younger than they are.  So, I usually get pegged for about 38 these days.

But, since I was still mentally thinking about the changes I wanted to make that would transform me into a more feminine creature (maybe a little brow reduction, maybe a little lip plumping) I was thinking of myself as more like being an eighteen year old.  Problem was, I've been dressing and acting that way too!

So, while I am lucky to pass as 38 when actually being 53, I'd been getting weird looks from folks (especially people at check-out counters who get a good look at those crows feet) because I looked 38 and acted 18.

Meeting with this pre-op, then, was quite an eye-opener, as I was forced to admit that not only do I not at all look like a genuine 18 year old, but not even anywhere near a 25 year old.

Of course, to anyone who has seen me recently, this has to be a, "Well, duh!" but for me, it was something I just never stopped to consider.

Beyond that, there was a whole 'nuther "gap" between this pre-op and us.  That was her attitude toward transgenderism itself.  You see, when Teresa and I Transitioned, there were no civil rights for the transgendered.  Plus, if you came out, you were likely to lose friends, family, employment, and be a ridiculed laughing stock wherever you want.

But as Teresa pointed out in a conversation we had just this morning, these days, the culture actually encourages the young, even pre-teens, to question their gender and to embrace themselves, unlike the culture in which we grew up which almost required a suppression not only of the expression of one's true gender, but a hiding of it even from oneself to the point that you did not even accept you were that way at all.

In our day, then, once you had revealed yourself to yourself, the next step was to embark on a journey to rid yourself of all male attributes, both physically and mentally, and to eventually put aside even transgenderism so that you might finally become "complete" as a woman, the same as every other woman.

That desire, molded by our times, remains within us even to this day, and therefore makes the assertions of the young (such as our subject in Lake Tahoe) that, "I am a transsexual woman and the thought that I might someday feel as just a woman to be frightening," completely unfathomable to us.

But it is a good solid slap in the face to bring a more objective view of oneself and one's place in the culture into sharp relief.

After our meeting, I began to muse on these two forms of gap between me and young transsexuals in today's world.  And I realized what all open minded avant-garde inventive creators who have lived long enough, must: That I hadn't had an original thought about transgender issues in years.

Amazing!  Until recently, I hadn't felt I had completed my personal journey, and yet if I honestly looked back, the last truly revolutionary notion I had on the subject was back when I finished my original journal in 1997!

Since then, rather than coming up with ideas that were revolutionary, I was simply working with the bounds of my own box, built on my on experiences, which had seized up and congealed into borders beyond which my mind no longer ventured.

When I started out, as with many of a free-thinking nature, I jumped out of one box and another, always staking out new territory that, quite honestly, no others had ever previously explored.

But somewhere along the line, I can see my straight path to gain as much distance as I could gradually became an gently curving circle, or a spiral perhaps, that ultimately closed off the extent of my mental endeavors.  And while from my position on this arcing path I was always covering new ground, from the objective view, I had ceased to travel new lands and was simply exploring within the bounds of a land of which I had already previously described the boundaries.

This is important knowledge for any creative individual.  To avoid pontificating and passing judgment on others because you are "farther along," you must become away when you stray from the straight and narrow and begin to turn back into your own previous realms.

In the end, the place at which you endlessly circle defines your style as an artist.  It also describes the nature of your prejudices and preconceptions.

Perhaps the most open-minded you can be at this point in your creative life is to admit that just because you have apparently settled in here rather than continuing down the trail, that doesn't make it the end of the road, and others, younger and unfettered by the cultural bounds of your own generation, can see shining new lands beyond that in which you have stopped.

The torch of truly new thinking is now carried by others, though you never felt it leave your hand.  And if you are truly to avoid becoming bitter, you must be willing to embrace the truth of what the next generation finds down the trail, even though you will never venture further to see it for yourself.

And so, "Journey's End" is not a pretense that I have arrived at the final destination to which we all must aspire, but an admission that along this trail I have come to a halt, and now can do no more than explore the valley in which my forward progress ceased.

The old saying asks, "Why do you see so many broken wagon wheels in the fences and front yards of old pioneer settlements?"  And the answer is, "Because that's where the wheel broke."  In other words, when your forward momentum ceases, that's where you settle.

Now, those whose creativity withers up and dies see this end of their trek as the end of their creative lives.  But in truth, while others are charging down the road ahead, no one has yet explored the land in which you have stopped.  And the wise creative individual, will see themselves not as having stalled out, but as having a wonderful opportunity to be the first to describe this new land in full - to map it out, stake out a claim, and begin building something.

Later, as more travelers venture ever farther on, your little farm will be joined by others, become part of a settlement, blossom into a town, and perhaps (if you have landed in a rich and fertile place of interest) expand into a city or even a metropolis.

And yet, if there is never anyone else who tarries near, you can still go on no longer, and must learn to build your farm and enjoy the country in which your personal journey concluded.

I turn my attention now to smaller journeys in and around the home I am building here.  And will continue to file reports, from time to time, from the land of a long-term post-op who began her journey some seventeen years ago.

 

Melanie is a prolific author, musician, composer,
teacher, theorist, and successful businesswoman.

She is also the founder of the first Transgender Forum on America Online
and the creator of the worlds' very first Transgender Support Web Site.

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