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14 October 2013

Melanie Anne Phillips (1956 - ) film-maker, story-software designer.

After a degree at the School of Cinema and Television at the University of Southern California,  directing two feature films before the age of 30: Brothers of the Wilderness, 1984, and The Strangeness, 1985, recording many hours of music, marrying as a man and fathering two children,  Melanie became involved with the International Foundation for Gender Education and worked with them to produce a VHS Tape on developing a female voice which focuses on voice resonance rather than pitch.

In 1991, Melanie took a break from film-making and, with her long-time writing partner Chris Huntley, developed the Dramatica Theory of Story, for which they had first laid the foundations while still at college together.

She also began her three-year transition that concluded with surgery with Dr Biber in Trinidad, Colorado. She kept a daily journal during transition which is available online. In 1994 she set up the first online transgender support site, and became one of the most cited advisors on developing a female voice.

After three years of full-time effort, the first version of Dramatica (Amazon reviews, WIKIPEDIA) was released. It is one of the most sophisticated software packages for fiction writers, which included a long manual, and supporting videos. Melanie also teaches courses in Dramatica theory through UCLA.

In October 2006 in an essay on her Heartcorps site, and reprinted on Gender Life Forum, she wrote:
"I've unintentionally perpetrated a great disservice.  I've given the impression the anyone can learn to sound completely female in voice as I have.  That's why I created the voice video I've been selling for about ten years.  Now, I'm not so sure. And in my diary, without ever considering an alternative, I've presented myself as just another transsexual and documented my story in the hope it might smooth the way for others.  But now I wonder if it doesn't really foster false hope. … out of all those who have sex reassignment surgery, only a very few have female minds.  All the rest, no matter how feminine they have become, have male minds - they don't just think like men, then think as men. ... After all, those who speak in a female voice are as rare as those with female minds, in my experience.  Sure, anyone can learn to be more feminine in their speaking, but to actually alter the timber of the voice so it is rich and full but female in resonance, that may be beyond the ability of the rank and file transsexual."
However she does insist:
"Now, granted, a woman born into a male body is no more entitled to sex change surgery than any man who wanted it.  And the standards that they use to determine if you can receive surgery are ignorant, outdated, and laughable, if they weren't so cruel. Honestly, SRS should be available to anyone who wants it, as long as they are certified sane.  No RLT should be required.  I don't know of a single individual (though there must be some) who determined to have the surgery and then changed their mind because of problems with RLT.  And I don't know of anyone who had the grit to go through with the surgery who didn't have what it needs to get through RLT. … Again, there is nothing better or worse about having SRS if you are of male or female mind.  And the achievements of anyone from that community who has a female mind and a collection of female physical traits may not be as heroic or laudable as it first appears.  They simply may have had more to start with and an easier path because there was less to alter. Ultimately, I think of female minded post-ops as intersexed women rather than transsexual.  In some, they are close enough to the range of normal male physical form with fully functioning testicles and no ovaries that no medical professional would class them as hermaphrodites.  And yet, possessing many of the traits above, they are truly intersexed in all ways except the reproductive organs."
On her web site Melanie describes herself as "parent of two, still married to my spouse of thirty years but living with another woman, my soul mate, for the last eight years".

Andrea James' TS Roadmap is dedicated to Melanie for her inspiration.

*Not Melanie Phillips the Daily Mail journalist who was nominated bigot of the year.
*There is no connection between Dramatica and the rude and satirical Encyclopedia Dramatica.


WorldCat dates the IFGE tape to 1980 which cannot be right as IFGE was not founded until some years later.

Melanie in 2006 seems to be proposing 2 types of transsexuals like either HSTS/Autogynephilia or HBS. However I could not find any discussion of her proposal compared to HSTS/Autogynephilia or HBS.


Billie said...

I bought into her at a very late age of my own because I had no idea she existed! In many, many ways, I think Melanie Anne Phillips is an awesome person! I support her efforts.

Thanks for bringing her to light, Zagria.

bonzeblayk said...

"… out of all those who have sex reassignment surgery, only a very few have female minds. All the rest, no matter how feminine they have become, have male minds - they don't just think like men, then think as men…"

- Melanie Anne Phillips, "By Way of Apology"

Oh dear: another True Gender bigot, and yet a lesbian?


… to my mind, drawing a distinction between the way men and women think is insupportably sexist, and contrary to the scientific evidence we have on how men and women engage with logic and rational problem-solving… the difference between men and women is that men demonstrate a much higher tendency to exhibit interpersonal aggression; other differences between men and women on average tend to show up in their emotional states, styles of self-expression and relationship styles, and the nature of the preferred approaches to addressing problems in social interaction, which are all influenced not just by inborn differences but are strongly reinforced in their socialization.

Anyway, Melanie was clearly under the influence of the HBS crowd when she wrote this.

- bonzie anne

Zagria said...

Reread the second paragraph by Melanie, after my word 'insist'. No HBS person ever wrote like that.

bonzeblayk said...

That's true… but as I said, she was under the influence of the HBS crowd?

I'm deeply sympathetic to the stance, but their arguments go off the rails when they start insisting that they are really incredibly special and radically different from the average transsexual…

"And folks like me - who have physical traits like those elbows, a female mental sex preconscious and an affinity for things female - aren't we 'transsexuals?'

"Nope. We're just intersexed about as far as you can go without appearing to be a hermaphrodite in the first place."

— Melanie Anne Phillips, Enlightenment: Transsexuality? No Such Thing? (Selections from my short-lived blog) Tuesday, March 13, 2008

She's expressing the core concept motivating the HBS folks, who tend (as does Charlotte Goiar) to cite prevalence numbers for "Harry Benjamin Syndrome" of 1:100,000… rather than 1:500 (Conway's and Oyslager's estimate for TS) or 1:10,000 (the estimate generally offered nowadays by the "gender centers" with a gatekeeper orientation).

… she elaborates in those notes a screwy concept of how sexual differentiation occurs in the fetus, and how gendered differences in attitudes and behavior are influenced by what she believes are variations in brain structure and function between male and female… it's a mess (and not a pretty one).

I'm not an expert on neurobiology or neuropsychology… and I avoid posing as one. Milton Diamond argues that transsexualism is a form of intersex, and based on the soundness of his opinions overall and other research I've read, I tend to agree with him…

Whatever… it's an extremely complex area of study, and so far we only have about 15 years of hard-core scientific research available based on brain studies, which are a lot more primitive than those who publish them might have you believe. At this point, it's safe to say "there are major differences between the gender identities of transsexual persons and normally gendered individuals due to variations in fetal brain development and differences in hormonal function following birth", but in the DSM-V they don't even go that far… alas.

- bonzie anne

PS: "I've always believed my music and lyrics are quite extraordinary…" - Melanie Anne. That's one point on which I mostly agree with her… her music — Melanie Anne Phillips on YouTube — is quite interesting; as a pop/rock-oriented musician and songwriter, it's probably beyond my ability to evaluate (except that the production is not very good, and that's kind of typical of the product of musicians who made their own recordings in the 1980's.)

Note, this is all pretty ironic to me, since I display most of the physical markers of TS/intersex she notes… but wound up with a rather deep voice. I sing, so I don't even try to work on attaining a female vocal quality in normal speech… some can bring that off and sing well, but I can't, so why try?

Zagria said...

You can come to a similar opinion as someone else without being under their influence. The classic example from biology is that Wallace and Darwin came to similar opinions about evolution independently.

The article on the Heartcorps site is not dated. The reprint on Gender Life Forum was October 2006 - about a year after Goiar and Kearny got together. It is quite possible that Phillips had indeed read some of the nascent HBS stuff. But she does not say so. Unlike Suzan Cooke and Lisa Jain Thompson of TS-Si who did for a while identify with HBS before changing their minds.

You are implicitly arguing that the HBS gurus had something original to say. Phillips could equally have gotten such ideas from Betty Cowell or Margaret O'Hartigan. Or she could have arrived at the ideas herself without taking them from anyone else.

I am not disagreeing with your position as such. I am saying that a line of influence has not been demonstrated. So I will not be adding the HBS label. Although I am pondering introducing a 'HBS precursor' label.