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If I Were Mechanical Michelle

I was attempting explain to my therapist what the tipping point was like where I realized my mind was locking up leading my pursuit to transition. As usual, I relied on a common analogy to explain a more complex issue. It’s a habit of mine, often hated by others who bank on the avoidance of understanding to curtail further discussion. I like achieving that effect, so I do it all the time now.

“It’s like when you have the Task Manager open on a Window’s machine and the CPU usage turns bright green.” The first thing he asked me was what a ‘Task Manager’ is. I should not have been surprised as I had to explain what Facebook was the previous session, and spent half of another teaching how to back up his Outlook file. He never did make good his joking threat to refund his fee that week, but nevertheless. We have all struggled through a thousand and one clumsy ways of trying to describe our feelings to cisgender people. It’s no easy achievement, and as far as I know, it hasn’t been accomplished yet. It’s harder than those fifth grade assignments of describing what a peanut butter sandwich is to someone who never heard of bread. Even if we could take that approach, the listener is as likely to tune out as quickly as old Mrs Eckert did reading, “So there is this stuff called flour…”.

I thought using an analogy would be a wickedly clever way of at least capturing tiny aspects of this, even if they were wide right of the mark. Of course I didn’t take into account the possibility of having to describe the universally understood elements, putting me right back into sandwich land. It was like explaining an exceptionally funny joke, punch line and all, but I finally got the message across. Once I did a few fancy demonstrations, locking up his PC to the point of forced reboot, he understood and felt it was as an apt an analogy as he had heard. I’m not convinced he got it though, there being a suspect motive of saving his clunky old machine from my crazy experiments, so thought I would put it out there for critique.

Computer operation over the years has come to resemble the workings of human thought. They really have to in order to make them marketable, as an operating system that mirrored a cats thoughts would be infuriatingly difficult. To make them even more intuitive, an exploratory trepanation hole was installed in the form of the Task Manager. This allows the user to see all the various process currently running, in both the forefront and the subconscious of the machine, and how many resources they are using. Each use some percentage of both the memory and  processing capability. Usually, any given process is decent enough to use only what is needed, leaving enough for all the other necessary processes. Sometimes, however, things go wrong.

No one really know why (If you do, shush! Don’t ruin my analogy, please.) some background process chugging along suddenly goes crazy and starts sucking up more and more of your resources. At first you notice things are just a bit… off… but no importance. Sometimes you don’t even know it’s there, and if so, usually it was easy to put it out of mind. The situation becomes harder to ignore when drafting a simple document takes hours because that little “I’m doing something, you are going to have to wait” icon starts popping up more and more. After a while, forget trying to start something else, or god forbid, attempt to surf the web. Now the document has turned translucent with a little “Not Responding” message at the top. Great. Just great.

You may not have been ready to stop what you are doing to go and try to address this, but it got to the point where there is simply no going forward until you hit ‘ctrl-alt-delete’ and launch task manager to figure out what is going on. Sure enough, some bugger of an application is hogging 100% of what you need to even function anymore. You try to do the easy thing and ‘end process’, but either a warning of dire consequences comes up, or the computer simply refuses to let you. This thing is way too critical, and you need to either address it for real, or throw the whole damn machine away. Such is the chain of analogous events that bring one to transition. It comes down to this if the world expects to get any further use out of you.

OK, I do admit this isn’t perfect, and might not even apply to everyone’s unique experience, but it sure does mine and I can guess I’m probably not alone in this. Any comments are greatly appreciated. Yes… I know some of you are Mac users and my little example doesn’t apply in your wonderful little land where nothing ever goes wrong and apples grow on trees.

About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

11 responses »

  1. Damn, that is exactly what I experience. Some days, I can not get anything accomplished. My gender “binary” leads to crashes all the time leading to a complete lack of productivity. I wish I had a “control, alt, delete” I could hit, but no such luck. I hope you don’t mind if I borrow your analogy for use with my own counselor?

    Reply
  2. Good analogy, but I think you might be overestimating the fraction of the planet that actually speaks geek.
    I learned this in my previous career, when I faced alternately admiration and ridicule because I spoke geek. I could dazzle most because I knew where the darned thing actually plugged in and what all those silly messages meant, but as soon as I tried to explain what was happening, eyes glazed over and attention was lost..
    You might want to try to find another way to describe your feelings to your counselor that avoids computers entirely. (I’d probably skip any sci-fi connections too) :)

    Reply
  3. Re: “Yes… I know some of you are Mac users and my little example doesn’t apply in your wonderful little land where nothing ever goes wrong and apples grow on trees.”

    I started using a Mac back in 1985 and it simply felt right to me. From time to time I came across those PC things but I just didn’t get it, why on earth would anyone choose PC over Mac? So I happily existed as a Mac user for 15 years, even at work, until the company I worked for insisted everyone became a PC user. The change was horrible and very uncomfortable for me. I felt less productive. I hated having to try to learn the backward prehistoric ways of the PC, but eventually I got the hang of it. At work I buried and hid my Mac usage from those around me, I would only be seen as being different if I had let it known, but I was secretly still using a Mac privately. In the privacy of my own home. Then, just a few years ago, I bought a new MacBook Pro and I just couldn’t take to using a PC any longer. I would still use one at work when absolutely necessary, but every chance I got to switch on my Mac, I would. I would take my Mac with me whenever I travelled and would sit in my hotel room using that instead of my company supplied PC for whatever I could. Then I would transfer back to the PC after completion, and nobody was the wiser. Gradually, over time, my Mac usage would become more and more apparent to those around me. I had applied one of those Apple logo stickers you get whenever you buy any Apple product to the back of my PC, and people would comment about that looking kinda funny, but little did they know that it was just a start. Just the tip of the iceberg, what lay buried below, out of sight, was a full blown Mac user pretending to be a contented PC user, but it was really just an act on my part. I added more and more programs or utilities to my PC in order to simulate the functionality of a Mac as much as I could, but it was still not enough, I couldn’t pretend any longer and simply had to transition back to using a Mac full time. I started doing this about a year and a half ago now and have not looked back. I feel free, empowered, like this is the way it always should have been, everything seems to make perfect sense again. I no longer feel weighed down by the shackles of having to use a PC. Are there any downsides? Not for me. I sometimes hear people commenting about it being a PC world and saying that the programs available for the PC outnumber the Mac at least 10 to 1, and why on earth would anyone give that up? But the truth is, I have everything I want and need in my Mac, and I just feel so happy using it.

    Reply
    • I know, I know, every Mac user tells me a similar tale, but my PC was way cheaper, plus I already know how to use one. I tried a Mac once and ended up leaping around it, hooting, like those monkeys in the beginning of “2001”… The movie, not the year, but nevertheless, much the same. :-)

      Reply
      • What, every Mac user you know writes you a note in a from semi analogous to transitioning? That’s awesome! I’m even more proud to be known as a Mac user now then! :) :P

        Reply
  4. Sounds like you may be alittle over taken with everything. This reminds me that theres only so much that is helpful information and the rest is clutter.

    Reply

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