July/August 2002


Miss Aymeby Miss Ayme


The Eyes Have It

For as long as I can remember, I've always been squeamish about my eyes. Bad enough that my eyesight, even from an early age, was totally hosed. Blind as a bat, with severe myopia and a healthy dose of astigmatism to boot. By the time I was 8, I was sporting coke-bottle bottom spectacles with big, black industrial-strength frames. Four eyes was a nickname I got used to early in life. But I've always had this bone-shaking fear of anything getting in or near my eyes. When I got old enough to care about how glasses looked, even the thought of contact lenses was immediately rejected. No way am I gonna stick anything on my eyeball! Yuck! Wearing glasses became a fact of life.

They also became something to hide behind. The eyes may be the window to the soul, but to get to mine you had to negotiate your way through a rather thick barrier of glass (and later, plastic). Because of their expense, once I bought a pair of glasses, I wore them for years at a time until I either broke them, or my prescription changed. Wearing glasses was safe. They gave me excuses for everything, from not engaging in rough sports to avoiding intimacy.

And even much later, when I began my transition, applying makeup became a major exercise in conquering my fear. I had particular difficulties with eyeliner and mascara. Took me years to get proficient with drawing lines and painting colors on my eyelids. Can't tell you how many times I've poked myself in the eye with that damn mascara brush, and with tears flowing, vowing to give up in frustration. Still, eyewear as fashion was a totally foreign concept. Glasses were a medical necessity only.

Hindsight is 20/20…

Makeup was cause for fear? Well…let me put to you in a roundabout way. Any of you old enough to remember a movie called The Crawling Eye? It was made in 1958 and starred Forrest Tucker in the lead role. I recall seeing it sometime in the mid-60's when it was getting a lot of play on late-night television. It was a murky tale of a team investigating strange killings of mountain climbers, with extraterrestrials theorized to be involved. Naturally it included the requisite damsel in distress - a clairvoyant no less, receiving psychic mindstorms from the creatures on the mountain, thrown into a state of near-hysteria by visions of climbers being menaced by horrible things coming out of the darkness - perceived by her from the "thing's" point of view. The monster turned out to be a bulbous, pulsating, tentacled sac of pus, sliding forth with a nervous, pivoting eyeball leading the way.
For an impressionable 8-year old, this was pretty heavy stuff, and it's given me the willies ever since. I've had horrible nightmares of the eye creeping forward at me, its tendrils waving as smoke and mist drift by. It was a vision right out of Lovecraft, and it's stuck with me ever since.

Later, in the early 70's (when I was about 14 or 15), I used to do sleepovers with my best buddy. We'd plan it so we could stay up late and watch Fright Night - a compendium of schlocky B-flick horror movies - hosted locally in Los Angeles on Saturday nights by this craggy old dude calling himself Seymour the Sinister. During the breaks, he'd crack jokes heavily laden with sexual innuendo related to what was on the projector that evening, and as pubescent boys we ate it up. We'd usually get fare like Attack of the Mushroom People, or Monster from the Surf, but one night he showed X - Man With The X-Ray Eyes, starring Ray Milland (and directed I found out later, by Roger Corman).

A Revelation?

With it's shocking ending and powerful biblical reference to Oedipus ("If thine eyes doth offend thee, pluck them out!"), it is a movie that presented human vision as the analog to human curiosity. The film is obviously very concerned with senses and 'seeing', but is not an essay on voyeurism. (Seymour would tease us during a commercial break with images of alluring women, add some eye drops to the camera lens, and after a few moments of swirling blurs, the next image we'd see was of the women in their bras and panties. He'd tease us further and get us wonder if he added more drops, maybe we would see them naked. Oh it was too much to ask for! Both of us probably had erections developing when he started to add the additional drops that would enable us to see through their clothing. When the image next came into focus, all the women were skeletons! "Oops, too much!" he'd smirk, and both of us howled with disappointment).

But despite the potential for cheap thrills, in "X" I discovered that Dr. Xavier's journey is that of the surreal hero, plunging into the unknown, having no idea where his obsession will take him. "X" has been likened to a critique of LSD research, where mind-altering drugs supposedly make possible the perception of greater truths, unlocking mental doors to hidden resources within the human brain. But for his every advance in 'vision', Xavier becomes more blind to the real world around him.
When people no longer have faces, it's difficult to relate to them. As it is when people (like me) no longer have a definitive gender, it's difficult to relate to them. When your vision sees to the center of the universe, how do you concentrate on petty obligations and concerns in your immediate reality? But Xavier's psychological isolation warps his view even more severely. He can see, but he can't "unsee." Once enlightenment is granted, it can't be gotten rid of, only denied. By the same token, once enlightened about my gender identity, I cannot deny who I used to be. I can only try to express outwardly the person I am inside. I am as guilty as the next TG with concerns about my appearance and my ability to "pass" as a woman. In my eyes, there's always room for improvement, hampered by a lot of wishful thinking.

In the Blink of an Eye…

So all you have to do is throw in a little alien-abduction-surgery, needles-in-the-eyes-schtick, and you can see how I've developed a full-blown phobia about anything to do with my sense of sight. I suppose I can blame it on watching too many bad sci-fi movies. But I bring up all my childhood fears about eyeballs because I have finally taken advantage of the latest technological marvels in corrective eye surgery, and took one of those leaps of faith I'm so fond of doing - all in pure pursuit of eternal youth and beauty. And literally, it was a real eye-opener.

As I write this, I'm still in the early days of recovery from a refraction-corrective invasion of my corneas, a procedure otherwise known hereabouts as LASIK. Since I've been told many times that I have pretty eyes, my rationale for having LASIK was that it was high time I removed the bulky glasses that obscured them. I also think I look younger without them, and you're not going to convince the woman in me otherwise.

The LASIK procedure evolved from lamellar refractive surgery or ALK (Automated Lamellar Keratoplasty). Professor Barraquerer, one of the most famous names in refractive surgery, invented ALK in 1948. LASIK represents a supreme refinement of the procedure that minimizes the risks involved with this most delicate of invasive surgeries. An ALK flap is raised (sort of like taking the narrow end off a soft-boiled egg), using a very precise instrument called the microkeratome, and your misshapen cornea is then sculpted to perfection by the laser underneath this protective flap, thereby correcting your vision. When the procedure is done, the flap is simply laid back over the cornea.

For someone with optic phobias like me, what it boiled down to was that I was gonna let some guy with a blade slice the tip of my cornea not quite all the way off, and create a little window through which he was gonna zap my eyeball with a red-hot laser gun! Aye yi yi! Talk about facing your fears!

In all honesty, I have to say it was one of the weirdest experiences I've ever been through. After some numbing drops, I didn't feel a thing except some "pressure," but in my mind's eye it was one of those horrific yet fascinating moments. I watched these blurry hands insert an optical speculum into my right socket, everything went black for a moment, and then I stared at this red light splattered across my range of sight like a kaleidoscope. There was this sound like a high-speed grinder as the laser went off, maybe 45 seconds tops. Then it was the left eye's turn to be abused in much the same way, which by then I sorta knew what was coming and it was like watching the clothespins approaching my tender nipples…like laying in the dentist's chair while he approaches you with the Novocain needle…you know what's coming and you can't get away! Oh it was creepy! More pressure, another moment of darkness, the red light and grinding noise - an assistant nearby counting down seconds, calling out tracking status signals like Mr. Spock at his science station.

All told, it was about ten minutes on the table, and then I'm up and guided out for a quick look see in an optician's chair, then driven home where I fell into bed and into blessed, silent darkness. Two days followed of having my eyes feel scratchy, like I had a hair or something in there ("foreign body syndrome" was the term they used). It was to be expected, part of the process. The cardinal rule and overriding mantra of my life for the next two weeks is "Don't - Rub - Your - Eyes!" Naturally, that's the first thing I want to do, but I don't dare for fear of dislodging the corneal flap (and I have to wear these swimmer's goggles in bed at night to ensure I don't). But the end result is that I, for the first time in my life that I can remember, now have 20/20 vision for distance in both eyes without the need for corrective lenses. The jury's still out on whether I look any younger. All I feel at the moment is somewhat exposed.

Blinded by the Light…

Yet, it's amazing. It blows my mind. But electing to have this procedure has had its consequences. I have to do everything in reverse now. I used to be able to see things quite sharply and in great detail up close, but now I can't. The promise of doing without your glasses for ever and ever turned out to be a myth. I still have to saddle myself with a different kind of lens through which I need to see. Not prescriptive mind you, but I do need to use magnifying readers if I want to keep up with my whodunits and view a computer screen.

I can't wear eye makeup for two weeks. And that's fairly traumatic for a T-girl who relies on all the tricks of the trade to get through the day. I try to ignore the self-consciousness, and I almost wish I had my glasses to hide behind again. Like Milland's Dr. X, I plunged ahead lured by the promise of technology with no real thought to how it would ultimately affect me. My rationale was that I've been wearing glasses for the better part of 40 years, and it'd be nice not to have to wear them for the latter half of my life.
LASIK surgery has the finality of GRS (Gender Reassignment Surgery). What's done is done. I cannot undo it. I'm coming to realize that if I don't want to poke myself in the eye again with the mascara brush, I better get my hands on a magnifying mirror. But for general day to day living and running about town, driving or whatnot, I don't need to wear glasses anymore. And basically, that's why I did it. My sense of feminine vanity swayed the final decision.

And whether this diatribe has anything to do with BDSM from a TG perspective or not, call it a contribution to the community in general. But if any of you reading this are contemplating LASIK surgery, I invite you to send me your questions and I'll be happy to answer them from the benefit of my experience. And whether I'm viewed as a pioneer in my quest for feminine perfection, or a vain and selfish fool, remains to be seen.