Softly, Softly

I have always been a software gal.

In the days when Lee’s Mardi Gras Boutique had a sign that said “All NASA Missions Went Through The Hands Of A Crossdresser,” there was an adage that engineers are transsexuals and programmers are transvestites.   Engineers, you see, wanted to fix the hardware and programmers wanted to fix the software.

While I am not a programmer, I was a product manager in the early days of integrated software.   Integration was my driving force from when I came out in the 1980s, which is why I didn’t fall into the transsexual or transvestite model, instead standing behind the just emerging transgender model.

Calling for the end of the Benjamin/Prince models in a keynote at IFGE in 1995, I have spent the last twenty years working on a different model that leaves the binary behind.

One of the big changes over that time is a much deeper understanding of the neuroplasticity of the brain.   Researchers have found that our neural patterns aren’t hard and fixed, instead being coded in what they call “wetware” that can change and adapt over a lifetime.

The old origin myth for transsexual women was that they had a “female brain” and needed to correct their body to fix that mismatch.  I always wondered why they didn’t want to reprogram their brain to fix their body, but that software approach wasn’t what they wanted.    They wanted to see their brain as fixed and their body as plastic and changeable, since they liked the OS they were running.

My origin myth is based on the “acorn” that James Hillman writes about, about the contents of our heart that we were created with.  For me, the modular software wraps around that essence which makes each human unique.   It is the software we change, not the heart.

Being aware of software, of thought and emotion, is a very femme thing.   We are used to looking at choices, even unconscious ones, to understand what is happening inside, under the surface.   It has always been a great treat for me when another woman can see, just by the flash of my eyes, my functioning femme heart.

Men tend not to show themselves as obviously on the outside, working to maintain a consistent smooth exterior.  Men’s context switching is much less visible than women’s switches, shown through wardrobe, voice and intention.   That means to get to understand and engage men you have to pay detailed attention to their software as revealed by their choices.

As mothers, we have to help those around us find better programs.   We teach children language, catch the earliest flickers of essence in them, and then give them the models and feedback to help them create their own routines and solutions.

We have to believe in growth, change and transformation, knowing that the only way that can happen is by changing our choices.   We change our choices not by changing the hardware by by changing the software, the decision trees that drive our behaviour.   Debugging those trees is the only way to get better, more considered and more elegant results.

When you believe that humans are their software, you believe that humans are capable of change, capable of growth and transformation.

You know that hardware always changes — humans age, get ill, suffer injuries — but that software driven by the inner essence defines how people respond to those physical challenges.

It is my sense that the younger generation, their pockets full of programmable devices, understands the power of software over hardware in a way that their parents never really will.   This is one reason they accept transgender more readily, knowing that simply understanding the hardware tells you little, it’s the software that makes the system what it is.

I’ve always been a software gal, though.   Show me the meta, let me understand the data structures, finding patterns, and the current algorithms will become evident.

And once you know the routines, well, you can change them.