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Before my first sentence of fiction ever assembled in writing, the story played in my head. Before the story played there, music provided the creative inspiration, and acted as a catalytic agent.

I survived gender dysphoria by easing pain through imagining. By placing myself in an imaginary world, I left the trauma of being a dichotomous being behind, at least for a short while. By night, I put myself to sleep in this other world, by day my mind left the classroom whenever opportunity presented itself – read as when the instructor delivered an extended lecture.

We all recall students accused of daydreaming, and I was the penultimate daydreamer, although I was quite skilled at dodging the accusation, mostly by being a quiet creature. Most thought of daydreaming as something frivolous and quirky, few or none thought in terms of anomalous and lifesaving.

In the run up to my conviction, I obtained my high school transcript, something I had never seen. What caught my eye was not the grades or class placement, for I knew my performance sucked (bottom third.) A little typed in line in the top right corner provided the result for standardised testing. As with most schoolwork, there was no effort expended for the week of tedious testing, yet I finished in the top 13%. When compared to grade performance, this was a big clue to something quite awry, but in 1971, no school in this country knew a thing about gender dysphoria. They probably assumed drug use.

Because of lifelong alt-world living, my imagination sharpened. If you write all the time, your skill improves. If you play a sport eight hours a day, you will likely be quite adept at its play. Pick a task, and if you practise, you hone. Fast forward to the two-aught years, particularly the period 2005-2008, the years of my long commute – an hour to work in each direction. My usual music mix included River by Natalie Merchant; three songs by Delerium –  Silence featuring Sarah McLachlan on vocals, as well as Daylight, and Myth. In addition, there were Mercy of the Fallen by Dar Williams, Concrete Sky by Beth Orton, Crucify by Tori Amos, Telling Stories by Tracy Chapman, Everyday Boy by Joan Armatrading, Welcome Me by the Indigo Girls, Out of the Blue by Roxy Music, and a host of others. My mind began to create one story from all, not out of the lyrics so much as by using pieces of each song.

Before long, the story went multi-track, with story arcs, protagonists, antagonists, and situations. When I played the music, the story started up in my head again, and refined. I imagined a musician, world class, from childhood a prodigy. I imagined a world of hardcore gender oppression, and she raised by her parents a feminist. Then there was a university, not just any, but Oxford, Harvard, Stanford, and Juilliard all rolled into one, so prestigious tens of thousands applied each year, and only five hundred gained admittance. There, she achieved valedictory status, and at graduation, shook the world with her keyboard, her voice – and her political advocacy. Within 3 years, she was gone.

By June of 2008, my mind could no longer contain the story, making the decision to write on a trip home after therapy. Today the story exists in rough form, unrefined, and waiting for a return visit from me. There is much there, enough or three books actually. I intend to completely rework it, selecting the best elements for rewriting, but only after I have several novels complete before I ever touch it again, because I wish my skills to be at their best for the retackle. What I shared for a description is quite limited, and leaves off a rather major second track, but I’ll leave it there.

Music moves us all in unique ways. When I hear a song, it may not be what you hear. If the melody stirs me, if I feel emotion triggered by voice or instrument, my mind might well synthesise something unrecognisable and new.