Wednesday, July 24, 1996
Received a strange, anonymous fax. It's in the form of a rebus and translates to "I'm watching you." A little sinister but probably just a prank. The sender was somewhat technologically sophisticated, because they managed to eliminate the usual info at the top of the fax which tells the phone number of the sender. There are no markings at all on this fax. Technological sophistication could lead one to suspect an SII employee, but I'm not sure. The graphic elements are an eye, an old wristwatch, an antique corset and a playing card. I can imagine all sorts of connections, but they were probably the images that were at hand to support the rebus. I imagine the faxer will soon come forward.

Wednesday, July 31, 1996
I got another anonymous fax today. This one is stranger than the first. While the first was a fairly standard rebus, this one is graphically more sophisticated and depicts a moth or butterfly flying over what looks like the Hiroshima Dome, a bombed out building hulk. The building peers through a silhouette of a man's head. I don't know what it means, but the person who sent it obviously spent a great deal of effort in trying to come up with this image. Again, no identifying marks. I'm not sure whether the faxes are threatening or not.

Wednesday, August 7, 1996
Another anonymous fax arrived today. This one shows a woman in a Victorian era costume with skulls over her dress. She is dangling a skeleton man from some sort of string attached to his mouth. He is carrying a club at a side and is dangling completely at the mercy of the woman (or perhaps he is dead). She is looking away with a slightly bemused expression. It strikes me that the three faxes are exactly a week apart and always on a Wednesday. "Wednesday's child is full of woe." These look like they are created by someone who is trying to be odd. I'm not sure that these well executed graphic creations, weird as they may appear, are really dangerous. They appear too careful, too contrived. I guess I'll have to wait for the faxer to show him or herself.

Wednesday, August 14, 1996
Received another anonymous fax today, continuing the Wednesday morning tradition. They are sort of creepy, especially considering all of the effort going into these faxes. Perhaps I am not the only recipient? I can't think of any reason why I would be haunted in this fashion. The image shows a bouquet of daffodils, interspersed with hands and feet and a giraffe neck. One of the hands is holding a stick in a pose reminiscent of the black power salute. Although I'm not an expert, I would guess this image was created or at least manipulated in a computer. There is a fluffy black background that looks airbrushed.

Wednesday, August 21, 1996
Received another anonymous fax today, right on schedule. This one is the most elaborate yet. Beautiful, actually, in a twisted way, it shows a man with smooth, almost anonymous features being pierced by a series of I-beams. He is pinned, like an insect in some collection, and yet he is clearly in movement--perhaps the minute that he has been transfixed in this way. Something that looks like crackling electricity surrounds him. One of the I-beams pieces his groin and abdomen in a violent way, except that piercing isn't the right word. The man himself looks like he is incorporating the I-beam into his body in a liquid metallic kind of way--reminiscent of the metallic Terminator in T2. The man's expression is almost happy, even though the posture is strained. I am more convinced than ever, though, that I am on some strange anonymous fax mail list, though. Nobody could go through this kind of effort just for my benefit without some greater clue as to who they are. There must be dozens of people looking at this strange image spooling off their fax machine this morning.

Wednesday, August 28, 1996
Received another anonymous fax this morning. A lone woman in a long dress stands at an open portal looking at lightning in the dark. On the arch above the temple-like opening are some words which might be from the Bible. I can discern the words "Song of songs" and "kiss me." The figure is small and far to the left of the image which is otherwise mostly of the lightning. The lightning could be striking the woman's hand, or she might be the source of the lightning. Her figure seems to me to be serene.

Wednesday, September 4, 1996
I received another anonymous fax this morning, right on schedule. The one depicts three naked mannequin angels (with wings from an assortment of butterflies) flying around a seated naked male mannequin figure, his head held in one hand, his other hand down with fingers outstretched. One of the male figure's legs looks like it sports a fingernail where the knee should be. All three of the angel figures have a hand or finger pointing at the male figure. Again, the graphic quality is extremely high. There can be no doubt that the mannequin figures were created in the computer. They have that high gloss look of 3D computer graphics. While it is easy to read personal symbolism into the piece, I still believe that I am one of many recipients of the Faxer's missives.

Wednesday, September 11,

Received another fax from the Anonymous Faxer. I'm starting to almost look forward to Wednesday morning and another graphic missive from my anonymous correspondent. This one is unique in that it is personalized, at least in part. I still think that I am one of many recipients, but this one has a little house with the label "Dr. Balis" on it. The graphic quality of the little house and the letters is so clearly distinguishable from the rest of the image, that I'm convinced that it was a customized afterthought, perhaps a whole series of these little houses, each with different personalized names, was stuck onto the high quality graphic image of the rest of the image. The image is that of a naked figure (male or female, I cannot say), lying on its side and pointing at the little personalized house. Spilled next to the figure is a bottle with the words "Drink Me" discharging its black, inky, and presumably poisonous contents. The background is that of some form of cracked stone. Drink Me may be a reference to the Alice in Wonderland story where Alice drinks some potion and becomes quite small--small enough to go through the tiny door. This Drink Me seems to have a poisonous effect rather than a dwindling one. This fax, now that it is at least semi-personalized, has prompted me to pull out the previous ones and look at them as a group. A suggestive similarity strikes me--all of the male figures are twisted or in agony, while all of the female figures are seemingly quite serene. Curious.

Wednesday, September 18,

I received another anonymous fax today. Again, right on schedule. This one does away with any attempt at personalizing the fax, but it fits in with my theory that the male figures are tortured and the female ones are serene. The faxer has a highly stylized view of gender distinctions. Here is a tortured male figure, half man, half spiky lizard. The man's lower extremities are completely lizard, while his upper arms seem to be in a state of transition--clear fingers but webbed with claws. His neck is skewed agonizingly to one side. His right arm is nowhere to be seen. Compositionally, the image is crowded to the lower left hand part of the frame.

Thursday, September 19, 1996
Letter to Bill Bennett respecting the Anonymous Faxer. I spoke in part about the Anonymous Faxer in my letter to Bill Bennett.

Wednesday, September 25,

Fax from an anonymous faxer. This one is really quite strange and difficult to interpret. There is a dome shaped caged lined with glass. Inside, there is what appears to be a body swaddled in cloth straining to break free. The dome is broken at the top and what appears to be a rose is breaking its way free, although the glass has cut it, and blood is dripping in a thin stream down the edge of the cage and pooling on the ground, next to shards of the broken dome top. Although the background is totally blank, the dome appears to be located in a room covered with tiny lights in the ceiling--reflected in the dome itself. Actually, it reminds me of a Casino. Could this have something to do with taking risks? Becoming free but injured in the process? Is the bound figure's only chance at achieving freedom through taking a risky, bloody escape route?

Wednesday, October 2, 1996
Another fax was waiting for me when I got in this morning. This one depicts a naked man's back and shoulder and head turned towards the left. He has tears on his cheek. He is looking at either a picture or into a mirror and there is the face of an attractive, calm woman staring directly back at him (although he is looking off to the side). The picture or mirror is hanging from the wall by thick chains which appear to be entangled with a bear trap. Could the woman be a picture of a lost love? Or is he staring into a mirror confronting some feminine portion of his own personality? The bear trap is too obvious a symbol of confinement and entrapment to ignore, but is he enslaved by the girl in the picture or is he trapped himself? Animals captured in these kinds of traps often chew off their own limbs to escape. Is this a hint of self mutilation? Could there be someone wishing to change their gender behind these faxes? Rightly or wrongly, I find myself identifying the faxer with the male figures in the images--In this image, it is clearly the man who is the subject, not the reflected woman. The faxer is drawing about himself. I find myself thinking about the faxes before I come in on Wednesday, looking forward to them. If they didn't come, I think I would be disappointed somehow, and even worried. Although I am probably not the only recipient of these faxes, the person who sent them is clearly asking for help and finds it easiest to communicate through this visual mode.

Wednesday, October 9, 1996
I received another fax from the anonymous faxer today. This one depicts a large skeleton hand reaching out from an antique baby carriage. I don't quite see how this connects with the previous images, but the image reeks of symbolism and is evocative of a series of clichés. Perhaps the creator meant to suggest cradle to grave imagery. I note that the baby carriage is of a type probably not used since about 1920. Perhaps this is an older person who would have been a baby in the '20s and is now thinking about death. But that was certainly not my impression from the earlier faxes. Perhaps a relative died in childbirth or a sibling died in infancy. I had hoped that this fax would confirm the suspicions I had developed last week, but this fax doesn't seem to fit that mold at all. It's almost as if it is designed to throw me off the track.

Wednesday, October 16, 1996
I received another Wednesday morning fax. This one depicts three naked women growing like plants out of a root formed by a skeleton planted in the earth. The naked women meld, in turn, into flowers which resemble narcissuses, flowers named after a Greek God who fell in love with his own reflection in the water and, transfixed by his own image, was turned into a flower. Although beyond my expertise, I would guess that the skeleton figure was male, based on the narrow hipbone structure and the past faxes by this person. So what does it mean, these women growing from the dead and planted skeleton of a man? Whatever the message, I'm only picking up a fraction of it. I'm still thinking of these faxes as an elaborate production for a wide audience. However, I do think that the sender genuinely desires to communicate important issues of their own anguish or psyche through these images. Is he the male, giving birth to the three women-flowers after his death? Is she one of the women, growing only after the death of some male figure who is still rooting her to the spot? Of note, there are three women, each mutating into three flowers. Is there a hidden meaning in the numbers: three cubed or a progression 1, 3, 9? I feel helpless in not being able to help this person come to terms with the pain so clearly reflected in these faxes.

Wednesday, October 23, 1996
Received another fax from the anonymous faxer this morning. This makes fourteen, and not a Wednesday missed. This person is a bit anal retentive and certainly has a need to explore this creative outlet for his or her anonymous angst-ridden communication. This image is a Frankenstein patchwork of different limbs and pieces of torso collaged together to form one, vaguely female and vaguely human figure. The gross physical deformities are obviously manifest. Some of the torso pieces appear to be anatomical cut-away drawings (one of kidneys) while others are old photographs or sculptures. Some of the pieces are clearly female while others are not gender specific. The figure stands on a pedestal. While the pieces make a whole, there is a strong sense that none of the parts really belong to this figure. The pretty female head which tops this monstrosity is the same female face which peered from the mirror in a previous fax. The face looks serene--content with what she is. But the faxer clearly does not share that serenity.

Wednesday, October 30, 1996
For the first time in fourteen weeks, I was not greeted with an anonymous fax when I came to the office this morning. I have come to look forward to receiving the cryptic visual missives and I found myself inordinately concerned with the fate of the faxer. I hope that this is a temporary interruption, because I was just beginning to feel like I was getting a handle on this person's character.

Wednesday, November 6, 1996
I got another fax this morning, so it was just last Wednesday's that was missed. As if to make up for the interruption, this fax seems more revealing than the rest. The Anonymous Faxer is using this graphical form to reach out. But this image clearly shows a male figure mutating into a female one, echoing the themes of gender division that can be found through all the faxes. This process does not look easy or pleasant for the participant, but there is almost a sense of freedom that is conveyed by the female figure--breaking free of the restraints of the male one. My current hypothesis, in reexamining this fax and the others in the series, is that the Anonymous Faxer is or has been unhappy with their gender. I would guess that they are somewhere in the transgender spectrum--either considering a sex change, actively pursuing it, or reflecting on the result. Furthermore, I would guess that the Anonymous Faxer is male rather than female. The male is the tortured actor, the female is the radiant result. I get the feeling that the male is a caterpillar and the female is the butterfly. This patient, and I can't help but think of him as a patient, clearly needs therapeutic help to explore the serious gender issues that torment him. But the fax has no identifying marks at all. I can think of no way to reach out to this person. All I can do is mutely receive the faxes and try to understand his torment.

Wednesday, November 13, 1996
Another anonymous fax arrived today, and this one is the creepiest yet. From the severed neck of a male body floating in space comes a flock of butterflies while the blood drips into what may be a grail. The drinking of blood could be a reference to vampirism, where the drinker lives forever as a living dead at the cost of having to consume the blood of the living. Or it could have to do with communion--the symbolic drinking of the blood of Christ. The cup looks like a grail reminiscent of the Last Supper and the body is in a rough crucifixion pose. The butterflies seem to represent the soul, perhaps flying towards heaven? Butterflies only live for a couple of days and they are all about sex. I don't even think that they have stomachs--their transformation is brief, beautiful, and ultimately deadly. Actually the picture is rather disturbing. Could it be that the faxer is considering self-mutilation--i.e. a sex change operation? Hopefully, this is not a suicide note of some sort--freeing the soul through death. Looking again, that is probably the most facile interpretation. Again I find myself wishing that I could actually talk to this person. Perhaps I can set up some form of device to trace back the fax when it is arriving--like a phone trace. It is worth considering.

Wednesday, November 20, 1996
Another fax from the anonymous faxer arrived today. Thank goodness! After last week's fax, I would have been almost frantic if I had not received another one. Dreary as this one is, it is a great improvement over last week's and, at least, it is an indication that the faxer is still alive. In this image, a naked male figure stands against a giant stone wall, his head cradled in his arm which is resting against the wall. The figure is evidently weeping. Scale seems to be important in this image--the giant stone wall dwarfs the figure as does the composition of the image--a little figure on a large page, much of it white. Symbolic of the Wailing Wall perhaps, the stone wall is clearly something which is difficult to surmount and represents a formidable obstacle to the figure. Since I think of the faxer as a male who has substantial gender issues, perhaps the wall represents a physical and emotional hurdle which the faxer must overcome before reaching a place of mental repose. I really do look forward to these anonymous missives each Wednesday morning, in the same way that I look forward to seeing my patients (or most of them). The one week that he missed, I was really concerned. These messages have come to symbolize my San Francisco practice in some ways and the experience is all the more rich because of them.

Wednesday, November 27, 1996
Another fax arrived this morning. This one shows a typical nuclear family group--father, mother, son, daughter--reading a newspaper together. Except that the heads have been replaced by turkeys. All except for the son, whose head has been replaced by something that looks like it is exploding. A happy little familial sentiment just in time for Thanksgiving. I think that the faxer is the lad with the exploding head. He obviously feels somewhat alienated from his family, and I assume that he has some family function this holiday season about which this fax comments. Apparently he is going to pretend to be a happy member of the family while something is really terribly wrong inside his head. And the family is reading the newspaper. Perhaps the faxer means to imply that their attention is focused on external news while ignoring the personal issues of the family members.

Wednesday, December 4, 1996
Another fax arrived this morning. This one depicts a metal man put into a very old antique tin car. This one isn't as obvious as some of the others. The metal man's legs are very short and his arms are very long. It's almost as if he can switch the gears and turn the wheels and maybe even honk the horn, but he can't reach the gas or break peddles and thus can't really have control over the car. Like many of the previous faxes, it seems to depict a male figure powerless to reach a desired goal. The back wheel appears to have the axle off-center, which would make for a very uncomfortable ride if the car were ever to actually move.

Wednesday, December 11, 1996
Received another fax this morning. A misshapen male figure, at the bottom of a pit of skyscrapers, looks up in appeal to an angel floating in a kneeling position above the skyscrapers. We see the scene from her view, looking at the pathetic, groveling creature who looks like he feels trapped inside the skyscraper hole. Could this be more suicide imagery? Is he appealing to the next world for salvation? But since the point of view is that of the angel's, it also feels like he may be identifying with her and looking at himself from that perspective. There is a strong sense of alienation from the modern business environment depicted in the image. I wonder if that's a clue to his profession? Is he someone who works downtown with a flair for art? Since he knows my fax number, I assume that he's looked up my office address. Perhaps he is someone nearby--at one of the neighboring buildings possibly. With SII across the street and with so many people working in computer graphics there, it's really quite possible that he is an SII employee and has found my fax number through the materials distributed to him. It certainly is an odd, one-way sort of therapeutic process that he has defined. When I look through my windows, I sometimes wonder if Anna is looking at me. Now I can wonder if the Faxer is looking at me as well. Paranoia does lie this way. I know that Hal sometimes is watching the office doors for Sylvia, or perhaps I can worry about the FBI or Mazurka's killer Irishman.

Wednesday, December 18, 1996
A new fax arrived this morning. Compared to the previous images, this one is positively a vision of sanity and brims with happiness. The image is composed of a businessman walking briskly away from an airplane with a suitcase in his right hand. The man is wearing a well-tailored light business suit and he's sporting a gigantic white ping-pong ball head with eyes and mouth. He looks a little like the Jack in the Box advertising mascot character. This is the ultimate in putting on a happy face. So what brought this change over my anonymous patient? Is it the holiday spirit? Is he trying to tell me that he is taking a trip? Is he flying somewhere for the holidays? If so, why is he wearing a suit instead of a Hawaiian shirt or some other vacation clothes? I would guess this is a business trip and he is forcing himself to pretend that he is something he is not for the benefit of his business associates. Or perhaps this is the trip leading to the big change--is he using the holidays as an opportunity to begin the process of a sex change operation? Is there a whole new identity in that suitcase? Too many questions and too few answers. I wonder how much longer this will remain a mystery. I also wonder if he will send me a fax next week. That would be Christmas day, and I assume that SII would be deserted. There probably will be a check in with security that day. If he sends me a fax, I could check with the security office and find a list of who had access to the building during the day. If my supposition that he is an employee of SII is correct, I might then be able to put a real face on the anonymous faxer.

Thursday, December 26, 1996
There was nothing from the Anonymous Faxer this Wednesday. It was Christmas, so maybe the last image was an indication of going out of town. Or perhaps he wasn't able to get to a fax machine after all. In any case, my plan of trying to unveil his identity failed. There will be no Christmas log entry to check. I have to go back to square one.

Thursday, January 2, 1997
Another fax was waiting in my machine this morning. I presume that the Anonymous Faxer sent it to me at his usual Wednesday time, but it was a holiday and I didn't come into the office. This one is peculiarly tied to the New Year. A muscular male figure clutches a 1997 calendar with one hand while the other (perhaps protectively?) seems to cover his genitals, all while calendar pages from the 31st of December fall around and over him. On the 31st of December, I was surprised by what I assume is a San Francisco custom of tossing the calendar pages out of the office windows. People find offices with windows which open, or outdoor fire escapes--any place that is high up--and toss their "day at a glance" calendar pages out. It makes an incredible, soggy mess when it hits the ground, but has a festive, ticker-tape kind of feel while the pages float through the air. There is also a certain appeal in the brief voyeuristic window provided into an anonymous life by looking at the disconnected pages on the ground, many with appointments or other information penned in. In any case, this image is reminiscent of that feeling. Most of the pages are duplicates--the thirty-first of December. There are also entire 1996 calendars which appear to be discarded. Only the 1997 calendar is clutched protectively. Perhaps there is a positive almost optimistic quality to this image. At least he's grabbing hold of the New Year. But I note that his eyes are still covered by last year's calendar. He's not drowning in it, but he's still immersed in the immediate past.

Wednesday, January 8, 1997
I received another fax from the Anonymous Faxer this morning. This one shows an old streetcar, the F Castro, running along its tracks. The background has been completely blacked out, so the trolley car has almost the appearance of a toy, although it is clearly not. A driver can faintly be seen through the windshield. There is an F Line streetcar which runs along Market Street, between the Financial District downtown and the flamboyant center of San Francisco's gay culture located near Castro Street. I believe the sign "F Castro" indicates that the car is traveling away from the Financial District and towards Castro street. I've often noticed the Market Street streetcars because they've returned a number of restored antique cars to operation. They are quite picturesque and make a festive display, and they are really each quite unique, one from another. Each of the cars have a distinct personality. Of course the Faxer is making a journey too, of sorts, towards a more overt lifestyle perhaps symbolized by the direction of this streetcar. Is the Faxer also drawn to the rehabilitation of an antique? Can he be thinking of his own make over? This streetcar is clearly in motion. Has the Faxer's journey already begun?

Wednesday, January 15, 1997
Another fax arrived this morning. This one depicts six cupid pendants hanging by ribbons. There are three each of two types of cupids: one has his bow drawn and the other has his arrows quivered and is holding a laurel wreath with his angel wings outstretched. I keep joining this image to last week's image of the bus to the Castro. Has the Anonymous Faxer found love? There is something almost tawdry or commercial about this image, as though it didn't represent real love, but rather some facsimile thereof like Valentine's Day imagery. The angels aren't real angels, after all, but jewelry pendants. And none of the arrows have yet left their quiver. Perhaps it is an image about the anticipation of love. Perhaps it is a quest through the commercial district which is the Castro. Maybe next week's image will shed some light on the meaning of this one.

Wednesday, January 22, 1997
Another fax came in this morning from the Anonymous Faxer. This one is the most disturbing image I've seen from him since the fax depicting a body with the severed head he sent me on November 13, 1996. This week's image shows a standing figure whose body from his feet to his waist (and a portion of his arms) have been cleanly sliced through forming sections approximately eight inches each in length. Although the figure is still standing, the pieces are just now falling apart, so the figure can't stay upright for a second more. A small puddle of blood is seen on the floor, but the image is surprisingly free of blood or gore. The sections of legs and arms are sliced clean, like meat in a supermarket. A bolt of lightening can be seen behind the figure. The damage being done to this figure is much more than could be accomplished by self mutilation. What it reminds me more than anything else are some of the dreams that I've heard from patients just prior to going into surgery. Sometimes they see themselves as meat carcasses ready to be carved up in some high tech butcher's shop. Perhaps the Faxer is really ready to undergo a sex change operation. Although another man about to have his penis surgically removed would focus the imagery upon that particular organ, it makes sense that the Anonymous Faxer, who feels trapped inside this body, would see the operation as a complete dissection of who he was, perhaps to be reassembled into a new body with a new gender.

Wednesday, January 29, 1997
The Anonymous Faxer sent a new fax this morning. This one is actually quite a simple image. A hand sticks straight out of some water, clutching a giant @ symbol. The hand's owner is clearly drowning, perhaps going down now for the last time. The only lifeline is the @ symbol, which must refer to e-mail. The question is whether this is a general statement of the Anonymous Faxer's reliance on the Internet for his social interactions or whether it is an attempt to try to get me to communicate more verbally with the faxer. He's given me an idea, though. My fax machine broadcasts back a line of text to a machine sending incoming faxes. Right now, it is programmed to say Dr. Charles Balis. I don't really get faxes from anyone else. I'll reprogram it to say please. Perhaps e-mail will allow the Faxer the anonymity he requires. And at least e-mail would allow a two way channel for communications.

Wednesday, February 5, 1997
Another fax from the Anonymous Faxer was waiting in my fax machine this morning. I reset my outgoing fax message to read So now his confirmation sheet for this fax should show my e-mail address. I hope that he'll send me something--I'd like to make this conversation go both ways, instead of just being a passive receiver. The image today is quite tame although difficult to interpret--we see the well-dressed legs of a man and a woman standing facing each other while, at their feet, is a group of four tiny Victorian children and an older woman, a mother or governess. The large figures are dressed in suits probably from the 40s or 50s. The group of children almost look like porcelain replicas. Due to the styles of children's clothes, it is hard to tell what sex the children are. Two of them are clearly little girls, but the other two could be either male or female. The two groups--the giant legs and the children--are oblivious to each other in the image. They clearly are not interacting. Is this a commentary on the relation of the Anonymous Faxer's parents to him as a child? Was he sexless within a large family of siblings, cared for by a governess while his parents were as remote and unapproachable as giants? Perhaps this image is a commentary on female role models at different times in the past. Or perhaps it is on the relation between the sexes at different ages--the interaction of the children and the interaction of the adults. The meaning of the image is a bit obscure.

Wednesday, February 12, 1997
A fax arrived today from the Anonymous Faxer. At last, my strategy worked to get the Anonymous Faxer to reveal a method of making our communications go both ways. He has included an e-mail address as an image burned across the back of a broad-shouldered male character. For now, the image is not nearly as important as the door that it opens. The e-mail address that he gives is I'm sure it is a pseudonym--HAL being a reference to the HAL 9000 Computer from 2001. I've been thinking about how to best approach Hal and I think the simpler the better. So I've sent an e-mail that says hello and asks if I can help him. I have so much I want to ask him, but I don't want to scare him off. With the opening of two way communication, I have reclassified The Anonymous Faxer as a patient (albeit a non-paying one) in all my records and files.

Tuesday, February 18, 1997
I received an e-mail response from the Anonymous Faxer. He told me not to try to trace him, that HAL was a pseudonym, and asked if I got his messages. I responded immediately, inviting him to come in for a session or to continue the dialogue via e-mail, if that is what he preferred. I am thrilled at the opportunity to finally open up a two way conversation.

Friday, February 21, 1997
I received another e-mail from The Anonymous Faxer today. This one was not about detection, but rather he started to talk about himself, albeit incredibly tentatively. He said he was not good at talking to people and was better with pictures. He also said that he was born in the South. I believe he is shyly testing the waters. I wrote him a response where I started asking personal questions as if he was in therapy. I don't think it will scare him--I think questions about his family are what he most likely expected from a therapist, so I didn't disappoint.

Wednesday, February 26, 1997
9 am. I received an image from the Anonymous Faxer. This one is in direct response to the e-mail that I sent on February 21. There I asked about his family and siblings. Now I have his response. The image is rich with symbolism. A little boy on a tricycle has toppled a man, presumably his father, from the pedestal labeled "Man of the House." The father has shattered on the ground. In the background are four women: I'm guessing a mother and three daughters. The mother is sitting with one of the daughters, who looks like she is trying to be as much like her mother as possible. The other younger daughters are engaged with each other, the middle girl holding up the baby girl doll-fashion out of her antique baby carriage. The Faxer is obviously the boy on the tricycle. I get the sense that it's the women of the house who have placed him on the pedestal, taking his father's place in their esteem. He is on a tricycle and only on one wheel at that, so his position on the pedestal is a bit unbalanced. But the women are absorbed primarily with each other, leaving him in a privileged but solitary position. The father is clearly out of the picture--either physically removed or emotionally wasted--pictured as broken on the floor. The dress of the women is from the Victorian era--in fact the mother is sitting before a spinning wheel. The father is clearly in dress from the 1940s. Is the Faxer trying to suggest a conventional morality or a strict background? In many ways, the picture reveals more of the Anonymous Faxer's childhood than a therapy session would. And I would guess that the process of creating these images is not merely clarifying but perhaps cathartic.

Wednesday, March 5, 1997
9:00 am. I got an e-mail from the Anonymous Faxer. This one really starts to give some important biographical information about the Faxer's childhood. I need to think carefully about what is said before I respond, especially in light of some of the images that now should be reinterpreted. The Faxer's father was killed in a car accident when the Faxer was 9 years old. The Faxer believes that his father was receiving fellatio from some woman who was in the car with him during the accident. There is a strong correlation between sex and death in many of the Faxer's works, and I suspect that the circumstances of his father's death have much to do with that. I'll send the Faxer an e-mailed response tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 19, 1997
8:50 am. Another fax arrived from the Anonymous Faxer. After two weeks of nothing, Hal has sent another image. This one depicts an open locket with a woman (Mother?) on the left and a man (Self Portrait?) on the right. The man is reaching out of his frame to grab the mother on the cheek. While her expression is a smirk, it isn't clear whether the hand is caressing her check, pinching it affectionately, or clawing at it. The man's expression has a sexual intensity to it, as if he is grabbing the face of a lover. While the woman remains flat in her frame, the man clearly is a three dimensional being, able to reach out of his frame, perhaps even break reality. The woman is dressed in an old fashioned, almost victorian style, while he appears to be naked. The man appears to be in his mid 20s. If this is a self portrait, it is the most flattering depiction yet of the Anonymous Faxer in a male form. The man shown is well-muscled and handsome--quite a difference from the mangled men which usually populate the Anonymous Faxer's images. And the images are inside a locket. Lockets are used to keep the images of people who are precious to the wearer. In my last e-mail, I asked about the Faxer's sense of being "Man of the House." Did he take over as a surrogate husband for his mother? Was there sexual tension surrounding their new relationship? That's my sense of what this image shows. It is a man who is both son and lover to the woman, clawing violently at her cheek with a gesture which she mistakes for a caress.

Monday, March 24, 1997
12:10 pm. I received an e-mail from the Anonymous Faxer. He gives a very lucid account of the emotional sterility of being strong for the women in his household after his father died. He was called upon to perform the worldly tasks, while his mother, her two sisters, and his two sisters used each other for their emotional support. The Anonymous Faxer started to feel like a cipher in his own house: his mother was weak but hollow. He said that there were times in his childhood where he wanted to shake his mother and scream at her that he was real and her son--not the husband that she wanted him to be. The Anonymous Faxer said that things would have been easier if he had been a girl.

Wednesday, April 9, 1997
I received a fax from the Anonymous Faxer. This one was a get well card. He must have heard that I had the flu and so was suggesting that I drink some chicken soup. I was touched by the solicitousness shown by this man I've never met. I looked back over my e-mail with the Anonymous Faxer and realized, to my dismay, that I had neglected to send him a response to his last missive--a flaw made worse by the degree of openness he showed there. Anyway, I apologized and sent him an e-mail response.

Wednesday, April 23, 1997
I received another fax from the Anonymous Faxer. This one depicts a man being sucked into a computer screen. The man isn't particularly resisting--he has almost a calm expression as he meets his wiry fate. The Anonymous Faxer never responded to the e-mail that I sent him after his get well fax on April 9th. Maybe he is trying to say that he got sucked into his work and hasn't had any time. Or maybe it's a metaphor for being singularly focused on one area of his life to the exclusion of all others. The man is naked, as he disappears into the monitor. Perhaps the Faxer is trying to express that he has concentrated on just one aspect of his sexuality without exploring other options. It seems a bit of a stretch, actually. He works at a computer company, he hasn't written in a long time--he's trying to say that he's been consumed by his work. Let's leave it at that.

Friday, June 13, 1997
9 am. I received a fax from the Anonymous Faxer today. I think that was the first fax that wasn't received on a Wednesday. And I haven't heard from him for almost two months--since the image about being consumed by his work. But this image looks like a warning sign--there is a man lying on the floor of an attic in an old building, bleeding from the neck, his head probably severed. There is a gaping hole in the roof of the building--it appears to me that the man has smashed through the roof to end up bleeding on the floor. Unlike some of his other images with blood, this one offers no redemption, no hope of salvation. The man is just lying dead on the floor. I'll write to him and find out if anything is wrong.

Friday, June 20, 1997
I received another fax from the Anonymous Faxer today. In contrast to the last one, which frankly scared me, this one is much more in line with what I already know about the Anonymous Faxer. A naked man is running out of frame, while a family group, presumably his, sits in Victorian costume and watches calmly. He's running away from them, but they don't look at all perturbed. It's what they expect, perhaps even what they desire. Although the central character is the man running in the foreground, the picture isn't really about him at all. It's about the mother and the two children watching. Their calm take on this naked man running is what this picture is about. Is the Anonymous Faxer upset that his "running away" stirs up so few emotional ripples?

Friday, June 27, 1997
I received a fax from the Anonymous Faxer today. We're back to his favorite form of communication--he prefers to communicate graphically, conveying information through illustrated metaphors. In this image, a naked man is either breaking through a layer of dried and cracked mud and reaching for a heavenly light, or he is mired in the cracked mud and is appealing to a higher power to extract him. I wish he was clearer, because one interpretation is an optimistic vision and the other, equally valid, is quite pessimistic. The Anonymous Faxer's male figures are always heroically muscled, although this one looks somewhat starved--his bones almost show through the form.

Wednesday, July 9, 1997
I received an e-mail message from the Anonymous Faxer. He told me about a "vacation" trip that he took back to Alabama. After it was over, he vowed never to set eyes upon either his mother or his Aunt Isabelle. When he made that decision, he said that he felt like a terrible burden had been lifted from him. And he finally gathered enough courage to ask me the question that's been preying on his mind since his earliest faxes to me: how to go about getting a sex change operation. I've decided to answer him as straight forwardedly as I can--I'll give him the requirements of the Benjamin Standards of Care. But I'll have to answer his message tomorrow or Friday.

Thursday, July 10, 1997
10 am. I wrote an e-mail response to the Anonymous Faxer. What with my conversations with the Anonymous Faxer and with Peter Hossfeld, I'm starting to believe that I'm gaining a certain expertise with this form of virtual therapy, although I can't say that I like it much. I guess it comes from working with patients in the high tech industry. In any case, I responded to the Anonymous Faxer's questions about how to go about getting a sex change operation by quoting the requirements of the Benjamin Standards of Care. If he wants to go through with it, I think I'll actually have an opportunity to meet Hal when he comes in for regular therapy as mandated by the protocol.

Friday, July 25, 1997
9:45 am. I received a fax from the Anonymous Faxer today. Where before I would have worried about an absence of weeks between faxes, my new relationship with the Anonymous Faxer is such that I'm surprised every time I do receive a fax. Actually, the images are usually somewhat disturbing, so that whereas before, I would often be relieved just to be getting the communication, now I find myself disturbed by the implications of the images that I'm receiving. This image depicts a naked man, clearly unconscious or perhaps dead, draped backwards over unseen hands and being lifted from some black pool of liquid. As he leaves the surface of the water, he disturbs it--creating only a few murky ripples. But the body itself is completely dry. Is the unconscious or lifeless body being delivered away from some unpleasant fate? Or is this a final act of compassion--removing the drowned body of a man consumed under some abyss? The last time that I talked to the Anonymous Faxer, he wanted to undergo a sex change operation. I would guess that he has decided not to do it, or that he has some obstacle to doing it. In the image, he's still a man. There's no female imagery at all. And the source of deliverance from the abyss is unknown. Who or what is influencing his life in such a very dramatic way is unclear. And is he dry because he has been left untouched by the forces symbolized by the black pool?

Friday, August 8, 1997
10 am. I received a fax from the Anonymous Faxer today. This one is quite easy to interpret. It shows a man weeping and holding the melting body of a woman in his arms. I think given what I already know about the Anonymous Faxer, there can be but one likely interpretation: he sees his dreams of becoming a woman somehow slipping through his fingers. The image is a sad one, because the weeping man, although he holds the dissolving woman tenderly, is clearly powerless to stop the woman from completely melting away. And so go his dream.

Friday, August 29, 1997
9 am. I received another fax from the Anonymous Faxer. This time, there is an optical effect which obscures the image itself--the first time, I believe, that the Faxer has used anything which obscured the full effect of the image--as if he's acknowledging that the image represents his viewpoint. The image shows a straight road ahead with no turns flanged by cryptic road signs jutting out at strange angles. The road signs have a combination of question marks, the letter F, and a strange symbol possibly resembling female genitalia inside a circle. The tunnel vision seems to represent an increased focus on his future which, with the question marks, is obviously unsure. But the road signs are only early on in the journey. Past the road signs is a clear stretch of road, dappled with sunlight. I believe this could be interpreted as a belief in a positive future but with a lot of immediate uncertainty. The uncertainty seems clearly related to the Anonymous Faxer's desire to change his sex.

Monday, September 22, 1997
9 am. I received a fax from the Anonymous Faxer. This one shows a logjam of old-fashioned street cars, all marked as part of the F Castro line. Once you get on a streetcar, you don't have a choice of destination. All cars lead to the Castro--representative of the openly gay lifestyle that draws the Anonymous Faxer. But are they stuck? This image evokes a sense of an impediment blocking the Anonymous Faxer.

Friday, October 17, 1997
10 am. I received another fax from the Anonymous Faxer. The naked character that I've come to associate with the Anonymous Faxer is now running in a forest of cloned gay men--an army of guys with swiveled hips and identical tight, shiny trousers. The figures are created by some sort of computer software program. SII is a computer company. I wonder if it's working on some odd graphic program that specializes in making images of gay men. In any case, the perspective in this image is particularly disturbing, because the images in the foreground are all small and the ones, presumably further away in the background, are all towering figures. Our hero is running from something, looking back over his shoulder. He clearly does not fit in here. He is naked, the others are clothed, and he is running, the others are quite relaxed and nonchalant. I suppose that the Anonymous Faxer doesn't feel like he fits in with the gay lifestyle that he was trying to embrace in previous images. It happens that I walked through the Folsom Street Fair a couple of weekends back. The Folsom Street Fair celebrates the leather lifestyle for both gays and S&M devotees. I was struck by the army of gay men in virtually identical costumes--black leather chaps and vests, together with similar hairstyles and body types, by and large. There is a great degree of conformity expected in that community, although there were clearly some people who flaunted their unwillingness to conform to that communities norms and they seemed accepted as well. The Anonymous Faxer's image seems to be a comment on the Faxer's discomfort with the norms of the community that he's chosen.

Friday, November 21, 1997
9 am. I received a fax from the Anonymous Faxer. It's been a long time since the last communication from the Anonymous Faxer. I was hoping that he had found some of the answers he sought in his journey through the gay lifestyle to be found in the Castro. This latest fax has none of the emotional anguish which characterizes most of the others. Here, each of two identical cups of black coffee rest upon identical saucers. Slipped beneath each of the saucers is an opera ticket. But the two tickets are very different, even if they are for the same performance. One of the tickets is for a prime seat in the orchestra section and the other is for a lesser place in the mezzanine. A hand looks as if it is about to pick up the coffee cup which rests on the ticket for the orchestra section. The image speaks to me of romance, actually. Perhaps it is in the nature of a diary image--there is a meeting in a coffeehouse between like-minded people in different circumstances perhaps. But happily, nothing very bad seems about to happen to two people in a coffeehouse with tickets to see the opera. Since the Anonymous Faxer's primary problem after his gender confusion has always been emotional isolation, perhaps this heralds a brighter, less solitary, future.

Friday, January 9, 1998
9 am. I received a fax from the Anonymous Faxer. This one was like a holiday card. It shows a baby with wings, like a Cupid, carrying what may be a Christmas pudding on a plate with a gift card which reads: "Balis--warm and soothing center covered with nuts!" I don't think the image reveals much about the Anonymous Faxer's progress towards reconciling his gender identity, but perhaps it does indicate something about his sense of the therapeutic process. I'm not sure he likes being one of the nuts.

Friday, February 6, 1998
9 am. I received a fax from the Anonymous Faxer. Sometimes I think I understand the image, but sometimes the meaning escapes me. This one depicts a naked male figure sitting in a stereotypical Zen yoga meditative position, his head replaced with a large, old-style rotary telephone. Should I become literal in my interpretation--he's thinking about calling? The Faxer is not above going for visual puns. Or is it an image about losing your identity through the anonymous communication with others that the telephone offers. It's not face to face communication--the way you look and your body image is completely hidden to the person on the other side of the telephone wire. Perhaps the anonymity of the telephone (and by extension, the Internet) is just the thing for someone who wishes to change their gender. Perhaps I just need to meditate more on this image! After I received this fax, I tried e-mailing the Anonymous Faxer, but the e-mail bounced. That form of communication is now clearly denied me.

Friday, March 6, 1998
9 am. I received another fax from the Anonymous Faxer. This time a man's face is clearly visible. I looked back through my file of faxes that I've gotten in the last year and a half. I believe that this is a portrait of the Anonymous Faxer--the best I've yet received. Some of the other images hint at the same facial features: elongated face, thin mouth, long hair, straight nose. Overall, the Anonymous Faxer is depicted as a fairly attractive man. I compared many of the images and the female faces also bear some resemblance to the face, and they may well be representations of himself after a gender transformation. This image depicts a naked man holding a strategically placed box of chocolates in a large, velvet, heart-shaped box. His genitals are covered by the box; could they be the present? Surrounding the image are an abundance of roses. His hand may be resting on his stomach or may be reaching somewhat lower. The body is male and clearly less tortured than previously, although there are some deformities in body musculature. It's still a man uncomfortable with his body, but not to the degree that he was before. Perhaps he's found love and some acceptance of who he is. In January, I received an image of coffee cups and opera tickets. Perhaps this is the continuation along a path of romance. It's clearly a romantic image. I'm almost tempted to go to SII and walk the halls, now that I know what the Anonymous Faxer looks like. But I think, in a fundamental sense, that would be a breach of the trust and confidence that the Anonymous Faxer has placed in me--even if he's limited to this form of communication.

Friday, May 1, 1998
9 am. I received another fax from the Anonymous Faxer. The image shows a cigarette dominating the foreground, its curling smoke revealing the Anonymous Faxer and another man in a close, naked embrace. This image could be interpreted negatively, like a visual pun--i.e. a relationship going up in smoke. But I don't think that's right. This is an image about the consummation of a relationship. The previous couple of images illustrated a budding relationship. I believe this image builds upon the common habit of smoking a cigarette after sex. The closeness and obvious attraction that the two figures have for each other belie the notion that the relationship is anything other than close and warm. I'm extremely happy that the Anonymous Faxer has been able to connect with another person on that intimate level. His emotional isolation was always the scariest part of his gender confusion. His unhappiness with his body clearly came across in previous images. That he would allow this body to participate in sexual intimacy shows that he has conquered many personal demons.

Friday, June 5, 1998
9 am. I received a fax from the Anonymous Faxer. This image shows a gravestone marked "mother" and "R.I.P." in the upper right and a young man in the lower left. Between them, in the center, is a torn and twisted person. It appears that there is some shape, a spirit or soul perhaps, which is being split in two. One is directed towards the young man's heart and the other is disappearing into the grave. I might have assumed that the twisted figure was the mother, but it has the healthy musculature characteristic of the manner that the Anonymous Faxer has always portrayed himself. I'm not certain that I understand the entire message in this image. But I think that it's likely his mother has died. He seems to be split between her memory and his new love interest. Clearly, this image is more tortured than any of his recent images. If I'm right and the Anonymous Faxer is grieving over the loss of his mother, the presence of the young man represents some hope for his future.

Friday, February 12, 1999
9 am. I received a fax from the Anonymous Faxer today. It has been eight months since I received the last one--an image which suggested his mother had died. The image I received today is filled with evocative elements. The general image is of a large brick wall which has an ornate Victorian archway through it. Beyond the archway is clearly San Francisco, but on the viewer's side of the portal, the graffiti on the brick wall proclaims it as Prattville, Alabama (or "Albama" as it is written in graffiti on the wall of the image, perhaps in an attempt to imitate southern speech patterns). Attached to the brick wall are a pile of bills together with some legal documents labeled Will, Deed, Trust. Clearly, the Anonymous Faxer has been dealing with his mother's estate and tidying up her affairs. Standing in the archway is a strange figure, part simian, holding up a sign which says: "Welcome Home!" I'm not certain if that's a greeting meant for me after my vacation, or meant for the Anonymous Faxer, who is now able to return home to San Francisco. I don't have much sense from the image about the Anonymous Faxer's emotional state--it's as if the mind-numbing details of wills, trusts, and property have left him unable to properly grieve for his mother. Before the image in June which told me of his mother's death, the Anonymous Faxer seemed to have been embarking on a relationship. I hope that what obviously was a prolonged absence will not have acted to kill it. I think what the Anonymous Faxer requires, more than anything I can provide, is a relationship with someone able to shatter his emotional isolation.


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