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Denise Anne: An Interview With The Ultimate Wannabe

by J.

Denise Anne is a mature student who is currently studying for a degree in computer science with minor subjects which include humanities and psychology.

I came across her writings in the Usenet newsgroup alt.sex.fetish.amputee. She was writing about the wannabe desire and emphasising the irreversibility of the loss of a limb. I sent her e-mail asking if she would be willing to discuss her opinions with me more fully and she agreed to take part in an e-mail interview for OverGround.

She told me: 'I happened to stumble across the newsgroup and saw the post. I felt I should reply.'

Why should Denise Anne's opinions be of particular interest? Because she knows from personal experience what being amputee entails: Denise Anne has had both of her legs disarticulated at the knee. She went on to explain her reasons for posting:

'First of all I can relate. I was a wannabe. It started out when I wanted to have to wear braces. I managed to do that by helping disabled children to swim with the Easter Seal Society. They saw me arriving and leaving in braces and also when I went out around town I wore the braces so I would not be discovered as fake. I eventually ended up having to wear them or use a wheelchair because of a neurological disorder. I was in hog's heaven. I then thought that I might like to be an amputee. Things worked out that I am now an amputee. I did not want to be a single or below knee amputee. I wanted to be a double above knee amputee. I made it. For prosthetic purposes I am above the knee. I would give anything to have a knee. If I had my right knee (the strongest and best of the two) I could use my prostheses. I learned to walk on prostheses, but unless there is something I can pull myself up on, then I can't get up if I sit down. I have two almost new legs sitting on the top shelf of my closet because it is so difficult to get up from a sitting position.'

Q: I'd like to start by asking you about yourself.
A: I am 51. I was born in Abington, Pennsylvania but have lived most of my life in Florida. I have been to Europe and love Scotland.

Q: Have you any brothers and sisters?
A: Yes, two sisters and one brother.

Q: Would you say that your family life was conventional?
A: Yes. My mother was at home and my father was in the Navy.

Q: Were you aware, when you were young, of any of your close relatives who were physically disabled?
A: I had an uncle that was a below the knee amputee due to a birth defect.

Q: And currently you are in full-time education?
A: I am attending Florida Community College in Jacksonville at the present time and I am undecided where I will attend if I decide on a higher level. I am considering the University of Florida or possibly the University of Connecticut.

Q: Outside of college what are your leisure interests?
A: My interests are computers and my dog. I also enjoy music from the 50's and 60's and going to movies. I like most sports especially football and basketball. My favorite time is March Madness when the NCAA has their play-off's to get to the final four. I like both men's and women's college basketball. For football I am an avid University of Florida fan and an avid Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL fan. For basketball it is the University of Connecticut. I enjoy both the men's and women's team and watch them every chance I get when they are on television.

Q: You mentioned that you wanted to wear braces, became a wannabe, and have achieved the amputations you desire. This raises lots of questions. Can you remember any particular events that triggered your desire to be a brace-wearer? Somebody you saw, perhaps?
A: Nothing in particular. I just felt that I should be disabled. I knew with all my heart that I would be a better person. I knew a girl named Donna that was a couple of years older than me. She had polio and I wanted to be more like her. She was a 'straight A' student and I also wanted to be that good a student.

Q: How old were you then?
A: I guess 10 or 12. It was pre-puberty.

Q: Were you aware of people treating her differently from other children? More considerately? More lovingly, perhaps?
A: No. She treated them very nicely.

Q: How old were you when you decided that you wanted to be an amputee? Once again, can you recall any specific events associated with your changed desires? Was it a sudden change, or did it take place gradually?
A: No, I just felt that I should be an amputee.

Q: Can't you remember any incidents that made you aware of the existence of amputees? Somebody you saw in the street? A neighbour? A fictional character?
A: No. I don't think anything triggered the desire.

Q: Did you want to become an amputee before or after you were aware of wanting to wear braces?
A: Long after.

Q: Some wannabes have stated that their desires changed over time, that at first they desired one sort of amputation but that subsequently they desired another or additional amputations. Did you always want to be a bilateral above-knee amputee, or did your feelings develop in the way I have described?
A: No, I always wanted to be what I am.

Q: Were your neurological problems caused by your brace-wearing?
A: No. I had a doctor tell me the best guess was that I had developed a blood clot on the spinal cord and it cut off the flow of blood to some nerves and after some damage had been done the blood clot dissolved, but the damage was done.

Q: So, from your point of view, it was just a lucky accident that your illness occurred and you became a candidate for an amputation?
A: Yep. When the doctor suggested amputation I could have done hand-stands. I was elated. What I wanted was basically being handed to me. Call me lucky.

Q: Did you take any practical action to make it more likely that you would need an amputation?
A: Yes. However, as not to endanger anyone, I will not go into the details because it did not work.

Q: Before you became an amputee what did you expect it would be like to be a double-above-knee amputee? Did you expect to be able to walk more or less normally, with prostheses?
A: No idea except there would be less weight to carry around. From what the doctors said it would be no more difficult to walk on above-the-knee prostheses than to walk in long leg braces. Wrong. I wish I had asked another bilateral above the knee amputee.

Q: What are the unexpected difficulties that you had to cope with?
A: Getting from sitting to standing. I have to have something or someone pull me up. Also the energy expended is tremendous just to walk a short distance.

Q: When did you lose your legs? How did it happen?
A: I lost my legs on September 6, 1990. I had such severe spasms that nothing, and I mean nothing, the doctors tried worked. I was given two choices, cut the spinal cord or become an amputee. I opted to have some sensation in my behind and lower extremities.

Q: What were the spasms like?
A: Like someone was trying to rip my feet off my legs. I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming in pain sometimes.

Q: Were these spasms caused by the neurological problems that you mentioned before? Or were they the result of some other illness?
A: By the neurological disorder.

Q: Were both legs amputated in the same operation, or was one amputated before the other?
A: Both on the same day. It was done under an epidural. I was awake and was kept in and out of a twilight state. I knew when they were gone. They were donated to the University of Florida Medical School.

Q: Could you describe your emotions when you came to after becoming an amputee?
A: As soon as I was in recovery I pulled the blanket back to make sure. My only thought was 'I did it.'

Q: Did the operations cure the spasms?
A: Yes.

Q: Are you left with residual pain, phantom sensations?
A: I have phantom pain on occasion, but it is much less painful than the spasms were.

Q: When you were a wannabe did you find out about the usual experiences of people had undergone amputations?
A: No.

Q: Do your stumps give you pleasure now? Do you like the look of them? The feel of them?
A: Not in particular. I do know that some people could really get turned on by them. I do rub them on occasion, but I don't get any special feelings from this act.

Q: Overall has the experience of becoming an amputee been a positive or a negative one?
A: Mostly positive. I only wish I had done research and kept a knee. I would be able to use prostheses easier.

Q: Can you tell me what exactly it about being amputee that gives you pleasure? From the answers you have just given, it doesn't seem to be the physical alteration. Is it to do with the disability?

Q: Cam you remember the first time you went out in public in your wheelchair as an amputee?
A: Yep. I had no problem, however, there were some stares.

Q: What were your feelings then?
A: Nothing different. I had reached another goal in my life.

Q: How did you about being stared at?
A: I thought that it is just human nature to look at someone who is different.

Q: Do you regard yourself as being very seriously disabled?
A: No. All I have to do is look around and I can see people far more disabled than I am or most likely will ever be.

Q: Do you use a wheelchair, prostheses, pylons? What is your preferred method of locomotion?
A: A wheelchair (hot pink Quickie GP). I can walk on my stumps, but I don't do that very often.

Q: Why not? Is it uncomfortable? or do you find it inŠsthetic?
A: It is sort of uncomfortable and I am too short to do anything.

Q: What sorts of clothes do you prefer to wear?
A: Well, I don't wear shoes. Right now I have a blue shell top and a pair of panties on. I have put on my make-up and it will take only a few minutes to get dressed once I am ready to go to the mall. I prefer to wear skirts and tops. It makes it easier to go to the rest-room. I do have several nice dresses for those you-really-need-to-look-nice times, but mostly I like to be comfortable and this makes my life much easier.

Q: Would you use crutches or wear thigh boots because your partner found them sexy?
A: It depends. If someone is going to be my partner it will have to be because they take the whole me. I am not just an amputee. I am a person that happens to have a brain and I cannot imagine spending my life talking about my being an amputee. There is lots of things happening in the world today that concern us all.

Q: It's sometimes difficult to express the questions unambiguously. No sensible person expects that a longterm committed relationship could possibly be built on just the fact that one person is an amputee and the other thinks amputees are sexy. But suppose that two equally attractive men shared your interests, and your ideals, and one of them felt that your being an amputee added to your general attractiveness, while the other was prepared to accept you despite the fact that you were an amputee, which would you prefer?
A: I would rather be accepted as a woman that happens to be an amputee rather than an amputee that happens to be a woman.

Q: And if you preferred the one who thought that you were especially attractive as an amputee, if he asked you to wear clothes that showed off this aspect of your body, how would you feel about that?
A: Maybe in private. I do not make it a habit to expose myself to the world in general. Call it modesty.

Q: I take your point that you don't want to spend your life talking about being an amputee. People can take pleasure in a partner's beauty or intelligence or kindness without talking all the time about any one of them, nevertheless the beauty, intelligence, or kindness are things that come to mind whenever the beloved is thought of. Do you think that there is anything wrong with this? And if your lover, when he thought of you, remembered that you are an amputee, and that this adds to your attractiveness, is that bad?
A: No, as long as it is not an obsession with the person.

Q: Do you take part in sports or other physical leisure activities?
A: I played wheelchair basketball for 16 years. My shoulders needed a rest and I just never went back. I played both with legs and as an amputee.

Q: You just stopped one day, and never went back? Didn't you miss it?
A: No, I miss it. I played, I went into the teams's record books, I made several all tournament teams and my number (12) was retired when I retired. I was the only one ever to be assigned that number.

Q: Are you comfortable with your impairment in public or do you try hard to disguise it as much as possible?
A: This is who I am. If someone can't handle it, that's their problem, not mine. I cover my stumps with my skirt, but that is just being ladylike.

Q: Do you ever wear non-functioning purely cosmetic limbs?
A: No. I can't imagine that would be anything but extra weight to carry around.

Q: Other women feel differently. Does this surprise you?
A: Not really, 'Whatever floats your boat', as they say.

Q: Are you active in the disability movement in any way?
A: I write tickets ($250.00 each) for those illegally parked in handicapped parking. I have written well over 300.

Q: How do you write tickets? What exactly happens?
A: I write the ticket and send it downtown. They have 30 days to pay it or go to court. If they go to court I have to appear and tell my side of the story. It is a $250.00 fine and people still do it.

Q: Are you active in any other social movements, women's groups, political groups, conservation groups?
A: No, just my parish. I am rather busy right now working on school courses. I was away from school for a long time and study habits have to be revived.

Q: I was meaning to ask you about that but didn't get round to it. What made you want to go college as a grown-up?
A: I got tired of sitting at home and have my brain go stagnant.

Q: Did you have a job before, or have you a private income?
A: I was in the U.S. Navy and I worked for the Federal government. I am 100% service-connected disabled so I have income for life.

Q: How do you relate with your fellow students?
A: Fine.

Q: Do you think that your disability makes it easier or more difficult to relate to them?
A: No. We are doing a group paper in psychology and there are six of us in our group, all women, and we get along very well. They all know about the surprise I am going to mention later and have no problem with it or me.

Q: To what extent do you think that your impairment has limited your ability form relationships?
A: Not on my part.

Q: Are you currently in a relationship with somebody?
A: No, but that is by choice. With so many diseases out there I am not about to catch something from someone for a few minutes of pleasure.

Q: I find that is a rather strange answer. I was thinking more of longterm committed relationships based on something more enduring than simple transient sexual gratification. Would you find such a relationship uncongenial?

Q: When did you first find out about devotees?
A: A friend of mine at the time told me about them.

Q: What did you feel about discovering devotees? Were you surprised? Were you pleased? Were you disgusted?
A: I think that if they want to build a relationship because someone is an amputee they must be shallow. There is more to a relationship than wanting someone because they have no legs or because they have to use braces and crutches to get around.

Q: If that was all there was to it, I'd agree with you. But haven't you noticed that all the members of the opposite sex that attract you seem to belong to a specific physical type. Most of the women who attract me across a room are tall, very slim, beautiful, and reserved. These are the women I make an effort to get to know. It's hardly surprising that I married one. I met several I didn't get on with, but among the tall, slim, beautiful women, I found one who had, as well as these physical charms, a personality compatible with mine, who shared my tastes, and interests, most important of all, she fell in love with me.
A: Then you both provided something to the relationship.

Q: So would you agree with me if I rephrase your answer a little: 'I think that if they want to build a relationship just because someone is an amputee they must be shallow, but if there is something more, something shared, then the devotee/amputee relationship is not necessarily doomed?'
A: There would be a chance as long as it was not repeatedly stated that I was an amputee.

Q: As time has passed have your opinions changed?
A: Not really, you have to take the whole person not just the disability. Just because I am an amputee does not mean that I am a perfect person. A person with a disability can be an absolute bitch too.

Q: I'm really talking about relationships between people.
A: What is the difference?

Q: Would you consider having a relationship with someone who admitted he was a devotee?
A: Depends on the person. He had better get to know me and not just want to know my stumps.

Q: I'm interested in this response in the light of your desires to be an amputee. Being an amputee is something that you wanted for a long time and finally achieved, and which is important to you, something you are pleased to have achieved, yet you seem to feel that others should not feel that your being an amputee is important to them. Do you see any inconsistency in your feelings on this issue?
A: I achieved a goal in my life. I am not going to sit and dwell on my success. I have now put another goal out to reach. That goal is a college degree. Sure I take a lot of pleasure that I am a female amputee. There is more to me than just being an amputee.

Q: Have you ever been followed in the street or otherwise harassed by devotees?
A: Not really. I have had my picture taken many times without my permission. They should have asked. I might have even hiked my skirt up a little so they could see my stumps.

Q: Do you participate in any of the mailing lists for amputees that are available on the internet?
A: No. I do belong to The Living List. It is a newsgroup for disabled women.

Q: When did you find out about the existence of wannabes?
A: I was one.

Q: Were you surprised to find that others shared your feelings?
A: What can I say? I understand. Just use a lot of caution. They can't glue the missing part back on.

Q: Were you aware of OverGround before I made contact with you?
A: I had heard of the publication.

Q: What is your opinion of OverGround, and ASCOT, and Fascination, the groups that attempt to provide the opportunities for amputees to meet devotees socially?
A: I have no opinion as I do not subscribe to them. I do know about Fascination and their wild week-end every year. I am more concerned about the girls being hurt than the guys having a good time. We are people you know. We all have feelings and wants and desires. If someone wants to get on my good side it must be because they are interested in me as a whole person (no pun attended).

Q: One of the positive things about the Fascination meetings is that there are no hidden agenda. If you go, you know exactly what kind of a man you are likely to meet there, not a do-gooder, not a platonic friend, but somebody who is gung-ho to find an amputee, perhaps just to screw, but perhaps to love, cherish, and honour, from this day forward, as long as ye both shall live. Can this be so bad?
A: It depends on the individual. Not all devotees are bad and not all amputees are great. I have absolutely no regrets for any decision I have made in my life. I do wish that I had kept a knee. This is why I feel caution should be used. Once a limb is removed, it is gone for good and you will have to live with your decision. I would like to add that I consider myself the ultimate wannabe. Not only did I become a bilateral leg amputee, I became a woman. I was born male and lived as a male form most of 47 years. I was transsexual and had my surgery on 17th February 1994. I am now legally, emotionally and physically female. My birth certificate was changed to reflect the new and correct gender. I can therefore relate to what you guys feel. I can also relate to how a female amputee may feel. Use tact, don't be afraid to ask to take a picture and try not to invade a person's privacy.

Q: This puts a whole new perspective on what you have been telling me. There are all sorts of parallels that I would like to explore, and that means going back over some of the material we have already discussed. I hope you will be prepared to do this.
A: It does not put a new perspective on anything. I did what did to be me and for me alone. There was no hidden scheme to do what I have done for humanity or even for my family. It was all pretty selfish and for me alone.

Q: How old were you when you first felt that you were really a woman?
A: Young, way before puberty flexed its muscles.

Q: Was the feeling that you were a woman related to the desires to wear braces and to become an amputee?
A: No. I wanted to be a woman first and foremost. All the other desires were and to this day are secondary.

Q: You became an amputee before you became a woman. Does this imply that it was more important to you be an amputee, or was it just chance that the one event happened before the other?
A: This just happened first. I was accepted as a candidate for sex reassignment surgery in January 1976.

Q: Before you became an amputee did you have any longterm relationships?
A: Yes. I was married and I had other relationships.

Q: In relationships then, which sex did you prefer?
A: Women, first and foremost.

Q: In an article discussing the provision of surgery for wannabes I likened the feelings of wannabes to those of people seeking transsexual surgery. In your experience are there parallels?
A: Sure, but there are right ways to do things.

Q: I can't really see any difference between medical treatment to reallocate gender and medical treatment to convert a wannabe into an amputee, can you?
A: Not really. However, I went through all sorts of psychological testing to determine that there were no underlying psychological problems that could have caused me to choose to change my gender. Also, there were several requirements that had to be met along with recommendations for the surgery.

Q: How did your family respond to your change in sex?
A: When I started in 1976 my parents went ballistic. They did not approve; that is why I waited until they had died. That is also why I now only have one sister instead of two sisters and a brother. I also only have a relationship with one of my daughters instead of both of them.

Q: Some of the answers you gave to earlier questions seemed, when you gave them to be robust. and assertive, perhaps surprisingly robust and assertive for a woman. I refer to your self-confidence in coping with the responses of the public to your amputations. Do you think that your first experience of being amputee would have been very different if you had been a woman before you became an amputee?
A: No. I may not have had my picture taken so many times.

Q: Do you think that you would have actively sought to become a woman first, or did the experience of becoming an amputee in any way stimulate you to think about other ways that you might alter, or improve, your body?
A: If you are not a woman before your surgery you will not be one after your surgery.

Q: How do you go about obtaining the medical treatment required to reallocate your gender?
A: You find a gender clinic and contact them.

Q: Is it very expensive?
A: Not in my opinion. I paid $9,130.00.

Q: How did you pay for it?
A: Myself.

Q: Is it generally available?
A: Sure, if you are considered a good candidate and can get through the Standards of Care and have the money to pay for it.

Q: Have any of your friends become women?
A: A whole bunch. Some before me and many after me. They live all over the U.S. and even Australia.

Q: A last hypothetical question. If surgery for wannabes had been available at about the same cost, would have considered applying for it, before you needed your actual amputations?
A: It would have depended on my resources. My gender reassignment was the first and foremost in my mind. I wanted this more than anything.

I'd like to conclude by thanking Denise Anne for agreeing to answer all the pertinent, and the impertinent questions I could think of asking her.

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