Homework

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My next GIC appointment is coming up in a little over a week.  At the previous appointment, I was given an exercise to do, something which I should bring with me to the next appointment.  My homework, if you like.  It’s a grid of four quarters, each of which are headed “Advantages of Transitioning”, “Disadvantages of Transitioning”, “Advantages of Not Transitioning” and, you guessed it, “Disadvantages of Not Transitioning”.  When Dr Ingram presented it to me at my previous appointment at the end of April, my immediate reaction was to put my Miss Logic hat on and ask if that’s not really just 2 categories.  Surely, logically speaking, the advantages of transitioning are just the reverse of the disadvantages of not transitioning.  And similarly, the disadvantages of transitioning are the reverse of the advantages of not transitioning.  An example;

Disadvantage of Transitioning:  Putting myself through major surgery
Advantage of Not Transitioning:  Not putting myself through major surgery

Or another one might be;

Advantage of Transitioning:  Will no longer feel like a fish out of water as a man
Disadvantage of Not Transitioning:  Will continue to feel like a fish out of water as a man

Do you see the point I’m trying to make?  What looks like a 4-way grid akin to a SWOT analysis becomes a simple list of the pros and cons of transitioning.  And that’s not as sexy.  It’s really just one the one hand this, but on the other hand that.  I did point this out to the doctor right away, and he just replied that well, not quite, just see how you get on.  So let’s see how I have been getting on.

Well it took me a long time to get started.  But when I did, I had quite a few points on the list.  The thing that suprised me most is that both “Disadvantage” columns are fuller than the “Advantage” columns.  I’m not sure what it says about me as a person that I can think of more downsides than upsides to transitioning, but rather bizarrely I can also think of more downsides than upsides to not transitioning.  I’m screwed whatever I do!  Of course this is just raw numbers and takes no account of the weighting of each individual element.

Before you get completely ahead of me here, I should make it clear that I will not be reproducing my entire lists in each category.  That would be quite dull to read, as some of them are rather frivolous and some less so, but given the format, all are given equal prominence.  However there is one thing that does jump out at me when I look at the four lists.  The anti-transition lists (Disadvantages of Transitioning and Advantages of Not Transitioning) are full of practical things.  Hassles.  Things outside my control and things to do with other people.  The expense of electrolysis, the expense of divorce, a new home, all a knock-on effect of my transition.  Administrative headaches to do with documentation of the change of name and gender.  Pain of hair removal.  Greater pain and risk of surgery.  Possible health risks of HRT.  Potential for transphobic discrimination.  Also things to do with my kids, and great as they are with the new me, the potential for them to suffer as a result of my transition.

On the other hand, the pro-transition lists (Advantages of Transitioning and Disadvantages of Not Transitioning) are full of emotional rather than practical things.  No more pretending to be something I’m not.  Finally feeling the real me.  Becoming an anatomically more complete woman (which will make me feel happier about myself).  Being able to present how I really want.  A nicer, better, more socially confident person.  A better parent (although I hope I have been a decent dad too).  No longer feeling I have to “man up”.  Just simple happiness which has no logic.

When I talk about different items being weighted, I mean this.  The emotional positives of transition are weighed against the practical positives of not transitioning.  Transition and be happy.  Or save myself a load of expense and hassle and be unhappy.  But even that is over-generalisation.  It would be untrue to say that for the 43 years of my life when transition was not on the agenda, I was unhappy all the time.  There were times when I was unhappy and unfulfilled, but there were also times when I was perfectly fine.  Couldn’t I just go back to being Bob, unwind my transition and be “perfectly fine” again?  No, I couldn’t.  Not now.  As Van Morrison sang, “It’s too late to stop now”.

Once I realised what I am, it was truly a lightbulb moment.  I had been living in the dark, but I didn’t know I was living in the dark because I knew nothing different.  That was just the way things were.  But once the light got switched on and everything became illuminated, my life changed forever.  Cancelling my transition now wouldn’t just be like switching the light off again, it would be like trying to forget that the light exists at all.  I can’t do that.

Two other things occurred to me as I considered this grid of advantages and disadvantages.  Firstly, I suspect the real reason for it is to force me to give myself a dose of realism about the challenges ahead of me when I begin to life full time as a woman.  Because the disadvantages of transition aren’t just theoretical.  Some of them definitely will happen.  It will cost me a fortune.  I will have an administrative nightmare.  Some of them I may be lucky enough to avoid, and I particularly hope most fervently that my children avoid any negative fallout from my transition.

The other thing that occurred to me is what an odd exercise it is to begin with.  Imagine if, rather than being trans, I was simply gay.  Imagine giving a young gay man a grid comprising “Advantages of Coming Out”, “Disadvantages of Coming Out”, “Advantages of Staying in the Closet” and “Disadvantages of Staying in the Closet” and asking him to think if he wouldn’t just be better off remaining in the closet and finding himself a nice young woman to marry instead.  That would be completely frowned upon.  Yet it’s ok to present that grid to a trans woman.  I don’t think it’s right.

The subject of my pros & cons grid came up in conversation with my line manager Beth in work a few days ago.  She was bemoaning the fact that her bloke can just roll out of bed, have a shower and a shave, quick bit of brekkie and he’s good to go.  She has to get up so much earlier than him so she can get her makeup right and fix her hair.  She aske me, jokingly, if I was sure I would be able to cope with all that extra hassle every morning.  It’s actually something I have considered on the list.  But I don’t see it as a problem.  However I did mention my GIC homework to her, and in particular that one of my Advantages of Not Transitioning is that I would retain my cis white male privilege.  Well I’m going to be losing two of those very soon.

The subject came up again at my latest transition planning meeting with Beth, and Kelly from HR.  Beth and I were very impressed with the amount of work that Kelly had done on my behalf in the intervening week and I remarked that one of my Disadvantages of Not Transitioning would be that I couldn’t face the pair of them after the amount of work they have both put in and then tell them that I had changed my mind.  Beth just looked at me and said “No we wouldn’t be annoyed.  We’d be surprised, and I’d be worried that this was just going to surface again later.  Plus, based on all the conversations we have had in the last four months, I really don’t think there’s much chance of that happening.”  She probably has a point.

A couple of posts back I wrote about Kelly and my “big boss” Fred having approached an even bigger boss and it all having gone well.  Things have progressed even further, as Kelly has now discussed my transition with the biggest boss of all, in Northern Ireland anyway, with very good results.  Mr Big himself was very positive indeed, although he seemed to think that we were making too much of a cottage industry out of it.  A simple message was all that was required, he thought.  The plan was to tell a handful of senior managers in early June, get them on to a trans awareness course run by SAIL the next week, brief their own staff the week after who would be the ones actually informing my clients while I’m off for two weeks.  Mr Big wants that timeline contracted considerably as he feels the more people know about this while I’m still in work as Bob, the greater the chance of my news slipping out on to the general company grapevine and all our careful message-management will be lost.  He may have a point.  He was for telling people on my first day of leave, and then they can disseminate the message and have all clients informed by the time I return.  Which sounds great in theory but I would like to be around for a few days as Bob after the message goes out to my equivalents, because I would like the people who will be informing my clients about my transition to have had the opportunity to speak to me about it first.

The other issue that Mr Big had realised is that two weeks leave isn’t enough time to get the job done.  Here in Northern Ireland the big annual summer holiday is around the twelfth of July.  I’ll not go into the reason for that (Google is your friend if you really don’t know) but a lot of businesses close for the entire week in which the twelfth of July falls.  This is known as the “Twelfth Week”, and has often caused confusion for those from outside the six counties when they hear one of us saying that we’re going on our holidays on the twelfth week in July.  Isn’t that some time in September??!?  Anyway, for those people fortunate enough to take two weeks’ leave, it is very common to take the “Twelth Fortnight”, which is the twelfth week plus either the week before or after.  I have explained all this because if all goes according to plan Bob’s last day in work will be Friday 30th June, and Kirsty’s first day in work will be Monday 17th July.  Which means I will be taking the Twelfth Fortnight.  If any of my clients are also taking those two weeks off on leave, then by the time I return to work as Kirsty, it will not have been possible for them to learn of my transition in my absence.  Mr Big is very clear that he doesn’t want uninformed clients phoning me looking for Bob once I’m Kirsty full time, and neither do I for that matter.  And that’s before you even take into consideration the fact that those people in the company whose task it will be to speak to my clients about my transition while I’m off, may also be off themselves at the same time as me.  So even if the clients we jointly manage are still here, those clients still won’t find out about me during my leave.

Mr Big has a solution to this.  I should take more leave.  A few days more, just until we can be sure that everyone knows who needs to know.  However Mr Big has also said that I can have those extra days as special leave, i.e. it won’t come out of my annual leave entitlement.  Which is great – extra days off work!  So my transition plan seems to be a bit more up in the air than it was previously because of this, but I think Mr Big’s points are valid ones, and I’m confident we will come up with a solution.

One final thing – Beth and Kelly now know about this blog, although they haven’t seen it.  As we were chatting away during this meeting, Beth said jokingly that I should write a book about my transition when I’m out the other side.  I replied that I already had about 200,000 words or so.  Then I explained that I had been writing about my trans journey for over three years, and finally told them that they were both in it.  Much excitement ensued.  They also know that they are named Beth and Kelly on here (NEWSFLASH:  Those are not their real names!) and I also told them of a few other pseudonyms that I have employed for people they know.  They both asked if they could read it.  I said no.  I’m not sure why.  I mean, it’s not like I have ever written anything negative about them, although come to think of it I may have doubted Beth’s reaction prior to telling her, as I was worried about her having religious issues with me.  But it’s not that I think they’ll react badly.  It’s really the reverse of that.  I’m quite uncomfortable with the idea of them reading just how much what they’re doing means to me, how much I appreciate their support, even that day when we went for lunch together after my first GIC appointment.  I do tell them to their faces how brilliant I think the pair of them have been, but I don’t know… reading this would just seem a bridge too far.  What do you think?  Maybe I should show them maybe one or two selected posts.  After all, the blog wouldn’t be that hard to find if they really looked now would it?

I’ll leave it there for now with one last thought:  Six weeks of Bob to go!

Sister Act

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I haven’t written a blog post for a few weeks because I have been studying for an exam, so most of my free time has been going into that.  But the exam took place yesterday afternoon so thankfully there isn’t another one until September and I’m free again.  Yippee!  It went ok by the way.

Over the last few months since I have been out to my children and siblings, the need to hide away my female things has pretty much dissapated.  Back when Mrs K told me she wanted a divorce, one of the things that she said was that she couldn’t face the prospect of living with another woman, having another woman’s woman-things everywhere.  It appears like this is coming true anyway, because my woman-things are everywhere.  Nail varnish on my side table at my end of the settee, shoes lined up at the foot of the bed, make-up and jewellery on my bedside table, more shoes at the back door.  Added to the fact that I’m spending so much of my time outside work as a woman now, it just all means that I feel completely confined in this space, this family that I’m supposed to be the male part of.  I need a proper space of my own, somewhere to be who I really am, to store my stuff just like any other woman would, and it’s still about seven weeks away.  I am so ready to be there now, but the new house isn’t quite ready for me.  It’s quite frustrating in fact.

It has occurred to me that being in transition really means there are two somewhat distinct transitions occurring.  The major one, the big headline, is transitioning from male to female, with all the changes that brings in personal and professional relationships.  But there is also the transition from being part time to being full time, which is a different set of challenges.  Things which you might be able to live with if presenting female for a few hours maybe once or twice a week (an obvious if trivial example being wearing clip-on earrings) become unsustainable as a full-time woman.  In the case of clip-on earrings, because they hurt like hell after a while.  Similarly, squeezing your feet into shoes which don’t quite fit because they look suitably girly and glamorous is ok on occasion, but it’s not an option if I need a few pairs of professional-looking heels for work which will be work for 9-10 hours at a time 5 days a week.  Then there’s storage.  Much of my female-specific items – shoes, make-up, jewellery, perfume etc – has spent most of the last 3 years hidden away, stuffed into the darkest corners of the wardrobe lest either daughter should uncover them.  Now there is no need to hide, but there just isn’t scope in the current family home for me to store things in an appropriate manner.  So it all just bursts out and messes up the bedroom.  Hopefully by the end of June it should no longer be an issue.

I’m afraid to say the divorce is starting to become a little less amicable than I had hoped.  The reason for this can be summed up in one word.  Solicitor.  Mrs K and I had worked out an agreement between ourselves that both of us could live with.  I thought it was very generous – in fact, my friend Jonathan who worked for the Child Support Agency for many years, told me I was cutting my own throat and would get a better deal from them – but still Mrs K’s solicitor is giving her little brain weasels about this and that.  Sniping at the edges, seeking to take an extra bit here, and another slice there.  It’s not on, and if anything on that agreement gets changed, all bets are off.  We had an amicable agreement that left us both with the same surplus income after both our unavoidable expenses had been covered.  If her solicitor tries changing any of it, that agreement is null and void and I will fight for every penny.  I have told this to Mrs K.  The ball is in her court.  I have no idea what she is thinking though because she doesn’t speak to me.  Not a sulking sort of not speaking, she just seems oblivious to my presence, either as Kirsty or as Bob.  Maybe it’s for the best.  I can’t wait to be out of here.

On a happier note, things are progressing nicely with the new house.  Both mine and Mrs K’s individual mortages are formally agreed and signed up to, so the finance is all in place.  I have also received formal acceptance of my offer on my new house.  The vendors of my new house have also agreed the sale on their next home, but their vendors don’t want to move out until the end of June as they have kids and school and don’t want to give them the upheaval of moving house until the school year finishes (which is end of June in Northern Ireland).  So my moving date looks like it’s going to be early July, which is fine.  This is where I’m getting the 7-week figure from.

Last weekend I began ordering furniture for the house.  My younger daughter Melissa and I went to DFS where, unbelievably, there was a sale on.  I have ordered two 3-seater settees for my living room, which is much better shaped to accommodate those than to take a settee and two chairs.  Plus, two 3-seater settees can accommodate an extra bum compared to the more traditional suite.  Delivery for early July, but it can be delayed if my moving date slips.  Most importantly, I went to DFS as Kirsty and the order is in the my new name.

Then just this afternoon, I ordered my bed from Bensons.  Also astoundingly, they had a sale on too.  What a coincidence!  I ended up having a nice wee chat with the lady selling me the bed, and after pleading poverty due to the divorce, she knocked another £40 off the price of the bed which was already in the sale!  A different woman-to-woman sales experience, with her pointing out that the drawer at the foot of the bed was perfect for storing my bags and shoes – nobody ever said that to Bob!  So I told her I was moving to a new house because I was getting divorced and she said “New house, new man?”  Well, one thing at a time.  I had asked about beds for kids too (which I think will end up coming from IKEA) so she asked if the kids were coming to live with me.  When I explained that we were splitting custody and I would have them half the time, she then finished my sentence for me “…and he has them the other half”.  I didn’t feel it would have been appropriate to correct her.  Plus, it felt so good to me that the way she had said that and the previous comment about a new house and a new man made me feel completely sure that she didn’t read me as anything other than a woman splitting up from her husband.  I don’t mind admitting that I felt so positive as a result of this.  And a nice bed too.  Looking forward to much sleep on it.  We’ll leave the new man till another day.  He’d only snore and fart in it anyway.

Immediately before my exam I had just returned from a country hotel a few miles outside Dublin.  Every year my brothers and sisters, partners and a few friends go away for a golf weekend, although the golf is of secondary importance to the craic.  This year’s event was scheduled for Friday 12th to Sunday 14th of May.  It’s the only time I play golf all year and I am hopeless at it, but it’s still good fun.  As you may recall from when I came out to my siblings, my sister Hilary and I were also planning on going to see Bob Dylan at the 3Arena (aka The Point) on the evening of Thursday 11th.  So this week I had 3 days off work.  Wednesday was study leave for my exam, and then annual leave Thursday and Friday for the Dylan gig (my 11th!) and the golf.  Except this dumb blonde got the date of my exam wrong when agreeing the dates for the golf weekend, and it was only about 3 weeks ago that I realised my exam was on the 13th not the 6th and I would have to leave after one day.  I was very disappointed to put it mildly.

As I was off work on Thursday but didn’t really need to get on the road to my sister’s house until late morning, I had arranged first of all to meet my friend Graham from work for a coffee and a chat, but mainly to introduce him to Kirsty.  He had in fact asked me for this.  It was after I told him about meeting up with Angela a few weeks earlier, he said he would really like to meet up with Kirsty too, as he didn’t want the first time he meets Kirsty to be Kirsty’s first day in work (do you like the way I talk about myself in the third person?  A career in hip-hop beckons).  So around 9.30am I was standing outside a branch of Caffe Nero awaiting his arrival.  It was, let’s say, a wee bit awkward at first, although he did say to me that he understands what Angela meant when she said I looked better as a woman than as a man.  I concur.  But we sat in the coffee shop for a good hour and we had a great chat.  He is a good friend and ally, and he was very keen to say that when I come out to the general populace in the office he will be there for me to tell them all will be well and he has met the new me.  In the middle of our chat something slightly concerning happened.  Two men who work on the same floor of our building as Graham and I came into the same coffee shop, and took a seat at a table immediately behind Graham, sitting beside each other on a bench so that I was in both their fields of vision.  Now they work on the same floor, but not the same department (there are at least 70 people on my floor) so we’re on no more than nodding terms, but I did feel a little nervous.   However even though they both looked me straight in the face on a couple of occasions, there wasn’t a flicker of recognition from either of them.

After coffee with Graham and a quick bit of shopping, I was off on the road down to the town of Naas in Co Kildare, where Hilary lives with her husband Adrian and two of their three daughters, the other daughter and only son having flown the nest.  Hilary had only met her new sister for the first time the previous weekend at our other sister Patsy’s house, but it was fine.  It was really nice to see her as my real self, and after an hour my niece Norah also arrived and gave her new aunt a hug.  Norah told me that she had been a little bit nervous about meeting the new me, but was happy to report that it was all fine and whatever fears she had had had been unfounded.  3 consecutive “had”s in that last sentence, go me!

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Two sisters getting ready for Bob (Dylan, not my alter-ego).  I’m the one on the left 😉

After a bit of dinner (lasagne) Hilary and I got into her car for the short drive to Dublin for the concert.  Traffic was heavy and we ended up cutting it very fine, only getting to our seats about 5 minutes before Mr Dylan took to the stage.  He was excellent as ever, grunting his way through much of his back catalogue, including songs from albums all the way from 1962 through to 2017.  My particular highlights were the trio of songs that he did from Highway 61 Revisited, one of my favourite albums ever; the title track, Desolation Row, and a stunning encore of Ballad Of A Thin Man.  He’s great.  And a 1 hour 50 minute set isn’t too bad for a man who turns 76 very soon.

It was a 30-minute walk back round to the car park from the arena, and we spoke about how Hilary felt upon meeting the new me.  It was good.  She did admit that she felt her own place in the family was a bit at sea, as her self-image for the last 60 odd years has included only having one sister and being the youngest girl, neither of which are true any more.  But she can live with that.  What she did note, and it’s something that our other sister Patsy has commented on too, is that she didn’t ever think there was a particularly strong family resemblance between me/Bob and my sisters – if anything Bob looks very like my brother John.  But Hilary says that as Kirsty she can see me like both her and Patsy.  In her words, we look like sisters.  Because we are sisters.

She then told me about my niece Clare, the middle daughter, who went to the hairdressers recently and got a change of hairstyle, plumping for a bob style cut with her mousey fair hair.  Clare says that when she saw herself in the mirror her immediate reaction was “That’s Kirsty!”  And she has only seen photos of me!  Hilary thinks that Clare looks most like her out of all her daughters.  Oddly enough, it reminded me of way back when I went for a wig fitting at Tresses in February 2015.  I tried on a huge range of wigs before deciding upon the one I have to this day, although there was one wig that I tried on and I immediately looked at myself in the mirror and thought “That’s Hilary!” so it works both ways.

In fact, there is another similar story.  When I went to meet Patsy’s three daughters for the first time a few weeks ago, it turns out that one of Patsy’s grandsons (i.e. my great-nephew, aged 10) was disappointed that he wasn’t allowed to go.  He was told by his mum (my niece / Patsy’s daughter) that he wasn’t allowed to go to his gran’s because his mum was meeting someone and it was adults only.  Thinking about this afterwards, my niece decided that she might as well tell him the truth, explained the what was happening and showed him a photo of me.  His reaction?  He said “Looks a bit like my gran” and went back to what he was doing.  So my great-nephew thinks I look like one sister, and my niece who looks like my other sister things that she looks like me.  Look at that photo of me and Hilary together at the Dylan gig, so what do you think?  Is there a resemblance?  I’m not sure I can see it myself but maybe others can.  Not the best lit of photos either.

img_4467When we got back to Hilary’s house, her husband Adrian had returned.  He had been out at a corporate golf day at The K Club, one of the most prestigious golf courses in Ireland and venue of the 2006 Ryder Cup.  Getting in some sneaky practice for the family golf tournament at the weekend (he was the defending champion).  And Adrian had brought presents for Hilary and for me.  It is in fact my first female-specific golfing accessory – a pink K Club pitch mark repairer.  I can’t believe I missed this, but when I later showed it to Andrea she immediately asked if it was personalised.  How did I not see that?  The Kirsty Club, membership expanding all the time.

I had to revert to being Bob for the golf weekend.  I felt rather sheepish turning up to breakfast with Hilary and Adrian looking rather different than I had done the previous day.  Hilary said “You probably feel naked” which wasn’t a million miles from the truth.  I announced that I was going to load up my car, to which she replied “Good man, er, woman, er, whatever!”  It was a valiant attempt and does illustrate just how confusing this final few weeks pre-transition is.  Although Hilary did also add that on Friday morning “you looked a pale shadow of your former self”.

Just one more thing.  On Saturday morning in the hotel, I had breakfast with my sister Patsy and sister-in-law Marie (my brother John’s wife) as they were partaking of a late breakfast due to being the only non-golfers.  And at the end of the meal Marie reached into her bag and pulled out some rolled-up paper.  She then said that she wanted to give me this, and she would have liked to get it framed for me, but never mind, she just thought the words were very appropriate.  She said that she realised that this was probably the last time she would ever see Bob, and that whatever lay ahead everyone was 100% behind me and “I just want you to know that we all love you very very much”.  She gave me a big hug and handed me the paper.

The roll of paper contained the poem “The Road Not Taken”, by Robert Frost.  I read it when I returned to my room.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I sat on the bed in my room, put my head in my hands, and cried.  My family are truly amazing.

 

Office Gossip

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I have just trashed about 600 words of a post when I realised that it was going to be an “I went there and I did that and then I went somewhere else and did something else” kind of post.  And let’s face it, who wants to read that.  So let’s get all that stuff out of the way in a very simple summary:

img_4435Andrea and I took both my daughters out on the National Trust Easter Egg Hunt at Rowallane on Easter Monday.  It was lots of fun, and because my younger daugher Melissa got her face painted, I don’t feel so bad about putting up a photo of the two of us since she is pretty much unrecognisable anyway.

I had a bit of a girly night out last Saturday with Andrea, Alice and Alice’s friend Jane.  Out for a meal together first, then on to the theatre to see Red, a play about the artist Mark Rothko, set in his studio as a two-hander between Rothko and a fictional assistant, beautifully acted, funny and deep.  Then back to Alice’s for a cuppa and a chat.  Great company and a really enjoyable play.  Alice and I are back at the theatre again in a couple of weeks, with a different two friends this time.  Real culture vultures us!

So now on to the main event.  My third GIC appointment took place yesterday.  In fact, it wasn’t that big an event in itself.  At least, it didn’t appear so at the time, but Dr Ingram said a few things that I have continued to think about at length yesterday and today, and I’m sure will continue to think about tomorrow and beyond.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My appointment was at noon.  I had already agreed with Beth in work that for these last few months before I’m full time, I can leave work in time to get ready so I can go to GIC as Kirsty, and I would have enough time to get changed back into Bobswear afterwards if I was coming back.  However, with a noon appointment there wasn’t much point me coming into work at all because I’d only be able to stay for about half an hour.  And I could be back by around 2.30pm in theory, but I just decided to take three hours’ leave and have the whole day off.  In fact, what I decided do was to spend the entire day as me, morning till night, which meant I would get up and take the kids to school as the real me, and then drop Mrs K at work, leaving me three hours to kill before I had to go up to GIC.  What to do…  I had a brainwave.

Angela.

Remember Angela?  I came out to her around November last year when she realised that my not-so-subtle hints were in fact serious.  And she had been very positive indeed before going off on maternity leave in late January.  We had continued to keep in touch on and off by text, but I thought I might as well ask and so I dropped her a text on Monday afternoon asking if she was free on Wednesday morning, and if so would she fancy meeting up with me-Kirsty for a coffee and a chat.  She replied quickly that she had just been thinking of asking me if I wanted to meet up some time, so my timing was perfect.  We arranged to meet at Caffe Nero at Forestside Shopping Centre, which is quite close both to where she lives and to the clinic.

After a quick trip into Belfast to get my favourite suede ankle boots re-heeled, I found myself in place on a bench just outside Caffe Nero at 10.30, and I texted Angela to say where I was.  She replied that she’d be along in two minutes, and sure enough she arrived quickly pushing a pram containing her sleeping 11-week old baby daughter.  I’m not sure I have adequate words to describe the look on Angela’s face as she saw me.  Recognition, delight, astonishment, amazement, relief, lots of other stuff.  She hugged me and exclaimed “Oh my god, you are gorgeous!  Really, I can just see right away, you look so much better as a woman than you do as a man. ”  Well that was a nice start, even if I did feel a giant beside her.  “I hope that’s not the wrong thing to say”, she added, I think fearing that she might have implied that Bob was an ugly sod.

Her baby daughter slept the entire time we were there.  I was a little bit disappointed not to get to hold her, but I suppose it was better that than having a screaming fit.  But I think after being off work for the last three months, Angela was starved of general office gossip, never mind news about my transition.  So the conversation flowed really nicely, and so much more naturally than it ever would when I was still trying to pretend to be male.  In fact, if I turn back the clock five years, I would have been paralysed with fear at the thought of having a one-to-one conversation like that.  I was so uptight about saying the wrong thing, and I also think that my self-esteem was so low that I believed myself to be dull and uninteresting, so why would anyone else be interested in me.  I am so much happier a person now than I was then.

With the way the house move appears to be going, it is looking likely like my last day in work as Bob will be Friday 30th June, returning as Kirsty on Monday 17th July.  Angela was slightly disappointed to hear this, because she will be on holiday on my last day in work.  She already knew that my plan is to send an email around the rest of my department (probably around 20-25 people who still won’t know by that stage) on the morning of Bob’s last day.  But what she said she wanted to do was to come in on my last day and to be there when I sent the email so that she could tell any doubters “I’ve met her and it’s fine”.  Angela is a very popular woman, and I think people will listen to her.  She’s not particularly senior in the organisation, but she has very high social standing.  And she is a good friend.  So unable to come in on my last day as Bob, she has restated her promise to come in on my first day as Kirsty and take me for lunch.  That’ll do nicely.

We sat there for about an hour and a quarter, at which point I had to get moving so I wasn’t late for my appointment.  As we were parting, Angela inadvertently turned an old argument I had used around on me.  Quite a while back I wrote a whole post about my height, and I got rather annoyed in this post at people who repeatedly tell me that “lots of women” are the same height or taller than me.  Which is just not true, because if that were the case I would be seeing them, and if I see one woman a month the same height as me then it’s no more than that.  But I theorised that a smaller person (maybe 5’8″ or less) looking up at someone 5’11” or more just saw “tall” and didn’t appreciate the extra 3 or so inches were missing.  So I continued to feel freakishly tall at 6’2″, and not a little self-conscious about it.  Then as we were parting yesterday Angela, who is about 5’4″ remarked, “You know, you just look the same as Beth to me, height-wise.  Just tall.  Nobody’s going to gawp at you any more than they do at her.”  Which people don’t.  At all.  She’s just a tall woman.  Beth is 5’11”.  My theory in practice.  I notice the height difference.  The only other people who will notice it are people who are almost, but not quite as tall as me.  So I can’t really argue with it.  Thanks Angela, that really did make me feel a lot better about my height.

So on the stroke of noon I was sitting in the waiting room at GIC, where I was to have my first one-on-one meeting with Dr Ingram, whose patient I will be going forward.  My very fine-detail planning has quickly become something of a running joke with him, but I think he might actually have been quite clever in the way he brought this up, because as the conversation progressed, I realised that I am perhaps a bit more of a control freak than I ever realised before.  He asked me a few general questions about how I was getting on – all good, everything progressing nicely etc – and then he asked if there was anything that worried me.  I have realised that the things that worry me are things outside my control.  I worry a lot about them.  People’s reactions, mainly.  And then he lead on and asked why I was transitioning now.  Now, as opposed to in 10 years’ time.  Or in 1990.  Why now?  And didn’t I feel very isolated during all those years when I couldn’t discuss my feelings about my gender with anyone?

The answer to all this is that I wasn’t so much isolated as afraid.  I have realised that I have wasted so much of my life being afraid.  Afraid of things I can’t control.  Afraid of ghosts, imagined demons in my own mind that I projected on to persons known and unknown.  And it wasn’t helping anyone.  Fear has prevented me from being who I should have been.  And as Yoda wisely said; Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.  Revelatory, it was.  A moment of realisation I had.

I think I also surprised Dr Ingram when he asked if I felt I had any other problems before accepting myself as a woman.  My answer was confidence.  To be honest, he’s not the first person to have been suprised when I described myself as lacking confidence, particulary considering the client-facing job that I do, but I described it to him as role-playing.  I can play the role of a finance professional, but it’s just a front, it’s not me.  A bit like how I’m sure Dr Ingram is a different person with his family than he is with me.  I think I’m a bit of a compartmentaliser too – as I think my eldest brother Brian is too, we seem to be quite similar in that regard.  Not any more (for me anyway).

In fact I was only with Dr Ingram for a maximum of 40 minutes, I feel like I’m not giving him enough trauma.  I just want to transition and I’m pretty great apart from that.  A lot better than I was six months ago and unrecognisably better than I was five years ago.  Back again on 30th May, and I have homework.  Complete a 4×4 grid with as many things as I can think of in each category; benefits and drawbacks of transitioning, benefits and drawbacks of not transitioning.  It seems to me that it’s really just two categories reversed, i.e. the drawbacks of transitioning (e.g. undergo major surgery) are the reverse of the benefits of not transitioning (e.g. don’t have to undergo major surgery).  But we’ll see what we come up with.

Straight after finishing at the clinic I headed back over to my sister Patsy’s house for lunch with her and her husband Frank.  It was a nice wee chat, but I mention it only because of something that happened a little later on.  Patsy and I were sitting talking at her kitchen table when a man arrived to repair her faulty cooker.  As he came into the kitchen she nodded in my direction and said “this is just my sister”.  Just her sister.  That’s me.  The first time I have heard any of my siblings refer to me as their sister.  A lovely wee moment.

After a quick trip over to Alice’s for a cuppa and a chat I headed back into Belfast where I had arranged to go out for a bite to eat with Michelle, whom I hadn’t seen for a while.  We had a good chat and later on a good music conversation, watching videos of guitar players, but that’s just a nice evening with a friend.  I really mention this because as I walked round to the restaurant, I saw walking toward me none other than Kelly from HR in work, who has been and continues to be such a great help in planning my workplace transition.  The thing is, she didn’t even notice me walking towards her, didn’t give me a second glance.  I more or less had to wave my hand in front of face and she finally looked across and gave me a big “Kirsty!” and a wee hug – that’s something I’m learning in female etiquette, the one-armed hug.  It’s the done thing on greeting a friend.  Men may do a big bear hug, we ladies have a more genteel one-armed version.  And much more ubiquitous than the male equivalent.  But I was so pleased that Kelly saw me out and about just as me, and also just casually dressed in jeans and a jumper rather than the more formal skirt’n’heels I was wearing on the one previous occasion when she met me as Kirsty.  And I even got a wee update from her.  It seems that while I was off, she and my “big boss” Fred had met that afternoon with an even bigger boss, someone at a very senior level in the overall organisation.  His takeaway comment was “I want this to go as well and as smoothly as possible.  It would say so much about us as an organisation if we can make this work”.

One final comment.  I was chatting to Graham in work today, telling him about having met up with Angela yesterday morning.  He ended up getting a little bit emotional.  He said he would really like for himself to meet Kirsty prior to me finishing work as Bob.  He says he’s feeling a sense of impending loss, that he’s losing his friend, even though he knows intellectually that it’s not the case, so I think he wants reassurance that I’m still the same person.  The same, but better.  So we have provisionally booked a wee mid-morning coffee in a couple of weeks when I have a day off and will be heading down to Dublin to see Bob Dylan in concert with my sister Hilary.  He was quick to check that I was planning on going as Kirsty to the concert, and that I wasn’t planning on getting dressed up just for him, but I was happy to assure him that I would be me anyway.  So that’s another introduction to look forward to.  It’s all go isn’t it?

Chez Kirsty

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I dropped a quick four lines into my last post about having viewed a house and put an offer in.  Well things have moved on very rapidly in the last week or so and I am pleased to say that the sale is agreed.  To me, obviously.  I had to increase my offer very slightly from what I originally bid, but still ended up agreeing the purchase at £1000 under asking price.  I am very excited at this development, things are really moving forward and it’s just the best house I could ever hope to get for my budget.  A quick bit of backstory.

Back in December last year, after Mrs K told me that she wanted a divorce, and I slowly came to accept that it was going to happen this way, I started tentatively looking at property websites.  Just to see what was available.  I was able to go into online mortgage calculators and work out what would be feasible based upon mine and Mrs K’s incomes, our ages, the value and equity in our current home and so on, and come up with a budget for how much I could afford to spend.  Even then, I did have a few people asking me why I wasn’t going to rent for a while, but to be honest renting to me just seems like money down the drain.  As a monthly expense it’s higher than the mortgage for the same property, plus there’s an end point at which you can live mortage-free.  Sadly, my own mortgage-free age is drifting out from 58 to 67 now, but that’s the way things go.  But I know one person who is paying more in rent for a one-bedroom studio apartment than I will be paying for a modern 3-bedroom townhouse.  But I digress (some things never change!)

I had a few basic criteria for a new home.

  • I wanted it to be fairly close to the current family home.  Mrs K and I are going to be sharing custody so I don’t want it to be a massive trek for the girls between the two houses.
  • It has to be in the right area.  For anyone outside Northern Ireland reading this, that doesn’t just mean a nice area, it means I have to be aware of the ghettoisation of the province.  I was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic school.  I don’t believe a word of it now, and I’m entirely ambivalent about the Unionist/Nationalist thing, but if I turned up in a staunchly Protestant/Unionist area, there would be enough knuckleheads there who don’t what one of “themmuns” in their area, they wouldn’t stop to ask.  Because I might be an atheist, but I’m a catholic atheist.  That’s the worst sort.  And that’s before you throw the whole trans thing into the mix.
  • Ideally, it would have three bedrooms.  One for me, and one each for Amy and Melissa.  I had kind of persuaded them at one point that sharing a room with bunk beds would be fun, but really it would be quite the compromise for them.
  • I would prefer a house over an apartment, although I would consider the right apartment.
  • Ideally, I would prefer no garden.  Give me a deck or a patio over a lawn every time.  I just don’t get the urge to have a garden with all that maintenance at all.  I believe I have occasionally on this blog alluded to the wonderful Deeper Meaning Of Liff by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd.  A dictionary of things there aren’t any words for yet.  According to The Deeper Meaning Of Liff, I suffer from “Lutton Gowts”, which is the opposite of green fingers, the effortless propensity to cause plant death.  So the less greenery the better.
  • Something that wouldn’t need too much redecoration by me.  Maybe just a lick of paint.
  • Gas central heating (as opposed to oil).  Although not a deal-breaker, I don’t particularly want to revisit the days of the first house I shared with Mrs K where a few times we inadvertently ran out of oil and went cold.  Plus, instant hot water.

While browsing on PropertyPal (Northern Ireland’s equivalent of Zoopla in GB) in mid-December, I found something that fitted the bill very nicely.  In fact, incredibly nicely.  It was a mid-terrace townhouse, it’s own parking space round the back.  There was an archway through to the private parking, and this house owned the rooms above the arch, so it was much bigger upstairs than down.  Nicely decorated living room, fitted kitchen, three bedrooms, separate small office/study, gas central heating, fully decked back with no grass and a good wall and fence for a bit of privacy.  It was, in short, the perfect house for me in that price range.  Oh, and no more than 15 minutes’ walk from the current family home.  So I kept watching.

I watched it throughout January and it was still on the market throughout the month.  Then on 1st February Mrs K and I went to see a local mortgage broker to find out exactly what we could afford.  The news was reasonably positive (the web mortgage calculators were right!) and so straight afterwards I strode just a few doors down the street into the estate agent that was selling that property  and asked to arrange a viewing.

“I’m sorry, the sale was agreed on that property yesterday”.

I was quite crestfallen.  The agent valiantly tried to persuade me to try something else, but they were either the same house but without the bit over the arch (losing a bedroom and the study) or else it was the same house plus a loft conversion making it out of my price range.  So I shuffled off.  Anyway, it was probably still too early because at that point the mortgage broker had sent us off to get something formalised with a solicitor regarding my maintenance payment to Mrs K, so that could be included in her income.  And that took a while.

In fact, it was the last week of March by the time we got that.  And as soon as it came through, I fired up PropertyPal and looked again.  And there, just added the previous day, was the house that I had really liked the look of but had apparently been sale agreed at the end of January.  So I got straight on to the estate agent asking to book a viewing.  It turns out that the sale fell through the previous week and so the house was back on the market again, and there was already an offer in albeit at £5,000 below the asking price.  With the timing, it just seemed like it was meant to be.

On Monday 3rd April, Amy and I went to view the house.  Melissa, it turned out, was quite upset that she didn’t get to come too, but it was a 7pm viewing and she was just out of the bath and in her dressing gown.  Long story short, Amy and I both loved it.  The living room is really nicely decorated, I might need to replace wallpaper on one wall but apart from that it’s fine.  The kitchen is just perfect, plus with all the appliances being built-in, they come with the house, so I won’t have to buy a washing machine, fridge freezer or dishwasher.  The back is fine if a little small, but I can just see myself out there in the summer with a wee glass of something.  There’s a shed too which the current owner keeps his bike in, and which I will keep my bike in too – result!).  And then there’s the upstairs.  My goodness it’s huge.  If the downstairs is a little on the small side (and it is), the upstairs is huge.  Three massive bedrooms, definitely bigger than the bedrooms in our current house.  And the little study will be perfect for a computer room where I can sit and type more of this garbage till my heart’s content.

As I was leaving, I said to the couple selling the house that they had it looking very good.  I really felt for them with the reply – that I wouldn’t have said that a week earlier because everything was boxed up ready to move.  Then their buyer pulled out because their own sale fell through, and the vendor of the house they were buying wasn’t prepared to wait for them to find another buyer.  So they had lost their buyer, and then lost their new home.  They hinted that this time round they wanted to just sell and move into rented accommodation until they found somewhere else, which told me that they were looking to move out asap.  I said that with arranging the mortgage and the divorce going on, the earliest I could complete would probably be June, which they seemed very happy with. The woman then told me the price at which they had previously agreed the sale, in a way which basically told me “offer us the same and it’s yours”.

I phoned the next day and offered £500 less.  A bit cheeky, but you never know.  The estate agent wanted to know about my circumstances, did I have a house to sell, what about a mortgage etc.  I explained about the divorce if not about the transition, and the broker quickly worked out that my equivalent of selling a house was Mrs K getting her remortgage approved, because that’s where my deposit is coming from.  That was on Tuesday 4th.  I told her that Mrs K was meeting the mortgage broker the following Saturday morning so I would know better the following week.  The estate agent phoned me on Tuesday morning to ask how things had gone.  “Fine”, I replied.  The application was in process, and the broker (who the estate agent knows, they are practically neighbours after all) didn’t foresee any difficulties.  She then hinted that the vendors were looking a little more before they agreed to sell the house to me, so I said I would match the price they had previously agreed.  The estate agent replied that she was confident that would be acceptable.

Forward two more days, and an appointment with the mortgage broker for me (fine, thanks) and it was all official.  Sale agreed, house off the market.  I’ve got my house.  My home where I will be Kirsty and only Kirsty, where the neighbours won’t know me as anyone other than the real me.  It’s so close.  June is looking very do-able.  In about ten weeks’ time, there will be no more Bob ever again.  Wow.

Of course now my daughters are all go planning their new bedrooms.  We took a trip to IKEA on Good Friday to browse round bedroom furniture, and a bit of living room furniture too.  I might get my suite out of DFS though – if I’m lucky they might have a sale on.  Then I have arranged to go round there again on Wednesday this week, this time bringing Melissa so she can see her new bedroom, and also bringing a tape measure.  I’m not bringing any furniture from the family home so I can buy furniture to fit the house rather than vice versa when most fortysomething people move house, but I still need to find out the detailed dimensions of the house before I buy anything.  It’s all go and all very exciting!

I was going to write a bit about 3 of my nieces being introduced to their Auntie Kirsty as well, but I’ve probably written enough for one post now.  So the very short version:  It was fine, I was given my first bouquet of flowers.  All good.  Actually that’s about it.  So now I did write about it.

Other than the house and the nieces, to be honest the days of just writing about every time I get to go out “en femme” are so far in the past there’s no point.  I spend the majority of my non-working days as my real, female, self, and that’s going to become all my days pretty soon.  So writing about book group (The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes 7/10 and Small Gods by Terry Pratchett 4/10) seems a bit excessive.  It’s not a literature blog.  And there’s just so much going on.  Things are going to get a bit manic in the next couple of months.  The work situation is about to turn from planning to doing, and that’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks.  News of my transition is going to become much more widespread at a senior level in the organisation, so let’s hope that’s all ok.

There’s just so much going on.  It’s all going so well.  I’m waiting on everything falling apart and hoping that it wont.  Time will tell.

 

GIC Revisited

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Last time round I finished up with the tale of how my line manager Beth and HR person Kelly had informed my “big boss” Fred of my imminent transition, and how a few hours later we had had a very quick chat when he reassured me that all was good.  Well true to his word he did take me out for a coffee and a chat (and a cinnamon swirl – mmm) the following week.  We met at a coffee shop near our office, surreptitiously leaving a couple of minutes apart so nobody would say to me afterwards “What were you doing with Fred?”  He’s really getting the hang of this closet thing.

It was a very nice chat, and he really was falling over himself to be supportive and to try to do the right thing.  For all that, I was still able to give him a bit of stick about his “Alright, boy” comments.  But overall and like Beth and Kelly before him, he was super keen to stress that there was no question that I would be continuing in the same role, and that he foresaw very few problems.  He said I had been there a long time, I was well known, well-liked and very good at my job (he never said that before!) and that people would support me.  I also know that Beth and Kelly had only given him a very basic outline of our plan for my transition, that conversation has been more “this is happening, don’t worry about the detail, it’s all in hand”.  So I expanded upon that a little with Fred, and he came up with a few suggestions of his own, which by and large were sensible ones.

What with all the recent outings of myself that I have been doing, I now have a small album on my phone containing 6 photos of an acceptable standard with which to illustrate the conversation, usually very near the end.  I asked Fred if he wanted to see a photo of his new employee and he said that yes, he would like that, adding that Beth had told him she found it very useful to have seen a photo as “Kirsty” became a person rather than an abstract concept.  This in turn then helped her to know roughly what to expect when she met me in my female persona.  So I showed Fred a photo and he said

“Yes, that does help.  I think when you don’t have an image in your mind then you start imagining…er…”

“Lily Savage?”

“Well, no, I was thinking more of the one that won Eurovision a few years ago, with the beard”

I’m not sure if that’s better or worse.  I mean, I might not approve of the beard, but damn can Conchita Wurst rock a sequinned ballgown.

Still on the subject of work, I had another outing, this time done by me myself.  I have written a few times about the team I work with; Beth, our senior manager, who knows; Angela, our legal assistant, who knows; and then the two guys, Graham and Arthur, who don’t know.  Although Graham has made a few comments – noticing my hairless legs and arms while out cycling, the occasional bit of nail varnish residue and so on.  I think I always thought Graham would be fine, but I worried about Arthur who is, not to put to fine a point on it, a shocking homophobe.  As for transphobe, I don’t think he really believes that trans people exist, I genuinely heard him say once that it was only celebrities doing it for publicity.  Anyway, I had been nervous about his reaction and so I was somewhat relieved to hear that he was going to retire.  And this happened last Friday.  I hadn’t wanted to say anything to Graham while Arthur was still there because I didn’t want it to be a case of everyone having to keep just him out of the loop.  But now that Arthur has left, it’s time to bring Graham into the fold.

On Monday afternoon, I casually asked Graham if he could spare me 10 minutes, and we went into an empty side office.  As soon as we walked through the door, he said “What have I done?”  Of course he hadn’t done anything.  I explained that it was all about me and some big changes that were coming, and that I knew that he had noticed that I wasn’t wearing my wedding ring any more.  His face just screwed up into an expression of dread, as if I had dragged him into there to tell him that Mrs K and I are divorcing.  I explained that yes, we were divorcing, but in pretty unusual circumstances that are to do with something that I have carried with my all my life and tried to overcome.  That I am transgender.

For the first time in one of these conversations, he wasn’t that surprised.  It took a while for the penny to drop with him that I was actually transitioning and that there’d be no more Bob.  I think he initially thought Mrs K was divorcing me because I was a cross-dresser.  But no, Mrs K is divorcing me because I’m a woman.  Which is probably fair enough.  At this point another penny dropped with him and he asked

“You were waiting for Arthur to go before you told me weren’t you?”

“Yep.  I wasn’t looking forward to him finding out”

“I don’t blame you.  You made the right decision there.”

So everything is fine with Graham.  We spoke for nearly an hour.  It still took a while for him to realise that come the end of June (approx) there would be no more Bob.  And that in a further 3 years or so there would be no more Bob’s bits either.  But he’s there now.  He understands.  And he’s very happy for me that I’m taking this step, he’s pleased that my daughters have reacted so well, and sorry that Mrs K and I couldn’t stay together.  He even told me he was aware of couples who had stayed together through transition, but it’s not going to happen for me and Mrs K.  Which is fine by me.

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As with Fred, I produced the “coming out conversation” phone photo album.  At first he said that he could see it was someone who looked like Bob, but he didn’t think he would have known it was Bob.  Maybe Bob’s sister.  But then as he flicked through a few other photos with a smile on his face, he suddenly burst out laughing.  I was rather crestfallen, to say the least.  I asked what was the matter, did I look that funny?  He replied in what can only be described a mixture of joy and incredulity

“No, it’s not that at all.  I just can’t get over how amazing you look in that dress.”

Oh that’s all right then.  It was the photo on the right, taken in the loft bedroom of the famously sainted Kate, where I slept while over visiting her and Ruth back in 2015 with Andrea, after we had all shared a less-than-fantastic meal in wonderful company.

One other thing happened on Monday.  I went to view a house.  Amy came with me.  We both loved it.  I have put in an offer.  The vendors are still considering it.  I shall say no more now.  Watch this space.

And now on to the main event.  My second appointment at GIC.  It was just this afternoon and it wasn’t what I was expecting.  It was also a whole lot shorter than my first appoinment, maybe just 45 minutes long.  At my first appointment I had gone away with the impression that this time I was going to be meeting the entire clinical staff in some kind of a “getting to know you” exercise.  I don’t know if I was misinformed or if I misheard, but it was definitely not that.  The therapist who took my first appointment, named Jenny, greeting me in the waiting room and lead me through to another consulting room where Dr Ingram was waiting.

Dr Ingram introduced himself as the lead therapist at the clinic, and explained that he would be my therapist from now on.  OK then.  Jenny remained in the room with us throughout, although she spoke very little.  But Dr Ingram (no first name) was perfectly nice and friendly.  He started by asking me how I was doing and how I had felt about my first appointment, if I had any worries and so on.  I went through that same old story that I keep writing on here and I keep getting berated for, namely that I was concerned I was going to be dismissed for being not trans enough, not deserving enough of treatment.  He did everything bar roll his eyes at this.  He said this is the single most common fear that people have coming to the clinic, and despite everything they put on their website, on their literature, how they think they deal with people, it doesn’t seem to make any difference.  So to put my mind at ease, he said not to worry on that score, that I was definitely in the system and I was in no danger of being discharged any time soon.  I was of course keen to stress that the appointment with Jenny had been nothing like what I had feared, and I was feeling very positive indeed about my transition now.

Dr Ingram then asked me if I had any questions, and yet again I asked the one that everyone asks.  Timescales.  He said that as far as he was concerned and based on the feedback he had received from Jenny on my first appointment, he would be looking to get me pushed through the system as quickly as he possibly could, because I’m ready now. It’s not uncommon for people to turn up at the clinic with all sorts of other mental and physical health issues that might not be gender dysphoria per se, but which have been either caused or exacerbated by the dysphoria.  I had worried that because I’m not (to the best of my knowledge) exhibiting any of these problems, that I might be perceived as being “not trans enough”.  In reality, the lack of these other things is part of why Dr Ingram is wanting to get me straight on the conveyor belt.  He said that so many people come to the clinic with no concrete plans for transition, unsure how to tell friends and family, unsure how to tell their employers and how transition will affect their work, unsure just what it is that they want from the clinic.  So much time apparently is taken up early on with helping patients through these steps, but I just turned up with all that more or less done.  I might not have done my deed poll yet, but I have a good reason not to (don’t want to complicate the house buying and mortgage application process) so they’re fine with that.  Even, he added, the way I was presenting let him know that I was ready – I was just dressed very casually in jeans, jumper, scarf & boots and a small brown shoulder bag.  Maybe that’s the point, that I wasn’t glamming it up (my sister Patsy remarked the other day “you’re actually just like the rest of us aren’t you”).  So after all this Dr Ingram said

“You are one of the best prepared patients I have ever seen coming to the clinic.”

Wow.  Really?  Me?  Well that made me feel good.  I do like to try to do things right but this was a huge vote of confidence.

So timescales then.  I am being referred today for speech and voice therapy, and also today for laser hair removal.  The speech and voice should begin in 2-3 months, which is fine.  With laser however, the wait is slightly longer, at least 6 months now.  However Dr Ingram thought that this was not necessarily a bad thing as it would give me a chance to complete all my electrolysis with Lynda first, as he wouldn’t recommend electrolysis and laser at the same time. Too much for my skin to cope with.

The next thing was the referral to endocrinology for HRT.  He wasn’t able to refer me to that yet.  He says he will need a further three sessions with me before he feels he knows me well enough to make that referral, which is a more serious intervention than the other two referrals.  After he makes the referral, the waiting list to see the endocrinologist is at least 6 months, so again it could be early 2018 before that happens.  However he also pointed out that once he makes the referral it is possible to see the endocrinologist privately, and that appointment would be almost immediate.  The price is nowhere near as high as I would have feared, and would allow me to jump the queue by six months and hopefully get on hormones by around August this year.  I must admit I’m tempted.

Finally the big one.  GRS.  “Lower surgery”, as the doctor put it.  Well first of all my RLE will commence on the day I begin living full time in the role, which hopefully will be the end of June at the latest.  He doesn’t see any need to wait for HRT or other checks.  And once the year is up, and subject to his recommendation, I’ll be able to be independently assessed for a second opinion.  Then there’s funding to apply for, and the scheduling of the surgery itself not to mention the joy of pre-op laser and/or electrolysis on my bits, which I must say I’m dreading.  So all in all, Dr Ingram says he would be surprised and disappointed if I’m not post-op in three years, and maybe more like two and a half.  Sounds good to me.  Sounds great in fact.  Apart from the downstairs electrolysis.  That sounds pretty far from great.

So there you go.  There was a load more about Mrs K and the kids, but I’m not going to write about that.  Outside the scope of this blog.  Back again at GIC in less than three weeks, on April 26th.  Back again on the blog before then I hope.

Beauty, Bowling and the Boss

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It has been another busy week on Planet Kirsty, with a few tales to relate.  This is less introspective than last time round, but perhaps at the stage I am at now I realise that everything I do seems to take on a great significance as I approach my full time date.

As I hinted last time round, on Saturday last weekend I took my kids out for a late lunch at Ed’s Bar & Grill in Lisburn, somewhere I have been in the past with Michelle and occasionally Andrea, but which has now become a family favourite.  My elder daughter Amy has been out with me several times now, so much so that it no longer seems like an “occasion” when we are out together.  But this was Melissa’s first time out in public with the new me.  I don’t mind admitting that I was a little bit apprehensive as to how it would go.  As so often seems to be the case, I needn’t have worried.  She was just her usual little self.  I’m so proud of them both.  Incidentally, the last couple of times I have been to Ed’s with the kids, they have put us at a table with a TV/DVD player at the end, and the kids can go and pick from a huge selection of DVDs to watch while they are eating.  Well this time we were at a table with no TV.  Great, I thought, we can have a conversation.  No.  The waiter came along and produced two 7-inch tablets preloaded with a load of games and access to Netflix.  I think the most annoying thing was that I didn’t get one.

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Me and my wonderful daughters

After the meal we walked across to the nearby cinema, where we met Andrea outside.  Amy and Andrea had met before, but this was the first time Andrea had met my little daughter.  I’m so proud of these two girls and I’m so thankful that they are still a huge part of my life when I feared that they might react badly to news of my transition.  I think Melissa took a little bit of a shine to Andrea.  Anyway, we were there to see the new live-action Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson in the lead role (or “Hermione”, as Melissa insists on calling her).  It was… ok.  I much preferred the live-action Cinderella that Disney produced a couple of years ago, but it was a pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours.  The four of us went for a coffee afterwards, or a hot chocolate with marshmallows for the little ‘un.  Auntie Andrea even got a hug from Melissa as we were leaving.  A very nice little afternoon and early evening out, so much the better because it’s an indicator that a good family life is still possible, that my girls and I will continue to be as close as ever, if not closer than before.

I had a bit of a different outing on Tuesday.  I went tenpin bowling with a bunch of the girls from the SAIL support group that I had visited a few weeks earlier.  On this occasion everyone who came (and I hubristically include myself in this number) were at the more presentable end of the scale, although I suppose when you’re going to public places like that we may become something of a self-selecting group.  Claire and Karen, both of whom I had been chatting with before, were there again, as well as a few other familiar faces.  There was however one unfamiliar face.  A rather male looking face, perched atop a male body in a three-piece suit.  This person, a part-timer like myself, had agreed to come and then realised that due to a work commitment there was no time to change so had just come as Bob.  That’s not something I could do, but if she’s comfortable like that then that’s ok.

I ended up having a bit of a talk with this person (whom I learned was another Karen) and among the other chat she mentioned that she was having weekly electrolysis sessions.  Me too.  Who was I going to, she asked.  Lynda Fisher.  She was too!  What day did I go?  Thursdays.  She was too!  What time are my appointments?  5.15pm.  Hers are an hour, 4pm to 5pm.  We have been 15 minutes apart for 3 months.  In fact, it seems very likely that we have passed each other in the waiting room.  So Karen resolved that this time she was going to hang around after her session finished to say hello to me.  I said that I would look rather different, and she said that’s fine – for her maybe!  Anyway, a quick fast forward to Thursday afternoon and I arrived bang on time for my session to find that Lynda was running late (again!) so I was already there when Karen came out.  Despite my reservations about a Bob-on-Bob chat, we genuinely had a really good talk for 15 minutes waiting for my appointment.  I look forward to many more in the weeks to come.

Back to Tuesday night.  The bowling was a lot of fun, and the platters of finger food that we were brought by the staff were piled high with chicken pieces, onion rings, garlic bread, potato wedges and lots of dips.  After the bowling we moved to a table and sat on for another 45 minutes or so talking away.  I think I’m starting to understand who these people are, and as with any group there are some people whose company I enjoy, and others who are less on my wavelength.  So I will be back again at SAIL in another couple of weeks.

Update number 3 comes from Friday in work.  As I had also mentioned last time round, Beth, Kelly and I had realised that it was time to bring my “big boss” into the loop about my transition, my head of department Fred.  I was quite nervous about this, I just didn’t know what to expect.  Beth was very confident that he would be fine, and I suppose given recent experiences I thought he was probably be ok, but you just never know till it happens do you?  Beth had put an appointment into Fred’s diary for half an hour on Friday afternoon, but given the subject matter she was being very cagey about it all.  I read her meeting request, and it just said that she had been working on a policy matter with Kelly from HR, and they thought it was time that he was brought into the loop on what was being discussed.  This sat in Fred’s diary for four days and poor Beth got quite a grilling over that time.  What was this policy matter?  Couldn’t she give him a hint?  Why can’t she give him a hint?  Why do HR have to tell him?  What is the problem?  Is something wrong?  Beth, to her credit, held firm.  All she said was that it was something that HR had to inform him about, and not to worry because nobody was sick, nobody was leaving, and nobody had done anything wrong.  So to say Fred was intrigued was putting it mildly.

Around an hour before this meeting, Beth and I sat down with Kelly to go through what she was going to say.  Essentially, she had written herself a script covering all the salient points, but in a very general way.  Her script was basically a modified version of one of the letters that I had drafted for informing colleagues in a more general circulation much nearer to my full time date.  Kelly was keen to stress that her “script” was really a crib sheet to make sure she covered everything, and that it wasn’t going to sound as stilted as it did when she read it out to us.  Just to be clear, I was not part of this meeting and I had no desire to be part of this meeting.  However, Fred’s office is immediately behind my desk.  If he opens his office door I am the closest person to him.  So while Kelly made it clear in her script that I had asked them to tell him about my transition, she was also going to say that I was happy to speak to him after the event.  Anyway, the real purpose of Beth and I sitting down with Kelly was not to give a critique of her spiel, I’m comfortable enough with her now to feel happy that she “gets it”.  No, it was so that if Fred called me into his office, I would know how much he had been told.  And that “how much”, is not very much.  The idea was not to blind him with a huge deluge of information, Memorandum of Understanding, Transition Plan and Schedule, draft communications, awareness training etc.  It was more just, “Bob is transgender, will become Kirsty, will remain in the same job, don’t worry we’ve got it all in hand.”  Give him a few days to process the basic facts before hitting him with the detail.  Seems reasonable.

As the hour of the meeting arrived I was in situ at my desk working.  Kelly came on to the floor, nodded conspiratorially at me, and went into Fred’s office quickly followed by Beth, who closed the door behind her.  Let’s just say I didn’t get a huge amount of work done in that half hour.  I was waiting for the door to open and for one of them to say “Bob, can you join us for a minute?” but it never happened.  At two o’clock, the door opened and all three of them emerged, and Fred left the floor to go to his next meeting without saying a word.  And I just kept my head down over a bunch of files at the time, I didn’t even want to look him in the eye.  But once he and Kelly had gone, Beth looked across at me and asked “Bob, do you want to have a chat?”, nodding toward one of the side office meeting rooms.  I got up and followed her, something which I am sure did not go unnoticed by my colleagues Graham and the soon to be retired Arthur.

The short version of what Beth had to say?  It’s all good.  He says he’s very happy for me that I feel able to transition and I will have all the support that I need.  He listened carefully, asked some sensible questions, but was nothing but supportive.  It was good to hear, but it would be nice to hear it from him.

He returned to the office around an hour later, and carried on like nothing happened.  He was discussing work-related matters with Graham and with me, and he was talking away the same as he always does.  But I knew that he knew.  And he knew that I knew that he knew.  Etc.  But really, what could he say?  Nothing, in that environment.  I didn’t get anything from him until just as I was leaving.  I had had a busy day, and by the time I came to leave, Graham and Arthur had already departed, so I was just saying goodbye to Fred and he gave the his customary “Alright, boy?” greeting.  It’s force of habit.  But then he said;

“It’s all ok you know.  Everything’s good.  Don’t be worrying.  Maybe we’ll get a chat next week, go for a coffee?”

“Yeah, that’d be nice”

“How’s your diary?”

“Wednesday’s clearest for me”

“Great, we’ll go for a coffee on Wednesday and we can have a talk.  But it’s all good, you have nothing to worry about”

“Thanks Fred.  See you next week then”

“Alright boy”

He’s really going to have to stop saying that to me.

 

Taking Stock

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Most of the posts that I have written this year have been of the “I went there and I did that” variety.  Normally I’m not really a fan of that type of post, but this year so far has been rather eventful.  Coming out to my kids, siblings, line manager, formulating a transition plan in work, getting my first appointment at GIC, moving the domestic situation towards divorce and a new, female life for me.  It’s a bit more eventful than a list of restaurants and cinemas I suppose.  But I haven’t really stopped to take stock of how I’m feeling about everything.

The first thing I feel is excitement.  After a year of knowing all this is coming, it’s finally happening.  My initial plan was to go full-time at Easter, but obviously this has been pushed back by a couple of months with Mrs K’s rather late revelation that she wanted a divorce.  After some serious wobbles when she first told me about this I am now very positive about the change.  In fact I feel like it’s a better move for me than it is for her.  When I told my sister Patsy about the divorce, her first question was “How will [Mrs K] manage without you?”  I will be ok.  I really hope she will be too.  Even though I’m going to end up in a smaller house (or apartment) with a bit less money, I will be ok. In a home which is mine, without the baggage that would always be there in a family home in which I have lived as a man for 13 years.  I just want to get on with it.

In work too, things are progressing so much better than I ever dared hope.  I did have another transition planning meeting yesterday with Beth and Kelly, and as usual they are fantastically supportive.  Things are about to kick into another gear next week.  At the minute it’s still a fairly select circle who know, really just the three of us and a few other HR people.  Next week Beth and Kelly are going to inform my head of department, the “Big Boss” (i.e. Beth’s line manager), who is called Fred.  This will be a step change in widening the circle.  Fred operates in much more senior circles in the organisation, and he will have significant involvement in the communication, and in particular he will have the final say on how my clients are informed, and who does the informing.  He will also be involved in delivering the message further up the chain, perhaps all the way to the company’s Northern Ireland chief executive.  In fact when we were discussing yesterday just who should be the person issuing the communications about my transition, there was initially some discussion about whether it should be from Fred or the chief exec.  Then Kelly came up with the idea of the communication coming from the entire Senior Management Team en masse, to drive home just how strongly my transition is being supported at a senior level.  I’m not sure if that’s better than the chief exec by himself or not, but Fred will have a lot of input in this.

I have also identified one other person to be brought into the loop.  In my team in work there are four of us.  Beth, who is the senior manager, and then myself, Arthur and Graham.  I had been concerned about how Arthur would react as he is in his early sixties and prone to shocking bouts of homophobia – as I have noted before I think he is literally homophobic, he is terrified of gay people.  Well as things would go, Arthur is retiring at the end of March.  So I’m not going to have to come out to him.  He’ll find out obviously, but he’ll not be my colleague by then.  That leaves Graham.  I’m going to come out to him more or less as soon as Arthur goes.  I think he’ll be ok.  In fact, I think he suspects something anyway.  Not only has he been one of the chief contributors to the ongoing “Bob is a woman at the weekend” running joke, but my work friend Lauren told me last week that Graham mentioned to her that there’s definitely something up with me, as he noticed that I’m not wearing my wedding ring any more.  I removed it around a month ago, really because Mrs K had removed hers and I wasn’t going to be a sad sap still wearing mine while hers was off.  But he has noticed it, and so I might as well tell him the full story.

There are obviously a lot of practical things that need done, like changing my email and logon for various systems, getting me a new staff ID pass, new business cards, new company credit card and so on, but these are fairly mundane.  But the one thing that came through very strongly for all three of us yesterday was that when you list every item that needs done, or considered, or discussed, three months isn’t that long to get everything sorted out.  So we have agreed to fortnightly update meetings to monitor progress on so many fronts, with the frequency increasing further as my full time date draws nearer.  After I return and commence work as Kirsty, we are going to have daily short reviews, gradually becoming less frequent as my new gender becomes the new normal.  The great unknown at this point is just what my full time date will be, as it is still dependent upon a few factors.  Although there is a development on this front too.

A week ago Mrs K went to a solicitor to begin divorce proceedings.  In advance of this we had already drafted an agreement between us that we were both happy with, dealing with the payment from her to me to buy me out of the house, my monthly maintenance payments, custody arrangement for the children, and what is happening to the other assets, physical and financial.  So the solicitor’s job is really just to make that legal.  In advance of the formal divorce petition, the solicitor has written to me asking me to sign a form of consent confirming the monthly payment as agreed subject to the full settlement agreement being formalised.  It is to be hoped that Mrs K will be able to use this as proof of my maintenence payment for mortgage lenders, enabling her to get the remortgage, buy me out of the house, and pay me what I’m owed, which will give me a deposit for a new place.  In theory Mrs K could be applying for this remortgage by the end of next week, and according to the mortgage broker approval can come through in 3 or 4 days, so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that by the time I’m next at GIC on 6th April I will already be in a position to put an offer on a new home.  I know all this is a fair amount of what I have been doing, but it’s all so positive that I hope you’ll understand better why I’m feeling so excited about these next few months.

There is another feeling I have, and that’s inadequacy.  I think it’s yet another manifestation of that old chestnut, “not trans enough”.  Having met people with serious mental health issues, drug problems and all sorts of personal issues, well without wishing to sound big-headed, I feel remarkably “normal” and well-adjusted.  I haven’t lived for the last 40+ years in a state of constant torment, more grim acceptance, but I have got on with things and lived my life within the male parameters that for most of that time I believed were the only option I had.  And I still worry that someone at GIC might eventually say “You managed ok for the last 40 odd years, you can just carry on managing.  Here are some people who aren’t managing at all, we need to concentrate on them”.  I know intellectually that that won’t happen, but emotionally I can’t shake it.  I am utterly dreading having someone come along and just say no, you can’t get what you want from the NHS so you either give up or pay for it all yourself.  GIC have asked my to write a potted history of my life for my next appointment, which I have done already.  You know me, not exactly a woman of few words when I write, so I very much enjoyed the writing process.  I’m hoping they’ll give me at least an A- for the quality of my prose.  But more than that, I did spend a few paragraphs expanding upon these feelings of being “not trans enough”, which could well be a subconscious plea not to refuse me treatment.

The final feeling that I’m going to write about is gratitude.  I look at other trans persons and I feel so incredibly fortunate at my amazing family and friends and (so far) work.  Everyone has been so supportive and understanding, I am genuinely humbled.  And I really do mean “humbled”.  I just wonder what I have done to deserve such remarkable support.  I’m just an ordinary person with a relatively unusual condition.  I called my brother John during the week just for a chat and because I hadn’t spoken to him since my first GIC appointment.  During that conversation I told him just how thankful I am for his support and that of our other siblings, because it feels like I am very unusual in not having lost anyone after outing myself.  He could barely speak in reply, I could hear the emotion in his voice.  He said that the only thing about my transition that he finds hard to deal with is the fact that I have lived with this condition for my entire life and just had to shoulder that burden on my own for all that time, unable to confide in anyone and afraid of what everyone would say.  I feel unworthy of such outpourings.  I’m just ordinary.  Everyone’s got problems.

What’s next for me?  Well tomorrow for the first time I’m taking both my daughters out for lunch as the real me!  Then off to the cinema afterwards to see Beauty And The Beast for which Andrea will be joining us.  We were planning this trip out during the week and Melissa (the little one) asked

“Daddy?  What am I going to call you when we’re out?” 

“Well Amy thought that you and her could call me Mum, and Mummy will still be Mummy”

“OK.  Mummy says I can call you Daddy at home and Mum when we’re out, but I don’t think that would work.  I’d get confused.”

“No, I wouldn’t want you calling out “Daddy” to me in a shop”

“I’m going to just call you Mum all the time”

“OK then”

“Daddy?”

“Yes my angel?”

“Do I need to give you a Mother’s Day card?”

“Maybe next year.  I don’t think Mummy would like it this year”

“OK then”

Until next time

Kirsty (aka Melissa’s Mum)

A Different Kind Of Support

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In my previous, rather momentous post, I mentioned in passing that Simon from SAIL had put me in contact with another trans woman who transitioned around six years ago in a very similar domestic and employment situation to myself.  Her name is Karen, and she and I ended up speaking on the phone for a good half an hour later that evening. Something I didn’t mention in the post was that she had encouraged me to come along to a support group at SAIL that she chairs on the first Tuesday of every month.  I was a bit non-committal because, well, Tuesdays aren’t great for me although that fact that the group was specifically for adult transitioning women meant that I did think it might be useful.  The fact is, Mrs K has a regular Tuesday social gathering that she has been attending without fail for around six months now.  I did ask her if she could give up one week so I could try this out, but she wouldn’t even entertain the possibility.  Which left me thinking I might have to give it a miss.

51A6rmAqknL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_Sunday past was the monthly meeting of my book group.  We did something we rarely do this month and delved into classic fiction rather than reading something fairly recently published.  Our choice for March was To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  I had never read it before.  This is probably not news to many of you, but wow.  What a book.  Written with such a light touch and surprisingly funny in places, it has so many layers and such incredible depth, but at the same time still a joy to read.  It’s just over 300 pages long, and I read about 240 of them on a single rainy Saturday.  Ostensibly it’s about a child (Scout Finch, the narrator), her brother Jem and her lawyer father Atticus, and her observations of life in the deep south of the USA in the 1930’s.  The centrepiece is the trial of a black man accusing of raping a white woman, and Atticus’ defence of the man, plus the lead-up to and consequences of this trial.  But ultimately it’s about so much more.  Social standing, hierarchy, morality, childhood.  If you’ve never read it before, put that right immediately.  It is now our book group’s all-time highest rated book, by quite a margin.  There are so many wonderful quotes, but one from Atticus particularly sticks with me.

…before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself.  The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.

No matter what other people might think, what the prevailing view might be, you have to do what’s right for yourself.  In transitioning, I am finally going to be able to live with myself.  Thanks, Atticus.

I had been out doing a grocery shop prior to the book group, and when I returned my daughter Amy told me that her Auntie Patsy (my sister) had called looking for me, and had said she would call back later.  Since I was going out again, I called her myself as I was driving to the book group.  As I suspected, she was looking to see how I had got on at GIC the previous Tuesday, and so I suggested that I call in after the book group and tell her face to face.  Which I did.  Both Patsy, her husband Frank and their son James were there, so James became the first of my nieces and nephews to meet their Auntie Kirsty.  All was well.  Although at one point when Patsy and I became engaged in a conversation about perfume you could see the two men switching off.  James’ girlfriend arrived later so she got to meet me too and said hello.  But the main reason for me relating this visit was that I just casually asked Patsy if she was available on Tuesday night.  Yes she was, and when I explained why I was asking (so I could go to the SAIL support group) she couldn’t agree quickly enough.  She really does want to help in any way she can.

Fast forward to last night and Patsy arrived at 6.30pm as arranged to find me just about ready to go and my daughters in the middle of eating their dinner.  She then mentioned something that really touched me.  Our parents are both dead more than 20 years.  When our dad died, I got his signet ring, which I still wear all the time as Bob.  My mum gave it to him when they got engaged, and it has their names and the year – 1947 – inscribed on the inside.  I ended up being the recipient of it in quite a “Goldilocks”-like fashion.  My brothers tried it on, but it was too big for one and too small for the other, but when I tried it on it fitted just right.  However, as I have already thought and as Patsy pointed out too, it is very clearly a man’s ring and I can’t possibly wear it when I go full time.  I had considered offering it to one of my brothers or nephews, but Patsy said I should keep it, and if either of my daughters ever have a son then he can have it.  But his leaves me without a parental memento.  Not for long, it seems.  Patsy and our other sister Hilary have been talking, and they are trying to think of an item of our mother’s that they could give to me.  When my mum died, most of her items were split between my sisters, including her wedding and engagement rings, my grandmother’s wedding ring, and lots of other items of jewellery – unsurprisingly, my mum had plenty of jewellery whereas my dad had a single ring.  Unfortunately Hilary had all of her jewellery stolen in a burglary around 10 years ago, so half of my mum’s jewellery collection is gone too, but Patsy passed a few items on to her after that.  This sounds like there’s a huge collection, but there’s not really, however there should be enough to go round.  So anyway, Patsy and Hilary are trying to decide what would be appropriate to give to me, be it a ring, a pair of earrings, bracelet or whatever.  Just a momento of our mother.  Because as Patsy said to me, “She would have wanted you to have something, because you’re her daughter too”.

Eventually I did get away, and shortly after 7.30pm I walked into SAIL’s premises, where I had visited with Beth and Kelly from work a week earlier.  I was somewhat taken aback when I went in.  I recognised Karen from her picture on Facebook pretty much right away, and went up and introduced myself.  But when I looked at everyone else who was there?  I hate myself for saying this, but the passability quotient was very low.  It’s not right that I’m saying that, but I’m going to continue to be as honest as possible on this blog and that’s what I immediately thought.  We had people dressed like they had just been out turning tricks.  We had someone cursed with a very masculine facial structure (nothing she can really do about that of course) but with long hair and make-up, coupled with a lumberjack shirt, loose-fitting jeans containing legs spread apart at 90º.  We had someone who appeared to be presenting completely male apart from a rather bizarre pink glittery wig.  And most jarring of all, we had someone presenting as something like a male/female chimera, close-cropped receding hair, face covered in make-up, a man’s shirt, a brown tartan A-line skirt, tan tights going into men’s socks and men’s brown leather shoes.  Could be that this person is non-binary, but I’m not so I wasn’t entirely comfortable with them.  I felt very awkward and more than a little bit shallow.

I must stress that the awkwardness was entirely my problem and is much to my discredit.  I know that I am very fortunate to look reasonably presentable and any attention I do get seems to be more about my height than looking obviously trans.  I am even more fortunate to have come through the process of outing myself to family and friends without losing anyone along the way so far.  To proceed with transition in more difficult circumstances, I’m in some ways in awe of these people.  My sympathy is clearly greatest with those who have difficulties over which they have no control.  If you have a big hooked nose, a lantern jaw and shoulders like an American Footballer, the torment must be so much the greater.  But for those who just dress or otherwise present in a manner which I find inappopriate or jarring, there are two possibilities.  One, they want to look like that.  In which case, good luck to them.  They have my full moral support in looking whatever way they want to look, but I would feel very ill-at-ease in their company outside the walled garden of a trans support group – again, this is my problem not theirs.  Two, they believe that they are presenting in a blend-in manner, in which case I just think “Open your eyes!”.  I actually hope that it’s the former.  But you know what, as I got talking to these people, the initial impressions faded and they’re just people.

One of the first questions I was asked was how long I had been on hormones.  The answer – I’m not – seemed to surprise some people.  Then one of the girls said that she wasn’t allowed to start hormones until she had been clean for six months.  My heart went out to her.  I actually spoke to her quite a bit and she was a warm, funny person, but clearly with demons to fight.  I think I began to understand the need for that mental health questionnaire at GIC a bit better.

After about 15 minutes several other people arrived, and this second wave all seemed to be qualitatively different.  They just seemed like a group of women, which they were.  There was one person in particular called Claire that I had a really good chat with, and we seemed to get on very well.  She’s probably at a similar stage to my BFF Andrea in that she’s been at GIC for a while and is hoping for GRS by the end of the year.  But what was really interesting was that it emerged in conversation that she works in an office literally across the road from mine.  We could actually wave at each other from our office windows!  So once I’m full time, we have agreed to be occasional lunch buddies.  Cool!

I had a good chat with Karen too.  The similarities in our backgrounds are very clear, and she gives me a lot of hope.  Although one obvious difference is that Karen and Mrs Karen (the other Mrs K!!!) have remained together through her transition, which will not be the case for me and Mrs K.  Karen actually offered on her wife’s behalf for her wife to meet up with Mrs K for a coffee and a chat, just so Mrs K could actually speak face to face with someone else who has been through the experience of seeing her husband turn into a woman.  I think she might even have thought there could be potential to save my marriage, but since Mrs K has an appointment with a solicitor on Friday this week to commence divorce proceedings, it might be a little late in the day for that.  And also, I’m no longer sure that I want to save the marriage even if she had a change of heart.

Something else I learned from Karen and Claire was that there is a treatment available via GIC which I thought could only be obtained privately.  FFS.  That’s facial feminisation surgery, not as I had previously understood that to mean, for f**k’s sake.  It’s not something I had ever considered, although possibly this may have been because it seemed like unjustifiable expense.  If I was going to pay for surgery privately, then depending on how HRT goes it would be more likely to be “top surgery”, i.e. a boob job.  But now the seed is planted in my head, I would like a thinner, finer nose.  But maybe not that much that I would want to go under the knife.  The way the girls explained it to me was that the surgeon’s aim was to put your face back to what it would have been without testosterone.  I’d say it’s still unlikely that I would go for it, but never say never.

In the end I was there for something approaching two hours, and the longer it went on, the more comfortable I felt.  I would still have the same reservations about going out in public with a number of the people there, but that’s no different to some others I have already met.  In the interests of my own safety and survival, I don’t want to be with someone who is going to draw attention to me.  Selfish maybe, but that’s how I feel.  But for all that, I have still agreed to go for a bowling & burger evening with a few of them (including the aforementioned Karen and Claire) in a couple of weeks, so that’s something to look forward to.

I got home to find Patsy had played a blinder while I was away and done all my ironing – what a star!  She asked how I’d got on, and I told her by and large I had had a good experience, and she’s already booked in for babysitting on the bowling night, although she asked about what the other people were like.  I said

“Well they were all very nice although there were some that looked… er… I don’t want to sound unkind”

“Like Walter Matthau in a dress?”

Nice callback sis!  This was a reference to our brother John’s TV story that he told at Hilary’s 60th birthday party a while back.  Again as then, Patsy was so sympathetic to everyone.  And I am too, as well as feeling horribly conflicted about my attitude to some.  But more than all that, she was asking about the group and she actually asked if there were any groups that she could come to with me, or be of assistance with.  It seems she has been beavering away researching all things trans ever since I came out to her and she is determined to do whatever is in her power to help with my transition.  She even ended up talking about the surgery, which is obviously still several years away, and says that when it happens she will come over to England with me for the surgery if I have nobody else.  Then when it’s over I am under no circumstances to be at home by myself, and I have to come and stay with her while I recover so she can nurse me back to fitness.  And even before then, she asked was I ok going to GIC by myself, did I want her to come with me.  I was touched, but politely refused – judging by my first experience, I don’t need my hand held like that.  I’m sure many people do and that’s fine, but I feel I’m doing ok.  She said one last thing to me

“You know, this is the third time now I have met you as my sister, and every time it gets better and easier.  At first I felt sad that I wouldn’t be seeing Bob again, but now I realise it’s not like you’re a different person.  Bob’s still there, and I don’t have to say goodbye.”

A Miserable Day, A Glorious Day

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Bit of an odd title, n’est-ce pas?  Let’s just say the weather was pretty miserable.  Cold, drizzly, just a dour February day.  But oh my goodness it was good.  I have finally arrived at the Gender Identity Clinic (GIC).  But there’s so much more than that to tell.  Where to begin?  Let’s go back a week or so… (cue everything going swirly)

In my last post I wrote about how Kelly from HR in work had done a bit of research, had discovered that I was the company’s first transitioning employee, that the company had no policy on trans staff, and as a result my line manager Beth and I were going to be meeting Kelly last Tuesday to discuss my plans for transition as well as getting my input into actually producing a policy for anyone who follows in my rather large footsteps.  Well that happened, and it was very positive and very productive.  I had previously given Beth a “bare bones” Memorandum of Understanding, with literally just the headings and nothing completed.  Well when I turned up to meet Kelly with Beth, I handed both of them the same document with lots completed.  We went through everything I had written, essentially my transition wish-list, and it was just “yes, yes, yes, yes and yes”.  Everything I was proposing was being accepted as a good idea and very do-able.  In fact, I think Kelly was very pleased that in her mind I seemed to have done quite a lot of her job for her.  She was every bit as supportive as Beth had been, even including potentially contentious issues such as access to the women’s toilets – as far as Kelly is concerned (making it the official HR line) there is absolutely no question that I will be using the ladies loo from day 1 in work as a woman.  If any people don’t like that, they will be very politely told to lump it and use either the disabled toilet on my floor of the building, or else one of the other women’s toilets – there are eight floors in my building, with a men’s, a women’s and a disabled toilet on each floor, so there’s no shortage of places to pee and poo.

During my earlier conversation with Beth, I had mentioned an trans support organisation called SAIL, that had been recommended by a few friends.  Well it turns out that Beth had mentioned this to Kelly, who had then taken in upon herself to visit their premises in person so she could learn more about trans issues before meeting me.  She came back with a few leaflets and a very positive impression.  She was particularly taken with the trans awareness training that they offer for businesses and schools, so this is something that we thought might be useful for certain key staff in work.  Also, with their experience, they might be able to help us fine-tune my MoU.  So Kelly thought that the three of us (Kelly, Beth and me) could call in to see them together – that’s something that came through again and again with Kelly, she is finding out all this information but she is absolutely adamant that nothing will happen without my input and my agreement.  She is not planning my transition for me, she sees her job as to help me make it happen.  So anyway, I mentioned that I had my first appointment at GIC coming up the next week (today!) and that Beth and I were going for lunch afterwards, so why not the three of us go on to SAIL after lunch.  Everyone agreed this was a good idea, so Kelly contacted SAIL and set up the appointment – I say appointment, it was more a case of “we’re here all afternoon, call in when you like”.

In the interests of brevity, I should now move the clock forward a full week until today’s events, but just a quick aside about Saturday.  I called down to visit my brother John and sister-in-law Marie on Saturday afternoon.  In fact, when I arrived it was just him, but all was good and he was just himself.  And when Marie arrived and he went to the front door to let her in, it felt so good just to hear him tell her “Kirsty’s here”.  They probably got a false impression of how I normally look because after considering carefully how I should present upon my sister Patsy meeting me the previous week and going for a casual jeans-based look, I ended up being quite glam (burgundy knee-length dress, black heels, slightly blingy necklace) at John’s because immediately after him I was going out with my friend Alice for dinner followed by theatre.  Educating Rita, at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.  It was a really enjoyable evening with a good friend, and the play was excellent, the original Liverpudlian setting relocated to Belfast and tarted up with some local dialect with the co-operation and oversight of the original playwright Willy Russell.

We’ve already lined up our next theatre visit in April, hoping to go to see Red, a play about the artist Mark Rothko.

Now, back on-topic again.  My appointment with GIC Belfast was at 9am this morning.  Unfortunately, Belfast GIC is at the opposite side of the city to where I live, so I was concerned about getting there on time.  But thanks to my newly-out status, I was at least able to get up and get dressed as myself/Kirsty 1st thing this morning.  In fact, I did my nails last night to save time this morning.  I awoke just after 6am, a quick wash and super-close shave, and then down for a spot of breakfast (pancakes, obviously) in Bob’s pyjamas before going back up to the bedroom to get ready.  Now, what to wear?

I really wish I had taken a picture of what I wore.  Again, it was a case of striking a balance.  I had heard reports that turning up at GIC in something like jeans and jumper could prove counterproductive, in that an obvious riposte would be “You can wear jeans and jumper as a man, you can’t be that bothered about being a woman”, so I thought something reasonably feminine would be in order.  Added to this, I also knew that I was going to be meeting Beth and Kelly later on, so I decided that the appopriate thing to do would be to wear something professional-looking, something from the work wardrobe I have been building up in recent months.  I went for a black cotton top with a little frill around the shoulders, a knee-length black and white check pencil skirt, black opaque tights and fairly plain, professional-looking black heels, about 3″ in height.  I accessorised with diamante stud earrings, and a fairly simple silver necklace and bracelet, all under a smart jacket.  Except being a miserable day, I then had a dark blue scarf and a black woolen mid-length overcoat.  As I slowly got dressed and made up, I looked in the mirror and I saw a mature(ish) professional woman staring back.  It felt like I had got it right.

For the first time, I left the house on a weekday morning as me, I dropped the two kids to school and Mrs K to work, and then I made my way up to the Clinic.  I needn’t have worried about the time, I was there shortly after 8.30am, and I ended up sitting in the car for 15 minutes playing about on my phone before I decided I had better go in.  A woman saw me loitering just inside the entrance and asked who I was there to see.  I gave the name of my therapist and asked if it was my first time.  I replied that yes it was, and she went into reception to pull a poly pocket containing four or five sheets of paper with various questions on it.  She showed me to the empty waiting area, handed me a pen, and asked me to complete the questionnaires while I was waiting for the appointment to begin.

The questions covered several straightforward topics like confidentiality, next of kin details and other family members living with me, but also delved into my mental health background.  Some of the questions were asking if I had ever self-harmed, if I had suicidal thoughts, and asking me to rate my mood and state of mind on scales of 1-10 in various areas.  The thing is, what with all the progress I have made towards transition in recent weeks, and how remarkably well all my friends, family and work have taken the news of me being trans, I am feeling so good, happy and positive about everything at the minute.  This is of course a good thing.  However as I wrote that I wasn’t suffering from anything right now, I couldn’t help but think “My god, this isn’t really making me look like someone in desparate need of help is it?”

I had just completed the questionnaire when my therapist put her head round the door of the waiting area.  “Kirsty?” she asked.  I was impressed.  I haven’t done my deed poll yet, so my legal name is not yet Kirsty, and my appointment letter was addressed to Mr Bob, but I had had a bit of email correspondence with some other people in the clinic in which I had mentioned that I used the name Kirsty.  She had obviously done her homework.  She asked which I would prefer she addressed me by, Kirsty or Bob.  I’m sure you know the answer.

I had been warned to allow at least two hours for the appointment.  I went into the consultation room a few minutes after 9am, and apart from a brief toilet break after about 90 minutes, I didn’t emerge until around 11.40.  I talked a lot.  She asked me a lot of questions.  I mean a lot.  But nothing I couldn’t handle.  The only slightly negative thing I might say is that I feared that some of my answers might not be the best thing to say.  For example, I was asked how I felt about the changes my body underwent at puberty, and I honestly replied that I wanted the male changes to be more marked.  I wanted to be more muscly, have broader shoulders, a deeper voice, hairy limbs etc.  Not because I really wanted those things as an end in themselves, but because I thought they might help me fit in and be accepted as a man, which certainly wasn’t happening.  And still isn’t.  Because I’m not a man.  But I didn’t realise that at the time, or at least I was determined to compartmentalise the female part of me.

To be honest, at least 75% of what we spoke about could be gleaned from reading this blog from start to finish.  Although that would take a lot longer than 2 and 1/2 hours!  There was a lot of talk about childhood, how early these feelings began – conveniently I have a strong memory about wanting to be a girl tied up with my sister’s wedding, which means that I can definitively say I have had these feelings since I was at least 7, and possibly earlier.  I spoke about dressing up in my mum’s clothes when I was a teenager, and everything that has happened in these last three amazing years.  We even spoke about this blog, about friends like Michelle, Ruth and especially Andrea.  About my experience at the TransLiving weekend and the effect that had on me (despite it not actually being very good).

We also spoke about my plans for transition.  As I had hoped, my therapist did think that my progress had been very good and very positive (with a special word of admiration for Amy and how she has reacted to the news that her dad’s going to be her mum), and she even agreed with my decision not to do my deed poll yet in order to avoid confusion in the mortgage application and house buying process.  So much so good.

We spoke then about next steps.  My therapist wants me to write a potted history of my trans experience (lucky I have a bit of experience in writing about such things, eh?), and to bring that with me to my next appointment which is on 6th April.  The next appointment is for me to meet all the staff at the clinic and to understand what they can all do for me, and for them to get to know me as a patient.  But she assured me that no appointment would be as long as this one, or as mentally draining.  She also mentioned that they would like to have a meeting with someone who knows me well.  Someone who can corroborate what I have been saying.  I don’t necessarily think that means that GIC are looking for a good friend or family member to say “Yes, she’s definitely a woman”, more that they want to make sure that I’m being honest in my assessment of myself, and in particular about my mental health.  I genuinely don’t think I have any mental health issues, but perhaps if I did I wouldn’t realise it.  Mrs K would appear to be the obvious candidate for such an appointment, but she would of course have to agree to do it, which is far from certain.  Truth is, I haven’t asked her yet.  I’m not avoiding the subject, she’s just out tonight so I haven’t actually seen her since my appointment.

And that was that.  I was astonished that it had gone on so long.  It felt like it was over so quickly, but all in all it was a good experience.  My fears that it might be a case of me having to justify my existence as a woman were largely unfounded, although let’s see what the future brings.

From the clinic I headed back into Belfast to Holohan’s Pantry, a restaurant in Belfast’s University area.  SAIL’s offices are fairly close by, so Beth and I had agreed to go for lunch in that part of town rather than in the centre where our office is.  I found the restaurant on Trip Advisor, where it is the second best reviewed restaurant in the city out of over 800.  It’s also quite informal, and I liked it a lot.  Beth and I arrived almost together.  I went in first, said I had made a reservation, and all of a sudden Beth was behind me.  She said she saw me walking in ahead of her.  And from the moment we saw each other, I knew it was all going to be ok.  She was great.  There were a few stray “Bobs” early in the conversation, but after the first 10 minutes it was Kirsty this, Kirsty that and Kirsty the other.  We had a really lovely lunch too – check out the seafood Boxty(!) – with just the two of us for around an hour.  Beth asked loads of questions, all the time saying I should only answer what I’m comfortable with, and I was of course happy to answer.  She admitted that she had been a little nervous about how she would react upon meeting the real me in the flesh, and she said that she could see Bob in me, but I just looked so natural and relaxed as Kirsty that she could see instantly it was the real me and she felt relaxed and comfortable in my presence.  And as my sister Patsy had told me a week or so earlier, Beth told me not to be ashamed of my height and to own it.  As I have said before, Beth is nearly 5’11” so knows a thing or two about being a tall woman, plus her daughter is now the same height as her and at 13 years old she has a bit to grow yet.  So her advice to me is the same as to her daughter.  Don’t be ashamed of who you are, don’t hide your height, don’t stoop to try to look smaller, and if you like wearing heels and they make you feel good about yourself, wear heels, whatever height you like.  It was just great.

We had just ordered dessert shortly before 2pm when Kelly arrived.  She was only planning on joining us for coffee, and she did just that, although she had to watch Beth and I polish off our rather scrummy cheesecake first.  It was really nice having Kelly there, because when she was there we didn’t speak about me being trans, about my transition, in fact we didn’t even speak about work.  We were just three women having a chat and a giggle.  It was so good.  By around 2.30 we got the bill (Beth’s treat 🤗) and decided to make our way to SAIL’s offices.  As Beth was settling up the bill and Kelly and I were walking out the door, Kelly leaned across to me and said “I didn’t get to tell you this back there, but you look fabulous”.  Thanks.  I feel fabulous too.

It was a longer walk than I had expected round to SAIL, but that wasn’t a problem.  Quite the reverse in fact.  It was wonderful.  For want of a better phrase, I had a moment.  Here I was, walking along through the city, dressed in a similar fashion to my two companions from work, three professional-looking women walking along a city street.  I had a huge feeling of just belonging, of everything being just right, in a way that I can honestly say I have never felt before in my entire life.  I felt like I belonged.  Of course I couldn’t say anything to them, but it was there.  I didn’t feel awkward, I didn’t feel out of place, I just felt right.  It’s an amazing feeling after a lifetime of sitting on the fringes not fitting in.

So round to SAIL we went where we met Simon and Ellen, who were very helpful indeed.  What I hadn’t realised was that Kelly had sent them my MoU in advance of the meeting to see if they could make any recommendations, suggest anything that I might have omitted, or any howlers that I had committed.  It seems there were none, although it is still incomplete as there are a fair few TBAs and TBCs and even one TBD (To Be Discussed).  Most of what we spoke about was around the communication problem, who gets told what when and by whom, and they helped us come to a decision about at least part of that.  And we think we have identified the group of people who will receive the awareness training, although we need to further discuss the content and timescale for delivery.  I also got a good few personal tips around various support networks, in fact Simon put me in contact with another woman who transitioned 6 years ago in a very similar position to me (in her 40’s, married, two kids aged 6 and 11, reasonably responsible job etc, although she managed to remain married to her “Mrs K”).  I ended up speaking to her on the phone this evening and we talked for half an hour about all sorts.  Maybe we’ll meet up for a coffee at some stage.  But the upshot of the conversation was that I feel happy that I’m going about things the right way – if there is a right way.

After we left SAIL that feeling returned.  I was just another woman in a group of three and I can’t get that feeling out of my head.  It was just so right.  Then the downside hit me when Beth spoke

“I don’t know how I’m going to cope with you coming back into work as Bob tomorrow!”

She doesn’t know how she’s going to cope!  How on earth am I going to cope?  Having been through this afternoon with Beth and Kelly, I just want to go to work and do my job as me.  I am no longer worried.  I’m not naive, there will be difficulties, there are bound to be.  But I will be ok.  I will be better than ok.  I am a woman.  We cope.  Three more months.  Or maybe four.

I thought that was the end of the adventures for the day, but I drove home to find Amy waiting for me.  Her school was on a half-day as the school rugby team was playing in the semi-final of the Schools Cup (it’s actually quite a big deal in the Northern Ireland egg-chasing world apparently) and the entire school had been given the afternoon off so they could go and support their team.  Or in Amy’s case, so they could come home and fritter away their afternoon on an iPad.  I arrived home shortly before 4pm, and I knew that I would have to collect Melissa from her after-school club at around 5.30 and I would have to do that as Bob.  But there was still plenty of time before I needed to get changed, so I just stayed as I was and made a coffee for myself and a cup of tea for Amy.  We hadn’t been sitting there long when I saw a person-shape blur past the front window, and heard the doorbell ring.  I asked Amy to go to the door, and when she did I heard the ominous phrase

“Is your dad in?”

Amy came sheepishly into the living room where I was sitting in my full feminine glory and told me it was Fiona, our next door neighbour.  The one who is a teacher at Melissa’s primary school.  I had been informed by Melissa’s teacher that Fiona knew, was supportive and had said she would drop round some time.  Although since that was three weeks ago and she hadn’t yet dropped round, I did wonder if she was going to.  Obviously she had seen my car in the driveway a little earlier than usual and had decided to take the bull by the horns.  So I told Amy just to let her know how I was presenting at that moment.  I heard Amy say

“She’s a woman at the minute”

Probably as good a phrase as she could have used.  I heard Fiona shouting in at me

“If you’re not comfortable with me coming in it’s fine”

“Fiona, I don’t mind if you don’t mind”

So in she came.  She took one look at me and said “You look really good”.  And we chatted for 10 minutes, just a quick overview of what was happening.  She offered any support she could, just ask if we thought of anything she or her husband Richard (also a primary school teacher, but at a different school) could manage.  I explained that I would be moving out in a few months, and that perhaps Mrs K might need their support more than I would after that happens, but it was all very good.  She even offered to help with the neighbours.  I will in due course tell the other next-door neighbours on the other side but beyond that I have no plans to inform anyone else personally, so it looks like Fiona might help with that – if not exactly actively spreading the word, certainly allaying any fears.  It was an unexpected and very nice way to round off the afternoon.

So there you have it.  I am now a patient of Belfast GIC.  Ever more detailed plans are afoot for transition in work and at home.  I have been with work colleagues as Kirsty and felt utterly, wonderfully at ease.  And a neighbour has met the new me.  Not bad for a single day.

Family Support: The Next Generation

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After a rather seismic weekend for my siblings, I have spent much of the last week dealing with the aftershocks.  But by and large, they have been good aftershocks.  The most noticeable thing that has happened is that my nieces and nephews have been hearing my news from their parents.  As I mentioned in my last post, three of my four siblings have kids of their own, all of whom are adults themselves.  My youngest nephew is 22, and the eldest 41, ironically enough, both children of the same sister, Patsy.  Of course with me being very much the youngest of five siblings, my kids are also much younger than their cousins, at 14 and 7.

I mentioned last week that I had received a lovely text from my sister Patsy (the third one to be told) as I drove to my brother John’s house (fourth and final one to be told), asking to forward her some photos so she could show her kids.  Patsy has four kids, as does my sister Hilary, and my brother John has three.  John’s three all live in England, so he said he would prefer to tell them to their faces next time they are home to visit, which does happen quite often.  Hilary’s only son is currently away on a winter holiday with his girlfriend, so he’ll find out about me when he returns.  That leaves seven nieces and nephews (actually six nieces and one nephew) who have already been told by their parents.  Every single one of them has contacted me within a day of me disclosing the news to offer their love and support.  If you don’t mind I’m going to give a selection of a few extracts from each because yet again I have been overwhelmed with how supportive everyone is being.

First up was my eldest niece, also Patsy’s eldest, just after 8pm on Sunday evening

Hi Bob, just want to let you know that mum had told me your news.  Seriously I support you 100%, I’m forever in your corner.  Can’t wait to see the new you!…

…I think you are so brave and you totally have my support.  We’ll always be there for you.  Gran (her Gran, my Mum) would be so proud of you!!

An hour later Patsy’s youngest daughter texted

Hi Bob.  I just wanted you to let u know that we are here for u and fully support you in your transition and this next chapter in life.  Phone updated to Auntie K!  Hilary’s got competition for fave aunt now! Xxx

That last sentence was particularly amusing because her dad also has three sisters who obviously don’t get a look-in in the “fave aunt” stakes.

Next up, another 45 minutes later, the middle one of Patsy’s three daughters texted.

…I am so happy you are making this positive move for yourself and we are all here to support you.  I think it’s incredibly brave what you are doing.  ❤️ always

And that was that for the evening.  On Monday, Hilary’s daughters all contacted me.  First up, her youngest.

Hi Bob.  My mum told me your news about Kirsty.  I won’t lie… it did come as a bit of a surprise!  None of us had any idea!  I can’t imagine how difficult the last few years must have been for you and of course [Mrs K].  This is a really brave decision and one that you must have agonised over.  My mum and all the rest of us are 100% on board and behind you.  This is only the start and the next few months are going to be equally as exciting as they will be bloody terrifying.  The [family name] girls are a strong bunch so you’ll fit right in!  Can’t wait to get to know my Auntie Kirsty.

Then came the middle daughter.  I had emailed Hilary the previous day from my “Kirsty” email address, so this must have been disseminated because for the first time this one came in to that email address and addressed my by my new name.

Hi Kirsty, Mum told me your news today – congratulations on taking this step and embracing who you are.  Wishing you every happiness, with my love and support.

And then her elder sister, to Bob’s email.  I’m not reading too much into that.

Dear Bob…  I think you are very brave and I want to send you all the best wishes for the journey ahead.  I had to google transgender because I wanted to find out more and see that this transition period is a huge step.  It is fantastic that you have such support in Amy and [Mrs K].  I can’t imagine how hard it has been for you.  I look forward to meeting and having Kirsty here in May.

May being, of course, when I (really me) am going to the Bob Dylan concert with her mum and staying with them overnight.

Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted that by Monday night I had heard exclusively from nieces, with no male responses.  I have always found it a bit more awkward discussing matters trans* with men, because when telling another woman, I’m saying “I want to be like you”, but when telling a man it’s more like saying “I don’t want to be like you”.  Anyway, as I was walking round to get the car out of the car park after work on Tuesday I received a text from my youngest nephew that put that notion to bed.  In fact, by the time I had read it I was walking along sniffing and dabbing my eyes.

Hi Kirsty, it’s [name] here.  I have to say I have so much admiration for you.  You are without a doubt the bravest person I know and your mental strength must be incredible!  Looking forward to having a new auntie 🙂

So that’s that.  I genuinely am blown away by the love, support and acceptance I have been receiving from my family and friends.  I am so very lucky to have them all.

In work on Friday my line manager Beth took me into a side office to update me on her discussions with HR about my transition.  And the news is that there are two HR people dealing with it.  One will deal with it from a business perspective, principally client-focused, who tells them, what are they told etc.  The other will deal with it from a more personal perspective, i.e. ensuring that I have the support that I need.  And that second person (called Kelly) is the one who has been doing a bit of research over the last few weeks, the result of which is that I am the first transitioner in my company, which has over 10,000 employees!  That’s quite surprising to me.  But someone has to be the first, it might as well be me.  Beth calls me a “trailblazer”.

In the course of her research with Head Office in Dublin, Kelly discovered that the company were very much aware that they were lacking an official policy for trans employees.  We do actually have a policy for dealing with trans clients, but not staff, and very strong and empathetic it is too.  But no policy for trans staff.  It seems it has been loitering on the company’s “to do” list for a while, but me coming out has forced their hand.  The upshot of this is that the plan that I work out with Beth and with HR is going to form the basis of company policy for trans staff.  And HR want to be guided by me in what is required.  It’s quite a responsibility to those who come after me.  But I suppose it’s quite a good way to make policy, to actually develop it in consultation with an actual trans person, rather than making it up based upon theory only.  My first official transition planning meeting with HR takes place at 12.30 on Tuesday afternoon this week.  I’m quite looking forward to it.

Going back to family, there is another family-related development this week, because one sibling has now met their new sister!  It happened yesterday afternoon.  Patsy had texted me during the week to see how I was doing after a stressful but rewarding weekend.  She lives pretty close to me, so in my reply I suggested that I could drop round on Saturday afternoon, and so that’s what happened.  In fact, Saturday was great because I got up and got dressed in female clothing, did my make up, and stayed that way until bedtime.  Amy and I had a wee shopping trip together to a local shopping mall for an hour after lunch, and then the two of us dropped up to Patsy’s house.

It strikes me that it’s quite a long time since I wrote about clothing on this blog, or specifically about what I was wearing on a given day, but on this occasion I was actually in a bit of a quandary about what to wear.  First impressions do count, and it felt very important to me to strike the right note.  I didn’t want to overdress for what was just a Saturday afternoon coffee and chat with my sister, but at the same time I didn’t want to tone it down so much that I lost what little femininity I can muster.  And I absolutely wanted to avoid any sort of inappropriate clothing faux pas which would make me look like some tragic TV.  I think (hope?) I managed ok.  In the end I wore a peachy long top (it’s actually a mini-dress but it barely covers my bum) with a dark blue floral scarf, along with dark blue floral patterned jeans and suede block heeled ankle boots.  I actually felt very strongly that I shouldn’t wear a skirt or dress, because that is such a clichéd view of what a woman wears, and I wanted it to be evident that I dress like any other woman and not as some fantasy version of what I think a woman should dress like.

Amy and I knocked the door and Patsy came to let us in.  It was less awkward than I had expected.  She just took me as I was and complimented me on how I looked.  She even admired the floral jeans.  She told me that I was very lucky to look as feminine as I do, and recounted a tale of some trans* person she had seen in a Belfast shopping mall a few weeks ago.  Probably in their 60’s, sizeable beer belly, wearing an unfashionable top, extremely unfashionable shoes and a dirndl skirt, swinging a handbag and walking like John Wayne.  She says she felt so sorry for “him” because people were nudging each other and sniggering.  Her big fear when I first told her I was trans was that I would be like that.  The photos that I showed her helped a lot, she said, and meeting me in the flesh helped more.  She told me “Nobody will laugh at you.  In fact, nobody will give you a second glance.”  Sadly, the John Waynes of the trans* world are every bit as entitled as anyone else to live as who they are, but people can be very cruel.

At this point my brother-in-law Frank returned from the golf club.  I was a little apprehensive, but Patsy assured me that he was absolutely fine with all this.  He came into the room and immediately hugged Amy, then hugged me.  He has never hugged me in his life.  But he wouldn’t hug another man, would he?  And he then carried on with his conversation in exactly the same way as he always has done.  All is good.  In fact, all is great.  I should also add a very kind offer from the pair of them which I sincerely hope I don’t have to take up.  I am estimating that I should be full time around June by which point I will hopefully have sorted out my new home.  But they both said that if it drags on longer than expected, and I can’t face extending Bob any further, their kids have all left home now so there is a bedroom there for me if I need it for a while, and I can move in with them for a month or two and be Kirsty full time.  I hope it isn’t necessary, but it is so touching to be given that option.

I dropped Amy home and after a quick trip into the house myself for a toilet break and to swap my boots and spotty socks for some slightly more glamorous heels, I drove over to Hillsborough to meet Andrea for a wee night out.  We had a meal at the Hillside in Hillsborough, where she had a portion of fish that featured more bones than meat, and she let the waiting staff know this fact when they asked how her meal was.  By way of an apology, dessert was on the house!  Even my dessert, and my main course was perfectly fine!  Then it was on to the cinema to watch “Lion”, which left us a pair of tear-soaked emotional wrecks.  Very enjoyable indeed.

As I was sitting in the cinema, I got a text from Patsy.

Great to see you and great to feel so comfortable with you.  Looking forward to seeing you again soon.

When I got home, I heard that she had also phoned Mrs K, to tell her how much she admired her for the way she is dealing with my transition, and reminding her that even after the divorce she would still be part of the family and would always be welcome in her home.  She’s a lovely woman, my sister.

In fact they’re all great.