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 Kerry) 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, Kerry 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.

Sibling Rivalry (or Lack Thereof)

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What a weekend I have had.  What a draining, exhausting, stressful, terrifying, rewarding, fabulous, utterly wonderful weekend I have had.  I have done something I have been building up to for quite a while now.  I have come out to my siblings.  All four of them; two brothers and two sisters.  And it went, well sit tight and I’ll tell you.  And I warn you, it’s a bit of a mammoth post.  I’m pretty sure it’s my longest ever.  Sorry about that.  But I’m preserving this for me.

Without wishing to retread too much old ground I’ll say again that I’m the baby of the family, despite being 46 years old.  My four siblings’ ages range from 61 to 66, so there’s quite a gap until little me.  For all that, though, we always got on very well and remain close even more than 20 years after losing both our parents.  Mrs K refers to my side of the family as “The Waltons”, and I suppose we are generally very harmonious.  There are no other trans people in the family (as far as I’m aware), but the younger of my two sisters has a gay daughter and the younger of my two brothers has a gay son, and both are loved for who they are.  As it should be.  So I was hopeful of a reasonable reception, albeit having a child come out as gay in their late teens is a bit different from having a middle-aged brother come out as trans.  And really, it’s probably futile trying to second guess people’s reactions.

I knew that it wouldn’t be fair to tell one or two of my siblings far apart from the others and expect them to keep it to themselves.  It would be asking them to keep my secret, and would also be a snub to the ones who didn’t find out until later on.  However I didn’t think I could cope with telling all four of them at the same time.  Too much scope for the conversation going off the rails and veering off in all sorts of unforeseen directions, particularly if one or more of them were to react badly.  Also, considering one sister would have a 275-mile round trip to come to visit me, it wouldn’t be fair to expect them to do the travelling for some unspecified bombshell to which she might react badly.  So I decided that the best thing to do would be to tell them all individually, in their own homes, over the course of a single weekend.  This weekend.

On Wednesday morning I sent them all an email which said;

I was wondering if you’re going to be at home this weekend.  I have some very significant news about me and my family, but particularly about me, that you need to be aware of.  It’s something that I’d much rather tell you about face to face than on the phone or on email so if I could drop down to see you that would be perfect.

I’m trying to get round all four brothers and sisters this weekend, so I need to check if and when you are all free so I can co-ordinate getting round all of you in two days.  I need to tell you all so close together because I would hate for you to find out this news second hand, on the grapevine, and when you hear this news I imagine you will want to speak to each other about it so it wouldn’t be fair to tell one of you before the others.

Sorry I can’t say more about what it is for now, but I can at least tell you that nobody has a fatal illness, which is something.  So please don’t worry.  In fact I think it’s something positive, although I’m sure it will still come as a shock to you.

Can you let me know if and when you’d be available?

My brother John (middle one of the 5, aged 62) replied almost immediately, and seemed very concerned, asking if he could do anything for me right now, did I want him to organise getting everyone together so I could tell them all at once, and so on.  I thanked him for the offer but replied that I had been thinking about this a lot and over a very long period of time and I felt that the best way was to tell everyone individually.  So he said he would be there whenever I wanted to call in, evening or weekend.

About an hour later the next to respond was my sister Hilary (next youngest after me, aged 61).  She had nothing on that wasn’t too important to be cancelled, just tell her when I was coming and she would make herself available.  This was quickly followed by a similar reply from our other sister Patsy (second oldest, aged 65).  She added that she didn’t know if she could put up with the worry of what I was going to say until the weekend, so I tried to calm her down a little, saying nobody’s dying and it really is something that I will be a happier person as a result of.

Finally, after a long wait until nearly 11pm my brother Brian (the eldest, aged 66) replied.  A cursory “I’ll be here whatever it is”.  So with that I was basically free to make up my own itinerary.  I decided to cover the more distant two on the Saturday, with the two who live locally on Sunday.  The most distant is Hilary, who lives a good 135 miles from me in Co Kildare, in the Republic of Ireland.  Brian lives about 30 miles closer, in Co Meath.  I decided to visit Hilary first so I could do the longest continuous drive while I was still relatively fresh, then calling in with Brian on the way back to break up the journey home a little.  Patsy and John I booked in for Sunday afternoon.

At around 10.45am I left the house armed with little more than my driving licence, credit cards, and four letters, one for each of them.  I didn’t know how each conversation was going to go, and I wasn’t so rigorously rehearsed that I knew that each of them was going to hear exactly the same thing, so I wanted to make sure that they all were going to get exactly the same letter with one or two minor variations such as telling them when the others were being told so they didn’t spill the beans in advance of me getting to them.  I wasn’t due at Hilary’s house until 2pm which meant I didn’t have to drive too fast and was able to stop for a toilet and coffee break at a motorway services around halfway there.

At around 1.55pm I was pulling into Hilary’s driveway.  She was at the door to meet me with a hug.  “We’ve been so worried”, she said, “we’ve been playing out every possibility in our heads”.  I replied that I’d be surprised if she’d played out the real one.  I asked if her husband Adrian was about, but she said he had had to nip out and would be back in around half an hour.  I suspect she had told him to make himself scarce for a while.

We went into the kitchen while Hilary put the kettle on, at which point she really did surprise me;

“I even had a dream last night that you came down here to tell me you were a cross dresser”

I stood slightly stunned, before gathering my courage and saying that the dream may have been somewhat prophetic.

“You’re not wearing women’s clothes, are you?”
“Well not right now” I replied.  (Strictly speaking I was wearing panties, but I decided it was best not to mention that right then.)

She handed me my cup of tea and we moved into the living room.  I started by telling her that Mrs K and I were going to be separating, but had it just been that I would probably just have told her on the phone.  It was the reason for the separation that had brought me down to her home.  I went into how I had had these feelings since childhood, and went through a bit of history about how long Mrs K has known, and how I had had to go to my doctor to get referred for specialist help, and all the while I was saying this she could see I was getting increasingly distressed, so she got up from her chair and moved round to sit right next to me.  She put her arm around my shoulders and held me tightly, her head finally resting on mine as I finally said the words

“I’m transgender”

It’s all a bit of a blur after that, but what I will say is that she didn’t scream or shout, she didn’t even act upset, she just took it in her stride.  Once we established what progress I had already made, that the kids know and are good, that Mrs K is supportive and we remain on very good terms despite the imminent divorce, that work know and are supportive, and that we have thought all this through over a long period of time, well once we had established all that, she was acceptance personified.  Just brilliant.  She gets a younger sister for the first time ever.

I went into quite a bit of detail about what services and treatments are available from GIC, and likely timescales, showed her the red marks on my chin from the electrolysis and told her my new name.  And she took it all in her stride.  At this point I asked her if she wanted to see what her new sister looked like.  She accepted eagerly.  I showed her a head & shoulders photo, and she almost squealed with delight

“Well you look a lot better than you did in my dream last night”.

At around this point her husband Adrian, my brother-in-law, returned from wherever he had been, and walked into the room with an inquisitive “Well?”  Hilary said very succinctly

“Well Bob’s going to be changing quite a bit and he’s going to become Kirsty and she will be my sister”
“Fantastic”, he replied, “that’s great news.  Congratulations.  Well done for taking this step”

And then I had to tell him what I had just told Hilary, but with a lot of pressure off.  It was great.  Hilary asked me to show him the photo, which was fine, but he also asked if I had any full-length shots, which I duly provided.  They were just so pleased to see how happy I looked and how at ease with myself.  Hilary asked me if I had noticed anything different in how I am treated as a woman versus as a man.  Not a huge amount, but some things – I told her about having a man in a bar offering to buy me a drink, being manhandled in the waist area, having some bloke shout out “nice legs, darlin'” and so on.  She rolled her eyes.

Hilary and I (and both our brothers) are big fans of Nobel laureate and whiny old goat Bob Dylan.  In fact, Hilary and I had gone to see him in concert in Dublin three years ago, so a few weeks ago when he announced another concert in Dublin in May this year, she had asked me if I wanted to go.  My reply was very evasive, about not knowing if I would be able to make it, things are a bit complicated, and so on.  Sitting in her house yesterday afternoon the penny dropped.

“Now I know why you were being so shifty when I asked you about going to see Bob Dylan.  Do you want to go to see him?”

Yes, of course I do.  So that’s what we’re going to do.  We’re going to the Dylan gig.  Kirsty and Hilary, two sisters.  Yes.

Before too long I had to leave because it was time for my second visit of the day.  I got another huge hug as I left, and I handed Hilary the letter explaining that it was just there so she had something to refer to, and in case I had accidentally left something out.  As we parted she asked if I had could send her the photos that I had showed her, so she could show them to her kids (I say kids, she has three daughters and one son ranging between 27 and 34 years old) so they could see their Auntie Kirsty.

I left Hilary’s feeling on top of the world, but as I drove the 30 miles to Brian’s house that feeling was replaced by growing nerves about how the next disclosure was going to go.  Unlike the rest of us, Brian has no children and never married, although he and his partner Jean (who is the same age as me) have been together for about twenty years and are married in all but name.  I pulled up outside Brian’s house around 40 minutes after leaving Hilary’s to find him alone.  Jean was at work (on a Saturday!) but would be back in about an hour.  So it was just the two of us.  And it was a struggle.

We went into the living room where he muted the football match on the TV (but didn’t switch it off – nothing’s THAT important!)  and we took our seats.  It was very similar to the spiel that I had for Hilary.  Opening up with how Mrs K and I are going to separate and divorce (“Sorry to hear that”) but it’s really the reason for the divorce that brought me down.  Another long preamble (too long in retrospect) culminating in that same two-word bombshell

“I’m transgender”

Except this time the reaction wasn’t great.  Brian looked as if an invisible man had hit him with the world’s biggest sucker punch in the gut.  He just stared off into space (or maybe at the football, now I come to thing about it) actually panting, breathing heavily like he was trying to stop himself from fainting.

“Bob.  I don’t know what to say to that.  I don’t know what I can say.”  He was really struggling to take this in but he fought bravely on after what was clearly a huge shock for him “but look whatever it is I will be there for you.  I’m not going to say I never want to see you again, I still want you to be part of my life, I… I just don’t know what I can say”.

It was clearly very difficult for him, but through it all he maintained that whatever it took, he would do it.  And after talking round everything I had done, how long I have been feeling all this and seeing how seriously I was taking everything, how carefully I seemed to have considered everything and everyone affected, he slowly but surely started to come round.  At no point did he raise any huge objections (or any objections at all, he was more dumbstruck than anything) but knowing that my kids know and are ok with this, that work knows and my job seems safe, he did come round.  He said that whatever he could do to support me, all I had to do was ask.  All I need him to do is to carry on being my big brother.  He said he could manage that ok.  He got up and made me a cup of coffee, and we had just sat down again when Jean returned.  She was a godsend.

Brian asked me if I wanted to tell her myself, and I indicated that I would prefer it if he broke it to her.  He brought her into the kitchen where I heard him say “mumble mumble transgender mumble mumble”.  Jean came in to the living room and hugged me.  Just having her there made things so much easier.  I got to tell her largely the same stuff that I had told Brian, but this time round he actually interjected in the explanations, assisting me in telling her what I had already told him, and you could see it sinking in, the acceptance that this wasn’t the worst thing in the world that could happen.  I told them both my new name, which was fine, and then Jean asked if they should only call me Kirsty from now on.  It was nice to be asked, but I said as long as I am presenting as male they can continue to call me Bob.

I told them about Hilary’s prophetic dream, and asked what they had thought I was coming to tell them.  It seems that their main theory was that I was gay, but they had also noticed on my email that I had said that nobody had a fatal illness, so they did worry that someone might have a non-fatal but nevertheless debilitating and life-changing illness.  But it never occurred to either of them that I might be trans.

Eventually the strangest thing happened.  From being a very difficult, stressful, pulling-teeth type of conversation at the start, it had mutated into a fun, enjoyable, light-hearted chat.  I told them some funny stories that I have written about on this blog, they asked if it was ok for Jean to tell her parents and two sisters (all of whom know me reasonably well).  It is fine, by the way.  All siblings and partners, as well as Jean’s parents and another couple, friends of the family, go away on a golf weekend every year, although the golf is secondary to the craic.  So it was important that Jean’s parents knew this about me before this year’s even which will be in May, and which I will probably still attend as Bob.  Although I did chance my arm and ask Brian if I could get a few extra shots back as I would be entitled to a woman’s handicap now (answer: no).

I said to Brian that he needed to bear in mind that at some point he would have to see me…

“Dressed as a woman?”
“Well I wouldn’t put it like that.  Dressed as my real self.”
“I suppose I will”

So I told him that he can say no, and if it’s too soon that’s absolutely fine, but if he wanted to see some photos now he could.

“Well I’m going to have to see you eventually so it might as well be now”

And as with Hilary, he was pleasantly surprised.  People who don’t knowingly have contact with trans women expect us to look like Lily Savage or RuPaul.  And if you’ve seen any of the pictures I post on this blog, I don’t really look like either.  I just look like me.  The photos, even more than every word that was said, seemed to settle him, because it felt like the reality was so much less bad than what must have been in his head.

I left again with hugs from them both and Brian came out with the immortal line

“Whether you’re Bob or Kirsty, you’ll always be my wee brothe.. oh, I mean, siste.. oh, erm, you’ll always be my flesh and blood”

It was a long drive home in the dark, but by and large I was pleased with how the day had went.  At least Sunday would involve a lot less driving.

First on the agenda for Sunday was my sister Patsy.  I pulled up to her house and she showed me into the living room, where her husband Frank joined us.  I was in two minds about this, as on the positive side it meant I wasn’t going to have to explain myself again, but on the negative side out of all my relatives, Frank is the one most prone to dropping the odd homophobic comment into conversations.  John or Hilary wouldn’t do it because they have gay kids, and Brian wouldn’t do it because Jean would kill him.  But with Frank it made me feel a little uneasy because of that.

After the protracted preamble with Brian yesterday, I decided to cut straight to the chase with today’s disclosures.  I just went straight in and said Mrs K and I are separating, and the reason we are separating is because I’m transgender.  That got it out of the way without the painful build up, and then I could go back and explain all the background when it wasn’t a mystery.  I think it was much better that way, but Patsy was completely supportive from the off.  I don’t even know where to begin with recounting this one, it was just so smooth and friendly and accepting and everything I hoped for.  And when I explained how I had explained to Melissa in child-friendly language (“Being a boy makes me feel sad and I don’t want to feel sad any more”) Frank spoke up and said

“When you put it like that, it’s a no-brainer.  You have to do this.”

There’s so little to relate on this story because it’s so smooth and undramatic.  I explained all the processes I’ll be going through, told them my new name, and they asked why I didn’t just choose “Roberta”, i.e. feminise my male name.  I explained that I want a proper new name for the new me, and also it feels important to me as a woman that my name isn’t one that looks like a feminised form of a male name, although as Kirsty is a Scottish diminutive of Christine, my name’s masculine form is Christopher or Kit, but that’s not immediately apparent.  And my male name is neither Christopher nor Kit.

I asked what they had thought I was coming to tell them.  They guessed that it might be that Mrs K and I are splitting up, but they also thought (as with Brian) that it might be that I was gay, or that we were going to emigrate.  No thought that I might be trans.

So as with the previous two, I offered to show them photos and they accepted.  Frank came round the back of the settee where Patsy and I were seated so he could look on.  Again, it was the head-and-shoulders shot first.  I showed it to Patsy and she could barely contain herself.

“You look amazing.  I could have walked past you in the street and not recognised you, but I can see it is you, but you just look so content and relaxed and right.

I showed them a few more and every one was met with delight.  Again, while this conversation was great from the get go, the photos really help because I/Kirsty become an actual person rather than just an abstract concept.  So even if I were less passable than I am (and the photos don’t show how very tall I am so probably make me look more passable than I am in real life) I think they would still be useful in putting a face to a name.  This is me, meet me.

Frank asked a question that was weighing heavily on his mind.  At the golf weekend, would I be wanting to play from the ladies’ tees now?  Oh ha ha, yes of course I will, but probably not until next year.  Until I start HRT I’ll still have the strength of a (slightly weedy) man so the ladies’ tee would be an unfair advantage.  Never mind that being rubbish at golf is an unfair disadvantage.

As I was parting with more hugs, I said that the next step would be to meet me as Kirsty.  Any time, was the response.  So I think quite soon I will be heading round to Patsy’s house (which is about 5 minutes’ drive from my own) to introduce her to her sister.  And I know it will be great.

That left just one more to cover.  As I drove the 12 miles or so up the motorway to John’s house, I received a text from Patsy.

So glad to have spoken to you and so glad that happiness is on the horizon.  I loved you as Bob and I will love you as Kirsty.

Could you send a photo so that I can show my lot how great and right you look..

By her lot she means her three daughters and one son.  In fact, her two eldest daughters are only four and six years younger than me.  The third daughter is a little younger than that, but all three girls were looked after by my parents when they were kids while their own parents were at work.  So my relationship with them is still quite close, and in many ways they are more like little sisters than nieces to me.  Patsy’s son is in the same position that I was 24 years earlier in that he is the “wee late one”, 19 years younger than his eldest sister.  It will be good to get them on board too.

As I arrived at John’s door I felt very few nerves indeed.  I just knew he would be ok.  If I had to pick one out of my four siblings that I would be confident would be ok with Kirsty, it would be him.  It’s just his character.  And his wife, Marie, will be the same.  Marie has a saying which I have thought of many times as I contemplated embarking upon this journey, and I told her as much.

“Life’s too short to be unhappy.”

Very wise.  I told John and Marie in the same way I had told Patsy and Frank two hours previously and the reception was as good as I had hoped.  Marie put her saying into practice and all is well.  They were also hugely empathetic with the position Mrs K finds herself in, and hugely impressed with how my kids, but particularly Amy, have reacted.

They did express some fears about how some people might react.  Some people being strangers, or people who find out second hand and are just knuckle dragging bigots.  The younger of their two sons (also John) is gay and suffered quite a bit of homophobic bullying when he was at school.  He went off to Manchester University 10 years ago, and while he comes home regularly to visit his parents, he says he would never ever return to Northern Ireland again to live.  I think they fear for what I might come across.  Maybe they’re right, but it’s a chance I have to take.

Yet again, I asked if they had any inkling.  This was the best one yet.  Hilary nearly got it right (thanks to her dream).  Brian thought I might be gay.  Patsy thought I might be emigrating.  John also wondered if I was gay, but Marie wondered if I was coming to see them to tell them that Mrs K and I were going to adopt an orphaned refugee.  What??!?  We’re not that nice unfortunately.

John asked if I had actually tried being out in public as a woman, and I think they were both a bit taken aback when I told them that I have been doing that very regularly for three years, including the Dublin-Holyhead and Belfast-Cairnryan ferries.  Kirsty has been in the North and South of Ireland, as well as England, Scotland and Wales!  I don’t think they expected that.  So they saw the photos, and then asked if I was on Facebook, and they particularly liked my Facebook cover photo, which is one Andrea took of me at Ennerdale Water in the Lake District.

I told them the story of my first trip over to England as Kirsty, when Andrea and I went to the TransLiving October weekend in Eastbourne in 2014.  And how the main event itself was awful.  I think I described it as like a rugby club in dresses and heels, just blokey blokeyness parading about in a really unappealing way.  Whereas Andrea, Ruth and I took ourselves off and just did more standard tourist-trap things because really, I have no interest in living inside some “trans community” bubble, where you don’t go to a shop, you go to a trans shop.  You don’t go to a pub, you go to a trans pub.  Where it feels like some people are trans first and women (or men) second.  That’s not me.  It turns out my nephew John has a similar problem with aspects of the gay community.  He feels exactly the same way about uber-camp gay men in tight 1970’s-style tennis shorts at Pride as I do about the OTT drag queens at the same event.  That’s not me, but that’s what grabs the attention of outsiders.

So I ended up with quite a bit of in-depth understanding and empathy about how certain elements within the trans* (or gay) communities can hijack the narrative somewhat, whereas my nephew just wants to be an ordinary bloke, and I just want to be an ordinary girl, and the fact that he fancies other men and I have lived as one for 40+ years are just mere details, and not the cornerstone of our existences.  Seriously, that’s a lot of serious understanding of shades of grey and empathy for a “coming out” conversation.

I departed after nearly two hours with yet more hugs and a box of buns Marie had baked for me coming.  Marie said “I’ll give you a hug now as my brother-in-law, and the next time I give you a hug it’ll be as my sister-in-law”.

So that’s it.  Job done.  No more secrets.  Everyone I feel I need to tell about my transition face to face, I have now told.  All four siblings.  Kids.  Line manager.  Close friends.  All done.  All told.  Every single one of them has been kind, accepting, supportive and just fantastic.  Every single one of them.  Every.  Single.  One.

I feel like the luckiest girl in the world right now.

My Baby Girl

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I started off my last post noting how my transition is starting to take on a momentum all of its own.  That momentum has continued to grow in recent days, leading up to another significant disclosure, one which has worried me for a while.  Disclosure to the younger of my two daughters, who is called Melissa.  Yes, it’s time to name her too, although because she’s only 7 years old I’ll not be posting any photos of her on here.  Mrs K will remain Mrs K – it would actually seem odd to refer to her by her given name on this blog, although when we actually separate I suppose I’ll have to think of some alternative nomenclature.

Mrs K and I both took Wednesday off work in order to take care of a few things.  First of all we had a morning appointment with the headmaster of Melissa’s primary school.  When we told Amy about my transition, I did ask her if this is something I should discuss with her headmaster (she is at “big school”) but Amy didn’t see the need.  She felt she had no issues with the transition, and she has now told four of her friends, all of whom seem to be fine with it.  She’s certainly not getting teased or bullied.  Melissa, on the other hand, well I thought it was best to forewarn the school.  At her age one can’t expect her to just not mention what she was going to be told in school, and teaching staff will need to know what’s going on if my transition ends up being the subject of discussion among a bunch of 6 and 7 year olds.  So at the end of the previous week I had emailed the head to set up this meeting.  I didn’t say exactly what it was, just that there would be some significant and dramatic changes at home that Melissa was going to find out about at the weekend, and it wasn’t something I was comfortable disclosing on email or telephone.  So at 9.15am on Wednesday morning, Mrs K and I found ourselves sitting on a bench outside the principal’s office waiting to be called in.

It has been pointed out to me that every “coming out” conversation gets easier than the last.  I’d qualify that slightly in that the difficulty of the conversation also depends upon just how much one has emotionally and practically invested in the person being told.  Which is a roundabout way of saying that coming out to Melissa’s headmaster was fine.  As with the Amy conversation, we first told him that we were going to be splitting up, but that wasn’t why we came to see him.  I’m sure he has plenty of experience with kids whose parents are separating.  I explained the real reason, and that we really wanted to make sure that relevant staff in the school were prepared for Melissa potentially being upset or confused when she returns to school after the weekend, or at the very least they could be ready to deal with any questions that her friends might have if Melissa decided to tell them.  As it turned out, the head was quite relieved when I told him.  Based upon my rather guarded email he had feared that one of us had a terminal illness, so maybe transitioning isn’t the worst thing that could happen.

The headmaster took a few details about when things were going to be happening, a few sources of information that he might want to check out to familiarise himself with what might be involved, but by and large he took the news in his stride, and was supportive of both us and Melissa.  Amy went to the same school and he still remembers her, so we told him that she already knew, and how she has reacted to the news, and he was very appreciative of just what a help Amy could be in helping Melissa deal with the news.  So after lots of chat which was all very good and supportive of everyone, we left feeling quite happy with how that had gone.  I had also pointed out to him that one of his teachers is also our next door neighbour, and so if he was telling the staff to bear in mind that she knows me as a neighbour as well as a parent, and that he should tell her that I am happy to talk to her about my transition any time she wants to ask.  We’ll see if anything comes of that.

The afternoon was a slightly different matter.  Mrs K and I had an appointment with a mortgage broker.  I had spoken to the broker the previous week to arrange the appointment, and I had just explained that we were separating and needed a remortgage for Mrs K and a new mortgage for me.  I didn’t mention, and still haven’t mentioned my transition at all.  I’m not sure it’s any of the broker’s business really, because I won’t be full time until I actually move into my new place, so everything in advance of that needs to be done as Bob.  Of course that brings in additional complications with how I present when going to view possible new homes, but maybe that’s a discussion for the estate agent rather than the mortgage broker.  I think the broker was slightly taken aback that a divorcing couple were coming in together, and indeed I asked Mrs K if she would prefer to go separately, but she is what you might call financially unsophisticated and since I work in financial services (and in fact have been a mortgage advisor in a bank branch around 15 years ago) she trusts me enough to be her guide through the process.  Plus of course it’s in my own best interests for her to get as good a deal as possible.

It was quite a scary hour that we spent with the broker.  Essentially what we were doing was showing off the bank statements and payslips so that we could work out just how much of a lump sum Mrs K is going to be able to pay me, how much that deposit will enable me to secure on my own mortgage, and how much the repayments on both will be.  Let’s just say that I’m having to set my house hunting sights a little lower than I had hoped.  And even then, neither of us is going to be very wealthy, although we will get by.  It could be worse.  When I think about other people I know (naming no names) who maybe have a nicer home but no access to their kids after transitioning, well I’d choose my situation every single time.  I can just forget about holidays for a few years.

Thursday came and I was back into work again.  I had no sooner sat at my desk than Beth came over and said “Can I have a quick word please Bob?”.  I followed her into a side office, the same one where I had told her of my transition plans two days previously.  It turns out she had been to HR on my behalf on Wednesday while I was sitting with the mortgage broker.  The person who deals with our department is known as our “HR Partner” (gotta love that corporate terminology) and she is called Juliet.  So Beth had got through her normal business with Juliet and then at the end said she had something else to discuss.  Juliet apparently didn’t flinch when she was told, it was just another HR matter to deal with.  First of all she was trying to work out just who I was, then figured it out when Beth explained where I sit.  Beth passed her the bare-bones MoU that I had passed to her on Tuesday, and they agreed that it was a very useful document in covering what was going to happen.  But the message coming back to me via Beth was that Juliet was going to go away and do some research to find out what the legal requirements are, and to go to head office to see if there is any official company protocols for dealing with transitioning staff.  She was pretty confident that I was the first person in the company in Northern Ireland to transition, I work for an Irish company that trades throughout the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain too, so it is possible someone else has transitioned  elsewhere in the company.  Once she has done her research, Juliet, Beth and I will sit down together to start fleshing out the MoU.  I hinted to Beth that I would like to have quite a bit of meat on the bones of the MoU by the time my first GIC appointment comes around on 28th February, which she seemed to think should be easily achievable.  However for all that the overarching message is that the company and HR are happy to be take their lead from me. They don’t want to tell me what I have to do to achieve my transition, they want me to tell them what’s going to happen and as long as there are no objections, that is what will happen.  As Beth put it, “Ultimately we are here to work, and so we need make sure that you get the best support and the best environment for you to be able to work well.  It’s in the company’s interests for this transition to go really smoothly”.  And then Beth dropped another piece of information about Juliet.  She has a trans nephew.  Born in a female body, he is now a teenager and attends school in Belfast as a boy.  Could there really be a better HR Partner for me to be going to with this?

Beth and I had a bit more of a general chat.  We both agreed it was best not to tell our head of department (Beth’s line manager, so 2 up from me) until the MoU was all agreed.  In Beth’s words “He’s a bit of a flapper, so best make sure everything is resolved before bringing him in”.  Not that she or I think he will have a problem with me being trans, but he’d be running round like the proverbial headless chicken with all sorts of random suggestions and generally making things harder rather than easier even if it would be with the best of intentions. Beth got a little emotional again too, dabbing her eyes as she imagined how long I have been thinking about this, and what a brave act coming out is.

And so to the big emotional climax to this post.  Telling Melissa.  It only happened this afternoon, and it was surprisingly short.  When I told Amy I probably did about 3000 words.  Melissa will only take a few paragraphs.  We had decided that we would have the conversation in the late afternoon after it started to get dark, so as to lessen the chance of one of her friends interrupting us by calling for Melissa.  So at around 5.15 Mrs K and I called both Melissa and Amy down into the living room.  Amy knew what was happening and was there for support.  Obviously with Melissa being so much younger than her sister, a 7-year-old needs different language to describe what is happening.  This time I did all the talking for the initial disclosure.  I kept it as simple as I could.  Mrs K called Melissa over to sit between the two of us on the settee, and I told her;

“Ever since I was very young, maybe even younger than you are now, I always really really wished I could be a girl.  I still really really want to be a girl, and being a boy makes me feel sad.  I don’t want to feel sad any more so I’m going to stop being a boy and I’m going to become a girl.”

I added a bit on to the end about how it wouldn’t happen for another few months, and she would always be my princess and I will always love her and look after her.  She got up from her seat, looked at me with a smile and said;

“But you’ll still be the same person”.

Then she gave me a huge hug.  And after me, she gave her mummy a huge hug too.  Then we got to what was probably the more difficult disclosure for her.  I told her that when I became a girl I was going to have to live somewhere else, but it wouldn’t be far away and she and Amy would live with me half the time and with their mummy half the time, and they would have their own bedroom in my house, and it would be their house just as much as the house they live in at the minute with both parents.  She struggled a little bit with this, but then Amy came to the rescue, asking Melissa how she wanted to decorate her new bedroom, and what colour she wanted the walls, and if they had to share could they get a bunk bed and Amy could have the top bunk?  This instantly animated Melissa again as the good points of having two homes sank in.

I told Melissa that I would have to change my name, and Mrs K interjected that Melissa could continue to call me Daddy if she liked.  Melissa was having none of that, with a swift “No” with a tone of voice that clearly said “Don’t be so ridiculous”.  So Mrs K repeated Amy’s suggestion that she remains “Mummy” and I become “Mum”.  Melissa seems on board with that, although she is finding the whole thing a bit weird.  I think it’s going to take weeks and months for this to settle in, but so far so good.  The conversation largely ended there, although it subsequently picked up again when I told her what my name will be, which was quite funny.  After I told her my new name she asked “Will your middle name still be Andrew?”  No dear, it won’t.  But my surname is definitely not changing, which she seemed greatly relieved by.

As I had done with Amy, I asked her if she wanted to see a photo, and she eagerly agreed.  I showed her the same one I had initially shown Amy, which was a selfie taken at the Butterfly Club, and Melissa’s reaction was pretty good.  She smiled and said “you look nice”, but in fact she seemed more interested in working out where the picture had been taken, so I had to explain the concept of a support group.  I also showed her the picture of Amy and me together, which was fine for her until I told her that it was taken exactly where she and I were sitting, and that she was in bed when it was taken.  She literally did a little jaw-drop that this was going on in the house while she was in it!  So I then asked her the big question;

“Do you think you’d be ok if you saw me looking like that or do you think it might upset you?”

“I’d be ok.  Why would I be upset?”

So that’s that.  Next step is clearly Melissa meets Mum, but I suspect that’s a few weeks away.  I just need to take things a lot more slowly with Melissa than I did with Amy, but I’m pretty confident that we’ll get there.

Next up, siblings and in-laws.  Actually, Mrs K is going to tell her parents and brother and I’m not even going to be there when it happens.  She is worried how they will react, but to be honest once Mrs K told me she wanted a divorce her parents ceased to be my concern.  My siblings though, that’s going to be a challenge.  Even though I’m 46, I’m still very much the baby of the family.  My siblings range from 61 to 66 years old, so even though they are literally my generation, they’re not really.  Most of my nieces and nephews are closer in age to me than their parents are, and I’m hoping that they will help their parents deal with their little brother becoming their little sister.  To be honest the hardest thing about telling the siblings is going to be logistics.  I have a sister a couple of miles away, a brother about 15 miles away, and the other brother and sister in the Republic of Ireland about 120 and 150 miles away respectively.  It’s wouldn’t be fair to tell one and expect them to keep it to themselves for any significant length of time, but at the same time I think I owe it to my siblings to tell them face to face.  That is probably going to happen next weekend, and it’s probably going to mean a lot of driving to get the two distant ones covered in a day.  But once that’s out of the way and Mrs K has done her piece, I will be out to the following;

  • Bob’s closest friends
  • Mrs K
  • Both daughters
  • Younger daughter’s school
  • In-laws
  • My four siblings
  • Line manager and HR in work

And as far as I’m concerned, that pretty much covers everyone I need to tell face to face.  These people are the reason why we try to “manage the message”.  Nearly there.

“You As You Should Be”

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I have heard a few people say that transition eventually takes on a life and momentum of its own. I think I’m beginning to realise what they mean. Throughout last year the plan was always that nothing would happen until 2017, in order to give the family on last year of “normality” (for want of a better term). But it now feels like everything is happening so very quickly, it’s a combination of exciting, terrifying, surprising, bewildering and exciting again. A lot of this I wrote about in my last post, but even in the short space of time since then there has been yet another major development. I have come out to my line manager. Today. And it was great.

The vast majority of advice I have received said that in work I should be going to HR (Human Resources) in the first instance, and bringing in line management thereafter. As I have mulled this over in my head during the last few months, I have always come up against the problem that I just don’t know anyone in HR, let alone knowing who in HR would be the appropriate person to approach. And the more I thought about it the more I thought that the one person in my team who does deal with HR regularly, and who would know who is the appropriate person to go to in HR, is my line manager Beth. We have worked together for over twelve years, and we get on well. The downside is that she is a bit of a God-squadder, but despite (or maybe because of) this she is generally a nice and sympathetic person. So I kind-of decided that I was going to tell her first and then go to HR together. Maybe that’s taking a bit of a chance, but I decided that nobody knows my working environment better than I do, so I was going with my gut. The next question was when I would have this conversation.

As things would happen, my annual appraisal was this morning. So I knew that Beth and I were going to be in an office, just the two of us, with 90 minutes booked. And I thought that I might raise the subject if it seemed appropriate. Just might. So we went through the whole appraisal process (all good, thanks) and then we got through to the “looking forward to the year ahead” part. We went through some of the more mundane aspirations (Sales! More sales! Yet more sales!) and then it was quickly through to what might be loosely termed “Any Other Business”. And it just felt like the right time. So I began the talk.

I told Beth that I had something I needed to tell her about, and it had the potential to change everything we had just discussed. It was going to change everything. That it was a personal issue that I had struggled with for a number of years. I reminded her that a few years ago she had given me some afternoons off to attend counselling for a private matter that I wasn’t at liberty to discuss with her at the time. She remember this well enough. I told her that it was all the same thing. That it continued to be a huge issue in my life to the extent that I went to my GP in June last year, and that he had referred me on for specialist treatment.

At this point she butted in.

– Everyone has their own issues, Bob. Don’t worry. Whatever it is, it’ll be ok.

– This isn’t really like most other issues, just hold that thought until I tell you what it is.

And so I explained that dealing with this issue was going to involve a lot of changes in my life and will change how people view me in work. And finally I just blurted out

– I’m transgender.

I don’t recall her exact words in reponse, but what I do know is that she was immediately and instinctively sympathetic and supportive. I think her response was something along the lines of her having zero experience of this, that I am the first trans person she has known, but that as far as she is concerned the outside might look a bit different, but I will still be me, with the same skills and experience but happier. So I’m still part of her team and in her opinion there is absolutely no question that I won’t be continuing in my current role. I did mention that I had concerns how my clients might react, but she didn’t even think it would be a huge issue, and that people were generally very accepting of differences, not just LGBT+, but also disabilities or different ethnicities.

With this I was getting quite emotional and the tears were close at hand. She said that whatever other considerations there are, we have known each other a long time and first and foremost she is my friend and I will have her support whatever happens. To which I responded that that is exactly why I was telling her rather than telling HR, because we have that history. At which point she had to wipe away her own tears. In retrospect I now think that had I gone directly to HR without telling Beth first, she would actually have been quite hurt by this.

I told her that I would have to change my name, and told her what it was going to be. She just accepted my new name in a matter-of-fact manner, and then I asked

– Would you like to see a picture of your new colleague?

She indicated that she would, but at the same time I could see that she was a little apprehensive. So as I flicked through my phone to find something, I reassured her that I didn’t look like Lily Savage. I produced an appropriate photo, and turned the phone round so she could see. A big broad smile appeared on her face.

– Oh Bob, you look great! In fact I hope this isn’t the wrong thing to say but you look really normal. Like yourself, but like you as you should be.

Me as I should be. Isn’t that the entire point of transition? She really hit the nail on the head with that comment.

At this point and in an effort to steer the discussion in a more structured direction, I produced the bare bones of a Memorandum of Understanding. As an aside, I must give a huge thank you to Emma for giving me the benefit of her own experience in pulling this together. For the unititiated, this is the “Master Plan”, the document that governs how the transition will play out in work. What happens, when and by whom. Time off needed for various treatments and surgeries. Changing payroll and pension, staff email & mobile phone, work ID pass and business cards, all the various systems that my employer uses. The roll out of the information, who gets told what and when. It is (or will be) my personalised workplace transition bible. What I handed Beth was simply a single side of A4 containing approximately 15-20 headings that will need to get filled out in consultation between the two of us and HR over the coming weeks and months. She genuinely seemed to find it useful to have this, even though it doesn’t have the standing it would do in Great Britain, where the Memorandum of Understanding is a key legal document that triggers the Equality Act 2010. Here in Northern Ireland of course our largest party the DUP only believes in equality for straight white protestant men, so the Act doesn’t apply here.

We did try to go through the various headings on the MoU but we kept getting sidetracked, particularly in the sections dealing with timescales and time off required for various treatments, so by the time I had been through normal GIC appointments, electrolysis, laser, vocal therapy, HRT, blocker injections and finally GRS I think she got the message that this is something that one doesn’t enter into lightly, but she also seemed to find the entire process fascinating.  I even managed to give Beth a bit of a laugh by recalling the nail varnish incident from almost three years ago, and pointing out that now she knows how that nail varnish really got on my nails – I put it there myself!

I also told that Mrs K and I will be divorcing, to which there was a great deal of sympathy as Beth went through her own fairly acrimonious divorce around 4 years ago. Thankfully ours looks like being a lot more amicable, although let’s hope I’m still saying that in six months’ time. I also told her about having told Amy and her wonderful reaction (incidentally, Amy came out for a little shopping trip with me on Sunday followed by dinner with Andrea AND a quick drop in at Alice’s house and all was great – good grief, normally that would be a 2000-word post by itself but now it’s just an aside!), and that the reason I have booked tomorrow off work is for a meeting with our youngest’s primary school headmaster, to tee him up that she is going to be receiving this news at the weekend.

So as we were coming near to the end of our allotted slot in the meeting room, we needed to wrap things up. As luck would have it, Beth already has a meeting with one of the company’s HR managers tomorrow afternoon about a different matter, so with my permission, she is going to mention my transition in this meeting with a view to setting up a meeting for me to attend at HR. And Beth then said again that whatever happens, I will have her unwavering support in my transition. And that she wanted to give me a hug, but as we were in a glass office it would have looked a bit weird to people out on the main floor. So instead she just grabbed my forearm tightly and said “I’m so happy for you”.

Yet again, a discussion that terrifies me in advance ends up being something approaching a joy. And at this point with me having officially informed work, I feel like a line has been crossed. I have written in the past about reversible and irreversible actions. This particular irreversible action that I did this morning has I feel brought me to a point where it would now be harder to cancel transition than it would be to proceed. This is happening, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Is There A Collective Noun For Appointments?

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So after my last rather momentous post, this one is a little more mundane. The calm between the storms, so to speak. Amy continues to be remarkably accepting and positive about my upcoming transition, and I got to spend a little bit more time with her as Kirsty last weekend. Again, all was good. I suppose the next step is to see if she is prepared to be seen with me in public. Maybe that will be the acid test of how she really feels, but she genuinely does seem to be completely ok with everything.I was up at the Butterfly Club last night for a committee meeting (accompanied by my old friend Vincent who has kindly agreed to become a trustee of the club), but it is perhaps momentous for another reason. For the first time ever, I left home as Kirsty and returned as Kirsty. My younger daughter was in the bath, so I nipped into the downstairs toilet for a quick change and some make-up application, and I was gone. I had briefed Amy that if her sister was out of the bath before she heard me leave, that she should try to encourage her to remain upstairs and play in her bedroom. Thankfully, her assistance wasn’t required.

My younger daughter is of course the next major worry on the horizon. We have decided that she is going to be told on the weekend of 4-5 February, as this coming weekend there is a family “do” to go to (my niece’s 40th birthday). In preparation for this, a few days in advance Mrs K and I will be going to meet the headmaster of my daughter’s primary school to let him know what is happening. I think this is important for two reasons; firstly so he can make allowances if she is upset or distracted in class, and secondly because at 7 years old she is very likely to talk about this with her friends, and teachers will need to know what to say to other kids if they ask. There is an organisation called SAIL (I think it was originally an acronym for something or other but they’re just “SAIL NI” now) which specialises in working with families with trans children, or children of trans parents. They also offer a training and advice service for schools and businesses. I am going to contact them to see if it would be ok to give their details to the headmaster, as they do sound like the kind of thing that would be useful. Anyway, I want the school to be forewarned when daughter no 2 arrives in class the following Monday after the weekend’s revelations.

I also have a couple of other appointments to make for next week, the first being with a mortgage broker. To reiterate what I think I hinted at before, Mrs K is going to remain in our current home which we currently jointly own. She needs to buy me out of that house, so I will then have a deposit for a house of my own, plus a bit extra to furnish and decorate the new place. But we need to know how much of a mortgage she can get on what she earns, how much that is likely to cost, how much would be paid across to me, which then affects the budget for my new home as well as any maintenance I would have to pay her. And it would be maintenance for her, to enable her to retain that house, because with custody split 50/50 there shouldn’t in theory be any significant child maintenance to pay. But with this as with the legal aspects of the divorce, we are determined that we will reach an agreement that we are all happy with, because we want to remain on good terms both for our own sakes as well as the kids’. The only additional thought on the subject of houses is that I actually have my eye on a place which is currently for sale – a 3-bedroom townhouse with designated on-street parking and a small fully-decked and very private back garden. It’s at the right price and it’s quite close to where we currently live, which would be perfect as it would be walking distance for the kids going either direction. The downside of course is that I’m not in a position to make an offer yet. In fact, I’m not even sure if it should be Kirsty or Bob who goes to see the house (or any other one I move into). Because as things stand it’s likely that the purchase will be in the name of Bob, with the name on the deeds changing down the line. But it will be Kirsty who moves into the house. Bob will never live there. I haven’t made up my mind yet. Mrs K thinks Bob should go in case the vendors are transphobic. Well if the vendors are transphobic then I don’t want to give them my money! Watch this space…

The other appointment that needs to be made is for a solicitor.  I have in fact approached the solicitor who we have used before for conveyancing on our current house, as well as drawing up wills for Mrs K and me a few years back (and those are going to have to change too!).  Unfortunately if predictably, the solicitor is unwilling to meet us both as it would constitute a conflict of interest so since it seems likely Mrs K will be the petitioner, it’s up to her to set the ball rolling on that one.  The best bet seems to be to get good mortgage advice and then use that to fine-tune the financial settlement which she can then use as the basis for the petition.  As long as it makes its way to my solicitor materially unchanged, I will sign on the dotted line, so long as I also get guarantees about the implications of not contesting a charge of unreasonable behaviour, i.e. that am not setting me up for future punitive settlement terms should she renege on the original deal.  But to be honest the ball’s now in Mrs K’s court on that one and she can drag her feet as much as she wants.  I’m not in any particular hurry to get the divorce pushed through.

Finally in this short (for me) update, I have one more appointment to write about. Once daughter no2 finds out about my transition, the next things on the agenda are telling my siblings, and informing work. And particularly in relation to informing work, I felt that if I had a firmer indication of when I was likely to begin assessment and treatment at Belfast GIC, rather than simply “I’m on the waiting list” then that would give added legitimacy to my discussion with HR and my line manager. So on Tuesday evening I dropped an email off to the clinic just asking for an update on waiting times, stressing that I wasn’t demanding an immediate appointment but that an update would be good as I have made progress in some areas (coming out to family, beginning electrolysis, domestic arrangements etc) and that I will be informing my employers soon. And that seven months ago I was told it would be six months. Immediately I sent this email I got an automated response, the usual “Thank you for your email, our office hours are 9 to 5” etc. What I didn’t expect was that 20 minutes later I would get another email from the lead therapist at the clinic apologising for how long I had been waiting for an appointment, and advising that my first appointment was now booked for 9am on Tuesday 28th February! Wow, I didn’t expect that quick a response!  And then today, on Thursday evening when I got home from work via electrolysis, the official appointment letter was there on the doormat waiting for me.

So there we have it, I have my first GIC appointment, albeit it’s still a little over a month away. And I’m not that apprehensive. Over the time I have been on the waiting list I have intermittently wondered, as many do, if I’m “trans enough”. But the message I seem to be getting from people who have been through this process before me is that the key thing that the Service are looking for is commitment. And I think I’m happy enough that by the time that first appointment comes round at the very least I will be at this point

– Kids know

– Siblings know

– Work knows, with hopefully a first draft Memorandum of Understanding in place which I can show them

– Divorce/separation proceeding

– Post-transition living arrangements and child custody agreed

– Over 2 months of weekly electrolysis under my belt

That’s not too bad to be going on with is it? I know that the deed poll, name change on bank statements and other legal documents and so on is generally taken to be a key indicator of commitment, and I won’t have that yet. But it’s coming. I’ll have a better chance of knowing when it’s coming after I speak to work. Because being able to show bank statements in my new name has an added complication for me, in that my bank is also my employer. So I’ll know more in a couple of weeks. But I’m happy with the progress I will be able to show to date.  For all that, the description of the assessment on the appointment letter does make me somewhat apprehensive.  The prospect of two hours’ worth of intense probing conversation about my life including some very personal subjects is quite intimidating.  Mind you, look how scared I was about seeing my GP to ask for this referral and then look how well all that worked out when I actually had that conversation with him.  Maybe all will be ok after all.

One final consideration about the GIC appointment. The clinic is on the opposite side of Belfast to where I live. I will have to get there, as Kirsty, for 9am. This will be a challenge. I was imagining that I would have to leave the house super-early, as Bob, get to the Butterfly Club HQ (which of course isn’t on the way and is more like the third point of an equilateral triangle with my house and GIC), get changed, and get to GIC in the morning rush hour, meanwhile leaving Mrs K and the kids to fend for themselves. But Mrs K had a better idea. She pointed out that by the time 28th February comes round, I will be out to both daughters, and because daughter no2’s school will know, and our next door neighbour is a teacher at that school, the neighbours will know too so it doesn’t really matter if they see me. So, Mrs K suggests, why not just get ready as Kirsty at home, leave the house at 7.30 as usual, take the kids to school, drop Mrs K off at work, and drive on up to the clinic. It’s a more direct route and it would feel so much nicer. So it looks like that’s going to happen, my first taste of a home-based female morning routine. Can’t wait!

A Picture Paints A Thousand Words…

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…although I’m going to do probably a few thousand actual words before I get to the picture.  Yes, yes, stop groaning at the back there.

There are a lot of things to be done this year to get everything in order prior to going full time.  Managing the coming-out process in work, telling the wider family and friends who don’t know yet.  Sorting out the divorce in as amicable and equitable a way as possible.  But before any of that could happen, there has been one overarching thing that needs done first.  Telling the children.  The Little Kirsties.  If there was one thing that was going to cause me to lose my nerve and bottle out of the entire transition, it was the prospect of telling the kids.  Conversely, if I can do that and get through it successfully, I can deal with the rest of it.  Well that time has come, for at least one of them anyway.

For the first time on this blog, I am going to name my eldest daughter.  She is called Amy.  Amy and I have always been very close, sometimes to the annoyance of Mrs K who feels sidelined.  Amy is 14.  Her little sister who shall for now remain nameless is 7, so Mrs K and I agreed that they needed told separately and in different ways.  And we agreed that Amy should find out first, find out about both the divorce and my transition.  We’d see how that went and then plan telling Little K accordingly.  I had always said that we would tell Amy in early January, and in the middle of last week Mrs K and I agreed that “The Conversation” would take place on Saturday evening after Little K Jr had gone to bed.  And I very nearly did chicken out of it.

I read LK Jr her bedtime story and at around 10pm I went into Mrs K who was tapping away on her tablet looking at something or other.  I said “I can’t do this.  I don’t want to do this.  I want to stop.”  She just replied “No.  You’re not backing out now.  It’s got to happen some time so it might as well be now.”  I went down to sit in the living room, shortly followed by Mrs K.  I was so nervous.  She asked should she call Amy down.  I couldn’t even speak, just nodded.  Amy came downstairs and sat in her favourite armchair.

“What is it?”

I couldn’t speak.  So Mrs K did the talking.  After a fairly short preamble she got quickly to the point.

“Your daddy and I are getting a divorce.”

I looked at Amy and it seemed like her entire world had collapsed around her.  Tears were not far away, and her bottom lip was quivering like a jelly on top of a washing machine on the fast spin cycle.  But Mrs K continued.

“But there’s more to it than that.  The reason for the divorce won’t be what you expect.  It’s to do with daddy.  He needs to tell you about this.”

Amy looked across at me.  The ball was in my court now.

“Amy, this is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life, and I want you to know that I love you and your sister more than anything else in the world”

“Y-Yes” she stammered, “and I love you too.”

“There is something about me that has been making me unhappy for a long time.  I have known since I was probably even younger than your sister that something wasn’t right with me.  That I was different.  But I was afraid to confront it.  I was afraid that I would get laughed at or bullied, and I hid it from everyone.  Mummy has known a bit about it from before you were born, but only the full extent for about the last three years. But it has always been there and over the last few years it has become a bigger and bigger problem.  And I have reached the stage where I have to do something about it.  So I am going to be changing.”

At this point I lost the run of myself and put my head to my knees, almost hyperventilating.  I couldn’t continue.  So Mrs K asked.

“Do you want me to say it?”

I nodded.

“Daddy is transgender.”

And Amy replied with three beautifully sympathetic and almost nonchalant words that I will never forget until the day that I die.

“Oh.  That’s ok.”

At which point I burst into floods of tears.

“No, daddy, it’s ok, really”

I looked up at her and whimpered “I’m sorry Amy”.

At which point she told me off.  “Don’t be sorry.  This is something you have to do and it’s ok.  Don’t apologise.”

Mrs K then brought the conversation back to the divorce, explaining that this wasn’t like most divorces.  That nothing will change at home for a few months still, and in the meantime everything will carry on as before.  That she and I haven’t had an awful falling out and we don’t hate each other, but that in order for me to be the woman I need to be, we need to live apart.  And the really amazing thing is that all Amy’s prior fearful reaction to the prospect of her parents divorcing pretty much evaporated, to be replaced by enthusiasm bordering on excitement.  She knows I’ll still be in and out of the house, and that it is absolutely non-negotiable that she and her sister will have a bedroom (maybe shared) in my new house too, and that they can even help me decide where to live and come to view houses with me.

I explained a few other things, like how all these hitherto unnamed friends with whom I have been spending so much time in recent years are in fact all women (some trans*, some cis) and that they only know me as a woman.  That I have recently begun electrolysis for beard removal, explaining why I was sitting there with three days’ growth on my chin.  At this point Amy went up to her room and came down again 30 seconds later clutching some “Pro Base Prime & Conceal”.  She handed it to me and suggested that I might find it useful for beard cover.  Hang on, my daughter is giving me makeup?  Did that really just happen?  Amy is in fact a little bit obsessed with makeup.  Her Christmas list consisted of about £175 worth of cosmetics with a few items of clothing thrown in for good measure (including the infamous and tongue twisting Long Sleeve Twist Front Top Shop Crop Top).  She has promised to help me with my makeup – she is amazingly good at doing her eyes in particular.

So I told her that I was going to have to change my name, because I couldn’t continue to be “Bob” if I was going to be a woman.  She asked, and I told her what my name was going to be.  This then lead us on to the big question of what she and her sister are going to call me once I go full-time.  I said, truthfully, that I genuinely don’t mind if they continue to call me Daddy at home, but I wouldn’t want to be walking round trying to look as feminine as possible only to have Amy yell “Daddy!” at me across a crowded supermarket.

“Yes, that wouldn’t be great would it?” Amy replied “And also, if we keep calling you Daddy then my sister will let it slip when we’re outside so best just to stop.  We could just call you Kirsty?”

“I’m not sure about that” I replied.  “I’m still your parent.  You can’t call me Mummy.  Your mummy will continue to be Mummy and I can’t be that”

“No, I wouldn’t want that” added Mrs K

“OK then” said Amy “Mummy is Mummy.  You can be Mum.”

I turned to Mrs K and asked how she would feel about that.  She is definitely Mummy and the kids never call her Mum.  She indicated that she wouldn’t mind this at all.  So that’s settled then.  I genuinely thought that this was going to be a problem to which we would never find a solution that everyone agreed upon.  Amy solved it in about 20 seconds.  Clever girl.  So I will be Mum.  I like it.

Over the last few years Amy has said several things that have given me pause for thought, made me wonder if she suspected something.  I asked if she had any idea.  No, not an inkling.  Why would she?  Well, I had thought that at the very least she might have had a root round the cupboards and wardrobes prior to Christmas on the hunt for presents.  One would not have had to search very far to uncover a range of side 8/9 women’s shoes and several skirts and dresses that are way to big for Mrs K.  But apparently not.  Mrs K asked Amy if she had never noticed my female clothing sitting out to dry (as I wrote about not that long ago) but apparently not.  Puzzlingly, Amy said that if she saw items of clothing that were too big for her, she would just assume that they belonged to her mummy.  This despite the fact that Amy is in fact 3 or 4 inches taller than Mrs K.  But this is of course a relatively recent development so her subconscious hasn’t quite caught up yet.  I asked if she didn’t wonder if these clothes were Mummy’s, why had she never seen Mummy wearing them?  Amy’s reply was great;

“Two reasons.  Firstly, I basically just sit in my room all the time.  Secondly, even though I do well in my school exams, I’m really pretty stupid about everything else.”

So there you go, a complete surprise.  And she never noticed me coming home smelling of perfume, or with traces of makeup on my face or nail varnish on my nails, even though Mrs K thought it was blatantly obvious.  Of course it was only obvious because she knew.

There was a lot more conversation about the family, and the big thing was that all three of us will be involved in telling the youngest member of the family.  Having Amy on-board and so positive about my transition is going to be invaluable, because her little sister really does look up to her and wants to be like her, so hopefully where Amy leads she will follow.

Finally, before Amy went to get ready for bed, I said that she didn’t have to meet the new me just yet, but when she was ready she could see photos of me.  But she said

“I don’t mind.  I’ll have a look now.  I’d better see what starting point you’re at before I train you up in how to do makeup properly.”

So I showed her that same selfie I had texted to Pete a month or so back.  Her reply?

“You look really nice.  I love your hair.”

“Thanks.  Well, it’s not really my hair.  Well it is mine, I mean I paid for it, but you know what I mean”

We both laughed.  Around a year or so back Amy got a pixie cut which was very nice, but she got frustrated at not being able to do anything with it, so she is in the process of growing her hair back out again.  She must have had a moment of realisation that I was going to have to grow my own hair, and her face lit up and she blurted out

“We can grow our hair out together!”

In fact I’d be happy to have my hair the length hers is now, kind of shoulder length.  But we will, as she said, be growing our hair together.

So off she went to bed.  As she was going, I have her a massive hug and said “Thank you Amy”.  She just said a simple “It’s OK” and off she went.  Mrs K turned to me and said

“Well, I can’t imagine how that could possibly have gone any better”

It would appear not.  In fact, it seems as if she is much more at ease with the situation as it is than if her parents were getting divorced in a more run-of-the-mill manner.  I’m realistic enough to know that there could be a delayed reaction as other thoughts occur to her, but it’s pretty unlikely that this will result in a full-scale reversal of opinion.  Maybe some reservations will occur to her, but we can deal with those.

Forward to Sunday afternoon.  I had arranged to go out with Andrea in the expectation that I might need a friend to do some soul-searching with.  As it happened, it was more to do some celebrating with.  But Amy was also going out with a few of her friends, to see a film in Belfast, so I gave her a lift into town on my way up to the Butterfly Club to get ready.  Except for the first time ever, I didn’t have to lie to her about where I was going or what I was doing or who I was meeting.  It felt great.  And the conversation in the car was just as positive as it had been the previous night.  The subject returned to makeup, and I told her I wished I could do eyeliner as well as she does.  She gave me a few tips.  I have a liquid eyeliner brand to try – when I have tried liquid eyeliner before it’s been like ink on blotting paper, but she reckons the brand she uses won’t do that and is brilliant for a nice sharp edge and a good flick at the end.  I will report back if it is successful.

I said to her “You’ll have to take me to Claire’s to get my ears pierced”.  What I forgot, of course, was that her ears are no longer pierced.  She got them done when she was 9, but the grammar school that she attends do not permit any jewellery to be worn as part of their uniform code.  So once she turned 12 and started going there, it didn’t take too many consecutive nights of her forgetting to put the earrings back in again when she got home, for the holes to close over.  This lead Amy to a plan.  Come the end of this school year (which is late June in Northern Ireland) the two of us are going to go and get our ears pierced together!  How great is that?

I went out with Andrea and we had a lovely afternoon.  I got another dress for work in the January sale in M&S (£49 reduced to £13.99) and we had a nice meal together afterwards.  I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Andrea who I’m sure would give here eye teeth to have had a similar reaction from her daughter, but she was so thrilled for me anyway.

While Andrea and I were sitting in the hotel bar waiting for our meals to arrive, I was seized with an idea.  I dropped an email to Mrs K.

“Now that Amy knows about me, would it be ok if I came home as me tonight, without getting changed?”

We got through the entire meal without me getting a response.  We had just parted and I was on my way back up to the Butterfly Club when I got the response, which was less negative than I had expected.

“Not sure.  It might be too much too soon for Amy”

So I thought, why not just ask Amy?  So I did.  I texted her

“Amy I’m coming home soon.  Should I get changed first?  Up to you.  It’s ok if you want me to get changed, I just thought I’d ask”

And the reply came back quickly

“I don’t mind just do whatever you’re comfortable with”

So after a quick call to Mrs K to confirm that she was comfortable with this, and an arrangement that she would leave the back door unlocked in order to minimise the chances of being seen by the neighbours, she agreed.  And I was on my way home, as me, for the first time ever.

I came in the back and made my way to the foot of the stairs.  I called up to Amy and she slowly made her way down.  She looked at me from about 5 stairs up and just had a big beaming smile on her face.

“You look… nice.  I like your lipstick, where’s that from?”

“It’s Boots No7.”

“What shade?  I might try some”

“Rose Petal.”

And then we had a chat about getting the skin tone test done in Boots (which I had taken her to get done on her 13th birthday) and how they then recommend different lipstick shades depending upon what foundation colour is your match.  The conversation felt entirely natural, but I must admit I still felt very awkward.  Because this was really happening.  Here I was, in front of her, almost exactly 24 hours after she found out, and she was great.  Amy and Kirsty.  Amy and Mum.  Here we are.

Words cannot express how happy this picture’s existence makes me

We chatted a bit more.  About how my niece (Amy’s cousin) got married a few months back and when I took Amy to buy a handbag to match her wedding outfit the first one she had picked was one that I already own, and I had had to steer her away from it because it would have been just too weird (she agreed).  Seeing if she remembered that when she was picking her shoes for the wedding (really nice stone canvas slingback with a small platform and about a 4″ heel) there were court shoes in the same material in size 9, and she had said that I should try them on.  Well a couple of days later I did try them on, and bought them.  I pulled them out of my wardrobe and put them on.  She said “So this means that you and I can both walk in heels and Mummy can’t?  Brilliant!”

I had better cut it short there.  This is already an extremely long post, but I’m sure you get the idea that I’m so happy with how things have gone.  There are a lot more hurdles to overcome, but this always felt like the scariest one.  With Amy on side, her sister will be easier to deal with.  With both of them on side, my siblings will be easier to deal with.  And now my biggest fear is out of the way, I can move on with everything else and start the process for coming out in work.  I’d probably better give Belfast GIC a call too, try to find out when I can expect my first appointment.  It is now six months since I was told it would be about six months, so I’m ready and waiting.

Things are getting interesting.

The Year Everything Changes

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And so 2017 is upon us.  It feels like an eternity that I have been saying and writing that I will begin to live full time as a woman in 2017.  And now it’s here.  I am, not to put too fine a point on it, terrified.  I’m going to begin living full time as a woman this year.  Probably the first half of the year.  I’m scared that there are so many unknowns.  For most of my life I have had a relatively comfortable existence.  And I’m about to rip that all apart and who knows how everything will be looking at the start of 2018?  Not me, that’s for certain.  But I’m getting ahead of myself, time to backtrack a little.

It has been a few weeks since I last wrote a blog post, which was an immediate reaction to me spontaneously outing myself to my oldest friend Pete, and then via him to his wife Nicky (with my permission), and then to another friend Caroline, who it turned out had been under the impression that Bob had been having an affair with Kirsty (as opposed to Bob actually being Kirsty).  It has subsequently occurred to me that she might not be the only person under this impression. She gained that impression as a result of drunken ramblings of another friend who already knew the truth about me, and I don’t know if that was a private conversation between the two of them or if there are several further people thinking I am being unfaithful to Mrs K, which I have never been, nor would I ever as long as the marriage continues.  Hardly matters now I suppose.

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Christmas afternoon tea – yum!

I had a very enjoyable stay with Andrea in the weekend before Christmas.  I cooked for her, just burger and chips, nothing too fancy, and she provided a lovely fruit crumble.  We had a great chat over a bottle of wine, and put up her Christmas tree too.  On the Sunday we she had reserved us a spot for a very nice Christmas afternoon tea.  I’m sure we did something else too but it escapes me just now.  Then a few days later on the Wednesday we both met up with Michelle for a proper Christmas dinner at our frequent haunt The Plough Inn in Hillsborough.

Christmas at home was perfectly fine.  I think that once Mrs K and I got over the awkwardness of deciding that yes, we will be separating, we have found a new calm.  We know where we stand.  And it’s ok for now.  Quite a bit more detail to come later in the blog.  But for now, it has been pretty decent, kids had a good Christmas and Santa came.  In fact, at this point I want to take a little digression into one of the most genuinely beautiful gifts either of our kids has ever received.  My brother and his girlfriend (partner of 20+years really, they just never married) gave my 7 y/o a fairy door.  Yes, that’s right, a fairy door.  It a beautifully crafted little wooden door made by The Irish Fairy Door Company.  You locate it somewhere suitable in your home (ours is on the mantelpiece) and register your fairy’s name on the website.  You then have a fairy living in your home.  She comes and goes via the door, but can only do it when you’re all asleep because fairies lose part of their magic every time a human sees them.  But Little Kirsty Jr communicates with her fairy (named

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Our Fairy Door

Alicia) by leaving notes at her door when she goes to bed, and then in the morning Alicia has replied (i.e. I have replied).  LK Jr is completely bought into this, so much so that a couple of nights ago one of her friends also left a note asking can Alicia be her fairy too, and even though she didn’t have a door she would leave an envelope for her.  I replied that Alicia replied that unfortunately King Oberon the Fairy King doesn’t allow any fairy to visit more than one human house, and so she has to stay in our house.  Honestly, it’s all in the imagination but it is completely magical.  I love it, and I love the joy it has given my wee princess.

I treated myself to a little gift on Christmas Day.  Back in 2015 I downloaded an iOS app called “EVA F” after reading an interview with its creator on The Guardian website.  The interview is still there so click here if you want to read it.  EVA stands for Exceptional Voice App, and there is an “EVA M” for trans men too.  There’s a free initial lesson with it, which was fine as far as it went, and the main attraction is that it contains a pitch tuner for practice exercises.  It’s a lot more deep than that though, although each subsequent lesson costs £3.99 / $4.99, which adds up when you consider there are 14 lessons so far.  However there is a lot of content and it’s not just about getting the pitch right, it covers voice quality, word choice, fluency, the whole gamut of vocal issues that trans women might face.  I had always intended to buy one or two of the other lessons when I get my own place, so I can practice without the rest of the family thinking I’m going mad.  However on Christmas morning I got a notification on my phone that for Christmas Day only all lessons were reduced to 79p each.  So I bought the lot!  Just over a tenner, so if it’s no use at least I haven’t wasted too much money.  Anyway, I’ll post a review on the blog once I’ve got into it a bit more.  It’s not available on Android I’m afraid – there’s a whole explanation of why not on their website but the short version is that Android brings too many variations in hardware (particularly in microphones) for the voice analysis tools to be calibrated and reliable.

So things tootled along fine over Christmas week.  I was up at Alice’s house on the 30th for a film night and then out with Andrea again on New Year’s Eve.  The intention was to have a quick bit to eat and then hit the shops, which for me was with the intention of further expanding my work-suitable wardrobe.  We had hoped to go to one of our favourites the Mourne Seafood Bar, but upon arrival there was a sign on the door stating that the restaurant was closed due to “mechanical problems” until further notice.  Not to be deterred, we ended up at Deane’s

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A load of shells which recently contained mussels

Love Fish.  This is part of the Deane’s restaurant complex which includes the Michelin-starred Eipic.  We had been to Deane’s Meat Locker – another one of their restaurants in the same complex – with Michelle quite a while ago, but since we had anticipated fish elsewhere we decided to stick with that.  Andrea committed fully and had the full three courses, but as I was going to be pigging out with the family that night I restricted myself to one mouthful of her chowder starter and another of her sticky toffee pudding dessert, and apart from that, just had a magnificent main course of mussels in cider with a side order of chunky chips.  Oh that cider broth was excellent – so tasty.  And a good lunch-sized portion.  The down side of all this fine dining was that we didn’t leave the restaurant until 3.30 pm.

We made our way to M&S, mainly because I think they have a good range of office wear.  And also because Andrea had given me an M&S voucher for Christmas and I was itching to spend it.  We did have a bit of a browse round their general sale items, but it was a frustrating experience because all sizes were mixed in together and the sizes on the hangers didn’t always match the sizes of the garments.  Grrr!  The office wear section was much better.  Initially what I was after was a knee length pencil skirt and maybe a matching top, with a hope for maybe a work-suitable dress too.  I managed all three!   I found a nice checked pencil skirt and a fairly plain black top with a little bit of frill and lace around the shoulders.  Andrea also came up with a couple of other skirts and a blouse, plus a nice

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At Deane’s Love Fish

black dress.  Last of all, I found a navy dress too, so headed into the changing rooms with a whopping seven items to try on!  That’s a record for me.  The problem was that just as I started removing my own clothing I heard someone ask the attendant what time they were closing today – the answer was 5pm!  I had half an hour to try on 7 different items, make a decision and pay for anything I wanted to buy.

First of all I went for the dress Andrea picked, which was a bit of a struggle to get on but looked really good on me, and actually managed to make me look quite curvy.  However, I thought it felt a little bit too dressy for work, more a sort of LBD that one might wear to a party.  And if it was difficult to get on, it was worse to get off.  I got a bad cramp in my neck going through the contortions required to remove it without smearing my foundation all over the neck.  I then tried the navy dress I had picked, which was a lot easier to get on as the zip goes all the way down the back so I could step into it.  It’s a shift dress with a nice swooping pattern from breast to waist which again emphasised the small amount of curviness I possess.  It also felt more appropriate for work – I think the higher neckline might also have helped with this.  Plus, it was less than half the price of Andrea’s choice, which wasn’t in the sale.

I also ended up buying the check pencil skirt and black top that I had chosen, so in the end I bought the three items that I picked, and didn’t bother with the four that Andrea had picked for me.  Hope she wasn’t offended.  And as an extra bonus, when I took them up to the till (just as the lights in the store dimmed for closing time) I discovered that the price wasn’t the original £39.50, or even the reduced £26 on the label, but only £20.  Result!  Most of the rest of Belfast’s shops were also closing at 5 so after a brief and fruitless stop off in Primark, it was back home again.

The family New Year celebrations were by and large the same as always.  Mrs K and the kids and I sat round playing silly games, eating crisps and cocktail sausages and seeing in the New Year.  Then once the kids had been sent to bed Mrs K and I sat up till gone 4.30am talking about what’s coming up.  Talking in a perfectly calm and rational way about all that is going to happen, when it’s going to happen, what the pitfalls might be.  And it was OK.  Although by around 3.30 I just wanted her to shut up so I could go to bed.  So the latest update on our situation is;

  • She needs to check out remortgaging the house to maximise the equity release for me, which will give me a deposit for somewhere of my own.  In a positive development, we dug out mortgage statements and discovered that we owe a full £10,000 less on the mortgage than I had originally estimated in my back-of-a-fag-packet calculations.
  • We will finalise the separation agreement which we have the bones of already, and will jointly approach a solicitor to formalise it.  We do not want it to become adversarial.
  • We have provisionally agreed to tell the kids, or at least the elder child (aged 14), about me weekend after next, so some time between 13th and 15th January.
  • I may try to get an appointment with younger daughter’s headmaster on the Friday before that weekend to let him know what she’s going to be told, so the school can make allowances for her potentially being upset and/or confused.  Not to mention what she might say to her classmates.
  • Subject to the kids actually wanting to still be in my presence, we are aiming for 50/50 custody – e.g. something along the lines of they stay with me Sunday-Tuesday and with her Thursday-Saturday, and we alternate Wednesdays.  And Mrs K is going to be a huge advocate for me with the kids, if for no other reason than to give herself some me-time.
  • She is very concerned about telling her parents.  They are old and quite frail and she is afraid that the shock might kill them.  Although her mum in particular is incredibly pragmatic and unemotional, and is more likely to want to talk through the practical terms of what’s going to happen.  I’m more concerned that her dad might physically attack me, 80 years old or not.
  • Although as I had previously written we are going to inform my siblings together, we’re not quite sure of the practicalities of how we get a babysitter for that!  Particularly considering two of my four siblings live in the Republic of Ireland, and even without an overnight stay if we tried to tell them both in a day then allowing for say an hour in each of their houses it’s going to be at least an eight hour round trip.
  • In order for a divorce to happen quickly and with a minimum of fuss and expense, one of us has to admit (or at least not contest) unreasonable behaviour.  I recoiled at this slightly, both because I am wary of future implications of admitting this, and also because on general principles I am uncomfortable in stating that being trans is unreasonable.  She replied that she is perfectly willing to admit that she is being unreasonable in not allowing me to transition within the marriage, although that would require me to become the petitioner.  We’ll work it out.
  • She asked what objects, if anything, I would want to take from our house into my new home.  Very little, truth be told.  Obviously we need to make allowances for the value of the house contents in the separation agreement, but beyond things which are definitively mine rather than ours (guitars and electronic gadgets mainly) there’s not a lot.  I will keep the car, but since she can’t drive that’s a bit of a no-brainer really.

There was lots more, I mean we talked for over three hours, but that’s the gist.  It’s incredibly civilised so far.  She finished off by asking “So, before we start all this, are you sure you’re a woman?”  She really put me on the spot.  Then she butted in before I could reply “Actually, don’t answer that.  It’s too late.  You’re doing this, don’t even think about backing out.”

It’s all so close now that all I can think of is the potential downsides.  Really when I boil it all down there are two things that really concern me:

  1. My clients.  I work in financial services as a client relationship manager.  While my employer seems to be admirably strong on equality and diversity, clients are not bound by the same code of conduct.  So if they react badly to this news and refuse to deal with me, I lose business.  And if I lose business, I could lose my job or be demoted.  Now I’m sure many clients will be fine, and indeed some will go out of their way to be accepting and supportive, but lost business is lost business.
  2. Neighbours.  Specifically, new neighbours wherever I end up.  It wouldn’t take very many at all to take against me to make my life a misery.  And in particular, I’m concerned about kids and teenagers on the street.  That scares me.

I think it’s probably about time to end this rather rambling post.  Maybe it’s reflective of my mental state right now – all over the place.  I hope I’m strong enough to see this through.

Further Out

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You’re highly unlikely to remember reading about this, since the post in question was from July 2014, but there is one person in particular to whom I wanted to come out but had failed to find the opportunity.  Just about my oldest friend, my childhood best friend, best man at each others weddings.  He’s called Pete.  He was supposed to be the first friend to whom I came out but it didn’t quite work out like that.  I suppose the fact that I still live quite near to where I grew up just outside Belfast, whereas he now lives in Essex, doesn’t really make for frequent get-togethers.  So on the few occasions that we have met up over the last few years, there have always been other people present and I can’t really have that sort of conversation.  It just hasn’t been appropriate.  So I was very much aware that the time when all this was going to become common knowledge was rapidly approaching and he was still unaware, and this was still a niggle that Pete didn’t know.  We go back such a long way that I felt I owed it to him to tell him separately.  It’s funny how things work out though.

Mrs K and I were out doing our big Christmas shopping blitz today.  All day.  My legs are reeaally sore.  (Incidentally, isn’t it good that we can still do this together despite what we’ve got coming up over the next few months?)  One of the items that our elder daughter had put on her Christmas list was a bit of a tongue-twister: a long sleeve twist front crop top from Top Shop.  Try saying that after a few Christmas drinks!  She showed me a picture of it, so I was just about able to identify it.  Of course, I knew my way around the womenswear stores of Belfast better than Mrs K, and I was quite impressed with myself that I managed to pick out the item in question.  Not quite my style, but then again I’m not 14.  But we were both so taken with the tongue-twisty nature of what we had bought that Mrs K put a post on Facebook to that effect.  And then Pete commented from over in Essex

Ah Bob, finally revealing your true self, eh?  About time…

I was out collecting our younger daughter from school when I saw that comment, but when I arrived back home Mrs K immediately rushed down the stairs and said “Did you see what Pete said?  What can you say to that?”

My immediate thought was that either one of us should just reply “Yes” and leave it at that.  But I decided to give a little more and replied “Well I wasn’t planning on coming out just yet but your predictive powers are remarkable.”  And left it at that.  Except I didn’t leave it.  I decided this was the perfect opportunity to tell him the truth, but I couldn’t exactly do it in a Facebook comment as that would be a bit too public.  So I decided to send him a private message, which I then spent over an hour thinking about.

An hour of writing and rewriting, of finger hovering over send then deleting the whole thing, of rewriting again and then thinking better of the whole thing before I finally hit send on the post.  The exact content is private between us, but the gist was that I had something to tell him which would be a big shock, but he needs to know now before it becomes common knowledge.  That his comment on Mrs K’s Facebook post was right on the money, and that I’m trans and will be transitioning in 2017.  That Mrs K and I are almost certainly going to separate albeit on very good terms.  That the kids don’t know and will be told in January.  And that this is definitely not a joke.  And then I waited for a response.  It didn’t take long.

His reaction was so positive, so good, I’m very thankful.  I knew he was a very passionate believer and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and equality, so I was hopeful of a good reaction, but the theory of these things is one thing, the fact of one of your oldest friends coming out as trans is a whole different matter.  But he was incredibly supportive.  And quite taken with my bravery doing this in Northern Ireland of all places.  Well it might be a dump but it’s where my family and my job are, so I’m not going anywhere.  And there’s an open invite for me, really me, to go over to visit him and his family.

img_4234I told him about this blog, and he has promised to read it from start to finish even though I did say if you began from the first post there’s about 4 Lord of the Rings’ worth in here.  So Pete, if you’ve made it this far, congratulations.  You poor poor bastard.  It was bad enough writing it, never mind reading it.  I did warn him that there were plenty of pictures on the blog, and since he said that was fine I asked if he wanted to see one now.  I sent him the one on the right.  He said he liked my hair.

I also told him my new name, and this is where things get a bit odd.  We have a mutual friend called Caroline.  He asked me if Caroline knew about this.  I said no, not as far as I was aware, or at least I didn’t tell her.  But it seems that Pete and Caroline (who is another Northern Ireland escapee who now lives in London) had met up for a drink a while back, and Caroline had made some slightly inscrutable reference to me/Bob spending quite a bit of time with someone called Kirsty.  At least that was his memory, there had been a fair amount of alcohol taken on board.  But anyway, Pete had left this evening under the impression that I was having an affair with a woman called Kirsty.  But he thought I should know that Caroline knew. I racked my brain.

There were two possibilities here.  The only person who definitely knows about me and would have seen Caroline recently is Vin, to whom I came out over two years ago and who has met me/Kirsty several times.  But the alternative was that she has discovered this blog.  Caroline is also a blogger, writing about sci-fi/fantasy/general geekery and knitting. Her blog is on WordPress, as is this one.  And there has been a wee bit of crossover with a trans blogger I follow who was at a sci-fi conference that Caroline also attended, and I had commented on her blog and mentioned the name of Caroline’s blog.  Anyway, I wondered if that comment had attracted Caroline’s attention and she had worked out that Bob and Kirsty are one and the same.  But I know Caroline to be a very progressive, pro-trans feminist, somebody for whom I have a great deal of respect, and I approached her.

“Hi Caroline.  Please excuse the obliqueness of this question, but do you know about me? (It’s OK if you do btw)”

“Well Vin did mention something the last time we met.  Is that a suitably oblique response?”

So it wasn’t the convoluted WordPress reciprocity that I had worked out in my head.  It was good old-fashioned blabbermouthery.  So I replied.

“That’s OK.  I just outed myself to Pete and based on what he picked up from you he thought I was having an affair.  If only it were that simple.”

“Well that’s what I took from the conversation with Vin.  Is that not the case?

Sorry for any misunderstanding.

Or not.”

And now I just thought “What have I let myself in for here?”  So I told Caroline that I was going to tell her the truth anyway, and that she wasn’t sworn to secrecy although I would ask her to exercise some discretion.

“I’m not having an affair with a woman called Kirsty.  I am Kirsty.  I’m transgender and I will be transitioning in 2017”

Well that took her by surprise!  But yet again, as with Pete an hour earlier, she was brilliantly, wonderfully supportive, yet realistic too.  She said it would be “a life-changing experience in a positive way, but a hard road too”.  Which probably sums up what everyone says.

So all that remains is that I’m really pleased with both reactions I got, even if the second outing wasn’t supposed to happen at all.  Although I’m quite annoyed with Vin.  Now don’t get me wrong, once you out yourself to someone it’s not fair to expect them to never say anything to anyone ever.  So the blabbing after probably multiple gins is kind of understandable and forgivable.  No, what I’m annoyed about is the ineptitude of the blabbery.  Thanks to his useless drunken blabbing, two people that I know of and potentially several more were under the impression that Bob was having an affair with Kirsty.  Then again, maybe it wasn’t that far from the truth.

The End

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There has been an unpublished blog post called “The End” sitting in my drafts on WordPress for just over a week. It is the shortest blog post I have ever written. Quite simply, it said

I will not be proceeding further with transition. This will be the final post on this blog.  Thank you for reading these last few years.

And then I planned to disable comments as soon as it was published. Whatever anyone had to say, I didn’t want to hear it.  

You will have realised I hope that I have not actually published that post. I have deleted those lines, replaced them with this much lengthier text, and just kept the title. I am not now saying those things, just saying that I thought about them. But why? What happened? So much. My universe has been turned upside-down in the last couple of weeks and the ridiculous thing is that I didn’t see it coming. In short, I have left the title of this post as “The End”, not because it refers to the end of my transition as was originally the case, but because it refers to the end of my marriage.

It all came to a head a couple of Saturdays ago. The soon to be former Mrs K had just arrived home from another unsuccessful social outing feeling sorry for herself and we ended up having another of “those” conversations. Except this time it went a little further. I have written before about how I agreed that nothing would happen until 2017, so the children could have one last Christmas with mum and dad before everything changes. Well, though dragging it out of her was like blood from a stone, I learned that it wasn’t just me that had plans for 2017. Mrs K has plans of her own. Specifically, a plan that involves me not living with her any more. A plan that ends in divorce.

I must be monumentally naïve, because I always believed that given time she would come round. Specifically, I hoped that a combination of a positive reaction from the children coupled with spending a bit of time with Kirsty/me would bring her round to the view that this wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Upon telling her this she was incredulous. How could I think that? What possible grounds had she ever given me for thinking she would be ok being in a romantic relationship with another woman, even if that other woman is me? Well, none. I’m just by nature quite optimistic (content of some of my blog posts notwithstanding) whereas Mrs K is pretty much the opposite. So I always had hope, whereas it seems she only had despair.

Now let me explain, the conversation wasn’t massively negative. It wasn’t a screaming I-hate-you-you-bastard type of thing. In fact, it was in its own way positive. It was certainly calm. The one overarching thing that she said that really stuck with me was

“I want to be your biggest ally in your transition. But I can only do that as your friend, not as your wife”

There was one other thing that stuck with me; a rather curious focus on how uncomfortable she felt with the idea of another woman’s woman-things being in our bathroom, so she wants me to move out before my woman-things move in.  

There were a few other things that we spoke about that evening, but I’m not going to into a huge level of detail just now. Suffice to say that the two of us are still going to be together under the same roof at least until January, possibly a month or two beyond that. We still want to give the children one more really good family Christmas. Afterwards? Well I’ll get to that.

This was all well and good and as I said it was positive enough. In fact, I slept reasonably well that night. However it was the next day, a Sunday, when my mood started to head south. All morning I had this growing, gnawing sickness that this wasn’t right, that I didn’t want to get a divorce, and that I couldn’t face life without Mrs K. For all my moans about her being a bit of a black cloud, she’s my black cloud. It came to a head watching (of all things!) The X Factor on Sunday afternoon. One of the contestants was singing the old Roxette hit “It Must Have Been Love” and when she got to the chorus “It must have been love, but it’s over now”, it was too much for me. I literally ran to the bathroom, locked the door and slid down the wall silently sobbing great, heaving sobs of sadness. It was too much, and I don’t even like the song!

I was out that evening at the cinema with Meetup. It was ok, but really I was in no fit state to concentrate on the film. All I kept thinking was “I’m getting divorced. I don’t want to get divorced” over and over again. I was, and maybe still am, in shock. It was a lot harder to get to sleep that night.

On Monday Mrs K and I spoke again in the car on the way back from work. It wasn’t good for either of us. It turns out she had some rather impractical ideas about what our arrangements might be post-split. When I explained why this wouldn’t work (like if we did what she thought, I wouldn’t have enough money to eat never mind to afford things like electrolysis) she burst into tears and declared that she was completely trapped. I tried to allay her fears and assure her that a way could be found to make things work, but the dark clouds had arrived again and a sensible discussion was an impossibility. And yes, I am well aware that I am responsible for a lot of those dark clouds in her life and I don’t feel very good about that.

So once we got home I had a realisation. I can still fix this. I have destroyed this poor woman whom I still love in my own way, and I have got to find a way to make it up to her. To put things right. And so I said it. I said I would cancel my transition. In fact, I would kill off Kirsty altogether. I would make it up to her. We could go back to where we were before. It would all be OK. And like that, everything was off. Except it wasn’t that simple.

It’s too late, she said. The damage is done. Lies on top of lies. I would call them broken promises, which isn’t quite the same thing, but things are pretty desparate if that’s all the self-justification I can muster. Broken promises that came in stages

– I will only dress at home

– I will only dress at the Butterfly Club, but I will never go out in public

– I am going out in public, but I promise I’m not TS

– OK, I am TS after all but I will not be transitioning

– Actually, I am going to transition

So for nearly three years she has never known where she stood. The fact that I genuinely meant each one when I said it cuts no ice, it would be like a husband justifying an affair by saying that he meant the marriage vows when he said them. So from her perspective, the trust is gone, and when the trust is gone, nothing else matters.

That didn’t stop me from trying to prove her wrong though.

On Tuesday I drafted that ultra-short blog post I refer to above. I didn’t publish it. I drafted an email to GIC requesting that I be removed from the waiting list. I didn’t send it. I drafted emails to my friends Michelle and Andrea basically saying goodbye. Michelle got hers. Andrea would have got hers only for the fact that she was enjoying a week in the Canary Islands and I didn’t want to upset her on her holidays. Michelle – thank you so much for being so understanding and supportive in a very difficult week. Your emails helped me stay sane more than you will ever know.

So I told Mrs K what I was doing and what I had done. That I would stop the blog, cancel transition, remove myself from the waiting list and take all of Kirsty’s clothing to the charity shop. Her response? “You will do no such thing!” She told me, quite rightly, that I was still trying to come to terms with what was happening, and couldn’t just switch off being trans. Moreover, she said she refuses to be responsible for a trans person failing to be who they need to be. And anyway, since my first appointment with the clinic isn’t yet booked and so is unlikely to take place for at least another month, there’s no harm in staying on the list for the time being. If I still feel the same when I get my appointment letter, I can withdraw then. And I am under strict instructions not to get rid of the clothes. I have spent a not inconsiderable amount of money building up a female wardrobe and since Mrs K can’t see me lasting 100% male for more than a few weeks, if and when I do backslide I’ll still need all my clothes. So the clothes stay.

It has taken a few more conversations between the two of us to get to the point I’m at now, which is I suppose the “acceptance” stage of grief. And curiously enough, it has also got me to the point where I’m beginning to feel rather positive again (told you I was an optimist!). So the plan, the fine details of which remain to be ironed out, is as follows:

– I will find an apartment or small house to live in, probably just a two-bedroom place. It won’t be far from where we live now, and I know the area well enough to know which locations are acceptable and safe. I intend to buy rather than rent.

– I will remain in the family home as Bob until I’m ready to move into my new house. I will move into my new house as Kirsty, and will remain Kirsty thereafter. This means that my full-time date has moved from a generic “Easter 2017” to whenever I can sort out somewhere to live. This may mean a temporary move to rented accommodation if I can’t find the right place to buy soon enough.

– There will be financial jiggery-pokery between the two of us to ensure that we can both pay the mortgages, the household bills, look after the kids, and have a similar amount of disposable income left over. We will undoubtedly be worse off financially after the split, but I don’t think disastrously so. The important thing is that we reach agreement.

– The previous plan for coming out to my siblings, which Mrs K described as “a bit melodramatic” is now gone. Mrs K is going to accompany me to each of their homes so we can both explain, in person, about the split and my transition. This was her idea and I think this could be very significant in that she will back up what I am saying about transition being as close to a necessity as I can think of, that the well-being of the children is uppermost in our considerations, and that she believes me when I say that I am a woman.

– I will continue to be welcome in the family home, and can come round for the evening or for dinner, or even to put the little one to bed, assuming they are willing to see me. They will also spend some time in my home, where I will ensure that they have a bedroom. To put this into Mrs K’s words “Just because you won’t be sleeping in the same house as the rest of us doesn’t mean we’re not still a family”.

– Crucially, we do not want to get involved an a legal battle to bleed each other dry. We could well end up on much better terms after the split than we were for the last three years of marriage. If we can come up with a settlement with which we are both happy, then we can run with that in the short to medium term, so that when it comes time for a legal divorce (which isn’t the immediate priority) there should be next to no negotiation required around the terms of that divorce. Told you I was an optimist!

So there you go. World turned upside down. And you know what? It may well be the best thing for all concerned. As the legendary relationship guru Sting put it, if you love somebody set them free.  At least, that’s the current theory.  Transition could be cancelled again by this time next week.  Life is nothing if not unpredictable.

Feel The Burn

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Ow.  Ow.  Ooooowwwww.

I had my initial consultation with my electrolysist this afternoon.  It has been a couple of months coming.  You may recall that back in September I (as Bob) had called into a Belfast beauty salon that advertises laser beard removal for men.  They took one look at me and said to forget it, I was too blonde/grey for the treatment to be effective.  So after a couple of emails off to one of the doctors at the Belfast Gender Clinic, I found myself booking an appointment at “The Electrolysis Centre”  for an initial consultation.  I have finally had that appointment and it all went surprisingly smoothly.  In fact, I don’t know why I’m surprised.  Lynda (the electrolysist) was professionalism personified.

I arrived at the clinic with a couple of minutes to spare.  As the clinic is upstairs, I had to hit a buzzer at the door to be admitted.  This is where I had a bit of a “what now?” moment.  I had come straight from work, in full male mode in my suit and tie.  When the voice on the intercom asked “Yes?” I felt rather foolish saying “It’s Kirsty” given how I looked, particularly since there were a few people around in the street.  It would have felt even odder switching into Kirsty-voice for that.  So, thinking on my feet, I just said “I have an appointment with Lynda”.  The door buzzed open.

I have met Lynda socially in the past, around 18 months ago.  She and Andrea use the same hairdresser, and it was at a charity event in the salon that Andrea had invited me along to where I met Lynda.  This afternoon I walked into her clinic as my male alter-ego.  She was quite surprised at how different I looked, in fact she said I was completely unrecognisable. To be fair, given my experience with Shirley in the book group (who has known Bob for nearly 20 years but has never once given a hint that she sees any of him in Kirsty) that’s probably not too surprising.  Lynda did confess that she felt a little unsure of how to address me, so we agreed that she would call me Kirsty at all times regardless of how I might appear.  She also reassured me that she had enough sense not to address me by name while I was presenting male if there were other clients around in the waiting area who might hear.  We then had an initial chat through what sort of thing I was looking for, what stage I was at, and my medical history.  It was all very easy and very friendly.

What I am looking for, as I have already written in older posts, is to get a head start on my facial hair removal before I go full time.  Since the treatment requires a little bit of stubble to work, and then you can’t really shave for at least another day afterwards, it’s a lot easier to carry off two or three days’ worth of stubble when presenting male.  My target full-time date is five months away, so hopefully I’ll have made a reasonable start by that stage, although I am well aware that full removal will take longer.  In the longer term, I also plan to get hair removed from my torso too (I am cursed with a hairy chest and back) but that isn’t as pressing since it can be covered up with clothing.

Lynda uses a very bright ring of light on a flexible arm (a bit like what a dentist shines into your mouth, but much brighter) to get a good look at my skin.  Her verdict?  Pleasingly, she reckons my skin is in pretty good condition.  I don’t smoke, I don’t drink to excess and I have been moisturising daily since I was in my late 20’s, so I suppose it all adds up.  But then she said something that surprised me.  She announced very quickly that there were plenty of hairs that were still dark enough to respond well to laser, and that I shouldn’t write that off completely.  However, she did observe that it might well take the medical-grade laser treatment that I would be entitled to in a hospital under the NHS, and that the IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) treatments such as those offered in beauty salons might not be strong enough.  So in a way the woman in the beauty clinic was right.  But still, there are also more than enough grey and pale hairs that won’t respond to a laser at all, so that is where she is going to put her focus.  It’s good news.  She doesn’t think it will take her too long, relatively speaking, to clear out the pale hairs.  We’re still talking in months rather than weeks, but at least not years and I’ll have a good bit done before I go full time.  The darker hairs are going to have to wait unfortunately, I’m not about to pay for laser when I can get it for free on the NHS – well free in as much as I have been a UK taxpayer for 25 years.

She also mentioned that in other patients similar to me, she has seen a big improvement once HRT begins as it softens the skin and hair meaning it is more easily dealt with.  Delaying the commencement of electrolysis until that point could possibly be worthy of consideration.  However, since that could potentially mean having to schedule NHS laser treatment and private electrolysis at the same time, it might be too much for my poor face to cope with so I’m probably just going to forge ahead with the electrolysis now.

After all this it was time to go under the needle.  Between the two of us we selected a small patch of my chin where beard growth is strongest, and she got to work.  It felt, well, like having a red hot needle stuck into me.  Funny that.  It was quite painful.  But only quite, not very.  But the individual pricks were so short-lived it was definitely bearable.  Although I reserve the right to revise my opinion when I get my top lip done.  She asked me how it felt and I replied

“Grr grr arg, grr r grgg grrr gr grr grrgrgr grr’gr grrgrng gr grgg”

Which roughly translated means “Not too bad, but I can’t move my jaw because you’re holding it shut”.  It was only a very short treatment, really to see how my skin reacted rather than to make any sort of effective start on the beard removal.  Although not too long after she commenced, she observed that the hairs were coming out really easily, which was encouraging.

When she had done what she was going to do, which was only about five minutes worth (this was just an initial free consultation after all) she gave me a choice of three different products to soothe my skin; witch hazel or aloe vera gels, or a tea tree moisturing creme.  I’m not a huge fan of the smell of tea tree oil, so I plumped for the aloe vera gel, which she rubbed on to the treated area with some cotton wool.  She also gave me a decent amount of the stuff in a little pot to take away with me.  It is going to be necessary because I have basically been subjected to a series of tiny electrical burns.

I’m under instructions not to shave the affected area tomorrow, and not the next day either if there is still any redness or swelling.  I’m also not allowed to even touch the skin except with just-washed hands to apply more aloe vera if necessary.  She also had some advice about make-up.  Liquid make-up only, no powder-based products, and application by hand only.  Applying foundation with a sponge or brush is out, because I can’t guarantee that these applicators will be clean enough.  Primer and liquid foundation applied with clean fingers it is then for the foreseeable future.

I’m not going to list the prices.  It’s not cheap but also not quite as expensive as I had feared.  And the longer the session, the cheaper it gets.  A one-hour session only costs twice as much as a ten-minute session, although whether or not I could stand a full hour is a whole other matter.  Her recommendation was to go for 15-minute sessions initially and then see how I reacted to them.  She is also going to keep a record of everything I ever pay her in a separate folder (as she does with all her trans patients) in case the NHS ever decides to start paying for electrolysis as well as laser, and I might be able to get some of my money back.   Surely it wouldn’t be unreasonable to have the same hair removal budget split between laser and electrolysis as required rather than the current situation of laser or nothing?  I’m not holding my breath.

I haven’t booked a repeat visit yet.  I need to have a chat with Mrs K (whoopee, those trans chats are always a treat!) to decide what the best time would be to slot in with my family commitments.  I’m aiming to have weekly sessions and I’m leaning towards Mondays as it would be easier to have a bit of growth, and also it’s probably going to be a few days before I have to present as female again so I can afford not to shave on Tuesdays and perhaps even Wednesdays.

So as I left the clinic, the gel had dried and for the first time I could sense that my face was slightly affected.  That little corner of my chin felt like it was glowing, a bit like the feeling when you’ve been out in the sun and you can still feel it on your face in the evening.  Not burnt, but definitely glowing a little.  However that feeling soon passed.  It’s now nearly five hours since I had the treatment and I can’t feel the burn any longer.  There doesn’t even seem to be any visible reaction on my skin either.  Looking at myself in the mirror, were it not for a couple of tiny streaks of cotton wool stuck to the stubble, I wouldn’t be able to tell where she did the hair removal.  I know it was only a very small amount that she did, but surely that has to bode well.

20 hairs down, 29,980 to go!