Beauty, Bowling and the Boss

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

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

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Me and my wonderful daughters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, that’d be nice”

“How’s your diary?”

“Wednesday’s clearest for me”

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

“Thanks Fred.  See you next week then”

“Alright boy”

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

 

Taking Stock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“OK then”

“Daddy?”

“Yes my angel?”

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

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

“OK then”

Until next time

Kirsty (aka Melissa’s Mum)

A Different Kind Of Support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Like Walter Matthau in a dress?”

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

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

A Miserable Day, A Glorious Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is your dad in?”

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

“She’s a woman at the minute”

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

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

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

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

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

Family Support: The Next Generation

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

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

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

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

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

An hour later Patsy’s youngest daughter texted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In fact they’re all great.

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.