Birthday Girl

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Can’t believe it’s three weeks yet again since I last wrote a post on here.  It’s almost as if I have got a load of stuff going on that’s a more pressing use of my time than writing this blog.  But of course we know that’s not the case.  The truth is that my daughter Amy has had my laptop in my ex’s house for the last 3 weeks as she has been using it for a bit of online gaming with some of her school friends, and I didn’t have the heart to take it off her.  So faced with the choice of maintaining blogosphere silence or making her a social outcast, well you know the result.  So here we are at last.

The difficulty with this length of a gap between posts is that it’s hard to remember what I have been doing over these last three weeks, so I expect this will necessarily focus on more recent events.  As well as those first couple of days that I wrote about in my previous post, I have now had three full weeks back at work, and it has begun to settle back down into some sort of routine.  Most significantly, I have got back into the swing of visiting clients.  This was probably the one thing about work that had concerned me the most prior to coming out.  I always knew that my immediate colleagues would be ok because ultimately they are bound by the company’s very strong code of conduct.  With one minor exception that I will deal with later, everyone in work has been tremendously supportive, although we’ll see how that develops in the coming months as I emerge from my transition honeymoon period.  However clients are bound by no such code and so I was concerned at how some of them might react to the new me.  So far my fears seem to have been largely unfounded, a sentence which I’m pretty sure I have written many times about many worries over the last three and a half years that I have been writing this blog.

Since my return from leave and the commencement of my transition, I have had five meetings with clients, and every one of them has been just as they were before.  Professional and businesslike.  I have had a meeting with a new client who had never known me as anything other than Kirsty, although slightly annoyingly one of the people from this company misgendered me during the meeting, albeit she very swiftly corrected herself.  And rather gratifyingly, later in the same meeting one of the client’s employees barged into the office we were using, realised she was interrupting something, and said “Sorry ladies!”, so that got them a few brownie points back.

I had another meeting with a client to whom I had spoken on the phone before, but never met in person.  This business is owned by a married couple in their sixties, and they were just perfect in how they dealt with me.  Correct name, correct pronouns start to finish.  Plus, they are a firm that distribute drinks and snacks to bars and off licenses throughout Northern Ireland, and as I was leaving they gave me a box of gourmet crisps to take away with me – mmm!  Gin next time, please.

Other meeting were with clients who have met the old me several times, but there were no slips.  All was as good as I could ever have hoped it would be.  I even feel good about little inconsequential things, like asking to use the loo at a client’s premises and being directed to the ladies’.  As I said, all good.

That one slight exception to all this is one woman who works on my floor, although not in my department so she doesn’t really know me.  Twice just in the last week I have been in the ladies’ loo in work, just washing my hands at the sink, and she has opened the door, seen me there, shut the door again and gone to the disabled toilet instead.  I think that says a lot more about her than it does about me, although it is annoying.  I mean, what is she actually thinking?  Does she think that I have taken this massive step, changed my name and all my details, run the risk of being ostracised by family, friends and work, undergoing the pain of electrolysis, changing my body with hormones and potentially risking my life on an operating table just on the off chance that I might catch a glimpse of her taking a dump?  But she is very much the exception.

And speaking of changing my details, I am now the proud owner of a driving licence bearing my new name and address, with the correct title “Ms Kirsty..”.  There is no gender marker on driving licences so the title is as much as I can get from that.  In contrast, a passport does have a gender marker, so when I get my new passport I will feel officially female.  And that is coming, I have a letter from Dr Ingram at the gender clinic verifying that I will be living permanently in the female gender role, for inclusion with my passport application, so that will be getting sent off in the next few days.

For the first time in my life, I went to Belfast Pride a couple of weeks ago and it was… rather dull.  My daughter Amy was going anyway, her best friend is a gay boy and she went with him last year too, so this year there were about six of them from her class at school draped in rainbow flags and sporting rainbow face paint on their cheeks.  So after some encouragement from friends at the SAIL support group, I decided that I would go along and that I would bring my younger daughter Melissa, as Amy had told her how great it was.  To be honest, she was a lot more enthusiastic than me about coming.  I very much resent how drag queens seem to dominate the coverage of Pride events, and I want to disassociate myself from such people as much as possible.  I am not a drag queen, I am a woman and I don’t like doing things that mark me as “other”.  Plus, in my humble and possibly controversial opinon, drag queens are the blackface of gender politics.

In reality, Melissa and I arrived at the start of the parade at the appointed start time (“1pm sharp”) and waited with increasing levels of boredom for the parade to actually begin, which it finally did a full 25 minutes later.  What did surprise me was the number of people lining the streets waving their rainbow flags.  At least I was able to point out the trans flag to Melissa, which she said was prettier than the rainbow one.  At one point I heard someone call my name from the side of the road, and there were my friends Joanne and Gary, so we shuffled over to the side for a hug and to introduce Melissa to them.  Further along, I heard something akin to a scream from the side of the road and this person walked into the middle of the parade heading straight for me, shouting my name.  It was the woman who works on the till in our staff canteen in work, who hadn’t yet seen me in the flesh but was obviously aware of my transition and recognised me immediately.  I actually saw her in work on the Monday, and she confessed that she ended up three sheets to the wind in Union St (a gay bar) and doesn’t remember going home.

We also met several people that I know through the SAIL group, including Claire, who has become a lunch buddy since my return to work.  Overall however we walked round, got to the end, and went home.  I completely appreciate and indeed support the need to be visible and make our voices heard, and in that respect Pride is very important.  But the whole carnival thing, not for me.  I spend so long trying to blend in, to be seen as the woman I am, and yes, to pass, that it just feels wrong to march around marking myself out as trans.  But each to their own.  And I didn’t see a single drag queen.

I had been growing my nails out since going full time.  In fact, they were last cut in mid-June, so they had reached a respectable length by last Wednesday.  Then disaster struck.  I was assembling my new IKEA wardrobe with my brother-in-law Frank on Wednesday night, and in the course of trying to hang the sliding doors I broke the nail on my right index finger right into the quick.  Urgent action was required.  I had promised myself that at some point I would try acrylic or gel extensions, and this seemed like the universe was telling me now was the time to give it a go.  I messaged my three nieces who live locally to ask if they could recommend anyone, and they came up with a friend of theirs called Danielle who operates out of her own house.  They were quick to stress that she was a qualified nail technician and not just some mate though.  So I contacted her via Facebook and she gave me an appointment for 10.30am on Saturday, yesterday morning.

img_4658On Friday evening I removed all nail polish and cut my fingernails down to a length Bob would have sported.  Then I drove up to Danielle’s house on Saturday morning and she took me up to her back bedroom, which she has converted to a mini beauty salon.  She was lovely, really friendly and very chatty.  I was with her for an good 90 minutes and it was a pleasure to watch and artist at work.  Not to mention the fact that I felt so girly, so feminine just being there.  She gave me a choice of either colour or French polish, and I went for colour.  A sparkly golden orange.  I got the full extensions which look fabulous although to be honest they’re not the most practical.  For one thing, I’ll be surprised if this doesn’t turn out to be the most typo-riddled blog post I have ever written.  I’m back in three weeks for “maintenance” and I might get her to cut them back slightly.  We’ll see how it goes.  But they do look amazing.

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Three Roses Between Two Thorns:  Me and my siblings (l-r John, Hilary, Kirsty, Patsy, Brian)

And finally, just this afternoon my sister Patsy hosted a birthday party for me.  It’s not my birthday until Wednesday, but this weekend seemed as good a time as any.  I was the last to arrive (it was arranged that way) and all four of my siblings were there (including two who had travelled 100+ miles to be there) plus their spouses, four nieces and three nephews-in-law, two great-nieces, two great-nephews, as well as my own two daughters.  I arrived at Patsy’s house to see a big “Birthday Girl” banner on the front door, and as it was dry everyone was sitting out the back, which was festooned with more banners and pink balloons.  It was a very special day, an acknowledgement of my new self, and an acceptance of me as a sister and aunt.  Overwhelming in fact.

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Loads of lovely pressies!

After nibbles, birthday cake, party games and several glasses of Prosecco, we retired indoors where Patsy’s dining room table was completely covered with bags of presents.  I opened them one by one, something from everyone there and a few others from other family members who weren’t able to be there in person.  Every single present was a present for a woman.  It was like they were giving me a “woman starter kit”.  Lotions and potions, several pairs of earrings, a jewellery box, a beautiful chiffon scarf, a nice cream top and two gorgeous handbags.  Many hugs were given and a chorus of “Happy Birthday dear Kirsty” followed.  I have arrived and I feel so loved and accepted.  When I think back to when I started writing this blog in February 2014, or even to when I did the coming-out road trip round my four siblings’ homes in February this year, how can I even have thought anything like this could happen to me?  Has there ever been a trans woman who got a better reception?  I’m so lucky and I’m so happy.

Real Life

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More than three weeks have passed since I made that very long post on my first day living full time as a woman.  A lot has happened since then, most of it in the last 10 days or so.  And all of it good.  Really good.  Commencing my transition has been without question the best thing I have ever done in my life.  All of the stress, all of the internal conflict, all of the nerves have just melted away.  I am Kirsty and that’s all there is to it.  I can’t even bring myself to speak his name out loud any more.  I am a woman now, if there was ever any doubt, and I am a happy woman.

I’m not sure where to begin with this post.  The fact is, so much has happened that I don’t feel particularly inclined to blog about a lot of it in any great detail.  So maybe just a quick overview of the first couple of weeks before we get to the good stuff.  I think the fact that I went full time and then didn’t return to work for nearly three weeks meant that there was something of an unreal quality to my “full-time-ness”.  For at least the previous two months, I had already been presenting as female any day I wasn’t working, so it didn’t feel all that different.  Just a bit longer.  I suppose the biggest initial change was that I took four massive black bags full of old clothing to a charity clothing bank – my nephew is diabetic and my sister (his mum) is a big supporter of Diabetes UK, so they got my old clothes.  It’s not like I had any further use for them.  However getting rid of them was a significant step, like reverse purging.  If I were to ever revert to maleness, I would have to build up a male wardrobe from scratch again.  As if that would happen!

Most of my first week off work was spent doing bits and pieces around the old house, even though by that stage I was just my ex’s lodger.  I went out with the kids (they were at home, my ex was at work) a few times, but by and large I didn’t really do much.  I got a few details changed.  I got confirmation that much of the system changes in work were in place, and getting my name and title changed with HMRC (UK Tax Office) was surprisingly straightforward and their website surprisingly user-friendly.

In the second week I took the kids and went to visit my sister Hilary in Co Kildare for a couple of days.  I ended up seeing all her four grown up children too.  It was very nice just to be me the whole time, and my nephew Paul, who was meeting his Auntie Kirsty for the first time, brought my my first bouquet of flowers!  We also spent a day with my niece Clare and her partner in the town of Carlow, which I had never visited before and was a very pleasant place.  However the most significant thing that happened while I was with Hilary was a phone call that I got on the Tuesday morning from my solicitor.  After multiple delays with the completion of my house purchase, my vendors had decided that they were going to move out that Friday, be it into their new house or into temporary accommodation.  I had been making noises about potentially pulling out of the transaction if it was delayed much longer, and it sees they didn’t want to call my bluff.  So I had to get on the internet that morning (thank goodness I brought my iPad!) and sort myself out with house insurance for the new place so that the mortgage company would actually pay out.  After a few false starts, things were beginning to fall into place.

After leaving Hilary’s on Wednesday morning, the kids and I dropped in to visit my eldest brother Brian, the only one of my siblings not to have met his new younger sister.  There was nothing to worry about (not that I was worried).  We walked into his house and he said to me “I have to say that after 46 years it is so nice to finally get to meet the real you”.  We went out for lunch to a local café and really, it was fine.  He’s still my big brother and we still have that relationship.  I just look a bit different.

On the Thursday I got another call from the solicitor confirming that all was going according to plan and the mortage company had confirmed completion for the next day.  This was really going to happen!  It put me in a good mood as I set off into Belfast to meet Beth and Kelly from work, my line manager and the HR manager.  We met up in a Caffè Nero close to work.  In fact, I arrived a little ahead of them and took my seat.  There was a guy in there at another table who also works in our company, and who would have known Bob reasonably well.  Since my transition would have been common knowledge by this point, I considered going up and saying hello, but in the end I just took my cappucino and sat down.  Beth and Kelly arrived soon afterwards and joined me.  We sat for a good 45 minutes and I got the lowdown on how the various announcements were going.  It was a pleasant conversation.  They had literally nothing negative to tell me.  All was good, reaction from other people in our building had been very positive, around 60% of my clients had been informed and nobody had had anything negative to say.  And Kelly was able to present me with my new work pass, with my real name on it and the photo that Alice had taken of me a few weeks earlier.  It meant so much to have that piece of plastic in my hand.

Friday arrived, and by 9.30 I had an email from the solicitor confirming that the funds had been paid out by the mortgage company, and I should expect a call from the estate agent around lunchtime.  By 1.30 I had heard nothing so I called.  Except the estate agent, unlike the solicitor, were unaware of my transition.  They were going to check with the vendors to see if they were out yet.  At 2.30 I received a call from the estate agent again.  Could I go round to my new house by 3 and the vendors would hand me the keys.  Oh.  At this point I asked the estate agent if I could just collect the keys from their office.  OK, she said, but the vendors had just assumed I would want in as quickly as possible.  So finally I told the estate agent that the reason for my divorce, the reason I needed a new home, was because I was transgender and I had already commenced living full time as a woman two weeks earlier.  But since the vendors didn’t know this, I felt a bit awkward about just rocking up to them in all my feminine glory at this stage.  Anyway, by 3.30 I was in the estate agents’ office and left with my new keys in hand.  I went straight home again and collected my daughters so the three of us could enter our new home for the first time together.  We did, and there was already an envelope waiting for us addressed to “Kirsty Roberts and Family”.  A new home card from Hilary.

I couldn’t stay long as I was heading off to meet Andrea for a bite to eat and she was going to lend me her steam wallpaper stripper.  But by the time I had done that, I had only spent about an hour in total in the new house.  The work would begin in earnest the next day.

Alice arrived at 10.30am the next morning to help me clean the carpets with her industrial carpet cleaner (“borrowed” from the school in which she works).  By noon my sister Patsy and niece Rachel arrived.  Rachel bearing two side tables and a coffee table that she was donating from her own house clearout, and Patsy bearing a new Dyson as a housewarming present.  Oh and Rachel also bearing a bottle of Prosecco.  Have to get the important things right.

From Saturday through until Monday I was working morning till late night (but still sleeping in the old house) cleaning carpets, stripping wallpaper, scraping off paint scraps and finally painting walls so that by Tuesday my bedroom would be ready to receive a bed and my living room would be ready to receive a pair of settees.  It was touch and go.  On Tuesday morning I was in the house by 7.15am at the start of the delivery window for my bed, but also because my entire chimney breast and wall needed old paint scraps stripped and then two coats of terracotta paint before my living room would be ready.  The bed arrived at around 10am, but it was flat-packed, so the packs were just put into my room for later assembly.  The settees arrived at noon, and I was almost but not quite finished with the fireplace wall.   However four days after taking ownership of my new home I finally had somewhere to sit.  I cleared out all the junk, plastic sheeting, wallpaper scraps, dust (Dyson a real boon here) and paint pots that were littering my living room and suddenly it felt like a home.

Tuesday night was to be my first night in my new house, although with no TV or broadband it was a bit of an entertainment vacuum.  And I still hadn’t built the bed.  Patsy and her husband Frank came round about 8pm and brought me a few essential groceries, as well as some crockery and cutlery to see me through until I could get my own.  Frank also worked his socks off with me assembling my bed, which was not an easy task.  But we got there in the end and I rounded off the evening sitting on my settee with a glass of wine reading a book and listening to Abbey Road.  It felt great.

On the Wednesday I was up at the Gender Clinic for the HRT consent meeting, which consisted of five of us (the other girls were really young) sitting round with four doctors in a round table discussion about the benefits and potential risks of hormone therapy, at the end of which we were brought in one by one to sign a consent form.  This signal the point at which I was referred to endocrinology to commence my hormone treatment.  The wait is apparently 3-4 months, so hopefully by November at the latest I will have begun.

The next day, Thursday 27th July, was to be my first day in work as my real self.  Turning the clock back a year I would have been utterly terrified at the thought of walking into work presenting female.  Even then, when my plans were reasonably well-formed, I was so nervous about how that would go.  But when the day came round for real, I was relishing it.  The list of things to accomplish in my transition has been a long one, and many are still outstanding, but this is just another box to be ticked albeit a very significant box.

I had arranged with Beth that I would come in a little late.  I didn’t want to just come in with the general throng at 9am, so I arrived at 9.30 when things had quietened down a little in reception.  I called Beth to let her know I was on my way, and began the walk round from the car park.  After so many times taking this ten minute walk, imagining that one day I would be able to do it as who I truly am, I was finally doing this for real, and it felt wonderful.  It didn’t feel like being out in Belfast as I had done before.  It was very different.  I was presenting in a professional manner, with a black cotton top with lacy sleeves, a smart jacket, tweed parallels and smart black heels and I felt every inch the professional woman that I am.

I arrived at reception and there was Beth, with another person from the company who has known me for years.  He came straight up to me, shook my hand and said “Kirsty I presume?  Lovely to meet you”.  A great start.  In fact, he is the person whose aunt I had met a couple of months previously at a dinner party in Alice’s house and I had to deny knowing him to her because my transition wasn’t generally known in work at that stage.  So I seized the opportunity and told him “I know your Auntie Tracy!”  We had a bit of a laugh about the awkwardness of the position that I had been in with her, then it was off up to my office on the fourth floor.

I don’t know what I was expecting when I walked in, but it was incredibly low-key.  People were just heads down getting on with their work.  My presence was barely noted.  I get the impression that people had been told not to be nosy, but it was so quiet.  I stuck my head round the big boss Fred’s door, gave him a sheepish “Good morning” and he reciprocated.  I sat at my desk, opened my computer, and started to wade through the hundreds of emails that I had missed while on leave.  Then people started coming up to me.

At my desk.  In work.  As me.  At last.

Many people from my department came up and told me how happy they were for me, how amazing they thought I looked etc.  Hugs abounded.  People I hadn’t worked with in 15 or 20 years made a point of coming to see me to offer their congratulations and support.  It was more than a little bit overwhelming.

Later that morning I had a catch-up with Beth and Kelly.  Around 70 of my 80 or so clients were now aware of my transition, and only one had said anything remotely negative (“Well that might make me a bit uncomfortable, we’ll just have to see how it goes”) but by and large the message was received and it was just going to be a case of Business As Usual.  I also learned that there have now been four separate trans awareness sessions run by the people from SAIL in my work, the final one of which was only done the day before my return and was so heavily oversubscribed that the big boardroom table had to be removed so the room could be set up theatre style.  And when we got to the end, Kelly said that she was going to miss our planning meetings, and could the three of us just go out for coffee together every now and then.  And I told them both what I have written about on this blog, that the English language doesn’t contain words appropriate to describe the emotions I was feeling at that point.  We are truly in dream come true territory.

After a nice lunch with my old friend Jonathan, I returned to work for the afternoon.  As the afternoon wore on I felt a semblance of normality returning.  Despite how I looked, I was still sitting at my desk in front of my work computer surrounded by the same people doing the same job.  It was quite welcome.

Friday was dress down day, so I was just in work in jeans.  And I was also only in for three hours, as I was getting my TV and internet installed at home (from Virgin Media).  But even in those three hours on Friday morning I had another first.  My first piece of client interaction, albeit not with one of my own clients.  My colleague and friend Graham has gone to Spain on holiday for a fortnight, and his “Out Of Office” message instructed his clients to contact either Beth or Kirsty if they needed anything.  So one of his clients phoned me, and I was just Kirsty on the end of the phone.  No baggage, no awkwardness, it was good.  I can take phone calls.

By the time I left at noon on Friday something struck me.  Since I returned to work the previous day, not one single person had misgendered me.  Not one single person had used my old name within earshot of me.  The only person who had made a blunder was me myself.  I wrote an email and signed it as Bob!  Thankfully I quickly saw what I had done and changed it to Kirsty before hitting send, but it was a bit of a warning to myself.

Team Tayto Park (Front:  l-r me, Alice, Kylie, Joanne, Gary.  Rear:  Mr Tayto)

On Saturday I had a nice day out.  Thursday had been the birthday of my friend Joanne’s (from the book club) fiancé Gary, and she had organised a surprise day out for him at Tayto Park, Ireland’s biggest theme park.  Alice was there too, as well as Gary’s daughter and son-in-law, and it was great fun.  However, I did set my sights too high by going on the big wooden roller coaster and then having to do the entire ride with my head in my hands for fear my wig might fly off.  Should have thought that one through a little better.  As well as the thrill rides, there is also a zoo.  They have two Bengal tigers (bred in captivity) and we managed to catch them at feeding time.  I would never have believed animals that size (200-300kg) could climb a wooden pole with such ease.  And at the back of the park there is a crisp factory.  Because Tayto is Ireland’s biggest potato crisp manufacturer, and the theme park was build up around their factory in rural Co Meath.  Tayto is so ubiquitous in Ireland that Irish people don’t have a packet of crisps, they have a “bag of Tayto”.  Only in Ireland – if you go to Disneyland you get to meet Mickey Mouse, come to an Irish theme park and meet a walking potato in a hat!

Today was back in work again, and it just feels better and more natural, less awkward, every time.  I feel completely fantastic about being there, and the acceptance I seem to be getting from colleagues is so much better than I could ever have dared to dream.  I had a lovely lunch out with another friend, Claire, who I met through the SAIL adult trans support group.  She has recently had facial feminisation surgery and she was looking great – the last time I had seen her a month or so ago she had still been a bit bruised and swollen.  Then after returning to work the best thing yet happened…

I am getting a new client.  This guy’s legal agreements were delived to him by Graham while I had been off, but now he had returned with them completed, and I got a message that he was waiting in reception asking for Kirsty.  I know that Graham had mentioned to him that his manager would be a woman called Kirsty who was on leave, and so this client was completely unaware of my gender history.  I walked down to reception to meet him, introduced myself, and sat with him going through a pile of paperwork for about 20 minutes.  It was almost an out of body experience.  I was there, in my dress and heels, pointing at various clauses with my long painted nails, and he was just carrying on as normal.  No double takes, no funny looks, nothing that suggested anything other than he was meeting his new female account manager whose name was Kirsty.  When we finished up he just said “It was really nice to meet you Kirsty”, and we shook hands.  It was really just a fairly mundane, run-of-the-mill quick adhoc client meeting, but I was walking on air going back upstairs to my office.

I’m here, I’m Kirsty and I’m never ever going to have to put on a male façade ever again.  This is me, for life, real life, and I love it.

All Me, All The Time

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I’ve made it.  Thrown off the shackles of my old male life.  I’m a woman now, all day, every day for the rest of my life.  The overwhelming emotion that I’m feeling isn’t the elation and joy that I had expected.  It is relief.  Just relief.  No more hiding.  No more juggling two identities.  No more worry about being found out.  Relief.

For all that, reaching this point has come by a rather more circuitous route than I had originally intented.  Today, Saturday 8th of July 2017, is my first day of living full time as a woman.  The mathematically minded among you may well spot that this is considerably more than the 10 days that I spoke about in my previous post, coincidentally entitled “T Minus 10”.  More like 18.  And things have been silent on the blogging front since that last post, mainly because I finished it off by saying that by the time I blogged again I would be full time, so I didn’t feel inclined to make a liar of myself.  And it’s a long story.  A very long story.  So strap in, we might be here for some time…

First things first.  The reason for the delay.  I’m still not in my new house.  I was originally hoping to be in for Friday 30th June.  Then a week in advance of that I heard that there was going to be a short delay as there was a snag with the house being bought by the people I was buying from.  Something about a minor dispute over the location of the dividing line on a shared driveway.  But that was cleared up by the 30th, so my solicitor was hopeful that we would be good to go on Friday 7th July.  I even delayed my leave from work by a week, and put the communication plan on hold.  Then on Tuesday morning (4th July) I got a call from my solicitor to tell me the bad news that the solicitor doing the conveyancing on the house purchase three steps up the line from me, at the top of the chain, wasn’t remotely ready to complete.  Just hadn’t done what needs done, and it was impossible for it to be done this week.  Then, to add insult to injury, all solicitors in Northern Ireland will be closed all of next week, in order to commemorate the forces of William of Orange defeating those of James II in a battle fought in what is now the Republic of Ireland 317 years ago.  No, I don’t understand it either.

The upshot of all this is that the legal profession is only going to be returning to work on Monday 17th July, and best case scenario is that my house purchase will complete at the end of that week, by Friday 21st.  However my solicitor warns me that while my own paperwork and that of my vendors is complete, the solicitor at the top of the chain is so far behind that she thinks week commencing Monday 24th July is most likely.  I am due back at work on Thursday 27th.  I can’t put my leave back any longer because I need to return to work to allow my friend and colleague Graham to take his leave (and he has a holiday booked).  So I was left with a choice.  Tell my solicitor the move was off until mid-August when I could get some more leave and delay my transition accordingly, or just say “sod it” and go full-time while still in the old house, and just enjoy a couple of weeks off with the kids.  I plumped for the latter option, really because the thought of potentially six more weeks of Bob was just unbearable.  And here I am.

There was, as usual, a fair amount of me being out and about since the last post, but it’s pretty much more of the same so I’ll not document it here.  I’ll just cut straight to the chase and write about significant events over the last two weeks leading up to this point.  The first of those is the woman formerly known as Mrs K (whom I will henceforth refer to as simply “my ex”) finally getting round to telling her parents about our divorce and my transition.  It was Wednesday last week, the 28th of June.  My ex had an afternoon off work as she was meeting her solicitor to finalise the marital agreement and divorce petition, which she signed with the amendments suggested by my solicitor, so all seems to be progressing as well as can be hoped on that front.  But by the time she finished with her solicitor, it was still barely 3pm so she phoned her parents and told them she was on her way over as she had something to tell them.  I was rather apprehensive about this.  Not that I was too bothered about what they thought, but for better or worse they are still my kids’ grandparents so it would be close to impossible for me to avoid any contact with them in the future.  But as seems to have been the case so many times, the reception was so much better than I had feared.  They were suprised, obviously, about my transition, but they were both very practical in their approach.  Their main concerns were both our finances having to pay two mortages rather than one, and how our daughters were dealing with both the divorce and my transition.  My ex was at least able to allay their fears about the girls, although finances will undoubtedly be tight.  But we will manage.  My father-in-law, who was in the Royal Air Force in the early 60’s before he was married and was present at atomic bomb tests on Christmas Island, made the immortal pronouncement “I’m not shocked.  I have seen two nuclear explosions in my time, it takes a lot to shock me”.  Well, yes.

One side effect of the delay in my move from the original target date of 30th June is that we needed to arrange childcare for the first week of July.  This meant that on Monday and Tuesday the girls would go to their grandparents, which they have done every summer since they were toddlers.  So when dropping them off and collecting them later on, I was going to have to face the in-laws.  A message was conveyed to me by my ex that I was not to feel worried or apprehensive, I would always be welcome whether Bob or Kirsty, divorce or no divorce.  It was lovely to hear, but I still couldn’t help being a little bit apprehensive anyway as we drove the kids over on Monday morning.  I needn’t have worried.

What was exacerbating my worry was that I had an appointment at the Gender Clinic on Tuesday afternoon.  I had originally expected to already be on leave at this time, and my sister Patsy was going to take the kids for a couple of hours to allow me to go, but with the delay in the house move the kids would be at their grandparents’.  So on Monday evening I told my in-laws that I was going to be going to the gender clinic the next afternoon, and it would be a lot more straightforward if I could just collect the girls as Kirsty, because if I had to go home to get changed it would make me late.  Unfortunately the in-laws misheard.  My mother-in-law asked

“What did he say?  He’s going to be late?”

My ex replied “No.  He’s going to be female.”

“Oh.  Well, if that’s what you want we’re going to have to get used to it sooner or later.”

I wanted to make completely sure they were ok with this.  They are 78 and 80 and I don’t want to cause them undue discomfort, so I wanted to be completely certain.  They said they were, although it didn’t sound like an enthusiastic invitation.  More an “if you must”.  However the next morning when dropping the kids off my mother-in-law told me much more sincerely that if I wanted to come there as a woman then that was fine by her.  So that’s what I did.

However before I can get to that evening, it’s time to take a detour to the Gender Clinic.  When I had received the call that morning telling me that the house move was off until late July, I really couldn’t make up my mind what to do.  I had even left my solicitor with the message that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to complete the purchase at all.  I knew that I did want to complete, but I figured I’d just let the slowcoaches further up the chain stew for a while.  But as for whether to delay everything till August or press ahead with my existing transition timescale regardless of the move, I was genuinely torn.  It was only when I sat down with Dr Ingram that I got to talk it through and reached my decision as I spoke.  It really was obvious.  I would begin my transition in the current house.  An added benefit of this is that when I do move, the utilities can all be moved straight from the current owners into my new name, rather than having to go to my old name initially.  Just a crumb of comfort, maybe, but still less admin to do.

Speaking of admin, I mentioned to Dr Ingram that my driving licence renewal form had arrived in the post.  My current driving licence expires on 23rd August (my birthday, gifts and donations to the usual address thanks) and there seems little point in renewing as Bob.  But of course I need a deed poll (which I have completed, witnessed by my line manager Beth) and a letter from the clinic.  Even though Dr Ingram was 100% aware that I was not yet full time, albeit only days away, he took me straight down to the secretaries’ office and got me one printed off right away.  Only problem is, I can’t use it just yet because just as there was no point renewing as Bob only to have to get another one as Kirsty, there is also no point renewing at my current address when I’m moving house before the current licence expires.  So I’m holding fire on that driving licence application until I actually move.

There was also progress in another area at the clinic.  I am booked in for the next HRT “Informed Consent” meeting on 26th July, which I understand is a handful of trans women getting a bit of a talk on what’s involved in HRT, followed by short one-on-one interviews, at the end of which we sign a piece of paper saying we know what we’re getting into and that’s it, we’re referred for HRT.  A few months ago Dr Ingram had told me that the waiting list for HRT was around 6 months, but I could jump the queue by paying a one-off £150-£180 to see the endocrinologist privately.  I was minded to pay this in order to save 6 months, however this time round he told me that the waiting list for HRT has come down and is now only 2-3 months.  That money is the price of a new microwave for my new house.  I might just wait.  But things are moving, that is the main thing.

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Me as I will look on my staff ID pass

After finishing up at the clinic, I dropped off at Alice’s house for a cuppa and a chat, which was very nice.  Not only that, I had commandeered her as my official photographer.  Kelly from HR in work had asked me to provide her with a digital photo of myself that would be suitable for use on my new work pass, the idea being that she could get my new pass ready for my return.  But I needed a photo, so I ended up going to the clinic in quite smart officewear, black jacket, skirt, tights and heels, with a cream blouse.  The photo is only a head-and-shoulders shot, but it would have felt a bit weird wearing that on top with jeans and trainers.  And I am in the priveleged position of being possibly the only person in my company who got to put filters on her official company pass.  Ha ha.

 

So after taking my leave of Alice it was time to face the in-laws.  I pulled up outside their house and approached the door.  The omens weren’t great, as the heel of one of my shoes disappeared into a gap between two paving stones on their driveway, leaving a bit of a scrape.  Hmm.  Still, my father-in-law came to the door and let me in, and then it was odd.  They behaved exactly as they have always done every time I have ever entered their house.  There was literally no mention of how I was presenting.  It was a massive elephant in the room, but they were clearly making a determined effort to carry on regardless.  They were trying so hard, bless them, that I wanted to hug them.  But they really aren’t the huggy type (unlike my family !) so I left it at that.  In fact, they were so accommodating that they have agreed to look after Melissa for me while I go to the aforementioned HRT informed consent session – it also means they get an afternoon with their granddaughter that they would otherwise have missed, so everyone’s happy.

I mentioned in the last post that I was unable to decide what to do with Facebook.  Mia came up with a good suggestion in the comments, and so I decided to go with that subject to a few of my own modifications.  On Wednesday evening I posted the following message to Bob’s Facebook account:

I am going to be doing a big Facebook cull tomorrow in advance of a major life change.

If you already know what my major life change is, you’re not going to be culled.

If you don’t know, and particularly don’t want to be culled, please say so (although God knows why you’d bother, it’s not like I post much is it?)

It did kind of set the cat amongst the pigeons.  I really was doing a cull.  There were peope on Bob’s friends list that I didn’t want to bring across.  People who had shown themselves to be, not to put too fine a point on it, arseholes.  People who I barely knew but met once at some event in 2005.  And three people on the list were dead!  I got lots of comments from two distinct groups; people who knew about my transition posting sagely about how I have their support, and people who didn’t know saying they hoped that I was ok and also expressing their curiosity.  They only had to wait a day.

Thursday was my last day in work as male, and to be honest it was a bit of a blur.  I managed about an hour’s work and then at 10am, as I usually do, I nipped to the coffee shop across the road for a couple of takeaway cappucinos for Graham and myself.  However unlike what normally happens, immediately before I walked out the door, I clicked “send” on an email to the entire department entitled “CONFIDENTIAL:  Big news about me”.  I’m sure you can imagine the content.  In fact, I had already told so many people privately that there were only five people in the office who didn’t know, plus two others who were out with clients but would see the email on their company-issue iPhones.  I returned with coffee 10 minutes later to… complete silence.  No gossip, no scandal, nobody gaping open-mouthed at me.  Nobody said anything.  Then around 10 minutes later I received an email from one woman, expressing love, support and admiration in such unequivocal terms I was quite moved.  I looked across the office to her and she looked close to tears.  Then another one came in, similar in content, from the woman who sits next to her.  I went and thanked them both.  Someone else came over and told me in person that I had her support.  An email came in from one of the people out and about.  Nobody said anything negative.  The two people who said nothing still carried on working with me as usual, and both these people are quite quiet and reserved so I imagine they didn’t know what to say.  I can’t expect effusive acceptance from everyone, I’m happy not to have disgust and approbation.

By lunchtime the guy who does our IT came over to point out that I was now listed as Kirsty on one of our client management systems.  Shortly afterwards I was unable to log on to our risk management system.  He told me it was because Bob’s ID had been deleted and I had to log on as Kirsty, which I did.  Changes were happening all around me and Bob hadn’t even left yet.

At 2pm Beth and I met with Kelly from HR for a final run through the plan.  It was a remarkably emotional meeting.  The three of us have been having these fairly frequent planning meetings for nearly 5 months now, working through the fine detail of what was going to happen, and suddenly we were here.  Bob’s final day.  The end of an era.  The end of the planning and the beginning of the delivery.  I think we were all rather overwhelmed in different ways.  And for what they have done for me, the support they have given me and the commitment they have shown when they have both been very busy with other things, well I will always be grateful.

And then it was back up to our own office for Beth and me.  She was finishing up early, so she came over to my desk and hugged me, wishing me good luck.  Then she shook her head, saying “This is the last time I’ll ever see Bob”, backing away from me, still staring at me as she reversed to the door.  She said one last farewell and left.  Graham looked round at me once she had departed and said “I don’t think you realise how emotional this all is for me and Beth”

Next I had to send round my “While I Am Away” email.  It’s a word document with instructions for Beth and Graham for what needs done with my clients while I’m off.  As I was about to send it, I realised that it was the final email that would ever be sent from Bob’s email account.  And so I signed off

Good luck and I’ll see you on the other side

For the final time

Bob

I wrote this and started packing up, getting ready to go, feeling increasingly overwhelmed.  The boss, Fred, emerged from his office after seeing me start to pack.  He shook my hand and wished me all the luck in the world, at which point I could hold the tears back no longer.  I flippantly said that I was upset because I was just about to pay my final visit to the men’s toilet, where I immediately went into a cubicle and cried my eyes out for five minutes.  I came back out, barely holding it together, said one last farewell to the place as Bob and left.

Back home again it was time to follow through on the previous evening’s Facebook activity.  I posted my big reveal, which I will reproduce here in its entirety.

Well this is it.  The announcement of that major life change that is taking place from Saturday.  If you’re reading this, you’ve made it through my cull.  Congratulations.  This is going to be a fairly long post, but it will also be one of the last posts I ever make on this Facebook profile, so please read on.

For many years I have lived with a condition that I have tried to deal with in secret.  Since childhood, in fact.  However the time has now come where I can suppress it no more.  And so I am finally ready to tell you all that I am transgender.  For any of you unfamiliar with the terminology, this means that I have always felt deep down like I should have been female.  Because I don’t look like a woman, this has periodically caused me great distress or discomfort which I have tried to overcome, ignore or suppress.  This distress is called gender dysphoria.

Effective from Saturday, I will be living permanently as a woman.  My new name is Kirsty.  This is already my “real” name, as I completed a deed poll a couple of weeks ago.  Today was my last day in work as Bob.  When I return to work on 27th July, it will be as Kirsty, although I will continue to do the same job.

During the next few weeks I will be doing a lot of administrative tasks to change my name on various official documents and records, but I will also be moving house before the end of July.  This does mean that [my ex] and I will no longer be married, however we remain very close friends and on the very best of terms.  Both Amy and Melissa are now comfortable with the new me, and are aware that I will be female from now on, and more than anything they seem to be happy for me, not to mention excited at the prospect of having two bedrooms in two houses.

My wonderful extended family – brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, in-laws (including [my ex]’s parents) – have all been amazingly supportive at this difficult time.  Likewise, the support that I have received in work has been remarkable.  And friends that I have told already have so far been without exception amazing.  I feel very fortunate to have such great people around me.  I know several other trans people from attending the Gender Clinic and various support groups, and I seem to be almost unique in that I haven’t lost a single close friend or family member as I commence my transition from male to female.

So for now, what am I asking you to do?  Well, the truth is that for the last few years I have had two distinct Facebook profiles; one for Bob, one for Kirsty, each with completely separate groups of friends.  The time has come to merge them and deactivate Bob’s account.

A number of you are already aware of my transition.  You will all be receiving friend requests from my other Facebook account and I hope you will accept.  For the rest of you, those of you with whom I haven’t been able to speak or message individually, I’m just going to hope that you will send a friend request to the new me.  I’m not going to just send out friend requests to everybody, not because I don’t want you on my friends list, but because I don’t want to put anyone in an awkward position where they feel they have to snub me.  If the thought of my transition does make you feel uncomfortable, or you don’t want any part of it, well I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.  Just do nothing.  Don’t comment, don’t send a friend request, and you won’t need to worry about me any longer.  I will leave this Facebook profile up until the end of July, then I’m going to unfriend everybody and make this account private.

If you would like to move over to my new Facebook account (where things might be a little bit “interesting” in the coming months to say the least) then I’d love to accept your friend request.  You can access my new profile by clicking on my new name [I tagged Kirsty here]

This is the new me.  I hope to see you on the other side.

And with that, the big secret was out.  Sending that post was a feeling of pure relief.  Of not having to pretend any more.  It was utterly liberating.  And the supportive comments and messages that I have received since have been overwhelming. People that I really thought would struggle to come to terms with this have followed me across.  Out of 42 friend requests that I issued on Thursday night, 41 have accepted, the 42nd being someone who I think looks at Facebook about once every three months.  About 2/3 of the remaining 45 people have sent their own friend requests to Kirsty’s Facebook account, leaving something like 15 people who haven’t, and none of them really matter.  I do note however that one of the 15 is my old colleague Arthur, who I always feared would struggle to accept my transition.

Friday was an odd day.  I was on leave from work, but still Bob.  I had emailed Melissa’s headmaster the previous week to let him know that my transition would be commencing shortly.  Melissa was at the school’s afterschool club, which runs all summer, from Wednesday to Friday this week.  I had informed the headmaster that I would be collecting Melissa as male all that week, but when she returns for a couple of days at the end of July I would be female, so that he could advise the staff accordingly.  I therefore felt duty bound to turn up as Bob on Friday.  Still, I had plenty to keep me busy.

I spent a while on Friday morning sorting out the name change on my bank accounts.  The person helping me with this is someone whom I worked with about 20 years ago, so we do know each other, and at least she knew the situation before I came into the branch so I didn’t have to explain my transition from scratch.  She took a copy of my deed poll and now my bank accounts and credit card account are all in my new name, with the new cards and cheque book on their way to me.  She did also comment that she was truly surprised when she had heard of my transition the previous day.  I had emailed the branch manager, who had been informed a few weeks earlier, asking if he could point me in the right direction to sort out the bank accounts.  He set up this appointment but she said that “When he told me ‘Bob’s changing his…’ I expected him to say ‘car’ or ‘house’, maybe even ‘job’.  I did NOT expect him to say ‘gender’!”  At least we were able to laugh about it.  And she called me “Kirsty” throughout the appointment, despite me still looking defiantly Bob-ish.

My other tasks for the day were mainly sorting out online things – accounts with Apple, Amazon, Tesco clubcard etc were all very easily changed.  However Sony’s Playstation Network is a disaster.  My user ID contains my old name.  It can’t be changed.  It is unchangeable.  So I have the choice of either continuing with my existing account and retaining Bob’s name online, or else starting a new account and losing eight years’ worth of digital purchases.  In the end I discovered that by linking my Playstation account to my Facebook account, I could make the Playstation display my Facebook name rather than my network ID, so I did in the end find a workaround although not before by good friend Pete, who is a law graduate, offered to compose what he calls a “nastygram” to send to Sony.  I still might take him up on that.

One last task was left for last night.  Telling the neighbours.  One set of neighbours have known of my transition for several months, although they didn’t know exactly when I would be going full time.  However the other set didn’t know at all.  Having said that, I was certain that they had seen me coming and going in female form.  I visited the neighbours who knew first, and at least with them it was a simple message that I was just letting them know it was my final day as Bob, and that I would be moving out of the house in another couple of weeks.  They were just lovely, both of them.

The other neighbours felt a little more intimidating.  I knocked their door and she immediately went to fetch Melissa, who was playing in their back garden with their son who is the same age.  I had to send Melissa back round and tell the neighbour that it was her and her husband I wanted to speak to.  Unfortunately he was ill in bed, so I just got to speak to her.  And she couldn’t have been nicer.  Very supportive, sorry to that my ex and I are divorcing, sorry to lose me as a neighbour, but offering to help either of us in any way she could.  Later on, when I did have to collect Melissa for real, he had arisen from his sick bed and came to speak to me himself.  I told him I was sure he had seen me, but he denied this.  He was every bit as positive as his wife, adding that when I had gone if my ex ever needed any little odd jobs done that the man of a house would normally do, she only had to ask him and he would oblige.  Isn’t that nice?

I had one last moment on Friday night.  As I was putting Melissa to bed I was hit with a realisation that this was the last time she would ever see her father as a man.  I found this quite upsetting, and hugged her tightly, telling her to remember me both ways but know that I was much happier as a woman.  Of course it was all water off a duck’s back for her.  She’s 7 – what do you expect?

One final achievement today.  Amy and I did the thing that we had promised each other we would to together ever since she found out I was a woman.  That once I went full-time we would go to get our ears pierced together.  And that’s just what we did.  Melissa came too, although it’ll be another year or two before she gets hers done.  It was actually a really nice experience.  I was quite nervous about how much it would hurt, but Amy reassured me that it was fine – she had her ears pierced when she was 9 but they closed over again when she was about 12 due to lack of use.  The job was done by a nice eastern European lady (I think she said she was Romanian) who referred to me as “Mum” the entire time.  As I was sitting in the chair waiting to be done, another woman approached with a nervous-looking little girl, and she asked if her daugher could watch me getting my ears pierced, as she was worried it would be sore so if she saw me having a good experience that would help her feel better about the whole thing.  No pressure then!  In fact it was perfectly bearable, much less painful than one single hair extraction by electrolysis.  Amy went after me, and hers seemed to go well too.

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So now I’ve got actual proper earrings in my earlobes.  My real name is Kirsty.  My bank accounts are changed.  I’m about to start HRT.  My work knows.  My family knows.  My neighbours know.  I have the letter enabling me to get a new driving licence.  I’m living as a woman, for the rest of my life.  And it’s only day 1.  Pretty good really.

T Minus 10

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I have ten days left.  Ten days of living in the wrong gender.  Ten more days to put up with this existence.  Ten days until my life changes forever.  Ten days until I become permanently female.  There is so much going on right now that I’m a little bit stressed, but I’m coping ok.  I want to use this post to make a note of everything that’s happening.  As I have said before, I’m very happy for anyone to read this blog, and I welcome any comments that you make, but the main audience for this is my future self.  So for the sake of posterity, this is a snapshot of what is happening.

Today is the 21st of June.  I have ordered my deed poll, which will hopefully arrive within the next couple of days, to legally change by name to Kirsty to be effective from 1st July 2017, 10 days from now.  This timing is to do with my house move.  It is looking increasingly positive that I will get the keys to my new home on Friday 30th June.  That’s not to say that I will be moving in on that day, realistically I’m allowing myself a week to turn an empty house into something liveable, but I will get the keys on that day.  That being the case, I want to be able to sign all the documentation for the new house in Bob’s name because introducing a name change at this late hour would be most confusing for the mortgage, the transfer deed, all that legal gubbins that needs done.  At the same time, my marital agreement with Mrs K should also be signed by that date, meaning it won’t need redrafted with my new name either.  Just trying to keep things simple.

I have settees and a bed ordered and due to arrive within a few days of me taking ownership of the new home.  My daughters and I have been doing the tours of IKEA and the like looking at furniture for the house, and for their bedrooms in particular.  We have been to B&Q picking paint colours for their rooms.  I have also chosen (but not purchased) various items of furniture such as wardrobes, kitchen table, TV unit, dressing tables etc.  Not to mention all the non-furniture items that I need like crockery, cutlery, iron, ironing board, vacuum cleaner, microwave, toaster, kettle… well you get the idea.  There’s going to be a huge splurge of shopping to be done.  All very exciting.  Just as well I have nearly 3 weeks off work to sort the worst of it all out.

On the subject of work, the management team in my department were informed of my transition by my line manager Beth on Monday last week.  There are five of them, and every one of them took me aside to offer words of support and encouragement.  I also came out to another person with whom I am fairly friendly just yesterday, as she is going on holiday next week and so will miss the general announcement on my final day.  Again, she was brilliantly supportive and for the first time in one of these “outing” conversations, she said that she wasn’t surprised.  Good, I suppose.

A number of other senior managers in the company working in the business units around Northern Ireland were informed in a conference call yesterday, and they have all been invited to attend a diversity awareness session being run by SAIL next Monday.  Slightly worryingly, they found out yesterday afternoon and I haven’t heard a peep from any of them today.  Let’s hope it’s a case of no news being good news.  Once they have been on that awareness session next Monday they will be informing their own staff, who all co-manage clients with me, and those staff will in turn attend another SAIL session at the end of that week.  Then, during my period of leave, those people will be the ones who advise my clients of my transition.  The idea being that by the time I return to work on the 20th of July (a Thursday) all my clients will know of my transition and my new name, and I can just carry on with the job.  And that’s when things get really real.

I wrote before that after I came out to Beth and she brought HR into the conversation, Kelly in HR did some research and discovered that I am the first person in our company to transition.  That’s a company with over 10,000 staff.  Well I am feeling somewhat usurped, because I can no longer claim that record.  On Monday last week a new female staff member in another department approached her line manager.  This person has been working for the company for just two weeks.  Still in the initial induction period.  And this person announced that they were trans, and would be coming to work as a man.  The line manger was somewhat taken aback, but arranged a meeting with HR for Wednesday.  Said employee rocked up to the HR meeting two days later in a suit and tie, and that was it.  Samantha is now Samuel and that’s all there is to it.  So I’m still the first person to advise of their transition in the company, and I’m still the first trans woman in the company, but I can no longer claim to the be the first transitioner.  As an aside, Kelly in HR did say that she was very thankful that we have been through the long lead-in process for my transition because from being in a position of being caught somewhat on the hop with me, for Samuel HR got to come across as very well-informed and able to take this all their stride.

I really am counting down the days.  I’m also counting down the shirts.  I have six more days at work as Bob.  Two more days this week and four next week.  Then that’s it.  I have four of Bob’s shirts ironed and hanging in the wardrobe.  I will need to iron two more man’s shirts for myself ever, for the rest of my life.  Then that’s it.  That’s the sum total of my remaining male ironing.  That might seem rather petty, but it feels somehow significant to me.  In fact, for the last few weeks items of Bobswear have been popping up in the ironing basket and I have just thought “sod that, I’m never going to wear that again” and not bothering to iron it.

There are a lot of other niggly little practical things that need done in the coming week or two.  All the domestic utilities (phone, broadband, TV, electricity, gas, rates etc not to mention various insurances) need to be transferred from my name into Mrs K’s.  I need to arrange home insurance for my new home.  Then I need to change my name on everything, from bank accounts to utilities in the new house (the downside of buying the house in my old name) to web-based things like Amazon, Apple and eBay.  As I may have mentioned on here before, I currently have two Facebook profiles, one for Bob and one for Kirsty.  At the end of next week I/Kirsty will send friend requests to Bob’s Facebook friends, or at least the ones I want to keep – it’s a great opportunity for a Facebook cull, which all social media users should do from time to time.

I’m still not quite sure how to do the big Facebook switchover.  There are a fair few people on Bob’s profile that I only know a little bit, friends of friends and so on.  There are also plenty of Bob’s friends who already know about Kirsty, but there is currently zero crossover between the two lists.  Because there is that chunk of people on Bob’s friends list who don’t yet know, I don’t want the ones who do know to befriend Kirsty on FB, then have a notification pop up on a mutual friend’s FB feed that “Joe Bloggs and Kirsty Roberts are now friends”, and have someone reading that wonder if Kirsty Roberts is related to Bob Roberts, come to think of it they do look rather alike… hang on a minute!!!

As I see it I have two options on Facebook.  A general announcement on Bob’s Facebook page that I am transitioning and there will be no further activity from Bob because Bob will no longer exist, followed by a flurry of friend requests going out from Kirsty to those friends I want to carry across.  Alternatively, I may privately message the friends I’m hoping to carry across to let them know of my transition (the ones who don’t already know) and then send out the new friend requests.  Bob’s Facebook page will then go silent (but not dark, too many shared memories with Mrs K and the family that I don’t want to lose) leaving those “friends” that I’m ditching to wonder what happened to Bob, athough I’m sure they will find out eventually.  I’m leaning towards the latter option although I’m open to suggestions for how others have dealt with Facebook in transition.  For any readers who are Facebook refuseniks, that is your right, but I’m really not up for a lecture on the evils of Zuckerberg’s information farm right now.  My eyes are open.

Family support (even Mrs K, in her own way) continues to be more than I could ever have expected.  Both my sister Patsy and my brother John have stepped in to sit with the kids when I have been going to various support groups, my daughters are spending increased amounts of time with their “mum” and the wider family is completely accepting.  I dropped in at my niece Rachel’s house last weekend (to lend her a book), and it turned out her whole clan was there, her mum Patsy (my sister), both Patsy’s other daughters and her son, plus Patsy’s two granddaughters (aged 12 and 17) who got to meet their Great Aunt Kirsty for the first time (and what a great aunt I am too!) and treated me just the same as they always have done – one of the family.  Plus I just learned last week that Rachel is pregnant with her first child, so her little ‘un will be the first person in the family to only ever know me as Kirsty.  That makes me smile.  Incidentally, Rachel only married her husband in September last year, and he has the same first name and middle name as Bob.  So I have informed him that the real reason I am transitioning is that the family isn’t big enough to accommodate two people with the same name.

I have also been told to keep the 20th of August free, as there is going to be a party and barbecue (weather permitting) held in my honour by all four of my siblings and wider family.  It’s only a few days away from my birthday, so they say they want to mark the occasion of my first birthday as the real me with what amounts to a coming-out party, a sign of welcome and acceptance.  How could I ever have even hoped in my wildest dreams that this would ever be possible?

As for my emotional state, as with what I wrote in my last post it continues to be very mixed.  However that’s not necessarily a negative.  There is just so much going on that there’s bound to be some nerves.  The thing is, my nerves aren’t really to do with the transition per se.  The nerves are to do with the house move all happening at the right time, getting the divorce finalised properly, and a big chunk of worry about the finances of all this, which will undoubtedly be very tight.  But I have not one single flicker of doubt that I am doing the right thing.  I am completely certain that this is what I need to do, because I am completely certain that despite surface appearances, I am a woman.  And if I am a woman, I can’t be a man.  It’s that simple.  I need to be a woman.  In ten days, I will be.

With everything that’s going on I can’t imagine I’m going to have time to write another blog for a couple of weeks, so I am going to say now that unless something goes dramatically wrong, this will be my final blog post as a part-timer.  The next time I write a blog post, I will be living full-time as a woman.

See you on the other side.

Lacking Language

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This post was prompted from a very simple question posed by my sister Patsy.  We were talking through all the things that are going on, from the plans for transition in work, to the ongoing sessions at GIC, to the electrolysis that I’m undergoing, to the divorce, to the imminent house move and the wholesale upheaval in my life that is going to take place in a matter of weeks.  She just asked me

“But are you happy?”

I was tempted to just reply “Yes” and leave it at that, but really that would be such a ridiculous oversimplification that it’s barely worth saying.  On the other hand I certainly wasn’t going to say “No” because that would be clearly untrue.  And the middle ground, a bit of a “Meh”, well that’s a bit of a wishy-washy emotional outcome for such a major undertaking as transition.  I’m such a melange of emotions at the moment there’s no answer that I can satisfactorily give other than “It’s a lot more complicated than that”.

This lead me on to the conclusion that language (or English at least) was invented by cis people and doesn’t actually contain the words to succintly describe the trans experience.  Well not my trans experience anyway, other experiences are available. How on earth can you explain to someone who is resolutely cisgender what it feels like to have this ceaseless drive inside you to be a different gender.  To express a different gender.  To be seen to be a different gender.  All the time fighting a battle against the societal need to conform and not stand out.  And that’s just the residual unexpressed, repressed feelings from the decades before I truly accepted myself for who I am.

Looking at where I am now, my emotional state is hard to explain.  In many ways I am surprising myself with my calmness.  I think this is because I feel that, for transition at least, I am as well prepared as I think I can possibly be.  I suppose I could delay transition a little longer to get the facial hair removal completed, but really I can’t face the prospect of not living full time as a woman very soon indeed.  Why is that?  Why could I put up with living as a man for so many years but now I can’t?  What changed?  I have a theory…

I like to think that I have a decent sense of realism.  I understand what is and isn’t achievable.  So when thinking about my life over many years, achievable things were getting a reasonable job, getting married, having children, owning my own house, going on holiday somewhere nice, things like that.  Unachievable things were being an internationally celebrated rock star, being a bestselling novelist, becoming an astronaut, and yes, living as and indeed being a woman.  None of these things were literally impossible, and I would have liked to achieve each and every one of them in their own way, but they were so diminishingly unlikely that I was able to shove them all into a little locked box at the back of my mind with a label on it that read “Do not open under any circumstances.  Love, Pandora.”

This is how I coped.  I believed completely that the idea of me even setting foot outside the house wearing female clothing, never mind transitioning, was so inherently ridiculous and impossible that for long periods of time I was able to bury it in that box, alongside the childhood desire to be an astronaut and the adolescent desire to be a rock star.  It was just “Oh, that?  No, we don’t think about that sort of thing any more”.  Except I did think about it just a little.  Just enough for that box to start slowly opening just enough, just a little at a time.  Buying female clothing for myself.  Next step, buying makeup.  Then wearing it at home.  Then fully transforming myself, contacting a support group, meeting other trans people and finding them to be surprisingly similar to me in many ways, my first very short trip out in public presenting female, the first time I spoke to a cis person while presenting female, undergoing counselling and recognising that I was a transsexual woman but I wouldn’t be able to transition, taking ferries and staying in hotels and guesthouses as a woman, joining a social group as a woman, everything slowly coalesced layer by layer building up into this undeniable proof that my lifelong belief in the impossibility of transition was fatally, hopelessly flawed.  It was possible.  And once that was established, trying to stop myself from pushing forward wth this very-much-possible transition became the thing that was impossible.

And here I am now, on the cusp of a new life as a woman.  About to leave the home I have lived in for the last 13 years to go to a smaller house by myself.  About to go from seeing my kids every day to seeing them only half as much.  About to be divorced from the woman I would have told you five years ago that I could never ever imagine splitting up with (although admittedly that was more to do with us both being too lazy to actually get off our arses and do something marriage-ending).  I was as settled as can be, and now, it’s all change.  They say that divorce is one of the most stressful things that can happen to you.  They also say that moving house is one of the most stressful things that can happen to you.  I’m doing both at the same time as starting my transition.  How on earth am I supposed to feel about that?

Excited.

Apprehensive.

Sad.

Positive.

Joyful.

Melancholy.

Hyper.

Nervous.

Optimistic.

Relieved.

It’s quite a combination.  I’m genuinely not sure how I’m going to feel when I make the move.  There will undoubtedly be some sadness at leaving behind Mrs K.  She has been a huge part of my life for better or worse (mostly for better) for the last 20 years, and she will continue to be part of it albeit in a different way.  But that partnership, that indivisible unit, that has gone.  She has also expressed to me some doubt about how she is going to react the last time she sees Bob.  Because there will be a final time that I present male, and it’s coming within the next four weeks, maybe even within three weeks.  I’m that close to being full-time now.  I can understand that for her it will feel like bereavement.  For me I think it will feel like liberation.

That list of emotions really only covers my thoughts on the divorce, moving into my new home and the general thought of not having to pretend to be male again.  Then there’s the whole work scenario to consider.  Everything so far could scarcely have gone better in work, but I’m very conscious that the true litmus test will be in around the third week of July when I walk back into my office as Kirsty, and beyond that, when I begin meeting clients in my new gender and persona.  Although when I get to that stage I must admit I’m struggling to even imagine it, at least up until today.  Then just this afternoon I was in a meeting with a client whom I have known for about four years, discussing an application that he was making and realising that the end point of this application we were discussing was going to come after I return to work as Kirsty.  And I knew that this man will be one of my first client meetings as a woman.  And you know what?  I’m fine with that.  It feels a bit odd to say, but my focus has changed from worrying how I will be in such meetings to hoping that my clients don’t feel too awkward in my presence.  I’m sure my natural feminine charm will win them over!

Looking back at that list of emotions that I wrote a few paragraphs back, there are a few words that are conspicuous by their absence.  Doubtful.  Regretful.  Uncertain.  I am none of those things.  I am completely, totally certain that transition is the right thing for me.  I’m a little apprehensive because I want everything to go as well as possible, but not for one second have I thought if I’m doing the right thing.  Not once have I looked back and wished that I had done things differently.  I know this is the right thing for me, and indeed for my family.  The kids will have two loving homes and two loving parents, and even Mrs K will I think be better off in the long term as she is now free to find herself a new man.  A real one.

As for me, and to go back to Patsy’s original question that set off this whole rambling post, am I happy?  No bleeding idea.

Dinner Dinner Dinner…

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BATMAN!!!

No, not really.  Fat (wo)man if anything.  I have been pigging out rather a lot over the last few days.  Three big meals, three nights in a row.  While running the risk of the “I went there and I did that” post, I’m going to write about what went on.  Well, two of them at least were pretty momentous in their own way.

 

Dinner No1 – Saturday

This is the least momentous of the three.  That’s not to say it wasn’t fun.  In fact it was a very pleasant evening with the lovely Andrea, a meal at Molly’s Yard followed by a trip to the cinema.  The food was very enjoyable, the company even more so, and a decidedly odd film at the QFT called “Colossal” which we decided to take a chance on and both ended up really liking.  But let’s face it, Andrea and I have had many meals and cinema trips together so there’s not a lot more to add here.  But here’s the trailer for that film because you might not have heard of it and it’s worth checking out.

 

Dinner No2 – Sunday

The week before last my friend Alice had asked me if I would like to come round to her house for Sunday dinner this weekend when her sister Penny was over to visit.  I gratefully accepted, but at the time I thought it was just joining them for an informal Sunday lunch.  I have met Penny a few times and we get on reasonably well so I thought I would just be joining them for a meal.  Then in the middle of last week I texted Alice to check what time she wanted me round to her house at, expecting an answer of maybe 1pm or 2pm.  I was wrong.  6pm.  And then she shared who else was going.  As well as the three of us, there were six other people, two of whom I had met before (Jane who came to see the play “Red” with us and her bloke Guy) one of whom I had briefly nodded at outside a cinema (Alice’s old school friend Lisa) a guy that Alice has a wee notion of (i.e. fancies), her ex-partner’s brother Ricky and his wife Tracy.  So all in all that was nine of us.  It was in fact, a dinner party.  I had been invided to a full blown Abigail’s Party-style dinner party.  Me!  And it was great, just the sort of thing that Bob would never have been invited to in a million years.

Of course I would be the first person there – I was two minutes early which as we all know is very bad form.  Shame on me.  At least I remembered to bring a bottle of wine.  Pretty soon there were seven of us sitting in Alice’s living room with the patio doors open because it was a beautiful evening.  Alice’s friend Lisa and her would-be boyfriend were only coming for dessert apparently.  I must admit to feeling a little bit subdued at first.  I must stress that I didn’t feel any gender-related discomfort at all.  The discomfort was more down to the fact that everyone else clearly had a history going back decades, whereas I have known Alice for less than three years, and I know Jane and Penny a little but I did feel a little bit left out when the anecdotes started to flow.  But it didn’t really last.

We moved into the kitchen where we all sat round Alice’s large table.  I was between Jane on my left and Tracy on my right as the food was served – it was amazing.  A sort of indian-style marinated chicken with cumin and coriander, and some wonderful spiced peppers.  And as the chefs said themselves, chopped by Alice, cooked by Penny.  Top work.  Pressure’s on me for when I have them over to my new house.  And then we all got talking.

And all of a sudden I realised that I was part of this.  That I did belong.  That I was participating in the conversation which was becoming ever more gossipy but also rather hilarious.  And it felt wonderful.  I didn’t feel like I was ever being treated as anything other than the woman that I am, in fact there were a few references to the two guys there being, well, the only two guys surrounded by a bunch of women.  Eventually the other two guests did arrive, including Alice’s mystery man, who to be honest didn’t seem particularly physically attractive but what a voice.  Softly spoken, deep, with a beautiful gentle Irish midlands lilt.  I think every woman went a bit wibbly when he opened his mouth.

I had a bit of an awkward moment talking to Tracy.  We were having a general chit-chat and she asked me where I work.  I told her, and she replied that her nephew works there, do I know him?  The thing is, I know him quite well and we have worked together on several clients over at least 10 years.  But I had to feign ignorance of her nephew, because I just couldn’t risk her going back to her nephew and saying “I met one of your colleagues at a dinner party.  Kirsty Roberts, really tall girl, works in [department]” only to have nephew reply “Well I don’t know a Kirsty Roberts but I do know a Bob Roberts who works in [department] and is also pretty tall… hang on a minute!!!”  I particularly couldn’t risk that when it’s so close to the time when I will be coming out in work and run the risk of all the intra-company communication plans being undermined by the bush telegraph.  In four weeks’ time, her nephew will know anyway.  If this dinner party had taken place five weeks later I could have answered truthfully.  I hated having to lie.

As time marched on towards 11pm, Lisa had to go, Alice’s mystery man had already departed and I decided it was time for me to say goodnight too.  I would have liked to stay longer because the party was still in full swing, just with good conversation really, not wild dancing or anything like that, but Mrs K was working on the bank holiday Monday so I had Melissa all day, and seven-year-olds don’t do lie-ins.  And anyway, since I was driving it was beginning to become evident that some of my fellow guests were becoming rather well-oiled, and being the sober person in a room full of drunks is never the most fun.  So I got up to leave and then stood talking with Alice and Penny in the hallway for about 15 minutes before finally going.

Alice texted me the next day to let me know that the party had finally wound down at around 2am.  I think I made the right call leaving when I did.  Although the feedback was that Tracy had been really pleased to meet me and would I mind if she tagged along next time Alice and I were meeting up for coffee.  So there’s something to look forward to.  She was quite a character, a lot of fun.  Although it did give me one brief pause for thought.  I just wonder in gatherings like this, to what extent am I just a curio?  A piece of middle-class virtue signalling?  You know what, from what I know of Alice I can’t think of anyone less likely to engage in that type of thing, so begone nasty brain weasel!

 

Dinner No3 – Monday

I’m saving the best till last here.  This really was the most noteworthy of the lot.  It was something that I would have liked to have happened a long time ago but what with life getting in the way, it hasn’t up until now.  I have written before about my old school friend Pete.  We were pretty much inseperable in our teens and twenties, were each other’s best man (oh the irony!) and although he has mostly lived outside Northern Ireland for most of the last twenty years and don’t see each other all that often, we would still view each other as very close friends.  I tried to come out to him as far back as July 2014 but every time I saw him there were always other people about that meant it couldn’t happen.  So I ended up coming out to him via Facebook Messenger (of all things) late last year.

A week ago I received a message from Pete informing me that he and the family were coming over to Northern Ireland for the half-term week to coincide with the late May Bank Holiday, and asking if I would be available to meet up one evening.  I plumped for Monday evening and chose the venue, Home Restaurant in the city centre, where I have been a few times before and haven’t had a bad meal yet.  As it turned out his wife Nicky, also a good friend in her own right, was going to come along too.  So the time and location was set for them to finally meet the real me.

I parked up around 5 minutes early, just in the right spot to be able to be there on time when I got a text from Pete informing me that they had arrived and were already seated at the table waiting for me.  Then something occurred to me.  I hadn’t actually said which version of me they would be meeting – Kirsty or Bob.  Obviously I was Kirsty – I am really only Bob now on a social occasion if I absolutely have to be, and I didn’t have to be Bob this evening.  So I walked into the restaurant bang on time and saw them there.  They both stood up to greet me with hugs, Pete in particular nearly bursting at least one of my boobs with his big man-hug.  They both seemed really pleased to see me, as I was to see them.  As it turns out, they were also very much aware that I hadn’t specified which version of me they would be meeting, and they said they were very pleased that it was Kirsty who turned up.  As they had been waiting for me to arrive they had been saying “I really hope it’s Kirsty”.

It was just a really nice night catching up with old friends.  They seemed constantly to be restating how great they thought I looked, saying “You just look.. like Kirsty!”  Well who else am I going to look like?  I think the point is that I didn’t look like Bob in drag.  It was a bit odd too, as when I came out to them both I pointed them in the direction of this blog and I know they have been reading how my plans for transition have been developing, and seeing how well my coming out to kids, siblings and work have been going, so when I actually told them about these things in person they already knew a lot of what I was saying.

I had mentioned in an earlier post that Nicky is doing a degree at the minute in order to become a counsellor, and she is specialising in LGBT matters.  She was already on this degree course before I came out, but once I did, she had asked if she could use some of the material on this blog and a few photos I had given her in her coursework.  What I learned last night was that the project and presentation that she did which included yours truly as a case study had earned her the top mark in the class.  Obviously I’m a quality subject!

Everything was just so right, so natural, yet again it reassured me that a friend is a friend and transition isn’t going to change that.  The conversation got quite emotional at some points, with Nicky saying that “After all these years, it’s great to finally get to meet the real you for the first time”.  And of course we had to get a picture of me and Pete to mark the occasion.

 

I’m the one on the left…

 

So the plan now is for me to return the visit.  They have always said there’s an open invitation for me to come over, so hopefully come Autumn this year when I have my deed poll done and a new driving licence and passport in my possession, I will get my first flight as a woman and head over to Essex for a few days.  Definitely something to look forward to.

 

Not Dinner But Also – Tuesday

I had my latest appointment at GIC this afternoon (my fourth).  As with the previous one, it was relatively short at around 40 minutes.  The “Advantages and Disadvantages” grid that I wrote about a few weeks ago proved to be a decent enough conversation topic, but really the whole thing was summed up by Dr Ingram who said that I was so well organised with everything that there wasn’t really a lot more he could do to help at this stage.  I have more homework for next time though, which is a similar grid with headings entitled “Advantages of Taking Hormones”, “Disadvantages of Taking Hormones”, “Advantages of Not Taking Hormones” and, you guessed it, “Disadvantages of Not Taking Hormones”.  There was also talk of me hopefully being able to attend some sort of “informed consent” briefing which is required prior to being referred for HRT, which should happen before the end of June.  This is a general meeting to all GIC patients at the same stage as me, but there is no firm date for the next session yet.  Other than that, my next regular appointment is on the 4th of July, by which time I should be full time.  No more Bob, ready to commence HRT, in my new house, my own woman at last.  It can’t come soon enough.

Homework

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

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

Or another one might be;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sister Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

img_4465

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Office Gossip

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

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

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

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

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

Angela.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chez Kirsty

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

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

I had a few basic criteria for a new home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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