A Wider Readership

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Something astonishing happened last week.  Well, astonishing to me anyway.  This blog clocked up its 100,000th view.  That is absolutely remarkable.  How on earth did that happen?  I suppose when you break it down over the 3½ years that I have been writing the blog it works out as less than 80 views per day, but that is still pretty incredible.  I’m astounded and I don’t mind admitting suffering from a touch of imposter syndrome – why me, surely people must be confusing me with someone else.  Anyhow, I was so astonished that I put a short post on Facebook stating that my blog had just passed this particular landmark.  That’s when things took an unexpected, if in retrospect predictable, turn.

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It really happened!

The thing is, having been in the closet in work, to family and a number of older friends whom I don’t see so often until earlier this year, this blog had been known to just my closest real-life friends.  This is obviously in addition to those of you whom I know primarily from interacting online.  But family, work colleagues and those other friends had never seen it.  I do know that my siblings were aware that I had been writing a blog, and similarly I had mentioned in work that it existed, but these verbal disclosures seemed to have bypassed people.  When I came out to everyone in early July, I did get one message from a more geographically distant friend that she had discovered the blog, and complimenting me on it.  But that was it.  Those other groups of people had been generally unaware of its existence.  With that one Facebook post, it changed and I’m not quite sure how to feel about it.

Within a few hours of that Facebook post I had received messages from around 10 people asking if they could have the link to the blog.  In fact, I was comfortable enough with sharing it with those people and so passed on the details.  But then one night last week I was on the phone to my sister Hilary and she mentioned that her daughter (my niece) had found it, and they were both reading it.  This instantly made me feel very uncomfortable.  I’m not exactly sure why, although I think it’s a combination of me feeling that they are too close to me to look at the blog objectively, plus it felt a bit odd to know they were reading a blog where I had written about them albeit in pretty glowing terms.  So I told Hilary that I would prefer if she didn’t read it, which took the wind out of her sails quite a bit.  This in turn made me feel bad because I now fear she thinks that I’m hiding something from her, or there’s some further dark secret that I don’t want her to know about.  However I didn’t actually share the link publically on Facebook for a reason.

Then on Friday in work my friend and colleague Graham casually mentioned to me that he had seen what I wrote on Facebook, and he didn’t realise I had been writing a blog and how long had I been writing it for?

“About three and a half years”

“Wow, I had no idea.  And do you mind if…”

“No, you can’t.  I’m not sharing it with work and family.  Too much personal stuff on it.”

And he was duly crestfallen.  I did let him see this post because he features prominently in it, which I hope sated his curiosity, although the script-like format of that post is a bit of a stylistic outlier compared to my usual rambling prose.  I had previously let Beth see the same post, and indeed I had also told her and Kelly that I had blogged about our planning for my workplace transition.  They had both seemed quite excited to be featured, but again at the time I told them that I wouldn’t be sharing the details other than to let them know that I wasn’t using their real names (shocker!)

Finally last night I received a text from my other sister Patsy stating;

“I’ve just read your blog and I’m so proud of you xx”

To which I replied that I wasn’t sure how to feel about that, and that I was rather embarrassed because I write about her on it from time to time, and I had already told our other sister that I’d prefer she didn’t read it.  I was as apologetic as I could, saying she couldn’t have known how I felt about this etc.  She replied back quickly;

“You have nothing to be embarrassed about.  It is so good and should be a great benefit and comfort to anyone who is transgender or their family.  The more I know and understand the better I can support you.”

So what on earth could I say to that other than “OK”.  I still feel distinctly unnerved by the whole thing but of course what Patsy said was correct.  Maybe I will let the rest of the family read it if they like.  Although I’ll be sending them the link with a grimace on my face.  However work remains strictly out of bounds.  Unless of course they find it for themselves, which I don’t imagine would be too difficult.  Google “Kirsty transgender blog” and I’m probably the top hit.  And if that happens, then what?  I know that one friend has already taken down most of the posts from her blog because too many of the wrong people were starting to find it, but I really don’t want to go down that road.  I would miss the ability to talk out into the ether like I do on here.  I just hope that the knowledge that this whole new group of people are reading doesn’t blunt my blogging pencil too much.  I have never written with any audience in mind other than myself, and I really want to keep it that way.


Since I mentioned Kelly and Beth in passing, I’ll also mention something else.  From February through until the start of July, the three of us had very frequent planning meetings in work in advance of my transition becoming public knowledge, and we all gelled very well.  So much so that with the planning over I kind of miss that interaction.  It would appear that Kelly did too, because she arranged for the three of us to go out for coffee last Friday morning.  It was a really nice catch-up, just the three girls out for a natter.  Very little of it was to do with my transition (it can’t be all about me all the time!) but Kelly did mention that she was still working hand in hand with the people in head office on finalising the company HR policy on trans staff, a process that was begun by my disclosure of my intention to transition.  Our head office is in Dublin, and Kelly mentioned that she had a meeting with the Head of Diversity (yes, we have a Head of Diversity) coming up in Dublin.  She then asked if I would like to go along in order to give input from the point of view of someone who is actually doing what they are writing about.  Needless to say, I jumped at the chance.  So some time in the not too distant future, yours truly will be off to meet the bigwigs in head office to help formulate company policy.  I’m really looking forward to it.


And now, more frivolous matters about a nice bit of good luck that I had recently.  Those of you who are active on Facebook will no doubt have seen those “Like and Share to win” posts that businesses put up from time to time.  You know the sort of thing, hotels putting up a free night for one lucky winner, like and share to enter.  You get the idea.

My favourite shoes that I own are my Ruby Shoos.  I love them.  In fact, their entire range is so far up my street that they are practically parked in my driveway.  I love the style, and I love that just about their entire range is available in a size 9 that is a very good fit for my feet.  I “like” the official Ruby Shoo Facebook page, and I duly swoon over every picture of their shoes.  Around 3 weeks ago Ruby Shoo did one of those Facebook competitions, “To celebrate the launch of our autumn 2017 collection, we have 3 pairs of Ruby Shoos to give away.  Comment on this post with hashtag #rubyshoo then like and share to be in with a chance of winning.”  Oh well, why not, I thought.  So I said something about loving the one pair that I already own, and I’d love a new pair to keep them company #rubyshoo.  A couple of friends liked the post that I shared and that was about the end of that.  I didn’t give it much more thought.

Around a week later I was at my desk in work when my phone made the Facebook Messenger noise.  I looked at the notification.  “You have a connect request from Ruby Shoo.  Do you want to accept?”  Well yes, obviously.

“Hi Kirsty, I’m pleased to tell you that you have won a pair of Ruby Shoo’s (sic) in our recent Facebook competition!  Please let me know which pair you would like as your prize (you can check online at www.rubyshoo.com) along with your shoe size and address for delivery.  Congratulations!  Regards – Carla from the Ruby Shoo Team x”

Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod I’ve wooonnnnn!!!!  I was ecstatic.  I just couldn’t believe I had actually won something.  In fact, I couldn’t believe that anyone had won something in one of those Facebook competitions, let alone me being that person!  I had a huge grin on my face as I sat in the office.  Then the big brain weasel kicked in.  You know that saying “If something looks too good to be true then it probably isn’t true”?  Well I thought of it very clearly as I noticed that the profile picture on the “Ruby Shoo” that had messaged me was not the same as the profile picture on the “Ruby Shoo” Facebook page on which I had initially liked and shared the post in question.  So I clicked on the name in Messenger.  It took me through to an options page, from where I clicked on “View Facebook profile”.  When I did this I felt rather crestfallen.  It was a personal Facebook page, first name Ruby, surname Shoo, which had last posted anything in 2012.  It was undoubtedly not the “real” Ruby Shoo.  Joy to despair in around 30 seconds.

90% convinced I was being scammed (let’s face it, it wouldn’t be too hard to message anyone who had commented on that post) I was tempted to just ignore the message.  However, that 10% of doubt remained so I replied in a very cautious manner;

“Hi Carla, that’s great news however I am concerned that this message has not come from the same Ruby Shoo Facebook account that I liked the post on originally.  This FB profile hasn’t posted anything since 2012.  I really hope I have won but I would like a message from the official Ruby Shoo Facebook account before I give out my address.”

Of course as soon as I sent this a different brain weasel began running rampant around my head.  One that kept telling me that I really had won a pair of my favourite shoes but thanks to me being such a suspicious bitch I had lost them again, and they would just go to someone more trusting than me.  I had, not to put too fine a point on it, looked this particular gift horse much too closely in the mouth.  However when I didn’t see a response for the next couple of hours I became more confident that my assessment of the whole thing as a scam was in fact the correct one.  I then had to go out to visit a client about an hour away, so between the drive and the meeting itself, it was well over two hours before I got to check my messages again.  This time there was a reply;

“Hi Kirsty, this Facebook accout was originally set up under my colleague under this account and then the Ruby Shoo business page was added afterwards – happy to contact you on email if you prefer?  My name is Carla ******** and I’m the Marketing Manager for Ruby Shoo.  Thanks Carla.”

Here we go again!  Is this legit or just a very sophisticated scam?  I had a secret weapon – LinkedIn!  Now that I had a name, I looked her up on LinkedIn and there she was, Carla, UK Marketing Manager for GH Warner Footwear plc, the parent company of Ruby Shoo.  So it’s real!!!  Oh hang on, if I can look her up on LinkedIn, then a scammer could look her up too.  So am I really any the wiser?  It did seem like an unusual level of detail for an internet scam though so I messaged back again;

“Hi Carla, thank you so much for your understanding – I’m thrilled to bits to actually win!  If you could give me your email address I’ll send you through my details.  Thanks, Kirsty.”

That was at around 4.20pm.  When it got to 5pm and I hadn’t had a reply I thought “Oh no, I’ve blown it again and this time it’s probably real” so I messaged one more time that alternatively she could email me and I gave her my email address.  I was taking a bit of a chance giving out the email address but less so than giving out my home address.  Then I spent the night panicking that either I had opened myself up to some horrible identity theft scam or else I had wantonly thrown away the chance of a free pair of my favourite shoes.

img_4722Shortly after 9am the next morning I got her email, and it was definitely legit.  It was @ghwarner.co.uk so I finally believed.  I really had won something!  And I got to go to their website and pick literally any pair of shoes that I liked and they would be mine for free.  I really was the proverbial kid in a sweet shop.  Since the pair of Ruby Shoos that I already owned are probably not work appropriate (although they do look great with my dusky pink jeggings on casual days) I decided to pick something that were work-appropriate while still lovely and stylish.  I picked a pair of “Charlottes” in great big size 9 and gave Carla my address.  Within two hours I had a DHL tracking number, they were coming for delivery the following Monday when by good luck I was off work.  And by bad luck I was off work because it was the day before my laser assessment appointment and I hadn’t shaved for three days so I ended up answering the door to the DHL man displaying a fine bit of designer stubble.  But my shoes arrived.  And here they are.  I love them.

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Something’s Burning

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Nearly eight months after my initial appointment at the Belfast Gender Clinic finally the treatments are beginning to arrive.  Following seven months of sitting in a room with first one therapist, then the consultant director of the clinic who has taken on my case personally, I’m finally starting to see other people in other places.  Within the last two weeks I have had my first sessions at both speech therapy and laser hair removal.  And with only a couple of days to go until I clock up three months living full time as a woman, it feels like my transition is moving up a gear.

I had received a letters from both Belfast City Hospital (for speech therapy) and the Ulster Hospital (for laser) in late August.  Pleasingly, Belfast City Hospital managed to send the letter to me in my new name at my new address.  Less pleasingly, the Ulster Hospital managed to send it to my old name at my old address, which is still my ex’s address.  And worryingly, they stated on the letter that if I didn’t confirm the appointment within 7 days I would be discharged.  My ex remembered to hand me the letter on day 6.  I queried the incorrect name and address when I called to confirm the appointment and was told that they always use the name and address quoted on the referral letter.  Which was sent in April.  It’s almost as if nobody there has realised that people commencing gender transition quite often have changes in personal details.  At least Belfast City Hospital, who were sent a referral letter at the same time, seem to know how to read the current details off a computer screen.  At least they were a bastion of NHS efficiency, right?  Wrong.

My first speech therapy appointment was scheduled for 10.30am on Monday 22nd September.  I still have the letter to prove it.  I went into work for an hour beforehand and then arrived at the Speech & Language Therapy centre around five minutes early.  There was no receptionist, simply a sign on the door which read “Welcome to Speech & Language.  If you have an appointment please take a seat and your therapist will be with you shortly.  If your haven’t been seen by 15 minutes after your scheduled appointment time, please call 028 90XX XXXX.  So I sat in the deserted waiting area.  And I sat.  And I sat some more.  The clock ticked past 10.45am.  I called the number.

“Hello, Belfast City Hospital, Speech and Language”

“Hi, my name is Kirsty Roberts.  I have an appointment with Catherine for 10.30 but I haven’t been seen yet.”

“Oh, right…  er…  she’s just finishing up with her previous patient, she should be with you shortly”

“OK thanks”

And I sat on.  And sat on.  The clock drifted towards 11am.  A woman emerged from a different door and asked if I was Kirsty.  I replied that I was.

“Hi, Kirsty, it was me on the phone a few minutes ago.  There’s been a terrible mix-up.  All of the speech therapists are at a conference today, so you might as well go.  Catherine isn’t here and she won’t be here.’

“But I’m here at the right time, here’s my letter”

“Yes, I know, you’re right.  It’s our mistake.  I’m really sorry.  Can you come at the same time next week?”

“Well yes, but er…”

“OK we’ll see you next week then”

And with that she was off, just before the thought occurred to me that she had blatantly lied to me about 15 minutes earlier.  Not a lot I could do, but it was pretty annoying to have two hours wasted at a time when I am pretty busy in work, not to mention a couple of quid of car parking charges.

One week later on Monday 29th September I found myself in exactly the same seat in a similarly deserted waiting area.  But this time at around 10.29, a different woman emerged from the correct door.

“Kirsty?”

“Yes”

“Hi, I’m Catherine, come on through.  I’m so sorry about the mix-up last week, it was my fault.  Did you get the message I left on your voicemail apologising for the mistake?”

“No.  No voicemails.”

“It was on your landline”

“I don’t have a landline”

She had left the message on my ex’s landline.  So the ability to read update names and addresses doesn’t extend to phone numbers.  Still, at least she was able to update phone and email contact details while I was with her.

Now, with all that out of the way, I have to say that Catherine was lovely.  Really friendly and encouraging, and very empathetic.  I was very surprised by the content of our discussion and what she was aiming to achieve.  What I expected was a lot of actual vocal exercises, what I got was something more akin to a “how to pass” workshop.

Catherine began by saying that she felt my voice sounded reasonably feminine anyway.  It’s ok I suppose.  One thing I do think is that it’s fairly consistent.  In the early stages of going out into the world as a woman I hadn’t learned what my female voice was going to sound like, and so consequently every time I opened my mouth it was a little adventure.  I never knew who was going to pop out.  But over time I gradually learned my voice and began to get a sense of what “my” voice sounded like.  However, she did ask if there was anything in particular that I wanted to work on.  My two responses were apparently far and away the most common two answers that she gets.

  1. Fewer telephone misgenderings
  2. More volume

She said that she had a few techniques that we can try that might be of use.  She seemed particularly confident that she could help with the telephone voice.  If that happened, if would be a major result.  I live in hope that one day someone will madam me rather than sir me on the phone.  In fact, I have taken to pre-empting that now by commencing phone calls with “Hi, my name is Kirsty” before the other person has a chance to say anything.  Although once or twice even that has elicited a quizzical “Kirsty?” in response, as if to say “Really?  Are you quite sure about that?”  Anyway, she asked me to give her a bit of detail about how my transition was going, or indeed if it had even commenced, which I’ll not repeat here as there’s well over three years’ worth of blog posts to answer that question.

She then had a questionnaire that she went through with me, asking if my voice caused me anxiety.  Apart from on the phone, no it doesn’t.  She asked about what I did in work, if it was just office-based.  I think she was quite taken aback when I told her that I manage around 80 client relationships throughout Northern Ireland, and I go and meet these business owners in their premises, and they have so far all been very supportive of my transition.  Then she asked if there were any other situations in work where my voice was critical

“Well I’m giving a presentation to a room full of business bankers tomorrow morning”

She was definitely taken aback by that.  (It went fine by the way).  So she seemed quite pleased and impressed with how I was approaching integrating myself back into my personal and professional life as the new me.

I spoke for a while about the phone being a problem because the person on the other end of the call is missing all the visual cues to tell them that I’m female.  All they’ve got is the voice.  And this is when things went off in an unexpected direction.  She said

“The visual cues are important.  Probably more important than the voice.  So I try to help my patients not just with their voice but with the other aspects too.  I see some women coming in here at the same stage as you early in their transition, or even just before starting it, and there’s so much else to work on.  The way they dress is not right, the make up is either badly done or over the top, the way they walk, the way they sit, their body language, hand gestures… but I don’t need to worry about any of that with you, it’s all as it should be.  I mean, it’s just really obvious – you are female”

And with that I became rather emotional.  She asked if I needed a tissue.  Just about not.  But I had to take a moment.  Just to hear someone in her position say that to me.  It meant so much.  I mean, it’s obvious to me that I’m female, but affirmation like that just gives me so much more confidence.  It was definitely the most emotional response I have had to anything that has happened in any sort of session via the Gender Identity Service. Much more so than the actual therapy, probably because it was so unexpected.

At last I did get some exercises to do, but they were silent.  Running the tip of my tongue around my teeth for a minute, 30 seconds one way, 30 seconds the other.  Then exaggerated open-mouthed chewing while rotating my jaw, like a cow chewing the cud for another minute, then another minute of closed-mouth pretend chewing, 30 seconds each side, like I had an invisible toffee in my mouth.  Designed to loosen the back of my tongue to open up a larger cavity at the back of my mouth which will both help higher the pitch of my voice as well as helping my voice resonate there to aid with loudness.  I’ll give it a go.

I have homework for the next appointment.  I have to observe one man and one woman, and make notes about how they speak, variances in pitch, their body language, posture, gait, hand gestures etc.  I’m going to us Graham and Beth from work as my guinea pigs, as they are the two people with whom I work most closely.  I hope they don’t find out.


Just over a week later, on Tuesday 3rd October, was my first appointment at the laser clinic at the Ulster Hospital.  I had been somewhat apprehensive of this, because my big fear has been that I was simply going to be told that my facial hair was too blonde/grey and there was nothing they could do for me.  A year or so ago, before I had commenced electrolysis treatment, I had walked into a beauty salon (as Bob) who were advertising laser beard removal for men as a cost-effective alternative to shaving.  I asked if they could do it for me.  The woman took one look at me and said “No, you’re too blond, you’d need a lot of treatments and would spend a lot of money for probably not great results”.  So the fear of being refused treatment was actually based upon a real experience.

When I phoned to confirm my appointment at the laser clinic once I had got the letter from my ex, I was told that I wasn’t allowed to shave for five days before the appointment.  This frightened the life out of me.  I would have, if not a beard, at the very least some 1986-vintage George Michael designer stubble after that length of time.  Then when I actually got the appointment confirmation letter sent out it said I must not shave for a week before the appointment.  An effing week!  I have a job in a busy city centre office and need to present in a professional manner, I can’t be a bearded lady!  I mentioned this to Dr Ingram at my last therapy session at the clinic, and he was fairly dismissive of the laser clinic’s demands.  He pretty much said a week was ridiculous, and if my growth was any way strong (according to Lynda the electrolysist it is, worse luck) then 2 or 3 days would do them fine.  So I made the appointment for a Tuesday, booked the Monday off work and resolved to have my last shave the previous Friday before work.  In practice, I had a shave on the Saturday morning too because I had to go out, and it meant that I would also be reasonably presentable from a distance on the Sunday too.  I also had some good indoors activity planned for the Monday, which I imagine will feature in my next post, but for now suffice to say that by the time I got up on Tuesday morning for my laser appointment I had if not quite a luxurious beard, certainly a very definite growth, to the point where my chin had ceased to be sandpapery and was verging on the furry.

I arrived a little early at the hospital and frittered away 15 minutes sitting in the car playing Words With Friends on the phone before braving the walk through to the hospital building.  I say braving, because I was dressed in my usual manner, girly hair in place, block heel boots, handbag, eyeliner, mascara and, er, something approaching a beard.  I don’t know if the people loitering around gave me funny looks because I resolutely didn’t look at anyone.  The admissions office directed me down a long corridor towards the laser clinic, and I entered at around 9.05am for a 9.30 appointment.  Two nurses, one of whom was a sister leading the clinic, were seated in the waiting area, and I immediately admitted I was very early.  Not a problem, they said, but they were still waiting for the laser to warm up.  They gave me an information sheet to read, and I sat for about 10 minutes before they called me in.

Almost immediately my worst fears were dispensed with.  They were happy that there was plenty of darker facial hair for them to be working on, so they explained that I got 10 sessions, which would be 6-8 weeks apart.  I mentioned that I have been undergoing electrolysis for the last 9 months to pick off the lighter hairs, and then I got a surprising reply.

“You’ll need to stop that for the duration of your treatment with us”

I did a quick bit of mental arithmetic.

“So that’s about 15 months?”

That was correct.  I had heard both from Lynda at the electrolysis centre and also anecdotally that you couldn’t have electrolysis for 2 weeks before and 1 week after laser but none at all!  This is going to extend out my facial hair removal even further.  But what choice do I have?  The sister then asked if I had started my hormone therapy yet.  No, not yet.  I was referred at the end of July and was told the waiting list was 4-6 months, so hopefully before Christmas but January at the latest.  In that case, my “proper” laser treatment wasn’t going to start until January.  Seems reasonable I suppose.  Beginning the treatment while I still have testosterone-fuelled facial hair growth might be a sisyphean task.  The good news is that they only needed me to have some facial hair growth today so they could actually see the pigmentation.  When I’m doing it “for real”, I should shave the previous evening.  Thank goodness for that.

“So we’re going to be trying a couple of test patches today”

OK.  For some reason I wasn’t sure if that was going to happen.  The nurse produced a plastic disposable razor, the sort that costs about £3 for a pack of ten in your local supermarket.  The sort that I wouldn’t dream of using in a million years.  She informed me that I should shave two patches of around a square inch each on either side of my chin.

“Fine.  Do you have any shaving cream?”

“No.  Just use the hand wash in the toilet”

For crying out loud, if I’d known they were going to do that I would have brought my own razor and gel from home.  So much for looking after my skin!

I emerged with two bald patches on my face and was lead through to the treatment room.  I lay down on the treatment bed, and the sister explained that she would be doing two patches.  The left patch would receive IPL, Intense Pulsed Light, the type of “laser” that you would get in a beauty salon.  The right patch would receive the full medical grade laser.  OK.  The nurse asked my to remove my glasses and put a pair of completely black goggles over my eyes, securing them tightly round the back of my head.  I asked them to count me in so I knew when it was coming”

3.. 2.. 1..

The IPL was painful enough but oh my god the laser was excruciating.  People have told me that if I can stick electrolysis, laser is not as bad.  Utter nonsense.  It is so sore, like someone flicking a very strong elastic band at your face over and over and over again, and you just have to take it.  The pain was terrible.  But what was even more frightening for me in my darkness was the almighty smell of burning.  It was overpowering and unpleasant.  How the hell am I going to stick a full-face session lasting 20 minutes?  Every time the laser pulsed I pulsed, and reeled from the aroma of burning hair.

And after about 30 seconds, it was all over.  More unpleasantness in that 30 seconds than in 9 months of electrolysis.  I didn’t enjoy it at all.  And to add further ignominious insult to injury, the nurse whipped off the goggles and took my wig with them.

It was over.  See you in 3 or 4 months.  I was given some more information sheets, and a letter for my GP.  The letter was asking him to write me a prescription for EMLA cream, an anaesthetic cream that should numb my face for the next time.  I wonder can you get something that temporarily dulls your sense of smell too.  They also gave me a small tube of factor 50 sunblock to rub on my beard area before putting on my make up every day.  There is to be no sun damage on my face at all.

I felt slightly better about the smell a few days later when I was at electrolysis (avoiding the test patched areas).  Lynda told me that the burning was good.  It proves it works.  It’s burning hair.  If my hairs weren’t being affected by the laser, they wouldn’t burn.  So burning smell = effective treatment.  I’ll try to embrace it in future.

Officially Female

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Kind of.

I know that in the eyes of the law, in the UK at least, being legally female means having obtained a Gender Recognition Certificate which is realistically at least two years away.  However, for the time being at this early stage in my transition, I do have the next best thing.  A new passport.  A new passport that says the all-important “F” in the “sex” field.  Interesting that the field specified “sex” and not “gender”.  Still, I’m not too worried about that particular piece of terminology.  Unfortunately I look like something of a sweaty-toothed madwoman in the picture, but that’s practically de rigeur for a passport photo, isn’t it?

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A half decent driving licence photo

The passport photo is still pretty frustrating though, because the photo on my driving licence is pretty good.  I was very pleased with it when I had it taken.  The booth takes up to 3 digital photos, you pick the one you like best, and it then prints five identical copies of that photo.  I only needed one attempt.  Out came the five prints and I looked, as my good friend Michelle put it, “all woman”.  Two went off for my driving licence and a couple of weeks later the new licence arrived.  Driving licences don’t have a specific gender marker, although it does say “Ms Kirsty…” which is the next best thing.

I sent two more prints of that photo off with my passport application, feeling rather pleased that I was going to have a relatively decent picture of myself on these two important documents.  A week later, I received a letter in the post from the Passport Office.  The photographs I submitted were unacceptable as I appeared to be too far from the camera when the photo was taken.  Never mind that the seat in the booth can’t move forwards or backwards, and that my face filled the template on the screen in the booth in exactly the indicated places, the photo that was good enough for the Driver and Vehicle Agency was not good enough for Her Majesty’s Passport Office.  Fussy bastards.  So the next day I headed back to Boots with another £5 for another go at the photo booth.

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The passport of a sweaty-toothed madwoman

This time I deliberately leaned forward.  I was determined to fill the screen with my gorgeous visage, and since the booth had taken a decent photo first time round, surely it would do a reasonable job second time round too.  It’s all about the lighting, right?  Wrong.  I fixed my hair, touched up my lippy and pressed the button to indicate to the electronic Mr DeMille that I was ready for my close-up.  Click, flash, sweaty-toothed madwoman.  Oh no, I thought, must have got the angle wrong.  The screen asked if I wanted to accept or reject this photo.  Reject, obviously.  I’ll try opening my eyes a bit wider.  Click, flash, slightly startled sweaty-toothed madwoman.  Reject again.  The screen informed me that this was my last attempt.  I looked at myself on the screen.  I looked fine.  I couldn’t see anything that was in obvious need of fixing, it was just going wrong in that split second when the image was taken.  I crossed my fingers.  Click, flash, sweaty-toothed madwoman.  The screen then asked me to indicate which of these three delightful images of a deranged lunatic I wanted it to print.  It might as well have asked me for my favourite venereal disease.  With no enthusiasm whatsoever I plumped for the third, and out it came.  And now I’m stuck with it for the next ten years.  Great.  But at least it says “F” on the passport.

As well as the sense of affirmation that I get from having my new driving licence and passport, they also open up the world of travel to me.  I hope to be getting my first flight as the real me within the next month or so, and I am planning on going over to visit my old friends Pete and Nicky in Essex once we can sort out dates that suit us all.  I’m also hoping to use this opportunity to meet up with a few other friends who now live in the south of England, so all in all I’m looking forward to it a great deal.  Might get a blog post or two out of it as well, you never know.


Since I’m here in front of a keyboard, I’m going to recount a couple of incidents that happened in work over the last two or three days.  They wouldn’t merit a post of their own, but I think they’re worth recording anyway.

ANECDOTE No. 1

On Wednesday I was chatting with a couple of female colleagues, and the conversation veered on to the subject of hair.  One of the girls asked me

“I haven’t asked you this before Kirsty, but I’m assuming you’re growing your own hair underneath that?” (indicates wig)

“Yes, of course”

“So a day will come when you come in here and the wig’s gone and it’ll be all your own hair?”

“That’s the intention, yes”

“And have you any thoughts about what sort of style you want?  Will it be similar to the wig?”

“Fairly similar, I want a bob, more cut in at the back that this, you know, shaved up my neck, and longer at the front so it curls in at my chin”

“A bit like Jennifer’s then?” (she indicates a colleague)

“Yes, a bit like that, but shorter at the back and with a fringe” (A fringe in the UK is what Americans call bangs)

“So how long is your hair now?”

“Well if I pull it down at the front it covers my eyes and if I pull it down at the sides it covers my earlobes” (Bob used to get a No3 at the sides and back)

“And what colour is your hair?”

Slightly incredulously I replied, “It’s the same colour that it was three months ago the last time you saw it!”

“What colour is that?  I can’t really remember what you looked like before”

And there it was.  Eight weeks back at work as the real me and a woman I have worked with since 2004 is starting to forget the male version of me already.  How great is that?

ANECDOTE No 2

I was at my desk yesterday morning when a male colleague, Paul, came over to me clutching a post-it note bearing the name of one of my clients along with a mobile phone number.

“Des wants to speak to you”

“Can you not just transfer the call?”

“I didn’t like to.  He was asking for you by your old name”

“And did you say anything to him?”

“No.  I didn’t want to say the wrong thing.”

Oh.  This wasn’t good.  I have written on this blog about the very detailed transition plan that I had in work.  That during my three weeks of leave in July, all my clients were supposed to be contacted by phone and in writing to inform them of my transition.  Had Des been left off the list?  Had I forgotten about him when I was compiling the list of clients to call?  I dug out the list and there he was, plus he had been ticked off by the person making the call as having been spoken to, and having had the follow-up letter issued.  So why was he asking for Bob?  Had he forgotten?  Or is it possible that the person who was meant to make the call didn’t actually do it at all, despite what she had said previously?  The whole point of this exercise was to avoid putting me in the position of having to explain my transition to my clients myself, as well as allowing them to respond to the news in their own way without awkwardness on their part of having me be the person hearing their response.

I explained the situation to Beth, my line manager, who had co-ordinated all these calls in my absence.  She was certain that he had been contacted but suggested I could contact the person who had actually made the call.  I looked up her number and gave her a ring.  Straight to voicemail, out of the office.  So the choice was to ask Beth to call this client, or to grab the bull by the horns and do it myself.  Beth pointed out that he might just have forgotten, although that seemed unlikely to me.  Could it even be possible that he was refusing to acknowledge my transition and deliberately continuing to use my old name?  Maybe.  I decided to just do it myself, for better or worse.

Ring, ring

“Hello?  Is that Bob?”

“Not any more.  This is Kirsty Roberts.”

“Is this not Bob?”

“No.  I used to be Bob, but now I’m Kirsty.  Did you not get a call from Sinead about me?”

“Sorry, I’m confused.  I was looking to speak to Bob.”

“Yes, that used to be me.  You were supposed to have had a phone call and a letter from Sinead about me back in July.”

“Sinead?  Yes, I know Sinead but I don’t need to speak to her, I’m looking for Bob”

“As I said, I used to be Bob, but now I’m Kirsty.”

“Kirsty?  Are you the girl I was talking to earlier about buying Japanese Yen?”

“No, this is Kirsty Roberts, from [name of company]”

“Sorry, Kirsty, I don’t understand”

By this stage Beth was standing beside me, looking at me quizzically.  I mouthed something like ‘He hasn’t got a clue” towards her, and she motioned for me to give her my phone.  I said to him

“Des, I’m going to pass the phone over to Beth, she will explain.”

Beth took my mobile from me and shuffled off into a side office in order to have “the conversation” with the client.  Around three minutes later she returned with a big smile on her face.

The good news is that he was definitely aware of my transition.  He had received the phone call and the letter, and he said he had no problem with what was happening, I had his support, and he was more than happy to continue to deal with me in future.  The reason for his confusion was down to something else altogether.

When Paul had brought me the name and number on the post-it, he had also remarked that Des had phoned in on the unused number of a former colleague who had retired a year or so ago.  When Paul had asked Des why he was using that number, Des replied that he always used that number.  It turns out he doesn’t always use that number.  That was an old number for our company that he had stored on his phone, and he accidentally selected that number instead of the one next to it in his contacts list.  And the number he actually wanted to dial wasn’t my number, or even the number of anyone in my department.  It was the number of someone else who works in our company, but in a different department on a different floor.  And this other person whom he meant to call in the first place before dialling the wrong number is called, you guessed it, Bob!

The poor man, that might have been one of the most bizarre and confusing conversations he has ever had in his life.

More amusing anecdotes next time!

Kirsty

Rearranging Preconceptions

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I have considered writing a post along these lines for a while, and always reined myself in.  However something happened last weekend which caused me to possibly re-evaluate a few of the things I’m going to say in the first few paragraphs.  Not all of them, but a few of them.  But please understand that the reason I’m writing them down now is to demonstrate how the weekend’s events changed some of these views.

I have a problem with drag queens.  I don’t like them.  Individually they might be very nice people, but the concept thoroughly riles me.  Firstly, they are not part of the transgender spectrum.  I don’t care if they appear on a widely-circulated cartoon showing all these various terms under a big umbrella called “Transgender”, the cartoonist was wrong.  Drag queens are putting on a character, and that character is to put it bluntly, a vicious and sexist pastiche of women cis and trans alike.  I feel about drag queens the way I imagine a person of Afro-Caribbean descent might feel about the Black & White Minstrel Show.  Even if it is unintentional on their part, and I am perfectly happy to believe that many drag queens are lovely human beings, I believe that they reinforce horrible transphobic prejudices that (a) we are all just blokes in dresses and (b) that is inherently funny.

There is a popular gay bar in Belfast called Union Street.  Every Saturday afternoon they run a karaoke event hosted by the a drag queen going by the delightful name of Tina Leggs Tantrum.  Why can’t they just call themselves Susan or Mary?  The event is called – and I’m only going to write this once because I thoroughly despise the term – “Tina’s Trannyoke”.  Ugh, my keyboard feels dirty now.  The T-word has been used to belittle, ridicule and marginalise trans* people for many years, and including it in the name of an event is perpetuating a transphobic term.  I don’t care if some, cross-dressers in the main, use it about themselves; Uncle Toms the lot of them, part of the problem.  To me, having a drag queen front a karaoke event and calling it T*****oke is morally equivalent to having a blacked-up white guy doing the same event, telling a bunch of Jim Davidson “Chalky White” jokes from the 1970s in between the songs and calling it N*****oke.  Unacceptable.  However despite this, T*****oke remains inexplicably popular.  In fact, I was invited to go to it a few weeks ago, and I may have had a bit of a rant at the inviter.  Such is the price of being true to my beliefs.

As well as the downright offensiveness of the name itself, up until last weekend I had never darkened the doors of Union St or any other gay bar simply because that’s not really a world that I have any interest in.  I am transitioning to be a woman, not to be a trans woman, and so I remain highly reluctant to do things or go places that mark me out as not quite like other women.  Quite a while ago I wrote a post entitled “Russian Closets“, and I think most of what I wrote then still stands.  I can get the appeal for the L, the G and the B of LGBT.  Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual are sexualities, so if for example a gay man went into a mainstream bar, he would need to be extremely careful about hitting on a guy there as it could not just cause offence, but cause a violent reaction.  So there’s a lot to be said for LGB people having a safe venue where you don’t have to rely on “Gaydar” to know if someone is likely to be of the same sexuality as you.  However my part of LGBT is about gender, not sexuality.  In fact, I’m not sure what my sexuality even is any more and it doesn’t particularly interest me anyway.  So to me, a trans person going into a gay bar is just a slightly bigger closet.  I don’t want to be in the closet.  If a cis woman of my age wouldn’t do it on a regular basis, I don’t really want to do it either.  To do otherwise would be to have what seems to me to be an inauthentic transition, not fully living as a woman, but as something slightly different.  It’s not for me.

Now on to the events of the weekend.

Over the last four or five months I have got to know another trans lady called Karen.  She is one of the loveliest, friendliest and most positive and upbeat people I know. Oddly enough, I have got to know her because our weekly electrolysis appointments are very close.  Hers finishes 15 minutes before mine begins, and almost without fail by the time I turn up at 5.15pm the electrolysist is running at least 15 minutes late, so I arrive just as Karen is emerging from her appointment.  We then have a 15-minute chat on the sofa in the waiting area before I go in for my weekly 30 minutes of torture.  And this is where it gets a bit odd.  I only went full time in July.  Karen has not yet gone full time, and is targeting October for her full time date.  This means that, rather bizarrely, for the first two or three months that we knew each other, we had only ever seen each other presenting as male.  Now that I am full time, Karen sees me presenting female every week, but up until a week ago I had still only ever seen her presenting as male.

A couple of weeks ago I had mentioned to her about the “Transphobia:  How The Police Can Help” event being run by the Belfast Butterfly Club that I mentioned briefly in my last post, and she said she would come along.  It was there that I finally saw Karen as Karen for the first time.  Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the fact that I had seen photos I don’t think I would have recognised her.  She looked great.  Anyway, we were chatting after the talk had finished and she asked if I would like to come with her to dinner on Saturday night.  She even offered to give me a lift.  How could I refuse?

By 6pm on Saturday Karen arrived at my house, bearing a bunch of flowers and a bottle of wine for my new home.  She said she would be a little early so we could have a wee tipple first.  And since she was driving, she suggested going to her favourite bar; Union Street!  And thanks to the joys of social pressure, I said ok then.  And in we went to find in full flow… T*****oke!!!

Except it wasn’t T*****oke, it has been renamed T-Oke.  That’s a good start.  Still an effing drag queen running it though.  Why?  He would be just as entertaining and a lot more inclusive presenting as himself.  Karen seemed to know a lot of people, including our host, but chaperoned me upstairs to a quieter balcony area.  Quieter, as in less busy.  We could still hear some appalling caterwauling from downstairs, but thankfully not to the extent where our conversation was drowned out.  Karen asked me the question

“So, what do you think of Union St?”

Well, I must admit that I told her.  I told her pretty much what I wrote in the first three paragraphs of this post.  And then I heard her side of things.  I thought her defence of drag queens was fairly weak (“They’re just making a living” – yes, and so were the blackfaced white men on the Black & White Minstrel Show, that doesn’t mean we should bring it back) although she does share my distaste for the t-word.  However what was more interesting for me and really did cause me to rearrange a few prejudices was her story of how she came to be a regular in this bar, and how she ended up knowing everyone.

Karen is of a similar age to me, and while she is not fully out to everyone and full time yet, she does plenty in female mode.  Probably a lot more than I ever did as a part-timer.  But round about the same time as I was beginning to take my first faltering steps out into the world as a woman, she was too.  Except for me it was a case of making contact with a trans support group, going there a few times and going home again before eventually striking out from there into the real world, Karen approached things differently.  In her mind, the safest place for her to present female in public was in a gay bar.  Union Street, to be precise.  So back at that same time when I was starting out, she put on a dress, heels, wig and make-up and drove herself to Union St, walked in the door, stood inside the bar but right beside the door for about 20 minutes, walked back out again and drove home without speaking to a soul.  She laughed when I told her that my first “in public” experience was walking into Tesco and back out again.  But not to be deterred, she tried again the next week, and this time as she was standing alone a man approached her.  He introduced himself as Mark, and said that she looked like a lost sheep and would she like to join him and his friends.  Mark and his friends are a group of gay guys, and they took Karen under their wing, listening to her story and bringing her into their group.  They became fast friends, they made her feel safe when she was just starting out and in their own way they became her support group.  They have all even gone on holiday together, with Karen in male form.  So in fact for Karen, coming to Union St isn’t hiding away in a closet any more, it’s where she goes to meet her friends.  It’s no more a closet for her than a support group like the Belfast Butterfly Club or SAIL is for me.  And I think I finally understood that this place could be a good place for a trans woman to come.  I still wasn’t keen on the drag queen though, and the singers were without exception dire.

About 45 minutes later I had finished my glass of Sauvignon Blanc and we were back in Karen’s car heading off to an Indian Restaurant in the Dundonald area of Belfast to meet a group of female friends.  This group is actually another Meetup group, just like the one of which my book group forms a part.  This group however is an LGBT women’s group.  I don’t have a problem with that at all.  I am an LGBT woman.  I’m definitely a T, and I might also be an L or even a B but the jury is still out on that one.  Now that I think about it though, surely by definition it must be an LBT women’s group, right?

There were only five of us there, Karen and myself included, and we had a really lovely evening.  The food was pretty good, although I do love Indian food anyway, and the company was great.  I felt like I got on well with the other three women too, and I really must join the group.  They do meals once a month, but also cinema outings and other events too.  It was good fun.  However at the end of the meal at around 10.30, Karen asked if I wanted her to take me home or did I want to go somewhere else.  I said something I could never have imagined myself saying even five hours previously;

“Let’s go back to Union St.”

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Karen and I return to Union St.  I’m the pretty one 😇

By this time the T-Oke had thankfully finished and of course Karen’s friends had all arrived and I got to meet them all.  They were without exception, genuinely lovely people and easy company.  I met the aforementioned Mark, and also Charlie, Simon, David and a bunch of others whose names escape me.  I got into a good chat with Simon in particular, who I have to say is one of the funniest people I have ever met – as camp as a row of tents, and absolutely hilarious.  He is the only person I have ever met who can call you a “f***ing c**t” and your reaction is “Aww, sweet”.

Karen had mentioned to her friends that I was a “Union St Virgin”.  This was of course true, however it lead them to believe that I was a complete novice at being out in public, and that Karen had taken me under her wing and lead me out on my first ever expedition to a public venue presenting female, just as she had done by herself a few short years ago.  Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

“So is this your first time out then?  You look great!”

“No, not at all.  I’ve been living full time as a woman since the start of July.  I go to work like this.  I just haven’t been here before”

“Why not?

“Er… it just never occurred to me.”

As the evening wore on and more wine took effect, we moved downstairs where I ended up in an impromptu conversation with a Catalan (not Spanish!) guy, who was from a small village close to Tarragona, where I worked as an English language assistant on summer camps for Catalan kids during the summer breaks when I was a student.  I think he was quite taken aback when I dropped in a few words of Catalan that I had picked up way back then.  At this point Karen had been deep in conversation elsewhere but came over and told me there was someone she wanted to introduce me to.  She brought me over to a table where a small woman with short black hair was seated.  “This is Mary Ellen”, Karen told me.  We said hello and shook hands.  “Mary Ellen was Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast last year”.  Say what?  I didn’t expect to be getting introduced to dignatories.  It seems she has been a great advocate for LGBT rights within Belfast City Council, so go her!

My final conversation of the evening was with Charlie, and was quite sincere.  He told me that he had been around the gay “scene” in Belfast since he was 15, and he is now 31, and that Karen was the first honest-to-goodness-not-a-drag-queen trans woman that he had ever met, and I was still only the second, and that over the last few years she has completely changed his understanding of trans matters.  The friendship between all of them really is genuine.  Karen has done so much to educate so many people in that group about what it means to be trans, why it’s completely different to being gay and definitely nothing like being a drag queen.  And though I didn’t ask her, it wouldn’t surprise me if Karen was at least part of the reason why the former T*****oke is now T-Oke.

As we finally left and Simon gave me his surname so I could look him up on Facebook, I think I really did get the appeal.  It’s not hiding away, it’s just a completely different atmosphere from your average city centre bar.  At no time did I feel unsure of anyone, threatened, cautious or afraid.  And that’s nothing to do with being trans, it was the same when I was living as male.  Look at the wrong person the wrong way and you could end up with a punch in the face or worse for your trouble.  No, my evening in Union St made me think of no bar other than “Cheers”

Where everybody knows your name
And you’re always glad you came

I was so, so wrong about that place.  Preconceptions rearranged.

Fame, Fame, Fatal Fame

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I have been living full time as a woman for two months now.  I have been back at work for a day over six weeks.  In that time I have encountered nothing but positivity from friends, family and colleagues alike.  But more than just those three categories.  In fact, I have encountered huge amounts of positivity from people who, if not complete strangers, are only barely known to me, in work at least.  Thanks to my employer’s sterling efforts in briefing all the staff in my building (several hundred of them), my clients (approximately 80 small and medium sized businesses), key staff in the company’s 40 or so other offices throughout Northern Ireland and the cumulative effect of the bush telegraph, I now find myself in the rather surprising position of feeling like I am the most famous woman in the world.  Or at least in my little part of it.  It’s odd, to say the least.

I have always valued my anonymity.  I don’t particularly like being noticed.  I don’t mean being read; even before I commenced my transition when I was still “him”, I always preferred to go unnoticed.  I hate getting engaged in an off-topic conversation with a sales assistant or service provider.  I’m not great at small talk.  I thoroughly despise fawning American-style customer service, which always strikes me as deeply fake:

“Hi, my name is Bob, I’ll be your server.  I hope you’re having a good day.   Isn’t it a lovely day?  Are you doing anything nice at the weekend?” (reads name on credit card) “So Kirsty, what can I do for you today?  I can recommend product x, y or z.  Have you tried product q?  It’s amazing, I love it.  Well Kirsty, have you decided what you want? And would you like fries with that?”

Just stop it!  It makes me uncomfortable.  I want good old-fashioned British/Irish-style customer service:

“What do you want?  There you go.  Now f*** off.”

No hidden agendas, I like it.

So where am I going with this?  Really just to say that I feel uncomfortable being engaged in conversation by strangers whom I wouldn’t normally expect to attempt to engage me in conversation.  Which brings me to work…

Suddenly I find the everyone knows who I am.  Within the first couple of days back at work, there was a steady stream of people coming up to me at my desk to wish me well and ask how I was faring with my transition.  Everyone who approached me did so with the purest of motives.  However when people who didn’t even acknowledge my existence as Bob, wouldn’t have even nodded in acknowledgement when we passed in the street, suddenly decide to come and say hello with a “Hiya Kirsty, how are you settling in?”, well it makes me feel quite awkward.  I mean, obviously it’s better than people telling me I’m a disgusting pervert and that hell would freeze over before they think of me as female.  I’m not complaining about the support.  I’m complaining about the social awkwardness I feel when people that I don’t know, and whom I feel don’t know me, are suddenly calling me by my first name and asking how I’m doing as if I was a long-lost friend.

I did a professional exam last weekend (Monitoring and Identifying Early Warning Signs of Financial Distress – bet you’re jealous), and as I was standing nervously outside the exam hall a woman whom I didn’t recognise at all, offered a breezy “Hi Kirsty!” as she walked past.  Who on earth is she and how does she know me?

Our office cleaner, who hasn’t said “Boo!” to me in 5 years, struck up a conversation in the lift yesterday.  Actually, that one was really nice, she said that I “even walk happier” since beginning my transition.  Which of course put even more of a spring in my step.  So it’s not all bad at all.

On another positive note in work, the woman who had previously turned around and gone into the disabled loo any time she saw me in the ladies, appears to have got over herself and started to come in while I’m still there.  Thank goodness for that.


img_4692In my previous post I wrote about my birthday party at my sister Patsy’s house.  In a way the best part of my birthday was yet to come.  On the day itself my daughters presented me with a card addressed to “Mum”.  On the front it said “Wonderful Mum”.  I’m Mum.  My ex is Mummy.  They are still finding it a bit weird to say it out loud, but receiving that card, for a female parent, well it meant everything.  Probably cost 29p in the Card Factory.

It wasn’t just my birthday at the end of August, a week after my own birthday is my younger daughter Melissa’s big day.  She is now 8.  Back at the end of the previous school year, as Bob I had made a reservation for a kids party at a local indoor play centre.  It’s a good place, fun for the kids, a reasonable coffee shop for the adults, and the staff take orders for the McDonald’s next door so all the kids get a Happy Meal after they have finished playing.  A lot less hassle than having a crowd of 7 and 8 year olds in my house!

As I said, I had booked the party back at the end of June so the invites could be given out to Melissa’s classmates before school finished, as the party would be just before the new school year began.  When school finished at the end of June I was still living as male.  None of Melissa’s classmates nor, significantly, their parents, would have been aware of my transition.  When we have had Melissa’s birthday party in previous years it was always me and my ex there, and there is no doubt that the other parents would have been expecting Bob and Mrs Bob yet again.  So as the day of the party approached I grew increasingly nervous about how they might react when suddenly confronted with the person they knew as Melissa’s dad looking let’s say surprisingly feminine.  I was even playing out worst-case-scenarios with some of them refusing to leave their kids in my presence.  I was concerned.

In any social group there is usually one person who is the alpha, the group’s leader, the one with the highest social standing.  Not necessarily highest social class, but the person who leads the conversation and gives direction to the group.  The undoubted alpha female in what my ex calls the “Mummy Network” is a woman called Anne, who is the mother of one of Melissa’s closest school friends.  As the time of the party approached my ex and I were seated on a bench at the side of the lobby area at the play centre.  The first people to arrive were Anne and her daughter.  Melissa leapt up enthusiastically to hug her friend, whom she hadn’t seen in nearly 2 months, and my ex got up to greet Anne while I continued to sit sheepishly on the bench.  I heard Anne say hello to my ex, then she looked over at me.  I was terrified.  I waited for her to exclaim “OH.  MY.  GOD.  What the hell are you dressed like that for Bob???”  But that’s not what she said.  She turned back to my ex and asked her

“Is this your sister?”

Despite the circumstances, Melissa’s birthday party, with Melissa and my ex, Anne didn’t recognise Bob at all.  And not only did she not recognise Bob, she didn’t see me as anything other that completely female.  Which I am, obviously.  My ex pretty much ignored her question.  Anne asked my ex once more if I was her sister and looked over at me again.  I smiled and beckoned her over to me, but she didn’t move.  My ex clearly was trying to ignore the issue.  So I got up and walked slowly across to Anne, who had turned away from me by this stage.  I tapped her on the arm and she turned back towards me.

“Anne”

“Huh?”

“I used to be Bob”

Anne did one of the all-time greatest comedy double-takes in history.  Her jaw literally dropped.  She couldn’t speak.  She was in shock.

“I’m in shock”

Yes, I kind of gathered that.

“But how?  When?  Oh my god, you look amazing, I would never have known.  I really just thought you were [my ex]’s sister.”

So I explained a little about how I had reached this point, that I had been living as a woman since early July, and that I had been back at work as a woman for four weeks.  That my ex and I had separated and would be divorcing, that Melissa had been aware of my transition since early February and seemed fine with everything.

“I just can’t believe it.  I’m in shock.  I mean, congratulations, I’m really happy for you.  I hope it all continues to go well.  And well done to you both for dealing with this so well together.”

And that was that.  My secret was out in the Mummy Network.  As it happened, Anne was the only parent who stayed with my ex and me for the duration.  Other parents dropped their kids off and left, to return to collect them later.  I am convinced that not one of them recognised the old me, believing me to be probably Melissa’s auntie.  I spoke to many of them, interacted with them, handed out slices of birthday cake.  Not one noticeable reaction.

As I was heading over to pay for the party, Anne called out to me by my new name.  It was so nice to hear.  She bought me a coffee.  As we were sitting back at our table, Anne’s daughter came over.  She pointed at my cup and asked her mum

“Whose coffee is that?”

“Kirsty’s”

“Who’s Kirsty?”

“This lady here that’s sitting with us”

“Oh, ok”

That made me smile.

As I was unwinding at home later that night, my phone beeped with the Facebook Messenger noise.  It was a message from a “new contact”.  It was Anne, but at first I didn’t recognise her surname.  Only when I read the first line of the message did the penny drop.

Just wanted to say a big well done for what you did today, … u both did fantastic & thank you for being so open with me, you looked fanastic & so proud that you have found the courage to be you

I mentioned in reply that I had been a little nervous but I was very grateful for her positive reaction, and at least now she would know who that big tall woman collecting Melissa from school was.

I’m a tall person (she’s at least 5’10”) so u r not a big tall person, please don’t ever think that just be proud of being tall that’s what I tell [her daughter] all the time … I am really so so proud of u for the courage uve shown, I know u have ur own circle of friends but I’m here if u ever want a chat xx

People can be so great.


One further very small comment.  On Tuesday night I went to a talk by two police officers entitled “Transphobia:  How the Police can help”, which had been organised by the Belfast Butterfly Club.  It was well-attended and pretty interesting.  But I mention it not because of the content, but because as we left the large room where the talk took place and moved downstairs for a cup of tea, a person whom I hadn’t met before and who was presenting male said hello.  I said hello back.  Then he said

“I read your blog.  It’s very good.”

Aw, thank you.  And if you’re still here, hello!  Thank you for reading.  Turns out this was the first time he (or maybe that should be she, but he told me his name which I won’t repeat here, and it was a male name) had ever come to any sort of trans event.  So if I played even a tiny part in helping someone start to acknowledge who they are and begin to do something about it, well it’s very gratifying indeed.  This type of “fame” I can cope with.  He did add

“I don’t think I’m quite at your level”

“I didn’t used to think I was at my level either”

Ain’t that the truth!

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.