A few days prior to my “dressing day” I had registered with the Angels forum. I had lurked around for a few weeks prior to actually registering and found some of the threads and comments very useful – for example I got a few ideas of where to look for affordable-but-decent wigs and breast forms prior to ordering. I registered on my iPhone while having a casual browse at lunchtime in work, but then more or less immediately chickened out of introducing myself. There were a few more abortive attempts over the next day or two, abandoned due to I don’t know what; lack of confidence, worry I wouldn’t be accepted as a ‘real’ transgender person, perhaps even a lack of certainty as to whether this was a path I really wanted to go down, I’m not even sure myself. But I had looked through a lot of the threads and knew this was somewhere I wanted to be, if only virtually.
At the same time, my googling (well actually my DuckDuckGo-ing – back off NSA/GCHQ!) revealed the existence of a transgender support group in Belfast, right on my doorstep, called the Belfast Butterfly Club. I was intrigued by the idea of having a real-world, “safe” location where I could meet other crossdressers, but it seemed like little more than a pipedream that I would ever actually go there in person. I was terrified by just the logistics of how I would get to my car dressed as Kirsty without all the neighbours seeing. And anyhow, I had agreed with my wife that my dressing would be behind closed doors.
My reticence for both virtual and real life interactions evaporated pretty quickly once I had spent several hours en femme. Any doubts that I may have harboured about just how “for real” I was were dispelled by a few hours in dresses, heels and make-up. Not that there were huge doubts, but you never know until you try I suppose.
After I had regressed from a female butterfly back to a male caterpillar and everything had reverted to a normal Friday evening in our house, my wife asked me if my day had been “satisfactory”. I answered “yes”. This may have been the most understated question and answer in the history of language (this may be an exaggeration). I had just had what may well have been a life-changing experience, and it was “satisfactory”. I can’t actually say what it was, because I don’t have the words. The only thing I knew for sure was that I felt very sad that it had to end.
Once the kids had both gone off to bed my wife and I were able to have a proper talk about what I had been up to. In my new spirit of openness and honesty I told my wife all about it, and even showed her some of the photos I had taken of myself as Kirsty. Her reaction? “It’s you, but not you”. I’m not sure what to make of that. I continued to look at her, awaiting a further reaction and she said “Stop looking for a reaction!” so I did.
I had a few beers at home that evening, as I do most Friday evenings, and armed with a little bit of Dutch courage I decided to revisit my attempt to introduce myself to the Angels, only this time I didn’t hold back. I spent ages deciding just what to say, then to “prove” I wasn’t just some tourist I even put up a profile picture for myself – it’s the same one that I use on WordPress. It was only later that I realised that it is pretty unusual for someone to include a profile pic with their first post, I must have looked so confident in my female identity! If only they knew what a bundle of worries and fears I really am! Finally, at shortly before 3am I hit “submit” and went to bed.
The next day was a Saturday, and as per my normal routine I had a bit of a lie-in. By the time I surfaced I was already receiving lovely messages of welcome from other girls on the Angels forum. It seems a bit sad, but it really made me feel so accepted at a very nerve-wracking time. I have been participating there for a few weeks now and I would miss it so much if I didn’t have it any more. It is incredibly good to be able to talk openly and honestly as Kirsty, even if I can’t dress in her clothes all the time, and to have other girls who understand what I am experiencing.
There is a really great little convention on the Angels for how to refer to your male self. Those of us who have a male identity (some are full time women) never use our real male names, instead using the name “Bob”. I have subsequently learned that this is an homage to the FtM crossdressing character in Blackadder II. So from here on in, I will refer to my male self as Bob in this blog too.
You remember I mentioned the Belfast Butterfly Club earlier? That is the other part of the equation, and probably the bigger part. The Angels are people that I perhaps may meet one day if I end up at some transgender “event” over on the big island, but that seems so far away as to be barely worth considering. Real people, yes, and I truly value any connection I have with them, but not day-to-day, face-to-face real life. For that, I needed something closer to home. I had a good look round the Butterfly Club’s website and I decided that I wanted to visit. Regardless of the logistical nightmare of potentially getting out of the house as Bob and becoming Kirsty in the car in a lay-by on the way there, I wanted to go there, meet other people like me and be Kirsty rather than Bob. The only problem was, hadn’t I promised my wife that I wouldn’t be appearing outside the house in anything other than male clothing?
These thoughts were running round my head all day on the Saturday, and by Sunday afternoon I was in a bit of a state – up and down, can’t sit still, can’t stand in one place, head unable to think about anything other than how to get out of the house and give Kirsty a life. I jumped into the car and just drove out in the countryside for about 45 minutes to try to clear my head. It did help. When I returned, I knew that it was time for another confession. I sat down with my wife and explained to her that after having a wonderful day by myself the previous Friday, I didn’t think that could be enough for me and I needed to have a female existence outside our home. Of course this brought back the fears that I was going to go walking down out street fully dressed in front of all the neighbours etc, so I simply passed my wife the iPad with the Butterfly Club’s website open. She read it for quite some time, clicking round various pages and then handing me back the iPad. She asked if I wanted to go to the next meeting, which of course I did, and approval was duly and calmly given. I then asked her for suggestions about how I was going to get out of the house dressed, and she replied “They will have changing facilities there!” (unsaid afterwards – “you bloody idiot”). She might have a point there. She then asked me if I considered myself as transgender. I replied that I did not. This was due to a lack of understanding on my part of all the labels that exist. I have now learned that the term “transgender” is a blanket term covering everything from someone putting on a pair of stockings for quick sexual gratification right through to transition and surgery. So in retrospect, yes I do consider myself to be transgender, still trying to work out just where I fit in on the spectrum.
Northern Ireland is not exactly the most progressive and liberal place to live. This is a fact of life for minorities such as immigrants and members of the LGBT communities. I might write a full blog post at some point about what a backwater this place is, but for now I’m just mentioning this as background for why the venue of the Butterfly Club’s meetings is kept secret. If the venue were publicised then you can be sure it would be picketed by a combination of ignorant thugs and religious fundamentalists, who would be happy to either attack or out anyone entering.
So in order to find out where meetings are held, I had to call their helpline (they are a charity and provide counselling as well as a place to meet). The helpline is only available for 2 hours a week, from 8pm to 10pm every Wednesday. I counted the hours until the next Wednesday when I found myself at 9pm sitting in my car in the garage, phone in hand and heart in mouth. I nervously dialled the number. Engaged tone. Aaaarrghh. I waited a minute and tried again. This time there was an reply. A male voice answered in the calm, hushed tones of the trained counsellor:
“Hello, Butterfly Club”
“Er, I’m not sure what I’m meant to say now”
“Are you a crossdresser?”
And then it all came out. Actually, there wasn’t all that much that needed to come out. As far as my existence as Kirsty is concerned I’m not conflicted, I don’t feel guilt, I don’t feel shame, I don’t profess any religion so have no religious dogma to go against, basically I’m quite happy really. I just want to meet others like me, so I asked for and received details of the next open meeting. And I had it confirmed to me that changing facilities are available. Also, because I had said that my wife had been very supportive, the voice on the other end of the phone suggested that I bring her with me, and that some partners do come along. This is unlikely to happen for two reasons; having to get a babysitter, and more importantly my wife doesn’t want to go. Perfectly happy for me to go, but she’s not coming too. Not yet, anyway.
Well to finish off, I have another date in my diary to look forward to. Tuesday 4th March, 6 days away as I write this post. It will be my first ever appearance as Kirsty in front of other people and I am a weird combination of scared stiff and hugely excited. I have even got an outfit picked – this is my favourite dress (out of a selection of three!). Excuse the iPhone in the shot, it’s a selfie in front of a mirror.
That’s all for now, it was a long post this time!