More than a week has gone past since my big confession to my friend in work, and there have been no problems with that. In fact, it has been brilliant to have a relatively impartial friend to talk to about being trans*. I suppose I’m also starting to become a regular at the Belfast Butterfly Club, and I’m becoming increasingly comfortable with going there en femme, along with the short walk along the street to get to the venue from my car, as well as the return journey. So what’s next for Kirsty? Well, that’s the question isn’t it?
What I want to do in this blog post is give a little update about two more ways I have ventured into the real world, one as my male self, the other as Kirsty, and then have a brief look at the home front. Hence the title of this post.
A few weeks ago I read a post over on Ruth’s Odyssey about how she had taken a trip to Boots to buy some make-up from their No.7 range. I was very envious of her experience. Ruth and I have become online friends over the last month or so, and I sent her a message telling her how I was inspired by her and was going to give it a go myself. Then, a few days after reading Ruth’s post, I met another girl, Andrea (who has now become a real-life friend) at the Butterfly Club and she was also very positive about her experience at the Boots make-up counter. So now that I had double the encouragement, I decided to head over to Boots – not the nearest one to home, but not too far away either – for a bit of Sunday afternoon shopping.
Due to both my inexperience at being out dressed, and also my family circumstances being what they are, I went shopping as “Bob”. I arrived at the store and wouldn’t you know, every one of the No.7 girls was occupied with a customer. I didn’t want to bottle out of doing this, but at the same time it’s hard to loiter around for too long near the make-up counter without feeling like someone is about to call security. I walked out and returned a couple of times, went to “browse” in other parts of the store, and somehow managed to kill about 20 minutes. Eventually I noticed that there was nobody at the No.7 counter, so I headed there only to realise that nobody included the staff. The place was deserted. I spotted a sales assistant at the neighbouring cosmetics counter was looking at me. I took a deep breath, walked up to her and said as confidently as I could manage;
“I hope you’ll be able to help me. I’m looking to get some foundation and concealer… …for myself”
My heart was pounding awaiting her reply, which I fully expected to be something along the lines of “get out of my store you pervert”. Instead, what she actually said was
“No problem. What sort of thing were you looking for?”
She was incredibly nice. I explained that “I don’t always look like I look now” (she smiled and nodded) and that I felt that my current foundation was too pale and made me look like a ghost, but I was wary of going too dark and getting the orange face as I am naturally very pale. She explained that there was a colour matching service but that it was done by the No.7 girls and she would have to go and find one of them for me. I did know about this thanks to Ruth and Andrea, which is really why I came, but I didn’t mention that and continued to play the role of the naif (I didn’t have to try too hard!).
Off she went to get a No.7 girl for me, leaving me standing alone in the middle of the make-up section fighting a strong urge to run away. And fight it I did. It must have been a full five minutes before the correct sales assistant returned and just like her colleague, she was incredibly nice and friendly. She held a light meter up to both my cheeks which told her exactly what the right colour foundation was for my skin, then asked if I would prefer a matt or shinier finish. I chose matt. She put a small patch of the tester on the back of my hand and it did look better that what I had been using. I said I would take it, so she opened up the drawer only to find that my “perfect” colour was out of stock. So I tried the oilier finish on the back of the other hand. I didn’t like it, too oily. Then out came the two closest alternatives. The backs of my hands were turning into a patchwork quilt of foundation by this stage. Finally I settled on something called “Warm Ivory”, and I took foundation and concealer in it. And because I bought two No.7 items, I got a lovely gift pack too with eyeliner, lip gloss, eye shadow, mascara and something else which escapes me just now. But it was a lovely experience, and I was treated in a friendly and respectful manner the whole time. I’ll definitely be back.
The second “step forward” only happened a few days ago, just before my most recent visit to the Butterfly Club, and if anything was more of a “heart in mouth” moment than buying make-up. I have decided that great and enjoyable as it is, I can’t be satisfied with the club by itself. I need to experience life as a woman, even if only occasionally, and sitting around in a room with other transgender persons is not really part of the quintessential woman experience. So instead of going direct to the club, this week I decided to go via a shop, a large branch of Tesco to be precise. It wasn’t just going in there for the sake of going in, I was genuinely hoping to find a nice light chiffon-y scarf. It’s starting to get slightly less cold now, and a winter scarf is a bit too warm for springtime, so I wanted something that would look stylish with a nice top. I have quite a long neck so I think I need something to offset it, and a scarf fits the bill.
I arrived in the car park, and parked quite far from the store. If I was going to do this, I was going to milk it and have a decent walk to and from the entrance. I was getting more and more nervous but again, there was no chance I was going to lose my bottle and not do it, so I touched up the lip gloss, gave myself a quick squirt of perfume, and got out of the car. I was dressed as “blend-in” as I could manage. Blending in is always going to be a big ask when I’m 6’2″, but I did everything I could to de-masculinise myself and make myself look like a very tall woman. I wore a blue blouse with a black cardigan and black knee-length pencil skirt, opaque tights and a pair of ballerina flats, then over the top was my lovely M&S woollen coat and a leopard print scarf – the winter one that I need replaced. On top, I was wearing my new wig as pictured. (Quick aside, I got this after a few doubts of my own about the long blonde one and a bit of constructive feedback. The new one is much shorter, lighter on the head and most importantly a lot closer to my natural hair colour. Oh, and much more like the sort of hairstyle a woman in her early forties might have). But I digress.
I walked down the path between the cars, passing people coming in the opposite direction, trying to keep my stride as feminine as possible and swishing my right arm probably too much – the left hand was clutching my handbag, which was over my shoulder. I walked through the door, into the store and headed straight for the ladieswear section. And then an odd thing happened. Any time I have browsed female clothing in a bricks and mortar shop while presenting as male, I feel incredibly uncomfortable and conspicuous. I constantly look left and right, in case anyone sees that there’s a man in the women’s section and comes to throw me out. When I arrived at the ladieswear while actually presenting as female, I didn’t feel this uneasiness at all. That’s not to say I wasn’t nervous, of course I was, but it was actually easier and more pleasant to browse the clothing while looking female (or like someone who wants to look female) than while looking male. And here’s another strange thing – despite all my fears and nerves, I didn’t see a single funny look, a single double-take and didn’t hear any sniggers or comments. Lots of people of all ages saw me, but I didn’t notice any reaction at all, same as if I had walked in there as Bob. I don’t know if I passed as female, to be honest I doubt it, but I think it was a combination of people just having their own lives to lead and not really caring, along with me being well enough presented that I hopefully didn’t stick out like a sore thumb.
Sadly, they didn’t actually have any of the type of scarf that I was looking for, so after about 10 minutes I turned back round and walked out of the store. I stopped at the kerb waiting for a car to pass so I could cross the road, but the car stopped. I thought for a second that there was something wrong with the car, then I realised that the car was actually stopping to let me cross. It was like I was in a dream, like all of this was happening to someone else and I was just an observer, so to find the world interacting in an everyday way with me, a woman, was astonishing. Actually, I have dreamt (actually dreamt while asleep, not just daydreaming) of being out in public en femme many many times, so this was literally a dream come true. Finally I made it back to the car, closed the door and screamed in delight at what I had just done. I’m planning my next trip already, mainly since I still haven’t got that scarf I wanted!
Well that was my two steps forward, and I suppose I had better get on with the one step back. I am reluctant to give out too much information about this, because the one step back is really the situation at home. I feel terribly sorry for my wife because of the heartache I am causing her. I love her and our children with all my heart, and I don’t want to do anything to hurt them. At the same time, there is a basic clash because they need a husband and father, and I need to be a woman. Perhaps I’m being horribly selfish, but the more I do as Kirsty, the more I want. It feels right, and it feels like me. It causes real worry for my wife, entirely understandably. She doesn’t know where all this is going, and to be honest neither do I. Her fears are that I will decide to live full time as a woman, or that even before that happens it will become common knowledge that I am transgender and the whole family will suffer as a result – kids being bullied, parents refusing to let their kids play with ours, even bricks through windows. These are the scenarios playing out in her head. I have no intention of telling any of the neighbours, or of going full time, but not very long ago I had no intention of walking into a shop en femme, so I understand that my promises might not mean a great deal.
She also managed to take the wind out of my sails in huge way. I told her about my shopping trip en femme, and how wonderful it felt to get through it with no negative reactions. She told me that obviously I didn’t get any funny looks because every single person would have clocked me for what I was immediately, and would be desperately looking away in order to avoid making eye contact with the freaky tranny. How I didn’t just burst into tears at that I don’t know, but it hurts. It really hurts. Mostly because of who said it, but also because I fear there is an element of truth in it. And that is my one step back.
More fun and games next time!