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I’ve been thinking I might need to rename this blog “Kirsty’s Wednesday Night Adventures” as that is really what it’s turning into.  Wednesday night is the regular weekly “drop-in” meeting of the Belfast Butterfly Club, and it has quickly become a fixture in my diary. The fact that I know there is a time when I can be Kirsty every week gives me something to look forward to, but at the same time I am also a little bit wary that I end up replacing the closet of dressing in secret in an empty house with the bigger closet of only existing as Kirsty behind closed doors at the club premises on a Wednesday night (apologies to Ruth for stealing her metaphor).

Still, I can hardly feel like progression has stopped when I consider that it is still less than three months since I first fully presented as female in an empty house.  I didn’t realise at the time that it was only the beginning, not the end.  So in order to keep progressing I know that the club can’t be the one and only thing I do as Kirsty.  The question then arises; what else is there that I can do?  I don’t really know the answer to that as there are limits to what I can reasonably do given my family circumstances, and I know that I probably already push those boundaries a lot further than my wife would like.  For the time being, my intention is to try to do something in the real world before going to the club on a Wednesday.  Which brings us on to this week…

I arrived at a large out-of-town shopping complex (Sprucefield for those familiar with the local area) just before 8pm.  Still an hour of open shops left.  When I did my little trip into Tesco the previous week I was hoping to find some kind of light scarf that would go nicely with a top and/or cardigan, as opposed to the warm winter scarf that I already had.  Unfortunately, there was nothing suitable in Tesco so last week’s trip was just in and out of the shop in 5 or 10 minutes.  I was still hoping to find something similar, so I decided to try Marks and Spencer instead.  For some reason I felt much more nervous than I had done the previous week, probably something to do with it being a noticeably brighter evening this time round.  As I sat in the car park trying to motivate myself to get out, I must admit that I did consider just starting up the engine again and going straight to the club.  But I got the better of those nerves, opened the door and got out.  Like last time, I was dressed to blend in as best I could – white spotty top with a bow feature, short-ish black peplum skirt, black opaque tights and black ballerina flats, along with my trusty black cardie and my black-and-white leopard print scarf which is really getting a bit too warm for this time of year.  Sorry I’ve no photo to share this time, but I thought that if I stopped for a selfie it might have been a bit of a giveaway.  I wonder if my penchant for black and white clothing is related to my colourblindness?  At least with black and white I know I’m not making some horrendous colour-mismatching faux pas.

There was another new secret weapon in my female armoury:  home-made foam hip pads.  I’m not going to give the full details of how I made them, but I used this YouTube video as a guide and they really do work remarkably well.

The first people I passed were a couple who looked to be in their early twenties.  As I passed them, I heard the woman laugh, and with my nerves already quite bad, the paranoia kicked in.  She must be laughing at me!  What else could it be?  Surely her boyfriend hadn’t just said something amusing?  I pressed on in a slightly shorter stride than I would do when presenting as male, one hand holding my cardigan closed, the other holding the strap of the handbag on my shoulder.  I hadn’t noticed any other reactions by the time I arrived at the ATM – I certainly wasn’t going to pay for a potential purchase with a card bearing my male name so I needed cash instead.  I walked on into the store and quite quickly found just the scarf I was looking for, light and just off-white with little sequins.  Very pretty and girly.  But I wasn’t ready to approach a checkout quite yet so I continued browsing.

All this time I was still feeling incredibly nervous, but the longer I stayed the more I realised that nobody was paying me any attention whatsoever.  Not studiously avoiding making eye contact, as my wife had suspected last week, I was genuinely being treated no differently to any other person.  And with this feeling in mind, I walked past a full-length mirror – it’s a clothes shop, it’s full of full-length mirrors.  I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and saw a very tall but otherwise perfectly unremarkable woman.  And then the feeling hit me:  I was passing!  Not being ignored, not a weirdo to be avoided at all costs, not even flying under the radar, I genuinely believe I was passing as a woman.  It was a remarkable feeling and a huge boost to my confidence, and I allowed myself a little smile before I lost sight of my reflection again.

Armed with this new found confidence, I browsed round all the ladieswear for another 15 or 20 minutes and it was always the same, nobody reacted any differently to me than if I had been a biological woman.  Eventually having exhausted all the delights of the M&S ladieswear selection, I made my way back to the scarf I had spotted earlier, picked it off the rail and approached the checkout.  At this point, all my confidence and self-belief evaporated for one very good reason – I had to speak!  Nightmare!  There was a more mature lady on the counter, and she called me over with a “Yes, dear, what can I get you?”  Dear – a non-gender specific appellation if ever there was one.  I am certain she read me pretty much right away.  Still, assuming that she had read me, she remained professional and respectful.  I handed over the scarf and she asked me if I wanted a bag.  “No”, I squeaked.  She told me the price and I handed over the cash.  Then, when handing back my receipt, she started a conversation about a special offer on beauty products.  I just wanted her to shut up so I could go, but she kept talking and I kept nodding and smiling and eventually managed to say “Thank you very much” in the style of a 14-year-old boy whose voice is just about to break.  Off I went, back out into the night, confident in my appearance and despite the vocal problems, feeling a million dollars.

And the moral of this story?  You can look and act like the world’s girliest girl, but if you want to be accepted as a woman you need to sound like one too.  More work is required, but I am not disheartened.  Quite the reverse in fact.

I have one other matter to report:  encouraged by my friend Andrea I have joined the forum at Transliving International (TLI).  I actually felt slightly disloyal to my Angels friends when I registered, but I got over it.  It’s not like I have abandoned Angels anyway, I’m as active there as ever.  But I mention TLI because they run two TG weekends every year, and I have booked myself in for their Autumn weekend in October over in Eastbourne.  Three whole days of undiluted Kirsty, I can’t wait.

Yours excitedly