A few days ago I did something that many people would consider to be pretty run-of-the-mill, but for me it was yet another significant milestone on this journey to goodness knows where. I went out for dinner in a restaurant. Not a trans restaurant, not a gay restaurant, not a private room, just a restaurant. Well, a very nice restaurant to be precise.
Since I started going to the Butterfly Club I have become very good friends with another girl, Andrea, with whom I share a lot in common. We seem to have similar histories, a similar outlook, are of a similar age and basically we just get on very well. A few weeks ago the Butterfly Club had proposed having a “theme” night, where everyone would dress in a certain way. I won’t go into the details of what the theme was, but Andrea and I both agreed that it wasn’t for us. I go to the club to be my real self, not to play dress-up, and it seemed that Andrea felt the same way. So when we were leaving the club one night we had one of our regular post-club “little chats” when we agreed that neither of us would be going to the theme night. Andrea then asked if I would like to do something else that night, just the two of us, to which I readily agreed. We just needed to think of what to do.
A few days later Andrea realised that she wasn’t going to be available on that particular day, so I thought our planned outing was off. As an alternative, I asked her if she was doing anything on the Mayday Bank Holiday. No work that day meant we could both be ready much earlier and I even had a plan. A very scary plan to go out for dinner together. I had even chosen a restaurant, The Potted Hen in Central Belfast. It has a sister restaurant in rural Co Antrim which is the recipient of a Michelin Bib Gourmand, and where I have eaten several times as Bob, and I fancied trying the same owners’ other restaurant. Andrea agreed to my suggestion, and so I volunteered to make the booking.
Booking a table in a restaurant is not something that would normally fill me with trepidation, but I was determined to try using my “female” voice – I use inverted commas because if you heard it, you wouldn’t necessarily think it was a woman speaking. But I try, and it’s improving. So I called, booked the table, and then got a “Thank you Mr Roberts” at the end. I just hoped that they hadn’t written “Mr” on to the list of bookings.
Monday rolled round very quickly. Andrea and I agreed beforehand what we were wearing so that (a) we didn’t wear the same thing and (b) one of us wasn’t clearly more glamorous or casual than the other. I wore a black bodycon lace lined dress with gold foil pattern, a beige cardie to take the edge off the glam, black opaque tights and my dressy black ballerinas with gold tipped bow. Andrea was in a black floral dress with a black cardie and 3-inch heels. In our bare feet I think I am about 8 inches taller than her, so me in flats and her in heels helps even things out a bit!
We met up in an open-air car park about 300m from the restaurant on a wet and windy evening. The wind worried me, to the extent that I was concerned that I might see my lovely honey blonde hair disappearing down the street like a tumbleweed. So in the interests of wig security, I put on my dark grey loose knit bobble hat to hold it in place. Then we set out on the short walk to the restaurant feeling excited and nervous. We walked past several people on the way but attracted no unwanted looks as far as I could tell. The nerves really began to kick in when we walked past the side of the restaurant and saw just how busy it was. There was no way we were going to be in a mostly empty section where nobody would be looking, we were going there into the full view of the public, and there would be no hiding if things went awry.
At this point I should emphasise that this was the first time that either of us had done this. The extent of my femme adventures up until this point was going shopping as a woman, and while Andrea has been out quite a bit more than me (although only for a couple of months longer than me), the only dining out she had done previously was with another TG friend in a gay bar, which we both agree is kind of cheating. So we paused at the entrance to the restaurant, and once I had removed my hat and fixed my hair, we took a communal deep breath wished each other good luck and walked in.
In the few days leading up to our meal out, I had been getting increasingly concerned that we would walk in to the restaurant reception, the maître d’ would take one look at us and say “I’m sorry, you can’t come in here, you’ll put the other diners off their food”. Or else we would get in to our table, be half way through our meal only to have the manager come over, tap me on the shoulder and say “Sir several diners have complained about you, I’m going to have to ask you to leave”. I was very nervous.
Thankfully Andrea did the talking at first. Her female voice is a lot better than mine, and she told the waitress that we had a table booked for “Roberts”. The waitress showed us to our table, in the middle of the restaurant, surrounded by other people. There was another, unoccupied, table for two right beside us, but apart from that every other table had diners at it. We removed our coats, sat down and perused the menus.
It was at this point that I realised that the world wasn’t falling apart, people weren’t pointing, staring and laughing, and Andrea and I were just being ourselves and relaxing into the evening. The waiter arrived to take our drinks order, and I was forced to use my female voice again. I’d be kidding myself if I thought it was perfect, but I managed ok. It definitely helped that I was clearly presenting as female, with a female friend, and so everything just flowed from that. I think I look pretty decent when dressed and made up, like a very tall woman in her forties, which in fact is what I feel I am. Not flawless by any means, but ok. Andrea looked even better, her make up was impeccable, and I think we gave each other confidence.
As the evening progressed I felt happier and happier. I was here, in a normal restaurant, surrounded by normal people, with a good friend being normal women. Throughout the entire night, I didn’t detect a single bit of negativity from anyone, even when a couple came and sat at the table next to us, within touching distance, they just carried on with their evening and paid us no heed. At one point Andrea said there was one man who seemed to be “interested” in us, but I didn’t see him because I was facing in the opposite direction. Even that, however, seemed to be more curiosity than negativity. For great chunks of time I actually forgot how I was presenting, and just had a lovely chat with my friend over a delicious meal – seafood chowder, rolled pork belly, and apple parfait if you’re interested. We sat in that restaurant for a full two and a half hours and it was sheer bliss.
Much as we took our time over our meals, delayed ordering coffees until after dessert and then sipped them slowly, eventually we did have to leave. We paid the bill, got our coats on and walked back out into the night. There were quite a few people around on a bank holiday evening, and again we seemed not to attract any attention whatsoever. We made our way back to the cars, had a quick girly hug goodbye and we went on our way, walking on air.
As a little addendum to this story, we only ended up having this wonderful evening out because the Belfast Butterfly Club had proposed the theme night that neither of us wanted to go to. Well when the club committee got wind of the fact that two of the most regular attenders were very uncomfortable with the theme night and were going to stay away, the theme night was cancelled. Andrea’s prior engagement finished up early and so we both ended up at the Butterfly Club on Wednesday night after having been at the restaurant on the Monday. Two nights out of three I was out as Kirsty, and it was a joy. The problem is, having done that it makes the enforced maleness all the harder to deal with. As I write this it is four days since I was last able to be Kirsty – well I am always Kirsty, but unable to present in a manner consistent with how I feel – and another three days to go until I my next outing. It is so hard to deal with this, but I don’t really see any other options that wouldn’t be utterly devastating to the people I love. I dream of being Kirsty 24/7, but it can only ever be a dream.
There, I’ve said it.