After something of a reflective post last time round, I have realised that I haven’t done an update of what I have been doing since my weekend with Andrea nearly three weeks ago. Hard to believe that time goes past so quickly, and there has been plenty going on since then.
The Wednesday after I had been at Andrea’s I was as usual at the Butterfly Club. Nothing much to report although there was a person there, Deborah, whom I hadn’t met before. She seemed very nice and I enjoyed talking with her, although it seems that due to her personal circumstances we will only be seeing her every few months. A shame really. Andrea wasn’t at the club that night, although as I was sitting there with Michelle and Deborah I received an email from her. My iPhone displays the first two lines of text as a preview before you click into the main body of the email, and so the first two lines from Andrea said “I’m afraid I could not face coming tonight because I have been so upset“! Oh no, I thought, what terrible incident has happened? Then I read the rest of the email “… that Kirsty’s blog viewings are so much higher than mine“. Oh ha bloody ha Andrea. Her blog, which hasn’t been going as long as mine, wasn’t getting many views at the time, but something has happened and in the last week or so she is getting about 10 times as many hits as me. Bitch.
The following Wednesday I was off work (as I still am for 1 more day!) and so I was able to get changed early and head into Belfast for counselling. I arrived quite early and had a good 45 minutes to kill before the session was due to begin, so I made the most of the opportunity to do a quick tour round the shops in central Belfast. I was dressed in all the clothes I had bought during my weekend at Andrea’s – blue wedge sandals, stretch jeans and my black and white stripy jumper. Casual chic. I actually caught my reflection in a few shop windows and thought “looking good, girl!” so confidence was good. I had a very enjoyable time just browsing round Evans, Debenhams and TK Maxx. Evans is an odd one to be honest, I am very much at the small end of what they cater for, being a size 16 on top and 12/14 on the bottom, but they do have plenty in 16 at least. What is better for me with Evans is that they do shoes up to size 10 in a wide fitting, which means that my nines should be easy to obtain there. And I saw two pairs that I absolutely adored, both in black suede, one a pair of Mary Janes and the other wedged court shoes, both with about a 3-inch heel. Really gorgeous. I would happily have added either pair to my ever growing collection, but financial constraints kicked in and I decided to keep my £30 (which isn’t too bad really for a nice pair of shoes). TK Maxx was a confusing experience. I saw a pair of cut-off jeans that I liked, but sizing was just listed as S, M and L. So I picked a medium off the rail to see if the label could give more information. It did. The jeans were a size 9. The large ones were a size 11. What??!? I just returned them to the rail and headed off to my counselling appointment.
That same evening I had arranged to meet up with Andrea in the village of Hillsborough to go for dinner at the Parson’s Nose, a pub-restaurant in the town, for the latest round of the Lisburn Ladies’ Fine Dining Club (membership: 2). We had had an abortive attempt a few weeks earlier when she texted to say she was held up on the train. I thought she wasn’t coming, and was just tucking into my second sandwich when she called to say she was on her way! Determined that the same thing wouldn’t happen again, I didn’t even bring a sandwich with me! However, I did bring a change of clothes with me. Because I knew that I was going to be walking round the Belfast shops and going to counselling, I didn’t want to be overdressed and so sandals, jeans and jumper was a nicely inconspicuous outfit, but for going out to dinner, something a bit more demure was called for. So I went off to the Butterfly Club premises at around 6.30 to find Michelle just finishing off her own transformation. A quick cup of tea and a chat with Michelle and then I nipped into the changing facilities to replace my previous apparel with a white cotton top, black and white spotty flared knee-length skirt, natural gloss tights and black Mary Jane shoes. Altogether classier.
After a bit of a false start in being unable to find a parking space, Andrea and I finally met up and did the short walk to the restaurant. We were shown to our table in a crowded dining room, appearing to attract no attention whatsoever. We were served by a waiter and waitress throughout the evening and both were very friendly and attentive, just the right balance of attention without being intrusive. The food was very good indeed, in particular my starter of salmon and potato tartlet was exquisite. We had our mains and our desserts and then Andrea ordered petit fours with our coffee! Such a sweet tooth that girl! All was eaten and enjoyed greatly, but the best part was yet to come. As we were leaving, the person who appeared to be the head waitress looked up and said “Thank you ladies”. We looked and each other and smiled. Then when we got out on the street, we celebrated the salutation properly, one step away from actually high-fiving each other. The first time anyone has ever called me a lady!!! It felt wonderful, even if I did have to wonder about her motivations for saying it – did she genuinely just see us as two women friends out for a meal together, did she read us as trans women and said it to either make us feel good or even amuse herself. I think in circumstances such as this I will take the compliment and be happy with it, in the spirit that it’s better to be told to have a nice day by someone who doesn’t mean it, than to be told to go f*** yourself by someone who does mean it.
A few months ago my good friend Ruth Martina had got herself some women’s glasses from Glasses Direct, and had been very happy with the results – and having seen the photos, I don’t blame her. So after an abortive attempt to get some ladies’ glasses from Specsavers (too expensive) I decided to check it out myself and pretty quickly I found a style that I just thought “yes, that’s me”. £64 with high index glass, less than half what I would have paid on the high street. The glasses arrived on Saturday morning, just as the family and I were about to leave for 3 nights to go and stay with my sister who lives in a big country bungalow in Co Kildare (Republic of Ireland, about 130 miles south of me). I only just had time to remove them from the packaging and check they fitted (they did, perfectly) and that I could see through them (I could!) before leaving.
When I returned home the following Tuesday, just 3 days ago, I was desperate for some Kirsty time. I think that 4 days of relentless husband/father/brother had taken its toll, and I needed to let out the inner woman. As it happened, it was the day for the Butterfly Club’s open meeting in Belfast, so I contacted Linda to find out if it was still happening. Linda had also indicated that there would be a new person coming along, or at least new to me, she apparently had come along a few times around 7 or 8 years ago. So I thought, why not go along to the Tuesday meeting too? I got prepared and left quickly, barely an hour after returning home from my sister’s, and parked up some way away from the venue. As with my Belfast shopping trip the previous week, I was wearing sandals, jeans and jumper although for the first time as Kirsty I was also wearing glasses. I did the 6 or 7 minute walk to the venue quite comfortably, although surprisingly for a Tuesday night, the town was quite busy with people hanging round outside pubs and restaurants. But it was a bright evening, and I was fine.
I arrived at the venue and was let in by Linda. There were just the two of us for half an hour, and I reminisced about my first time at the BBC open meeting, when I was so scared and came along as Bob with all my Kirsty things in a holdall. Such remarkable progress in such a short space of time. Anyway, eventually the doorbell rang and as Linda went off to answer it, I seized the opportunity for a quick selfie in my new specs. The new arrival was Jenny, a regular attender on Tuesdays but who doesn’t come to the Lisburn meetings on Wednesdays. Then shortly afterwards Mandy arrived, and as I had done months earlier she arrived as Bob and then stopped off to get changed before making her entrance. She seems nice and I’m sure she will be a welcome addition to the group if she can make it up to Lisburn on Wednesdays.
While all this had been going on it was getting progressively darker and I was getting progressively uneasier about my walk back to the car. I had made a mental note that I was only going to stay for a short while and would leave by around 9.15 when it was still relatively bright. However Mandy only arrived shortly after 9pm so I thought it would be rude to leave so soon. So I sat and I sat, and by the time we were all leaving at 10pm, it was full night time outside. My confidence suddenly evaporated and I was quite scared by the thought of that walk past a load of bars in the dark. I’m not sure how much of it was fear of a transphobic hate crime, and how much was just borne out of being a woman walking alone through quiet-ish city streets at nighttime with possibly a few drunk people around. Thankfully, just as I was becoming a damsel in distress, Linda became my knight in shining armour. We walked to her car which was parked much closer than my own, and she ran me round to my own car. Panic over, and one very grateful woman (me).
Wednesday this week came along and I got changed early again so I could get into Belfast for a good browse round the shops prior to what would be my final counselling session. I have a few thoughts about that which I will record in a separate post, but for now I’ll just say that I think I have reached a satisfactory resolution. After being out in jeans the last three times I have gone out, I thought it was about time I put on a skirt again so I was dressed in my pink jumper, denim mini skirt, black opaque tights and leather ballerinas. I had a very enjoyable afternoon going round the shops, again I didn’t buy anything, but I enjoy checking out the fashions and making mental notes of what might fit in with my own style. And I feel so uncomfortable browsing women’s clothing when presenting male that it is a blessed relief to be out as myself.
After finishing counselling I realised that I needed something to eat. Off I went back up to Sprucefield where I went into the cafe at M&S and got myself a coffee and a toastie with a nice little side salad. A little bit of chat with the woman serving me (who forgot to charge for the coffee) and I just sat at a small table by myself eating my food and watching the world go by for a while. It was a lovely moment, and something that I couldn’t have imagined would ever have been possible just a few months ago. I wasn’t getting any stares, I was interacting with people in a normal way, and I was just myself. It may only have been a light meal in a department store cafe, but it was an indication that so much has changed and a normal life is possible.
Before going on to the club, I nipped into Next. I wasn’t sure if the sale had finished or not and I wondered if there were any more bargains going. I had been browsing for around five minutes when I heard a voice behind me say “Oh are you back?”. Surely she wasn’t talking to me! I turned round to find a sales assistant behind me. She asked
“You were here at the sale a couple of weeks ago weren’t you?”
I nodded that yes, I had been.
“Did you get anything?”
“Yes, I got a jumper” I replied nervously.
The conversation then progressed for another minute or so, was I after anything in particular (no just killing time before meeting some friends), what lines were selling well at the moment (tailored range, apparently) before I shuffled off to drive up to the club.
I am still not sure how I feel about this conversation. On the one hand, it was 100% friendly and the woman seemed genuinely nice. On the other hand, I must stick out quite a bit for her to hone in on me a few weeks later. The shop was very busy that day and so for me to have made such an impression on her my ability to blend in must be a lot less than I had previously thought. I try to tell myself that she may just remember me as being a particularly tall woman, but I’m struggling to convince myself. It’s not going to hit my confidence though. I am a woman and I am not hiding away any more.
Wednesday night at the Butterfly Club was another music night, which consisted of Michelle and I trading songs on our guitars for nearly three hours. Not a tremendous amount to relate here, but it was a huge amount of fun and I got to hear one of Michelle’s own songs for the first time (it was very good indeed).
And that’s me up to date on my goings-on. As I indicated, I have now finished my counselling and I have quite a few thoughts arising from that. But that’s a matter for next time.