If I have been struggling to contain the dysphoria the last few weeks – and I have – I have also discovered something like a cure. The answer? Being myself. Of course for me that is only a temporary cure, since I always have to revert to being “him” afterwards, but it still brings relief both before, during and after. There is obviously a permanent cure too, and it is a permanent version of the temporary cure, but I think we all knew that anyway, didn’t we? That permanent cure has been on my mind a lot, but that is where it will stay. In my mind, not real.
I mention all this by way of a preamble to what happened yesterday. Nothing shocking or earth-shattering, but almost a full day as my real self, with good friends and a lot of laughs. I left my house around 1.30pm and made my way across to the Butterfly Club premises. I had arranged to meet Andrea there at 3pm, so with me now a key holder I was able to let myself in and get ready in peace. So that is what I did. A casual outfit for the afternoon’s shopping trip, pink & grey stripy top, denim skirt, black opaques and mid heeled ankle boots. As soon as I was dressed and made up I could look myself in the mirror again and think “Yes, it’s me. I’m back.”
I had also purchased a new wig (shoulder length, chocolate brown with honey blonde highlights). I should stress that I love my bob that I wear all the time, and I didn’t even particularly want another “look”. No, the problem was that my bob is quite short at the back, and the week before when my own hair had been at its longest (not that long, but in need of a cut) Michelle took a photo of me standing in front of a mirror. When I got home and looked at the photo, I could clearly see Bob’s hair peeking out from beneath Kirsty’s at the back. So I decided I needed a longer hairstyle for those times when Bob is in need of a haircut. Bob has actually had a haircut since that photo was taken, so the bob (too many Bobs?) is safe to wear again.
Anyway, I put on the new wig for the first time and looked in the mirror. Hmm, I thought, not sure. It just seemed too dark for my pale skin and a bit too “wiggy”. But I couldn’t be sure if that was just because I wasn’t used to it or if it really wasn’t what I had hoped. So I waited for Andrea to arrive. I had warned her that I might look a little different, so she knew something would have changed. She walked into the club and saw me and I could immediately tell by her expression that she was of the same mind as me. A bit of impromptu hairdressing followed as she attempted to make the fringe a bit softer, but five minutes later the bob was back in place and we were on our way into Belfast and parked in Castle Court shopping centre, right in the middle of town.
There weren’t any items of clothing that I was screaming out for (although I would like some more dresses, I don’t own very many) but I did want to get some more makeup, as I have a few looks in mind that I want to experiment with, not to mention the tips that my work friend Lauren had given me the previous week. So off we went to Superdrug. I’m sure we must have been there for half an hour, browsing all the make up in a very busy store. I didn’t sense any odd looks or negativity, we were just two other women shopping on a Saturday afternoon. In total I picked up about 6 or 7 items, some of which will remain confidential (there’ll be a big reveal in a few weeks!) although for the first time I bought some lipstick in what Lauren calls “slut red”, as I have never worn red lipstick before and wanted to see what I look like in it. I haven’t tried it yet, I’m saving that one for when I have more time to experiment.
Andrea had been very keen to go into Blue Inc, so we made our way down to the ground floor of Castle Court only to arrive at the entrance and see nothing but menswear. OK Andrea, I thought, I hadn’t realised this was your type of shop but go right ahead. She “claimed” that there’s a branch in Newry that do womenswear. Yeah right. We didn’t go in anyway (obviously!), and instead left Castle Court and moved on through Belfast towards the very snazzy and upmarket Victoria Square. It was at this point that yet again, I walked down Royal Avenue in a mini skirt. I have now lost count of how many times I have done this, and I have yet to have any sort of reaction. Incredible to think that 7 or 8 months ago the idea that I would ever do that without everybody in the world pointing and laughing was just unthinkable. How we move on, eh?
Victoria Square is home to some rather pricy designer stores. Karen Millen, Ted Baker, LK Bennett etc. Well out of my price range. However, that didn’t stop us going in for a browse round a few of these stores. Ted Baker was the highlight. We were both very taken with a baby pink winter coat, so Andrea grabbed the label to find out the price. A snip at £299. Not too bad really, considering the leather jacket we had looked at immediately before was a full hundred pounds more. Still, £299 is a lot of cash for a coat. As we were chatting about this coat and what a gorgeous colour it was, a sales assistant approached us – “Can I help you, ladies?”.
Well, no, she couldn’t, but we did get a “ladies” so a little mini-celebration ensued when she had gone. Anyhow, Andrea decided she was going to try on this coat, except we couldn’t find a size. Eventually, we discovered that it was a zero, which the sales assistant then translated for us to a 6. The conversion was zero was 6, 1 was 8, 2 was 10, 3 was 12. That was it. They don’t cater for big girls like me who need a 16. Sizeists! Andrea is a lot more petite than me, so she sought out a 3 and tried it on. It was soooo nice, and I think she was seriously tempted to splash out. But calm heads prevailed and the coat was returned to the rail. I was only sorry that I didn’t think to take a photo of her in it, but the coat was on display in the shop window so at least I have a pic of both of us standing beside it. The lovely readers of “Kirsty’s World” can see this pic me with it, and I suspect if you look at Andrea’s blog in the coming days you may see a picture of her with it too.
Time was marching on, so after a quick dash round House Of Fraser we returned to the car and drove back up to Lisburn to find a very nervous Michelle ready and waiting for us at the club premises. I got changed into the same outfit I had worn to the Butterfly Club the previous week, plain black scoop neck top and red fishtail skirt, although with natural tights and nude heels. Andrea had a new black and white floral print dress that she was a little unsure of, but once Michelle and I saw it we were able to give her the reassurance that she needed – it looked great!
As we were setting off from the club, if anything Michelle was even more nervous than she had been a month earlier when we went to the Potted Hen. I think I need to remember that while I go out in public as a woman at least once a week, sometimes more often, and I still get nervous, this would only be Michelle’s second time out in the last three years. I think a contributory factor was the location of the restaurant – Upper Newtownards Road in the east of the city, i.e. away from the centre. For me, this made it feel safer as there was less chance of running into a group of drunks, but she took the opposing view. Still, the three of us had decided where we were going, and it was too late to change our plans.
Tonight’s restaurant was Il Pirata, an Italian restaurant that had been recommended to me by a work colleague, Graham (the one who said in a year or 2 I’m going to be going to work in a dress). It is a sister restaurant to Coppi, where Andrea and I had dined back in June, and like Coppi is named after an Italian cyclist – “Il Pirata” (The Pirate) was the nickname of Marco Pantani, winner of the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in 1998, the last cyclist to win both races in the same year. He was prematurely bald and raced in a pirate-style headscarf, earning him his nickname. His is a very sad story, as he became a cocaine addict and ended up dying alone in a hotel room from an overdose aged just 34. If you’re interested I would strongly recommend a biography by Matt Rendell called “The Death Of Marco Pantani“, a riveting if at times difficult read. (If you didn’t realise already, I am a huge fan of professional road cycling 🚲)
Well after that bike-based digression, we arrived at our restaurant and were able to park extremely close to the venue. We walked in and I told the waiter we had a reservation for Roberts. We were shown to our table, which was in a corner and felt quite private. However, while it may have been in a corner, it was also in the window. So anyone walking past the restaurant who decided to take a look in to see what the ambience was like would have seen three
middle aged trans* women gorgeous babes, which would obviously have made the restaurant even more enticing.
Our waitress was lovely, very friendly and chatty, and she took our drinks and food order. Oh the food. Wow. It was very very good indeed. For starter I had Mozzarella & Sage fritters, little crumbed parcels of stringy mozzarella about the size of a chicken mcnugget in a salty crumb coating served with rocket and a balsamic dressing. Delicious, although because the predominant flavours on first putting it into your mouth are the salty crust on the fritters and the balsamic vinegar, there was more than a little hint of chip shop in the initial taste, at least until the explosion of mozzarella intervened. For my main I had duck ragu with Parmesan and gnocchi. It was magnificent, it was only embarrassment that stopped me licking the plate at the end. Sooooo good. For dessert I had a chocolate and hazelnut torta, which was like a fairly heavy warm chocolate sponge with little bits of hazelnut embedded throughout, served with vanilla ice cream (I should really say Gelato, shouldn’t I?). Mmmm mmmm mmmm.
As I was finishing up my dessert I felt the call of nature arriving (too much information?) so off I went to the ladies. It was only when I stood up to walk across there that I started to feel a little bit conspicuous. I was wearing a pretty high pair of nude heels, and I’m pretty tall to begin with, so I felt that I may well attract a lot of attention as I walked right through the restaurant to the ladies, which was as far away from our table as it was possible to get. I needn’t have worried, as I moved there I felt completely natural just being the woman I am, and I caught sight of myself in a wall mirror and thought “Yes, you fit right in here”. So I made it to the ladies, did what comes natural, touched up my lip gloss, and returned to our table brimming over with new found confidence. Incidentally, as I was striding through the restaurant to and from the loo I realised that I have pretty much got the hang of walking in heels. It now feels completely natural to me to be walking in that way, and I feel really good about myself in a nice pair of heels. Not sky high, nothing more than 4 inches, but I think having a bit of a heel changes how I walk, in a good way.
So we had coffees, then a bit of a chat with the waitress as we paid the bill (paid for with my credit card bearing my female name, happy to hand that over to the waitress) and then we left the restaurant and headed back up to Lisburn and the club premises. Of course, we couldn’t just get into our cars and leave, could we? Of course not. Another hour and a half sitting round chatting, with lots more giggles. I don’t think any of us wanted the evening to end, but end it had to. Off I went into the night, thankfully without any roadside incidents like the last time we had done this sort of thing. It was, as Wallace and Gromit would say, A Grand Day Out.