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So this is it.  My final summation of what my 5-day adventure means.  The trouble is, even three weeks later, I’m not really sure.  That’s kind of the problem and is also why I have called this post “Beyond The Horizon”.  Because nobody can see what lies beyond the horizon, we can only speculate as to what lies there.  And I do have plenty of speculation.  But that’s not to say I didn’t learn a lot about myself and others while I was away, because I certainly did.

When I booked to go away on this “Transgender Weekend” back in around April or May, I didn’t really know what to expect.  And now I have done it, I can honestly say that my experience was more profound than I could have predicted.  What I can also say is that I am very unlikely ever to attend a similar event again.  That does seem a bit contradictory, in that I went away for this weekend event, had the time of my life, and decided never to go back.  The thing is, I feel that I had such a wonderful time almost despite the “official” goings-on in the hotel, not because of them.  An honourable exception to that was of course the Snow Queen ball, but that is unlikely ever to be repeated anyway.  Even if TLI were to have another Snow Queen ball in October next year, it wouldn’t be the same.  It was the shock of suddenly realising that I was that woman that made it so special.  I’m not sure if I can ever surprise myself in that way again.  No, what made the whole thing so special was two very special people and the things that we did together, Andrea and Ruth.

Andrea I obviously already knew very well as we have become best friends over the last eight months since we first met at the Belfast Butterfly Club.  Clearly we wouldn’t have agreed to this ridiculous road and sea journey if we didn’t get on.  Ruth, on the other hand, I only knew from her blog, her comments on mine, forums and latterly emails.  She could have been a figment of the internet’s imagination.  But of course she wasn’t.  It was such a joy to meet her and to find that all three of us had such an instant rapport made me so happy.

What we did together, with both Ruth and Andrea, as well as the parts that were just Andrea and me, proved to me that there really are very few boundaries in where I can go and what I can do as a woman.  Pubs, restaurants, shops, tourist traps, city streets, country tea shops, every one and more visited and all successfully.  So many times on this blog I have written about how I fear someone is reading me, or that something terrible is going to happen and then nobody pays me any heed and I fly under the radar.  I think that since my holiday, the fear and worry has pretty much gone.  I just get on with it.  That’s not to say I’m just going to blindly walk into potentially dangerous situations, but that’s a different matter to being worried about doing everyday things.

Spending three days at a transgender weekend taught me a lot about the transgender spectrum and where I fit in on it.  What it also taught me is that being trans* is not the be all and end all when it comes to who you gel with.  Even though Andrea, Ruth and I appear to be in a similar place on the trans* spectrum, I don’t think that is the reason that we got on so well together.  I think we get on well by virtue of having compatible personalities.  But among people who were there, we had a whole range, from TV to TS and all points in between, as well as some very idiosyncratic fashion choices.  My goal, if I have one at all, is to blend in.  I want to be perceived as what I feel, a woman.  I have no desire to wear some outlandish get-up that no 44-year-old woman is going to be seen dead in.  I want to wear something appropriate.  I don’t necessarily always do that successfully, but that’s my aim.  For others, that is not the case at all, and in fact some outfits bordered on the fetishistic.  Even some people who identify as TS (and indeed post-op) were prone to wearing such items, which I found quite distasteful.  Not anything to do with the trans* nature of the event, but because I find that sort of overtly sexualised behaviour and dress quite distasteful in general.  Maybe distasteful is too strong a word, perhaps “tacky” covers it better.  It does make me wonder about some who identify as TV but also as fundamentally male, and who dress like some kind of adolescent fantasy of a “sexy” woman.  Is such a highly sexualised image (for those who present such an image) in fact them presenting their ideal woman, or even giving others an insight on how they view women, or how they wish all women would dress?  Probably best not to disappear too far down that particular sexist blind alley.  So going back to my comment about how the “Super Glue 3” got on, I’m pretty sure we all shared that distaste for the more outlandish elements.  Nothing to do with TV or TS, just a question of taste.

Having said that, some elements were resolutely male in their behaviour and attitudes, no matter how feminine they may have looked – in a still photo at least!  This was also quite jarring for me.  I don’t claim to have every aspect of womanhood off to perfection, I’m just doing what comes naturally.  When others do what comes naturally, they walk like John Wayne and engage in blokey banter that I dislike equally coming from a man or a woman.  For me, how I act and how I sound is at least at important as how I look.  And when I talk about how I sound, that’s pitch, tone, inflection, turn of phrase, everything.  How I act encompasses gestures, expressions, how I walk, how I eat & drink, how I carry myself in general.  For others it seems that as long as there’s a nice (or not-so-nice) dress, a pair of heels and a face covered in make up, that’s all that matters.  For those people, that’s fine for them and I make no judgement about them.  But for me, that’s all wrong.

I think that something flipped inside me while I was away.  Prior to going, it always felt like Bob was the base over which a layer of Kirsty was applied, even if I wanted to keep that layer on all the time.  Since returning from Eastbourne it feels now like Kirsty is the base, my default level, and when I have to change from Kirsty to Bob it feels like I’m removing my own clothes and dressing up as a man.  I think this is behind a lot of my improved confidence, in that I think there may have been a part of me that felt like there was some sort of deception going on, like I was trying to fool people into thinking I was a woman.  But really, when presenting as female I know now that it’s when I’m being most honest.

So a lot of this is my long-winded way of saying that more than ever I know that my self-identification as transsexual is correct.  And after five days of uninterrupted womanhood, it had left me yearning more than ever to be my real self all the time.  This is something that frightens the life out of me.  I felt it before going away but since my return it is there in mind all the time.  All.  The.  Time.  The only way to make this overarching, all-consuming need to be female go away is to do just that.  Be female.  When I’m actually spending time as Kirsty, all the fog lifts and gender isn’t an issue.  So is transition the ultimate destination for me?  I honestly don’t know.  I dream of being full time, of being in work as myself, of going to family gatherings as myself, but then I think of the downside.  Employment difficulties.  Social integration.  How my kids would react.  How my brothers and sisters would react.  It could completely burn my bridges with my existing life, which in many ways is quite a happy one.  But most of all it is the thought of breaking up my family and the effect it would have on Mrs K that concerns me the most and is the main reason why I continue to believe that when push comes to shove, I won’t go full time.  But I can’t deny that the thought of being able to be who I want to be 24/7 is a very appealing one.

When I finished my counselling sessions during the summer, my counsellor Colleen and I came up with a plan for me.  The whole thing can be read here, but one of the key actions that I had set myself was to become involved in something outside the trans* community.  At the time this seemed like a vague aspiration, but after returning from my break it became more of an imperative.  I need to have an identity in the real world outside the trans* community, if only to prove to myself that I can.  If I am ever to successfully transition, I won’t just be existing within a narrow trans* bubble, I’ll be dealing with people from all walks of life and I have to be able to integrate.  So inspired by my multiple successful outings and improved level of chattiness from my holiday, I have joined a book group that I found via meetup.com.  At this point all I have done is put up a profile picture (the same one I use on WordPress), register with the group and click to confirm that I will be attending the next meeting on 23rd November.  Can I actually find acceptance from a group of cis people?  That’s going to be the litmus test isn’t it?  I am nervous but determined.

And I suppose this is my biggest takeaway from my whole experience on my first holiday as my real self.  A renewed certainty in who and what I am, more confidence in my ability to exist as a woman in the real world, and determination to forge myself a female life, not just a trans one.  Not bad for a 5-day jolly!

Back to reality next time – there have actually been some interesting things happen in the time since I have been back home.

Kirsty x