Incredibly, it has been a month since I blogged about anything other than my trip to Eastbourne, so there’s plenty to catch up with. I’ll do a quick catchup and then dwell a bit more on the events of last Sunday, which were very significant for me, and a lot of fun too.
I arrived home from Eastbourne in the early hours of a Wednesday morning, but by the Wednesday evening I was back out again to the Butterfly Club. I was still on such a high that I was talking 19 to the dozen about all the wonderful things that I had got up to. I also managed to only spend around 16 hours in male mode before reverting back to my real self again. In fact, with my holiday bookended by two evenings at the Butterfly Club I managed eight straight days during which I was presenting as female for at least part of the time. As Van Morrison once said, wouldn’t it be great if it could be like this all the time? The downside of being able to be my real self for so many days straight was that I came back down to earth with a bump when I had to go back to work. I mentioned this to Andrea, to see if she was available to to anything together the next weekend. While she had a few things lined up that I couldn’t be part of, I ended up getting invited along for a wee evening with coffee and cake at the apartment of another Andrea, Andrea D (to distinguish her from my best friend Andrea L). Andrea D has been full time since January, and it was very interesting to hear her experiences since coming out at work. Interesting, and encouraging.
It was a real struggle getting through the full week between my Wednesday nights on the 29th October and 5th November. It just seemed like an eternity, as indeed it does again as I am writing this on Sunday 16th, 4 days since I was last able to present as female and 3 days until I will be again. It’s such a long time to wait, and every day is hard. Looking at the male version of myself in the mirror is starting to appear a little grotesque. Not sad or traumatic or anything like that, but to my eyes I just look so much worse as male that I feel like what I imagine it must have been like to be a model who posed for Picasso, and ended up looking like Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon.
But enough flannel. On to the main event of this post. You may recall a post I wrote around a month ago in which I told how I cam out to two male friends, Vin and Jonathan. I met Jonathan for lunch (as Bob) a couple of weeks after that, and he seems to be completely fine with Kirsty’s existence. In fact, it was a week after returning from Eastbourne that we had lunch together, and Jonathan had been reading this blog so was already aware of quite a bit of what I had been doing. In fact, he has read the entire blog from the start, and described it to me as reading the autobiography of someone you know – or at least thought you did! Anyway, we finished up our lunch and he indicated that if he was around Belfast or Lisburn some Wednesday evening that he would be happy to meet up with Kirsty for a coffee. I’ll look forward to that in the not too distant future.
As for my other confidant, Vin, I did suggest on that evening when I came out to them that it would be a nice idea for him to accompany the Lisburn Ladies Fine Dining Club some evening. He seemed happy enough to do that, but I hadn’t realised just how serious he was. I called him on the Tuesday after coming out to him to see how he was, only to find that he had told his other half Deirdre about me, and she was more than willing to come along to dinner too! He described her as being “surprised, but ok” with the revelation that I am TS. So after a bit of back and forth, a date and venue was set. I even sent Vin an email to confirm from my Kirsty email account, and got a lovely “Dear Kirsty” reply back.
The date we agreed to dine out together was last Sunday, 9th November. However, as has been the case with the last couple of LLFDC outings, Andrea and I decided to meet up first for a little bit of shopping and a general day out in advance of the meal, with Michelle joining us later. As it was Sunday, I was able to get away from home slightly earlier than I would have done on a Saturday, I served up Sunday dinner for Mrs Kirsty and the little Kirsties and then departed. I arrived in Belfast only to realise that I had left my jewellery box at home, so had to go all the way back again. Half an hour wasted, I had to let Andrea know I was running late. Again. Still, it could have been worse and I arrived at the BBC premises (also known as Gilbey House) around 1.40pm, and by 2.30pm I was ready to go.
Andrea and I headed out to a shopping and leisure complex just outside Belfast City Centre called Cityside, formerly known as Yorkgate. We went straight along to an Asda Living store, where I had been with my wife and one of my daughters the previous week and had noticed that there was a large ladieswear section. No sooner had we arrived than Andrea got a “look out for that woman” comment from a mother to her child. She was obviously thrilled with this, and I was thrilled for her, but I must admit I did also feel quite jealous as I only ever seemed to get “Lady-ed” by shop assistants, waiters or other people who are paid to be nice to me.
We spent quite a bit of time in there. I had been hankering after a fluffy jumper for quite some time, and I saw the perfect one in a pale lilac colour with little sparkly sequins. Just the thing. I also tried on a few pairs of shoes too. Asda are another store who stock a good range of women’s shoes in a 9, so I made the most of that. However even though the shoes were nice enough, I just couldn’t justify the additional expenditure, or the grief I would get from Mrs Kirsty who is convinced that I am a bit obsessed with shoes. She may be right. So after a quick visit to the changing room to try on the jumper (it fits fine) I joined the queue for the tills and bought it.
The next shop we went into was New Look, where we had another good browse round and I found a lovely mini skirt in a subtle blue tartan. They only had one left, and it was a 12, but it fitted me perfectly, so I joined another queue for the tills and made another purchase. Andrea had also found something to buy, so while she joined the queue for the tills, I milled around the shop waiting for her to finish. As I was standing around, in through the front door of the shop walked one of the teachers from my kids’ primary school. In fact, she taught daughter no1 a few years ago and would certainly be on nodding terms with me as Bob. I don’t mind admitting that there were some nerves on my part as she walked past me, but she really didn’t give me any attention at all. Another test passed.
On our way back to the car we stopped at an ATM so I could get some cash for the meal to come. There were two ATMs side by side, one of which was being used by a man, and the other one had two young children messing about in front of it. Oh God, I thought, any chance you kids could get out of the way. Then I had a truly wonderful moment. A voice from the side (their mother) called out in a pure working class Belfast voice, music to my ears “Kids! That woman needs to use the machine”. The little boy moved off but the girl remained; “Madison! Let the lady go!”. My path cleared, I looked to my left and nodded in thanks at the children’s mother, and then I withdrew my cash with the biggest beamingest smile you could ever see on my face. I am both a woman and a lady! I think I’m still on a high after that comment, and it was a week ago now.
We had had enough of Cityside by this time, so went into the centre of Belfast, first of all to grab a coffee at a very busy Starbucks. Except it wasn’t exactly coffee. I had something called a Gingerbread Latte. Never again. I drank it all, but it was one of the strangest tasting things I have ever had in my life. Like a hot McVitie’s Ginger Snap-flavoured milkshake, with a very slight aftertaste of coffee. Just bizarre. Andrea had another one of their Christmas range of drinks, a Honey & Almond Hot Chocolate, and I think it got a similar reception.
On we went for more shopping. Without dwelling too much, I bought a nice chiffon scarf in H&M, and then we went on to Next. I didn’t buy anything there, but it’s worth mentioning because while in there a man carrying a small child sidled his way past Andrea and me between the racks of clothing, and as he did so he said “Excuse me, ladies”. Two moments of affirmation each in the same afternoon – this was a good day! Well it was a good day anyway, I was having a fun afternoon out with by best friend, but you know what I mean. But with the H&M scarf bought, my shopping for the day was complete. We jumped in the car and headed back up to Lisburn where Michelle was waiting for us.
All three of us got ready to go, me in a new dress I had bought specially for the occasion, and then the nerves began to kick in for me. It was only now that it was about to happen that the significance of what I was doing really became apparent to me. I was going out to dinner as a woman with a man I have known for literally half my life, and who has been a friend to me as a man for all that time. We have had many nights out, even gone on holiday together before I was married, and we know each other’s families well. And I was coming here saying “All that stuff that went before, the guy you thought you knew, well it wasn’t fully me. This is, for the first time, this is.” It was quite a thought.
We were dining at Made In Belfast, in the city’s Cathedral Quarter, quite close to a few places we had dined before, Coppi and The Potted Hen. We parked up and completed the short walk to the restaurant, arriving exactly at our 7.30pm booking time. It was quite a small restaurant, and I could see quickly from looking round that Vin and Deirdre hadn’t arrived yet. I gave the waiter my name, he confirmed our reservation, and he showed us to our table.
Except I didn’t manage to get as far as the table. The floor was hard, and low on friction. The soles of my shoes and particularly the heel, was also hard and low on friction. As we took a left turn on the way to our table, I felt my left foot sliding off towards the right and almost in slow motion I fell. As we say in Northern Ireland, I fell like a sack of spuds. I think I would have been quite happy if the floor had have opened up and I could have just continued falling, but no, I hit the floor a resounding smack. It felt like the entire restaurant was looking at me. A woman got up from her seat at a nearby table to check I was all right. I answered that I was ok, but embarrassed, and gingerly shuffled my way to our table. At the end of the day, all that was really hurt was my pride. And my arse. My pride and my arse. Thankfully the guests of honour didn’t see it happen.
After about 5 minutes Vin and Deirdre arrived, and they were shown across to our table where they sat down with us. Initially I could feel Vin weighing me up, and at the same time I wasn’t sure how to act with him. I even said to him “well this is a bit weird”, and he replied that yes, it was. But undeterred, we carried on and within about 5 minutes the awkwardness had gone. Ultimately, I’m still the same person, even if I look, sound and act a little different. Deirdre even said I was very glamorous. Oversensitive Kirsty of course took that to mean that I was overdressed for the occasion, but Michelle told me afterwards that she just thought Deirdre was blown away by how I looked, i.e. not like a complete dog’s dinner.
As for the food itself, it was certainly well up to the demanding standards of the LLFDC. For my started I had seafood chowder, which was very tasty indeed. The soup was very thick, and there were plenty of lumps of fish and shellfish to chew on. It was served with a large cube of brioche-style bread, and what looked like a large sugar cube. It was only when I attempted to pick up the sugar cube that I realised it was in fact a cube of butter coated in salt. I could have done without the salt to be honest, but it was still a nice little touch. By the time I had eaten my chowder and that big lump of bread, I was starting to feel full. For main, I ordered the rolled pork belly and black pudding, and another enormous portion appeared. The pork belly was a touch on the dry side, but there was plenty of gravy to keep it moist. The black pudding was very nice indeed, although the accompanying beetroot mash was a touch on the heavy side and the extremely large carrot draped across the whole thing seemed like it belonged in another meal. However the star of the show was something that looked like a scotch egg on the outside. But once I cut into it, I realised that it was a ball of pulled pork, covered in breadcrumbs, and it was divine. Worth the price of admission for that alone. There was so much there, I didn’t even try to finish it, as I knew I wanted dessert. I decided upon toffee apple crumble with salted caramel ice cream, and it was as delicious as it sounds. It was also, like the other courses, enormous and I couldn’t finish it. Finally I had a coffee – after my Starbucks experience earlier it was nice to have a coffee that tasted of coffee. So overall, four stars from me for the food, very tasty for the most part, but too much.
There was a bit of an issue with the ambience in that the background music was just too loud and thumpy. I know it was a problem for Andrea, who is quite softly spoken at the best of times, but with her tiredness from some ridiculously long hours at work she was struggling to make herself heard and seemed to withdraw into herself a little. By contrast, Michelle was on top form, and really seemed to be at ease in her surroundings, chatting away with my non-trans* friends. Vin and Deirdre were, well, the same people I have known for over 20 years. It was so amazing that this could happen, a year ago I would never have believed this possible, but here I was with friends old and new, and all was well. In fact, it was better than that.
All too soon we were getting the bill and agreeing that we would all do it again in the New Year. My two worlds, the world of Kirsty and the world of Bob, had collided, and there really is no going back from this. Why would I want to?