Believe it or not, I found it hard to come up with a title for this post. I appear to be somewhat lacking in punning inspiration, so I have just described exactly what I’m going to write about. Another introduction of an old friend to the new me.
I have already written about the night I came out to my old friends Jonathan and Vincent, and then more recently about going out for dinner with Vin and his partner Deirdre. This week it was Jonathan’s turn to meet Kirsty for the first time. It was a lot more informal than Vin & Deirdre’s introduction to me, but it was perhaps even more enjoyable and fulfilling.
As anyone who has read more than a handful of these posts will know, I have a regular coffee date with my best friend Andrea every Wednesday evening. However from time to time she is off getting laser-ed and is unable to make it, so what normally happens on those occasions is that I will just go back to the Butterfly Club when the shops shut and spend the evening there. I do enjoy the company of Michelle and Linda, but I also feel frustration that I’m sitting behind closed doors, hiding away like being TS is something shameful. But I’m not going to stop going, because they are my friends and I want to spend time with them.
Anyway, last Wednesday was one of those laser-days for Andrea, so I was missing my usual coffee partner. The last time I had lunch with Jonathan (as Bob, but post-outing myself) I asked him if he would be interested in going for a coffee with Kirsty some Wednesday evening. He had made positive noises, so with Andrea missing presumed burnt, I thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce Kirsty to him. I texted him a few days in advance, and he said yes, he would love to meet up. He lives quite a way outside Belfast (not too far from Andrea coincidentally) so meeting up with me involved him staying behind in Belfast after finishing work. I was therefore keen not to keep him waiting too long.
As luck would have it, I had a meeting with a client in work at their premises that afternoon. (Quick aside: It was a bit surreal, as I ended up sitting at a trestle table in the middle of a factory floor having tea and cakes with the local MP. All as Bob, obviously) The location of this meeting meant that I was going straight to the club without going home, so I was more than an hour ahead of schedule, even if I think me arriving so soon did interfere somewhat with Michelle’s normal changing routine. Still, I was out of there by 6.30pm heading back into Belfast dressed casually in my pink jumper, denim mini skirt, black opaque tights and ankle boots. No photos this week I’m afraid.
I had arranged to meet Jonathan in the Park Inn Hotel, his usual post-work watering hole. I parked in a multi-storey car park above the bus and train station from where he would be departing later. I also thought it was quite close to the hotel. Wrong! I walked to where I thought the hotel was, only to discover I had confused it with the Travelodge. There I was, in the middle of Belfast’s nightlife area, at night, as Kirsty, on my own, with a reasonable number of people about. And you know what? It wasn’t a problem at all. Nine months ago that would have induced an attack of sheer terror. Now, I’m just myself and nobody else seems to mind. So I called Jonathan, asked where precisely the hotel was, and made my way round there.
I walked into the hotel bar, and walked right through it, looking all round me to try and find Jonathan. There were maybe around 30 people in the bar, but he didn’t appear to be one of them. Up and down I went, and no sign of him. Then out into the lobby, back out on to the street, and into the bar again. Eventually he appeared from a side door. He had been out smoking. He recognised me immediately (he reads this blog and so he knows what I look like as a woman) and we chose a booth in the bar. He got a coffee for me and a pint for himself, and we sat down.
He had seen me come in from out in the courtyard-style smoking area. My immediate reaction was to ask if I was so bleeding obvious, did I stick out like a sore thumb. I thought his reply was very diplomatic;
“You do cut a striking figure because you’re very tall”
I suppose that’s ok. It’s not like I can shrink. But I certainly didn’t feel like there were multiple pairs of eyes boring into me. Probably because there weren’t. We had a few brief, nervous exchanges, and then just like with Vin a few weeks earlier, I remarked that this was probably a bit weird. He said that he felt he couldn’t really speak freely, for fear of upsetting or offending me. My heart sank. What was there that he wanted to say but felt he couldn’t for fear of upsetting or offending me? Am I that much of a state? An abomination? Disgusting? Apparently not. It was his white liberal guilt, nothing more. He was minding his p’s and q’s (and t’s!) as he was afraid he might inadvertently use my male name, or male pronouns, or otherwise misgender me. Seriously, he has known me as a male for well over 20 years, I think a few “Bob”s are entirely understandable and won’t upset me at all, and I told him so. I also told him that when he said he had been worried about being unable to speak freely for fear of upsetting me, that I feared he thought I looked ridiculous, or very un-passable (if that’s a word). He was adamant that this was not the case, so I let it drop.
We ended up having a lovely chat, and the time just flew by. Most of the conversation was unrelated to me being trans, and was pretty much like any conversation we could have had at any time in the last 20 odd years. Which was comforting. We were enjoying the evening so much we decided to get another drink. Another pint for Jonathan, and a diet coke for me. But this time, I went to the bar. My first time going to a bar in my home town. All was good, in fact it was nice because it was one of those bars with mirrors behind, so I could see my reflection and I thought “looking good, girl!”
I accompanied Jonathan out to the smoking area, and while we were there a man probably in his late 30’s approached Jonathan to ask if he could buy a cigarette off him. Cigarette was duly handed out, and then the guy spent the length of time it takes to smoke a cigarette standing talking to us, giving Jonathan some irony-free advice on how he successfully quit smoking. Eventually he stubbed out his cigarette and left us. Jonathan immediately said he could see my giving our interloper a few looks like I was trying to work out if he had read me or not. It’s true, I think, even if it wasn’t as conscious as that. But yes, he was a complete stranger who had had a few drinks, so I was trying to work out not just if he had read me, but if he was a complete nutter. Anyway, Jonathan reassured me that in his opinion the guy hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary in me, just a woman. I agree.
Eventually as the time approached 9pm we decided to call it a night, particularly since I had to get back to the BBC as it was AGM night (don’t worry, I’m not going to write about that). We headed off into the Belfast night, a small man and a tall woman. Then Jonathan realised he had left his cigarettes in the hotel, so we had to walk back there again. I didn’t really mind. I just love being out and about, presenting a female image to the world, and that is what I was doing. I just felt so great about myself. I got the overwhelming feeling that a female life is actually possible for me. (And I got a massive “whoosh” of emotion writing that last sentence)
We hugged goodbye and he went to get his bus while I went up to the car park to drive back up to Lisburn and the Butterfly Club AGM. But that wasn’t the last I heard from Jonathan that evening. While I was sitting in the club at the AGM my phone beeped. A long message from Jonathan, presumably written on the bus. I’m not going to reproduce the whole thing here, but this particular extract is so beautifully put, and meant so much to me, that I am going to share it with you
“Your path isn’t one I’d like, choose or enjoy for myself, but I can’t help but cheer you on on that path, because it’s who you are and how you need to go to stay happy in yourself. Always remember that I support you in this, and all your true friends do (those that know), or will do (when you share it with them).”
What can I possibly say to that? Just thank you.
I did ask Jonathan for permission to include a part of that message on my blog, and he readily agreed. But then he added something else. On the understanding that he would not be the final person to whom I come out (he won’t be) and that when I come out to other people in future, I may well direct some of them to this blog (I will), he thought it was important that future readers can see just how much he supports me. Particularly for people I come out to in future who also know him, he wants them to know he is behind me wherever this journey takes me.
Until next time