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Well Christmas has been and gone, and I hope it was good for everyone who chooses to celebrate it.  Mine was an unusual Christmas, in that due to Christmas Eve (and also New Year’s Eve tomorrow) falling on a Wednesday, for the first time since March (!) I would be spending a Wednesday evening as Bob.  Obviously, I have also spent every other Christmas Eve as long as I have been alive as Bob, but this year there was very definitely a sense of something missing.  I have always had this very strong feminine side to me, but this year, this wonderful year that it has been given expression and been allowed to flower, it makes the time spent as ostensibly male a real ordeal to be got through in order to make it to the next time when I can be myself.

That’s not so say that I had a miserable Christmas.  Far from it.  Santa was good to the kids, Mrs K was good to me, or to Bob at least.  In fact, bar a new umbrella (oh the excitement!) everything was unisex so yes, good to me.  I have had a lovely few days with my family and it has been great.  However, underneath it all, that suffocating feeling was growing stronger and stronger the further away I got from the last time I had been able to get out and really be who I really am.  In all, it was nine days, the longest Kirsty-less gap that I have had in nine months.  No wonder I was suffering.

A few weeks back I mentioned in passing that my good friend Michelle had almost made it out on a short pre-Butterfly Club shopping trip with me, only to be foiled at the last when another person arrived and Michelle had to stay with her as a key holder needs to be present – I am also a key holder, but I wasn’t about to hand Michelle the keys to my car and say “Away you go”.  But a couple of weeks later, prior to our last Butterfly Club meeting before Christmas on the 17th, she did actually manage to make it out the door with me.  Hurrah!

It turns out that Michelle had already resolved to go out that night, and if I had just walked out without saying anything (as I probably would have done) she would have left by herself five minutes later.  However, as I got up to leave, our club president Linda asked Michelle if she was going with me.  I just looked at her and said “Do you want to come?  Let’s go then” or something along those lines.  Out she came and after a quick tidying up exercise to clear some junk off the passenger seat, she hopped into my car and we drove off together.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but up until this point Michelle had never set foot in a shop as Michelle.  For some reason I had assumed she had done this years ago but just got out of the habit.  But no, this was really her first time.  In we went and unsurprisingly we were attracting little or no attention.  I felt a little bit like a mother duck leading her duckling on its first expedition into the pond.  I had needed to buy some milk, so I wanted to go to a supermarket, and we ended up going to Sainsbury’s, a supermarket with a pretty decent clothing section.  We spent a while browsing the ladieswear, and I spotted a pencil skirt that I liked a lot.  I picked it off the rail and headed toward the changing rooms.  Only thinking about it now do I realise that I was kind of dropping Michelle in it by going in to try on the skirt and leaving her there on her own in a supermarket.  The skirt was really lovely, and the benefit of having a friend shopping with you is of course that I was able to emerge from the changing rooms to find her waiting and get her opinion on the skirt while I was still wearing it.  With the official Michelle thumbs-up, we headed off to the check-out via the dairy produce to get my milk.  Michelle also made a small purchase and negotiated the till herself, but I’ll not elaborate.  I’m still waiting on Michelle’s World dot com.

After Sainsbury’s, we had a quick browse round a few other shops, including a lot of fun while I tried on a few pairs of black heels for the Christmas dinner that I was going on in a few days.  I didn’t find anything suitable in the right size, so I just plumped for a pair of nudes that I already had, as you will have seen if you read the post about that night out.  But the two of us really had a blast trying on various shoes, laughing at some of the more outlandish styles and gasping at some of the more outlandish prices.  But eventually we headed back to the club, or at least I did.  I think Michelle was floating somewhere in near earth orbit and might not have come down yet.

Knowing that there were no more Butterfly Club evenings until 2015, i.e. it was three weeks away, we agreed to meet up again during the Christmas break, and it happened yesterday, Monday 29th.  I had also asked Andrea if she could join us, but as she was going to have her daughter on that day it looked like it was just going to be the two of us.  While talking with Andrea, I had suggested that we could go to a place called “The Outlet“, which is quite close to her home, if that would make things easier for her.  In the end I didn’t think she was going to be able to come, but Michelle and I agreed that The Outlet would be a nice idea for a trip as it’s a bit different from the usual Lisburn and Belfast haunts.  Michelle and I met up at the Butterfly Club premises after lunch, had a quick transformation, and by around 3.15pm we were at the Outlet.

This is where Kirsty’s purse threw itself open and felt the wind in its hair.  Or something.  I bought some new gloves in Peacocks and immediately put them on.  It was very cold.  Then a big splurge at the Next sale.  A new warm winter coat, a white anorak with a fur-lined hood for only £20.  It would have been rude not to buy it.  The only thing was, when it was rolled up in the carrier bag it looked like I had bought a small duvet!  I also got myself a new denim skirt and a pair of black 3/4 length trousers which I think will go well with a lovely butterfly-patterned top that Andrea gave me for Christmas, and perhaps my heeled brogues and some opaque tights.  I was very happy with my purchases, particularly the coat.

At some point during this shopping expedition I got a text from Andrea – it turned out her daughter was out with a friend and wouldn’t be back home till later, so she could come for a short while after all.  After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing we agreed to meet up in Starbucks.  But first, I had to pay a visit to the loo, at which point I abandoned Michelle and left her seated on a bench in the middle of the shopping thoroughfare while I did my business.  But I had no doubt that she wouldn’t attract any undue attention and when I emerged I found that, despite her feeling a little conspicuous at times, she was indeed just fine.

Michelle and I made our way to Starbucks only to find that it was chock full of people, some of whom were standing waiting for a table to become available.  So I rang Andrea to let her know we were going into the Costa Coffee opposite as there were tables there.  Michelle and I walked in, and Michelle offered to buy my coffee as I was the chauffeuse for the day.  I wasn’t going to say no, so I went and grabbed a table with some nice comfy chairs and a sofa, and left her to it.  It was only as I took my seat that I realised I had more or less forced her to negotiate ordering and paying for the drinks by herself, but of course she was completely fine.  We sat down by the window, and after a short while, in walked Andrea.  It had become an impromptu gathering of the Lisburn Ladies Fine Dining Club (coffee division).  Except they were both drinking tea.  Actually, Andrea had really wanted a hot chocolate and she knew that Costa were out of hot chocolate, which is why she had suggested Starbucks in the first place.  Looking out the window, we could now see that Starbucks had lots of tables free, whereas our Costa was quite full.  Oh, the ebbs and flows of the coffee shop trade.

We had a lovely chat about what we had been up to since we had all last met, and the time just flew by.  It was great that Michelle was able to be part of this kind of informal occasion, which she hadn’t been before, and I was of course having a wonderful time myself.  Michelle and I had planned on having a bite to eat after we finished shopping, so we asked Andrea if she would have time to join us.  In the absence of being able to think of anywhere appropriate, we just agreed to drive back up to Lisburn and have a toastie in the M&S Cafe there.  So after a bit more window shopping (and Andrea being disappointed after finding that a pair of shoes she had seen were too tight when she tried them on) we got into our cars and moved on.

After another loo-break for me (once you hit 40 it’s all downhill) we went on into the cafe and had more good chat, as well as a nice chicken and bacon toastie and a slice of victoria sponge.  And more coffee.  And just to put the icing on the cake (metaphorically not literally) while we were there Andrea received an email from her parents.  She didn’t have time to read the whole thing in front of us, but a quick check revealed that it began “Dear Andrea…”  The road to acceptance continues, and I am so thrilled for her that everything seems to be working out so far.

After Andrea departed to get changed back into Bob in time for the return of her daughter, Michelle and I did a little bit more browsing of the sales, including a dangerous move for me into another branch of Next where it took all the willpower I could muster to prevent me splashing out again.  All too soon it was back to the Butterfly Club for a quick cup of tea before Michelle would get changed and head home.  As we walked through the door, she did a little celebratory air-punch, that the day had gone so well.  It was only really at this point that I learned that these two shopping trips with me are the only shopping trips that Michelle has ever done as Michelle.  I am so privileged to have been part of bringing her out of the closet of sitting behind closed doors, and it has been a joy to help her blossom and find her own confidence.  I think the next step for her is doing it by herself, and I now have little doubt that she will do it.  I certainly don’t doubt that when she does it, she will be fine.  Why would’t she?

When I joined the Butterfly Club back in March, Michelle was a longstanding member, regular attender and one of the stalwarts of the club.  I strongly suspect that she was also the person to whom I spoke when I phoned the club helpline not long after coming out to Mrs Kirsty.  I could never have believed that by the end of the year I would be the one leading her out on a new adventure.  I do wonder what I have done, if I have spawned a monster.  She’s been keeping a lid on things for so long, I (and Andrea too, to be fair) have helped yank that lid off.  Now she’s been out a couple of times, I wonder what is next.  I know where it lead for me.  Where it is still leading.  I suppose I can’t really claim any responsibility, because I don’t really think you can make someone transgender.  I think we are born like this, and sometimes it can lie dormant (as it did with me for a lot of my 30’s) but it never really goes away.  And as I have found out this year, when it is given expression, nothing else can ever be the same again.  So I’m not really a pied piper, but it’s a pithy title so I’ll leave it in place.

Michelle and I hugged goodbye, but it wasn’t the end of the evening for me.  I was heading across to see Andrea D, whose flat I had stayed in on the night of the Christmas dinner.  Very sadly, my two Andrea-friends have had quite a major falling-out over the Christmas period, and I find myself slightly caught in the middle.  I will guard my own counsel on what I think, although I have obviously spoken to them both individually.  But let’s just say I can’t see me going out with both of them together any time soon.  So when I got to Andrea D’s, there was quite a bit of talk about that.  But also a bit of a laugh, a bit of setting the world to rights, a cup of tea and a mince pie.  And a Christmas present, a lovely snood, which I will be wearing for the rest of the winter.  Although to be honest I had no idea what to do with it at first, I needed a lesson.  But it was a lovely gesture, and I greatly appreciated it.

With the hour drawing late, it was time to go home.  Thankfully, being in Andrea D’s home, I was able to dress up in male clothing in her spare room before letting myself out.  Something of a luxury compared to either the basic (and very cold in Winter) surroundings of the Butterfly Club or worse still, in my car at the side of the road.  All in all, a lovely day and I feel so much better to have relieved the oppressive maleness that had been smothering me for a week.  And if there’s one thing I’ll take away from the day, it’s Michelle’s little air-punch.  I really am so pleased to have been part of her journey.

Five more days to go until I can be myself again.  Or to put it another way, I can’t be the real me until next year.  Who knows what position I’ll be in by the end of 2015?  Not me, that’s for sure.

Happy New Year everyone!

Kirsty x