I had booked Thursday 14th May of work so I would have ample time to pack and otherwise prepare for my trip. For a week or so beforehand I had been working on a packing list, planning what I would wear on what day, with a few extra outfits thrown in for bag weather or just changing my mind. So on that morning, I dropped the kids at school and Mrs K at work, and headed home to begin the process.
Packing was in itself quite enjoyable. Just the fact that I own a week’s worth of female clothing (a lot more than a week in fact), and it was all things I have worn before, gave it a feeling of normality that was missing seven months ago. This is me, these are my things, what else would I be taking? It actually makes me worry about the next time I have to pack for Bob, and how horrible it’ll feel to see all his stuff laid out.
The day passed quickly enough, I got packed early, made a batch of my chocolate brownies to take to Andrea and Ruth, did a big shop for Mrs K, even went out on my new bike for a couple of hours. Then before I knew it, the time was 6.30 and after a quick takeaway meal, I was bidding goodbye to my family and hitting the road to Lisburn where I could finally become my real self again. All male items were left there, ensuring that I would be spending the next 5 days as the woman I am.
I arrived at Andrea’s house shortly before 9.30pm to find her in the final stages of packing her own cases, so I relaxed with a glass of wine while she finished that. After a wee chat on the settee accompanied by a rather luxurious hot chocolate it was time for bed. I slept well and arose in good time for our planned 9.30am start. Unfortunately she didn’t sleep so well and arose feeling rather ill. Still, we were going on holiday so she bravely soldiered on.
Getting on the ferry in Belfast was a little bit nervy for me. Andrea had made the booking, and as she has now officially changed her name, we swapped seats in the car a few hundred metres before the terminal in case she was asked for identification. Just like last time we did this from Dublin Port, no ID was requested, but better safe than sorry. We drove into the queue and then after a short wait we drove on to the ferry and took our seats in the Stena Plus lounge. This felt a little bit more crowded than its equivalent on Irish Ferries, but was still worth the extra money to have access to complimentary soft drinks, snacks and pastries. Sadly Andrea still wasn’t feeling great, so she disappeared to take some air on deck while I got some lunch and watched an episode of Game Of Thrones on the iPad.
We arrived at Cairnryan bang on schedule and just before 2pm we rolled down the ramp onto Scottish soil to the bagpipe-infused sound of Biffy Clyro playing “Stingin’ Belle” – yes it was chosen deliberately for our arrival in Scotland. In fact, we continued to listen to Scotland’s second greatest band (after Teenage Fanclub, obviously) as long as we remained north of the border. It was a leisurely enough drive, and we even found the time to make an impromptu stop when Andrea spotted a sign for a castle to visit.We somehow managed to miss the castle but ended up having a little stop in a village called Gatehouse of Fleet, which featured a mill, a kilt manufacturer and a craft jewellery maker. The mill was picturesque enough, although we didn’t go in, At the kilt manufacturer outlet shop the kilts on display were horrible. Too long, horrible colour, zero style, just ugh. At least when we started browsing in the jewellery shop / cafe the woman behind the counter asked “Do you need any help, girls?”. First correct gendering of the trip -yay!
We didn’t really do much in Gatehouse of Fleet, but just the fact of being out and wondering round a Scottish village made it feel like yes, we really were on holiday. But from the it was pretty much non-stop until we crossed into England. Even then, we had a couple of loo & coffee shops at motorway services but really just ploughed straight on until shortly before 8.30pm when we parked the car in front of Kate’s house and walked up to the door. And there was Ruth, ready and waiting. I hugged her in greeting. She looked, well, like Ruth. I just knew we could pick up where we left off back in Eastbourne last October.
We emptied the car and transferred our belongings to our allocated bedrooms – mine was the loft, it was spacious and comfortable with an ensuite. Just fab. No fighting for bathroom access for Kirsty. In fact, the house was amazing, large, comfortable, full of character and decorated with Kate’s own artworks.
The first evening flew past. We sat chatting in the kitchen, eating some stew (not Irish!) and drinking tea or coffee. After an hour or so Kate returned from her band practice – she’s a saxophonist – so it was great to finally get to meet her. Her first comment to us was that Andrea and I were instantly recognisable and looked just like our photos. Good, I think.
As the night wore on the conversation took a turn in a direction that left me feeling rather uncomfortable. Ruth has recently been referred to Leeds GIC (Gender Identity Clinic) and has been asked to complete certain tests prior to get first appointment. Andrea has been attending Belfast GIC since late 2014. I have never spoken to my GP about my gender issues, have no current plans to do so, and have only undertaken some limited private counselling. As I sat listening to my two friends discussing what goes on at GIC, what they have heard of other people’s experiences and so on, I found that I was withdrawing into myself. It was very hard to listen to. All this talk about just the place that I have given myself an embargo on visiting. As they continued, I felt more and more like it was “them and me”. Them, the real trans women, doing something about it, working towards living their lives as authentically as possible, right up to the ultimate physical change. Every bit of it, I want. But I can’t allow myself to have any of it.
I must admit that as I sat there my head was filled with doubts about who and what I am. These two were real women, but me? Maybe I really am just a TV who hangs out with TS women for my own weird reasons – affirmation, snobbery, street cred even? After all, if I really was transsexual as I have claimed to be, surely the urge to be my real self all the time would be too strong for me to resist. But I do resist it, so is all this just some sort of affectation? A symptom of a mid-life crisis? I don’t know. I’m confused again.
Just as all these thoughts were swirling round my head, I popped back into the conversation just long enough to hear Ruth recall a searching question that was put to her by a counsellor. What if you didn’t have a choice? What if there was no middle way, what if I had to either kill Kirsty and be Bob and exclusively Bob for the rest of my life, or else kill Bob and be 100% Kirsty, with all the ensuing risks of losing my family, implications for work and all that goes with it? What would I do? I didn’t even have to think about it. I would be me, Kirsty. It’s not even close. In fact, I was imagining the relief that I would feel at finally making that decision and knowing that come what may, I would always be my real and true self from here on. This thought and this feeling has rarely been far from my mind ever since. And it’s feeding back into those nagging doubts, changing them into something else. Am I staying part time because I’m brave and something of a martyr, suppressing my true nature for the sake of my family’s happiness? Or am I staying part-time because at heart I’m a coward, afraid to take the leap of faith needed to put my own happiness first? I can’t help but feel it’s the latter.
But enough navel-gazing. It had been a long day and so we were off to bed shortly after midnight. I didn’t go straight to sleep though, first of all I had a blog post to finish. Which I did. But I dozed off in my girly pyjamas shortly after 1.30am and slept very well indeed. More fun tomorrow, which I will relate in my next post.