It has been a couple of weeks since I last put up a blog post, which might suggest that things have been a bit quiet and I have just been drifting along. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. It is fair to say that I don’t have a great deal of actual activity to write about, I mean I have done the usual range of shopping, going for coffees and an exceptionally good book for this month’s book group. But the main core of what I have been doing is thinking. Thinking very hard about where this is all going, and where I actually want it to go. Listening to what friends are saying, reading what many of you lovely blog commenters are saying, and talking to Mrs Kirsty. I say talking, rowing really. But I have come to a conclusion of sorts, and that conclusion is that this double life cannot continue indefinitely. As a fully paid-up geek, I’m reminded of Frodo’s final voiceover at the very end of “Return of the King”
“You cannot always be torn in two. You will have to be one and whole for many years. You have so much to enjoy and to be and to do”
The question that I still can’t answer is which “one” I have to be. But I can say this. In two years time I will either be transitioning, purged or dead. Not that I’m suicidal, I just mean that the only thing that’s going to stop me choosing one side or the other is an untimely death. I have no desire to bring about my own demise, be assured of that.
I know there are many who would say that the only way to find fulfilment is in coming out of this self-imposed cocoon and living as the woman I want to be. Maybe they are right. They say that purging never works, and that you always go back. Maybe they’re right. Maybe I’ll be back in the same place five years later having wasted five years. Or ten. Or twenty. At which point I’ll be 65 and thinking I’m just too old to go through all that. Although at least transitioning in retirement would avoid having to come out at work. But I’m just rambling now.
Mrs K says I can’t see the reality of the situation because for the last couple of years I have been living in what she calls a “trans bubble”, where the only people I speak to about who I am are reinforcing my self-image as female, rather than putting up persuasive reasons why I shouldn’t be considering transition. She is the only one doing that, and doing it extremely forcefully and emotionally. We had yet another very long conversation-cum-blazing-row (2 hours plus) last weekend which culminated in her having what can only be described as a screamy tantrum, shaking me and shouting “Fuck you and fuck your disease”. At which point I got up and walked out, got into the car and drove round for an hour until I had calmed down, never mind the fact that it was around 12.45am when I set off. I just couldn’t stay in the house.
At the risk of retreading old ground, her stated objections are something along the lines of;
– She can’t be in a relationship with another woman (i.e. a full-time me and particularly a post-op me) as she’s not gay and can’t force herself to be gay
– She can’t face the shame of having other people feeling sorry for her
– She thinks other women will think she must be an appallingly bad wife if her husband wants to cut off his own penis (I know that’s not what actually happens, but trust me when I say it was not the time to correct her view of GRS)
– She was a victim of bullying at school and even now imagines the school bullies laughing at her, saying she couldn’t even get herself a proper man
– When you have children your own needs and desires MUST take second place to looking after them, and me transitioning would be putting myself first, so I would be a horrible and selfish excuse for a human being if I chose that path
– She believes that our younger daughter (age 6) will lose her friends because when their parents discover I am trans they won’t let their kids play with her, and particularly won’t let them into our house or come near me as I am a degenerate pervert
– Our older daughter (age 13) is still not mature enough to deal with this, and she has enough of her own problems to deal with without me adding my own to it. Parents’ job is to provide emotional support for their children, not the other way round.
– Despite all the above, she is convinced that my siblings would take my side and that if we split as a result of my transition (as would seem very likely) then she would lose contact with them and would miss them.
– If we split up, there is no way that we could afford to maintain the house we currently live in as well as a second abode for whoever leaves, which would presumably be me. So whichever parent the children ended up living with, we would have to sell the house and the kids would lose their home. Younger daughter would also lose all her little friends from the street. Not such a problem for older daughter as her friends are all from school anyway.
– The kids will be scarred for life and I will have put them on a downward spiral which will culminate in them dying in a gutter with needles sticking out of their arms. I’m paraphrasing here, but that’s the gist of it.
That isn’t the full detail of the conversation, but it’s all that I’m going to share on here. Obviously it’s a one-sided version of events, and Mrs K would tell you a different story. About how I’m unreasonable, how I’m going to destroy the family, how I’m not the same person I was three years ago and I’m not the person she married. How I did a remarkably good impression of an easy-going straightforward man for fifteen years and then suddenly got taken over by some strange woman. How she would do anything to keep her family together because it’s the only thing she has ever wanted, married, kids, suburban normality and I’m taking her dream away from her. How it’s only her overarching need to take care of our youngest that is keeping her from having a nervous breakdown. How it’s only the kids that are keeping her alive. It is me who has put her in this position, it is me who is destroying this person that I fell in love with many years ago. It doesn’t feel very good. I still care about her very much, and I feel like I am putting her through hell, which causes me no end of anguish. Sadly I can’t say that I feel much concern coming the other way. It doesn’t feel like she has much if any interest my wellbeing.
Of course I have my own view on most of what she said. In milder form, some of it is fair comment. There undoubtedly would be a considerable element of selfishness in pushing forward with transition, but it’s not like I would be doing it without any thought or consideration for others. As Andrea astutely pointed out to me, Mrs K’s objections really boil down to two things; she doesn’t want to be married to a woman, and she is terrified of people’s reactions. I have a theory about her comments regarding the kids. I think she is desperately trying to convince me that they would react badly and be irrevocably damaged so that I don’t come out to them, because if I do come out to them and they react well, it would give her one less stick to beat me with. The same goes for my siblings.
The truth is that it’s work that scares me more than family. And it’s very hard to establish just what protocols, if any, are in place from my employer for anyone who transitions in the workplace. What protections I would have. I mean, I have searched on our intranet, but what search terms can I use? “Diversity” or “equality” was the best I could come up with. I didn’t try any trans-specific search terms in case it flagged up a notice somewhere. And I can hardly just call up HR and ask about protections for transitioning women now can I? What am I going to say – just asking for a friend? No, the fact is that I can’t make an enquiry about what the process is for transitioning in work without alerting HR or my line managers that I am actively considering doing just that. I know the legal protections that I would have, but that’s not the same as the company protocols for dealing with transitioning staff. My searches were largely fruitless, the diversity and equality policies that I found being our policy for how we deal with trans customers, not colleagues. One positive thing that I did find was on our staff sick leave policy, of all places. It covers the usual sort of thing, doctor’s line required after five days, length of occupational sick pay etc. However in the introduction to the policy, in fact in the very first paragraph of the policy, it states that the contents are general guidelines and appropriate allowances must be made for staff who are pregnant and for staff who are undergoing gender reassignment. In the first paragraph of sick leave policy. That’s got to be a positive indication of the company’s attitude to trans people, right?
I don’t know where to go from here. Stay as I am and have the constant threat of transition hanging over our family, or go full time and be branded the most selfish callous bastard ever to have walked the earth. Some choice. Which is why I say that in two year’s time assuming I’m still breathing I’ll either be in transition or purged. Because this just can’t go on. It’s too much for either of us to bear. If I told Mrs K that I definitely was never going to go full time, she wouldn’t believe me. As long as I’m still pursuing a Kirsty part of my life, she will feel an incessant threat that transition is one conversation away. Only purging would prove to her how much I meant it, would provide the reassurance she needs. Or I say to hell with it and make the choice to move forward.
So for now, I continue to hedge my bets. I genuinely haven’t decided what to do. However, that hasn’t stopped my from undertaking what I have termed an “academic exercise” in conversation with a few close friends. I am researching aspects of transition that I need to know about if it turns out that’s what I’m going to do. The social aspect, who to tell, when to tell them, and in what order to tell them. The professional aspect, how to transition in work and how much lead time to give my employers. The medical aspect, checking waiting list times, working out when to ask my GP for a referral if I want my first appointment at Belfast GIC to be around a particular date. The legal aspect, how to do a deed poll, get my name changed on passport and driving licence. There’s a lot there and I have a strong feeling that I haven’t even scratched the surface. It’s all now sitting in an Excel spreadsheet, my transition schedule. The dates themselves aren’t particularly important, it’s the sequence that matters. It is, as I say, an academic exercise for now. But it may become a lot more than that in the end. For the time being, it is letting me appreciate just what is involved in going through this process. And it makes me realise one thing – those of you who have gone through this process, or who are in the middle of it now, my goodness I admire you.