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I was on a half day from work yesterday as Mrs K and I had an appointment with Little Kirsty Jr’s teacher.  All is well.  I think most parents believe that their children are verging on perfection, but it appear that LKJ’s teacher shares that opinion about her.  But I’m not here to blow my trumpet about my wonderful daughter (the other one’s pretty wonderful too, but we’re not meeting her teachers until tomorrow).  In fact, once we had got the teacher meeting out of the way, and Mrs K and LKJ were at home, I was free for the rest of the day from shortly after 2pm.  Which obviously meant that I would use that time to be the real me for a while.

On Tuesday morning I had texted my (and Bob’s) friends Jonathan and Vincent, asking if they would be available for an after-work drink and chat, and happily they were both available.  In fact, another old friend, Deirdre, was also available so there were four of us meeting up.  Deirdre and Vincent were the first of Bob’s friends to meet the new, real me, back in November 2014 when I went out to dinner with both of them, as well as with Andrea and Michelle.  Jonathan and I have met up several times, and the last time Vincent joined us too.  But this was the first time all four of us had been together since I came out to them.  And I had an announcement for them.

I pulled into the multi-storey car park in the centre of Belfast at around 4.45pm, and immediately texted Jonathan to see if he had arrived at our usual venue, the bar of a city centre hotel.  He replied that yet, he was in situ.  I didn’t bother texting Vincent or Deirdre as they had already said it would be after 5pm by the time they arrived.  I made my way across to the hotel from the car park through very busy city centre streets, with office workers beginning to make their way home after another day at the grindstone.  In fact, the hotel where we were to meet is no more than 5 minutes’ walk from my own office, so I was moderately apprehensive that I might run into a colleague or two.  I needn’t have worried.

I walked into the bar and immediately saw Jonathan sitting in a booth.  I hugged him hello, and he went get me a bottle of lager from the bar while I made myself comfortable.  He immediately asked how I was, to which I gave a generic “ok” shrug.  He wasn’t buying that.  He said that he deliberately doesn’t read this blog so he can hear what’s been going on with me in person and we have something to talk about.  Well, if he had read the blog, he would have found out some rather significant news about a decision I had come to recently.  The decision that I am going to go full time and transition next year.  I hadn’t really thought about telling him the news, I hadn’t really considered not telling him either, I just hadn’t thought about it at all.  Telling these friends is something different from telling my trans friends.  The trans friends only know Kirsty, what I’m proposing is just more Kirsty.  To friends who have known mainly Bob for over 20 years, what I’m proposing isn’t just more Kirsty, it’s no more Bob.  So I was a little apprehensive telling Jonathan, because I wasn’t sure how he would react.  I think I was doing that pained expression that Mrs K hates because it means I’m about to tell her something she won’t like, because Jonathan said

“Well it must be something significant.”

“Hmm.  OK.  By around this time next year, there will be no more Bob.”

His expression barely flickered.

“I think that has been coming for a while hasn’t it?  This is a good thing.”

“Not if you ask Mrs K it isn’t”

And not it was Jonathan’s turn to wear a pained expression.  He chewed this over in his mind and offered some sort of platitude about how she would come round.  But he expanded upon it.  He knows Mrs K well.  In fact, he is her ex.  She dumped him so she could go out with me.  I asked his permission before we became an official “couple” because I didn’t want to upset him.  And despite a few ups and downs over the years we are still friends.  And he is convinced that she will come round in time, and we will continue to be together.  I hope he is right.

I expanded upon what my plan was, to visit my GP in probably May to seek a referral for a first appointment in maybe September, with a view to going full time at some point in the first half of 2017, ideally around the same time as I commence hormone therapy.  Now that’s a lot of things to line up, maybe the waiting list will prove to have lengthened, or it will end up taking me much longer to get approved for HRT, but that’s the ideal plan in my head.  And Jonathan went with it.  Completely.  It all made sense to him.  He was completely behind me.  Why did I ever think he might not have been?

At this point Deirdre and Vincent arrived, greetings and assorted pleasantries were exchanged, Vincent went to the bar, Jonathan went to the loo and I was left with Deirdre.  Now although I have known Deirdre socially for over 20 years, I can’t honestly say that I know her.  To a certain extent, she has been Vincent’s “plus one” for a lot of that time.  The two of them have been a couple for nearly 30 years without ever living together – don’t knock it, it works for them.  But I can’t really say that in all that time I have ever had much of a conversation with her.  She is very quiet.  That’s not a criticism.  Mrs K is often described as being very quiet too. I can be quite quiet at times as well.  So the two of us were left together while the men did their things, and we actually spoke.  Properly.  More then we have ever done before.  I don’t know if it was just that we were stuck with each other, or that there was an element of her having another woman to talk to, a bit of both, or something else entirely, but it felt qualitatively different.  An odd feeling, but good.  I mean, the world still looks the same to me peeking out from these eyeballs, but being on the outside looking in I think I still don’t realise in a given moment just how un-Bob-like I look.  Maybe I’m reading too much into this, I don’t know.

So the evening went on for an hour or so before the subject came round to me again, and I had an opportunity to reveal to Deirdre and Vincent what I had already told Jonathan, that I plan to go full time.  All four of us are members of Mensa, so we chatted about a few people that we know in the society, including my book group friend Shirley who I am informed will talk from time to time about the group, although she has yet to say “Guess what?  Bob goes there dressed as a woman!!!” so I’m pretty confident she hasn’t read me yet.  So on the subject of Mensa, every year the Irish Mensa Annual Gathering (known as IMAG) takes place on the first weekend in May.  I mentioned that I was considering going to this year’s event, which is due to take place in Wexford, at the south-eastern tip of Ireland.  However, I made the point that since there were people there to whom I wouldn’t be ready to come out by May, I would have to go as Bob.  I then added that in any event, it would almost certainly be Bob’s last IMAG.  Because by the time the 2017 event comes round, I do not expect there to be a Bob.  Only Kirsty.  This provoked raised eyebrows, then from Vincent just an “Oh right.  OK.”  That was the extent of the reaction. Muted wouldn’t even begin to describe it.  Until a short while later, anyway.

After the conversation had rambled around a few different topics, Vincent announced out of the blue that he had been in an office working on a project around 2-3 years ago, where it had been announced that a staff member was to transition.  The person in question was on leave, and line management announced to the rank and file staff that Bob would be coming back as Roberta.  The reaction was not good.  He said he heard the women in this office talking to each other, “It’s disgusting”, “I am NOT sharing a bathroom with him” and so on.  Horrible intolerant bitchy comments, and he described them as such.  People that Vincent said he knew, and whom he had previously considered to be sensible and tolerant people, spewing forth their bile about this colleague who was embarking upon transitioning male to female.  He did make the qualifying comment that this was the immediate reaction, he was there on a short-term project, he doesn’t know what happened when the person in question returned to work or how it all worked out in the end.  It could have been transphobic groupthink, people just going with the flow.  Many could have changed their minds when they actually met the person in her true identity, we just don’t know.  But that was Vincent’s comment upon my plan to transition.  Colleagues will turn against me, be prepared.

I’m not sure exactly what he had in mind by sharing this little vignette with me.  I’m thinking he was perhaps trying to be cruel to be kind, thinking I need to make sure I’m completely aware what I could potentially be getting myself into.  And I am aware.  I’m going into this with my eyes open.  I look round my office frequently, assessing each individual person and trying to guess how they will react.  The fact of the matter is, I don’t know how anyone will react, and despite the temptation, speculation is fruitless.  Vincent then apologised to me if he had upset me.  The truth is, he hadn’t.  He had more puzzled me about his motivations.  There is no way I expect everyone to react positively.  In a sense, I’m protected in work.  Even if they are talking this way behind my back, our employee code of conduct means they have to bite their tongues in front of me.  But I do expect some support, not just tolerance.  I don’t think it’s either naive or overly optimistic to think this way.  My fear is neighbours, people in my street.  In work I’m protected by legislation and my employer’s excellent diversity policy.  With family, the worst that can happen is they will ignore me.  But, prompted by Mrs K’s fears, I do worry sometimes that people from the area will hound me out, throw stones at the house, write slogans on the door, accuse me of all sorts.  Paranoid maybe, but it really scares me.  I’m just going to have to see what happens, but my plan for managing the neighbours is something I’m going to have to work on – it is formulating in my mind already, but it’s still very fluid.  The subject of a future blog post I’m sure.

As for the rest of the evening, it was very enjoyable.  Four old friends catching up, nothing more to report.  It wasn’t a late night, I had to leave just after 8pm to head back up to the Butterfly Club where I was being well fed yet again in our “Come Dine With Me” competition.  Actually, it was pretty tough to sit there in the bar having only eaten a sandwich and an apple all day while Deirdre and Vincent tucked into some rather appetising looking posh burgers.  But I survived.

I ended up having to take the 5-minute walk back round to the car park alone in the dark.  This walk has seemed quite intimidating in the past, but for some reason this evening I was just filled with confidence.  Head held high, click clacking my way along the street with no doubts.  This was me, this is how I am, this is who I am, this is how I will stay.  The circle of those who know I am going to transition has expanded by three, onwards and upwards.