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I had a day out yesterday which was just so good I had to write about it.  I’m not sure if there are any great learnings here, but it’s my diary and I want to record it while I’m still feeling good.  On the surface of it, it doesn’t sound too amazing – shopping, cinema and pub – but it felt special for a few reasons.  Possibly it’s a case of more glorious normality.  I wasn’t doing anything particularly special, but the fact that I was doing it at all was what made it special.

A little over a week ago I booked for a cinema trip with Meetup. There were a couple of book group people there, but it was a film I wanted to see so I think I’d have gone anyway even if I hadn’t known anyone.  In the knowledge that I was going out at 6, Andrea and I had agreed to meet mid-afternoon to do “something”.  Unfortunately we couldn’t think of anything we hadn’t done before, so we decided to hit the shops.  At least we hit some new shops, at the Forestside centre in South Belfast.  We both had a bit of a battle with the Good Friday bank holiday traffic but bravely fought our way through the hordes to rendezvous shortly before 3.30 and immediately went for a coffee and brownie at Caffe Nero.  As always, it was great to meet up and have a bit of a chat and a giggle.

Despite me being officially “all shopped out” I somehow proceeded to have an absolute ball for the next hour and a half going round a few shops with Andrea.  Some were more to her taste – Monsoon being a case in point – but I was in my element in New Look.  I nearly bought a pair of summer ballerinas in a blue and white striped denim effect, and then I saw a light salmon pink cardie which I thought would be perfect for summer.  Andrea disappeared off round the shop and came back with 3 different tops that she thought would go with it so off I went into the changing rooms, and a winner was found.  One top was just too short, and another was too low-cut, so much so that it would have been blindingly obvious to anyone that I was wearing breast forms.  But the third was very nice, when I wear it with the cardie I’ll post a picture on the blog.  I grabbed a couple of vests while I was there – New Look do nice long vests for tall girls like me.  Andrea got herself a dress there too so New Look was a happy hunting ground.

We went round a few other shops – Warehouse, H&M – but I didn’t buy anything else.  Actually, there were a few things that caught my eye in H&M but time got the better of me and I had to bid a quick farewell to Andrea and get back to the car to make by way down to the QFT for my film.

I pulled up in a roadside parking spot on University Square, quite near to the cinema.  As I was sorting out my handbag and checking my make-up before emerging to meet my public, I noticed a car pull in behind.  It was my book group friend Allison.  She got out of her car first, and then proceeded to greet and hug the people getting out of the car behind her.  It’s like chain greetings.  I then emerged and she saw me, ran round and gave me a hug.  She introduced me to her friend Jane and Jane’s husband guy, who seemed very nice. I was introduced as “one of the girls from the book group”.  Yes, one of the girls.  That works for me.

Once the four of us made our way in, we got teas and coffees and sat down at a table in the lobby.  There was already a table with a bunch of Meetup people at it, but it was overcrowded as it was.  In fact a voice from that table called up “Hi Kirsty!”  It was Christine, whom I had met way back last year when Andrea and I went on the tour of Hillsborough Castle and on for a meal afterwards.  We had a nice little chat before I took my seat.  I then went into greeting overload – Shirley from the book group, Joanne from the book group, her other half Gary whom I had met at the last cinema meetup.  In between all this I still managed to have a fun chat with Allison, Jane and Guy for 15 minutes before we were called in to the cinema…

…and thought that either we were in the wrong screen or the cinema were projecting the wrong film.  Our film was “Sing Street”, set in Dublin in 1985.  The film on the screen appeared to be in Italian, and definitely wasn’t a musical comedy.  People started leaving the cinema, all of our group had a great laugh – it had to happen to us didn’t it? – until someone returned to tell us that there was an unannounced short in front of the main feature.  By the time we were told this, it was over.  Then the film began for real.

Ah the film.  I completely adored it.  Joyous, funny, dramatic, emotional, hugely uplifting, an absolute treat.  And it was my era.  It’s set in 1985 with the central character 15 years old.  I was 15 years old in 1985.  It was the sounds of my teenage years with an utterly charming story.  Just wonderful.  So much fun, and the original songs are perfectly balanced between pastiche and homage.  The titular band become in thrall to various 80s bands and mimic their sounds – Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, The Cure, Joe Jackson.  I loved it.  And the thing is, everyone else loved it too.  Sooo good.

Unfortunately, about two-thirds the way through the film my bladder began to strain.  Not enough to spoil my enjoyment, but enough that it was on my mind.  It appears I wasn’t the only one.  I don’t really want to write about the actual act of going to the loo, but it’s worth mentioning something.  I have obviously been to the ladies loo many times.  It’s not really a big issue.  However, even now there is sometimes a tiny little voice at the back of my head wondering who is reading me, what are they thinking and ultimately waiting for someone to shout out “Get out of here you pervert!”.  So to be walking down towards the ladies with two cis women – Allison and Jane – chatting away, waiting for cubicles together.  Well it was a kind of acceptance into the inner sanctum of womanhood that I hadn’t felt before.  Previously it was like I had walked in uninvited and dared someone to eject me, this was me being invited in, being accepted as “one of us”.

After the film everyone was milling round in the lobby.  There were a group of people from the group going for a drink, but none of my friends.  Then Gary asked over to me “Kirsty, will you come for a wee drink with us?”.  Well, since he asked.  I decided that, what the hell, I’d just go anyway.  Five of us walked down to a nearby hotel bar together, and as we were all driving there was not a drop of alcohol between us.  Shortly afterwards we were joined by two more, one of whom was my book group friend and Bob’s old acquaintance Shirley.  The conversation flowed and it was a very enjoyable hour or so, with lots of laughs.

There were a few things came up in conversation that made me wonder if they had read me at all.  Or perhaps they were an indication that they were very subtly letting me know that they knew.  But I’m guessing not.

The discussion was about other Meetup events they had been to, or were planning on going to, and one event in particular came up.  Something called “Tina’s Trannyoke”.  Sounds horrendous.  It’s a karaoke evening in a gay bar compered by a drag queen.  OK?  And it’s a great laugh apparently.  Except I wouldn’t go there for a number of reasons.  I have problems with drag, I think it makes a mockery of women trans and cis.  I would worry people might think I was part of the entertainment.  And if I went to any sort of karaoke do, well everyone is expected to sing and while I make a stab at raising and modulating my speaking voice somewhat, my singing voice is very male.  But everyone talked away about this evening, and evening some guy in the group (who I have met at a different event and he is definitely one of life’s “characters”) claiming he’s going to Belfast Pride in drag.  I flipping hate the way drag is a thing at Pride.  Television and Newspaper cameras always focus on the drag queens, and then the public at large think that’s what trans women are.  Maybe that’s how I manage to appear to pass!  I’m so different from a drag queen that people think I can’t possibly be trans!

As we were all having a drink after a cinema meetup, the conversation veered on to the subject of other films that we had seen this year.  Many films were discussed but then one woman (I think called Christine but I’m not 100% on that) mentioned that her favourite film of the year so far was The Danish Girl.  I haven’t seen it myself, I don’t actually feel the need to see everything trans-related just because I am trans myself.  And I’m worried it might upset me too much.  Incidentally, Mrs K would like to see it and I would have gone with her except when the two of us go the the cinema it means leaving the kids with her parents.  And if they then asked what we had seen, and we told them it was a film about one of the first people to undergo GRS, well I shudder to think what their reaction might be.  And Mrs K shuddered so much that she decided to wait for the DVD and read the novel in the meantime.  But to get back the to conversation in the pub, someone asked what that film was about and probably-Christine replied that it was “Y’know, the film about one of the first men who became a woman”.  Slightly unusual choice of words but ok, I don’t have a problem with that description.  She said her only problem with the film was that it didn’t show enough of the prejudice that she would have faced back in the 1930’s, but other than that it was very good.  The conversation then moved on to Eddie Redmayne’s other work – The Theory of Everything (very good) and Jupiter Ascending (not very good).  It did occur to me that Jupiter Ascending was directed by the Wachowskis, formerly Larry and Andy, at that time Lana and Andy, and now Lana and Lilly.  But dropping that into the conversation  might have been pushing my luck.

So why do I mention these things?  Well, I just feel that if me being trans was some sort of elephant in the room (or in the pub), then subjects such as drag queen karaoke and transsexual cinema would probably have been avoided, or at least I would have been able to detect some sort of atmosphere, some kind of awkwardness.  A nudge here, a glance there.  But there was nothing.  This means two things as far as I can tell.  Either they just believe me to be a woman like any other, or they are so chilled out about me being trans that they just carry on regardless.  Either way, it’s fine.  Just don’t make me go to the flamin’ drag karaoke.  Anything but that…

Being part of this group for over an hour did bring something home to me though.  I have a backstory problem.  There was lots of chat, particularly early on, about people’s romantic entanglements, marriage history and so on.  Thank goodness nobody asked me if I was married, I don’t know what I would have said.  I could say “yes”, then people think I have a husband.  I could say “no” but that would be a downright lie.  I could say “it’s complicated”, which is probably the only answer vague enough.  What I don’t feel I could say is “Actually yes, I’m married.  To a woman.  Because legally, I’m male.  And we live with our 2 children and I’m their dad and they don’t even know Kirsty exists.”  I don’t think I could really say that.  It might ruin the mood ever so slightly.  Even when I go full time, I’ll still have that problem.  Particularly considering my hope and plan is that Mrs K and I can stay together somehow, although that’s really up to her, and maybe to a lesser extent up to the kids too.  But as for last night’s conversation, I’m glad I wasn’t put into a position where I was forced to come up with something on the spot.  I need to think long and hard about what I am going to say when that subject does come up. We make friends by sharing bits of ourselves, who we are, our hopes, dreams and fears.  If I can’t really do that then how can I make friends outside those who already know Bob and the trans community?  It’s a quandary.

However that quandary notwithstanding, I had an amazing day and felt such high levels of acceptance as just one of the girls.  More so than ever before, I believe.  I believe I can do this.  I’m doing it anyway, but with renewed confidence.  According to my schedule, a maximum of two months until I go to my GP, request a referral to GIC and start this whole process for real.  I just want to be me all the time, and after yesterday I am more hopeful than ever that I can do that and live largely outside the trans* community.  Because when all’s said and done, I don’t want to be a trans woman.  I just want to be a woman.