After blogging last week about the negative feelings I was experiencing, I have had a moment of realisation. I never, and I mean never, feel negative about my impending transition when I am actually presenting female, being my real self. The negative thoughts only ever creep in when I’m putting up the male facade, having to exist as a man. I think I struggle to see Kirsty in Bob, so even though I know from experience that I can go about my business perfectly happily, even after a couple of years I still sit during Bob-time feeling that, well, I’m being ridiculous. Who am I kidding? Me? Transition? What a ludicrous idea. That can’t happen, not to me. Basically the same thoughts that for forty odd years prevented me from ever expressing my femininity anywhere other than strictly behind closed doors and in profound secret. Those thoughts are tough to cast aside, but they are Bob’s thoughts, not Kirsty’s.
I don’t actually intend this to be another soul-searching post, but I just wanted to get that out of the way. No, this is another “What Kirsty did” post (what’s that you say? Hurrah? Woo and if you will hoo? Great.) I had another cinema outing with Meetup yesterday. And it was very enjoyable. Actually, it was more than that.
I had booked to go to this film a couple of weeks ago, but a few days beforehand daughter no1 decided that her own social life meant that I would be required to provide a taxi service that evening. One of her school friends was having a birthday party, and she just had to be there or be a social outcast. And you don’t want to be a social outcast at the age of 13. So I reluctantly thought I wouldn’t be able to go. Then the night before, she announced that one of her friends’ parents was going to be giving her a lift home so my own night out was on again. In fact, I decided to make a bit of an afternoon of it too, and arranged to meet up with my good friend Michelle for a coffee and a bun beforehand, as she was planning her own day out. As it worked out, a frustrated Michelle had last-minute family commitments which meant that she couldn’t come, so I was left to my own devices for 90 minutes before I was due at the cinema. After picking up a few grocery essentials, I headed for Costa Coffee to spend a little while in the company of a lemon tart, a medium cappucino and the latest book group selection. I had a lovely relaxing time, not a care in the world.
The film we were going to see was Florence Foster Jenkins starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant. In fact, it was rather a special occasion as it was the closing film of the 2016 Belfast Film Festival, and it was in fact the Irish premiere of the film. As I walked into the lobby of the cinema (Movie House, Dublin Road) I noticed a Belfast Film Festival desk surrounded by people with clipboards. I fished my home-printed ticket out of my handbag and showed it to one of the festival staff. She looked down her clipboard and ticked my name off a list – thank goodness I didn’t book the ticket in Bob’s name! Only then was I permitted to climb the stairs to the upper lobby where the Meetup group was to, ahem, meet up.
As I reached the top of the stairs I saw a handful of benches outside various screens, but didn’t recognise anyone. Then I heard my name being called out “Kirsty! Over here!”. There was a large area which I can only assume is usually some sort of cafeteria, and right in the corner were the Meetup people. The source of the Kirsty-shout was easily revealed by the frantically waving hands of my book group friends Joanne and Alice. In fact, there were around 10 people there, at least half of whom I had met before. Alice called me over, gave me a hug and suggested that I get myself a glass of wine. Yes, that’s right. A glass of wine. The unexpected bonus of being at a so-called “Gala Evening” for the end of the film festival. Well I wasn’t going to be driving again for around 3 hours, so yes, small glass of red thank you very much. All included in the ticket price. No wonder they were ticking people off a list on their way in.
There is something else I haven’t mentioned about the people in attendance this evening. As I have mentioned before, I am (or Bob is) fairly well-known in Irish Mensa circles. My friends Jonathan, Vincent and Deirdre know old-me and new-me and are all in Mensa. Back when I first contemplated joining a book group, I had a crisis of confidence a few days beforehand when I realised that one of the other people going would be a fellow Mensa member, Shirley, who knew me and Mrs K well enough that she had been a guest at our wedding. Regular readers will know that nearly 18 months later Shirley still appears not to have made any connection between Bob and Kirsty, and to be honest I don’t even think she knows I’m transgender. She just takes me for another woman in the group, which is in fact what I am. Well last night there was a similar occurrence.
Even before I had booked for the film, I noticed that there was a guy I know in Mensa going. We’ll call him John. John was more of a casual acquaintance than Shirley, but still would know Bob if I walked in there as Bob. He is also Facebook friends with Bob. But unlike with Shirley and the book group, where I actually needed encouragement from Mrs K to take the plunge and go regardless, this time I just went ahead and booked it. I genuinely didn’t have anything approaching a doubt about going. I just thought “Oh look, John’s going to this too” and then I booked it.
So I got my glass of wine and was duly summoned to the corner by Joanne, where I joined right into the chat, about all sorts – books, films, travel, cocktails. After about 10 minutes I looked up and noticed something. There were around 10 people in our group, of whom only two were men; my Mensa acquaintance John and another guy. And when I looked up I noticed that John and the other guy were standing at the fringe, fiddling with their drinks and silently staring self-consciously into the middle distance. Meanwhile, all us girls were huddled together chatting away, laughing, having a great time. And I was most definitely in the latter group. Admitted to the circle of chat. One of us. A very pleasing realisation, then back to the conversation. But I know that three years ago if I had been there as Bob, I would have been standing on the outside of the circle with holding my drink and trying not to look as awkward as I felt. What a change. What a glorious, unimagineable change.
So on to the film. Almost. Four of us book group girls grabbed a little mini-row to the side to ourselves and continued the chat (dieting, baking and funny things old people say) before some woman stood up at a podium in front of the screen to make a few announcements. Winner of the short film prize – sadly the winner couldn’t be there. Then a man with a Southern Irish accent made a speech about something or other, then a different man this time with an English accent made yet another speech. Good grief it went on a bit. But then the film began.
I found it tremendously enjoyable, hitting all the right notes, unlike the eponymous singer. I shed two different types of tear; crying with laughter and crying at the big sentimental ending. And a mid-film whispered appreciation between Alice and me of some of the fashions on display.
As the film ended, since it was a more formal occasion than the usual evening at the cinema, we felt obliged to wait until the end credits had finished before leaving our seats, only to take up our places in the long queue for the ladies. I was the last one out, but emerged to still find my friends waiting for me. A trip out to Wetherspoon’s (classy!) for a post-film drink was being discussed, but I wasn’t sure. Firstly, it was already gone 9.30pm, and Mrs K was expecting be back by 11 and I still had to get changed. But also I didn’t really want to go squeezing into a city centre pub on a Saturday night. It’s just not really my scene. But still, the five of us walked down to the street together. Alice asked me if I wasn’t going for a drink. When I said that no, I wasn’t, she said “Aw, I only stayed because I thought you were coming.” Wow. That made me feel so happy, and at the same time I feel such a fraud. I will elaborate on that point shortly. For now, stupid Kirsty strikes again…
A: Well give me a ring and we’ll go for a coffee some time. I gave you my phone number on your Christmas card – did Joanne give it to you?
K: Yes, I texted you my number as soon as I got it.
A: I never got a text.
K: (looks up Alice on phone contacts list) Is it 071xx xxxxx9?
A: Yes, that’s it
K: I’ll text you again now.
Kirsty texts Alice. Alice’s phone fails to make any acknowledgement of this.
K: Look, here’s my number put it in your contacts.
A: OK, we’ll definitely meet up. Do you work full time?
K: Yes, 9 to 5.
A: Is it in the city centre? What about after work?
K: Weeknights don’t really suit. Weekends are usually better for me.
A: Some Sunday afternoon then?
And so it was agreed. We parted with Joanne shouting over “Come on Kirsty, just come for one” but I waved goodbye.
As I was changing back I received a text from Alice, saying that my text still hadn’t arrived and could I confirm that I had received this one, which I did. But I received it from a different number. Turns out I had put the number into my phone wrong, changed that final 9 to an 8. This means that two things had happened:
- Alice had written me a card in which she gave me her phone number and asked me to call or text to arrange to go out for a coffee. As far as she was concerned, I never did this, so she must have thought I didn’t want to be her friend.
- I, on the other hand, did text her about going out for a coffee. Twice. She never replied. So I thought “Sod you, what did you give me your number for in the first place if you’re not going to reply?”
And we both ended up getting the wrong idea as a result. Thankfully, all sorted now.
And now to finish, back to that feeling of fraudulence. A few weeks back I mentioned in a post that I had a bit of a problem with backstory. Well I think it may be coming to a head. It was clear from Alice asking when I was available to meet up that she believes me to be full time – there is a possibility that she was asking those type of questions to try to establish if I’m full time without asking my outright, although I don’t think this is the case. But I felt like I was being rather evasive with my answers, mainly because I was being rather evasive with my answers. So when she asked me if I was available for a coffee after work, it didn’t seem like an appropriate time to say “Well no, because I have to collect my wife and daughter, plus I’ll be wearing a business suit, shirt and tie, with short hair, no make-up or jewellery and possibly a bit of stubble.” It just didn’t seem like the right moment. Well, the thing is, when is the right moment? Does it ever come? Do I construct an ever more elaborate series of lies until I actually am full-time? That’s probably still almost a year away. No, I think there are only two options open to me. Don’t have any cis friends, or have cis friends and be honest with them. So if and when I do get out for that coffee with Alice, I will tell her the truth. I hope she still wants to be my friend afterwards.
More fun next time – I have another “first” coming up on Friday.