No, that’s not the great lost Jane Austen novel, it’s just that I have noticed something rather striking. In fact, I can’t think why it hasn’t dawned on me before. I am orders of magnitude more sociable since I have embraced my femininity.
Casting my eye back to a blog post I wrote two years ago when I had first started private counselling, I made the following observation about how I socialise (or not) as a man;
I find it very hard to talk to men on a level, particularly in groups. I just can’t do the joshing, blokey conversation at all, but I try to do it and then end up making a mess of it and looking like an idiot. It’s like I can’t actually be myself around men, and instead I’m putting on a rather unconvincing performance of how a man is supposed to act. I’m pretty sure it’s why I have very few male friends, and none that I have known for less than about 20 years. By contrary, I always feel at ease with groups of women, but if I had female friends that I socialised with regularly that wouldn’t be fair on my wife. So I don’t really have many friends at all, at least not until very recently when I started to be the real me.
It was actually a very prescient thing to say. Remember, this was before I had “done” very much at all as Kirsty, just a handful of trips to the shops and I think litereally one single restaurant visit with Andrea. Before I had joined the book group, gone to cinema meetups, tours of stately homes, even walked into a busy pub to watch the Grand National, and most importantly ended up making friends. Casting my mind back to “the Bob Years” the prospect of doing these things would have frightened the life out of me. I was terrified at the prospect of social interaction. Oddly enough, I didn’t necessarily have the reputation of being a huge introvert but I put that down to performance. I have often told Mrs K that I feel shy, quiet and nervous in front of people, particularly strangers, and really struggle to bond with new people. As Bob. She found this hard to believe, as from her point of view, Bob is the sort of man who thinks nothing of pulling out a guitar in front of a group of people, singing in front of them, maybe a few comedy songs or getting a singalong going. But as I always have said, it’s performance. I like performing. I like having an audience. But performance is not the same as interaction. It’s putting up a facade, presenting a character, and Bob’s character was always hidden. I always found men intimidating, because long before I recognised myself as transsexual I knew that I just wasn’t like them. Or more pertinently, they weren’t like me. And so I tried to “perform” a role of a man in order to gain some level of acceptance. It wasn’t one of my greater performances. In fact, I suspect it was rather unconvincing. Certainly I never managed to convince myself.
So for the longest time I shied away from the sort of social interaction that I have embraced in the last couple of years. And the difference, of course, is that now I embrace that social interaction as a woman. And what a miraculous difference that makes. Despite the usual “am I being read?” questions that pop into my mind when I’m out with strangers, when I’m actually in social situations I feel so much more relaxed and I enjoy the interaction so much more.
Case in point: I was at Alice’s house yesterday – she has had a spell in hospital (I did go to visit her while she was in there last week) so now she was home again I went over to visit bearing a tupperware container of my chocolate brownies. I had a really lovely hour and a half over there. I met her son (age 18 and definitely will be breaking a few hearts in the coming years!), her daughter (age 23) and her mum (age undisclosed but north of 70). Her son was only in the room for a short while, but we ended up sitting for at least an hour with all the girls together and had lots of laughs. In fact, I’m just going to relate how I was introduced to Alice’s mum because I’m not quite sure if it was just a genuine lovely compliment or if it was a read. May in fact have been a read accompanied by a genuine lovely compliment. Anyway, I had been there around 20 minutes when mum arrived. In she walked, exchanging pleasantries with her daughter, and then when they had sat down on the settee facing me Alice said;
“Mum, this is Kirsty, she’s my friend from the book group”
“Kirsty’s gorgeous. You’ve beautiful hair and a beautiful smile, and your lip colour goes so well with your [mumble]”
I wasn’t sure how to take that. On the surface, I smiled and tried to convey an “aw shucks” reaction, but I did feel a bit patronised too. Maybe that was unfair. Despite what I wrote last time round (and that was a bit more controversial than I had expected – sorry if I offended anyone) it wasn’t really an opportune moment to just say “Oh I’m trans by the way”. So I didn’t know what to think, if she had read me, not read me, or even been told about me in advance by Alice. But the awkwardness passed fairly quickly. And it was all true in any case, right?
To get back to the main point of this post, I ended up in a situation with a three other women chatting away and apart from that one moment of awkwardness, I felt totally relaxed the whole time. Bob would have run a mile to avoid that sort of situation. But it felt so good being there, being with three generations of women from that family, and feeling like I fitted in, like it was an afternoon with the girls. Exactly the sort of thing that I could never have experienced as a man, because I am not equipped to socialise as a man. But as a woman? Well bring it on.
Just need to work on that voice.