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I arrived home from work yesterday to find a letter addressed to me sitting on the doormat.

Dear Bob
You have been referred to [Belfast GIC] for an assessment. If you would like to be placed on our waiting list for an assessment appointment please contact the clinic either on the email address or telephone number above…
…If we do not hear from you by the 28th July 2016 we will assume that you do not wish to avail of the service at this time and we will discharge you back to the person who referred you.

This provoked a number of different feelings in me. The immediate reaction was a big adrenaline surge, akin to when you’ve been standing in line for an hour for the maddest wildest rollercoaster in the theme park and suddenly realise that you’re up next. This was closely followed by a big slap of doubt. In the run-up to having that conversation with my GP back in early June, I was having major doubts that I was going to go through with it and would just lose my bottle and pretend that I was seeing him for some other ailment. Well right here in my hand now was this letter which gave me another “out”. And in fact this was the easiest way out of all, because in order to exit this process I didn’t actually have to do anything. The truth is, I did consider it. The thought was there. Continue to put up with things the way I have put up with them all my life, spare Mrs K and the kids the trauma of going through this with me. I did consider it.

The next thing that occurred to me was that I was receiving this letter on the 20th of July, and I only had up until the 28th to contact the clinic. That’s not very long. I could have been on my summer holiday for two weeks and entirely missed that eight-day window. It doesn’t seem entirely fair. Then I noticed that the letter was dated 7th July. So it took 13 days to get to me, assuming it was posted on 7th July and indeed assuming that it was actually written on 7th July and not backdated. The envelope had a “Whistl” frank on it rather than Royal Mail. Just saying.

Mrs K had previously told me that while she didn’t really want to have any big discussions about transition during this “one last year” of 2016, she did want to be kept appraised of any significant milestones as I prepare for transition. So I showed her the letter. She pointed something out that I hadn’t noticed. The letterhead said “Centre for Psychotherapy” and nowhere on the letter was the word “gender” mentioned. I replied;

– Well I suppose they might be related. You do need to undergo psychiatric evaluation. Actually the fact that it talks about an assessment appointment worries me. What if they assess me and decide that they’re not accepting me?

– What? You mean they might decide you’re not transgender enough?

– Yes! In fact, I’m more concerned that I might be too sane to be admitted.

– I don’t know, most of the things you’ve done in the last two or three years seem pretty insane to me.

– No really. I’m still reasonably level headed. I’m not constantly breaking down in tears, I’m not on the verge of suicide. I cope. What if they just say I can carry on coping? Or what if they say that I’m just unhappy and have latched on to transition as the great panacaea for my unhappiness but I’m not really trans at all?

– Oh right, you mean they might just tell you not to be so silly and just go and have an affair?

– Maybe they’ll tell me to go and have an affair with a man!

– Maybe that’s right! That could be what’s behind all this. It would explain a lot.

Would it? Would it really? I very much doubt that. I do think that last line was just Mrs K having some “top bantz” with me and she doesn’t actually think that I am a gay man. In fact, in a prior conversation she was despairing about how her parents would react upon learning about me being trans, and she speculated “They’ll just think you’re gay. But in a way you are gay aren’t you? A gay woman.” Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m not, but that’s a subject for a different blog post.

We’re going on our family holiday next week, and Little Kirsty Jr (age 6) has been counting down the days till we go. She is very excited. But it appears she has been looking farther forward too. Apparently while I was out last night she asked Mrs K where we were going to go on holiday next year. Mrs K told me about this in the car on our way into work this morning. She had replied that we might not be going on a foreign holiday next year. So I asked her;

– Why not?

– Well we’ll have bigger things to worry about won’t we? Like her not having a daddy any more.

– But I’ll still be around and I’ll still have a passport. Why shouldn’t we go on holiday?

– We don’t even know if we’re still going to be a family by then!!!

And that kind of shut me up, other than a half-hearted “please don’t say that”.

On my coffee break in work this morning I did email the clinic, confirming that I definitely do want to be put on the waiting list and also asking how long I might be likely to have to wait. I received the response in less than two hours, from a Dr Corry.

Dear Bob
Thank you for your email confirming you would like to be placed on the waiting list for an assessment appointment…
…In regards to when to expect an appointment, it is difficult to give you a clear indication as this does vary somewhat though at present it is likely to be in around 6 months from now. We will send you out a letter giving some information about the resources you may wish to avail of in the interim and how to make a complaint should you wish. We are working to try to reduce the length of time people are having to wait and are also actively considering how we might better support them during this time.

So there we have it. Six months. From now. Time to refocus the sights on late January 2017. It’s a bit later than I had hoped, but at the same time I’m trying to look at it positively. My intention is still to go full time from Easter 2017, which means that from January onwards in preparation for that full time date, I will begin to tell wider family, HR and line management in work etc, doing deed polls and all that necessary admin in preparation for going full time. This means that there is a reasonable chance that by the time I actually do get seen by someone in the clinic, I will have commenced a lot of the practical things that are necessary as a prelude to going full time. And given that it is an “assessment appointment”, surely the fact that I will have just done a number of these things will assist in my assessment, and would at least eliminate the risk of me being viewed as some sort of fantasist who is never really going to go through with any of this big talk.  It’s a real fear of mine that I’m going to be told that I’m not trans enough for NHS treatment and that other more deserving and desperate cases will be given priority.  Will this help?  Not a clue.

In other news, I had a rather nice little moment of acceptance last week. Regular readers will know that I am an enthusiastic member of a book group in Belfast, and indeed it has proven to be an important stepping off point in establishing social contact outside the trans* community, which I think I needed to do to establish if I could really be accepted by cis people. As I have written many times, it all worked out very well and I have read several magnificent books to boot (as well as a handful of crap ones). But things reached a new level last week. The leader of our group Joanne has booked a little late deal to go on holiday in early August. Joanne runs all the meetings, keeps the conversation flowing, makes the booking with the hotel, welcomes new members into the group and is the central point of contact for everyone. And because of this little holiday, Joanne is not going to be in the country for the next scheduled meeting of the group. So out of all the 12 or 13 regular members, whom did she call upon to deputise for her in her absence? Only me, that’s who! Touched would not even begin to describe my reaction. I know I get on well with her, and I have met her socially outside the book group on a few occasions, but the fact that she would ask me to take this on says a lot to me about how she sees me as being perceived by the other members. And it makes me happy.  Also makes me a bit scared as my literary criticism isn’t anywhere near up to her standard, but I think I’ll cope.

And on that happy note, I’m off.  Byeeee.