It’s been a while. It’s approaching four weeks since I last posted something, although I was on holiday in Menorca for a week of that. It was my last holiday in male mode, potentially my last ever family holiday, although that’s up to Mrs Kirsty rather than up to me. The evening before we flew out to Mahón I was packing my case, and two things struck me. Firstly, what with my recent long weekend in Belfast when Nour came to visit, trips over to England with Andrea to visit Ruth and further back to the Eastbourne weekend, and occasional overnight stays at Andrea’s own home, I’m actually much more used to packing female clothing than I am to packing male clothing, and it felt decidedly odd and undoubtedly uninspiring. What also struck me was that unless something unexpected pops up in the next seven or eight months, it will be the last time I will ever pack male clothing for myself. Now that was a much more pleasant thought, although it should be said that packing as a man is orders of magnitude easier and quicker. Man-packing is basically as follows: 7 days away, 7 t-shirts, 7 pairs of pants, 7 pairs of socks, a few shorts & swimming trunks, sandals, trainers, toiletries, done. Woman-packing is much more involved. I actually think about outfits and what goes with what. Day outfits and evening outfits. What shoes go with what outfits. Do I need a different bag? What jewellery should I bring? Do I need more makeup? It’s a minefield!
I have also been seized by Olympics Fever, the symptoms of which include long periods of sitting in front of the television into the wee small hours watching live fencing and table tennis – match of the tournament was the women’s final, great win for Ding Ning from Beijing! I returned to work today, so I’m back in “normal” mode, which means that I feel like stepping back into the blogosphere. I have a few ideas swirling round in my mind for more substantial posts in the coming weeks, but for now I think I’ll dip my toe back into the bloggy water with a bit of a catch-up over the last few weeks.
My last post dealt largely with my first contact from Belfast GIC, a letter received several weeks after I went to my GP to request a referral. I had subsequently received an email from one of the doctors there stating that I should expect a wait of around six months, bringing me into January 2017. Incidentally, my friend Andrea knows the sender of that email, and says she is “lovely”. So that’s good. Anyway, as promised in Dr Corry’s email, I did receive another letter from the clinic. This letter was more of a holding letter, and I’m not going to go into huge detail about what it contained, however in terms of waiting times it did specify that
In line with the Department of Health and Belfast Trust policy we try to offer first appointments within 13 weeks of being placed on the waiting list…
Great, that would be November…
…however it is not always possible to do so.
Oh right. January it is then.
I wrote last time about a fear that I might not be trans enough. Now in my head I know this is nonsense, and if I wasn’t trans I wouldn’t be seeking a referral to the Gender Identity Clinic. But reading this letter, it goes on to give contact information for various services to do with mental health, assistance with stress control, assistance for people in distress or despair. I look at these and think that it’s great that such services exist, but at the same time I know that I don’t need to avail of those services. And if I don’t need to avail of those services, I can’t really be that severe a case can I? And if I’m not that severe a case, surely the NHS’s money would be better spent on someone in more desparate need of treatment. Wouldn’t it? Maybe so. It’s not really that I don’t believe I’m trans enough. Of course I believe I’m trans enough. I’m just worried that I won’t be able to convince whoever is assessing me that I’m trans enough.
At the Butterfly Club anniversary dinner in June I was chatting to a trans woman who had her initial appointment at the Belfast clinic back in 2011. At that point she had to sit in front of a panel of three people – a doctor, a psychiatrist and a medical student – and undergo what she described as a very in-depth and probing interview for several hours. At the end of this draining process she was asked to take a seat in the corridor outside the office in which the meeting had taken place, so the three of them could discuss her case. After a wait of what seemed like half an hour, they called her back in and informed her that having discussed her responses they had decided to “admit her to the programme”. This conversation is worrying me. Do they still do that on your first appointment? What if they say no? That they’re not going to admit me to the programme. What do I do then? I need to cut this line of thought in the bud, because I’m starting to panic just thinking about it. I am scared that people unknown are going to be sitting in judgement of whether or not I can proceed with my medical transition and I don’t even know what they want to hear. It’s like the most important exam of my life and I can’t revise for it because I don’t even know what’s on the syllabus.
On to more frivolous matters now. I had only returned from holiday a couple of days when I was due at my monthly book group, only this time I was in charge! Yes, for one month only I was the leader. It was quite an intimidating experience and I was quite relieved to see that everyone who had confirmed for the group this month were people I already knew. Even now, after having gone along month after month, I’m still trying to gauge how new people in the group react to me. I shouldn’t really but I can’t help it. But no such distraction this time.
As I was leading the discussion, it was up to me to open the meeting, welcome everyone, and kick off the discussion with my own thoughts about the book. The book in question was “A Dictionary Of Mutual Understanding” by Jackie Copleton, a novel set mostly in Japan telling the story of a family caught up in the aftermath of the atomic bomb at Nagasaki. In fact, it was mostly a tale of Japanese culture and relationships, and the bomb was a plot device on which to hang all this, but it was pretty effective. In short, part of the novel is set in the 1980’s with a widowed Japanese woman living in the USA, having moved there from Nagasaki with her husband in the late 40’s following the death of her daughter and grandson in the atomic bomb. Then 40 years later a middle aged man with a burned and disfigured face turns up on her doorstep claiming to be her grandson. The story is told in a series of flashbacks from the mother, diary entries from the daughter and letters from the “grandson’s” adoptive father to weave together a multi-narrator non-linear narrative over a 60-year period. It was a book I admired, but also one I found quite hard to love, which seemed to be a common feeling in the group. Thank goodness for that, I hopefully managed to say something that appeared at least moderately intelligent.
Once the book discussion was petering out, it was up to me to bring it to a close, get everyone to score the book (7.3 out of 10 on average, pretty good) and agree a date and book for next month. So I managed to corral everyone well enough and before I knew it I had fulfilled my duty. It was fine. In fact it was lovely to be in that position, not just being tolerated but selected to lead the group for that month. I even got a few “well dones” afterwards. I know a small book group isn’t much, but looking back just three years the thought that I would ever be doing this would have been ridiculous. How far I have come. So excuse me while I feel rather pleased with myself.
I had a full week off work after returning from holiday in Menorca, but the family had a few things lined up which meant I wasn’t free to come and go as I pleased. Some of these were nice things, like meeting up with an old school friend of Mrs K, Joanna, her husband John and their young son for a nice meal and a trip to Carrickfergus Castle. Of course I got stuck at the end of the table with John, expected to engage in blokechat while Mrs K and friend had a catch-up. Thankfully and despite a prior career in the Royal Air Force, he is actually a really nice non-macho guy, so it wasn’t too bad. I couldn’t help but wonder the whole time however how he would react if he knew the truth. I actually suspect that they would both react quite well. Joanna is in fact the one person that Mrs K has occasionally considered telling about me, probably the only one not infected with religion so the one who is likely to give her (and me) the most sympathetic hearing. I actually hope she does tell her because she needs someone to talk to about it, and not me. But as usual I fear she will just bottle it up and say nothing.
Thursday was all clear, so I arranged with Mrs K to have a full day out to my own devices. In fact, what with one thing and another I didn’t get away from home till gone noon. I had planned to do a bit of window shopping and then maybe catch up with a few friends. Plus, as my actual birthday (23rd August, cards and gifts to the usual address, financial gifts to the usual account number in Zürich thanks very much) falls at a time of year when Mrs K has to stay late in work meaning it’s quite hard for me to get out of the house, Andrea had offered to go out for a meal together to my choice of restaurant as an early birthday meal. Well since Michelle wasn’t going to be with us for once, I felt no guilt in plumping for Indian. I am a bit of a Spice Girl if you know what I mean, but I’m sure Michelle won’t mind me saying that it’s not her cup of Darjeeling at all. I don’t think Andrea is a huge fan, but at least she’s willing to tolerate it for my sake. Greater love hath no woman than she lay down her taste buds for her friend.
It was around 2pm when I actually got into the centre of Belfast, and I went straight to the nearest Caffè Nero for a coffee and panini, which was a perfectly pleasant experence, even receiving a “there you go, love” from the young male barista. I then managed a bit of browsing round a few shops. The usual suspects; New Look, Next, Primark and so on. I was very disappointed that Evans appear to have hugely reduced the range of shoes available in their Belfast store. I’m very much at the lower end of their size range for clothing, but the fact that their shoes are available up to UK 10 in wide fitting has always been good to know, even if I have only ever actually bought one pair out of there. Range looks a bit crappy on their website too.
I had hoped to get a chance to meet up with Alison at some point this week, but she had taken herself off to visit her sister in London, so that particular catch-up would have to wait. As an able replacement I had arranged to meet my old friend Jonathan after he finished work. As one of those lucky people with flexi-time, he was able to finish work at 4pm, and we met up soon afterwards. The last time I had seen Jonathan was a week or two before I had seen my GP about a referral to the clinic. He had known that I was trying to get an appointment (and what a rigmarole that was) but he didn’t know how things had progressed. So I was able to inform him that I was now officially on the waiting list, and that things were progressing toward and Easter date for going full time, coming out at work and so on. (His comment on my fears about how my transition will go down in work? “Well they’re just going to have to suck it up, aren’t they? Don’t take any shit.”)
So he is now fully appraised of the position, and remains completely supportive. In fact, most of our chat was about other things, and it was really just a rather nice way to spend an hour and a half.
By six o’clock I had to leave Jonathan to his pint as I had to head back up to Lisburn to get changed into a nice dress and heels for dinner, and to meet Andrea before heading back into Belfast. On my way out of Belfast I realised that I needed cash for the evening, so I stopped at a motorway services as it was the most convenient ATM on the short journey back to Lisburn. While I was there, I took the opportunity to visit the ladies’, and then I decided to buy a bottle of water. As I was handing over my payment, the young woman on the till remarked “Oh, I love your nails. What colour is that?” Maybelline Berry Fusion, and I am rather partial to it myself, kind of a slightly metallic plum colour. So I ended up having a little chat with this woman about nail colours, and how she had had gel nails for the last few weeks but after getting them removed, her own nails underneath were in a bit of a state – she then let me inspect her nails which were indeed not looking the best. Someone else came up to the till then and I had to leave, but it was just a lovely little interaction that made me happy. Little amuses the innocent.Andrea actually arrived to meet me a few minutes early and caught me not quite ready yet, but we made it into the city centre in good time. Unfortunately, as Thursday is late night shopping night in Belfast, parking spaces were quite hard to come by so we ended up parking quite far from the restaurant. At this point I was very pleased to have chosen a pair of white and grey block heeled sandals to match with my black and white dress, as opposed to the higher stilettos that I have worn with the same dress before. Walking in the sandals is fine, certainly for the distance that we had to cover, but the while the latter shoes look amazing, they are very definitely “car to bar” shoes. Good choice Kirsty!
Actually, I felt really great walking along Royal Avenue with Andrea. It was so nice to see her after a few weeks, and even though I do say so myself we were both looking rather good. And even after all this time, I still got a little moment of joy from a homeless person calling out “Any spare change girls?” as we walked past. I really should have slipped him a quid just for correctly gendering me.
After much to-ing and fro-ing we had finally settled upon an Indian Restaurant that Andrea had discovered online, but which neither of us had actually visited before, Safa. An inspired choice. We were shown to our table by the friendly waiter and we ordered our food. Andrea skipped the starter, but I had a vegetable samosa. You know I said I was a bit of a spice girl? Well I tried one of my samosas, and told Andrea that it wasn’t all that spicy and would she like to try a corner of the second one. She did just that, and immediately reacted like she had steam coming out of her ears. Oh well, I liked it anyway.
For my main course I had chicken tikka chilli masala (“hot but not too hot” according to the menu) and Andrea had goat (!) tikka masala. Goat! You don’t often see that on a menu. But Andrea said it was very nice, so that’s good. Mine was delicious. The menu got it spot on. Not only that, but I find that quite often Indian meals can be just meat and spicy liquid. This was definitely not the case here. Lots of bits of vegetable matter throughout the sauce, peppers, chillis, onion, tomato, it was excellent.
Over the course of the meal we had a lovely chat and a lot of laughs, and I was also able to show Andrea my holiday photos, carefully editing out the ones containing Bob. Over the course of our meal the waiter was over asking if all was well, and then an older man came over to ask the same thing. I wonder if he was the owner or manager? Anyway, we got plenty of (but not too much) friendly and courteous attention. Then dessert came. Andrea ordered chocolate cake but I decided “When in Rome” and went for an actual Indian dessert, something I had never eaten before called Kufti, which had been billed as the Indian equivalent of ice cream. It was certainly unusual and I think it was rather nice. The best way I can describe is is like seeded mango and raspberry jam, frozen with cream and a coconut-y aftertaste. Very unusual indeed. Our waiter came over to ask what I thought of the kufti, and I said pretty much what I have written here, and I asked what was actually in it. He then went into a bit of detail and it seems my palate was reasonably accurate. But mostly I think he was pleased that I liked it, because he informed me very proudly that they make their own kufti in the kitchen at the restaurant, and this was not a “bought-in” dessert. Unlike, I suspect, Andrea’s chocolate cake.
After we had given over payment for the bill, the older man (owner?) came across and to signalled us not to leave yet, and muttered something to the waiter, who advised us that they would like to give us a complimentary after-dinner drink, which I think was going to be some sort of Indian liqueur. It was a lovely gesture, but unfortunately since both of us were driving we had to decline the offer. However it was genuinely nice to be asked, and looking across the small-ish restaurant it didn’t seem to be something they did as standard. So we just had to put on our coats and head back out into that night. It was a really nice meal and even better, a great experience. Great company too, obviously.
Well that’s pretty much me caught up to date, other than to add that I couldn’t make it through a whole six days to next Wednesday with no time as the real me, so I snatched the opportunity of a few solo hours yesterday. Nothing special, just fairly mundane things. Things I would have to do as Bob anyway, like grocery shopping and refuelling the car. Oh and buying a wee pair of girly trainers from Primark.
That was all a bit scattershot wasn’t it? I have a feeling things will be a bit more focussed next time round.