This time last week I had around half a post written and then I slightly ran out of steam. Or to be more precise, I was hit with the overwhelming feeling that my blogging mouth was writing cheques that my reality arse might not be able to cash. So I held back. I held back until I had either done what I was in the process of writing that I was going to do, or else had definitively decided that I would not be doing that thing after all. Of course and as ever, real life didn’t pan out quite as I had expected. The subject matter of this post really grew out of a few emails that I have been exchanging with Ruth, as well as a series of comments and replies to my last post, you know who you are! The long and the short of it is this; even though my full-time date is still almost eight months away, I have realised that my transition has either already begun or at the very least should be beginning. Several people, both on here and in real life, have made statements in the past along the lines of transition being a process not a switch that you flick. You don’t “transition” on the day you begin living full time in your preferred gender, that’s just one very significant event in the process. But there are lots of events in the process, even if very few are of equal significance. And starting to live full-time as a woman is not necessarily the first of those events.
I have realised that the events and milestones in transition can be broken down into two big categories; reversible and irreversible events. Such events and milestones as I have reached to date are all reversible. Going to a support group for the first time? I can stop going. Telling Mrs K I want to transition? I can tell her I changed my mind. Getting a referral to the Gender Clinic? I can tell them I want to be taken off the waiting list. In other words, despite everything that I have done over the last few years, and in particular this year, the genie remains firmly in the bottle. However at this stage I am starting to think about two things that, while not exactly irreversible, are more difficult to reverse or at least to explain away. I am considering starting laser treatment to remove facial and body hair, and I am starting to think about when I should be executing my deed poll in order to legally change my name to Kirsty. Considering.
It was at this point that I stopped writing last week. After all, what does it really mean that I was “considering” this stuff? I have considered all sorts of aspects of transition, but I have no intention of doing them just yet. So I decided that I wouldn’t write about such considerations until at the very least I had been in contact with the clinic that I had chosen to perform the laser hair removal. Basically, I want to get a head start on my transition. On estimated timescales, I will be going full time approximately three months after my first GIC appointment. By that stage, it is unlikely that I will have been able to start any NHS-funded laser sessions yet, but I don’t want to start my new life with still a full growth of beard hair. Not only that, but I had heard that you needed to have something for the laser person to work with, a little bit of stubble for them to zap. Well obviously I don’t want to have to walk about with stubble after I go full time, never mind having to hide myself away until the redness goes down and I can shave it back again. So yes, on the whole it seems that breaking the back of the laser treatment is the way to go.
Once I had set my mind to this, I had a quick conversation with Mrs K. I told her that I was thinking about starting laser treatment to remove my beard hair. I was a bit wary that she might reply that it might provoke too many questions from people about why I was getting it done at the ripe old age of 46 (yes I have had a birthday since my last post) and wasn’t it a bit weird for a man to get his beard lasered off. But my fears were unfounded, she just listened to my rationale for doing it now, and replied something along the lines of “Yes. That makes sense. Knock yourself out.” So it was all systems go for lasergirl (that’s me by the way). I must say the geek in me does like the sound of saying I’m getting my facial hair removed by laser, it sounds like having a shave with a lightsaber.
I did a quick search for laser hair removal in Belfast, and discovered that there is a place in the city centre, quite close to my work, called Thérapie. They are part of an Irish chain, with several clinics both North and South. They do various non-surgical procedures and a glance at their website revealed that not only do they do laser hair removal, they specifically market it to men for beard removal – apparently if you add up the cost of shaving supplies, it pays for itself in a few years. Not that I would be denying the real reason why I want laser, but like it or not I do have male facial hair, and so the knowledge that they specifically offer male facial hair removal seemed to be good news. So I went round to their clinic and stood in front of the glass doors. I looked in and saw two women in white coats at the front desk, and a member of the public in conversation with one of them. And I’m not proud to say, I bottled it. I walked away from the conversation. I walked about 50 metres away and turned round again. I walked back to the door. Then I bottled out of it again. And I went home, tail between legs, thinking that maybe I should try a different clinic further away from work. But I think deep down I knew that proximity to work wasn’t the problem, it was just me losing my nerve and I would have lost it wherever the clinic was.
So a few days later and with loins girded I walked back round to Thérapie once more. And this time, there were no members of the public in the reception area as far as I could see. However, despite this, I bottled out again. In fact I was starting to despair at myself. If I can’t even walk into a laser clinic, how the hell am I ever going to make it to GIC?
Fast forward to lunchtime today, and I walk round to Thérapie once more. I looked in, and there were two women on the front desk, and nobody else around. And… I bottled out of it. I walked away and walked round town for ten minutes. I came back and this time there was only one woman at the front desk. And this time I grabbed the handle marked “Pull” and pulled it. Nothing happened. I used the wrong door. Not great for the nerves. So I tried the other door and walked in.
“Hello, what can I help you with?”
“I was just wondering, can you do laser hair removal for…” (points at chin)
“Yes, certainly we do that”
“And will it work for me?”
“That depends. What colour is your facial hair?”
“That colour.” (indicates hair on head) “With a little bit of grey”
“In which case I don’t think it’ll work for you. You’re too fair. The laser needs some pigment in your hair to latch on to and you just don’t have it. We could book you in for a patch test but I know to look at you that you’re too fair for the laser to work. At least, it would take you a lot more sessions than usual to get any result, and it would probably be an unsatisfactory result, not to mention going through the pain and expense with not a lot to show for it at the end. I have the same problem with my arms“ (indicates slightly hirsute arms covered in downy fair hair)
“Oh. I see. Well thanks for your honesty and not trying to take my money.”
And that was the end of that. All that buildup, all those nerves, for what? Disappointment. I can’t get laser. I. Can’t. Get. Laser. I’m stuck with this sandpaper growth. Well, I suppose there are other options, most obviously electrolysis, but the very limited research that I have done on that would indicate that it is even more expensive and requires more sessions and more time than laser. I will check it out though. I have found a clinic in Belfast that does both laser and electrolysis, so I will go there for a second opinion on laser and while I’m at it I can get them to do a “compare and contrast” with laser vs electrolysis. I think I had better strike while the iron is hot and get things moving. If my next post doesn’t have an update on how this is going, please feel free to berate me in the comments.
And as for the other matter, well that’s not going to happen in the next few months, but it’s going to have to happen at some time. The deed poll is going to have to be done, it just seems like it’s going to be difficult to judge precisely when to do it. It has been suggested to me that I have the deed poll done for when I go to the first GIC appointment which seems likely to be in January 2017. In fact, I read with a great deal of interest the post that Ruth put up yesterday about her screening appointment, and the fact that it seemed to her that they put a great deal of store in the name change.
The thing is that I don’t intend to go full time until April, so to have a deed poll three months in advance seems a bit odd, to be legally called Kirsty while still presenting in an “official” capacity as a man. Now I do know that changing one’s name is a long drawn-out process, and that getting the deed poll is only the start of that process. You only have to look at this post by my dear friend Andrea to see the problems that she continues to have more than 18 months after she went full time and did her own deed poll. So just because I do a deed poll doesn’t mean that every corner of officialdom will reflect that change instantaneously, particularly if I don’t go out of my way to actually tell anyone that I have done a deed poll and can you please change my name on your records please. Another consideration is that it does seem rather disengenuous to sign a legal affadavit (which is what a deed poll is in essence) stating that I am hereby abandoning my previous name, still knowing full well that I intend to use it for another three months. So what would be the point of doing the deed poll at all by January? A statement of intent? Perhaps. To impress GIC that I’m serious? Maybe. Or maybe they’ll just ask me who I have actually informed of my name change, and when I reply that they are the first, I fear I may look rather foolish.
To go back to my earlier point of reversible and irreversible changes, actually executing a deed poll is not an irreversible change. Until I begin sending it round to the likes of the NHS, HMRC, banks, DVLA, Passport Office etc, it doesn’t actually amount to the proverbial hill of beans. It is in fact completely reversible. Until such point as I send it round these places there is a very simple way of undoing the name change: shred the deed document. If it’s not registered anywhere (and very few deed polls are registered) then it’s really just a piece of paper and as such pretty meaningless. As the appalling Shania Twain said, “that don’t impress me much”. Although she also said “Man! I feel like a woman” so I’ll give her a little leeway.
So I think really I’m not going to do the deed poll until I am ready to actually start sending it round to be officially noted where necessary. Anyway, by the time January rolls around and I’m going to my first GIC appointment, I suspect the big thing will be telling the kids. Now THAT really is something irreversible. Once said, never ever unsaid. Gulp.
Kirsty (or legally speaking for the time being, Bob)