The last post was hard to write. It took quite a few aborted attempts before I actually got it in some sort of coherent order. And it was about a pretty grim situation. Thank you to everyone who commented on the post and/or contacted me privately to express their concern or offer advice etc. I genuinely do appreciate all of it. With a post like that, it has taken a couple of weeks before I was ready to look back at the comments and reply to them at last, I just couldn’t face getting myself back into that train of thought again. And an update on that situation? There is no update. Nothing has changed. The subject has been roundly avoided.
So, in order to make up for that, I have been meaning to do a bit of a frivolous post of all the frivolous things I have been up to over the last few weeks. I was even in two minds about whether to write at all, because it was all a bit, well, frivolous. But then yesterday morning something happened which had the potential to be very serious, but in fact turned out to be hugely positive. In short, I came out to someone else from work.
Regular readers may recall that from time to time I write about things that go on in my office, about a few of my colleagues and how I try to gauge what their reaction is likely to be when they discover the truth about me. This post is the most obvious example, in fact I would suggest it is required reading for what comes next. So go on then, click here and read it again (if you don’t mind).
Situations such as the one in that article do crop up from time to time in the office. In particular, any time Angela is going round to that other office to do that thing, if nobody else mentions the trans woman working there, I will bring up the subject just because I’m always looking for ways to gauge people’s reaction. And yes, I keep on saying things like “I’ll be doing that next year” and “it’ll be my turn soon” and so on, usually to laughter. It is something of a running joke. Except I know it’s not. What it really is, is me planting a seed so that when I really do come out in work, it’s not perhaps quite the shock it would otherwise have been.
Something I had noticed in the last few months is that Angela has begun to bring up the topic of things transgender with me, albeit in a sort of jokey way. If there’s a story on some website about some trans person, she will mention it to me, or she will bring up our friend from that other office (as nobody knows her name, she is colloquially referred to as “Caitlin”). This has lead me to wonder if she is actually fishing for hints from me about whether or not I am really joking. It’s an interesting and subtle exchange of subtle hints and subtle questions. Well the subtlety ended yesterday. She was poking about on her phone when she said to me
“My God, look at this MP who’s been through the transition” (NB she didn’t say “had a sex change” thankfully)
So I shuffled over to her desk, which is only about three metres behind mine, and looked at an article she had up on the Daily Mail website about a former male MP who left parliament at the 2010 election and has transitioned in the intervening years. The article ended with a picture of her during a recent TV appearance, looking it has to be said very presentable indeed. So Angela made the (correct) observation
“Doesn’t she look amazing? You would just never know. She looks better as a woman than she did as a man.”
Of course I couldn’t resist and as usual rose to the bait
“I hope I look as good when I do it”
And she immediately replied.
“I think you’re being serious. Are you being serious?”
I had a get-out. I could have denied it. I could have easily denied it. But I didn’t want to deny it. I know that the more people who know, the more likely it becomes that I will lose control, but I just wanted her to know. She was signalling with every bit of body language known to humanity that it was ok, she was sympathetic. And I hesitated long enough that I didn’t need to answer. Although I did.
“Yes”. Nervous laughter.
“Oh my God! Really?”
“Mmmmmm” and other non-committal noises. But no denial.
“You know what? It’s not a surprise. I just… I just knew. Things you said, it’s like you’re dropping hints.”
And so I told her that I had indeed been dropping hints, and she had been wondering for a while. Particularly after an exchange a couple of weeks earlier on the subject of spray tans, when I had wondered out loud how I would look with one, she said I’d need to shave my legs if I was getting one, and I replied that I do that anyway, making it clear that this wasn’t a joke and I really do shave my legs – this is common knowledge among some other colleagues anyway due to a few cycling expeditions with bare and hairless legs on display.
So she nearly asked me a few times before and backed out because she wasn’t sure, or it wasn’t the right moment, or there was someone else around, but I’m so pleased that she did now. I told her the full plan, that I have been to my GP and am already on the waiting list for the clinic. That I have that I was strongly drawn to the feminine since I was at least 7 years old, and possibly earlier than that. That I have been going out in public presenting female for around two and a half years. That I have friends who only know me as Kirsty, and never met Bob, and I have old friends of Bob who only see me as Kirsty now. And crucially, that I plan to transition in work from around Easter 2017.
“So how do you feel about that? In here, I mean.”
“I thought you’d just be happy to finally get to be yourself after so long”
“Well yes, I’m really excited, but I’m terrified too of how people might react.”
“Well it’ll definitely be a shock. But it’ll be a shock for two or three weeks and then people will move on. Don’t worry, I think you’ll get a lot of support. People will be delighted for you.”
So I asked if she would like to see a picture of me as a woman. Yes, of course she would. So I showed her this photo, which was actually taken back in January, I think in a coffee shop with Andrea the day after I told Mrs K I was going to transition. (Quick aside, on a couple of occasions in recent months Angela has said to me “I think you’d make a lovely woman Bob” and I have replied “I do”, so I may have bigged myself up a bit here). So she looked at the picture and said something along the lines of
“Wow. You just look… normal. I mean, you look like any other woman. The hair looks really realistic and your make up is amazing. You just look normal – you know, like Caitlin (meaning the trans woman in that other office, not Ms Jenner) sticks out like a sore thumb because she looks really manly, but you will not have that problem.” All this was nice to hear, although I must confess to feeling a little uneasy about the whole judging trans women’s acceptability by their passability, but I actually don’t think that’s really what she was driving at. I did tell her that the photo could be deceptive and you do need to remember how tall I am, but she brushed that away. She said “Is Beth not the same height as you?” No. This is my line manager. She is 5’11” and, crucially, she doesn’t let this put her off wearing heels to work just about every day. So me in Bob-shoes and her in heels are about the same height. So if I put on heels, the height gap is restored. Angela was still dismissive of this concern. I’m tall, but it’s just not going to be an issue in her eyes. We’ll see about that when she actually gets to meet me.
She asked me if anyone else in work knew, or if she was the first I had told, so I told her that Lauren had known for quite some time – maybe they will compare notes about me! We spoke about a work night out back in June when a couple of people had left, and six of us (including Angela, Lauren and me) had ended up in a bar till 1am. One of the other people there had told us that night that she and her husband had separated, and there was much shock all round. I had ended up getting into a chat with a woman called Maria, whose leaving do it was, and who had also recently got engaged, so marriage and divorce was up for discussion, and I had drunkenly worried that my marriage might not be in the best of shape thanks to something I couldn’t talk about that would be happening soon. Maria got a little upset at the thought of Mrs K and I possibly splitting up, and I said that no it was by no means definite, and I confirmed that I definitely wasn’t having an affair, and that neither, to the best of my knowledge, was Mrs K. It was something else that could just upset everything. I was also dropping more general hints to the group, but I didn’t think it was too serious until I got into the car with Lauren, who was the designated driver for the evening. She said she thought I was about to announce to everyone what was going to be happening and that all five other people there will be in no doubt that something is going to be happening with me. Maybe, maybe not. After all, Lauren was the only sober person, everyone else was at least three sheets to the wind, some more like seven or eight.
I relate this story because I learned more about it yesterday. Angela and Maria are close friends, and on that particular night they had stayed in a cheap hotel in the centre of Belfast in order to prolong their evening. But when they went back to the hotel, Maria was telling Angela that she was worried that Mrs K and I were going to split up, that there was clearly something bothering me, and I had something that was going to change everything. Angela says now that as soon as Maria told her this the first thing that came into her head was that I was transgender and I was going to be beginning my transition soon. The first thing. But she said nothing to Maria about this.
After all this talk, a few people returned to desks near us, so we had to cut the conversation short. A few minutes later, as I had my head down working, my mobile beeped. A message from Angela.
– Forgot to ask, what will/is your name? (sic)
And that was the end of that. Except for a brief coda around an hour later. I had been at the loo and was walking back towards my desk when I encountered Angela coming in the opposite direction. She looked at me, smiling, and said “I just can’t keep the smile off my face since you told me. I’m so pleased for you, I’m excited on your behalf. I’m just really sorry I’m not going to be here to support you on your first day in work as the real you.” I mentioned that she is pregnant, well she’ll be going off on maternity leave at the middle of February and is due at the end of that month. And she made me a promise. On my first day in work as my real self, she is going to come into town and take me out to lunch. Isn’t that nice? I said that if ever I was off work and was going to be in Belfast on a weekday before then, she was welcome to meet up with me anyway. She said she would like that, but she still wants to take me out on my first day. I look forward to it.
So that’s my news. Talking with Angela has made me feel so much more positive about my transition and how it’s going to go in work. There will of course be people who don’t react so well, but I’m feeling more positive that they will be significantly outnumbered by supporters, or indeed by those who don’t give a stuff (these may be in the majority). But most of all I’m so pleased someone else knows and is positive about it. I just hope that senior management react as well.
I was going to write about those frivolous things that I have done too, but 2000 words went past a couple of paragraphs back, so I’ll leave things for now. I’ll get that frivolous post done soon. You can look forward to that – dining out, book group, cinema, getting stopped by the police! Next time.