The title of this post is inspired by a Radiohead song called “True Love Waits” that I was listening to in the car on my way home from work this evening. “I’m not living, I’m just killing time”. It’s a bit overdramatic compared to what’s going on in my life, but there is an element now of me just waiting for (a) January when I can really get the ball rolling with my transition plans and (b) April when I will be going full-time. So for now, well I refer you the Radiohead lyric I gave some moments ago.
Up until very recently, when I have been talking to people who know the full story with me, I have always qualified my transition plans by saying something along the lines of “Truth be told, I won’t be sure that I’m going to go through with it until I actually do it.” But now, just in the last week or so, I’m beginning to feel more and more certain that this is going to happen. So I have resolved to stop using the qualifier. I suppose in a way it’s akin to the time leading up to me approaching my GP to seek a referral to the Gender Identity Service. I didn’t know if I would have the guts to go through with it, and I even had back up ailments to consult the doctor about, but in the end there was no way I couldn’t have gone through with it. So what has changed? Let’s see…
I think first and foremost I have begun to think about transition in terms of bite-sized, manageable chunks of things to do rather than as one overwhelming whole that must be all done together. To take work as an example, just thinking about “coming out and transitioning at work” sounds quite intimidating. But when I break it down, it’s less so. Can I contact one of our HR consultants to request a confidential meeting about a private matter? Of course I can. Once that is arranged, can I go to it? Of course I can. I’ve done it with my GP, I can do it with what used to be called a personnel officer. Having done that, can I take my line manager aside and bring her into the process? Of course I can. And so on down the line until I’m walking into the office as Kirsty hopefully some time in April. There are things to be done, but they are starting to feel less like insurmountable objects than as items on a checklist that I will tick off at the appropriate time.
I also had something of an epiphany yesterday. As my anticipated full-time date is now less than six months away, I really need to start pulling together a wardrobe of work-appropriate clothing. I am not short of female clothing as it is, but in general it’s either pretty casual or else it’s more the sort of thing you might wear out to a nice restaurant. I really have very little in that middle ground of smart, professional looking office wear. So in the interests of remedying that, I intend to purchase a few items each month between now and April so I have a decent wardrobe by the time the first day of the rest of my life comes around. So with that in mind, I took a trip to Forestside Shopping Centre in South Belfast yesterday afternoon, accompanied by shopping chum and all-round style guru Andrea. I got a rather pricey salmon pink top and tweed skirt from Warehouse, rendered marginally less pricey by a 20% off one-day offer. In fact, credit where credit’s due, Andrea suggested the top as a perfect match for the skirt, and she was right. Now I don’t often write about clothing very much these days, it’s not really the issue any more, but I’m writing about this because as I stood there in the changing room and looked at myself in this new outfit, for the first time the person in the mirror looked the part of a professional fortysomething woman. And it made me believe. Believe that it is possible, that it is going to happen. I had a little moment. And then my bubble was burst by one of the sales assistant pulling the curtain across, barging into the cubicle and them loudly exclaiming “Ohmygodimsosorryithoughtitwasempty!!!” I’ll have to remember in future to whistle while trying on new items of clothing. At least when I went to the till she was nice enough to lean across and say “They looked really good on you”. They did indeed.
The other notable takeaway from yesterday’s shopping expedition was the amazing revelation that even though I am 6’2″, Marks & Spencer’s long fit women’s trousers are too long for me. Even wearing a bit of a heel. Do other women walk round in stilts? Good grief!
One other point to raise on pulling together a work wardrobe, and this is really me looking for the wisdom of the crowd. How extensive does it need to be? What is the generally accepted bare minimum time between outfits repeating themselves? If you read Andrea’s blog you might remember that she managed her entire first year in work as her real self without once repeating an ensemble. Individual items were repeated, yes, but not once for an entire year did she repeat a full outfit. I’ll say it now. I will not match that. I have no intention of even trying to match that. If I can get through my first week without repeating myself I’ll be happy enough. But for those of you who are living full-time as women (be that cis or trans), how many of each item do I need? x skirts, y tops, z pairs of trousers etc. How extensive does the working wardrobe need to be? I’ll be honest here, Bob is down to his last two suits and I have no inclination to buy another so I don’t really have experience of a large work wardrobe.
Another thing that I have been considering in addition to transitioning in work, is coming out to my wider family. I have probably mentioned this before, but I am the youngest of five children, and my four siblings are all quite a bit older than me. Their ages range between 61 and 66, I am 46. The archetypal “wee late one”. Anyhow, our parents are long since departed but we have all remained pretty close, and we meet up for a weekend away with partners every May. However we all met up again last weekend for a very special anniversary – last Friday, 4th November, marked both my mother’s 90th birthday, and also the 20th anniversary of my father’s death. He died on her 70th birthday, although she preceded him by two years. So we all got together on Saturday to mark the occasion and celebrate our parents’ lives with a few drinks and a nice meal in a local restaurant. And it was a very enjoyable evening. But as I left that evening I couldn’t help but think that I would possibly see them all one more time at Christmas, and then the next time I saw them all it would be to inform them that their little brother is in fact their little sister. So I need a plan for how to do it. And this is what I have come up with – please feel free to tear it to shreds, if there’s a better idea let me hear it.
I have two brothers and two sisters. One brother and sister live fairly close to me in Northern Ireland, the other brother and sister live 100 and 130 miles respectively away from me in the Republic of Ireland. They need to be told within a very short space of time of each other. However I don’t think telling them all at once is a good option. There is too much capacity for mass uproar and for the message to get diluted if not drowned out entirely. Plus, in order for me to tell them all at the same time, I would need to get them all together in the same room, which would involve a fair amount of driving for two of them in order to have me tell them my news. That doesn’t feel fair. I think the onus is on me to go to them.
My initial feeling is that I should tell them face to face. But some people have noted that this isn’t always the most successful approach because no matter what your plans might be, the conversation generally will take on a life of its own, it’s risking a hysterical reaction (“You’re having a sex change? Oh my god!!!” and so on), but at the same time writing them a letter seems very impersonal. These are my sisters and brothers not strangers or clients! So my current thinking is this. I am going to write a letter. I am going to put as eloquently and succinctly as I can what is happening, with a bit of background, how long I have felt like this, recent history, and what will be happening and when. I’ll probably have to deal with Mrs K and the kids in the letter too, even if only briefly. But I’m not going to post that letter. I’m going to hand deliver it. I’m going to go round to their houses one by one and hand them the letter. I will then explain that there is going to be a significant change happening in my life, it’s going to come as a shock to them, but I have put it all in writing because I can’t trust myself to be able to get the right words out if we just talk, and it’s important that they understand what is going to be happening. I will then hand them the letter and say that I am going to go outside and sit in the car. I will then tell them that I will wait in the car for 20 minutes, and if they want to talk about what’s in the letter, please come and get me and I would love to answer any of their questions. I will also tell them that if they don’t come to get me in 20 minutes (too long? too short? just right?) I will leave, and they won’t hear from me again until I hear from them.
Well, does that sound ok or is it a bit over-elaborate?
Like I said, I’m going to have to go through this rigmarole four times in a very short space of time because it’s not fair to tell one and then tell them not to say anything to the others for weeks. It’s going to be very emotionally draining. If the first goes well, I think I’ll cope. If the first three don’t want to know, I could be all but spent by the time I get to the fourth. But I’m just hoping that if I can get at least one to be supportive, that the others will follow. And I’m really hoping that they will all be supportive, but maybe that’s unrealistic.
Of course there’s lot’s more to worry about than just work and siblings. My daughters not least. But one thing at a time. And I REALLY do need Mrs K to play her part in formulating a plan for telling them, but I feel that she will stall and stall in the hope that I change my mind. We’ll see. I’ll save that particular battle for another day.