…although I’m going to do probably a few thousand actual words before I get to the picture. Yes, yes, stop groaning at the back there.
There are a lot of things to be done this year to get everything in order prior to going full time. Managing the coming-out process in work, telling the wider family and friends who don’t know yet. Sorting out the divorce in as amicable and equitable a way as possible. But before any of that could happen, there has been one overarching thing that needs done first. Telling the children. The Little Kirsties. If there was one thing that was going to cause me to lose my nerve and bottle out of the entire transition, it was the prospect of telling the kids. Conversely, if I can do that and get through it successfully, I can deal with the rest of it. Well that time has come, for at least one of them anyway.
For the first time on this blog, I am going to name my eldest daughter. She is called Amy. Amy and I have always been very close, sometimes to the annoyance of Mrs K who feels sidelined. Amy is 14. Her little sister who shall for now remain nameless is 7, so Mrs K and I agreed that they needed told separately and in different ways. And we agreed that Amy should find out first, find out about both the divorce and my transition. We’d see how that went and then plan telling Little K accordingly. I had always said that we would tell Amy in early January, and in the middle of last week Mrs K and I agreed that “The Conversation” would take place on Saturday evening after Little K Jr had gone to bed. And I very nearly did chicken out of it.
I read LK Jr her bedtime story and at around 10pm I went into Mrs K who was tapping away on her tablet looking at something or other. I said “I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this. I want to stop.” She just replied “No. You’re not backing out now. It’s got to happen some time so it might as well be now.” I went down to sit in the living room, shortly followed by Mrs K. I was so nervous. She asked should she call Amy down. I couldn’t even speak, just nodded. Amy came downstairs and sat in her favourite armchair.
“What is it?”
I couldn’t speak. So Mrs K did the talking. After a fairly short preamble she got quickly to the point.
“Your daddy and I are getting a divorce.”
I looked at Amy and it seemed like her entire world had collapsed around her. Tears were not far away, and her bottom lip was quivering like a jelly on top of a washing machine on the fast spin cycle. But Mrs K continued.
“But there’s more to it than that. The reason for the divorce won’t be what you expect. It’s to do with daddy. He needs to tell you about this.”
Amy looked across at me. The ball was in my court now.
“Amy, this is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life, and I want you to know that I love you and your sister more than anything else in the world”
“Y-Yes” she stammered, “and I love you too.”
“There is something about me that has been making me unhappy for a long time. I have known since I was probably even younger than your sister that something wasn’t right with me. That I was different. But I was afraid to confront it. I was afraid that I would get laughed at or bullied, and I hid it from everyone. Mummy has known a bit about it from before you were born, but only the full extent for about the last three years. But it has always been there and over the last few years it has become a bigger and bigger problem. And I have reached the stage where I have to do something about it. So I am going to be changing.”
At this point I lost the run of myself and put my head to my knees, almost hyperventilating. I couldn’t continue. So Mrs K asked.
“Do you want me to say it?”
“Daddy is transgender.”
And Amy replied with three beautifully sympathetic and almost nonchalant words that I will never forget until the day that I die.
“Oh. That’s ok.”
At which point I burst into floods of tears.
“No, daddy, it’s ok, really”
I looked up at her and whimpered “I’m sorry Amy”.
At which point she told me off. “Don’t be sorry. This is something you have to do and it’s ok. Don’t apologise.”
Mrs K then brought the conversation back to the divorce, explaining that this wasn’t like most divorces. That nothing will change at home for a few months still, and in the meantime everything will carry on as before. That she and I haven’t had an awful falling out and we don’t hate each other, but that in order for me to be the woman I need to be, we need to live apart. And the really amazing thing is that all Amy’s prior fearful reaction to the prospect of her parents divorcing pretty much evaporated, to be replaced by enthusiasm bordering on excitement. She knows I’ll still be in and out of the house, and that it is absolutely non-negotiable that she and her sister will have a bedroom (maybe shared) in my new house too, and that they can even help me decide where to live and come to view houses with me.
I explained a few other things, like how all these hitherto unnamed friends with whom I have been spending so much time in recent years are in fact all women (some trans*, some cis) and that they only know me as a woman. That I have recently begun electrolysis for beard removal, explaining why I was sitting there with three days’ growth on my chin. At this point Amy went up to her room and came down again 30 seconds later clutching some “Pro Base Prime & Conceal”. She handed it to me and suggested that I might find it useful for beard cover. Hang on, my daughter is giving me makeup? Did that really just happen? Amy is in fact a little bit obsessed with makeup. Her Christmas list consisted of about £175 worth of cosmetics with a few items of clothing thrown in for good measure (including the infamous and tongue twisting Long Sleeve Twist Front Top Shop Crop Top). She has promised to help me with my makeup – she is amazingly good at doing her eyes in particular.
So I told her that I was going to have to change my name, because I couldn’t continue to be “Bob” if I was going to be a woman. She asked, and I told her what my name was going to be. This then lead us on to the big question of what she and her sister are going to call me once I go full-time. I said, truthfully, that I genuinely don’t mind if they continue to call me Daddy at home, but I wouldn’t want to be walking round trying to look as feminine as possible only to have Amy yell “Daddy!” at me across a crowded supermarket.
“Yes, that wouldn’t be great would it?” Amy replied “And also, if we keep calling you Daddy then my sister will let it slip when we’re outside so best just to stop. We could just call you Kirsty?”
“I’m not sure about that” I replied. “I’m still your parent. You can’t call me Mummy. Your mummy will continue to be Mummy and I can’t be that”
“No, I wouldn’t want that” added Mrs K
“OK then” said Amy “Mummy is Mummy. You can be Mum.”
I turned to Mrs K and asked how she would feel about that. She is definitely Mummy and the kids never call her Mum. She indicated that she wouldn’t mind this at all. So that’s settled then. I genuinely thought that this was going to be a problem to which we would never find a solution that everyone agreed upon. Amy solved it in about 20 seconds. Clever girl. So I will be Mum. I like it.
Over the last few years Amy has said several things that have given me pause for thought, made me wonder if she suspected something. I asked if she had any idea. No, not an inkling. Why would she? Well, I had thought that at the very least she might have had a root round the cupboards and wardrobes prior to Christmas on the hunt for presents. One would not have had to search very far to uncover a range of side 8/9 women’s shoes and several skirts and dresses that are way to big for Mrs K. But apparently not. Mrs K asked Amy if she had never noticed my female clothing sitting out to dry (as I wrote about not that long ago) but apparently not. Puzzlingly, Amy said that if she saw items of clothing that were too big for her, she would just assume that they belonged to her mummy. This despite the fact that Amy is in fact 3 or 4 inches taller than Mrs K. But this is of course a relatively recent development so her subconscious hasn’t quite caught up yet. I asked if she didn’t wonder if these clothes were Mummy’s, why had she never seen Mummy wearing them? Amy’s reply was great;
“Two reasons. Firstly, I basically just sit in my room all the time. Secondly, even though I do well in my school exams, I’m really pretty stupid about everything else.”
So there you go, a complete surprise. And she never noticed me coming home smelling of perfume, or with traces of makeup on my face or nail varnish on my nails, even though Mrs K thought it was blatantly obvious. Of course it was only obvious because she knew.
There was a lot more conversation about the family, and the big thing was that all three of us will be involved in telling the youngest member of the family. Having Amy on-board and so positive about my transition is going to be invaluable, because her little sister really does look up to her and wants to be like her, so hopefully where Amy leads she will follow.
Finally, before Amy went to get ready for bed, I said that she didn’t have to meet the new me just yet, but when she was ready she could see photos of me. But she said
“I don’t mind. I’ll have a look now. I’d better see what starting point you’re at before I train you up in how to do makeup properly.”
So I showed her that same selfie I had texted to Pete a month or so back. Her reply?
“You look really nice. I love your hair.”
“Thanks. Well, it’s not really my hair. Well it is mine, I mean I paid for it, but you know what I mean”
We both laughed. Around a year or so back Amy got a pixie cut which was very nice, but she got frustrated at not being able to do anything with it, so she is in the process of growing her hair back out again. She must have had a moment of realisation that I was going to have to grow my own hair, and her face lit up and she blurted out
“We can grow our hair out together!”
In fact I’d be happy to have my hair the length hers is now, kind of shoulder length. But we will, as she said, be growing our hair together.
So off she went to bed. As she was going, I have her a massive hug and said “Thank you Amy”. She just said a simple “It’s OK” and off she went. Mrs K turned to me and said
“Well, I can’t imagine how that could possibly have gone any better”
It would appear not. In fact, it seems as if she is much more at ease with the situation as it is than if her parents were getting divorced in a more run-of-the-mill manner. I’m realistic enough to know that there could be a delayed reaction as other thoughts occur to her, but it’s pretty unlikely that this will result in a full-scale reversal of opinion. Maybe some reservations will occur to her, but we can deal with those.
Forward to Sunday afternoon. I had arranged to go out with Andrea in the expectation that I might need a friend to do some soul-searching with. As it happened, it was more to do some celebrating with. But Amy was also going out with a few of her friends, to see a film in Belfast, so I gave her a lift into town on my way up to the Butterfly Club to get ready. Except for the first time ever, I didn’t have to lie to her about where I was going or what I was doing or who I was meeting. It felt great. And the conversation in the car was just as positive as it had been the previous night. The subject returned to makeup, and I told her I wished I could do eyeliner as well as she does. She gave me a few tips. I have a liquid eyeliner brand to try – when I have tried liquid eyeliner before it’s been like ink on blotting paper, but she reckons the brand she uses won’t do that and is brilliant for a nice sharp edge and a good flick at the end. I will report back if it is successful.
I said to her “You’ll have to take me to Claire’s to get my ears pierced”. What I forgot, of course, was that her ears are no longer pierced. She got them done when she was 9, but the grammar school that she attends do not permit any jewellery to be worn as part of their uniform code. So once she turned 12 and started going there, it didn’t take too many consecutive nights of her forgetting to put the earrings back in again when she got home, for the holes to close over. This lead Amy to a plan. Come the end of this school year (which is late June in Northern Ireland) the two of us are going to go and get our ears pierced together! How great is that?
I went out with Andrea and we had a lovely afternoon. I got another dress for work in the January sale in M&S (£49 reduced to £13.99) and we had a nice meal together afterwards. I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Andrea who I’m sure would give here eye teeth to have had a similar reaction from her daughter, but she was so thrilled for me anyway.
While Andrea and I were sitting in the hotel bar waiting for our meals to arrive, I was seized with an idea. I dropped an email to Mrs K.
“Now that Amy knows about me, would it be ok if I came home as me tonight, without getting changed?”
We got through the entire meal without me getting a response. We had just parted and I was on my way back up to the Butterfly Club when I got the response, which was less negative than I had expected.
“Not sure. It might be too much too soon for Amy”
So I thought, why not just ask Amy? So I did. I texted her
“Amy I’m coming home soon. Should I get changed first? Up to you. It’s ok if you want me to get changed, I just thought I’d ask”
And the reply came back quickly
“I don’t mind just do whatever you’re comfortable with”
So after a quick call to Mrs K to confirm that she was comfortable with this, and an arrangement that she would leave the back door unlocked in order to minimise the chances of being seen by the neighbours, she agreed. And I was on my way home, as me, for the first time ever.
I came in the back and made my way to the foot of the stairs. I called up to Amy and she slowly made her way down. She looked at me from about 5 stairs up and just had a big beaming smile on her face.
“You look… nice. I like your lipstick, where’s that from?”
“It’s Boots No7.”
“What shade? I might try some”
And then we had a chat about getting the skin tone test done in Boots (which I had taken her to get done on her 13th birthday) and how they then recommend different lipstick shades depending upon what foundation colour is your match. The conversation felt entirely natural, but I must admit I still felt very awkward. Because this was really happening. Here I was, in front of her, almost exactly 24 hours after she found out, and she was great. Amy and Kirsty. Amy and Mum. Here we are.We chatted a bit more. About how my niece (Amy’s cousin) got married a few months back and when I took Amy to buy a handbag to match her wedding outfit the first one she had picked was one that I already own, and I had had to steer her away from it because it would have been just too weird (she agreed). Seeing if she remembered that when she was picking her shoes for the wedding (really nice stone canvas slingback with a small platform and about a 4″ heel) there were court shoes in the same material in size 9, and she had said that I should try them on. Well a couple of days later I did try them on, and bought them. I pulled them out of my wardrobe and put them on. She said “So this means that you and I can both walk in heels and Mummy can’t? Brilliant!”
I had better cut it short there. This is already an extremely long post, but I’m sure you get the idea that I’m so happy with how things have gone. There are a lot more hurdles to overcome, but this always felt like the scariest one. With Amy on side, her sister will be easier to deal with. With both of them on side, my siblings will be easier to deal with. And now my biggest fear is out of the way, I can move on with everything else and start the process for coming out in work. I’d probably better give Belfast GIC a call too, try to find out when I can expect my first appointment. It is now six months since I was told it would be about six months, so I’m ready and waiting.
Things are getting interesting.