I started off my last post noting how my transition is starting to take on a momentum all of its own. That momentum has continued to grow in recent days, leading up to another significant disclosure, one which has worried me for a while. Disclosure to the younger of my two daughters, who is called Melissa. Yes, it’s time to name her too, although because she’s only 7 years old I’ll not be posting any photos of her on here. Mrs K will remain Mrs K – it would actually seem odd to refer to her by her given name on this blog, although when we actually separate I suppose I’ll have to think of some alternative nomenclature.
Mrs K and I both took Wednesday off work in order to take care of a few things. First of all we had a morning appointment with the headmaster of Melissa’s primary school. When we told Amy about my transition, I did ask her if this is something I should discuss with her headmaster (she is at “big school”) but Amy didn’t see the need. She felt she had no issues with the transition, and she has now told four of her friends, all of whom seem to be fine with it. She’s certainly not getting teased or bullied. Melissa, on the other hand, well I thought it was best to forewarn the school. At her age one can’t expect her to just not mention what she was going to be told in school, and teaching staff will need to know what’s going on if my transition ends up being the subject of discussion among a bunch of 6 and 7 year olds. So at the end of the previous week I had emailed the head to set up this meeting. I didn’t say exactly what it was, just that there would be some significant and dramatic changes at home that Melissa was going to find out about at the weekend, and it wasn’t something I was comfortable disclosing on email or telephone. So at 9.15am on Wednesday morning, Mrs K and I found ourselves sitting on a bench outside the principal’s office waiting to be called in.
It has been pointed out to me that every “coming out” conversation gets easier than the last. I’d qualify that slightly in that the difficulty of the conversation also depends upon just how much one has emotionally and practically invested in the person being told. Which is a roundabout way of saying that coming out to Melissa’s headmaster was fine. As with the Amy conversation, we first told him that we were going to be splitting up, but that wasn’t why we came to see him. I’m sure he has plenty of experience with kids whose parents are separating. I explained the real reason, and that we really wanted to make sure that relevant staff in the school were prepared for Melissa potentially being upset or confused when she returns to school after the weekend, or at the very least they could be ready to deal with any questions that her friends might have if Melissa decided to tell them. As it turned out, the head was quite relieved when I told him. Based upon my rather guarded email he had feared that one of us had a terminal illness, so maybe transitioning isn’t the worst thing that could happen.
The headmaster took a few details about when things were going to be happening, a few sources of information that he might want to check out to familiarise himself with what might be involved, but by and large he took the news in his stride, and was supportive of both us and Melissa. Amy went to the same school and he still remembers her, so we told him that she already knew, and how she has reacted to the news, and he was very appreciative of just what a help Amy could be in helping Melissa deal with the news. So after lots of chat which was all very good and supportive of everyone, we left feeling quite happy with how that had gone. I had also pointed out to him that one of his teachers is also our next door neighbour, and so if he was telling the staff to bear in mind that she knows me as a neighbour as well as a parent, and that he should tell her that I am happy to talk to her about my transition any time she wants to ask. We’ll see if anything comes of that.
The afternoon was a slightly different matter. Mrs K and I had an appointment with a mortgage broker. I had spoken to the broker the previous week to arrange the appointment, and I had just explained that we were separating and needed a remortgage for Mrs K and a new mortgage for me. I didn’t mention, and still haven’t mentioned my transition at all. I’m not sure it’s any of the broker’s business really, because I won’t be full time until I actually move into my new place, so everything in advance of that needs to be done as Bob. Of course that brings in additional complications with how I present when going to view possible new homes, but maybe that’s a discussion for the estate agent rather than the mortgage broker. I think the broker was slightly taken aback that a divorcing couple were coming in together, and indeed I asked Mrs K if she would prefer to go separately, but she is what you might call financially unsophisticated and since I work in financial services (and in fact have been a mortgage advisor in a bank branch around 15 years ago) she trusts me enough to be her guide through the process. Plus of course it’s in my own best interests for her to get as good a deal as possible.
It was quite a scary hour that we spent with the broker. Essentially what we were doing was showing off the bank statements and payslips so that we could work out just how much of a lump sum Mrs K is going to be able to pay me, how much that deposit will enable me to secure on my own mortgage, and how much the repayments on both will be. Let’s just say that I’m having to set my house hunting sights a little lower than I had hoped. And even then, neither of us is going to be very wealthy, although we will get by. It could be worse. When I think about other people I know (naming no names) who maybe have a nicer home but no access to their kids after transitioning, well I’d choose my situation every single time. I can just forget about holidays for a few years.
Thursday came and I was back into work again. I had no sooner sat at my desk than Beth came over and said “Can I have a quick word please Bob?”. I followed her into a side office, the same one where I had told her of my transition plans two days previously. It turns out she had been to HR on my behalf on Wednesday while I was sitting with the mortgage broker. The person who deals with our department is known as our “HR Partner” (gotta love that corporate terminology) and she is called Juliet. So Beth had got through her normal business with Juliet and then at the end said she had something else to discuss. Juliet apparently didn’t flinch when she was told, it was just another HR matter to deal with. First of all she was trying to work out just who I was, then figured it out when Beth explained where I sit. Beth passed her the bare-bones MoU that I had passed to her on Tuesday, and they agreed that it was a very useful document in covering what was going to happen. But the message coming back to me via Beth was that Juliet was going to go away and do some research to find out what the legal requirements are, and to go to head office to see if there is any official company protocols for dealing with transitioning staff. She was pretty confident that I was the first person in the company in Northern Ireland to transition, I work for an Irish company that trades throughout the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain too, so it is possible someone else has transitioned elsewhere in the company. Once she has done her research, Juliet, Beth and I will sit down together to start fleshing out the MoU. I hinted to Beth that I would like to have quite a bit of meat on the bones of the MoU by the time my first GIC appointment comes around on 28th February, which she seemed to think should be easily achievable. However for all that the overarching message is that the company and HR are happy to be take their lead from me. They don’t want to tell me what I have to do to achieve my transition, they want me to tell them what’s going to happen and as long as there are no objections, that is what will happen. As Beth put it, “Ultimately we are here to work, and so we need make sure that you get the best support and the best environment for you to be able to work well. It’s in the company’s interests for this transition to go really smoothly”. And then Beth dropped another piece of information about Juliet. She has a trans nephew. Born in a female body, he is now a teenager and attends school in Belfast as a boy. Could there really be a better HR Partner for me to be going to with this?
Beth and I had a bit more of a general chat. We both agreed it was best not to tell our head of department (Beth’s line manager, so 2 up from me) until the MoU was all agreed. In Beth’s words “He’s a bit of a flapper, so best make sure everything is resolved before bringing him in”. Not that she or I think he will have a problem with me being trans, but he’d be running round like the proverbial headless chicken with all sorts of random suggestions and generally making things harder rather than easier even if it would be with the best of intentions. Beth got a little emotional again too, dabbing her eyes as she imagined how long I have been thinking about this, and what a brave act coming out is.
And so to the big emotional climax to this post. Telling Melissa. It only happened this afternoon, and it was surprisingly short. When I told Amy I probably did about 3000 words. Melissa will only take a few paragraphs. We had decided that we would have the conversation in the late afternoon after it started to get dark, so as to lessen the chance of one of her friends interrupting us by calling for Melissa. So at around 5.15 Mrs K and I called both Melissa and Amy down into the living room. Amy knew what was happening and was there for support. Obviously with Melissa being so much younger than her sister, a 7-year-old needs different language to describe what is happening. This time I did all the talking for the initial disclosure. I kept it as simple as I could. Mrs K called Melissa over to sit between the two of us on the settee, and I told her;
“Ever since I was very young, maybe even younger than you are now, I always really really wished I could be a girl. I still really really want to be a girl, and being a boy makes me feel sad. I don’t want to feel sad any more so I’m going to stop being a boy and I’m going to become a girl.”
I added a bit on to the end about how it wouldn’t happen for another few months, and she would always be my princess and I will always love her and look after her. She got up from her seat, looked at me with a smile and said;
“But you’ll still be the same person”.
Then she gave me a huge hug. And after me, she gave her mummy a huge hug too. Then we got to what was probably the more difficult disclosure for her. I told her that when I became a girl I was going to have to live somewhere else, but it wouldn’t be far away and she and Amy would live with me half the time and with their mummy half the time, and they would have their own bedroom in my house, and it would be their house just as much as the house they live in at the minute with both parents. She struggled a little bit with this, but then Amy came to the rescue, asking Melissa how she wanted to decorate her new bedroom, and what colour she wanted the walls, and if they had to share could they get a bunk bed and Amy could have the top bunk? This instantly animated Melissa again as the good points of having two homes sank in.
I told Melissa that I would have to change my name, and Mrs K interjected that Melissa could continue to call me Daddy if she liked. Melissa was having none of that, with a swift “No” with a tone of voice that clearly said “Don’t be so ridiculous”. So Mrs K repeated Amy’s suggestion that she remains “Mummy” and I become “Mum”. Melissa seems on board with that, although she is finding the whole thing a bit weird. I think it’s going to take weeks and months for this to settle in, but so far so good. The conversation largely ended there, although it subsequently picked up again when I told her what my name will be, which was quite funny. After I told her my new name she asked “Will your middle name still be Andrew?” No dear, it won’t. But my surname is definitely not changing, which she seemed greatly relieved by.
As I had done with Amy, I asked her if she wanted to see a photo, and she eagerly agreed. I showed her the same one I had initially shown Amy, which was a selfie taken at the Butterfly Club, and Melissa’s reaction was pretty good. She smiled and said “you look nice”, but in fact she seemed more interested in working out where the picture had been taken, so I had to explain the concept of a support group. I also showed her the picture of Amy and me together, which was fine for her until I told her that it was taken exactly where she and I were sitting, and that she was in bed when it was taken. She literally did a little jaw-drop that this was going on in the house while she was in it! So I then asked her the big question;
“Do you think you’d be ok if you saw me looking like that or do you think it might upset you?”
“I’d be ok. Why would I be upset?”
So that’s that. Next step is clearly Melissa meets Mum, but I suspect that’s a few weeks away. I just need to take things a lot more slowly with Melissa than I did with Amy, but I’m pretty confident that we’ll get there.
Next up, siblings and in-laws. Actually, Mrs K is going to tell her parents and brother and I’m not even going to be there when it happens. She is worried how they will react, but to be honest once Mrs K told me she wanted a divorce her parents ceased to be my concern. My siblings though, that’s going to be a challenge. Even though I’m 46, I’m still very much the baby of the family. My siblings range from 61 to 66 years old, so even though they are literally my generation, they’re not really. Most of my nieces and nephews are closer in age to me than their parents are, and I’m hoping that they will help their parents deal with their little brother becoming their little sister. To be honest the hardest thing about telling the siblings is going to be logistics. I have a sister a couple of miles away, a brother about 15 miles away, and the other brother and sister in the Republic of Ireland about 120 and 150 miles away respectively. It’s wouldn’t be fair to tell one and expect them to keep it to themselves for any significant length of time, but at the same time I think I owe it to my siblings to tell them face to face. That is probably going to happen next weekend, and it’s probably going to mean a lot of driving to get the two distant ones covered in a day. But once that’s out of the way and Mrs K has done her piece, I will be out to the following;
- Bob’s closest friends
- Mrs K
- Both daughters
- Younger daughter’s school
- My four siblings
- Line manager and HR in work
And as far as I’m concerned, that pretty much covers everyone I need to tell face to face. These people are the reason why we try to “manage the message”. Nearly there.