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After a rather seismic weekend for my siblings, I have spent much of the last week dealing with the aftershocks.  But by and large, they have been good aftershocks.  The most noticeable thing that has happened is that my nieces and nephews have been hearing my news from their parents.  As I mentioned in my last post, three of my four siblings have kids of their own, all of whom are adults themselves.  My youngest nephew is 22, and the eldest 41, ironically enough, both children of the same sister, Patsy.  Of course with me being very much the youngest of five siblings, my kids are also much younger than their cousins, at 14 and 7.

I mentioned last week that I had received a lovely text from my sister Patsy (the third one to be told) as I drove to my brother John’s house (fourth and final one to be told), asking to forward her some photos so she could show her kids.  Patsy has four kids, as does my sister Hilary, and my brother John has three.  John’s three all live in England, so he said he would prefer to tell them to their faces next time they are home to visit, which does happen quite often.  Hilary’s only son is currently away on a winter holiday with his girlfriend, so he’ll find out about me when he returns.  That leaves seven nieces and nephews (actually six nieces and one nephew) who have already been told by their parents.  Every single one of them has contacted me within a day of me disclosing the news to offer their love and support.  If you don’t mind I’m going to give a selection of a few extracts from each because yet again I have been overwhelmed with how supportive everyone is being.

First up was my eldest niece, also Patsy’s eldest, just after 8pm on Sunday evening

Hi Bob, just want to let you know that mum had told me your news.  Seriously I support you 100%, I’m forever in your corner.  Can’t wait to see the new you!…

…I think you are so brave and you totally have my support.  We’ll always be there for you.  Gran (her Gran, my Mum) would be so proud of you!!

An hour later Patsy’s youngest daughter texted

Hi Bob.  I just wanted you to let u know that we are here for u and fully support you in your transition and this next chapter in life.  Phone updated to Auntie K!  Hilary’s got competition for fave aunt now! Xxx

That last sentence was particularly amusing because her dad also has three sisters who obviously don’t get a look-in in the “fave aunt” stakes.

Next up, another 45 minutes later, the middle one of Patsy’s three daughters texted.

…I am so happy you are making this positive move for yourself and we are all here to support you.  I think it’s incredibly brave what you are doing.  ❤️ always

And that was that for the evening.  On Monday, Hilary’s daughters all contacted me.  First up, her youngest.

Hi Bob.  My mum told me your news about Kirsty.  I won’t lie… it did come as a bit of a surprise!  None of us had any idea!  I can’t imagine how difficult the last few years must have been for you and of course [Mrs K].  This is a really brave decision and one that you must have agonised over.  My mum and all the rest of us are 100% on board and behind you.  This is only the start and the next few months are going to be equally as exciting as they will be bloody terrifying.  The [family name] girls are a strong bunch so you’ll fit right in!  Can’t wait to get to know my Auntie Kirsty.

Then came the middle daughter.  I had emailed Hilary the previous day from my “Kirsty” email address, so this must have been disseminated because for the first time this one came in to that email address and addressed my by my new name.

Hi Kirsty, Mum told me your news today – congratulations on taking this step and embracing who you are.  Wishing you every happiness, with my love and support.

And then her elder sister, to Bob’s email.  I’m not reading too much into that.

Dear Bob…  I think you are very brave and I want to send you all the best wishes for the journey ahead.  I had to google transgender because I wanted to find out more and see that this transition period is a huge step.  It is fantastic that you have such support in Amy and [Mrs K].  I can’t imagine how hard it has been for you.  I look forward to meeting and having Kirsty here in May.

May being, of course, when I (really me) am going to the Bob Dylan concert with her mum and staying with them overnight.

Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted that by Monday night I had heard exclusively from nieces, with no male responses.  I have always found it a bit more awkward discussing matters trans* with men, because when telling another woman, I’m saying “I want to be like you”, but when telling a man it’s more like saying “I don’t want to be like you”.  Anyway, as I was walking round to get the car out of the car park after work on Tuesday I received a text from my youngest nephew that put that notion to bed.  In fact, by the time I had read it I was walking along sniffing and dabbing my eyes.

Hi Kirsty, it’s [name] here.  I have to say I have so much admiration for you.  You are without a doubt the bravest person I know and your mental strength must be incredible!  Looking forward to having a new auntie 🙂

So that’s that.  I genuinely am blown away by the love, support and acceptance I have been receiving from my family and friends.  I am so very lucky to have them all.

In work on Friday my line manager Beth took me into a side office to update me on her discussions with HR about my transition.  And the news is that there are two HR people dealing with it.  One will deal with it from a business perspective, principally client-focused, who tells them, what are they told etc.  The other will deal with it from a more personal perspective, i.e. ensuring that I have the support that I need.  And that second person (called Kelly) is the one who has been doing a bit of research over the last few weeks, the result of which is that I am the first transitioner in my company, which has over 10,000 employees!  That’s quite surprising to me.  But someone has to be the first, it might as well be me.  Beth calls me a “trailblazer”.

In the course of her research with Head Office in Dublin, Kelly discovered that the company were very much aware that they were lacking an official policy for trans employees.  We do actually have a policy for dealing with trans clients, but not staff, and very strong and empathetic it is too.  But no policy for trans staff.  It seems it has been loitering on the company’s “to do” list for a while, but me coming out has forced their hand.  The upshot of this is that the plan that I work out with Beth and with HR is going to form the basis of company policy for trans staff.  And HR want to be guided by me in what is required.  It’s quite a responsibility to those who come after me.  But I suppose it’s quite a good way to make policy, to actually develop it in consultation with an actual trans person, rather than making it up based upon theory only.  My first official transition planning meeting with HR takes place at 12.30 on Tuesday afternoon this week.  I’m quite looking forward to it.

Going back to family, there is another family-related development this week, because one sibling has now met their new sister!  It happened yesterday afternoon.  Patsy had texted me during the week to see how I was doing after a stressful but rewarding weekend.  She lives pretty close to me, so in my reply I suggested that I could drop round on Saturday afternoon, and so that’s what happened.  In fact, Saturday was great because I got up and got dressed in female clothing, did my make up, and stayed that way until bedtime.  Amy and I had a wee shopping trip together to a local shopping mall for an hour after lunch, and then the two of us dropped up to Patsy’s house.

It strikes me that it’s quite a long time since I wrote about clothing on this blog, or specifically about what I was wearing on a given day, but on this occasion I was actually in a bit of a quandary about what to wear.  First impressions do count, and it felt very important to me to strike the right note.  I didn’t want to overdress for what was just a Saturday afternoon coffee and chat with my sister, but at the same time I didn’t want to tone it down so much that I lost what little femininity I can muster.  And I absolutely wanted to avoid any sort of inappropriate clothing faux pas which would make me look like some tragic TV.  I think (hope?) I managed ok.  In the end I wore a peachy long top (it’s actually a mini-dress but it barely covers my bum) with a dark blue floral scarf, along with dark blue floral patterned jeans and suede block heeled ankle boots.  I actually felt very strongly that I shouldn’t wear a skirt or dress, because that is such a clichéd view of what a woman wears, and I wanted it to be evident that I dress like any other woman and not as some fantasy version of what I think a woman should dress like.

Amy and I knocked the door and Patsy came to let us in.  It was less awkward than I had expected.  She just took me as I was and complimented me on how I looked.  She even admired the floral jeans.  She told me that I was very lucky to look as feminine as I do, and recounted a tale of some trans* person she had seen in a Belfast shopping mall a few weeks ago.  Probably in their 60’s, sizeable beer belly, wearing an unfashionable top, extremely unfashionable shoes and a dirndl skirt, swinging a handbag and walking like John Wayne.  She says she felt so sorry for “him” because people were nudging each other and sniggering.  Her big fear when I first told her I was trans was that I would be like that.  The photos that I showed her helped a lot, she said, and meeting me in the flesh helped more.  She told me “Nobody will laugh at you.  In fact, nobody will give you a second glance.”  Sadly, the John Waynes of the trans* world are every bit as entitled as anyone else to live as who they are, but people can be very cruel.

At this point my brother-in-law Frank returned from the golf club.  I was a little apprehensive, but Patsy assured me that he was absolutely fine with all this.  He came into the room and immediately hugged Amy, then hugged me.  He has never hugged me in his life.  But he wouldn’t hug another man, would he?  And he then carried on with his conversation in exactly the same way as he always has done.  All is good.  In fact, all is great.  I should also add a very kind offer from the pair of them which I sincerely hope I don’t have to take up.  I am estimating that I should be full time around June by which point I will hopefully have sorted out my new home.  But they both said that if it drags on longer than expected, and I can’t face extending Bob any further, their kids have all left home now so there is a bedroom there for me if I need it for a while, and I can move in with them for a month or two and be Kirsty full time.  I hope it isn’t necessary, but it is so touching to be given that option.

I dropped Amy home and after a quick trip into the house myself for a toilet break and to swap my boots and spotty socks for some slightly more glamorous heels, I drove over to Hillsborough to meet Andrea for a wee night out.  We had a meal at the Hillside in Hillsborough, where she had a portion of fish that featured more bones than meat, and she let the waiting staff know this fact when they asked how her meal was.  By way of an apology, dessert was on the house!  Even my dessert, and my main course was perfectly fine!  Then it was on to the cinema to watch “Lion”, which left us a pair of tear-soaked emotional wrecks.  Very enjoyable indeed.

As I was sitting in the cinema, I got a text from Patsy.

Great to see you and great to feel so comfortable with you.  Looking forward to seeing you again soon.

When I got home, I heard that she had also phoned Mrs K, to tell her how much she admired her for the way she is dealing with my transition, and reminding her that even after the divorce she would still be part of the family and would always be welcome in her home.  She’s a lovely woman, my sister.

In fact they’re all great.