It has been another busy week on Planet Kirsty, with a few tales to relate. This is less introspective than last time round, but perhaps at the stage I am at now I realise that everything I do seems to take on a great significance as I approach my full time date.
As I hinted last time round, on Saturday last weekend I took my kids out for a late lunch at Ed’s Bar & Grill in Lisburn, somewhere I have been in the past with Michelle and occasionally Andrea, but which has now become a family favourite. My elder daughter Amy has been out with me several times now, so much so that it no longer seems like an “occasion” when we are out together. But this was Melissa’s first time out in public with the new me. I don’t mind admitting that I was a little bit apprehensive as to how it would go. As so often seems to be the case, I needn’t have worried. She was just her usual little self. I’m so proud of them both. Incidentally, the last couple of times I have been to Ed’s with the kids, they have put us at a table with a TV/DVD player at the end, and the kids can go and pick from a huge selection of DVDs to watch while they are eating. Well this time we were at a table with no TV. Great, I thought, we can have a conversation. No. The waiter came along and produced two 7-inch tablets preloaded with a load of games and access to Netflix. I think the most annoying thing was that I didn’t get one.
After the meal we walked across to the nearby cinema, where we met Andrea outside. Amy and Andrea had met before, but this was the first time Andrea had met my little daughter. I’m so proud of these two girls and I’m so thankful that they are still a huge part of my life when I feared that they might react badly to news of my transition. I think Melissa took a little bit of a shine to Andrea. Anyway, we were there to see the new live-action Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson in the lead role (or “Hermione”, as Melissa insists on calling her). It was… ok. I much preferred the live-action Cinderella that Disney produced a couple of years ago, but it was a pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours. The four of us went for a coffee afterwards, or a hot chocolate with marshmallows for the little ‘un. Auntie Andrea even got a hug from Melissa as we were leaving. A very nice little afternoon and early evening out, so much the better because it’s an indicator that a good family life is still possible, that my girls and I will continue to be as close as ever, if not closer than before.
I had a bit of a different outing on Tuesday. I went tenpin bowling with a bunch of the girls from the SAIL support group that I had visited a few weeks earlier. On this occasion everyone who came (and I hubristically include myself in this number) were at the more presentable end of the scale, although I suppose when you’re going to public places like that we may become something of a self-selecting group. Claire and Karen, both of whom I had been chatting with before, were there again, as well as a few other familiar faces. There was however one unfamiliar face. A rather male looking face, perched atop a male body in a three-piece suit. This person, a part-timer like myself, had agreed to come and then realised that due to a work commitment there was no time to change so had just come as Bob. That’s not something I could do, but if she’s comfortable like that then that’s ok.
I ended up having a bit of a talk with this person (whom I learned was another Karen) and among the other chat she mentioned that she was having weekly electrolysis sessions. Me too. Who was I going to, she asked. Lynda Fisher. She was too! What day did I go? Thursdays. She was too! What time are my appointments? 5.15pm. Hers are an hour, 4pm to 5pm. We have been 15 minutes apart for 3 months. In fact, it seems very likely that we have passed each other in the waiting room. So Karen resolved that this time she was going to hang around after her session finished to say hello to me. I said that I would look rather different, and she said that’s fine – for her maybe! Anyway, a quick fast forward to Thursday afternoon and I arrived bang on time for my session to find that Lynda was running late (again!) so I was already there when Karen came out. Despite my reservations about a Bob-on-Bob chat, we genuinely had a really good talk for 15 minutes waiting for my appointment. I look forward to many more in the weeks to come.
Back to Tuesday night. The bowling was a lot of fun, and the platters of finger food that we were brought by the staff were piled high with chicken pieces, onion rings, garlic bread, potato wedges and lots of dips. After the bowling we moved to a table and sat on for another 45 minutes or so talking away. I think I’m starting to understand who these people are, and as with any group there are some people whose company I enjoy, and others who are less on my wavelength. So I will be back again at SAIL in another couple of weeks.
Update number 3 comes from Friday in work. As I had also mentioned last time round, Beth, Kelly and I had realised that it was time to bring my “big boss” into the loop about my transition, my head of department Fred. I was quite nervous about this, I just didn’t know what to expect. Beth was very confident that he would be fine, and I suppose given recent experiences I thought he was probably be ok, but you just never know till it happens do you? Beth had put an appointment into Fred’s diary for half an hour on Friday afternoon, but given the subject matter she was being very cagey about it all. I read her meeting request, and it just said that she had been working on a policy matter with Kelly from HR, and they thought it was time that he was brought into the loop on what was being discussed. This sat in Fred’s diary for four days and poor Beth got quite a grilling over that time. What was this policy matter? Couldn’t she give him a hint? Why can’t she give him a hint? Why do HR have to tell him? What is the problem? Is something wrong? Beth, to her credit, held firm. All she said was that it was something that HR had to inform him about, and not to worry because nobody was sick, nobody was leaving, and nobody had done anything wrong. So to say Fred was intrigued was putting it mildly.
Around an hour before this meeting, Beth and I sat down with Kelly to go through what she was going to say. Essentially, she had written herself a script covering all the salient points, but in a very general way. Her script was basically a modified version of one of the letters that I had drafted for informing colleagues in a more general circulation much nearer to my full time date. Kelly was keen to stress that her “script” was really a crib sheet to make sure she covered everything, and that it wasn’t going to sound as stilted as it did when she read it out to us. Just to be clear, I was not part of this meeting and I had no desire to be part of this meeting. However, Fred’s office is immediately behind my desk. If he opens his office door I am the closest person to him. So while Kelly made it clear in her script that I had asked them to tell him about my transition, she was also going to say that I was happy to speak to him after the event. Anyway, the real purpose of Beth and I sitting down with Kelly was not to give a critique of her spiel, I’m comfortable enough with her now to feel happy that she “gets it”. No, it was so that if Fred called me into his office, I would know how much he had been told. And that “how much”, is not very much. The idea was not to blind him with a huge deluge of information, Memorandum of Understanding, Transition Plan and Schedule, draft communications, awareness training etc. It was more just, “Bob is transgender, will become Kirsty, will remain in the same job, don’t worry we’ve got it all in hand.” Give him a few days to process the basic facts before hitting him with the detail. Seems reasonable.
As the hour of the meeting arrived I was in situ at my desk working. Kelly came on to the floor, nodded conspiratorially at me, and went into Fred’s office quickly followed by Beth, who closed the door behind her. Let’s just say I didn’t get a huge amount of work done in that half hour. I was waiting for the door to open and for one of them to say “Bob, can you join us for a minute?” but it never happened. At two o’clock, the door opened and all three of them emerged, and Fred left the floor to go to his next meeting without saying a word. And I just kept my head down over a bunch of files at the time, I didn’t even want to look him in the eye. But once he and Kelly had gone, Beth looked across at me and asked “Bob, do you want to have a chat?”, nodding toward one of the side office meeting rooms. I got up and followed her, something which I am sure did not go unnoticed by my colleagues Graham and the soon to be retired Arthur.
The short version of what Beth had to say? It’s all good. He says he’s very happy for me that I feel able to transition and I will have all the support that I need. He listened carefully, asked some sensible questions, but was nothing but supportive. It was good to hear, but it would be nice to hear it from him.
He returned to the office around an hour later, and carried on like nothing happened. He was discussing work-related matters with Graham and with me, and he was talking away the same as he always does. But I knew that he knew. And he knew that I knew that he knew. Etc. But really, what could he say? Nothing, in that environment. I didn’t get anything from him until just as I was leaving. I had had a busy day, and by the time I came to leave, Graham and Arthur had already departed, so I was just saying goodbye to Fred and he gave the his customary “Alright, boy?” greeting. It’s force of habit. But then he said;
“It’s all ok you know. Everything’s good. Don’t be worrying. Maybe we’ll get a chat next week, go for a coffee?”
“Yeah, that’d be nice”
“How’s your diary?”
“Wednesday’s clearest for me”
“Great, we’ll go for a coffee on Wednesday and we can have a talk. But it’s all good, you have nothing to worry about”
“Thanks Fred. See you next week then”
He’s really going to have to stop saying that to me.