OK so it looks like this occasional blogging is becoming extremely occasional. When I removed all of the old blog dealing with my trans journey, I did mention that from time to time I would still deal with my transition when there was something to report. Well guess what? I have something to report. Quite a few things in fact.
I have been living full time as a woman for almost eleven months now. My life is moving on well. My daughters are alternating weeks between me and my ex, and it is working out very well. My elder daughter Amy has managed to get herself a boyfriend and I am pleased to say she is ok enough with my transition that she has brought him round here to visit a few times. There’s no embarrassment on either of their parts about me being a trans woman, which is fabulous. In fact, he was round at my house last weekend. The weather was great, which meant we were able to sit out on the decking and have a barbecue, just the four of us – both daughters, Amy’s boyfriend and me. It was a really enjoyable evening and I felt quite the matriarch.
In work, things are going very well. I’m not going to go into details about anybody in particular, but I continue to be involved with the company LGBT+ committee and indeed with the wider Inclusion and Diversity agenda. In fact, I am proud to say that I am playing my part in driving that agenda. I am part of a working group working towards my employer’s first ever official presence at Belfast Pride, the largest Pride on the island of Ireland with 55,000 marchers last year and hopefully even more this year. I do get annoyed when I hear Pride “old hands” moaning about how it is becoming more corporate, and these businesses are only in it for the money. I have no reason to doubt that other business’ experience is similar to ours, in that it is being entirely driven by people within the organisation who are passionate about expressing their Pride in their identity and ally colleagues who are passionate about showing support for their friends and co-workers. It is a ground-up movement and all the better for it.
Last month, along with a couple of guys from our Dublin office, I was nominated by one of the co-chairs of our LGBT+ committee to take part in the “Emerging Leaders Programme”, run by an organisation called OUTstanding. This is a programme aimed at preparing “high potential LGBT+ talent” for leadership roles, creating role models for the next generation. I joked that it has only taken 26 years for the talent to emerge! It really was a fantastic opportunity to learn from some of the most senior LGBT+ business figures in Ireland and the UK. Some of the people I met on the day were Martin Shanahan, CEO of the Irish Industrial Development Agency; Margot Slattery, all-Ireland country president of Sodexo; Josh Graff, LinkedIn UK country manager & EMEA VP (how often do you get the chance to ask the UK head of LinkedIn the best way to use LinkedIn?) and Sara Phillips, Irish national manager of a large company in the construction sector and also chairperson of Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI). As if that wasn’t enough, we were all individually assessed for key high performance traits with a follow up 30-minute consultation with a psychologist dealing with how to capitalise on our strengths and mitigate our weaknesses. It was an amazing opportunity and one I would never have had prior to transition.
Along with my employer’s UK HR manager, we had a call with the UK and Irish directors of OUTstanding last week, and we are hoping that by the end of June we will be able to roll out an official Ally programme with training to be provided by them.
Last month our HR manager and I also managed to get a five-minute face-to-face conversation with Ruth Hunt, CEO of Stonewall, after attending a panel discussion in which she was a participant. It was a 5-minute information dump really, she is one of those amazing people that you meet very rarely, whose mind seems to work at a different pace to everyone else, brimming over with inspiration and great, practical ideas. Genuinely an inspiring woman. The two of us went away brimming over with enthusiasm.
Well that’s enough name-dropping for now. Time for an update on the medical side of transition. Despite being referred for hormone therapy in early August 2017, it has still not commenced, which is frustrating. Doubly so, because the laser hair removal that I get on the NHS will not commence until I have been on hormones for 3 months, and I reached the top of the laser waiting list back in about October last year! So every few months I get a call or letter from the laser clinic asking if I’m on hormones, and I have to go back and say “Sorry, no”. However there is light at the end of the tunnel. My first endocrinology (HRT) appointment is now set for 13th June, so finally there is going to be movement on that front. The laser clinic have therefore diaried to contact me in mid-August with a view to making my first appointment there in September.
I have been through the full course of one-to-one speech therapy, which I have enjoyed tremendously. I suspect the reason that I enjoy it is that I feel it is something that I can actively work on. With HRT, laser, electrolysis and surgery, you really just lie there and take what is done to you, but with speech therapy it’s a two-way process and I feel like if I work harder I will get better. I think it has at least made a difference in confidence if not in actual voice. Although perhaps the voice has improved too. I have at least managed a proper non-misgendering (does that make it a “gendering”?) on the phone, which came about in a rather odd way. Normally one would expect this when calling somewhere and getting “madamed” rather than “sirred”, however mine was slightly different. I was phoning a client in work and a man I hadn’t spoken to before answered the phone. I asked for my usual contact in the company and he replied “I’ll put you through now – is that Julie?” “No, it’s Kirsty!” I replied, punching the air in delight. Not only a vocal pass, but a strong enough vocal pass to be mistaken for another woman. Get in!
Although the one-to-one speech therapy is complete, I have now been put into a speech therapy group. This will comprise around 6 of us all at a similar stage, going through exercises together and hopefully bouncing off each other and helping one another out. I received the letter last week outlining six sessions over the next six months, and in a magnificent display of the joined-up thinking for which the Belfast gender clinic is justly renowned, the first appointment is at exactly the same time as my first endocrinology appointment. I’ll not be at the first group speech therapy then.
However I got the biggest shock last week when I was at my regular (I say regular, the last 4 were cancelled on me at short notice) appointment with my therapist at the gender clinic, and the subject up for discussion was surgery. He noted that my full year’s Real Life Experience was nearly up, and I would soon be eligible to get a second opinion and be considered for surgery. This much I knew. However what with waiting lists and general admin and availability of funding, not to mention the length of time friends and acquaintances have had to wait for their surgery, I had been mentally preparing for surgery late 2019 at the earliest, and probably early-mid 2020. Not so, it seems.
It seems that a visiting psychiatrist comes over to Belfast from England every 2-3 months to assess a bunch of us, and his next visit is late June. Now my year’s RLE will not quite be up at that stage, however my therapist sees no reason for that to stand in the way of my second opinion, and so he asked if I would like to be included in that session. Assuming the second opinion would match his own, I could then be referred for surgery and could be on the operating table in a little over six months. That puts my surgery as early as December 2018, or more likely early 2019. This is when things went a little bit weird in my head…
To be honest and to be blunt, I nearly shat myself in shock. I am just not mentally prepared for surgery that soon. I haven’t even begun hormone therapy and yet suddenly I’m being asked to consider if I want surgery potentially before the end of this year! My transition has been (by design) a steady progress of achieving milestones and rising the gentle incline at the end point of which is surgery. This felt more like walking into a cliff face. Then I said something that I couldn’t have imagined I would have said. I said “No”. Or to be more precise, “Not yet”. I explained that this was too much too soon, and that I wanted to get on hormones and see how that felt, get used to that stage of my development before considering the next one. The therapist thought this was a wise approach. However, my second opinion is now likely to be in September this year, which still makes me think that surgery by this time next year is a distinct possibility. And that is both exciting and terrifying in equal measure.
Well that’s enough wittering on for now. Life is good and I’m a happy woman and a million times more fulfilled than I ever was prior to commencing my transition. What more can I say?
Back to writing about obscure Scottish indie bands again soon.