More than three weeks have passed since I made that very long post on my first day living full time as a woman. A lot has happened since then, most of it in the last 10 days or so. And all of it good. Really good. Commencing my transition has been without question the best thing I have ever done in my life. All of the stress, all of the internal conflict, all of the nerves have just melted away. I am Kirsty and that’s all there is to it. I can’t even bring myself to speak his name out loud any more. I am a woman now, if there was ever any doubt, and I am a happy woman.
I’m not sure where to begin with this post. The fact is, so much has happened that I don’t feel particularly inclined to blog about a lot of it in any great detail. So maybe just a quick overview of the first couple of weeks before we get to the good stuff. I think the fact that I went full time and then didn’t return to work for nearly three weeks meant that there was something of an unreal quality to my “full-time-ness”. For at least the previous two months, I had already been presenting as female any day I wasn’t working, so it didn’t feel all that different. Just a bit longer. I suppose the biggest initial change was that I took four massive black bags full of old clothing to a charity clothing bank – my nephew is diabetic and my sister (his mum) is a big supporter of Diabetes UK, so they got my old clothes. It’s not like I had any further use for them. However getting rid of them was a significant step, like reverse purging. If I were to ever revert to maleness, I would have to build up a male wardrobe from scratch again. As if that would happen!
Most of my first week off work was spent doing bits and pieces around the old house, even though by that stage I was just my ex’s lodger. I went out with the kids (they were at home, my ex was at work) a few times, but by and large I didn’t really do much. I got a few details changed. I got confirmation that much of the system changes in work were in place, and getting my name and title changed with HMRC (UK Tax Office) was surprisingly straightforward and their website surprisingly user-friendly.
In the second week I took the kids and went to visit my sister Hilary in Co Kildare for a couple of days. I ended up seeing all her four grown up children too. It was very nice just to be me the whole time, and my nephew Paul, who was meeting his Auntie Kirsty for the first time, brought my my first bouquet of flowers! We also spent a day with my niece Clare and her partner in the town of Carlow, which I had never visited before and was a very pleasant place. However the most significant thing that happened while I was with Hilary was a phone call that I got on the Tuesday morning from my solicitor. After multiple delays with the completion of my house purchase, my vendors had decided that they were going to move out that Friday, be it into their new house or into temporary accommodation. I had been making noises about potentially pulling out of the transaction if it was delayed much longer, and it sees they didn’t want to call my bluff. So I had to get on the internet that morning (thank goodness I brought my iPad!) and sort myself out with house insurance for the new place so that the mortgage company would actually pay out. After a few false starts, things were beginning to fall into place.
After leaving Hilary’s on Wednesday morning, the kids and I dropped in to visit my eldest brother Brian, the only one of my siblings not to have met his new younger sister. There was nothing to worry about (not that I was worried). We walked into his house and he said to me “I have to say that after 46 years it is so nice to finally get to meet the real you”. We went out for lunch to a local café and really, it was fine. He’s still my big brother and we still have that relationship. I just look a bit different.
On the Thursday I got another call from the solicitor confirming that all was going according to plan and the mortage company had confirmed completion for the next day. This was really going to happen! It put me in a good mood as I set off into Belfast to meet Beth and Kelly from work, my line manager and the HR manager. We met up in a Caffè Nero close to work. In fact, I arrived a little ahead of them and took my seat. There was a guy in there at another table who also works in our company, and who would have known Bob reasonably well. Since my transition would have been common knowledge by this point, I considered going up and saying hello, but in the end I just took my cappucino and sat down. Beth and Kelly arrived soon afterwards and joined me. We sat for a good 45 minutes and I got the lowdown on how the various announcements were going. It was a pleasant conversation. They had literally nothing negative to tell me. All was good, reaction from other people in our building had been very positive, around 60% of my clients had been informed and nobody had had anything negative to say. And Kelly was able to present me with my new work pass, with my real name on it and the photo that Alice had taken of me a few weeks earlier. It meant so much to have that piece of plastic in my hand.
Friday arrived, and by 9.30 I had an email from the solicitor confirming that the funds had been paid out by the mortgage company, and I should expect a call from the estate agent around lunchtime. By 1.30 I had heard nothing so I called. Except the estate agent, unlike the solicitor, were unaware of my transition. They were going to check with the vendors to see if they were out yet. At 2.30 I received a call from the estate agent again. Could I go round to my new house by 3 and the vendors would hand me the keys. Oh. At this point I asked the estate agent if I could just collect the keys from their office. OK, she said, but the vendors had just assumed I would want in as quickly as possible. So finally I told the estate agent that the reason for my divorce, the reason I needed a new home, was because I was transgender and I had already commenced living full time as a woman two weeks earlier. But since the vendors didn’t know this, I felt a bit awkward about just rocking up to them in all my feminine glory at this stage. Anyway, by 3.30 I was in the estate agents’ office and left with my new keys in hand. I went straight home again and collected my daughters so the three of us could enter our new home for the first time together. We did, and there was already an envelope waiting for us addressed to “Kirsty Roberts and Family”. A new home card from Hilary.
I couldn’t stay long as I was heading off to meet Andrea for a bite to eat and she was going to lend me her steam wallpaper stripper. But by the time I had done that, I had only spent about an hour in total in the new house. The work would begin in earnest the next day.
Alice arrived at 10.30am the next morning to help me clean the carpets with her industrial carpet cleaner (“borrowed” from the school in which she works). By noon my sister Patsy and niece Rachel arrived. Rachel bearing two side tables and a coffee table that she was donating from her own house clearout, and Patsy bearing a new Dyson as a housewarming present. Oh and Rachel also bearing a bottle of Prosecco. Have to get the important things right.
From Saturday through until Monday I was working morning till late night (but still sleeping in the old house) cleaning carpets, stripping wallpaper, scraping off paint scraps and finally painting walls so that by Tuesday my bedroom would be ready to receive a bed and my living room would be ready to receive a pair of settees. It was touch and go. On Tuesday morning I was in the house by 7.15am at the start of the delivery window for my bed, but also because my entire chimney breast and wall needed old paint scraps stripped and then two coats of terracotta paint before my living room would be ready. The bed arrived at around 10am, but it was flat-packed, so the packs were just put into my room for later assembly. The settees arrived at noon, and I was almost but not quite finished with the fireplace wall. However four days after taking ownership of my new home I finally had somewhere to sit. I cleared out all the junk, plastic sheeting, wallpaper scraps, dust (Dyson a real boon here) and paint pots that were littering my living room and suddenly it felt like a home.
Tuesday night was to be my first night in my new house, although with no TV or broadband it was a bit of an entertainment vacuum. And I still hadn’t built the bed. Patsy and her husband Frank came round about 8pm and brought me a few essential groceries, as well as some crockery and cutlery to see me through until I could get my own. Frank also worked his socks off with me assembling my bed, which was not an easy task. But we got there in the end and I rounded off the evening sitting on my settee with a glass of wine reading a book and listening to Abbey Road. It felt great.
On the Wednesday I was up at the Gender Clinic for the HRT consent meeting, which consisted of five of us (the other girls were really young) sitting round with four doctors in a round table discussion about the benefits and potential risks of hormone therapy, at the end of which we were brought in one by one to sign a consent form. This signal the point at which I was referred to endocrinology to commence my hormone treatment. The wait is apparently 3-4 months, so hopefully by November at the latest I will have begun.
The next day, Thursday 27th July, was to be my first day in work as my real self. Turning the clock back a year I would have been utterly terrified at the thought of walking into work presenting female. Even then, when my plans were reasonably well-formed, I was so nervous about how that would go. But when the day came round for real, I was relishing it. The list of things to accomplish in my transition has been a long one, and many are still outstanding, but this is just another box to be ticked albeit a very significant box.
I had arranged with Beth that I would come in a little late. I didn’t want to just come in with the general throng at 9am, so I arrived at 9.30 when things had quietened down a little in reception. I called Beth to let her know I was on my way, and began the walk round from the car park. After so many times taking this ten minute walk, imagining that one day I would be able to do it as who I truly am, I was finally doing this for real, and it felt wonderful. It didn’t feel like being out in Belfast as I had done before. It was very different. I was presenting in a professional manner, with a black cotton top with lacy sleeves, a smart jacket, tweed parallels and smart black heels and I felt every inch the professional woman that I am.
I arrived at reception and there was Beth, with another person from the company who has known me for years. He came straight up to me, shook my hand and said “Kirsty I presume? Lovely to meet you”. A great start. In fact, he is the person whose aunt I had met a couple of months previously at a dinner party in Alice’s house and I had to deny knowing him to her because my transition wasn’t generally known in work at that stage. So I seized the opportunity and told him “I know your Auntie Tracy!” We had a bit of a laugh about the awkwardness of the position that I had been in with her, then it was off up to my office on the fourth floor.
I don’t know what I was expecting when I walked in, but it was incredibly low-key. People were just heads down getting on with their work. My presence was barely noted. I get the impression that people had been told not to be nosy, but it was so quiet. I stuck my head round the big boss Fred’s door, gave him a sheepish “Good morning” and he reciprocated. I sat at my desk, opened my computer, and started to wade through the hundreds of emails that I had missed while on leave. Then people started coming up to me.
Many people from my department came up and told me how happy they were for me, how amazing they thought I looked etc. Hugs abounded. People I hadn’t worked with in 15 or 20 years made a point of coming to see me to offer their congratulations and support. It was more than a little bit overwhelming.
Later that morning I had a catch-up with Beth and Kelly. Around 70 of my 80 or so clients were now aware of my transition, and only one had said anything remotely negative (“Well that might make me a bit uncomfortable, we’ll just have to see how it goes”) but by and large the message was received and it was just going to be a case of Business As Usual. I also learned that there have now been four separate trans awareness sessions run by the people from SAIL in my work, the final one of which was only done the day before my return and was so heavily oversubscribed that the big boardroom table had to be removed so the room could be set up theatre style. And when we got to the end, Kelly said that she was going to miss our planning meetings, and could the three of us just go out for coffee together every now and then. And I told them both what I have written about on this blog, that the English language doesn’t contain words appropriate to describe the emotions I was feeling at that point. We are truly in dream come true territory.
After a nice lunch with my old friend Jonathan, I returned to work for the afternoon. As the afternoon wore on I felt a semblance of normality returning. Despite how I looked, I was still sitting at my desk in front of my work computer surrounded by the same people doing the same job. It was quite welcome.
Friday was dress down day, so I was just in work in jeans. And I was also only in for three hours, as I was getting my TV and internet installed at home (from Virgin Media). But even in those three hours on Friday morning I had another first. My first piece of client interaction, albeit not with one of my own clients. My colleague and friend Graham has gone to Spain on holiday for a fortnight, and his “Out Of Office” message instructed his clients to contact either Beth or Kirsty if they needed anything. So one of his clients phoned me, and I was just Kirsty on the end of the phone. No baggage, no awkwardness, it was good. I can take phone calls.
By the time I left at noon on Friday something struck me. Since I returned to work the previous day, not one single person had misgendered me. Not one single person had used my old name within earshot of me. The only person who had made a blunder was me myself. I wrote an email and signed it as Bob! Thankfully I quickly saw what I had done and changed it to Kirsty before hitting send, but it was a bit of a warning to myself.
On Saturday I had a nice day out. Thursday had been the birthday of my friend Joanne’s (from the book club) fiancé Gary, and she had organised a surprise day out for him at Tayto Park, Ireland’s biggest theme park. Alice was there too, as well as Gary’s daughter and son-in-law, and it was great fun. However, I did set my sights too high by going on the big wooden roller coaster and then having to do the entire ride with my head in my hands for fear my wig might fly off. Should have thought that one through a little better. As well as the thrill rides, there is also a zoo. They have two Bengal tigers (bred in captivity) and we managed to catch them at feeding time. I would never have believed animals that size (200-300kg) could climb a wooden pole with such ease. And at the back of the park there is a crisp factory. Because Tayto is Ireland’s biggest potato crisp manufacturer, and the theme park was build up around their factory in rural Co Meath. Tayto is so ubiquitous in Ireland that Irish people don’t have a packet of crisps, they have a “bag of Tayto”. Only in Ireland – if you go to Disneyland you get to meet Mickey Mouse, come to an Irish theme park and meet a walking potato in a hat!
Today was back in work again, and it just feels better and more natural, less awkward, every time. I feel completely fantastic about being there, and the acceptance I seem to be getting from colleagues is so much better than I could ever have dared to dream. I had a lovely lunch out with another friend, Claire, who I met through the SAIL adult trans support group. She has recently had facial feminisation surgery and she was looking great – the last time I had seen her a month or so ago she had still been a bit bruised and swollen. Then after returning to work the best thing yet happened…
I am getting a new client. This guy’s legal agreements were delived to him by Graham while I had been off, but now he had returned with them completed, and I got a message that he was waiting in reception asking for Kirsty. I know that Graham had mentioned to him that his manager would be a woman called Kirsty who was on leave, and so this client was completely unaware of my gender history. I walked down to reception to meet him, introduced myself, and sat with him going through a pile of paperwork for about 20 minutes. It was almost an out of body experience. I was there, in my dress and heels, pointing at various clauses with my long painted nails, and he was just carrying on as normal. No double takes, no funny looks, nothing that suggested anything other than he was meeting his new female account manager whose name was Kirsty. When we finished up he just said “It was really nice to meet you Kirsty”, and we shook hands. It was really just a fairly mundane, run-of-the-mill quick adhoc client meeting, but I was walking on air going back upstairs to my office.
I’m here, I’m Kirsty and I’m never ever going to have to put on a male façade ever again. This is me, for life, real life, and I love it.