I have just trashed about 600 words of a post when I realised that it was going to be an “I went there and I did that and then I went somewhere else and did something else” kind of post. And let’s face it, who wants to read that. So let’s get all that stuff out of the way in a very simple summary:
Andrea and I took both my daughters out on the National Trust Easter Egg Hunt at Rowallane on Easter Monday. It was lots of fun, and because my younger daugher Melissa got her face painted, I don’t feel so bad about putting up a photo of the two of us since she is pretty much unrecognisable anyway.
I had a bit of a girly night out last Saturday with Andrea, Alice and Alice’s friend Jane. Out for a meal together first, then on to the theatre to see Red, a play about the artist Mark Rothko, set in his studio as a two-hander between Rothko and a fictional assistant, beautifully acted, funny and deep. Then back to Alice’s for a cuppa and a chat. Great company and a really enjoyable play. Alice and I are back at the theatre again in a couple of weeks, with a different two friends this time. Real culture vultures us!
So now on to the main event. My third GIC appointment took place yesterday. In fact, it wasn’t that big an event in itself. At least, it didn’t appear so at the time, but Dr Ingram said a few things that I have continued to think about at length yesterday and today, and I’m sure will continue to think about tomorrow and beyond. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
My appointment was at noon. I had already agreed with Beth in work that for these last few months before I’m full time, I can leave work in time to get ready so I can go to GIC as Kirsty, and I would have enough time to get changed back into Bobswear afterwards if I was coming back. However, with a noon appointment there wasn’t much point me coming into work at all because I’d only be able to stay for about half an hour. And I could be back by around 2.30pm in theory, but I just decided to take three hours’ leave and have the whole day off. In fact, what I decided do was to spend the entire day as me, morning till night, which meant I would get up and take the kids to school as the real me, and then drop Mrs K at work, leaving me three hours to kill before I had to go up to GIC. What to do… I had a brainwave.
Remember Angela? I came out to her around November last year when she realised that my not-so-subtle hints were in fact serious. And she had been very positive indeed before going off on maternity leave in late January. We had continued to keep in touch on and off by text, but I thought I might as well ask and so I dropped her a text on Monday afternoon asking if she was free on Wednesday morning, and if so would she fancy meeting up with me-Kirsty for a coffee and a chat. She replied quickly that she had just been thinking of asking me if I wanted to meet up some time, so my timing was perfect. We arranged to meet at Caffe Nero at Forestside Shopping Centre, which is quite close both to where she lives and to the clinic.
After a quick trip into Belfast to get my favourite suede ankle boots re-heeled, I found myself in place on a bench just outside Caffe Nero at 10.30, and I texted Angela to say where I was. She replied that she’d be along in two minutes, and sure enough she arrived quickly pushing a pram containing her sleeping 11-week old baby daughter. I’m not sure I have adequate words to describe the look on Angela’s face as she saw me. Recognition, delight, astonishment, amazement, relief, lots of other stuff. She hugged me and exclaimed “Oh my god, you are gorgeous! Really, I can just see right away, you look so much better as a woman than you do as a man. ” Well that was a nice start, even if I did feel a giant beside her. “I hope that’s not the wrong thing to say”, she added, I think fearing that she might have implied that Bob was an ugly sod.
Her baby daughter slept the entire time we were there. I was a little bit disappointed not to get to hold her, but I suppose it was better that than having a screaming fit. But I think after being off work for the last three months, Angela was starved of general office gossip, never mind news about my transition. So the conversation flowed really nicely, and so much more naturally than it ever would when I was still trying to pretend to be male. In fact, if I turn back the clock five years, I would have been paralysed with fear at the thought of having a one-to-one conversation like that. I was so uptight about saying the wrong thing, and I also think that my self-esteem was so low that I believed myself to be dull and uninteresting, so why would anyone else be interested in me. I am so much happier a person now than I was then.
With the way the house move appears to be going, it is looking likely like my last day in work as Bob will be Friday 30th June, returning as Kirsty on Monday 17th July. Angela was slightly disappointed to hear this, because she will be on holiday on my last day in work. She already knew that my plan is to send an email around the rest of my department (probably around 20-25 people who still won’t know by that stage) on the morning of Bob’s last day. But what she said she wanted to do was to come in on my last day and to be there when I sent the email so that she could tell any doubters “I’ve met her and it’s fine”. Angela is a very popular woman, and I think people will listen to her. She’s not particularly senior in the organisation, but she has very high social standing. And she is a good friend. So unable to come in on my last day as Bob, she has restated her promise to come in on my first day as Kirsty and take me for lunch. That’ll do nicely.
We sat there for about an hour and a quarter, at which point I had to get moving so I wasn’t late for my appointment. As we were parting, Angela inadvertently turned an old argument I had used around on me. Quite a while back I wrote a whole post about my height, and I got rather annoyed in this post at people who repeatedly tell me that “lots of women” are the same height or taller than me. Which is just not true, because if that were the case I would be seeing them, and if I see one woman a month the same height as me then it’s no more than that. But I theorised that a smaller person (maybe 5’8″ or less) looking up at someone 5’11” or more just saw “tall” and didn’t appreciate the extra 3 or so inches were missing. So I continued to feel freakishly tall at 6’2″, and not a little self-conscious about it. Then as we were parting yesterday Angela, who is about 5’4″ remarked, “You know, you just look the same as Beth to me, height-wise. Just tall. Nobody’s going to gawp at you any more than they do at her.” Which people don’t. At all. She’s just a tall woman. Beth is 5’11”. My theory in practice. I notice the height difference. The only other people who will notice it are people who are almost, but not quite as tall as me. So I can’t really argue with it. Thanks Angela, that really did make me feel a lot better about my height.
So on the stroke of noon I was sitting in the waiting room at GIC, where I was to have my first one-on-one meeting with Dr Ingram, whose patient I will be going forward. My very fine-detail planning has quickly become something of a running joke with him, but I think he might actually have been quite clever in the way he brought this up, because as the conversation progressed, I realised that I am perhaps a bit more of a control freak than I ever realised before. He asked me a few general questions about how I was getting on – all good, everything progressing nicely etc – and then he asked if there was anything that worried me. I have realised that the things that worry me are things outside my control. I worry a lot about them. People’s reactions, mainly. And then he lead on and asked why I was transitioning now. Now, as opposed to in 10 years’ time. Or in 1990. Why now? And didn’t I feel very isolated during all those years when I couldn’t discuss my feelings about my gender with anyone?
The answer to all this is that I wasn’t so much isolated as afraid. I have realised that I have wasted so much of my life being afraid. Afraid of things I can’t control. Afraid of ghosts, imagined demons in my own mind that I projected on to persons known and unknown. And it wasn’t helping anyone. Fear has prevented me from being who I should have been. And as Yoda wisely said; Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Revelatory, it was. A moment of realisation I had.
I think I also surprised Dr Ingram when he asked if I felt I had any other problems before accepting myself as a woman. My answer was confidence. To be honest, he’s not the first person to have been suprised when I described myself as lacking confidence, particulary considering the client-facing job that I do, but I described it to him as role-playing. I can play the role of a finance professional, but it’s just a front, it’s not me. A bit like how I’m sure Dr Ingram is a different person with his family than he is with me. I think I’m a bit of a compartmentaliser too – as I think my eldest brother Brian is too, we seem to be quite similar in that regard. Not any more (for me anyway).
In fact I was only with Dr Ingram for a maximum of 40 minutes, I feel like I’m not giving him enough trauma. I just want to transition and I’m pretty great apart from that. A lot better than I was six months ago and unrecognisably better than I was five years ago. Back again on 30th May, and I have homework. Complete a 4×4 grid with as many things as I can think of in each category; benefits and drawbacks of transitioning, benefits and drawbacks of not transitioning. It seems to me that it’s really just two categories reversed, i.e. the drawbacks of transitioning (e.g. undergo major surgery) are the reverse of the benefits of not transitioning (e.g. don’t have to undergo major surgery). But we’ll see what we come up with.
Straight after finishing at the clinic I headed back over to my sister Patsy’s house for lunch with her and her husband Frank. It was a nice wee chat, but I mention it only because of something that happened a little later on. Patsy and I were sitting talking at her kitchen table when a man arrived to repair her faulty cooker. As he came into the kitchen she nodded in my direction and said “this is just my sister”. Just her sister. That’s me. The first time I have heard any of my siblings refer to me as their sister. A lovely wee moment.
After a quick trip over to Alice’s for a cuppa and a chat I headed back into Belfast where I had arranged to go out for a bite to eat with Michelle, whom I hadn’t seen for a while. We had a good chat and later on a good music conversation, watching videos of guitar players, but that’s just a nice evening with a friend. I really mention this because as I walked round to the restaurant, I saw walking toward me none other than Kelly from HR in work, who has been and continues to be such a great help in planning my workplace transition. The thing is, she didn’t even notice me walking towards her, didn’t give me a second glance. I more or less had to wave my hand in front of face and she finally looked across and gave me a big “Kirsty!” and a wee hug – that’s something I’m learning in female etiquette, the one-armed hug. It’s the done thing on greeting a friend. Men may do a big bear hug, we ladies have a more genteel one-armed version. And much more ubiquitous than the male equivalent. But I was so pleased that Kelly saw me out and about just as me, and also just casually dressed in jeans and a jumper rather than the more formal skirt’n’heels I was wearing on the one previous occasion when she met me as Kirsty. And I even got a wee update from her. It seems that while I was off, she and my “big boss” Fred had met that afternoon with an even bigger boss, someone at a very senior level in the overall organisation. His takeaway comment was “I want this to go as well and as smoothly as possible. It would say so much about us as an organisation if we can make this work”.
One final comment. I was chatting to Graham in work today, telling him about having met up with Angela yesterday morning. He ended up getting a little bit emotional. He said he would really like for himself to meet Kirsty prior to me finishing work as Bob. He says he’s feeling a sense of impending loss, that he’s losing his friend, even though he knows intellectually that it’s not the case, so I think he wants reassurance that I’m still the same person. The same, but better. So we have provisionally booked a wee mid-morning coffee in a couple of weeks when I have a day off and will be heading down to Dublin to see Bob Dylan in concert with my sister Hilary. He was quick to check that I was planning on going as Kirsty to the concert, and that I wasn’t planning on getting dressed up just for him, but I was happy to assure him that I would be me anyway. So that’s another introduction to look forward to. It’s all go isn’t it?