Can’t believe it’s three weeks yet again since I last wrote a post on here. It’s almost as if I have got a load of stuff going on that’s a more pressing use of my time than writing this blog. But of course we know that’s not the case. The truth is that my daughter Amy has had my laptop in my ex’s house for the last 3 weeks as she has been using it for a bit of online gaming with some of her school friends, and I didn’t have the heart to take it off her. So faced with the choice of maintaining blogosphere silence or making her a social outcast, well you know the result. So here we are at last.
The difficulty with this length of a gap between posts is that it’s hard to remember what I have been doing over these last three weeks, so I expect this will necessarily focus on more recent events. As well as those first couple of days that I wrote about in my previous post, I have now had three full weeks back at work, and it has begun to settle back down into some sort of routine. Most significantly, I have got back into the swing of visiting clients. This was probably the one thing about work that had concerned me the most prior to coming out. I always knew that my immediate colleagues would be ok because ultimately they are bound by the company’s very strong code of conduct. With one minor exception that I will deal with later, everyone in work has been tremendously supportive, although we’ll see how that develops in the coming months as I emerge from my transition honeymoon period. However clients are bound by no such code and so I was concerned at how some of them might react to the new me. So far my fears seem to have been largely unfounded, a sentence which I’m pretty sure I have written many times about many worries over the last three and a half years that I have been writing this blog.
Since my return from leave and the commencement of my transition, I have had five meetings with clients, and every one of them has been just as they were before. Professional and businesslike. I have had a meeting with a new client who had never known me as anything other than Kirsty, although slightly annoyingly one of the people from this company misgendered me during the meeting, albeit she very swiftly corrected herself. And rather gratifyingly, later in the same meeting one of the client’s employees barged into the office we were using, realised she was interrupting something, and said “Sorry ladies!”, so that got them a few brownie points back.
I had another meeting with a client to whom I had spoken on the phone before, but never met in person. This business is owned by a married couple in their sixties, and they were just perfect in how they dealt with me. Correct name, correct pronouns start to finish. Plus, they are a firm that distribute drinks and snacks to bars and off licenses throughout Northern Ireland, and as I was leaving they gave me a box of gourmet crisps to take away with me – mmm! Gin next time, please.
Other meeting were with clients who have met the old me several times, but there were no slips. All was as good as I could ever have hoped it would be. I even feel good about little inconsequential things, like asking to use the loo at a client’s premises and being directed to the ladies’. As I said, all good.
That one slight exception to all this is one woman who works on my floor, although not in my department so she doesn’t really know me. Twice just in the last week I have been in the ladies’ loo in work, just washing my hands at the sink, and she has opened the door, seen me there, shut the door again and gone to the disabled toilet instead. I think that says a lot more about her than it does about me, although it is annoying. I mean, what is she actually thinking? Does she think that I have taken this massive step, changed my name and all my details, run the risk of being ostracised by family, friends and work, undergoing the pain of electrolysis, changing my body with hormones and potentially risking my life on an operating table just on the off chance that I might catch a glimpse of her taking a dump? But she is very much the exception.
And speaking of changing my details, I am now the proud owner of a driving licence bearing my new name and address, with the correct title “Ms Kirsty..”. There is no gender marker on driving licences so the title is as much as I can get from that. In contrast, a passport does have a gender marker, so when I get my new passport I will feel officially female. And that is coming, I have a letter from Dr Ingram at the gender clinic verifying that I will be living permanently in the female gender role, for inclusion with my passport application, so that will be getting sent off in the next few days.
For the first time in my life, I went to Belfast Pride a couple of weeks ago and it was… rather dull. My daughter Amy was going anyway, her best friend is a gay boy and she went with him last year too, so this year there were about six of them from her class at school draped in rainbow flags and sporting rainbow face paint on their cheeks. So after some encouragement from friends at the SAIL support group, I decided that I would go along and that I would bring my younger daughter Melissa, as Amy had told her how great it was. To be honest, she was a lot more enthusiastic than me about coming. I very much resent how drag queens seem to dominate the coverage of Pride events, and I want to disassociate myself from such people as much as possible. I am not a drag queen, I am a woman and I don’t like doing things that mark me as “other”. Plus, in my humble and possibly controversial opinon, drag queens are the blackface of gender politics.
In reality, Melissa and I arrived at the start of the parade at the appointed start time (“1pm sharp”) and waited with increasing levels of boredom for the parade to actually begin, which it finally did a full 25 minutes later. What did surprise me was the number of people lining the streets waving their rainbow flags. At least I was able to point out the trans flag to Melissa, which she said was prettier than the rainbow one. At one point I heard someone call my name from the side of the road, and there were my friends Joanne and Gary, so we shuffled over to the side for a hug and to introduce Melissa to them. Further along, I heard something akin to a scream from the side of the road and this person walked into the middle of the parade heading straight for me, shouting my name. It was the woman who works on the till in our staff canteen in work, who hadn’t yet seen me in the flesh but was obviously aware of my transition and recognised me immediately. I actually saw her in work on the Monday, and she confessed that she ended up three sheets to the wind in Union St (a gay bar) and doesn’t remember going home.
We also met several people that I know through the SAIL group, including Claire, who has become a lunch buddy since my return to work. Overall however we walked round, got to the end, and went home. I completely appreciate and indeed support the need to be visible and make our voices heard, and in that respect Pride is very important. But the whole carnival thing, not for me. I spend so long trying to blend in, to be seen as the woman I am, and yes, to pass, that it just feels wrong to march around marking myself out as trans. But each to their own. And I didn’t see a single drag queen.
I had been growing my nails out since going full time. In fact, they were last cut in mid-June, so they had reached a respectable length by last Wednesday. Then disaster struck. I was assembling my new IKEA wardrobe with my brother-in-law Frank on Wednesday night, and in the course of trying to hang the sliding doors I broke the nail on my right index finger right into the quick. Urgent action was required. I had promised myself that at some point I would try acrylic or gel extensions, and this seemed like the universe was telling me now was the time to give it a go. I messaged my three nieces who live locally to ask if they could recommend anyone, and they came up with a friend of theirs called Danielle who operates out of her own house. They were quick to stress that she was a qualified nail technician and not just some mate though. So I contacted her via Facebook and she gave me an appointment for 10.30am on Saturday, yesterday morning.
On Friday evening I removed all nail polish and cut my fingernails down to a length Bob would have sported. Then I drove up to Danielle’s house on Saturday morning and she took me up to her back bedroom, which she has converted to a mini beauty salon. She was lovely, really friendly and very chatty. I was with her for an good 90 minutes and it was a pleasure to watch and artist at work. Not to mention the fact that I felt so girly, so feminine just being there. She gave me a choice of either colour or French polish, and I went for colour. A sparkly golden orange. I got the full extensions which look fabulous although to be honest they’re not the most practical. For one thing, I’ll be surprised if this doesn’t turn out to be the most typo-riddled blog post I have ever written. I’m back in three weeks for “maintenance” and I might get her to cut them back slightly. We’ll see how it goes. But they do look amazing.
And finally, just this afternoon my sister Patsy hosted a birthday party for me. It’s not my birthday until Wednesday, but this weekend seemed as good a time as any. I was the last to arrive (it was arranged that way) and all four of my siblings were there (including two who had travelled 100+ miles to be there) plus their spouses, four nieces and three nephews-in-law, two great-nieces, two great-nephews, as well as my own two daughters. I arrived at Patsy’s house to see a big “Birthday Girl” banner on the front door, and as it was dry everyone was sitting out the back, which was festooned with more banners and pink balloons. It was a very special day, an acknowledgement of my new self, and an acceptance of me as a sister and aunt. Overwhelming in fact.
After nibbles, birthday cake, party games and several glasses of Prosecco, we retired indoors where Patsy’s dining room table was completely covered with bags of presents. I opened them one by one, something from everyone there and a few others from other family members who weren’t able to be there in person. Every single present was a present for a woman. It was like they were giving me a “woman starter kit”. Lotions and potions, several pairs of earrings, a jewellery box, a beautiful chiffon scarf, a nice cream top and two gorgeous handbags. Many hugs were given and a chorus of “Happy Birthday dear Kirsty” followed. I have arrived and I feel so loved and accepted. When I think back to when I started writing this blog in February 2014, or even to when I did the coming-out road trip round my four siblings’ homes in February this year, how can I even have thought anything like this could happen to me? Has there ever been a trans woman who got a better reception? I’m so lucky and I’m so happy.