Friday, 22 December 2017

Its been a while...

I’m not really even expecting that anyone will remember me and read this, but I did think that it was about time my long neglected blog got dusted off and at least received a festive update because, ‘wow’, its been a heck of a year!

I’m really sure where to start, but I guess the big news is that finally, after so many ups and downs, I did, in fact, begin my social transition.   From 29th August, I started living in female presentation full-time and it has genuinely been an amazing experience on every level and every front.  You can imagine, that it ended up being a very complex and challenging thing to do, but has been completely worth it.

I knew that work would be ok internally, but I was unsure about how our customers might react to the process.  They dispelled all my fears very quickly.  I had to come out to around 30 customers and none of them had any kind of issue with my transition, if anything it has strengthened the relationships that I have with them.  People have just been so fantastic and hugely supportive - even more than I expected.  Out of sensitivity to my family, we didn’t want to make a big splash of it, so just updated my details on our company website, changed LinkedIn (without notifications) and eventually just included it in our Christmas cards.  People have been finding out in dribs and drabs and that works well for me.

One client even gave me an opportunity I never sought.  They are a government agency and they asked me to do a video interview for trans awareness week.  I’d thought I’d like to do that in the future, but I’ve received so much amazing help, that I felt it was really important to pass it on now.  So I stressed I’m not an expert, I only have my simple story and dived in.  It went live on their Intranet and the feedback was both fantastic and very kind.

I had a number of things that worried me before I transitioned.  Client sales meetings where people had not met me before, delivering presentations to large groups (I can often address groups of 100+ people), going to the supermarket, travelling on public transport, etc.  The list was finite, but super scary at the time.   I’ve ticked them all off and really don’t pay much attention now to them anymore - what a difference a few months can make eh?

The bigger issue for me was how my kids would respond.  I feared rejection from them.  But in the end, the fact that I cried when I told them because it was so moving was the biggest thing that shocked them.  Their responses ranged from, ‘its fine’ to ‘wow, you look really fashionable’.  Genuinely was a proud moment realising that they are young men who are so accepting and kind.  Mrs A has continued to struggle, although her issues have been somewhat reduced by the acceptance of the children.  But she has made it clear that she’ll never accept, ‘the other woman in the relationship’ which I can understand.  It distresses me to know that I’ve hurt her, for all that this wasn’t my first choice either.

Medically, the wait for the NHS continues: I’m still on hormones, still having laser, not still losing weight, but that starts again next year.   I’ve moved to a new town, begun to build a life, been promoted at work, been accepted generally.  I would hate to pretend that its easy and that everyone has a simple, happy life post transition, but I have been very privileged to received so much love from friends and complete strangers every day.  Even today when changing my name with yet another company, the lady on the phone told me how fantastic it was and that she wished me well.  I will be forever grateful.

Thank you for reading - and as I await my first Christmas, presents having arrived that are for me as a female for the first time, I can’t stop pinching myself and half expecting to wake up from a happy dream.  I hope that you all have a very very Merry Christmas.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Facing more fears… (Part One)

Thank you so much for your kind support following my last blog.  You might have been able to tell, I really wasn’t in a great place.  I’m still feeling guilty and like I’m ruining other people’s lives for the sake of mine, but I’m the kind of person who is likely to feel like that generally.  I have a tendency towards unhealthy self-sacrifice.  Your comments really helped and I know that I need to move on and to be me, come what may.  I have thought very carefully about this transition towards living as female and I know that I’m on my way now and that, for me at least, it’s positive.

I don’t know if you have one, but I definitely have a list of 'scary things to do whilst presenting as female' list?  Some of them would sound stupid to you.  What scares me would probably not scare you.   The most obviously daft one is probably the thought of going, as Rhiannon, to my local supermarket.  So many people, in close proximity, who could behave in any and varied unpredictable ways.  And not least their children who would happily point at me and say things like, “why is that man wearing a dress mummy.”  The scariest one professionally, given I train people (often very large groups of 50+ people) is to deliver a programme as me.

Three of the things on said list are: going to a conference or event with lots of people surrounding me who I don’t know, travelling on a train and going to London.  I told you they might sound stupid.  Particularly, as you might argue that London, for example, is quite trans-friendly.  But the thought of so many people seeing me for who I truly am and potentially reacting badly to it gives me the heeby-jeebies.

So it started in Cardiff…

Knowing I’m going to have to face many of these things, whether I like it or not, I am starting to schedule them in so that I can “face the fear and do it anyway,” now while I have the chance to do it at my own pace.   A couple of months ago, I spotted that there was going to be an event in Cardiff that I really wanted to go to.  Please don’t judge me for this one, but it was a Dr Who conference.  I’m normal in most ways, but this is not one.  I’m a starry-eyed fangirl when it comes to all things Whovian.  A conference, run by Pride Cymru, on the role LGBT plays in Dr Who was too good to be true.  And…in a manageable way, was a first opportunity to tackle another one of my scary experience list.   Surely, if anyone was going to put on a trans-friendly event it was them?   So I booked a hotel in Cardiff and stayed the night.  In the morning, deep breath, get dressed and ready.  Jeans, flats, nice top, coat and bag.  Hand on the hotel door and out into the world of Cardiff.

I had a 15 minute walk through Cardiff to get to the venue, but it was a quiet Saturday morning, before the crowds were around, so all good.   Or so I thought.  Walking to the corner of a road by the hotel, I was suddenly aware of hundreds of people, all heading in the same direction as me.  Not just any people, they were all in pairs.  One adult, one child.  On the corner of the street was a cinema and it was Saturday morning.  Kid’s cinema time.  My heart rate spiked.  But bizarrely, I relaxed and an ironic smile spread across my face.  This just HAD to happen didn’t it?  I decided to keep walking and to brazen it out.  I was doing really well until the worst happened - a child decided to comment on me.  I was bracing myself a little for it to happen.  Its a little blurry now, but they said something like, “She’s got a nice bag mummy.”  I had to actually stop myself fist pumping and doing a happy dance.  I grinned as I walked past the million others and even made eye contact with some of the parents.  A tiny piece of fear, just died.

The rest of the day was surprisingly easy - and made me wonder why it was on my ‘too difficult’ list.  I queued up with everyone else in a long queue.  Had a lovely exchange with the ticket desk operators, got my wristband.  Found a seat and absolutely loved the day.  The panels were fantastic.  For other Whovians (you don’t need to out yourselves, its ok) there was a galaxy of people there including Russell T Davies, Bethany Black, Gareth David Lloyd, Phil Collinson, Nicholas Pegg, Barnaby Edwards, Waris Hussein (1st episode Director) and a whole load of people who work on Dr Who show.  CJ de Mooi was even in the audience!

I did get captured in one of the ‘officially used’ photos on the Facebook page too :o).  Yay! Such a saddo.

Conscious I’m going on a bit and there is definitely more.  So tomorrow, I’ll finish the story… more fears faced and London conquered!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

I ruin lives

I remember watching “Pretty Woman” for the first time and obviously loving it.  The sad moment, that stuck out for me was when Edward, the main male lead said, “Impossible relationships. My special gift is impossible relationships.”  I know it sounds so self-pitying and maudlin, but at the moment, it feels like my special gift is ruining other people’s lives.   Why is it that a lot of the time, you can feel happy and upbeat and positive and then other times - this morning included - you feel like you’d rather just run out and dive underneath a bus.  I’ve not felt like this for a very long time, but the enormity of the way in which I have a negative impact on people who get close to me is frightening.  And sad.  I feel toxic.  I should warn people not to get to know me because I’m likely just to end up hurting them too.

I have had so many relationships recently where things have gone awry.  Clearly, I’m systematically destroying my family life at the moment.  A couple of people in my fat club got in the path.  Someone at work.  People at a group I’m giving up leading to transition who are struggling to find a new leader.  Making it difficult for the people who employ me.  The thing is that I never intend to do it.  I try my hardest to be a nice person.  In fact, sometimes you might accuse me of being a people pleaser.  But somehow, haphazardly, by not thinking, by reacting from my pain, sadness and insecurity, I cause more pain than I help.

The thing is, I know that my transition is only going to make this even worse.  In my selfish attempt to achieve desperately needed congruence, I am the cause of other’s sadness and grief.  Whilst I know I have no choice but to do it because it is getting to such a distressing point, I’m also going to have to find a way of living with myself knowing there is a trail of destruction behind me that I have caused.  I feel like I’ve lived my life running from a tornado and everyone who gets near me ends up in its path too.  Many of them just haven’t learnt to run fast enough and get caught.

I’m not going to write anymore.  So so sorry if I sound like a self pitying cow.  Just having a really hard day today and this is my place to go.  You can probably tell I have sobbed my whole way through the writing of this blog.  But I needed just to say it.  Sometimes you do.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone…

Silence is rarely good when it comes to my blog.  This hiatus is consistent with that theory.  I'm filled with very mixed emotions that I'm struggling to process at the moment, let alone to articulate.  If I had a gun to my head, I would say that it is like the worst sadness ever, combined with relief.  The cause is easier to explain than the emotion.  For various reasons, I had to reveal my plans to transition to Mrs A.  So she knows.  My ever lovely and beautiful wife now knows that after years of fighting, I'm giving in and that with any luck, by the end of this year, I will have followed in the footsteps of many of you and transitioned to live full time as female.  As the real me.

This happened a few weeks ago now and the pain that I've caused her in making and communicating that decision is difficult to describe.  The depth of the guilt I feel is almost, at times, making me feel like life could never be happy again.  I knew that I had to do it and so one Friday night, I set my face and did it.  Ironically, she read the moment and knew that I had something to talk to her about.   I handed over the letter that I'd written, and watched the anguish and tears form in the face I love.   My heart nearly burst with sadness and swelled with a love for her that I thought forgotten.  Like watching a car crash happen in slow motion, I just wanted to rip the letter from her hands and to laugh, to pretend it was a joke, but I couldn't.  I had to go through with it.

For me, for a long time, the pain of feeling so incongruent has been building to a fever pitch.  Yet, the depth of sadness has of late contrasted with the complete happiness and sense of wellbeing I get from being who I am inside.  I reached the conclusion that unless I do it, I'm going to forever feel heartbreakingly sad.  A friend recently said, 'why do you have to set yourself on fire to keep everyone warm.'  The moment of clarity broke through finally and I got it.

So since I last blogged a lot has happened:  we are still together, in the same house. Not ideal, not because I don't want to be there but because I feel the desperate urge to try to make things better when I'm the cause of the problem.  I just want to reach out, hug her and tell her it's going to be ok, knowing that probably for a long while it won't be.  At work, I had meetings and they know my intentions.  Lots more meetings to come, but so far so good.  We’ve won some new work and I’m busier than I ever have been.  In line with my Doctor’s advice, I’m trying to simplify my life and to jettison a broad range of extra-curricular commitments.  My kind and loyal friends have rushed to help, I've been to support group and had more new people willing to be there.

But my whole concern is for her.  Is she getting any level of support?  She is not someone who easily opens up.  Even her natural supporters sometimes struggle to get her to reveal her emotions.  I fear for her.   And especially for the next x period of time while we are in ambiguous limbo.

I will keep you posted obviously, but having a hard time right now…

Saturday, 28 January 2017

“I get by with a little help from my friends”

I apologise for my relentless cheerfulness in yet another happy blog.  Don’t worry, my normal sadness will resume at some point I’m sure.  My highs are high, but my lows are bad.   I can’t remember if I’ve said, but one of my favourite themes in films is friendship.  Of course I love romantic films as much as the next girl.  Who wouldn’t love the press conference in “Notting Hill” for example?  But for me, friendship movies trump that: Samwise and Frodo, Andy and Red, Han and Chewie, Woody and Buzz, ET and Eliot, Elle and Paulette - there are just so many. :o)

Anyway, I digress.  I sometimes feel very isolated and alone.  But then there are other times when I realise the richness of the friendships I have and know that they are enough to give me strength and to sustain me through the tough times ahead.

This week has been a case in point.  It opened with a Rhiannon dinner with a great friend, wine and laughter and feeling normal and accepted.  I resisted all bad foods and made sure I stuck to some great veg dishes.  The conversation flowed and no matter what nonsense I talked and the obsession I have with gender, we both enjoyed ourselves.  I also walked to and from the restaurant - and am really feeling amazingly comfortable doing this now.

Another night at Chams, in Nottingham, later in the week saw me meeting some new folks as well as seeing the second ever lovely Mrs Jones (the first being her wife).  A greater, warmer welcome couldn’t be asked for - as well as Lynn being genuinely as lovely as she sounds in her blog, the rest of the group are pretty special too.  We covered a range of topics and there is always laughter on tap.  Its amazing how great it is to sit amongst a group of trans-people knowing that they completely get me, my history, my fears and my worries.   And Lynn takes a mean photo!  My goodness, no-one’s captured me that well for ages!

The following day was a meeting that, if I’m completely honest was making me nervous through the week.  I recently reconnected with a couple who I’ve been friends with for a long time, but have not seen for 5-6 years.  I only told them about the fact that I am trans about 4-5 weeks ago.  I thought I would be rejected out of hand as they have a very strong Christian faith and that’s often the outcome.  But I honestly couldn’t have been more surprised and moved by the compassion, love and acceptance I received.  Before arriving, I suddenly had a panic moment: were they expecting me in female presentation?  They reassured me that they were and I arrived (see photo left).  3 hours later and two cups of tea and we were chatting like we’d never been apart and like I’d always been a woman.  He is a church leader and if every church group behaved like they do, they would win over most of our community (me included) in no time.  Our conversation was wide ranging and meaningful.  I didn’t want to leave, but knew that work beckoned, so I pulled myself away and hope that its not long until I see them again.

Alongside that, all week, people have been dipping in and out on Facebook, on the phone, on WhatsApp and email and I’ve felt surrounded by people who really do care about me.  I really am a very lucky girl - fun conversations, heart pouring out conversations and lots of joy.  And more meetings being set up all the time, so more time as me which is never a bad thing.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The crazy days of 2017…

Wow, what a start to the year!  So, I’m really sorry that I’ve not blogged and have had to resort to a bumper blog to bring you up to speed!  I have had the craziest, busiest start to the year that I think I’ve ever known.  For those who know me, that is really saying something!  My feet have honestly not touched the ground.  I’ve been up and down the byways and highways of the UK relentlessly - and have to say that despite another few weeks of this continuing ahead of me, I’m really tired.  42 year old lasses shouldn’t put their bodies through this stress!

That said, I’ve also been moving forward on the Rhiannon front too - and in the middle of all of this busyness, I’ve managed several outings which have been fantastic.  Several days have already been spent being me and it has made me so much happier.  That I seem so happy is the number one comment I get these days.  Clearly, that is also intensely confusing as it continues to raise the thorny issue of transition.  Thorny not because I don’t want it, I’ve realised that I’ve never wanted anything more with my whole heart, but that the implications for both home and work are huge.  Conversations are looming that terrify me.  But I know that for my piece of mind and sanity I need to get on with it.   My counsellor has agreed to write a referral document confirming that he agrees with my self-diagnosis of gender dysphoria.  He is asking my Doctor to think about moving me to the next stage of transition.  So assuming that my system can cope, I could start my hormones in the next few months.   He can’t believe how much I’ve changed and grown in confidence over the last 6-8 weeks alone.  To help that along, I’ve continued to lose weight - and despite an early year slump (just busy), I’ve got another 4lbs off, so I’m up to 3 stone 4 lbs lost (46 lbs / 21 kgs).  I’m aiming to lose 10 stone in total by the end of this year.  So far, this means I have dropped 3 dress sizes which is really exciting!

I have continued to discreetly bring a few people into my circle of trust and they have been very supportive including the wisest person I’ve ever met - an amazing lady who in her early 20s already has the most incredible insights.  She has made several observations that have had a huge impact on changing my thinking.  A complete shout out to her.   I’ve also had support from some surprising places and this week have a meeting with some old friends which equal parts scares and excites me.

This month as well as just coping and trying to get through the work, I’ve tried to make time for Rhiannon.  So as well as my usual nights in at hotels working and watching TV, I’ve been busy!   I’ve been out for dinner with girlfriends twice, spent the day out and about including my monthly counselling appointment and waxing, I’ve just been braver and gone out of my hotel room on short errands as me rather than changing back before I open the door, I popped into Pink Punters on my own and had some interesting chats with drunk 19-year olds who were completely lovely.  I’ve had to buy some new dresses because I’ve shrunk and a third of my wardrobe is too big now.  I’m wearing dresses a lot more out because now I’ve lost weight (and discovered Spanx), I’m feeling so much more confident.  Its still fragile, but it really is getting there.

The next month or so has even more planned and I promise I will blog as it happens — there will be a lot to share.  But in the mean time, I thought you’d be interested in seeing some of the photos from the year so far…