May’s Ups And Downs

Just like the title of my blog the first half of May, which this post covers, had some nice ups, and some rather deflating downs. The ongoing issue with my leg was one of the downs but I’m not going to go on about that again… well, at least not to actually moan about it.

Anyway, the main ups in the period were due to time with friends, and the first one is a bit of a cheat as it was on 30th April so it doesn’t quite scrape into May… but it’s my blog and so I get to make up the rules. My friend Michelle and I had tentatively agreed to meet up on this day though the activities were, as things often tend to be in the inclement country of Northern Ireland, dependent upon the weather. In the morning I had, as recommended by my physio, an appointment with a podiatrist in Newry in a latest attempt to nail the issue with my legs making little progress on the road to recovery… and this is detailed in my previous post. In the afternoon I met Michelle at around 1.30 at the small town of Hillsborough where I jumped in her car and we drove to Comber, albeit on a round about route, which was to be the start of the afternoon’s activity, a treasure trail, on foot and by car – the long and short of it is that this activity involves following instructions trying to solve a number of clues in different locations, some of which involve quite an amount of searching… and even, as it turned out, me wiping dirt off a metal tourist information sign with a tissue in order to reveal one of the answers! Michelle has detailed this event in veryDSCN1315e good historical detail so I will say no more than that it was a fun afternoon where in a good joint effort, without any competitiveness, we solved all of the clues, ending up at the ruins of Inch Abbey from where is a good view of Downpatrick and its cathedral. Along the way we traversed a number of roads unknown to me, with some pretty scenery and bluebells lining the road at times, around the inlets of Strangford Lough, of which the picture shown is one of them.

The weekend afterwards I had little enthusiasm for any outings, especially as no friends seemed to be available and there were no meetup activities occurring that didn’t require too much activity from my achy legs. But on the Sunday I had a text from Kirsty indicated she might have a hole in her busy social schedule for a bite to eat, so I perked up and decided to make an afternoon of it with a shopping excursion into Belfast in search of comfortable shoes, particularly from the manufacturers recommended by my podiatrist; it was a lovely, warm afternoon, and for a change I was able to go outdoors in only a light top and cardigan. I parked on the outskirts of the centre and walked about a mile to the shops. One of those I went into was Ecco… which soon turned into a huge disappointment, lots of truly awful shoes falling mainly into the categories of either ‘very plain’, ‘truly awful’, or ‘decrepit granny attire’; one thing they all had in common was a rather expensive price tag… and another issue was that the staff showed no interest in wanting to assist me, or the other customer. The other shop I went into was Hotter which was somewhat better and while some of the shoes on offer were also much beyond my age bracket a few were acceptable; the staff were very pleasant and helpful too… and so I tried on a few pairs and after trying different sizes (they have half sizes too) I eventually plumped for what seemed like a more supportive pump style and another pair with a low, supportive heel in the sale; hardly a steal at £121 for the two pairs. After popping briefly into Next I returned to my car and drove a short distance to meet up with Kirsty and her new friend Alison who had spent the whole afternoon drinking coffee and eating frozen yoghurt. Kirsty and I went to a nearby hotel for an early dinner before she had a book group meetup; I treated myself to a roast dinner (which I never have at home as no point cooking it for one) which, after sending it back to the kitchen to be heated up, was very enjoyable… as was my afternoon shopping and Kirsty catch up.

The very next day was a real downer – it all revolved round the changes made to our office restaurant. In essence, a new provider is offering the services for our company, and compared to previous more minor changes this also involved a change to the payment system, thus one had to register with the new system with the provider and they would transfer the monetary balance from the old system onto the new one. So I went to them with my access card to do this transfer, and they looked up ‘Andrea’ on the old system and couldn’t find me. I said that’s not right, because I’ve been using the canteen for ages… and then they searched on my surname and found an entry… and it was in my old forename. Ugh 😦 They said “there’s no Andrea’s at all”, and only one entry under the same surname… and so I had to take him with his laptop to a quiet corner of the canteen and explain the situation about my change-of-life circumstances; he was quite alright with it, and changed my name there and then… but the point of this situation is to emphasise to anyone in my circumstances that don’t be surprised if a long time after you go full-time as new-and-happy-you that your history comes back to haunt you.

A couple of days later I had another downer, perhaps even worse than the aforementioned one. I ended up chatting to this South African guy in my office who, like pretty much everyone, is fine with the new me… but then we got onto the subject of my injured leg and my jogging that might have caused it and he said “What were you wearing to run? Was it men’s runners or….” and my head was screaming “WHAT THE **** DO YOU THINK YOU I WAS WEARING, YOU INSENSITIVE *****!!!” but all I said was “Ladies jogging trainers, of course!”…… but it really rather upset me because I was in a situation where once again the history I am forgetting essentially came back to haunt me.

The rest of the week was okay, lots of situations where I was addressed or treated as a woman, the only other disappointment being that wearing my new navy shoes from Hotter proved to be a disappointment in that by the end of the day my legs were probably worse than they had been when wearing my Clarke’s ballet pumps avec arches.

On the Saturday mid-May I had a really nice Saturday out with Michelle again. I was picked DSCN1325up at Hillsborough and we drove around the north shore of Strangford Lough to a National Trust property called Mount Stewart, a splendid manor house with a very elaborate and extensive garden; it was the perfect time of year to go with grand displays of rhododendrons and azaleas as well as carpets of bluebells. After a tasty afternoon tea with a freshly baked (after a wait) scone, we walked around the big lake in lovely sunshine visiting various areas of flora and fauna, including a family burial ground, some nesting swans, and eventually the Italian Garden (see right, and lake view below). A couple of hours later we returned to Hillsborough where I headed off to do some food shopping and then met up again at one of our favourite restaurants, The Plough – I had a lovely duck starter, we both had the special duo-of-fish dish with a lovely hollandaise sauce, and shared a selection of desserts… and I was pretty stuffed but satisfied by the end.

So a mixed set of events over those couple of weeks… proving that fun times with friends matter but it is not always easy to shed the past that one wished had never happened.

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Fed Up, regression (?)… and some walking tips

In one of my recent blog posts (not that they are that frequent as of late) I mentioned the underlying issue that has made me so fed up in the last couple of months. It is nothing to do with my transition, all is going pretty much as well as ever in that respect (albeit with the occasional teensy blip), daily life is normal and satisfying, I love seeing my new face complete with lovely girlie hair, am happy with my new voice, and so on.

No, the issue that has made me so fed up is the leg injury that showed itself while I was away on the interesting island of Gran Canaria at the end of February… which remains an issue, with not a significant amount of recovery after two months. I had two doctor appointments in March, the first ruling out DVT (a small risk now that I am on HRT) and the second ruling out a fracture and concluding it was a severe muscle sprain most likely caused by the jogging that I started in early February. After that, and little recovery in another couple of weeks, I embarked on a series of three physio appointments where it was also stated that the issue was muscular (tendonitis) which the physio himself said he had had a few years ago after a jogging incident, although he seemed to think that my injury was caused due to a lengthy irregular driving position in a strange (or, awful, as it turned out) hire car for a prolonged period; personally I think it’s a combination of jogging high-impact physical stress, car driving position, and possibly due to feminine footwear. At my physio I could feel parts of my leg muscles that he kneaded were rather sensitive, so that I suppose at least also supported the muscle prognosis. After the third physio appointment he said that there wasn’t anything he could really do and all he was actually doing was helping to ease the pain, and so recommended going to a podiatrist… and so the weekend just gone, after a couple of weeks when I ordered arch support inserts and got on poorly with them, I went to an appointment at Newry Foot Clinic – on the plus side the girl who attended to me didn’t indicate anything untoward was wrong, the conclusion was that my feet have quite a roll-in which requires arch support… and so ballet pumps, which I love and have quite a few of, are a total no-no (sobs as she writes), heels are generally not great either, ankle boots are agreeable, but ideally I should spend most of my life in trainers. Sobs again (probably), I have spent the majority of my uncomfortable life in horrible trainers, and more occasionally ugly blokey shoes, and so that idea does not fit well whatsoever with me. Then she said that the best shoes for me are those made by the likes of Ecco and Hotter, and so after the appointment I went to a nearby shoe shop selling an assortment of styles and makes of shoes, including those two… and I nearly cried when I saw them, essentially if you imagine a frumpy grandmother with a typically fashionless dress-sense then you will just about have the shoe in mind. Ugh!! So, as I write, I am rebelliously wearing a pair of ballet pumps, albeit with the arch-support inserts.

All these problems with my legs (mainly the right one) have meant that activities that I have typically done for the last couple of years have taken a back seat – I have not been able to go to any walks with my walking group, I have not generally even been in a state to drive my new car any distance in order to attend any more social meetups in Belfast, or even meet my friends Kirtsy and Michelle very much… and in fact driving at all has been generally unenjoyable, and I have found if difficult finding a comfortable driving position for more than a day or so. And this is why a part of me feels like I have regressed, at least temporarily, not back as far as my incorrect gender because that will never happen, but towards the unsociable me that I used to be… and thus life has generally been extremely frustrating apart from the very occasional meal with my two friends and a hair appointment and lovely lunch. I have also not even dared book another holiday for fear that I will either walk or drive too much and further damage my leg(s).

As regular readers will know, and as mentioned above, I belong to a walking group… though my walking tips I am about to document are nothing to do with that hobby, they are not tips on places to walk…. but actually a topic relating to transition. Before I ventured into the world as the real me, and I am not talking full-time but in fact for the first time, I spent months and months and months researching and then practising various things, and one of these was on how to walk like a woman because once out and about I didn’t want to stick out as someone walking rather oddly and draw attention to myself; in fact, even when having to keep up the façade of a male persona I started walking like a woman, partly to practise and partly because the real me was eagerly trying to burst into the world. My research involved largely reading on various transgender websites for hints and tips on what to do and what not to do, and I put as many of them into practise as possible, and for me I believe they have worked… not that I think I actually ever walked really bloke-like, and in fact when I came out to someone at work shortly before going full-time he told me I ran like a girl! Anyway, my current injury issue has enabled me to examine the various aspects of the female walk, both in terms of what I really still need to do (which pretty much comes naturally now anyway) and also observing women around me, and my conclusions are as follows:

  • As the girl at the foot clinic said to me, everyone walks differently… so just supposing you look at someone and think they have a very feminine walk that you’d like to emulate then look at another girl and they are highly unlikely to walk the same way… although as per the next point, there are certain things that most women exhibit when they walk.
  • The vast majority of women walk with their body straight and, unlike a typical bloke, the torso itself does not move at all… so they don’t trudge! Women also rarely walk with their hands in their pockets, practically always swing their arms as they walk (and usually one arm as the other arm has a handbag hanging from some part of it), walk with their legs together (so not like a rugby player) so that the legs almost brush on the insides, and very importantly they take shorter strides than men do and therefore more of them; ignoring the latter can potentially mean that someone supposed to be walking like a woman will look more like they are moon-walking like Michael Jackson.
  • Women in heels will to a certain extent swing their hips – this is at least partly because wearing heels naturally makes one do this. However, excessive hip-swinging, or ‘mincing’, is just going to look ridiculous and will make one look more like a very camp man; I have observed a girl in my office walking like this, and she looks idiotic! Women wearing flats or trainers generally don’t do much in the way of swaying, if at all.
  • I read on one site that a woman’s body structure means that their torso is more forward in relation to their pelvis, which probably accounts for the fact that certain women have obvious bottoms (I don’t mean fat, just, well, stick-out shapely I suppose). To try and achieve this it is possible for a trans-girl to roll their pelvis forwards, and I have done this over the last two years… and although I think it helped me pass well on the whole, at this stage in my transition, where I think I pass well enough due to my naturally feminine hair, improved looks due to HRT, and confidence in myself, my injury has made me realise that I don’t need to do this any more… and in fact it may have contributed to my injury by putting undue pressure on my knees.
  • A trans woman told me that women walk with their toes pointed inwards. Really? Not in general, from what I have seen.

I could think of more to say I suppose, but I’m weary so I hope the above tips will help some of you further back in the journey than I am; these are my opinions, I think they will help someone to blend in more… but that’s only part of the equation, if one doesn’t make much effort with make up, has poor dress sense or dresses out of keeping with their age, then no amount of walking practise is going to help an awful lot :-/

Today I looked at the websites of Ecco and Hotter… and if one wades through the frumpiness there are just a few sensible and even pretty shoes and well-styled boots… so I may soon go footwear shopping!