Now EVERYONE knows about the real me, about Andrea… and an amazing meal at The Plough

In recent weeks on a Friday I have commented on how my working week has gone… as a woman… but alas my working week has not finished yet as I am working the whole weekend, probably ridiculous hours… and without being paid for any of them. So, instead, a few odds and ends…

In the last couple of weeks I have come out to all of the rest of the people that I know… and ALL have been positive to some extent. Firstly an old uni-friend Ruth who I have remained in touch with, albeit only at birthday and Christmas times; she sent me an email within a day of receiving my letter, reassuring me that she wished to remain friends. Secondly another friend, Shirley, who I have known for over 20 years and almost had a relationship with – she also wrote soon after receiving my coming-out letter, saying that she was shocked, cried a lot, but “loves me and reassures me our friendship is intact”. Somewhat oddly and uniquely, she said she felt cheated and angry that I had not told her much earlier, that I had not said ‘goodbye’ as old-me before being introduced to new-me, and that she had not been able to control the situation – I had to remind her that this is MY situation, that I HAD to remain in control of such that it remained on the rails as much as possible (and it has), and that even my parents did not get what she asked for… and I am their offspring! Also I had dropped hints to her… which were not picked up on. This week I came out to two guys I knew at work, I say ‘knew’ because they have now left my company, but one I am in regular email contact, and the other not so much but he was looking for a reference from me; they both recognise that I will be much happier, and in fact the ‘regular’ contactee said that his accountant transitioned to womanhood a couple of years ago too!! So, that’s EVERYONE done!! And only my daughter and brother are at odds with the situation. My daughter, due to her age, was obviously going to be a problem… but my brother I remain somewhat puzzled about, he was the very first one who I came out to, in an earlier discussion he dismissed people who are bigoted at being “old school”, and yet he still has a problem getting used to the new-me, even if we email every week or so. Maybe if he talked about it to someone…

I read my BFF’s blog about shoes and, of course, I feel for her in that her desire to have her pick of ladies shoes is restricted by her foot-size. My feet are generally a UK size 7, and they are not that wide… and yet finding a pair of truly comfortable shoes (boots are not quite such an issue) that my feet will be happy in for a whole day now that I am 24-7 is becoming a really difficult challenge. And it seems as though any store that sells ladies shoes that are designated as comfortable generally charges a lot for the privilege of having that comfort, and lumbers one with a very frumpy shoe; M&S’s current Footglove selection are a sheer disaster to any gal like me looking for something with even a moderate amount of chic pizazz to them.

On Wednesday I left work early and finally was able to post my passport application, in my new name with new, transformed photo… which really is not too bad, compared to the heart-numbing image in the last one. Later, after an uneventful and unmemorable Tesco shop, I went for dinner with my two best girlie friends Kirsty and Michelle somewhere I have not been too for many years (and thus never as Andrea) because whenever that last time was the lunchtime fair appeared uninspiring; however, this recent evening at The Plough was a resounding success with astonishingly good food! There was a curry night on, which initially was not of great interest to me as I don’t like spicy food, but this newly adventurous girl threw her caution to the wind and ordered a seafood tikka marsala for a main course, with a duck spring roll for starters – the spring roll was substantial, tasty, and well-presented, while the main course was extraordinarily good, probably the best Indian course I have had with amazing seafood flavours shining through a delicious sauce that complimented well. We weren’t going to have a dessert, but the very bubbly and friendly waitress (who addressed as ‘ladies’ several times) easily persuaded us to share a selection of mini-deserts; after coffees/teas, we left the restaurant over two hours after our arrival with every intention of going back.

That above paragraph, with the mention of photos, reminds me of an incident while Kirsty was staying over. Maybe I have mentioned it before, I can’t remember. Anyway, I wanted to show Kirsty some pictures of my daughter as she was growing up… but alas inevitably came across some pictures with ‘him’ (i.e. old-me) in them – well, frankly they made me feel sick, and I have ripped all-but-one of them up, even if they were a reminder of times with Tara, I just HAD to get rid of them… the same as I have just come across a ludicrously large mug in my kitchen with the words ‘Dad, my hero’ written on it, and I just had to get rid of it – I am NOT a ‘Dad’, I am a parent who was stuck in the wrong body for too long who still has a tonne of love for my daughter.

And I will sign off by wishing my lovely daughter a Happy 13th Birthday. Yep, she’s a teenager now… and much as I would have liked to do so, our present circumstances meant that I have not seen my daughter on her birthday, and so could only give her presents by shopping online from the likes of River Island and Superdry; hopefully next year will be different…

x

I am a butterfly and now ready to fly… and LOTS of things that I don’t plan to do EVER again

The symbol that seems to be often associated with a transsexual woman, certainly at my local support group, is the butterfly, and it feels rather apt to me. Since puberty I feel like I have been imprisoned in a chrysalis, a male
butterfly shell with a female persona wriggling gently and unknowingly to all beneath the skin. In 2012 that chrysalis split, and a butterfly started to emerge – last year my wings were fluttering, I felt alive… and now I am ready to fly, to live life as fully as I can… EVERY day…

…and that is because in the past hour I have shed the last piece of male clothing that I ever intend to wear, for tomorrow when I awake I will begin life full-time as a woman, as me, as Andrea.

So as a result, there are a lot of things I don’t intend to do, ever again, such as:

  • Never wear another piece of male clothing.
  • Never use a male voice.
  • Never look into the mirror any day and, at least when I have my face on, not be happy at what I see looking back at me.
  • Never buy a piece of male clothing… unless it is for a relative, friend… or partner (well, a girl can always dream).
  • Never have a stubbly face.
  • Never carry a wallet.
  • Never wear my nails without colour on them… and thus never worry about having to remove varnish from them.
  • Never worry about removing every trace of make-up from my face… always in the knowledge that the next day it will be back on again.
  • Never use the male toilets – I only did this twice this year, and that was while on holiday with daughter.
  • etc.

The only possible exception to the above would be if my daughter suddenly wants to consider accepting and meeting with me, in which case temporary, two day spells with some of those points on old… but considering last week she told me that she doesn’t want to see me that does not seem likely anyway.

This week I came out to six more people at work… and the rest will be handled now tomorrow by IT and HR managers while I am off work for Friday and Monday while employees digest the news about me. Monday I told an Italian guy I have known for years (who said “Great! I’m so happy for you”) and a lovely Indian guy who works for me… and as he lives in Amsterdam he has come across all manner of things a lot more strange than this. Tuesday I told a lady I have done work for off and on for 15 years – she was great, and at the end of our chat gave me a hug, a big squeeze, a kiss on the cheek, and the offer of being there for a chat whenever I need it. Wednesday I told a guy who commutes from Northern Ireland to Dublin like I do (though he stays down during the week), and he was fine… and has offered to take me out to lunch next week, even though he has no idea what I look like. And today I told two more people, another guy I have known in my department for years (he was fine), and this afternoon a (generally) fashionable girl who was FAB, she also gave me a hug, and offered to teach and advise me about anything I want, such as wearing and tying dressy (i.e. not woolly) scarves… which I always have a problem with. She was also very eager to see a photo of me, and I showed her the selfie in my previous blog post and she said “Wow!”, “There is nothing male in your appearance at all” and “You’ll have a man in no time”!

This evening I went to my physio, as I have been a bit wound up and tense what with the rejection by my daughter (see previous posts) and planning all of these coming-out discussions… and at the end of the session I told him as well, because I said that if I was to come again then there was something I needed to tell him. He was fine with it, and he thanked me for telling him in advance rather than just phoning up when I wanted another session and then telling him…  but who would do that?

Wednesday evening I went for coffee with my BF and had a good chat, followed by us getting together with Michelle at support group HQ for more good chat… but I did not mind removing my make up or nail varnish at the end of the short evening, because I knew that within 24 hours my male life would be finished… said she, tapping away with her newly varnished dusky pink glittery nails that won’t be coming off… until the next time they need varnishing!

SOOO, this is the last blog post where I should have to refer to my male life EVER again… because life after ‘him’ is finally here!!!

Thanks for reading.

X

Jan 22nd, the day my heart broke before the morning did… and my new look

I go through phases at night time with my sleep patterns, sometimes I sleep all the way through to after 6.00, sometimes I regularly wake up at a particular time, which can often be 3.00-4.00, or even earlier. On January 22nd I woke up while it was still dark and went to the toilet and, as the little light on my mobile phone was flashing, I took the phone with me – there was a text from my ex- which had been sent at 1.00am that morning saying the following (have replaced daughter’s name with ‘Your daughter’):

Your daughter does not want to see you again, but cannot tell you to your face. Please to not call round to our house again.

I did not cry when I read that… although I feel a bit teary-eyed as I write it now, but the day of receiving that message and the following one (yesterday) I felt really sad, as though my heart has broken. And maybe that is how my daughter feels, that I have broken her heart and as a result she wants nothing more to do with me, even though when I gave her my news I tried to be as sensitive as I could, and told her how much I loved her and want to remain inn her life. It has been a severe struggle remaining in one piece at work (especially as my boss said made a couple of little insensitive comments in relation to me) and not bursting into tears and running from the office.

Anyway, life goes on, I am not going to change or slow down my journey whatsoever, everything else is going smoothly so far, I will surround myself with people who do value me as a person (whatever I look, or sound, like) and want me in their life in whatever shape or form that may be. As everyone else I have told has been great, I will have to put down my situation with daughter as being due to her age… and possible influence from my ex-.

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The previous day I was off work on sick leave, having appointments relating to my gender dysphoria.

My first appointment was with the lovely Paul Meekin, who is my hairdresser… well, not just mine, but you know what I mean; he is a very kind, sensitive guy, and seriously knows what he is doing with people’s hair. My appointment was at 11.00, to have my latestPaul M Hair 1 wig styled – I scraped into his swish salon a minute after that and in a few minutes I had had a hug from Paul and was sitting in his VIP room. As soon as Paul saw the wig his enthusiasm went through the roof, it is made of human hair and he was very impressed with the quality and set about styling it; as it’s human hair it can be styled with moderate heat and so with a pair of heat paddles Paul set about giving it some shape and then trimming the fringe. Further down here you will see the new image – personally I am still getting used to seeing a different look in the mirror, but I do like it and the movement in the hair is great and natural… as far as I know.

With plenty of time to kill before my next appointment I drove over to the Abbey Centre for shopping and lunch. One reason for going there was that there is a big M&S and so I hoped I might find a nightie that I have already purchased in UK-10 but in a 12, because although I am generally a UK-10 on top I thought something a bit looser for nightwear would be better… but to no avail, none left at all. I went upstairs for a toastie and tea for lunch and all was fine there, it was really busy, I had a guy on the table right opposite me facing me and noticing nothing; on the way out I patiently walked behind a woman and her old mother, and she thanked me once we had exited and I then passed her. I went to the ladies and, after doing my business, at the sink was fine-tuning my make-up when a woman kindly pointed out that my ‘top’ (it was a dress) was tucked in at my waist, as though I was showing a bit too much leg – I thanked her… although it may have just been the asymmetrical line of the dress. Downstairs I browsed through the sale rails and tried on a dress in a couple of sizes, but it wasn’t really me, and when I gave them to the lady I went on about it being in a couple of other colours which I had preferred (which had sold out), but it was nice to chat. Then onto the Abbey Centre itself on a mission to find a smart woolly hat for work, costing less than the ridiculous £18 that M&S were looking for… which after a few stores was successful in Dorothy Perkins – I was able to use my Xmas e-giftcard, though the till-girl had no clue how to process it and had to call her manager, so much conversation ensued with another assistant joining, and I joked that they were having a mini training course.

My next appointment was with my gender clinic. It was another one of these ongoing assessment chats to see how things are going. Of course, I had an awful lot to tell her, she gave me a bit of advice about my daughter, ex, and so on… although some of that is a bit redundant as I can now not even go to ex’s house. She was very impressed with my new hair, which was nice to hear, she said it had been cut very well. I was there for an hour and a half, and left with letters from her that I can include in passport and driving license application forms.

I drove to the nearby Forestside shopping centre where I had a mocha and cake in the M&S café, and was served by a tall, slightly rough-looking guy I thought… but he was very nice and asked ‘madam’ what she would like to drink. I browsed in a few places there, and found a really pretty top in Next with beautiful trim around the neck and sleeve linesAndrea at Ed's Diner, then drove to Sprucefield where I bought a few things from Boots, including hairspray (for the first time ever) for my own hair.

Dinner at 8.00 had been planned with Kirsty and Michelle, with much to-ing and fro-ing about a venue. Eventually we had decided on Ed’s Diner in Lisburn, near the cinema, and that is where we met up. It is nice enough on the interior, with quite a few of the tables in booths which is good for a bit of privacy. It was nice to see my friends, and we had a good old chat and catch-up, and both seemed to sincerely like my new hairstyle… which is illustrated to the right. The food was pretty good value, and Little Miss Weightwatcher here had a carb-free chicken ‘burger’ with a lot of lovely salad… before consuming a huge chocolate brownie sundae. We eventually retired to Support Group headquarters for a cup of tea and more good chat before returning home… far too late again.

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Yesterday I ‘came out’ to the Project Manager that I work for about my Gender Dysphoria, and that I will be coming to work in just over a week as a woman. He was a bit shocked, but he was good about it all, and we had a nice chat. He asked me one question which stumped me a bit, which was ‘How do I actually know I am a woman inside?’, and my answer was more like how everything is wrong and out of balance when I have to lead my life as a man, with so much of the real me suppressed, and how when I look in the mirror what I see I either don’t recognise or fills me with horror. But then he went onto say that he does consider me very soft, and quite effeminate too, especially my run, and he pointed out even the way I was sitting in front of him, with my legs crossed and my head tilted. Around lunchtime I had a talk with the HR lady, who has put an action plan together for who does what and when around the communication about me and arrangements therein, such as pass cards, logins, and toilets – it all looks good. I had a good chat with Joan (recruitment girl) over mocha at a nearby coffee shop.

Later, because my boss kept piling on the pressure with me at work, I had to tell him the news about my daughter… and once that was out he looked like one of his own relatives had died, as though it was his own sadness instead of mine. He offered to put me up in a hotel if that suited… but it only suited HIM, because he wanted much more work doing in advance of the weekend (when some people are in work), and I almost packed my bag and left there and then. But I tried to stay calm, I said that although emotionally I would prefer to leave right then but I would stay until 6.30 and that is what I did. But although my boss is quite supportive, he always has his own agenda… and my team colleague is really fed up with him and as his contract is up in two weeks time I fear that I will not see him much more.

That Friday is the last Friday I will ever have to present as a ‘male’… for next Friday will be the first day of being full-time and the rest-of-my-life as Andrea.

Thanks for reading.

X

Another museum visit… and now my solicitor knows that I am a woman

Following a very busy, people-filled Saturday, Sunday I had all to myself… but I still had a pretty good time – the morning I pottered around, doing some wardrobe sorting out, including gathering more male clothes to bin, while in the afternoon I went out. Firstly I went to my nearby outlet shopping centre and bought some chocolates, as well as browsed for clothes. Then, having had such an enjoyable time at the Ulster Museum a week ago with my best friend Kirsty I decided to go again – unlike me, Kirsty has lived in Northern Ireland all of her life and thus knows the history of the country pretty well and seemed to voice a view that she didn’t have a desire to see that section of the museum, especially the one concerning the ‘troubles’ in the latter half of the 20th Century. So I decided to go to the museum’s history section myself, although upon arrival I firstly went to the coffee shop – the girl behind the counter said “Can I get you a hot drink Madam20150118_161917?” and so I ordered a mocha, as well as a nice piece of carrot cake. Once in the museum history section I walked through, heading back in time to start my visit at a point where the troubles seemed to have historically started… and that took quite some time, because it turns out that the friction can be traced as far back as the 11th Century if one investigates sufficiently… as I was told by a nice museum guide who stopped beside me to ask if I needed any help, so I had an interesting lesson with him. I am sure I have taken very little in, and will have to go again, to read more about how Ireland’s history was affected by the reign of James II and Charles I, how the harp symbol was introduced on Irish coinage by Henry VIII, the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and the Easter Uprising in 1916 which is about as far as I got on this visit. Many of the displays were quite interesting, and the picture to the right and the caption that i read caught my attention – this is actually a picture of a boy, apparently in the 1600s children of both genders wore dresses until they reached the age of six – how revolutionary! Towards the end of 20150118_164430my visit, I took a break from Irish history (as there was far too much to do in an afternoon) and went into a room with general history exhibits aimed I think a bit more at younger visitors… but I enjoyed what I saw, including a cabinet of toys and baby accessories… including the Sooty plate in the middle of the picture there, which I have in my own house, which I used as a baby and then Tara did… and has done until very recently. Then alas, at 5.00, it was time to go, but I didn’t want to return home that early and so went clothes shopping on the Boucher road, and went into a large ‘Outfit’ store where, after a good browse, trying on a few things in the changing room, I bought a pretty dress from the ‘Apricot’ label – the girl on the till was nice enough. I popped next door to Sports Direct and looked at running shoes, a youngish male shop assistant gave me some advice on what I should be looking for. Then it was time to go home… but it was a good end to my 100% Andrea weekend.

I forgot to mention that at the end of last week I rang my solicitor to tell her two things:

  1. That, owing to a change in circumstances for both my ex- and I, I am now agreeable to paying half of the fee required to progress our marital separation to decree absolute and full divorce, rather than just be legally-separated. Several years ago I had previously refused my ex-‘s request in this respect because of the way I was treated by her during our separation and the way I was ejected from the family unit.
  2. Secondly, I told her about my gender dysphoria and discussed what areas she may need to assist with… including, possibly, further child access arrangement if my ex- decides to formally restrict my access to my daughter. Anyway, for now she will just help with updating my will. She was really nice during the call (as always), and totally fine with the news about my gender… and so a week on Monday I will see her as Andrea and sign my new will.

On Tuesday I went around to my ex-‘s house to see how things were; generally she talks a lot without imparting an awful lot that is informative, so all I seemed to gather was that daughter is still not sleeping that great; alas my daughter made no appearance while I was there.

Of more note on Tuesday was that I came out to two managers in my department, one that I used to work for for many years and the other who is the head of the whole department. Both were great, but especially the latter who used to be a bit of a joker, he was REALLY understanding and empathised well with what I was going through in my life despite having had no experience. I think he will be very supportive.

However, my lovely mum and dad continue to surprise me. In a previous blog post I mentioned that they have been quite complimentary about my appearance as a woman having asked, and received, a few photos… and in their latest email they tell me that they have printed one of the pictures, framed it, and have it displayed on the dining room sideboard! Aren’t they the best!!!

x

A wintry wonderful Saturday, Andrea’s first time at the cinema… and my new lovely friend Lynda!

Saturday 17th Jan I anticipated would be quite a full day… but I was on the go, in a good way, and out of the house (as Andrea, of course) from 9.40am until after midnight!

My latest event with my walking group was at yet another new place for me, walking through Redburn Country Park, east of Belfast. I set off from home at 9.40, prepared for quite a cold day, though it was nice and sunny; alas as I got to Belfast I was met by rain and snow flurries and I wondered if the enjoyment of the walk might be tempered by the wintry weather. After an emergency toilet stop nearby I arrived at the packed car park and it was thankfully dry again so, after donning my woolly hat, I joined the group and immediately started chatting to some of the girls I have met before. As we set off I ended up chatting to a girl called Elaine who has apparently been on some of the walks before, though we have never spoken; she has a hairdressing business and is lucky enough to only have to work three days a week. I spoke to her for a good while, interspersed with chat with some girls I have met before, such as Siobhan, Lesley, and Martina, and brief chat with a few others. The start of the walk had a bit of a climb, and the paths were rather muddy, but I delicately navigated them without getting too muddy and the views from the top were splendid. We got back to the car park about 90 minutes later, and I was warmly greeted by a retired man called Robert (who I had met on the Xmas day walk) who gave me a hug! Some nice chat with him ensued! As we prepared to leave some of us hinted at meeting up for a coffee, so we agreed to meet at a place in Holywood, so I followed Siobhan into the town as I had never been before.

It was not easy to find multiple parking spots – Siobhan ahead of me nabbed one at the side of the road but, further into town it looked very busy, and so I turned around, pulled over at the side of the road, and Siobhan and I exchanged mobile numbers so that she could tell me which coffee shop they ended up in. I drove a couple of minutes away from town and parked by a playing field, then put a thick coat on, grabbed a change of clothes, and, upon instruction from Siobhan, went to a café called the Coffee Yard. I joined a rather large queue, slowly inching towards the counter, past some really delicious looking cakes… which I was good enough to resist, ordering their spiced carrot and coriander soup and a mocha. They gave me an order number, and I went upstairs to join the walking group members, of which there were about 8-10; Alan, my flattering-but-unwanted admirer, stood up and offered me his seat, but I said I would grab a nearby one and so he made space for me to squeeze into the group. Presently my soup and coffee arrived, and I slowly ate while chatting away to several of them. After a while I went to the ladies to change out of my walking gear as well as go to the loo; I had to wait, a while as there was only one toilet-per-gender, and then a lady came up behind me with her little daughter, so I let them go ahead of me too. But eventually I was changed, sat back with the group… and Siobhan complimented me on my woolly cardigan, which is a lovely duck-egg blue with sequins sown in at intervals – she said I “had brought sparkle to Holywood”! I had a nice chat with her and Karen, who is also a member of some other Meetup groups… including ”Yoga for vegetarians”! Eventually it was time to go and, after a browse around the adjacent picture gallery, I left.

I had never been to Holywood, near Belfast (not L.A.) before, and so as I had plenty of time before ready-made plans for later, I decided to explore. I walked down the main street, soon popping into a charity shop where I bought a gorgeous camisole top for £1.25! Then I headed onwards, all the way down one side of the street and up the other, popping into a few shops, and then went for a diversion down to the waterfront where there was a very nice view of the coast to the north of Belfast. After browsing one or two more shops, and stopping outside a wedding dress shop for a quick dream, I returned to my car.

NI coast from HolywoodAfter a few minor make-up repairs, I headed back to Belfast… and soon saw signs for a retail park so, with plenty of time still to spare, decided to have an explore. I went into a huge sports shop for a browse, then into a big BHS Home store where I bought a lovely girly flower duvet set… which has given me much inspiration for turning my spare room into a girl-heaven bedroom! Then I drove to a shopping centre where I bought a couple of tops with one of my e-giftcards from my parents, and drove onwards to Sprucefield, where I entered the ladies to change into my evening outfit; I emerged 15 minutes later in a black and white flowery dress over a white, square-neck camisole top, and heels.

A while ago I had agreed to meet my, now-former, IPL lady Lynda for an evening out, and the first element of the evening was a meal at the Parsons Nose in Hillsborough at 6.00pm. I parked nearby after seeing her car, which was empty, and tentatively stepped inside, wondering if Lynda was already there. A barman said “Do you have a booking, Madam?”… and I/madam replied that she did, and so I was directed upstairs and a lady showed me to my table where Lynda was already seated. We had a little hug, and then I sat down and we started chatting – it was lovely to see her socially, with her hair down. We were able to order form the early-bird menu – I had a chicken parfait starter, local sausages on mash with a red wine sauce, and a brioche bread and butter dessert – and for the best part of two hours we had a lovely time chatting away like old friends, discovering that in quite a number of ways we are quite similar. I asked for the bill and, after some maths, worked out how to split the bill, and we left… for the rest of our social evening, coffee and a trip to the cinema. Lynda followed me there, and we drove around quite a while looking for a parking spot. I popped to the cinema to collect our pre-ordered tickets while Lynda queued up at my familiar Costa outlet, at Lisburn. Once Lynda had paid she suddenly had a worry that she might have left her car unlocked and so she rushed out while I carried our coffees to a table; she returned apologetically, and I said not to worry… because that is something I do all the time!! After nearly half an hour of chat we headed over to the cinema, and were soon seated at very good seats… and I was SO pleased, because this was another first – as Andrea I have never been to the cinema before, and also I have not watched an adult-film on the cinema in nearly 10 years! We watched Taken 3… and it was a good choice because we both enjoyed it, and Lynda rather likes Liam Neeson too!

As we left the cinema the queue of cars to leave was massive, and so Lynda suggested we sit in her car until it dispersed… and we must have spent 45 minutes there, chatting away, catching up on more events of recent weeks, including my news around my parents and my old friend in Wales; she thinks I have handled my coming out to everyone as sympathetically as I could. At about 11.45pm she said that she had really enjoyed our night out and would like to do it again… and of course I was SO pleased that our first event as friends had gone so well, and so I said I already had an idea for our next meet, a classical concert (which I had wanted to do in 2014 as Andrea) and meal… and so it is agreed for end of Feb! She drove me over to my car, I gave her my Taken 2 DVD (which she has not seen), and we hugged and bid each other good bye.

Once home I had a text from Lynda saying that she hoped I was home safe and what a lovely evening she had had – I replied that I had had a great day, a lovely evening with her, and was going to bed happy… though that is a bit of an understatement – I have never felt SO alive as I do now, and it is such a joy!

xx

An admirer returns, an alarming shopping trip… and my daughter’s BF knows about me being a woman

Wednesday 14th Jan was a fairly typical Wednesday – shopping + coffee-with-Kirsty + support group – but there were elements of each activity that were a bit different:

  • Having left work earlier than normal I had plenty of time to get ready, and a reasonable amount of time to shop. But I have done far too much clothes shopping recently, as my credit card bill will testify, and so I started off going to B&Q DIY store – a bulb has gone in my kitchen lighting, and so I needed a replacement. Once in the shop I stood in front of the bulbs wondering which ones to get, and because I am Little-Miss-Save-The-Planet I was contemplating energy-saving units… when a male assistant soon came up to me and asked if I needed any help; I am sure I was not offered help so readily before I shopped as my true female self. Anyway, I told him the issue and he seemed to give me some very useful advice, so I ended up buying a complete set of bulbs to avoid blowing the rest of them; I looked at wellington boots as well, as I fancied getting some girlie ones for the garden, but the ones at B&Q were very dreary so I just bought the bulbs. After paying I went to the exit… and the shop alarm started going off! Oh, how embarrassing! A girl came up to me and asked me to show her the receipt, which I did, and then she pointed to some sensors on the bulb packets that had set the alarm off.
  • Then I went to the nearby Sainsburys supermarket… and as I entered the shop, Wellieswith bulbs in my handbag, the bloomin’ shop alarm went off again! I looked absently at the security guard and he just waved me on, so I went into the toilets to check my hair (as it was very windy outside) and realised I had forgotten my hair brush. Quel disaster! I ran my fingers through it as best I could, but it really wasn’t ideal, and then exited the ladies… and set off the alarm again. I had a look at the clothes, looking for a smart woolly hat for going to work… and saw the most beautiful pair of welly boots! I won’t describe them in detail but simply show a picture, I think they’re the most beautiful wellies I have ever seen… complete with bows at the back!!! Of course, I just had to have them, especially as they were reduced to £8 (US$12) in their sale so, after picking up a handbag-sized hairbrush, I paid – of course, with only two items I could have just gone to self-service… but where’s the fun in that, so I paid at a checkout with a nice young polite lad and had a nice bit of chat with him. Then as I walked to the exit I said to the security guard “I’m sorry, I’m going to set the alarms off again!”
  • Then I popped over to the ladies toilets in Sprucefield and, once I was done and washed, went to check my make up… and was scared to death by best friend Kirsty who came in right behind me; I can’t remember what she said, but it made me jump for sure. After a quick trip into Boots I joined her for coffee.
  • Our coffee and catch-up-chat in Costa was very nice, as usual, and fairly uneventful… apart from some very confusing chat with a new girl behind the counter who seemed very eager to pack everything away some 10 minutes before they were due to close.
  • The support group visit was rather better than normal… mainly because 15 minutes after we arrived a girl I had never met before, along with her companion, departed to leave me with just my two friends Kirsty and Michelle, at which point relaxed and quality chat ensued, with some very good advice offered on some things I was pondering. During the conversation I received a message from one of my ‘admirers’ that I thought I had some time ago convinced that I was only looking for friendship. Well, I was obviously wrong!! Perhaps it has been a case of ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ or maybe I chatted too much to him one walk in early December but, well, I think he rather fancies me! I am NOT going to paste what he wrote, but he does seem to have a thing about me… and we will see how my girlie friend’s advice of simply ignoring him will go down!

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This week I had a session with the HR lady who is managing my come-out-at-work strategy. We had a good long talk, and she asked me quite a few questions. She is going to tell people at work through several meetings rather than email, which would be a bit impersonal, and also fraught with the possibility of being forwarded. Anyway, some good ground was covered with her, and agreement reached as regards me using the female toilets… which I will do a month after going full-time, once people have had a bit of time to get used to me; until then, it will be the disabled toilets… which I have used all year, as I cannot bring myself to enter the male toilets – that would be completely wrong.

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I had an email from my brother wishing me a good weekend… and, for the first time, he has made direct reference to something to do with my coming out. He wrote about the reactions of my daughter and my ex-, and it was nice to read.

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This afternoon I texted my ex- to see if I should go round to talk about anything, including the possibility of ‘coming out’ to the mother of my daughter’s best friend (BF). The reply I got was uninformative, as is often the case, but I was to go round and take daughter and BF to get their dinner at a take-away; I was not sure whether daughter would come, there was also no response on BF’s mother. Anyway, I turned up, and was barely in the door when I was told by ex- that she had already told both my daughter’s BF and also her mother – their reactions had, obviously, been one of shock, the mother had apparently known that something was up, but not what it was. After a few minutes of chat my ex- went to get the girls who came downstairs with a bit of a commotion – for a moment I thought it was my daughter crying, but in they came with quite a bit of giggling going on… which after a while I figured was to do with me. The three of us got in the car, I engaged in a bit of chat with them, but they were a little bit quiet, then the BF said “this is a bit awkward” and I replied “I guess so, but I really am still ME, even if I will look quite different”, she said “I know”… and then they lightened up a bit. I dropped them at BF’s house for BF to pick up school uniform (it is school open day tomorrow), then I popped to a nearby shop to get cash for the takeaway, and returned to the house. BF’s mum answered the door, with baby son in arms, and she invited me in – I said “I gather you’ve been told the news…?”, she said yes, and then we just talked about it and she was fine, her chat was slightly at odds pronoun-wise when talking about Kelly Moloney… and yet, even though I hate the Big Brother show, I am thankful now that it exists and Kelly was on it, because it has made people more aware of TS people. We had some light-hearted chat, I told her about the walking group when she talked about me being more comfortable in life, and she laughed at my admirers. I gave her a little hug when it was time to go after she offered me best wishes, then we stopped at the take-away where the girls sorted themselves and my ex- out with food before I dropped them back at my ex-; daughter said ‘Bye’ in a cheery enough manner… and after that little trip I have a bit more hope that perhaps eventually my daughter will come around. I do hope so.

x

Jan 11th: My parents think their new daughter is ‘attractive’!! And old relics at a museum

Hot on the heels of my previous post comes an update on the rest of my weekend as me, seeing as daughter is struggling with the concept and didn’t want to see me, even as the male exterior that she knows. I anticipated this possibility, and made a ‘Plan B’ as the weekend approached… and Plan B it turned out to be, with my BF Kirsty for a bit of friendly support.

I left the house at around 1.00, a bit more organised than the previous day, and drove to Sprucefield retail park, where I went into M&S and had my breakfast/lunch at their main cafe, a toasted sandwich and salad, and a little sweet treat for dessert. As I was finishing up, Kirsty texted that she was almost ready, and it was arranged that she would pick me up at the entrance; rather than buying anything from M&S I actually returned three clothing items, and as I was exited the store I saw Kirsty coming towards me. We had a quick girlie hug, then got cash out the ATM and headed off in the Kirsty-wagon to the museum.

I have lived in Northern Ireland for over 15 years and have only been on the ground floor of the museum before that weekend, and that was only to pick up my daughter about 10 years ago from her aunty who works there… and as we pulled up, having had good chat and catch up along the way, that very thought struck me! Would said-aunty be there, and if she was, would she recognise me… for she has been told by my ex- about me being a woman! Anyway, we walked in blustery conditions to the museum and, after a hurried trip to the ladies to repair our hair, went to the cloakroom where a nice man took our coats and explained the best way to see the museum once I had stated that I had never visited before… which, from the point-of-view of being an interested visitor, I had not. We started on the top floor and worked our way down. The top two floors were largely art-related, although in some parts ‘art’ seemed a somewhat abstract term, for example when applied to a pile of three towels on a padded stool or a series of approximately 30 almost identical sheets of blank paper scruffily pinned to the wall of the modern art section! Kirsty has already done an eloquent job of talking about this area in much deUlster Musuem Liberty exhibitiontail, so I won’t attempt to even half-match her, but needless to say, I felt totally confident and happy to be visiting with Kirsty, having a light-hearted time as we went. We started by viewing pottery and glass, then jewellery, followed by a Liberty exhibition of ladies dresses from various periods – see right; some of them were very elegant, some a bit plain and slightly worse-for-wear, and some rather, well, let’s say impractical for today’s general activities! Then we went onto paintings, which began with a series of what seemed to be largely half-finished portraits in a very dark room, but once out of that exhibition we entered a large, more traditionally-styled gallery with a variety of artists, including Reynolds and Gainsborough. There were some archetypal portraits of ladies in very fine dressUlster museum painting, Joseph Wrightes awash with pretty lace, stuffy men with white wigs, and families with alarmingly similar looking children… which, from our visit in October to England (see earlier post at that time, if interested) we knew was because one poor child had to stand and be the model for the whole offspring, whether they be girls or boys. There were also some very nice landscapes, including the one to the left which both Kirsty and I liked very much. Next was the modern art section and, while there were a few that caught the eye for the right reason, most looked liked they had either been painted by toddlers, by people who had used their hands and feet instead of brushes to make large, sweeping messy strokes, or frankly people who were trying to make fun of the word ‘art’. So we whizzed through that section fairly quickly and emerged into the nature zone, where there were some really interesting exhibits about animals, including ice age, dinosaurs, birds and butterflies, and more general sections explaining how so manAndrea at Ulster Museumy creatures are related if one traces their path back far enough – so we are related to sea sponges… distantly! Onto an interesting display of minerals, with spectacular crystals, and fluorescent rocks which glowed in amazing colours only when viewed under ultraviolet light. The next section was to do with the earth’s treasures, with assorted displays of items made of particular elements and compounds; nearby was a full dinosaur skeleton, so time for a quick photo moment. Time was getting on, so we picked up speed, and whizzed quickly through the ancient history section (the one containing the old relics – no, I wasn’t referring to us girls), and past a section detailing the history of the last century of Ireland, something I know very little about. And then it was time to go, with little over half the museum done! We picked up our coats, had a nice bit of chat with the guy who asked us if we had enjoyed our time there, then returned to Lisburn.

The next item on oPheasant Jan 2015ur social agenda was dinner out, but we squeezed a mocha and cappuccino in at our usual Costa before returning to a chilly support group HQ for me to change; for some inexplicable reason, Kirsty had not brought a change of clothes… though she was smart enough for our venue I will say, but at every opportunity I will dress up a bit if I can – I wore the dress I had bought in Dorothy Perkins the previous day, once Kirsty had confirmed it fitted well enough. We went to the Pheasant, the same place as we had been not too long ago. We had a lovely time with lots of great chat, but the food was not quite as good on this occasion – my seafood starter plate was nice, my main course of chicken with brie and chorizo was nice enough though the meat was slightly dry with not enough sauce, and a dessert of sticky toffee pudding was good but almost too sweet even for me. So a mocha was called for to finish off the meal, and we both left a bit stuffed.

Just as we were leaving I received an email from my parents that bleeped on my phone. The day before I had sent them a reply to their latest Q&A email (though to be honest the number of questions are getting a lot less) where they asked if I could send them some photos now, and so I did; I assumed the reply would contain some kind of comment relating to the photos, but I was rather anxious as to what they might think and so decided to wait to read it until we got back to support group HQ. Once inside, with the heaters on, I read their email… and I was absolutely stunned by how positive it was – the following is the exact comment from them:

We are very pleased and, indeed, impressed by how natural and attractive you look. The wig is fine and suits you, softening the outline of the face, and all the clothes look well chosen.. We see what you mean by wanting to ‘blend in’  and why noone you meet seems to suspect that you are other than a normal, (there’s that word again!), woman. The photo in the Prezzo Outfit is a very pleasant portrait and Dad has printed it.

SOOO, my parents think their new daughter is ‘attractive’! WOW! Oh I couldn’t control myself, the tears started to flow and yet I chuckled with pure glee at the same time, it was such a positive opinion considering their initial reaction to finding out about me being a woman that I was totally overwhelmed. Luckily, my BF who is so good at hugs, was on-hand and I was given a very generous embrace as I cried softly against her; it was so good to be able to share that news with Kirsty as it arrived.

AND THERE’S MORE! My parents feel that they are now ready to go back to speaking to me over the phone, something they have not done since end-October when the news came out; so before long they will hear what their daughter Andrea sounds like!

Saturday 10th Jan: My wonderfully accepting friend… and Andrea joins the library

I was not at all sure how I would be feeling during this weekend, considering my daughter had informed my ex- that she did not want to see me… but one must make the best of one’s life, and that is exactly what I did; I thought about her quite a few times, but it was just that feeling of, at least temporary, resignation, that these are for now her feelings on the significant news that has been thrust upon her, and I am ready to help her however I can.

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On Saturday it took me ages and ages to get ready, partly because I got side-tracked doing quite a few things at home, but also my face is still very much in recovery mode after its latest severe blasting from my last IPL session. Anyway, by about 2.15pm off I went to my local town of Banbridge, and I had just parked, ready to get out, when I realised I had left my makeup bag at home and so all the way back I went to pick it up… along with my brain!

Once firmly parked at Banbridge, it was around 2.50 so as I had not had breakfast, never mind lunch, it was time to eat, and so I went to my local up-market café called Quails; it is not part of any chain, but I had been there before and all was fine and so I went again. I ordered a bacon, brie, and cranberry panini, and did not have to wait long before it arrived with a copious amount of salad. As I started eating I noticed a woman in the queue for food look over in my direction and I wondered if she was reading me… but once she paid and put her bag on her seat she came over and nicely asked if she could have the newspaper that I was reading once I was done with it, to which I said ‘Of course, no problem at all’. My panini was yummy, I ate delicately, and once my coat was on I gave the paper to the lady who thanked me profusely. Once I had checked my face in the toilets, I exited the place and went across the road to Dorothy Perkins, a medium-level women’s clothes store which I quite like… and for which my lovely parents had given me an e-voucher for Xmas. I had a good browse around, picked up a few items of clothing, and was shown into the changing rooms by a nice lady I had met previously who offered help getting any different sizes if I needed them. I tried all my items on, finding a new way to take items off over my head without scraping half my foundation away, and I went out in one top and asked the lady for a bigger size. I settled for a beautiful almost holly-green dress with a moderate flower pattern with the occasional little butterfly, and the larger-size UK-12 top. At the checkout the women puzzled for a while over how to use the giftcard, but eventually all was sorted and I left happy.

Next stop library! Part of the reason was to upload some more holiday photos from recent years onto my flickr page (andrealough34), which I do there rather than at home to avoid gobbling up my mifi allowance, but the other reason was to change my membership details with them – ‘he’ was a member but I was not. Once I had logged onto the computer, and checked what details they had, I went up to the desk and told them that I was a member already but I had changed my name, and had also lost my card, so I gave them my number and the lady pulled up my details. I half-wondered if I would get any reaction, but there was none, she simply asked for anything showing my new name, which I gave her (which had ‘Miss A D…’) and then she gave me a form to fill out with my new name, also my date of birth, and she updated my existing record but moved it over to a new number. She then pointed to the ‘Gender’ field and said ‘I know this might be a sensitive, but should I update this’ and I said yes. And so now I have a new library card, with my new name in full and my new signature. She said ‘are you going to read a few books now’ in a light-hearted tone and I said ‘I hope so’ then smiled, thanked her for her help, and went back to the computer, where I uploaded photos for a couple of holidays, then looked at the travel books before leaving. I returned to the main street and went into a local department store for a browse of sale items, including the upstairs ‘chic’ floor (with sale prices to match), then thought about one or two more shops, but as it started to snow I thought it might be better to save that for another time. I lastly went to do a Tesco-supermarket shop, paying at a till with the same guy who served me on Boxing Day, so we had a good old chat, exchanged tales of New Year’s Eve, and as someone closed the gate to the till behind me I asked if he was off home, and he was so I talked about his day and wished him a good evening, so he gave me a really friendly farewell and a thumbs up.

One reason I wanted to get home was to ring my wonderful old friend Tim, who I mentioned in a previous post that I had come out to, to remarkable acceptance, earlier in the week. Once home I packed away my shopping, had a cup of tea, and tentatively rang him at about 6.35pm… and had a FAB time talking to him – owing to my significant news, a lot of that conversation was about me, and he had a lot of questions to ask which I was happy to answer, but he has a huge depth of understanding about my position, and of the way people feel in general, he is so perceptive, but I was able to fill in a number of gaps too. Of course, this conversation was in my new voice, and he told me that apart from one or two times when I slipped into old voice patterns (not voice as such, more word patterns) I was generally very consistently new-voice…. though he didn’t say how good it was. I told him about my walking group, the guys that fancied me, and the one I had to tell about me (see post mid-September if interested) where although he had a rough idea what Gender Dysphoria was he got it completely the wrong way round, he thought I was sitting in front of him as a woman wishing I could be a man! That sent Tim into TOTAL hysterics! HUGE gaffaws of laughter at the other end of the phone! Apart from the first minute, the whole call was brilliant, we were totally at ease, a couple of times he said my old name (which is to be expected when he has known me for 30 years) but mostly he said my new one and bid me farewell as such. He was completely fine with any detail I wanted to give him, and I put the phone down with a HUGE amount of hope for a solid ongoing friendship with him.

My daughter doesn’t want to see me… but my oldest friend is amazing with my TS news

This post chronicles the previous six days in my life and, perhaps surprisingly for me, is not one of doing lots of things as the real me, but more one of progressing my future and coming out.

Sunday 4th Jan I met with Kirsty and we had a good girly chat and shopping expedition in Belfast… though thankfully, for my credit card, my spending was really rather moderate compared to recent expeditions.

Monday was my first day back at work and it was a real hard slog getting back into the routine of commuting and, well, having to work… especially as it was such a long day.

Tuesday was on the whole rather a good day Andrea-wise. During the afternoon I phoned my daughter’s form teacher Maria at school as I wanted to speak to her before daughter returned to school about my news – I told her that I had had to give daughter some significant news on Friday which has upset her a bit, and slowly elaborated to tell her what the medical condition was… and she was really nice and understanding… and had actually heard of Gender Dysphoria. 15-20 minutes later I had a call from the school Principal saying that Maria had been in to see him, and he wanted to reassure me that they are a school who embrace diversity and that they will support both daughter and I in any way they can. He then proceeded to congratulate me on my journey, commented on how liberating it must be, and so on. Towards the end of the call I asked him about how to change my details with them, so he took down my new name and email and said that from now on he will call me Andrea, and bid me goodbye accordingly. Interestingly, or coincidentally, in September a pupil will be joining their school as a boy who is currently living as a girl.

A couple of hours later I had a lovely email from a good friend that I have known for 25 years, from university days. Sunday night I put a letter in the post to him, with my news, which he would have got that day… and his email started by calling me a “Pillock” for “thinking my news would make any difference at all to our friendship”! He then followed in a more sympathetic vein, congratulating me for my bravery for wanting to be “me”. So he has been great! Half an hour late another person in HR knew, who helped with my travel pass as Andrea starting 1st Feb, and she was nice.

But Tuesday wasn’t all highs – once off the train in the evening I went over to daughter and ex-, and although daughter was fine when in front of me once she disappeared as I chatted with ex- I was told that daughter does not want to see me as a woman, and may not want to even see me at all… at least for a fair while. Understandable of course, considering I only told daughter four days previously. But I had a really long chat with ex-, and although there were a few tears, there were also one or two hugs, and a lot of constructive conversation. I didn’t sleep a lot Tuesday night, partly wound up stress-wise about all that talk, but rightly or wrongly I don’t feel upset about daughter – I worried about telling her for over a year, there was never going to be a ‘right’ time to tell her, and now it is done, I was always prepared for the possibility that everyone could reject me… and so far she is the only one who might… but I have suppressed this for too long, I have given her nearly 13 years of dedication as a parent, and even though I still want to be a parent I need to finally look after my happiness too… because for the last few years, and particularly this year when not presenting as me (Andrea), I have been very unhappy and in the past 8-9 months have spent half the time wanting to burst into tears…. and daughter has noticed and commented on this unhappiness… and maybe one day she will remember this.

Wednesday I had possibly my last IPL session; Lynda turned up the setting once again, and quite a few blasts were really very sharp, and my face by the end was really very pink… but I won’t be surprised if once again there isn’t much improvement. I had a very good chat with her… and we are now embarking on a wonderful new relationship, not a medical one but friendship – next weekend we are having a meal out and then going to the cinema, but there is the promise of more things which we hinted at – she suggested walks, coffee, and so on, and I said that I was hoping we could be friends and it wouldn’t only be the one outing.

Thursday I left early again, this time to see my doctor. Firstly I dropped off 12 kilos of, mostly, male clothes off at one of these places that gives customers money for unwanted clothing, a full 50p per kilo! Then onto doctor… where I changed my name with her on my medical records, so the next time I go in I can go there as a woman, as ME. We then discussed a few other little medical issues, and I got two prescriptions, my first for “Miss Andrea Denise…”! After a trip to my sorting office, to collect two items of mail addressed to Andrea, I went home.

Today, Friday, I was due to pick up my daughter for the weekend… but got a text from ex- saying that she doesn’t want to see me. Ex- agreed I could pop around to talk about a couple of things with her, even if daughter didn’t want to see me, so once off the train I popped to my local, big Tesco and bought a couple of bunches of flowers, one for ex- and one for daughter, “to say how sorry I am for causing them upset”. I chatted with my ex- for almost an hour while she cooked their dinner… and I really can’t remember the last time we had such good conversation.

So I have an unsurprisingly non-daughter weekend, and so have painted my nails a lovely, dusky pink, ready for living my life over the next couple of days. Perhaps I am a heartless cow for not being upset over my daughter – I AM anxious for her, that my news will not disrupt other aspects of her life or affect her schooling, but I have spent a YEAR off and on worrying about telling her, always anticipating the possibility of total rejection, and now that I have told her I feel primarily relief, and simply resigned to the way she is feeling as an inevitable consequence of my news. Now that my news is out to all that matter to me, I am here to help them all in any way I can to come to terms with this, but after years and years of suppressing my feminine side to the detriment of my own happiness, with little thanks for all that I have done for others in my life, at the age of 48 it is time to finally LIVE my life, and be happy.

P.S. Today I had several letters addressed to me… and only one for him!

OH THE RELIEF – Daughter and ex-wife now know I am a Woman

About a month ago I firmly decided that 2nd January would be the day that I would tell my daughter and, shortly afterwards, my ex-wife about me, that I am actually a woman and will soon being living full-time as one… and that is exactly what has happened today. Everything went to scheduled, and MUCH better than expected! I did a lot of preparation with both of them on exactly what I wanted to say to them, refining it for days… and keeping myself awake hours and hours for the last few nights thinking about it.

At 3.30pm I walked into the sitting room/lounge, having pre-warned my daughter that we would have a serious chat about something, something about me, and a few minutes later, once I had persuaded hr to turn off the television (with a hmmph) I began – I firstly reassured her that I loved her immensely and always will, that I wanted to always be there for her as a parent to help with whatever she wanted, and apologised in advance for any shock or upset. Then I went on to talk about my unhappiness and medical appointments in very general terms, hints I have tried to drop into her life, and how long I have suffered from my medical condition… and then I told her it was Gender Dysphoria, and explained what it was, and that inside I feel female, at which point she became sniffly with a few tears. I said that I was glad I had been able to bring her into the world with her mum but that since then I have increasingly felt that inside I am really a woman, at end-January I would begin living as one. The timing was such that it was approximately the time to return her to my ex-, but allowed for her to ask any questions, which she did not.

Daughter packed her stuff up while I tried to ring ex- on mobile and work numbers but no luck, but just as we were heading out the door I rang again and got her, so I said I was dropping daughter to her a bit early at work, that she is a bit upset about some significant news I have told her – she asked what it was, but I said I will tell her when I see her, and to remain calm for everyone’s sake. The journey over was as talkative as it ever is (i.e. not very much these days, typical teenager), then she ran into her mum for a hug while I parked the car and waited. Then I was let in, she showed me to a quiet room, and I started talking; after a while she admitted she had a slight inkling as to what it might be as I carried on, partly because when things started to turn sour in our marriage comments were voiced by people to her wondering whether I was gay. As I started to give her version of pre-amble, including that I had told daughter how much I loved her, I soon found it difficult to hold back my tears… and my ex- came over and gave me a hug!!! Then I carried on, and told her what this is all about… and she said it was actually a relief to know, after the way our marriage went. Had another hug, then we talked about daughters school, and also she said about the problems she is having with daughter’s attitude and I said that we need to communicate more, which she agreed. I also told her about my walking group and that at least some don’t know I am TS as I had two guys come onto me, and she laughed hysterically at that!

I must have left about 45 minutes after arrived, and the relief, OH the relief, it is just enormous! I am totally wound up like a spring with the stress over these admissions today, but I am awash with joyful tears that there is no more secrets from anyone and that I can get on with living my life with nothing suppressed any longer. Well, I have another four weeks to work as male… but, frankly, that will be a breeze!

Happy New Year everyone; I hope yours starts as well as mine appears to have done.

P.S. thanks especially to my BF Kirsty, but also good friend Michelle, for their go-mature advice with my daughter!