12 Week-Recovery, 12-Month Relapse… & Uncelebrated Anniversaries

About 13 months ago I wrote a euphoric post about my gender reassignment surgery. I do remain extremely pleased about the physical result, it looks like it should, and not half bad at that… but the ongoing overall recovery has been a total disaster! One is lead to believe that the recovery for this type of operation will be around 12 weeks, and this is the length of the sick note one is given before one hopefully then returns to work. Except that, over 13 months later, I have yet to return to work having had what I can now quite accurately state to be a 12-month relapse in my health 😦

My relapse started following the standard follow-up visit to the hospital that performed my surgery, where they check that everything has been healing okay… which visually it was. Now I am not for one minute suggesting that the hospital concerned caused my relapse, because I don’t believe that this was the case at all, it was more the combination of (1) the exertion of actually going over there and back and (2) having to cope with taking a carry on bag with me, even if I did on the whole ask other people to carry this on/off planes, up hotel stairs, etc and did have wheelchair assistance at the airports. I packed it lighter than I would usually do, but I think I was just too fragile after my recovery to cope with that trip… as it turned out.

In mid March I felt quite positive about my recovery, and remember a weekend or two where I felt physically much more capable in my recovery, though I did take it carefully. I remember going to house viewings with my now ex-boyfriend (git), doing a bit of shopping, and being able to drive reasonably okay. But the drive from the airport to my home after the hospital trip was noticeably more painful than the drive to the airport before it… perhaps naturally (?) due to having travelled earlier in the day. But the weekend afterwards I was doing a treasure trail with my now ex-boyfriend (git) in his home town and after a while I got extremely sore. This soreness became a daily occurrence – every morning I woke up with noticeable discomfort but moderate soreness which both always markedly escalated as the day stretched past midday into afternoon and evening. As days and weeks carried on things got gradually worse and worse in my new clitoral area; sitting at all for very long was very painful, driving became very bad where I could feel every bump, lump, and dimple on the road through my clitoris, I would get very sore just getting ready to go out. I phoned the hospital at that time and they just said I should try the painkiller Amitryptiline (sp) in what turned out to be ever-increasing and consistently useless doses. By the end of May I really felt things were not really right at all, suffering throbbing soreness, stabbing pains so bad that I was doubled over in pain, and my soreness getting worse just bending down to pick something off the floor. After many long emails of woe from me, I was eventually given an appointment at the end of June by the hospital.

For the June appointment, I travelled VERY light!! This was because I was still at the post-appointment state whereby I could lift nothing much heavier than a 2-litre carton of milk. I was also helped by a superb spell of weather, so all I had to take was my handbag, with a change of top and knickers, a few toiletries, and my little teddy bear to keep me company. I didn’t even need socks, as it was so warm I travelled in sandals! By the time I arrived at my hospital I was in agony, not helped by the bone-crunching ride up in the bus, where every bump went through me and caused agony to my clitoris. The surgeon gave me a rather brutal examination, causing me to bleed in the op area (which was rectified with silver nitrate), and then told me to get dressed and we would discuss options. Except that I was only given one option… painkillers, and pain management. I tried to discuss further surgery, but was told that that option was considered to be destructive (which, in an ideal world, I agree with) and also that he’d never had to do it ever before… to which I think (but did not say) that there is a first time for everything, given the right circumstances. His parting words were “I’d be surprised if you’re in this much pain in twelve months time” – how reassuring 😦 But essentially, I was diagnosed with having a bad case of over/hyper-sensitivity.

Less than a month later I had more new symptoms! The first was that I started with two sore spots, one on each side of, and above, the op area… which have turned out to be, uh, the severed plumbing that I was unfortunately born with; the left side has been sore pretty much every day since, to some degree. Another symptom is that when my soreness elevates to a certain level then when my body is then subjected to further jolts (such as a big bump in the road, and especially those rumble strips to make people slow down) then my clitoris goes into spasm! I’m not talking just the typical isolated stabbing pains of healing but something much, much worse, essentially a severe warning sign that things are critical in the pain department.

After further emails and calls with the hospital, in September I was put on Gabapentin, a neurological painkiller. During a conversation with the hospital it was implied that Amitriptyline was used first as it works for some people and it is the cheapest drug; great! The nurse I spoke to also admitted that surgery could at some point be considered as a last resort, but that other avenues are best considered first, including long term pain management… for which I am on a 44-week waiting list. The Gabapentin dosage was ramped up from an initial starter dose of 300mg a day to 900mg… with the only obvious effect being some horrendous side effects! These included nausea, feeling like my arms and legs were made of jelly, dizziness, and at times severe disorientation… to name just the main ones. My dose was increased further… to 1200mg a day… then 1800mg… then 2700mg (so nearly three grams!!!) – the benefit of this huge dose was minimal, with only the very edge of the pain dulled just slightly.

Since the start of this year I have been on Pregabilin… starting at 2*25mg a day up to my current dose of 2*150mg a day. Any change? Yep… WORSE side effects, some similar to Gabapentin, such as nausea and dizziness, but also my arms (and face) feeling like they are tingling as well as being jellyish, problems with coordination (I can change direction and end up losing my balance), cold symptoms, problems with blood sugar whereby when I start to get hungry it can fall off a cliff and I get to feel really quite odd, and sudden attacks of side effects in the middle of the night. But I have no benefit at all in terms of pain reduction… and in fact I think only when I take a cocktail of this drug with ibuprofen and cocodamol to things moderate just very slightly… except that my symptoms are now worse again, with some new and quite worrying new developments.

Since Christmas, my clitoris has actually started rubbing on the tissue inside of me!!! My clitoris is also swollen ALL the time! Some days I can barely walk more than 2-300 metres before my swelling and soreness go through the roof… and then when I pause to recover my clitoris actually feels like it is deflating!!! My sore spots have also got significantly worse. And I could go on…. but how can any of this possibly be right!!

For most of last year I would visit my Gender Identity Clinic and tell them about these issues, and they would say “Andrea, you’ve had major surgery, it could take quite some time for you to be fully healed”… except that things have steadily got only worse and worse, and have not actually improved at all. Since about November time though, I would visit my clinic and tell them about my new, or worsening, symptoms and they would say “Hmm, I don’t know” or “That sounds odd”! In my December appointment they admitted that it is just not possible for me to function normally and at the start of January, when things had worsened further, they agreed with my request to take up the communication responsibility with the hospital.

So after all of the above, at the start of March I flew to the hospital again… and, once again, by the time I got there I was in agony. This time the surgeon and his assistant seemed a lot more receptive to my issues, and I was allowed to go through all of my various issues, pains, and discomforts that I have to cope with. After an examination, which was so painful that I was soon reduced to tears, the appointment concluded with the surgeon admitting that surgery was the only option left… and this is what I want, because my body has been telling me for some time that nothing is going to improve until my clitoris is gone. Although this is not ideal, my situation is almost as far from ideal as I can imagine at this stage. I am quite happy to do without it, I feel that I am a loving person and not a sexual one. Some may say that would reduce my chance even more of finding a man who would want to have a romantic attachment to me… but I need this further surgery for ME, I have spent far too much time listening to other people in my lifetime and doing what they want, or think is right – that’s why it took me so bloody long to sort myself out in the first place! I even remember wondering if when I made my operation choice of the cosmetic option almost two years ago whether I should have challenged more the possibility of not having a clitoris… but I was persuaded that it would be best to have one to avoid closing down future options too much. At least, as it turned out, I have another reason that has meant that the cosmetic option was best for me… which is that if I had the full option then I frankly would not be here now because I would not have been able to cope with carrying out dilation with all of the pain that I am experiencing now; I have found life difficult enough to cope with as it is!

So I finally have further surgery to look forward to at some point… and I sincerely mean that, because my life feels fairly pointless at the moment and I hope that this surgery will finally resolve the majority of my pain issues and enable me to lead a ‘normal’ pattern of life and enjoy the things that I like doing. I just need to wait for a decision to be made on who will fund this surgery…

As you might imagine, I have not just had to cope with all the different issues of pain but also exhaustion (coping with both pain and medication) and mental issues of depression (wondering when recovery will ever happen), loneliness (where many weeks I don’t see a friendly face for six out of seven days in a week), and suicidal thoughts that have flitted through (but not lodged in) my mind. I have cried a lot these 12 months, sometimes while out and about, in shops or on the street 😦

I haven’t written any of the above in the hope of extracting any pity from anyone still out there reading my blog. I tell you all these things for two reasons:

  1. to update anyone that I know (but don’t meet up with at this stage) who reads my blog so that they are aware of my status should they be interested, and
  2. for anyone who is intending to go for gender reassignment surgery then some or all of the different issues that I have experienced are a possibility, however extremely remote, for you too – it is best that you are prepared for this eventuality, because I don’t feel that the hospital sufficiently emphasised just how debilitating the possible pains might be. However, in their defence I suppose, the hospital has said that they have never known anyone in their history of performing this operation who has suffered as much pain and discomfort as I have, and so perhaps some of what I have experienced is new even to them. So I am the new benchmark for pain!

Since I wrote my previous post I have lived another year full-time… and although it has passed without incident from a real-world perspective, it hardly feels like anything to celebrate. In some ways it feels like a wasted year. Similarly, it has been another year without meeting up with my daughter… and she has implied by text that she made a decision at some point that she doesn’t want to see me ever again.

Hopefully, whenever I have the mental strength to blog again, it will contain more positive news…

Two Year Anniversaries… Good & Bad

So, it’s that time of year again, when I write an anniversary post! As per the title, I have now been living full-time as the real, and content-in-myself, me, with Friday just gone being the second anniversary of being at work as me. And how has it been? Well, if I’m honest, probably not as wonderful as the first year… and maybe that’s partly due to the novelty wearing off, and now it’s just natural…? I don’t know. Health has also been a big negative this year which was an ongoing annoyance.

Anyway, here are the main highlights, and lowlights, of my past year:

  • Well, despite me just saying the novelty has worn off, a bit, I’d say that every day of these last 12 months has still had at least one moment when I have felt glad to be free of the shackles of my former gender-incorrect life-pretence and been 100% glad that I took the decision to live life in my true, female gender. Now and again I have a big smile, almost overwhelmed by how good it can feel to live life so unrestricted and true to myself.
  • I have been lucky enough to have four, fabulous holidays – two to the Canary Islands, one to Majorca, and a walking holiday in Austria.
  • Health has not been great, in one way or another, for 11 of the past 12 months. I’ve covered it in detail one way or another in previous blog posts so I won’t repeat it all. In summary, a long case of what (after many appointments) has turned out to be shin splints, an intermittent groin soreness which has more or less gone away (without the cause being pinpointed), a minor kidney function issue, and a few stress attacks that have each temporarily affected my vocal abilities have all hit me at one point or another, each contributing to worry or feelings of depression; I also have an ongoing, seemingly permanent, condition called post nasal drip which means twice-daily nasal sprays to prevent me from drowning in phlegm… though visits to warm places (as per all of my holidays) seem to help it a lot, which is a good excuse as any to get away.
  • It is over two years since I have seen my daughter – this rarely gets me down, as a while ago I resigned myself to the fact that she will meet me when she is ready and I just have to get on with my life and live it as positively as I can… but around Christmas time it really got to me, contributing to loneliness.
  • Things have been reasonable at work – the work itself has been good and dull at times, I have had a new boss since April who by and large I get on with extremely well, while my old, misogynistic pig of a boss left the company in December; in terms of Trans* incidents I only remember one guy who has made a couple of mistakes with my gender, but there were several issues that I discovered with my name not being updated in certain systems, which were all clumped together time-wise to give me a lot of stress.
  • My GIC-related appointments have largely gone without a hitch – only one more laser appointment to go, discharged from speech and language with my therapist very pleased and complimentary, GIC appointments themselves largely just a tickbox exercise to confirm all is well although at one of them I had my second opinion, which was very postive. On the negative side, endocrinology have been an utter disappointment, with huge delays, and towards the end of the year finally flagged up with much delay that my estrogen levels were far too low leading to a doubling of the dose. In October I met with a team over from Brighton in relation to surgery – I suppose it all went well enough, I ticked all the boxes, but it was rather disappointing that they just assumed that everyone wants the same thing… a bit like being on a conveyor belt; as per previous posts, I am still favouring the cosmetic surgery option, though what I am calling a “wall of noise” is rather off-putting in this respect even if it has as yet failed to sway me.
  • I now have obvious breasts! But they are not big enough… though I am hardly the first woman to say that! I still use small fillers though to give me the size I want.
  • On the plus side I have still been to quite a number of Meetup events, the majority being walking related, which gives me a reasonable social life outside of work, but on the minus side I have not made any new friends… well, local friends anyway.
  • I went on my first date! It went extremely well, and once it had finished and we had parted he told me online that he thought I looked very nice and was wonderful company… but my heart sank a bit when he then went on to talk about imagining me on the bed beside him in his hotel, to me indicating that he is after quite a sexual relationship which rather contradicted a statement he made early on in our friendship. On the one hand perhaps I am flattered… but it doesn’t make me feel any different about my cosmetic surgery choice.
  • I have only had two negative incidents relating to my trans* history while being on my own. One was on a train where a guy in a small clique of people who know my history made a negative, hurtful comment that I was meant to overhear, and the other was one morning in Dublin when I walked past a post office and a woman nudged her companion as I passed – I guess some people just can see… and have to make a point of it. Of course, the thousands and thousands of people and all the days that I have enjoyed without any bother are what counts… but human nature is to well on negatives where they exist, and I am no different… even if I can recall several women assuming that I was married to a man (and, in a sense, I feel I was), and best of all I have had two people (one a nurse!) assume that I am on HRT to stop my hot flushes!
  • I have had a full 12 months (well, 13.5 to be exact) living life with my own, girlie hair… and the more I have it the more I love it, experimenting with it, styling it in different ways… even if I do get annoyed with the wind totally messing it up and blowing it in my face, but that’s no different to any other girl.
  • I have enjoyed lots of fun times with my best friend Kirsty, including a couple of enjoyable weekends with her staying over, and more recently I have watched her journey speed up and progress extremely well.
  • In March I visited my parents home for the first time since going full-time, and met my brother… but, as mentioned, it hasn’t made much of a difference to his acceptance level.
  • Back in September I reached an age threshold that I shouldn’t really admit again… so I won’t… but I celebrated in style with assorted people.
  • My online friendship circle, via Words With Friends, is still good – my oldest friend there (of around 18 months) knows my history, and it doesn’t seem to make the slightest difference to him… he even sent me a Christmas card (to my work, with “To My Pwincess” written inside) and an e-Gift card for Dorothy Perkins. I have several other male friends there, some of whom I suppose are there looking for attention or friendship due to problems in a marital relationship (which included the guy I dated), though I have lost two in that category who decided to make New Year resolutions and work harder on their marriage and stop flirting around… I guess.
  • My feelings of remorse are worse than the previous 12 months… remorse that I didn’t sort out my stupid head years ago and become comfortable with the idea of living my life properly – again, totally wasted feelings… and I wouldn’t have my friend Kirsty if that had happened.

I can’t think of anything else of note, though I may have missed something obvious… but at my age my memory is even less than it used to be. I’m hoping for a pretty stable year these next 12 months (with some lovely holidays, obviously… as it’s me), either culminating in surgery or with it imminently coming. I expect I’ll write about it now and again…

FIRST DATE

I suppose I should immediately say that I have been on more than one date in my life… although actually only one more than one, the other being with my ex-… but even now I look back on that and feel that it didn’t feel right, it was more like I was carried along by the expectation that I could perform the male role that everyone I knew expected of me because someone was finally interested in me, and even on that occasion if I really analyse it I was more the female conversationalist while my ex- just blabbed on and on… self, self, self.

Anyway, on Saturday 19th November this year I went on my first date, as Andrea, as me, with a guy! And it went pretty damn well! 🙂 And did it feel at all odd considering my birth gender? Not at all, it felt fabulous. So who is this guy and how did I come to meet him, you ask? Ahem!

Well, I know that some of you readers play the online game Words With Friends (WWF), but for those of you that don’t I will briefly explain that is very much like the word game Scrabble except that the bonus squares are in different places and the numbers of letters are slightly different… presumably to avoid patent/copyright infringements. One can choose other players to have games with, either at random or by a user id search, and apart from two local friends I have picked players totally at random (and vice versa) for about 18 months now. On WWF there is also a chat facility should one wish to use it… and I appear to have attracted quite a lot of male friends in this way – some of the males who chat soon turn out to be jerks desperate to get horny at the merest chat with a girl (and I subsequently soon block them for grubby talk), others are husbands trapped in marriages with little love looking just to have some friendly chat, and there are others who have turned out to be really good buddies. One such person that seemed to fall about halfway between the latter two categories is a guy called Paul – I’d say he’s not the guy with whom I have had the closest online friendship via WWF, but he is pretty much up there and we have quite a rapport even if the online chat is not as two-way as I would like. Anyway, he had a work-related trip over to Belfast last weekend and, as we had been getting along nicely, he suggested that we could meet up on the Saturday at about 1.00pm… and that is what we did.

I was slightly late, as I was a bit nervous on the morning and after leaving had a panic forgetful moment about my home (usual kinda thing whereby I think I’ve left something hot on that will burn the house down, but I also haven’t left the shower on to put out any ensuing fire), but I texted let him to let him know (and he had no problem as his thing finished early so he went and had a drink at a nearby pub) and eventually got to the meeting point about quarter of an hour late. He didn’t appear to be waiting for me, there was a scruffy looking individual who from a distance might have passed for him and I prayed it wasn’t him… and soon some other guy met that one and they toddled off – phew! Then Paul appeared… and he looked perfectly presentable… phew again – after one or two initial nervous moments, we established that lunch would be good and so I took him a short distance to a restaurant called Deanes Deli which, after a quick glance at the menu, he agreed it looked agreeable and so we went in and I asked for a table.

Once seated with my coat taken we ended up so busy chatting that we totally forgot to look at the menus and when the waitress came were not at all ready to order… but a little while later we both ordered (different) specials of the day. Then out conversation continued, and it was pretty enjoyable – I had been a worried that it might be a bit one-sided based on his online chat, but no, he asked his share of questions and it was nice to have some interest shown in me… more than I can say for an afternoon-tea meet up with a bunch of women the previous weekend, but that’s another story. I ate halibut with a nice risotto while Paul had a duck dish, and for dessert I had a good sticky toffee pudding while he had the cheese board… which I helped him with, as he doesn’t like a lot of soft cheese.

Before we left I gave him a loaf of bread to carry around… as is the typical date-custom in Belfast… not! No, a few weeks beforehand I had bought this apple and date wheaten bread and he had said it sounded really nice, so I bought him some to take home with him. Then we paid the bill, and I asked for my coat… and the jovial waitress said she’d sold it… which was perfectly fine, I said, as I had bought it on eBay and so the cash for the bill would do very nicely for a new one. Anyway, coat retrieved and laughs over, we exited and then umm’ed and ahh’ed as he had no real plan but didn’t seem sure what I was doing… but I said I was happy to show him some of Belfast if he would like, and so we walked up towards City Hall, past the Christmas Market and then I took him to Victoria Shopping Centre and up to the top to get a view of Belfast and beyond, pointing out a few sights for him – we walked all the way up to the top, up several floors of spiral staircase and I was a bit dizzy when I got to the top. After that we walked past the Albert Clock, The Big Fish, and halfway across the Lagan River until we realised there wasn’t an awful lot to see at the other side and so we turned around and walked back again – Paul pondered why Lagan only has one ‘g’, and shouldn’t it be pronounced ‘lay-gan’… which subsequently prompted a number of funny jokes about words and names with different numbers of ‘g’s in them. It was a very chilly day, though I was well-armed with my newly acquired woolly hat and gloves from Next – meanwhile, Paul commented about how cold it was, perhaps partly due to his much-receded hairline and lack of winter-wear… and subsequently kept saying ‘did I mention how cold I am?’, to increasingly varied responses from me and laughter between us. I guess those two anecdotes were funnier at the time than you reading them, but they make me smile. We walked past St Anne’s Cathedral, which he declined to pop into as he appears to be a staunch atheist, we then popped into what wass probably the most boring photo exhibition I have ever been to (with pictures mainly of people waiting for things, or looking very bored… it rubbed off) before retiring into a Caffe Nero to warm up where he offered to buy me a drink – I pondered between my usual choice and something else, and said “I’ll make your life easy and go for hot chocolate”, he asked what I meant and I said “I usually go for a skinny decaf mocha with double chocolate shot” and so he said “so that’ll be a hot chocolate then” with a laugh. Presently he came back with the drinks to our table, where I had arranged the seats so he could sit next to me (rather than across) so he’d better be able to hear me n my quiet voice, and he sat beside me and from then on he was really quite close and I think chemistry went into a higher gear… maybe helped by him being a chemistry professor! 🙂 We had good chat and laughter but also were physically closer with much leg-brushing and a bit of playfulness… and alas it eventually was time to return to his hotel for him to pick up his luggage and for me to go home to finish final packing for my next holiday. Once at the hotel entrance we hugged and thanked each other for meeting and, after a bit more chat, hugged again and kissed each other on the cheek and he said that ‘maybe we could do something again’…

…and I walked back to my car on Cloud 9 with a huge smile on my face – I really enjoyed my four hours with Paul, he was lovely company, interesting to talk to, funny without being stupidly jokey like some guys, spoke with a nice, quiet voice… and he’s not at all bad looking either. So I am hoping that we WILL do something again… even though he unfortunately lives in Wales, although handy for a pit-stop on the way to visiting my parents, or my best old friend, who both live within an hour or so of him.

Once home we chatted on WWF, Paul said I was very good company, and he also said I had looked really nice, all of which I was happy to hear. Of course, best of all after those four hours is that he still has no clue of my transsexual history… so I guess I must be pretty good at being a woman, which is easy enough when I am just being me. But at some point if things should progress he will have to know, not too late, not too soon. He later in the evening said that he wished I was lying in bed next to him… and commentary indicated that he had sex on his mind… and I had to say that that is something I can’t give him even though I am full of hugs, kisses, and love if that is what someone wants – as per my previous post, and still my current view, cosmetic surgery is still my preference, for even though I can imagine being with Paul I cannot imagine me having intercourse with him, or anyone… what I imagine is a very tactile, fun-loving, relationship… but that may not be enough for him… or anyone 😦

Next Stop Surgery

I have to admit that I am losing interest in writing this blog and thus posts are likely to be quite infrequent from now on; I doubt they will be particularly missed in this disposable society that we live in. I had a lovely holiday in Austria at the end of August but now, at the end of October, it seems a bit pointless writing about it… even if, should I write about it on a grey, miserable day, I might enjoy the reminiscence. But I set this blog up to write about life as I transition and live life as my true, female self, and I suppose I feel a tiny obligation to continue writing about pertinent matters if only so that it will help others on the same path.

At the start of October I had four health appointments. One was with Endrocrinology to check my progress with hormones and to do a blood test to check oestrogen levels, during which I was told that in 2-3 weeks I’d get a letter confirming those levels – unsurprisingly, three weeks have passed and I have heard nothing. Another was for a non-transition health issue which remains and worries me after an appointment with my doctor today – more tests and a scan on the horizon. The third appointment was for my three-monthly blocker injection… which does not seem to have been totally successful this time… causing some distressing moments. The final, and most significant, appointment was a milestone on my transition path which was an assessment for surgery.

In the UK, or Northern Ireland anyway, one is considered for surgery at some point after having been on hormones for over 12 months and as this target passed for me in July then I was therefore due for surgical assessment at some point. In the past, patients have been sent over to Brighton, where the surgery takes place, for this assessment, but due to what would seem to be a sensible cost saving measure, perhaps due to the increasing number of transsexual people passing through the healthcare system, Dr Thomas from Brighton and two of his assistants were invited over to the Belfast GIC for an ‘assessment open day’. The near two-hour appointment was split into two parts. The first session was conducted by a very pleasant lady who talked to three girls including myself through the surgery path from admittance to care and procedures once at home again a week after surgery, including pre-surgery preparations. The second session, following a form-filling exercise, was with Dr Thomas himself who asked a few questions about my path and my health and medical history, answered my questions on surgery and explained risks, and conducted an examination to confirm if I would need electrolysis to the male appendage that I am still lumbered with; although this session was informative, it all felt increasingly rushed to me just like a lot of sessions at the doctor and in the end it was as if he couldn’t kick me out quick enough.

Now, as some/many of you may know, there are at least two options as regards surgery… well, three actually, because one can decide to have nothing done at all… although unless there is some particular health reason or circumstance to not have anything done at all I personally find it bizarre to be a woman but remain with the deformity of a male organ. Anyway, casting that option swiftly aside, the option chosen by many is the full works, with the male genitalia dispensed with and parts of it used to fashion a realistic female anatomy including a full vagina and also a clitoris – sorry, can’t use the male anatomy words vividly, I hate them too much, but you can Google details on the surgery procedure if you want to. However, there is a third option, which is a cosmetic option consisting of the full-works option minus the vaginoplasty, such that cosmetically everything looks just as good but there is no functioning vagina. Now I have to say that so many people seem to assume that every transsexual would have the full-works option, and indeed someone said to me last year “don’t even think about not having a vagina”… but how does anyone know what is right for me except for me?!? Another opinion I have heard is that they “wouldn’t feel complete as a woman without a vagina”… and it is fine for them to have that opinion for them… yet I feel complete already, everyday I live as woman, do everything in a typically female fashion, and get along fine with practically never any bother from anyone, even if I do hate having the male appendage that becomes visible when I am inside a toilet cubicle… and so to remove it will make me feel physically right. Going back to the appointment, it seemed to me that the people from Brighton also assume by default (unless advised perhaps of any medical issue) that everyone is going for the full works option, and never at any point was any mention of the other option made, apart from when I brought it up in private… because, you see, I have pretty much always been in two minds since I started this path as to which of the two surgeries are most appropriate for me. There are pros and cons with both options of course – for example, to not have a vagina obviously rules out penetrative sexual activity and consequently rules out a relationship with a proportion of male partners who would want that (although, let’s be honest and realistic, I’m already ruled out from having a relationship with the majority of available partners because of my transsexual gender history), but on the flip side to have a vaginoplasty means a variety of increased risks with surgery, having to dilate for the rest of one’s life (or have intercourse with a partner on a fairly regular basis – not a problem for some if they have a partner I guess) to keep the vagina open with a very time-consuming dilation routine in the initial few months, having to have (what I presume to be painful) electrolysis on the male appendage prior to surgery, having a prolonged recovery period, and so on. Another factor is one’s current attitude to the male genitalia – some people can put up with the bits without too much bother although do want to get rid of them while I am to the other extreme and loath them, have almost developed a phobia of them such that I can’t even imagine having intercourse with a guy (although like the idea of close companionship and kisses/hugs), and can’t watch a couple making love on the screen (for other reasons I won’t go into)… and there are others whose opinion is in between. Therefore, I went back into the lady conducting the first session on my own and went through the whole thing again on the premise that if I went for the cosmetic option then what would the revised schedule be… and I explained my current preference more for the cosmetic routine and she understood my view… even if she had not considered age to be a factor as she thought I was about 35! 🙂

Having considered the pros and cons… I am still considering them… and I will continue to do so for a while, especially as I am soon likely to experience some interaction with one or two potential male partners and when I eventually tell them of my history, if they don’t run a mile, I will broach the subject of intercourse (although have already done so with one) and consider reactions. But at the moment, having had the assessment, I have verged even more towards the cosmetic option taking account of my age, my work lifestyle which involves a huge amount of commuting time, that I live in an isolated location with little local support should anything go wrong, consequent risk aversion, my hatred of male genitalia (if only due to being stuck with it for such an awful long time), and my dislike of sex. I will go think some more… my opinion may change… or may not…

Haunted by a Largely Unwanted History

When I first went full time there were a few weeks of adjustment for people at work where there a few name slip ups or gender pronoun errors, but on the whole it didn’t take long for people to get used to the new, improved me… and indeed after a few months one or two even said that they couldn’t remember me being anyone other than who they now saw. There were also a few weeks of taking care of assorted company systems and admin to get the name sorted out.

So after 18 months of being full-time one kinda expected that there wouldn’t be any recurrence of either of these things. WRONG!!! Since mid-June there has been a catalogue of incidents that has frankly made me a bit fed up… because I have bee merrily enjoying life and yet these events have come back to haunt me several times of a past that I wish has largely not happened, for it was wrong. So the following things have happened:

  • Perhaps as a consequence of me working in the IT department of a big company for a very long time (over 16 years… gasp), I have had to use a variety of systems during that time. For about 14 years I worked on one system, and subsequently on a new system. Just prior to my transition I asked for my logons to be changed or removed. In June I was asked to help with an issue on the old system due to my extensive knowledge, and I was happy to help… and after doing so I just thought I would check that my own specific logins had been removed… AND THEY HAD NOT! I was furious… and so I sent an email to the managers concerned, copied to HR, with technical instructions on how to resolve the issue and asked for someone who knew my history to do the work.
  • At a similar time the provider of catering for my company changed to a new company and so our records were transferred over to the new provider and we had to re-register our security cards. So I went up to a representative and told them my name and he said that he couldn’t find any record at all with ‘Andrea’. I said that was rather odd, as I had been a regular user of the canteen, and so he searched again under the surname… and, surprise surprise, there was my record, against my old identity. So I had the embarrassing time of having to take him and his laptop aside to a quiet area and explain the situation… at which point he said it was no bother (to him, anyway) and he rectified it; it put me right off my lunch though.
  • In mid July a guy in the security admin area was doing a tidy up of old directories on different serves for the department and he sent out a spreadsheet to a group of us with name of directory and owner. In my case the directory was new full name (i.e. andrea.<surname>) and along side it in the spreadsheet was the owner which was my old network logon, (old forename)_m – so not a total link, but suggestive… and if one happened to click on the directory concerned then the owner email came up as (old forename).(surname)@(company).com! So I immediately marched over to a manager again and told him of this issue and how upset I was… so he did that afternoon go over to the individual concerned, get the directory ownership corrected, and told the individual concerned to be more careful.
  • About two weeks later I requested some software to be put on my PC called Lync, it allows one to chat with fellow colleagues for simple queries rather than having to keep getting up from one’s desk or send emails. The set up didn’t go smoothly… at all! A guy did the install but when I logged on I couldn’t see the software… which he said was because my PC was so old. So he did another kind of set up, I logged on, and started up the software… but it wouldn’t connect with my network login – they guy was stumped after trying number of things, and went off to someone else to try and find the problem… and eventually they did, the new software was linked (no pun intended) to my old email address L So they rectified the problem… but I don’t know whether either of those individuals knew my history or not… but now they do.
  • After the above incident I thought I would just check that the first incident had been rectified as it has been about six weeks since I reported it. NO IT HADN’T! What a bad day! So I blew a gasket, sent an email expressing my sincere disappointment at the delay in resolving this issue, copying HR. During that week the issue got sorted… and the bottom-ladder person doing it, a nice Spanish girl, was very thoughtful in carrying it out.
  • The same day as above I had an email reply from head of HR saying sorry that I am getting upset… though nobody would want to upset me. Next day I ended up having a chat with an HR person under her who ‘looks after’ my department… and ended up feeling worse than when I started talking to her, as though I wasn’t the victim at all.
  • Maybe a couple of weeks after all that I ended up in a conversation with two women and a male manager about a software release I was trying to get in place; one woman knows my history, the other who is new does not, while the male does too… and is behind the delay in the first issue being resolved. During the discussion he referred to me with the wrong pronoun… and although he immediately corrected himself, I wonder whether that is further damage done… even if the new girl on a subsequent release call referred to me and another woman as ‘girls’ on the call.

I have recently had one or two bits of mail with my old name on as well, one of which I am surprised about as the bank concerned (First Direct of HSBC) rectified my old name ages ago… and yet the direct debit mandate for my travel insurance that I received a renewal for today is still as ‘Mr’.

So the moral of this story is that although the longer time goes on the happier one may be in this new life, more comfortable in it, and more successful at it (can’t remember the last time, when not with other trans* people, I got any kind of reaction to suggest they either wondered whether I was trans* and/or had an issue with it), none of that means that history won’t come back to haunt you… potentially for years and years to come… sigh.

Opinions on my Progress

Since the events of my last post life has been somewhat better, with several health appointments attended related to my transition almost 18 months ago to a happy-me… as well as an unremembered, but rather important, anniversary, which in terms of chronology is the first thing to mention – a year last mid-May was when my hormones were approved by the head consultant of the Northern Ireland GIC, which therefore means that I have completed my GIC-dictated Real Life Experience (RLE)! That anniversary meant that the next path of my journey in theory became available…  surgery! However, for the gate to that path to be opened, I was required to attend not one but two GIC appointments, called First and Second Opinions – these are where I am interviewed by gender specialist consultants to ascertain how I have progressed, if I am ready for the contemplation of surgery, and if I pass certain qualifying criteria.

Prior to me attending my First Opinion the GIC requested that they call someone at work (rather late in the day) to check things have gone okay… but also in a kind of big brother style to confirm that I have every day been turning up for work as Andrea, and not cheating. I arranged that they would call my boss, who expressed a preference for someone from Human Resources to also be on the call, so I asked for the lady I came out to first of all in HR to help – to cut a long story short, the call I gather was rather short, and all went very well.

My First Opinion appointment at GIC was on Tuesday 17th May. It was with a consultant I met one time previously, about 18 months ago, with my therapist there too. The consultant essentially went through what has happened since she last saw me – acceptances (or not, as remains the case with my daughter and brother), full-time living, work, friends, my social life, and so on, and the conversation was all very positive… and that is because that is how transition has been for me, I miss my daughter but it is what it is and there’s just no point in dwelling on it, otherwise all is good. She then asked “So how do you feel now?” and the first word that sprouted from my mouth was “Happy”… because that is finally how I truly feel about my life – ups and downs aside – where every day I feel right about myself. She also said I look very different now… and not just my own hair, so those in the know obviously notice the physical changes… and perhaps mental ones too.

My Second Opinion appointment at GIC was the Friday of that week and was in a somewhat similar vein to the first one… except that it was with someone I had never met before, a Dr Khoosal from Leeds. Perhaps I should have been a bit nervous, but not at all, no need to be when I’m simply being me… and Dr Khoosal was also very down-to-earth too. The nature of the conversation was very similar to the First Opinion really, except it also covered aspects of my early life too, when I first realised about my true self, and “why now”. All went well, and I expected that I’d be hearing back in perhaps a week or two about how things went… but there and then he said “Well I consider it a positive result” and so we shook hands, and I went off with my therapist to talk about the next steps… to eventual surgery! It won’t happen quickly, if only because of the admin, and application for funding, but that’s fine because there is plenty to think about with different options to consider… mainly, for me, muddled due to my intense loathing of the bits and pieces I was unfortunately born with which alas has almost resulted in me having such a phobia to them such that I want nothing to do with them in any way. To celebrate overcoming my latest hurdle I decided to treat myself to afternoon tea at M&S, brought to me by two waiting staff, followed by some clothes shopping… where my credit card was helped by a kind lady stopping me and offering a 20% off voucher.

The next day I met up with Kirsty in the afternoon for more shopping, mainly just a few pairs of trousers for work to accommodate my somewhat expanded girth (HRT, and perhaps chocolate, assisted) and also a pair of Sketchers trainers which, so far, have been probably the most comfortable pair of footwear I have bought. Then we went to dinner at a restaurant I have wanted to go to for, literally, AGES… and it was well worth the wait, the Mourne Seafood restaurant turned out to be splendid – I had a dreamy mackerel pate, a good sea bream main course, and a lovely chocolate fondant. The night was still young and we headed off to the cinema, where Kirsty had booked the only two tickets in what turned out to be a pretty packed cinema to see Our Kind Of Traitor, a pretty good spy thriller with the ever-present over-proliferation of unnecessary foul language but otherwise reasonable entertainment.

All in all, a pretty successful and good period… and feeling now closer to my ultimate destination.

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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Another year, another Canary island

Up until November last year I had never been to the Canary Islands in my life, and had a naive pre-conceived idea about what they were like… which proved ill-judged as, having then visited two islands in as many months, I was bowled over by the scenery of both Tenerife and Lanzarote and, apart from the touristy towns which I skirted or avoided, they were interesting places with individual and likeable character. So, into another year, and it was time to try out another one… and try and find that elusive ‘winter sun’ too with miserable weather back home, with a long weekend Gran Canaria.

The first day was simply spent travelling to the island, with a four hour flight which arrived at about 6.00pm. I do worry a bit about flights, especially longer ones like that, as being on hormones I am at a somewhat increased risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis; I do wriggle my toes and my feet now and again on flights, and I arrived all in order… although slightly disappointed in the weather, because although the airport was in sun much of the island elsewhere was shrouded in cloud and the pilot warned of high winds getting out of the plane. I hurried through arrivals to try and get ahead of people at the car hire desk… and soon my heart sank, as this time I had chosen hire company Goldcar (as cost much lower than Hertz this time) and the queue at their desk was massive. The staff were hopelessly slow, and the queue took an age to diminish, and only an hour and a half later was I at the front of it picking up my keys. Another issue I had with Goldcar is that they don’t pre-authorise ones credit card, they actually debit it with a deposit… and as they operate in a different currency then I am being penalised by fees. Another disaster with the car hire was that when I went down to the garage to pick it up, there was nobody in sight and another hire car had rolled in front of mine as some idiot had not put the handbrake on!! So I had to unlock it by putting my hand through the open window, pushing it forward myself, and then jumping into the seat to put the brake on. All that trouble to pick up an awful, plastic Toyota Yaris! I drove to my first hotel in the dark, and managed to get lost, much to the amusement of the locals of a tiny village in the hills that I asked directions from. But I eventually arrived, and had a good night stay at my hotel, below one of the island’s tourist attractions, a volcanic crater called Bandama.

Waking after a good night sleep I pulled the curtains and was dismayed to see it raining! I had hoped to leave rain at home!! As I got ready the rain showers were mixed with sunny spells, but the weather prognosis was not good, and as I popped up in the car to visit the crater grey skies and rain-filled clouds were visible in the distance all around! Having P1070670earlier looked at webcams in the hotel, it appeared as though the best of the weather was in the south east towards Maspalomas and so this is where I headed… and low and behold, by the time I had got two thirds of the way down the motorway on the east coast I found sun, and 24C temperatures. At the junction for Maspalomas, I headed in the opposite direction inland away from tourism for interesting or impressive scenery, and found it soon enough (see above right); further inland and at higher altitude I was eventually driving into mist with heavy grey clouds higher, and so I headed back to the coast along a different route in the sun, and then on a scenic road to the west… although at that point the weather deteriorated making photos and scenic diversions pointless. Then things got worse, I had hoped to travel along road GC200, a very P1070690 rainbowimpressive road along the west coast, but it was closed due to rock falls! So I had to take a much longer road inland climbing into the mountains, and once into the northern half of the island the rain became torrential, with flash waterfalls appearing along the road, and a very tedious decent along windy, flooded roads to where I was staying for the remainder of my holiday, at Puetro de las Nieves; all that driving with little in the way of breaks hurt my leg, which caused me worries after my holiday for a while about DVT and fractures. A few miles out, I finally found the sun again after about three hours of grey skies and increasing rain… although once in the sun that rain did allow me to take this picture of one of a number of rainbows I saw; I also had a nice little walk to a pretty little beach and impressive coastline beyond (see below). It was good to get to my hotel, especially with tea-making facilities available, and after a little rest I smartened up and ate at a local restaurant… having a rather average meal served by a grumpy guy who couldn’t be bothered to pick his feet up whoever he served.

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The next day the weather was thankfully rather better, although I did have to head clockwise on the motorway around the island again towards the south to find it; I had a lovely breakfast at a café on the seafront, with good views of the dramatic cliffs beyond the small port. I firstly went inland in the north though to a typically Canarian town called Moya, with pleasant streets and old buildings, and a very imposing church… although disappointingly it was locked and so I could not visit the allegedly impressive interior. In P1070727 Roque Nublothe south, I ventured inland along a different road, and found some splendid scenery, firstly seeing clouds lifting from the mountains, and then along higher roads revealing impressive rocky outcrops and valleys. The highlights of my explorations were two outstanding rocky lava plugs, Roque Bentayga, and top attraction Roque Nublo, the latter mysteriously poking through the late-afternoon clouds (see photo, right). That day I could not walk to Roque Nublo, as by the time I got to the car park the cloud had lowered, and so I drove back towards my hotel, hoping to be able to head along the western coast south – I made it in good time, and saw some dramatic coastline, although after a while the road was blocked due to the aforementioned rock falls; I stayed until the sun had nearly set (see below photo), and then headed back, with an achy leg from driving again. My final dinner, on the seafront, was a bargain indeed, with three courses (seafood soup, sole and salad, and almond cake with ice cream) and a beer with tip for €19!! I also enjoyed being Ma’amed to death by the waiter once he discovered I was English.

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On my final day I once again headed south, all the way around the motorway (which takes about an hour and quarter from one end to the other), past the town where Kirsty stayed last year, and then inland, past Mogan in which there is an old windP1070681mill, and up a windy mountain road past numerous cyclists torturing themselves to get to the summit. Once there I again I encountered lovely, dramatic scenery, including a distant view of a snow-capped Mt Teide on Tenerife as I explored. This time I was able to take a good walk up to Roque Nublo, an immense monolith from which super views were available. The final touristy thing I did was to go to nearby Pico de las Nieves, the highest point on the island from which there are incredible views of Roque Nublo, Mt Teide, and all scenery in between (see below).

So, another Canary  island visited, although not completed for there is much left that I feel is worth seeing and doing, but despite the variable weather I had 20+C temperatures every day… even though I had to search to find them; won’t be renting from Goldcar again though!! Once again, I was away with nobody making any indication to suggest that they even wondered whether I was transsexual… which is just how I like life… fitting in like the woman I am.

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Reunion… on an Accidental Mother’s Day Weekend

I have been living full-time in my true, female gender for over a year now and for that time there have been two people who have had an issue with that for one reason or another, my brother and my daughter.

I don’t imagine that my daughter will come round any time soon and I doubt my ex- ever has anything positive or encouraging to say about me – that would break the habit of a lifetime – but I will continue to communicate via email with her and live in hope.

As for my brother, one of his big issues in making any acceptance-progress has been that he just doesn’t communicate… and in fact not just on this, but with anything much really, certainly not anything more than superficial. Anyway, about 5 weeks ago I started the ball rolling by sending him a little message saying that I miss my parents, having not seen them for over 5 months, and seemingly not able to come over either… and his response totally ignored my emotions. Shortly afterwards I had an email from my parents asking if I was okay and reminding me that I had not been in touch in a couple of weeks… and so it enabled me to tell them that, actually, although healthy enough I was a bit sad that I had not seen them for so long… and, to cut a long story short, I had booked flights for the first weekend in March to go over to stay with my family, as well as a hire car to get there as my brother did not want to meet the new-look me for the first time by himself, which is fair enough I suppose considering the length of time he has been stuck in time. About a week before my weekend away, I was shopping in Tesco and saw reminders about Mothers Day on 6th March… and then was even happier about my trip arrangements, because I would be over for Mothers Day with my mother, something I did not know when I had booked flights.

So, on March 4th, I was flying out of Belfast on my way to my family, feeling quite excited… although at the same time not particularly well, having had my third cold of the year for about a week, and also an annoying leg ache, that as luck wouldn’t have it escalated during my travels and made me think I had DVT. At just after midnight I got to my family’s house, relieved and overjoyed to be there, actually in the home that I grew up in, but feeling right about myself… albeit unwell. The next morning I was up and ready in reasonable time, and tentatively went into the kitchen where my brother was making bread, with my mum safely nearby… and it was not long before we were in conversation, and laughing about things! And it wasn’t much different to how it ever was… except of course I was happy within myself. Later my brother went for a walk by himself as he had a headache… at least that was what I was told… although he does do this a lot when I am not there, so I IMG_20160305_132026707decided to go down to the small town centre for some shopping. Before I went I asked my dad whether any of the neighbours knew about me and, when he said no, I asked what I should do if I should encounter any of them, should I just smile sweetly, say hello, and walk on… and he said “it’s up to you”! This really pleased me, essentially he was saying that if I wanted to let them know then that was fine, and he was not afraid of any resulting gossip, for example. I was out for maybe an hour and a half and had a nice time, even though the town where my parents live is hardly very big – it’s a farming and mountain-activities town, with supermarkets and a few standard shops as well as a number of hiking shops, so hardly a place with in-trend fashion stores, but it was nice to wander around what I call my home town as my true self, without anyone treating me any differently from any other woman; see photo of happy-me, taken on the bridge over the main river passing through the town. The rest of the weekend was very nice but nothing much to write about, we played cards, ate quite a bit, chatted quite a lot, but ultimately it was enjoyable and pleasant without any awkwardness; on the Sunday night my brother bid me farewell, as he was working the next day, and he said it was nice to see me… and so I am quite hopeful that all will be well with him and me 🙂

The Monday morning I was tired and after washing and styling my hair and eating breakfast I went to bed for a while. After lunch I was packed and it was all too soon time to go – as my parents accompanied me to my car I got sad, and when my mum hugged me goodbye I burst into tears! My mum told me not to cry, and that they would be over to see me soon. After a hug from my dad, I got in the car and dried my eyes and cheeks, and then set off… and it was only after several miles that the threat of tears subsided.

All in all, a pretty successful, and very enjoyable weekend!

 

More First Anniversary Celebrations

Having actually not celebrated my first-year anniversary of living properly as a woman at all on the actual day itself I hoped that the week following it would make up for it… and, as it turned out, it did so rather sooner than expected!

I went into work on my earlier train on the Monday morning, although it was a bit late arriving… and once at my office it was rather obvious that someone had been rather busy at my desk preparing it for celebrations! This is what it looked like:

desk

(It doesn’t normally look like this… although as I write the balloons are still mostly present). Lots of appropriately coloured balloons, a card, and not one but three presents!! I was full of big smiles and, after taking my coat off, opened the card and started reading very kind words… and then stopped as it started explaining the reason for 20160203_095101each present, the main two appearing in the photo alongside. We had  a good long chat, and I thanked the girl in my team who had created all my surprises a lot because I so appreciated her kind effort and words, it really picked me up after an eventless weekend… and, as it turned out, she was the only one who even gave me a card; thank you!

Another thing that made the day nice was a breakfast special at the work restaurant, waffles with chocolate and caramel sauce and maple syrup. Normally I have a pretty healthy breakfast, but it was a celebratory breakfast and so I pushed the boat out… and so glad that I did – YUMMMMMY!!

On the Saturday following that I went out for dinner with friends Kirsty and Michelle at a restaurant called Coco’s, as I had had the pre-theatre menu there once before and it was excellent. This time the food was still very good, although I didn’t like my dessert that much as it was very gingery; my rabbit pasta starter was lovely though, and my main of halibut bourguignon very good too… once I had asked for the sauce, which was missing from the plates. However, the meal was somewhat spoiled by a very noisy atmosphere – some people seem to think this is great, giving a place a buzz, but I have a soft voice and I don’t want to risk wrecking it by raising my voice continually… and so after a while, with the noise getting ever louder and worsened by ramped up music volume, I could not hear what my friends were saying and gave up any attempts at conversation… and so was fed up. If I want to out for a nice meal and catch-up, I don’t want to do it in a semi-disco atmosphere.

After dinner, and a drive back to Lisburn in Michelle’s nice new car, Kirsty followed me back to my house for an overnight stay; I enjoyed several hours with her until 2.00am, sharing a bottle of Cava, and playing an amusing chocolate-taster game… as well as some music and nice chat. The following day Kirsty rose at around 9.30-9.45 and I about 15 minutes later… and it was nice to be ready several minutes before her and much quicker for a change – now that I have my own hair, and have a much speedier make-up routine, this is now possible. After a bacon sandwich prepared by my own fair-but-limited hand we went to Ulster museum (after a quick visit to the palm house) as there was a Rembrandt self portrait on display, as well as several other pieces by other artists of the period – from the painting notes it became apparent that Rembrandt painted the most self portraits of all famous painters… and I don’t quite know why, as he wasn’t exactly, well, an oil painting… if you see what I mean. We also had a look round some other paintings, including many period pieces (on the one hand quite a few stuffy looking portraits, but also some nice landscapes, including some local scenes such as this one near Warrenpoint) warrenpoint pictureand then the modern art section where, as before, some paintings interested me and some I just didn’t get whatsoever. After a wander around a few other areas of the museum we had a coffee and biscuit/cake, and then went shopping in Belfast city centre; I had a really fun time, and it was nice to have an honest friend who provided affirmations and the occasional negation on clothes on offer, and also nice to help her choose something too. As the shop-closing hour arrived we drove to Malone Lodge where Kirsty has a book group meeting later on, so beforehand we had a bar-meal early dinner, which was pretty tasty if a little fat-saturated. As 7.00 neared, book-group meet-time, Joanne from the group came to the bar and said hello to the two of us (I know her from a different group event), then Kirsty seemed to joke with me about coming along to the group… and I returned the jokey chat (“okay, I’ll see you there in a few minutes… ha ha”) even though I didn’t see the point in me going as I had not read the book under discussion and also I think I am a bit of a literary dullard compared to the average group person. So I drove home and did some wallpapering – like one does at 8.00pm on a Sunday evening – to round off a great, celebratory first-anniversary week of me living full-time as my natural, female self for a whole year.

Roll on the next 12 months, life’s feeling pretty good… even though, as I write, I feel like I am coming down with my second cold/flu of 2016 :-/

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