I Am Female

If you have been reading some or all of my blog, the title of this post will seem a bit odd. From previous posts it should pretty obvious that I’m a woman. In fact, since I sent off my Deed Poll at the start of December 2014 and it was executed soon after in that month, it has been official that I had a female name and title since then. I have also had my passport for over four years stating that I am female. Also since early 2015, the vast majority of people in my life (daughter excepting) have accepted me as female too, as has the world as a whole. The medical profession has accepted me as female too. However, in spite of this, things have officially moved up a level since then.

If you will, so far I have achieved the bronze medal in the ‘race’ for my female status, with some of the things that I have obtained or achieved as mentioned above… though the race is not against anyone else but is just a progression against my life’s timeline. And this week I achieved the silver medal!

emoji-gingerOn Tuesday I received my Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) from the UK Gender Recognition Panel (GRP), and when I opened the envelope and pulled out the small wad of material with the certificate at the top I was overwhelmed at this recognition of my true gender… and, for a change, I had quite a lot of tears that were joyful! (Oh no, she’s crying again). The certificate states that, as of 2nd August, the above person named (Andrea Denise ____) is of the gender shown, which is of course ‘Female’! 🙂

Now that I have this certificate, I can (with certified copies) get the gender corrected to female on all of my pensions, as most companies in this respect have refused to update this (despite changing my name) without a GRC. It also means that I am now able to get a birth certificate with all of the details correct. I had thought that I would have to organise all of this myself, but thankfully (considering my current, and continued, poor physical health) all of this is set in motion by the GRP.

(edit) – In the medal table, I see the gold medal as obtaining my birth certificate – this will mean that (a) every piece of documentation that I have in my life is right and (b) I can marry a guy (should I ever find one that will want me for all that I am) without my marriage being considered a ‘gay marriage’, and it will be considered no different than any other marriage between a man and woman… and should I want a marriage in Northern Ireland it will mean I actually can get married here (present legislation standing).

One piece of advice that I will give to you in respect of applying for a GRC in the UK – if you are having difficulty obtaining two medical reports, then apply to your Gender Clinic asking them to execute a Data Subject Access Request, and the resultant report should satisfy the GRP, as it did for me. I would have otherwise had to fly over to the UK for a half hour interview with the doctor who signed off my second opinion, and paid around £300 for the privilege… plus travel expenses – in my poor state of health post-surgery, that is something that would have been a very painful experience.

So, for a change, some good news, and a happier tone!! However, as eluded to in the above paragraph, my state of health since my gender reassignment surgery (18 months ago) remains lousy, extremely painful, and prohibits me from having a ‘normal’, and enjoyable, lifestyle. Next time I write, I will give an update on this, as some of the detail may be useful for anyone else out there who is either having post-op problems as well or contemplating surgery; I might even ask for some help too…

(Thanks for reading… if you’re still there)


10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4…

…and no, the title isn’t supposed to end with the words ‘blast off’! Nope, this is MY final countdown, to the culmination of my medical journey that stipulates me as being a transsexual woman, and I suppose the reason that I originally started this blog. This coming Tuesday, in only FOUR days, I am scheduled to have the operation of my lifetime  that will finally fix me physically so that between my legs I will look like the woman that is the rest of me.

I have been living full-time as me, the woman I now know I should have always lived as, for almost exactly three years, and so I suppose it is quite timely that the operation is so close to that anniversary. The main reason though for having the operation early in the new year is that it is most convenient time of year for me, in that I am not able to indulge much in my main hobbies because they are of an outdoors nature and in January in the UK/Ireland the weather is at its most unpalatable… not that it is particular marvellous most of the time in Northern Ireland! So I asked the hospital concerned (the private Nuffield hospital in Brighton) for an operation date some time in January and they were able to oblige.

Getting to today however, over the last few weeks, has not been the easiest part of my journey. I have been off hormones for almost six weeks (which is required to reduce the possibility of clotting during/immediately after the operation) and although I have been lucky in that this has not resulted in the moodiness that some women in my position encounter, I have had quite a time of it with hot flushes many times a day with increasing frequency… which I actually find quite ironic, and perhaps flattering, considering that some cis-women go on HRT for PMT, which does address a primary symptom of hot flushes for them. For the last week and a half I have also been off alcohol (which is to reduce the possibility of bleeding during the operation), and although that has not particularly been a trial, especially as I am not much of a drinker or a fan of those who think it’s clever to drink a lot, I do miss a half glass of red in the evening which does help me wind down.

10 days ago I had to undergo several pre-op tests, including things like height and weight (to ensure my BMI is under a stipulated level of 28… which it is well under), my blood pressure, several blood tests, and also a couple of MRSA swabs, one nasal and the other one (perhaps obviously) for the groin area. Alas the swabs have caused me significant stress because last Friday I rang to check all of my tests were fine and was told that they were… and so I thought no more of it, rather foolishly… until Tuesday when I thought I better check that the test results had been forwarded to Brighton hospital… and they hadn’t!!! :-O So eventually the results were faxed over… and then it turned out that some incompetent individual had screwed up the swab tests because although they were a pass (i.e. no reading), the wording had been messed up so as not to indicate the proper area being tested – so Brighton rejected them… and ten minutes later I was hurtling out of my office at 3pm, hurrying back up to Newry on the train and then down to my doctor to get repeat swab tests done! I actually took the tests up to the hospital myself, but the doctor told me that they take 48 hours to turn around and so it was going to be a very nail-biting portion of the countdown because I had to book my travel on the same day as the revised results were due. I thought I would chance my arm and check the results yesterday afternoon, just supposing they had already been completed… and surprisingly they had, I was told they had been forwarded to Brighton, and I even got them to read the actual result text to check all seemed okay… which it was. Then I rang Brighton but nobody answered the phone… and so I left a voicemail and also an email to be contacted ASAP to confirm all was okay. By 10.30 this morning I had heard nothing and so I rang Brighton myself… and was told the nurse concerned was doing rounds on the ward and I would hear back from them. Two hours later I still had heard nothing and so I rang again… and got hold of my designated nurse… who claimed she was just about to ring me; yeah, sure! So I asked for an update… and was told she hadn’t received the new test results! AGGHHHH! She offered to ring my doctor for me, so I left her to do that… and then three minutes later she rang back to say that someone else had picked up the results and filed them. So FINALLY, literally in the nick of time, I got confirmation that it was all systems go for my op. Phew! So this afternoon I booked my outward flight and rail ticket for Monday.

The last few days I have also been doing handover at work. That has been fine, apart from my boss realising he would have to be picking some of my work up and then suddenly figuring he would get me to do some extra, new stuff before I went… sigh. Most people have no idea why I’m heading for an op, which is just the way I like it. As I have always done, and continue to do, I travel this journey in stealth… and not just because I can (as I fit in very well as a woman… as time has told), but because I choose to… albeit at the risk I suppose of revealing all through this blog which, after all, is potentially available for anyone to read… but I took this risk at the start in the hope that my blog helps at least someone out there. But otherwise stealth it is, I won’t tell anyone who doesn’t know my history about it unless it is absolutely necessary, and I won’t be making any broadcasts on Facebook either about where I am going or what I am doing… and hope that others won’t mention it either – for me, this is a very personal thing, I am a very private person, and something like this I only directly tell friends who have supported me on this journey.

So considering all of the above I have had a significant amount of stress over the last couple of weeks and been tearing my hair out at times; at least I have been able to alleviate this somewhat with lots of hugs from my boyfriend. Yes, I have a boyfriend!!! 🙂 This is the same guy who was “boyfriend for a week” as per my blog post back in September… and this is actually the third time I am girlfriend – third time lucky, hopefully, for this time things are looking pretty good… and he has told me that he LOVES me! Maybe I’ll tell you more about it on the other side, for I’ll have an awful lot of recovery time to fill, about three months of it altogether.

I’ll leave it there – thank you for reading, thank you for being part of my journey (even if you no longer are in one way or another), and good wishes for 2018!

Andrea’s Tips For Laser Hair Removal… as a Patient

It is probably at least a year since I finished my facial laser hair removal sessions with the UK NHS at Ulster Hospital in Belfast, so I thought I’d offer these tips to any women out there (transsexual or otherwise) with facial hair issues contemplating or currently undergoing this treatment… especially as a very good friend has just started this treatment:

  • It’s advisable to try and get an appointment on a Friday morning, as your face is likely to take all weekend to recover, and I really don’t recommend you shave or apply makeup until it has done so.
  • Prior to the day of treatment make sure you firstly have enough petrol to get you to the hospital and back, and some to spare – you don’t want to be stopping at a petrol station without make up on, and especially after the session with a red and puffy face, unless it is one of those pay-at-pump ones. Secondly, stock up on those little containers of Vaseline! Thirdly, as per the first point, you’ll likely want to spend the weekend after treatment at home, so stock up on food and goodies!
  • Make sure every tiny scrap of make-up has been removed from your face from last wearing it; I left a tiny bit of foundation next to my ears once, and my skin burnt a bit. Ideally use cleanser after a facial wipe to ensure your face is totally clean.
  • Shave the morning of the treatment. It is best for the hair to be as short as possible – it makes little difference to the effectiveness of the treatment (the nurse tells me), but what it does do is make the treatment less painful.
  • Take chocolate (or your favourite savoury treat if you don’t have a sweet tooth like me) so that once you come out of the treatment you will have a consolation treat. Also ensure you have a container of Vaseline.
  • Allow plenty of time to get to the hospital, park, get to administration, and go the to Ladies before getting to the Laser suite; drive below the speed limit and, if in traffic, don’t lane hop, the aim is to NOT get there already feeling stressed… cos you’ll likely be pretty strung out once the treatment is over!
  • I was prescribed Emla cream to help with pain relief on the face during the treatment, though I could never figure out how much it worked. One would apply this at half-hourly intervals from 90 minutes before treatment. Paracetamol beforehand might also help.
  • During treatment, take deep slow breaths in and out all the way through; if you know body-relaxation exercises, that’ll help too. If you smell burning, don’t worry, that’s only your face! Well, the hairs on it anyway, don’t worry, that’s normal… AND it means that the treatment is working!
  • I found the pulsing laser blasts pretty sore!! Maybe you’ll be luckier. My operator was very efficient, and moved around the face quite rapidly up and down; each zap is a bit like being the snap of being hit with an elastic band.
  • During the lasering, an assistant directed a blast of cold air at the area just being treated. Also, once a section of face had been treated then a pad of aloe vera was applied for a short while.
  • At the end of the laser treatment session, when I got up off the bed I was a trembling wreck! But a glass of water and a bit of chat with the nurse settled me down. Maybe that’ll work for you too. I generally found all of the staff at the NHS laser department very nice, especially my regular laser-operator.
  • Before leaving hospital, apply Vaseline to all of the areas that have been treated.
  • For the first hour or two after treatment your face, especially where the hair is more dense (typically above and below the lips) will likely feel the same as a severe sunburn; for this reason, stay out of the sun!!! Not only avoid the sun, use the sun visors in the car if the weather is sunny, have a window or two in the car open a bit, and once out of the car stay away from any heat source. Exposure to the sun after treatment may result in permanent spots of skin discoloration!
  • Pamper or treat yourself to keep your spirits up until the soreness dies down.
  • Make sure there is a constant coating of Vaseline on the skin, and do not be attempted to use anything else such as aloe vera or moisturiser.
  • As the day progresses to evening you may find some of the hairs that have hopped out of their follicles will come off your face, for example when applying Vaseline. You can use a dry fluffy towel or flannel to very gently try and brush hairs away if you want.
  • I do not recommend shaving for at least 48 hours after the laser sessions!! For the first few days after the treatment your skin will be very sensitive, I wet-shaved 48 hours after my first treatment and my face erupted into a catastrophic minefield of white heads! This was probably also exacerbated by me not using enough Vaseline, or mixing it with aloe vera. Anyway, that was NOT a good look. After the treatment I would hope that like me hair growth will slow a lot, try and shave electric for a while as that will irritate the skin less than a wet shave.
  • If you have a white head eruption, all you can do is apply foundation over it to hide the worst of the look… although your skin will look a bit like the surface of the moon. To get rid of the ‘eruption’ buy a good quality antibacterial wash, preferably from a good chemist, and DON’T pick or pop the white heads, however awful they look; in a couple of days it’ll look tons better!
  • Further to the above two points, 3-4 sessions my skin got used to the treatment and the pinkness had pretty much gone overnight.
  • After about four sessions, during which hair growth may seem to reduce, there may be a return of growth – this is normal, the hair tries to fight back, but further sessions convince it that this is just not on!
  • As the sessions continue the intensity of the laser increases, but as the amount of hair reduces then the pain does not proportionately increase.
  • 10 sessions is regarded as the optimum for effectiveness – fewer may not be enough, but to have more than that may also start to reverse the process and actually encourage growth again.
  • After the face’s skin has settled back to normality once the battery of sessions is over, it may become apparent that the odd coloured/dark hair has been missed… but experience to-date doesn’t indicate any resurgence of growth.

Laser works best on brown/black/dark hair – it will not work at all on grey/silvery hairs and is very unlikely to work on blonde hair either. Anything that can’t be removed via laser can be attempted using electrolysis…

NOTE – the above is all based on my experience, you may well experience less pain, be less sensitive to the affect of the treatment, and be less stressed by the whole thing!

Boyfriend For A Week…

…well, seven AND a half days to be precise. Sounds pretty pathetic though, I guess, maybe even a bit farcical 😦 However, as I am, medically speaking, a transsexual woman, I didn’t think I would ever have a boyfriend… but now I have, even if it didn’t last long! I can now say that I have had a boyfriend, and refer to him in conversation or compare if I wish.

Our paths crossed on a dating site in May. I joined olderdatingonline.com in early May on a whim – as per my last blog post, ages ago, after being robbed in Tenerife I felt pretty vulnerable and when I saw an advert for the dating site I thought, what the hell, give it a go… and so I did. On the whole, I didn’t like online dating much – I was upfront about my history in my profile (albeit subtly, and not in the main description, but buried in a sub-section… under the Q&A section and the question “what’s the most embarrassing thing about you?”), and it soon became apparent that the BBC TV/Radio’s attempts at educating the UK population is not going very well. I had a LOT of guys message me to tell me how gorgeous/pretty I was, most of whom either didn’t bother reading my profile at all or just didn’t understand, those that I did end up chatting to (due to some overlap in hobbies/outlook, or an interesting profile… and there weren’t many) soon ended up falling into a few generally grubby categories – sexual fantasies revolving around my anus, gits thinking I’d be okay dating a cross-dresser (oh please), guys saying “I thought I’d be dating a woman” (utter naïve idiots), etc. I did chat quite a bit to one or two guys at length and all seemed to be going well and they were okay with me wanting a companionship-type relationship rather than a physical one, but once they actually understood what ‘transsexual’ actually means the general response was “oh, I don’t think I can deal with that”. Another thing that became obvious was that, no matter how old the guy was (e.g. 76… ugh), sex was on the top of their wants… and considering that one in three women aged 50 and over have little or no interest in sex then several of them will be quite disappointed… and three weeks into my dating experience I said just that on a general diary-type area… at which point my to-be (at that time) boyfriend (let’s call him John… as that’s his middle name) said “oh, chat to me”, and so I did… and the chat was really good, very down-to-earth, not about sex and so on. John didn’t know an awful lot about what transsexual meant, but he researched and came back to say that he had no problem with it, and also no issue with what I am looking for in a relationship which is companionship rather than something very physical. So at the end of my month of subscription we agreed to carry on emailing and I cancelled. Email carried on fine, generally getting to know each other… and it turned out that he only moved to Northern Ireland at the start of this year and so I suggested that perhaps he might like to join Meetup.com to meet like-minded people at group events.

A couple of weeks later I had a weekend when there was nothing going on and no friends available to meet, and so I checked my own Meetup calendar for anything of interest and it turned out there was a coffee morning not too far away from my house which caught my eye, and so I looked him who was going… and there was John’s picture! So I messaged him to say that I saw that he had joined, he said he had and this was his first event – therefore, I suggested that I could meet him in the car park rather than him wandering up to a group of people he knew nothing about… and that’s what happened. We met, walked into the coffee shop and, after he had ordered coffee for both of us, sat with the group next to each other and chatted… and chatted… and chatted, and it was nice, he was easy to talk to, if a little blunt on one or two subjects. After about half an hour I figured I should let other people talk to him, as this is the purpose of Meetup, and so I chatted to one or two people I already knew. Eventually the event ended and we stood up uncertainly and he said that he hope we’d meet again; I then went to a furniture shop next door while he went to the toilet, and as I was finishing up I noticed him exit the café and so I thought I’d bump into him in the car park. Next to the furniture shop was an antique shop, I asked him if he’d already been in and he said he’d had a quick look and it was okay, and so I said I thought I’d go in… and he followed me! Now I am not one for antiques really, but we had quite a fun time, generally laughing at prices and oddities, and eventually exited without a purchase and then had a long chat in the car park until the rain forced us to depart.

Our first meeting with just the two of us was in Belfast – shortly before a weekend we were talking about him being new over here, and so I suggested how about we meet up for lunch and see how it went, then maybe we could go ‘explore’ a bit. So we met in front of City Hall, I booked a table at a restaurant I knew (Blu, which I had had good evening meals with friends before) and we had lunch – the food was nice, as was the company – it turned out that we both preferred the same main and dessert… great minds think alike. Afterwards we returned to City Hall, as which point I told him that the ‘exploration’ was actually going to be a treasure trail – he was really excited and it turned out to be really fun, sometimes I do these with other people and they become soul-destroying events when my companion(s) treat it like a cutthroat competition, but John and I did it like a team, some questions he got, some I got, and some we figured out together. Just before the last clue we had coffee, and then solved the last clue outside – we had a big hug, murmured about meeting again, and then departed.

Two weeks after that was a classical concert which I had ordered a couple of tickets for (just supposing anyone needed my spare ticket)… but as it got to a week before the concert I asked if he was doing anything on that Friday and he wasn’t, though sounded curious as to why I wanted to know, so I asked him if he wanted to go to the concert and perhaps an early dinner and he said he’d love to. So we met on the Friday evening, he was on time and dressed respectably. We had a lovely dinner, and the chat over it was more relaxed than the initial meeting; as we were going to the concert we got free desserts, which were definitely worth going for! The concert was very good, including a piece by Smetana called Vltava which is the first piece I ever got into in classical music aged 8; I sat next to him, with Meetup members in front of us, and we loved the music, had nice chat in the interval, and he just seemed like a down-to-earth person to naturally go to such events with. After the concert he asked me if I wanted to go for a drink, but I was driving, it was getting dark, and I didn’t want to walk through the streets of Belfast on a Friday night any later than it was already; when I got home John said he had had a great evening though was disappointed I had not gone for a drink with him.

The next time we met was the day before I went away on holiday to Austria in mid-August, which I may blog about soon. I left work feeling demoralised as I had reminded my boss a couple of times we should do a handover but he was buried in the detail on his other system all that day, so I simply left a copy of my detailed work plan on his desk and waltzed out the building. On the train home I vented to John about my day and he said if I wanted to talk he’d meet me wherever I wanted… and so we met at Hillsborough. There is a nice lake to wander around, so I thought we’d take a stroll, but first I suggested I head to a popular restaurant of mine (The Plough) to book a table so we could eat later. So, we strolled, it was nice, I vented and he listened well… and then it rained – I had an umbrella but, being a typical man, he had no rain protection at all – we sheltered under a tree together for a while, which was nice, but then gave up waiting for a break in the cloud and hurried back for our meal… which was very pleasant… and we ended up sharing desserts, like a couple, half of each one… although he was jokingly reluctant to give up the half of his dessert.

During my holiday we chatted on Messenger A LOT! By then he knew most of the details about  my history, but because of both my gender history and my disastrous marital history we ended up talking about a lot of really deep things – marriage, the type of wedding we might go for (not necessarily together), pre-nup agreements, holidays, the future, etc.!!! But I really enjoyed keeping in touch with him, and the day after we got back I met him in Hillsborough again, and this time we walked right around the lake and then went to a large M&S store nearby for supper, where we shared a piece of cake. It was simple but fun.

Just over a week later it was my birthday on a Friday, and while I was on vacation he suggested it ought to be celebrated… and so at this stage he said it would be his treat. I looked around for something a bit more special, but a couple of IMG_20170908_225030 cakeoptions were either not available (fully booked) or got recent bad reviews. So I zeroed in on this posh looking restaurant in Belfast called Saphyre, it looked a bit expensive (approx cost for 3-course a la carte £50) but he said I was the birthday girl and I could choose wherever I wanted… and so I booked it. And it was a FABULOUS meal – we ended up plumping for the seven-course taster menu (£65 each)… which became eight courses with the amuse bouche, or nine with coffee… and ten once they found out it was my birthday and brought a little birthday cup cake for me. It took us FOUR hours to eat our meal, we had lots of good chat, and every course was lovely, building on the earlier courses to two lovely desserts at the end; just before coffee I had gone to the ladies and on the way back I kissed his cheek and thanked him for a lovely treat, it just seemed the natural thing to do. By this time he had ended up missing his train and so I had to drive him to his office to pick up his car, and then I followed him as far as a road that I knew, then he got out and kissed me (slightly awkwardly) on the lips.

The Sunday morning after that I had nothing planned, and we were chatting by text. I said I fancied having a cooked brunch, and he said it sounded lovely… so I texted him back “Well, there’s enough for two”… and so he came over. I wasn’t going out so I warned him I would have no make up on, he said that didn’t bother him – I wanted him to see me au natural… and later on he still said I’m ‘gorgeous’. My lunch cooking went REALLY well, he liked it all, and I made effort with plating up that I would hardly bother with on my own… and after that we ended up talking about my history, ALL of it, and after a while I got very teary-eyed and went to the adjacent lounge for a tissue to blow my nose, I sat on the sofa and he gave me a hug… a LONG hug, for about half an hour until I had told him everything that I needed.

He next came over a few days later, I invited him to dinner again… and hugs, as it turned out. And the next evening he came over too… and I asked him if he still considered me as “potential girlfriend” material, and he said he did, so I said what about “actual girlfriend”… and he said yes. That was the evening I had my first snog with a guy… and it went pretty flippin well!!! I even gave him a couple of little suggestions to make it even better!

A couple of days later my parents arrived for a long weekend, and we talked all about John, how I met him, what we’d been up to, and so on… and as far as I can tell it seemed to really help my mum accept the new me much more than before. I wasn’t sure how well it would go down, me telling them that as of a couple of days ago we’d become boyfriend/girlfriend, but it went fine, and several times they said they hoped it would all go well, and my mum was “thrilled to bits”. Perhaps the best bit of the weekend was where my mum was in the kitchen with me while dad was in the garden and we ended up talking about the men in our lives and contrasting and comparing them, it was two women talking about their men.

The Monday morning that my parents left John texted me to say that he would love to see me that evening… and so we met. I can’t remember an awful lot what we did – I cooked, we listened to music with a lot of hugs of different types… and then snogged… A LOT. I could tell he was ‘on heat’, and overall quite aroused. I was home late the next night, but fancied company and so he was round again – this time we had a quick supper and then watched the start of a move in a bug sofa hug… and then my lounge light on its timer went out… and the intimate snogging started again. After a while I took my bra off from inside my top and asked him to feel my breasts, because I’d never had that before and wondered what it might feel like – overall, it felt like he couldn’t find an awful lot, but it was nice enough. Again, I could tell he was very aroused within himself, panting away, and quite hungry for kisses… but eventually I had to let him go.

During our recent meetings I had reminded him that owing to my operation choice I couldn’t give him penetrative sex, but more recently I had said that I felt a lot more confident that I was prepared to explore various other alternatives for intimacy when the time came… and the next day I bought some pleasure gel to be ready for when the time did come.

broken heartThe next morning I got a text from him saying that he had been thinking a lot (as I had asked him to do) about what he wanted, and he had decided that he didn’t want to be boyfriend/girlfriend any more for two reasons – (1) after the horrors of his divorce the previous year he really wasn’t ready for commitment of anything serious, but also (2) he wasn’t sure whether he would be okay having a relationship without sex. I was pretty upset – why did he agree he wanted me as his girlfriend when he knew everything about me and his divorce is almost finalised. Perhaps I was his rebound? I actually think my level of sensuousness surprised him… and tonight he confirmed that… and I can tell you it bloomin surprised me too! So perhaps that gave him the impression things were going too fast. I also think he doesn’t know what I even meant by ‘alternatives to penetration/sex’. Anyway, he says he “still wants to be friends… and who knows”… but I’m not sure I’d want a relationship with him again for fear of further rejection – I made that mistake with my marriage, and what a disaster that was.

Tonight I’ve eaten half a tub of chocolate brownie and cookie dough mix ice cream. I guess that means I’m upset. I certainly feel quite sad and alone again. But I also feel resigned to the fact that this is likely to happen again and again with guys, just supposing they can get past the history enough (like John could) but then they realise when they get all horny that my quality-snogging and willingness to try intimacy alternatives won’t be enough.

So there you go… I’ve had a boyfriend… and lost him… already. What have I learned?

  • I am definitely in the right place, not just gender-wise but sexuality-wise.
  • I have no issue kissing, or even snogging, a guy that I fancy… and I am reliably told that it is a ‘wonderful’ experience (by John).
  • Now that I have had an albeit brief relationship, that perhaps in future I will be more upfront about the intimate possibilities I am willing to try when the time comes.
  • Despite all this my operation choice remains unchanged – sex isn’t everything… and even if it is, there are so many variations that are possible such that there doesn’t absolutely have to be penetration… at least in my mind… and the right guy for me will be of the same mind… wherever he is.
  • I probably shouldn’t get so excited about the future so early in a relationship… because despite only a week being someone’s girlfriend I am pretty down about being rejected.
  • Probably other stuff too… but me head is a bit muddled to think what they are.


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…

Christmas Alone… Again (Naturally)

Well, it’s only mid-January, so although Easter Eggs are in the shops already we’re still a lot closer to the Christmas gone than the Easter to come, so Christmas is what I’ll write about. This post is mostly about my Christmas, or certain lack of it, but the primary purpose is not to invoke any feelings or replies of pity, it is more about ways of surviving it, and awareness of loneliness generally in those around you.

The ‘again’ in the title is a statement of this being the 9th Christmas Day in ten years that I have been on my own, although for many of those Christmases I eventually did pick up my daughter from some place or other, sometimes as late as early-evening 27th December but we did unite at some point and then spend our own version of Christmas together. However, as it is almost two years since I have seen my daughter (which, when I think or write about that fact, gives me a sense of loneliness, so I should in fact probably do neither) then this was the second Christmas in a row when I knew that I would not see her… and indeed not see any family because my parents made no noises again about there being any possibility of me coming over during the Christmas/New Year period… and although I perhaps shouldn’t wait for such noises to be made, I alas have the unfortunate situation that my brother, who cannot come to terms with having a happy sister, lives with them which just makes things awkward. “(Naturally)” I suppose I have added for two reasons, firstly as I am (medically speaking, because I don’t really like disclosing it for any other reason, even on this blog now) a transsexual rather than cis woman then it is alas a natural consequence following transition to full-time true-self-gender when those close to one cannot accept one’s true self and thus do not wish to spend a special time of the year with one… but I also wrote it for those musical viewers, who may recall Gilbert O’Sullivan’s hit years ago “Alone Again (Naturally)” about different situations when he became alone, and thought about suicide in at least one of them… another element also in common with transsexual people who are statistically ten times more likely to commit suicide than cis people. Don’t ask me to start quoting lyrics or anything, I’m not one for musical fact/lyric/anything regurgitation, but I did like Gilbert’s approach to music and songs, writing about true-life stuff in a down-to-earth, unwishy-washy like way.

Anyway, I did not have high hopes for the Christmas just gone. By the time it got to mid-December I was fed up with the thought of Christmas, if only because of the incessant seasonal adverts. I spoke and emailed my parents before Christmas, and told them that I would not be ringing them on Christmas Day (and did not want to be called) because the thought of being typically wished a “Happy Christmas” by them when I was all on my own, or having to wish someone the same, I just could not bear, and for the same reason I asked them not to send me a card saying as such; it was hard enough just getting through the last few days of work before Christmas trying to dodge such cheery wishes.

As last year, my best friend Kirsty stayed over the weekend just before Christmas to help put my tree up because I would not have bothered otherwise – my emotions were very up and down by that time and I was very glad of her spending so much time with me over that weekend, I had lots of fun, we had a nice meal, shared more wine than I usually drink (although at least this stay-over I didn’t end up cleaning my teeth with facewash), and the day afterwards we had a lovely afternoon tea followed by a cinema visit… but then it came time for us to say goodbye and as we hugged in the car park I just burst into floods of tears, unable to be strong enough to consider being alone again. Kirsty came to my car and hugged me for a while until I calmed down, and then I headed home, occasionally teary-eyed thinking of my daughter.

Compared to the previous Christmas, when on one afternoon I did meet Kirsty during the Christmas period for a shopping trip, this year I spent the entire time on my own… but after last year I was determined to survive it in better shape, and as I got through it without a tear then I guess I did. I knew I had to keep busy, and that’s what I did… with the help of some online chat from a few friends, mostly just online buddies. On Christmas Eve after a bit of shopping I treated myself to a lovely Christmas lunch at a gastropub called The Parson’s Nose, with a lovely table by a roaring fire, and delicious food… apart from the proverbial, token sprouts. Christmas Day I did a typically seasonal activity (not)… home-DIY! Some months earlier I had had a leak in my bathroom, with the existing lino flooring ending up rather slimy beneath in part… so as I hated the lino which had been there since I moved in I ripped the whole lot up with the intention of laying a much nicer floor… which is the DIY project I started on Christmas Day, so I had the door off, planing it to fit over the new flooring, had started laying some underlay, and cutting a piece or two of the laminate to fit around radiator pipes, the doorway, and the sink pedestal. Boxing Day I was up and ready fairly early and went for a lovely scenic walk in the Mourne Mountains about 45 minutes from my home – I did a fantastic route up to the largest natural lake in the Mournes (Lough Shannagh) and up one of the smaller peaks beyond, and was so lucky with the weather, lots of sun at the time although an icy blustery wind which my numerous layers of clothing kept at bay; see photo. After my walk I did some shopping, a bit of sales and boots shopping, also some DIY materials. The Tuesday and the Wednesday I was also off work, and kept busy with DIY and quite a lot of gardening in the dry weather (mostly tidying up). I made sure I had some nice food during the period too, though didn’t stuff myself, as well as some good wine.


Anyway, that was how I got through Christmas, largely keeping myself occupied in one way or another. This Christmas though made me think not just about my loneliness but that of others too – I was able to survive it through my own determination, and with a bit of online support, but there are other people who are not able to do that. This is particularly true of elderly people who have a reduced social network either due to no longer being at work, reduced mobility, or a reduced friendship circle for one reason or another, including a spouse who may have died, and such people are also less likely to be able to keep themselves so busy or have an online network – apparently there are 3.9 million older people who say the television is their main combat against loneliness. Anyway, thinking about all of this at the time, I made a donation to the Help The Aged charity. I also gave my neighbour a bottle of wine to let him know I was thinking of him, last year his mother passed away and this was his first Christmas in nearly 60 years without her.

The last thing I’d say about the subject of Christmas and loneliness is to something to others – if you know of someone, either a friend or maybe an elderly neighbour, spare them a thought, and make a bit of an effort to both make a little contact and also strike a note of sensitivity too. You may be able to have a really happy Christmas, and that is wonderful, but for others it is just a very difficult time and it can take quite an effort to keep one’s spirits up – I used to not realise this enough myself, but due particularly to my transition and not just my divorce I more than ever know exactly what it is like to be lonely at Christmas… and it is not great :-/

Best wishes for 2017



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 😦

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.