Thursday, 30 June 2011

An eventful day

What a lot has happenned today!

After I arrived at Waterloo my London cabbie battled through the road closures caused by the civil servant's'day of action'to get me to my appointment with gender specialist Dr Richard Curtis.  He seemed sufficiently confident with my progress to only ask me to come back in 6 months rather than 3.

Then into another taxi and off to St Pancras for a bite of lunch and then the 14.34 Eurostar to Brussels.  On the way through security it was so easy to know that everything metalllic was in my handbag rather than all the pocket-emptying I had to indulge in previously.  But then I forgot my relatively heavy silver bangle and set off the detector.  Dooh!  The French immigration official gave my male passport no more than a glance.  On the train I found myself on a table with two apparently nice Japanese, who then managed to sustain a loudish conversation in Japanese all the way from London to Brussels.  Given that I was trying to snooze, that was a little frustrating.  The raw speed of Eurostar, particularly on the French side, always surprises me. 

Soon I was changing trains at Brussels to a local train for Ghent.  There are no gentlemen left in Belgium, it seems.  It was 17.44 and the commute train was busy but no-one allowed a tired lady with several pieces of lugggage to sit down and I stood in the vestibuls for the 30 minute ride to Ghent.  A taxi ride to the apartment in which I am staying, a walk around the local streets (cobbled - glad I brought mostly wedge shoes), dinner at a pleasant local restaurant and now to bed, looking forward to my visit to the hospital tomorrow for tests and final consultation.



The Adventure Begins!

Well now, the adventure has well and truly begun.
It is 0900 and I am now sipping a coffee in first class on the 0728 train from Sherborne to London Waterloo as we whisk along at about 90 mph.  Before you get the wrong idea, the first class advance fare available yesterday was a few pounds cheaper than the walk-on standard class fare.  Still, it does lend a sense of occasion to the start of the trip.  Important, I think, when you are starting a new life.
I had to work right through the night to finish of the last piece of legal work, clean the house ready for the relatives who are looking after it while I am away, and get packed.  Phew!  Just as well the neighbours were away as I ended up hovering at 2 am!
The program for today is a consultation with gender consultant Dr Richard Curtis in London at 11, then catch the 1434 Eurostar from London St Pancras to Brussels and change there for a local train to Ghent, and a (hopefully) restful and full night’s sleep before the pre-operation consultation and scan with Dr Van der Ven in Ghent tomorrow.
I’ll keep you posted!


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Torment over

I don't minimise the difficulties ahead, not least facial surgery in a few days time and genital surgery in about 18 months time and the HUGE challenge of living and working as a woman full-time for ever more BUT yesterday was my last male day and I am so PLEASED I have got to this point.

I was conducting a case in the Manchester employment tribunal yesterday.  It only lasted the morning and then I had to kick my heels in Manchester as I had a timed ticket back on an early evening train.  It felt really weird to be on the verge of such a change in a massive city with virtually no one there knowing.  Part of me felt I ought to be shouting it out aloud.

However, being English, I settled for buying Caitlin Moran's new book 'How to be a Woman' (!) and reading it in a quiet corner of the cafe in Waterstones bookshop in Deansgate in Manchester.  I decided that reading the book could be described as a feminist act...

So eventually I collected my luggage and headed back to the station.  And the railway seemed to want to delay me on the way home.  An 'incident' near York made my train half an hour late and then we limped along, losing more time as we got in the way of other trains.  Don't they know, I thought, self-centredly, of the momentous events about to occur to one of their passengers?  Apparently not.

Totally manic day today packing, tidying and dealing with losse ends before I head off tomorrow.  Updates follow....



Friday, 24 June 2011

Forgetting how to be male

I am now living virtually full-time as female, only reverting to male when working with exterior clients.  On Wednesday I caught the train up from Dorset for a two-day case in Birmingham.  I travelled in a smart black linen dress-suit and felt very comfortable indeed.  But lurking in my suitcase was a male suit for me to wear in court (yuk!). 

With a heavy heart I showered on Thursday morning and then dressed in my male suit, which now feels distinctly odd. and then, horror of horrors, I discovered that I HAD FORGOTTEN TO PACK ANY MALE SHOES!!!!!!!

What to do? Help!!!!  Well fortunately, the cheap clothing chain 'Primark' is right next to my hotel here in Birmingham and 9am found me standing outside their front door, in suit, with court papers but in just my socks.  5 minutes later I was the proud possessor of a pair of brown slip-on male shoes for £17.  Not exactly elegant, but they'll do!

We were only in the court until the end of the morning and then the court broke to read documents for the afternoon.  It was a terrible hardship (not!) to change back into a dress and have my hair and make-up done at a local salon ready for an evening at a restaurant (Cafe Rouge) with the solicitor I am here conducting the case with.  Lovely to spend the evening chatting about clothes, shopping, men (!) careers and the like.

And gosh, NOW LESS THAN A WEEK before I head off to Belgium for surgery....



Friday, 17 June 2011

A thumping great milestone !

Wow!  What an amazing day!

First day at work in a dress.  Had warned my management that I had had enough of trousers and stepped out of the house this morning in a business (dress) suit, medium heels and light coat and headed off to work as 'me' for the first time.  The admin staff had plainly been warned to make no comment, and were lovely.  My 'senior management' complemented me on 'an elegant' look, other work collegues made other pleasant remarks and I just got on with the working day - lovely.

I just feel so comfortable as 'me' now it doesn't seem quite real.  Wonderful.  Wonderful.

I head off to Belgium in just under a fortnight for facial surgery.  I have 4 days in this time working with external clients and will revert to collar-and-tie (yuck!) for those days as clients are not expecting transition until my return to work in August but otherwise that part of my wardrobe (and former life) is OVER!

I should say that if you add together the hair, the eyebrows, a trace of yesterday's eye make up, the near B-cup cleavage and the ear studs, I make a pretty unconvincing male these days....

Hoorraayy!  Hoorraayy!  Hoorraayy!


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The station cafe

Wow - two posts in a day.  The pace of change is really hotting up!

Another milestone passed today.  One of my guilty pleasures when I am working at home is to head for lunch to the cafe at our railway station for a none-too healthy all-day-breakfast.  So there I was today for the first time in heels and a skirt.  As usual, I took my 1945 Jeep out for a run and parked just along from the cafe, so no one was in any doubt who I was.

As sometime happens, the local track gang piled in just after me for their lunch, so I was surrounded by a sea of high-visability orange.  It clashed a bit with my lilac cardie but the size and meatiness of these chaps did at least make me look slim and svelt....

The cafe owner fought his way through the orange throng with my food and asked for the track workers to allow him through with 'this chap's lunch' which he hastily corrected to 'this lady's lunch' and profusely apologised for any offence.  I made plain that I was taking time to get used to the change and I had had 18 months to get used to it, not the 5 minutes he had had.  We had a good laugh together, he made some polite remarks about bravery and good luck which I thanked him for.

So there we are, another part of normal life 'changed over'.



A first, a truth and a start....

Well now, yesterday was a busy day.  Lets start with the 'first'.  I was supposed to be travelling to Watford to conduct a court case on Wed, Thu and Fri but that settled during the morning, and all I had to go into London for was my seconde speech therapy session (of which more later) and to deliver and collect some papers at work.  I started to change out of my nice summery dress but just could not face trousers so decided not to and headed down to the station in a summer dress (which looks rather like it has been made out of a deck-chair) and jacket.  And so I found myself in work at the end of the day as my female self.  Virtually everyone had gone home by then but the stallwart few were left and the world did not fall apart.  I am back in Dorset today, so I wonder at the chat in the office....

The 'truth' is that the world is rather larger from a female perspective.  I live about a seven or eight minute walk from my local railway station.  Or at least, it is 7-8 minutes as a man.  In heels, even fairly sensible wedges, I find that I need to allow a few minutes more.  Work is about a 20 minute walk from Waterloo in London and yesterday evening a building being refurbished along the route caught fire and the roads were closed to vehicle traffic, including buses, so I had to walk.  The normal 20 minutes took me 30 in heels and I missed my hourly train back to Dorset.  I will have to alter my 'mental maps' of the world.

And the start?  Well, at the speech therapy session the therapist started me on controlling breath and doing groundwork for increasing pitch with a trick involving blowing through a straw and humming at the same time.  If this sounds rather like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time, then that's what it feels like at the moment.  I have to do 20 repeats of this three times a day and apparently it will beging to come naturally and is the basis for what we are to do in future.  If you see a carefully dressed woman on the train to London in future, humming tunelessly through a straw, it might be me......



Sunday, 12 June 2011

Sublime and ridiculous

The pace of change must be hotting up.  I can tell that from the fact that this is my second post in two days!  I thought I should record two differing parts of the transition process.   One sublime and one more ridiculous.
The sublime part is that I finally ran out of male aftershave / cologne last week -  Cerruti 1881 to be precise.  So I have now switched over to my long-hoarded ‘Coco Mademoiselle’ by Channel.  I don’t have the best developed sense of smell but I do like this – in moderation.  I only have 17 male days to go now until I head off to Belgium for facial surgery and, to be honest, the male crossdressing (that’s what it feels like) is wearing pretty thin.  If you add together the hair, the eyebrows, the ear studs, the body shape (breasts and hips),  and now the perfume, I now make a rather unconvincing male.  I have to say at the end of last weekend I looked at my neat French manicure and just could not bring myself to get the nail varnish remover out.  The clients I was working with last week know of my impending change.  Truth be told, they were a little disappointed that my case for them was ‘just before’ as opposed to ‘just after’ so they were not phased by a male (sort of) barrister with very well groomed digits...
That brings me on to the ridiculous aspect of the moment.  I haven’t bought any male clothes for around a year now and my sock drawer is getting pretty empty.  Last Sunday found me scratching around for enough black socks for the week ahead.  Sunday night found me in my hotel room washing socks by hand and drying them on the heated rail in the bathroom.   Pretty ridiculous, I thought.
I also seem to be well supplied for M&S male white vests, a staple of my wardrobe for many years now.  Certainly in the early stages of my transition, when I was an ‘A-cup’ or less and was hanging on to my male image and was no where near as ‘out’ as I am now, an extra layer under my shirt to confuse the issue seemed very welcome.  Now I don’t care as much; you can’t hide a ‘B-cup’ anywhere near as effectively, and I have had ENOUGH of the cloying heaviness of male clothes.  (Wearing collar-and-tie is almost as much as I can BEAR.   Fortunately I only now have 8 or 9 days in court left before the change..)   So last weekend, when packing to go away, I left the vests behind.  I tend to wear white shirts for court and the lace of my bra is now clearly visible through the shirting material.  
But I don’t care now.....

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Different sounds

I started to tackle another piece in the transition jigsaw ths week - voice.

I had my first appointment with a speech therapist at the Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital in Gray's Inn Road, a lovely chap called Gary Wood.  He plainly lnows his business and put me completely at ease.  Just as well as he then proceeded to poke a camera thingy up my nose and down my throat to photograph my vocal chords.

Voice is a big deal for me.  I am a barrister so my voice is my working tool and it gets used most day and often all day.  I am also fairly low pitched so, although carefully made up and well dressed I pass reasonably well (as well as yu can at 6 feet tall!) if I open my mouth my trans status rappidly becomes apparent.  Male voices have a pitch around 120Hz, and female ones about 220Hz, although there is a range.  My natural pitch is about 93Hz, so on the low side of natural male.  Apparently barristers are naturally a bit lower than normal and given the need to have 'authority' in our voice and to be heard by the whole court, that is not surprising.  You may recall that Margaret Thatcher had voice coaching to deepen and lower her voice to give it more authority.  I can's end up as 'Minnie Mouse' but I would like to sound a bit more feminine.  It's not all about pitch, though, and apparently there is a lot we can do.

This week's appointment was all about checkking me for the health of my vocal equipment and establishing a base line for the coming work.  The good news is that my equipment is in good condition, especially considering that I have never smoked and I used to sing semi-professionally.  I do need to drink more water, though.

An unexpected court cancellation has allowed me to bring my second appointment forward to next Tuesday, so we should start with some exercises then.

And in the meanwhile it is now only 19 days (Eeeeeek!) until I head off to Belgium for facial surgery.  Transition is all seemiing very, very real (and very, very exciting) now.  I can't wait to get rid of collar-and-tie for the last time.



Friday, 3 June 2011

Broad sunlit uplands....

Today has been a lovely day for weather here in Dorset.  Properly warm so that I had to make sure my legs were completely hairless before going down into town bare-legged and in a linen dress.

Worked on my differently-shaped suntan for a couple of hours, then had a very pleasant wander round, and then a coffee before an hour's facial electrolysis, and out to the cinema this evening.

Tomorrow I am treating myself to a facila, manicure and pedicure to celebrate the fact that today (1) I paid the balance of my facila surgery cost to the clinic in Belgium and (2) I booked my first session with a speech therapist for next money.  He sounds lovely....I am beginning to allow myself to think about men in a rather different way now....interesting...

Today I was exposed to only the third adverse comment I have had out dressed.  I was in Costa coffee before my electrolysis session and so I had some beard growth showing with no make-up to cover it.  But its my town so 'hey!'  A chavvy male twit of about 30 behind me in the queue started making loud remarks about 'Little Britain' repeats on the tele..  He was with what I presume to be his wife and another couple and a collection of about 4 children aged 4-5 or so.  I suspect a pub lunch had not been too far previous....The women were clearly embarrassed by the remarks and were telling him to be quiet but he could not contain himself.  I went over and explained that I was having a coffee before my electrolysis session and was in course of gender re-assignment.  I explained what electrolysis entailed.  He went absolutely purple with embarrassment, apologised about 20 times and was roundly told that he was a total idiot by the two women who apologised for his behaviour.  Before they left the other chap came across and apologised and complemented me on the way I had dealt with the situation.  So overall, this left me feeling fine, although increasingly desperate to get electrolysis finished and to Belgium for my FFS....

I am going to soak up a few more of the evening rays before a trip out to the cinema