I returned to the UK and stayed at me mums. She does not live in the most liberal of places so I had to be wary. I did dress up and just get on the bus sometimes but I usually wrangled a lift or, later, jumped straight on the motorbike to get to town. Once I got to Manchester I was fine. Sure, some places I would be wary and avoid but generally it is so busy and varied that I was just a blur passing by. Not shouts and no comments. Nothing! So whilst I knew I had to get outta my home town, Manchester was fine and it was good to be myself there. I would go shopping with my mum (I needed to replace my entire wardrobe with girl clothes!) and the shop assistants would be great. Even when I was wearing minimal makeup they were still so cool. One day I was looking rather rough (the day after my first laser beard removal session) and we still got a "hello ladies" on the way into a shop. My fear of browsing went away - the female section was finally mine!!! I would try things on and the girls would smile and 'let me pass' without any questions. I was not an intruder, something I always worried about before. I was where I should be in the female changing rooms. Such a simple thing but something so uplifting for me and my soul. People just let me be and that is amazing.
I did build up my outward appearance. It is funny. I already described slowly changing what I wore but there were more steps that felt huge. Nail varnish and hair have always been things that got me looks but I never worried about them. Eyeliner also bothered me little. But full makeup and especially lipstick felt like a big step forward and took a while for some reason. Same with skirts and dresses. I stuck to jeans and shorts for ages when I went full time - like a skirt would draw extra attention or be a beacon for abuse. Still, the final drawbridge was crossed once I had a dress just far too cute to not show off! Now I feel confident wearing whatever I want. Some things do not suit me but I think I have that pretty much sorted. I think so at least.
Same with my day makeup. Maybe I wear a little more than most girls in science but it is my armour - a sign of "hey, I wear makeup, I am a girl!" - just to help folks along that are not sure how to treat me (usually guys btw!). Getting called 'love' or 'darling' may not be feminist but right now I am enjoying that. At least folks are acknowledging who I am. I still get 'mate' a lot (although I am told that this is pretty gender neutral down south). I got a 'buddy' once but he looked kinda embarrassed after. And one guy slurred his 'he' into 'they' so I do actually appreciate the thought and effort. Let's face it, most folk do not interact with trans* people so this is new to them. The fact they try makes me smile even if inside I wish I was less obviously trans*.
In the street I don't usually get a second look. I know when I have because you can tell. Either they look bemused or smile at me. And whilst the smile could be seen as a flirty sign I doubt it. I think people are just letting me know that they are totally cool with me. That may sound weird but actually it is really nice. A nice, warm smile is great for feeling acceptance from strangers. Again, the flip side is that they have 'clocked' me which hurts a little but I have a way to go yet and recently I have watched loads of YouTube vids by beautiful trans* girls who complain of being clocked a lot in public. The truth is, trans* awareness is high right now and whilst that means more people have some understanding of us, people are also more likely to spot us because they know we are here! Course, a lot of times I am easily clocked by my voice. I need to sort that out ASAP. I am on the speech therapy waiting list so hopefully it that is only another 4 or 5 weeks away but in the meantime I am not really helping myself - as I am doing very little to train my vocal chords (mainly as I keep straining them). However, seeing videos of the same girls whose beauty gave me the confidence to transition saying that they get clocked also gives me great confidence too - 'cause they are beautiful so bugger it, people are people!
I have a new job. When I was offered an interview I realised I had applied under my old name. It would have been far less daunting to go to my first interview in 4 years as my old self. Keep it simple. But I realised two things; that I wanted to work as myself and did not want them to know old me - start as I mean to go on and make the most of a new beginning, and; if they had a problem with my trans* status I would rather know straight away so I can walk away. So I told them in advance, rather than turn up and surprise them. Plus - I was sick of lying and hiding.
I had almost walked away from science for a few reasons, one of which was the acceptance of being LGBT in the scientific community. In 10 years in STEM research I have not met one open member of the LGBT community (as far as I know) and it makes you wonder why. Still, the job just seemed too interesting to not try and if anywhere would be cool with the true me I figured it would be Oxford Uni. Of course, the night before I realised I didn't have 'interview clothes' and that was accompanied by some emergency shopping! (Darn!)
The interviewers did not bat an eyelid and just asked me all the normal questions. And then gave me a job accompanied by amazing feedback giving me a little bit of a big head and resting my fears about being picked out of pity or to make up diversity numbers. Since I have started I have raised a few eyebrows but they have all got on it and everyone has been so great making sure they correctly gender me (the odd slips quickly corrected). And it is really, truly amazing to look down and see that I am wearing a skirt or dress at work and know that it is not a dream. My dreams have come true and everyone is letting me live them. I either burst into tears or a big grin and I am happy with both.
Living in Oxford is nice. Most people are so friendly and just chat away as normal. I have been invited to lesbian social groups which really surprised me and made me realise that my life really is different now! I also couldn't help but laugh when my electrolysis beard removal lady started going on about her trans* clients before, five mins in, asking "erm, ARE you trans*". She then asked me rather inappropriate questions which I have heard happens a lot to trans-folk but had not actually been on the receiving end of myself (except for one creepy guy at 4am in the Manc gay village who, to be fair, I had let buy me some G&Ts). I could have said that it was inappropriate but she was about to spend an hour electrocuting my face so I let it slide!
What about negatives? Honestly, this is the shortest part of the blog. Since I went full time I have had three things happen. One was some school girls giggle at me. My makeup was a mess (first attempt at day makeup outside) and I knew that so I couldn't help but laugh back at them. It just did not bother me. Same with the next incident - being shouted at by some teens. They passed by and shouted and that was it. It didn't bother me in the slightest. My mother on the other hand was not impressed and came out with a very witty return. I love that she was defending me but it wasn't necessary. Kids don't get it and words are nothing to me. I am much stronger than that. Being happy with myself far outweighs the odd mean words thrown my way and I am happy to just let them slide. The only real time I did worry was when some junkies followed me up a main road in Edinburgh shouting "it's a man in drag" after me for five mins. That they shouted was fine - everyone looked at them not me!!! But they followed me and that made me nervous. I know I am not as strong as I was and junkies are not easily defended against anyways so that was pretty freaky. But I nipped in Boots and bought makeup whilst they went so it had its upside.
But yes. That is it. The most outstanding abuse I have had. Course, I keep myself in safe places and don't venture out late much these days but I am not hiding. I am out and in full sight. And people just let me be. I can be happy with myself - maybe even learn to love myself finally - and no one has tried to take that away from me so far. The positives wash any slight negatives away. My initial apprehension disappeared as soon as I stepped out the door the first time and was replaced with pure joy. I still have some ways to go but I am excited for the future and finally happy to live in the real, here and now present. I never thought I could be so happy.