As an update to my last post, I'd like to confirm that the event at Yelden yesterday was very enjoyable, and nobody spoil it for me. I had an incredible level of acceptance - even before I got there, the girls serving at Costa Coffee at the Toddington Services on the M1 motorway showing nary a flicker of trans-recognition as I bought some much-needed refreshment. The same from the other customers. And ditto with the people I encountered when buying my Good Housekeeping magazine, and going to the loo.
What am I worrying about? I must seem very self-conscious. My friend R--- is not like this at all. She has total assurance. But she's a year ahead of me. Remember, it's not yet three years since I began to take any steps on the transition road, and hardly more than two since I started on hormones. The hair removal programme hasn't been going for two years yet. Nor have I had any facial surgery. I'm relying mainly on my voice and a confident manner to get me by.
The trouble is, I am dreadfully hard to convince. Despite assurances, I see only a thinly-disguised male face in the mirror, even though I will agree that from the neck down all is indeed rather female. In fact one nice girl at the barbie said to me that she envied my legs, which shook me, as only a few months ago I'd thought them of questionable shapeliness. As I've said before, it's so difficult to see yourself as others see you.
I so enjoyed relaxing and having a drink and chatting away without a care. I got to know a couple of people a bit better than the last time I was in Yelden. I'm always looking to make new friends, and every occasion like this seems to throw one or two possible friends into the ring.
But next day I couldn't help thinking about old friends, lost friends. I'm not always upbeat about the irreversible changes that transition brings about. Not when I think of the people who have vanished from my life.
It has struck me that the last big pre-transition social event I attended was on 1 June 2008. It was the 80th birthday of one of M---'s uncles, a big family get-together at a posh golf club in Surrey. I was there as M---'s partner of many, many years. I enjoyed the whole thing. I have always been sociable. But within two months my appearance had begun to change - the clothes a bit odd; the hair a bit different. I was trying to be deliberately androgenous, and not at all like the old familiar me that everyone had been so at ease with. A little earlier in 2008, M--- and I had holidayed in Cornwall. This is me on 20 May 2008, in a pub at Marhamchurch, a pleasant village just outside Bude:
And here is me at that golf club do, less than two weeks after:
I felt bulky and overweight, and as vaguely uncomfortable with myself as ever, but the point I'm making with these shots is that to everyone else I appeared completely normal, and nobody could possibly have guessed what was about to happen. That's why it was such a jolt to everyone. And the sad thing is that I liked everyone there, and they seemed to like me, and this is how it had been for years past. But once transition began, I saw only one of these people again, in December 2008. And I never saw them after that. An entire swathe of people wiped away from my life. It left me very isolated. Frankly, it was sudden and extreme social deprivation. I was left with only M--- and my two parents to talk to - in a strained, tense atmosphere, because none of them were supportive.
I suppose the friendly faces at that 2008 golf club family celebration might not recognise the modern me who was chatting away in Bedfordshire yesterday afternoon. Here I am:
The 'five-months-pregnant' look wasn't quite as pronounced as it looks! The camera has exaggerated all the sticky-out bits. But even I don't see much of a physical connection between the guy in the pub and the girl in the mirror.
There is absolutely no going back, however much some might wish it. It's a one-way journey. I'm happy about that, but I know that many are not. What's to be done? I don't think anything can be.