M---, my stylist at Trevor Sorbie in Brighton, asked last time whether she could see any pictures of how I used to be, pre-transition - she's known about my trans history from the start - and I duly obliged when I saw her yesterday. I treated her to a series of prints spanning the ten years from 2002 to 2012, half as J---, half as Lucy. She was amazed at the transformation. Even as late as 2007, I'd looked so confident and handsome and manly (that was her reaction, not mine!), and she wondered how I could have felt such pressure to transition - although she granted that my present self was definitely prettier and happier than the older version!
As several people have said, and with justice, transition has made me blossom and glow. But it was also clear from these pictures that, so far as looks went, nobody could have guessed that inside me all was not well. No wonder it came as a shock.
It might also shock people that I've still got all these old photos to show - and that I'm willing to let them out of the bag. Only to those I trust, of course. And after showing them to my stylist, they went back in the envelope, to be stored safely at home. But even so, I know that it's very unusual for a trans person to reveal such images at all. None of my trans friends would do the same thing, except perhaps to another trans person they knew rather well.
But I can't see the harm. It's like any secret: the sharing of it is a compliment to the other person, indicating that you like and trust them; it indicates that you yourself are willing to be open and frank and honest; and it proves - in my own case anyway - that I didn't transition in some misdirected quest to become a better-looking or more glamorous person. I may not have been the Fairest One Of All when I was J---, but my face cracked no mirrors, and in other respects I was a much-loved solid citizen with an amiable disposition. I wasn't an inadequate saddo chasing a fairytale pink dream.
My stylist often asks me how things are going on the romantic front. And she did so yesterday. I agreed that it would be good for my own emotional (and physical) development if I 'tried myself out' in my new role as Lucy Melford the mature and sophisticated adventuress. But I was in no great hurry, and there was no great urge driving me. I wasn't even sure whether I'd prefer a man or a woman. Pondering this, she thought a man might be best to start with, and of course conventional social expectations would favour it. So we discussed the idea of dating sites on the internet. She thought I should try more than one, and certainly be up front about my trans history. So they'd know my Secret from inception. It would be the safest course, and sidestep the dilemma of whether to tell or not. Eventually I should find a few persons happy to meet up with me for an evening drink or meal in a venue safe for myself. Where I might go from there would be entirely up to me.
I thought about this a bit more seriously than usual after the appointment, when enjoying my lunch (a glass of wine and a goat's cheese wrap and chips) at a nearby pub. I'm tempted to give it a try, if only to gain experience of this type of dating. And who knows what may happen? But I'll have no high expectations, and expect only a series of rueful let-downs and disappointments. It'll help that I'm not desperately looking for anyone at all, so if I do get a date, and he (or she) turns out to be unsuitable or annoying, I'll find it easy to make a graceful exit. It won't be Apprentice or Dragon's Den stuff, though. I'm too well-mannered to insult or humiliate anyone if they don't appeal and must get the old heave-ho. Let each meeting end in smiles and mutual wishes of good luck.
What I don't want to happen, though, is for some stranger to get morbidly fascinated with me, and end up invading my life. That's a real fear, and to avoid it I would stay right out of the dating game entirely.
When do I begin this project? As soon as I return from my caravan holiday.