She made her public debut on 9 December 2008, in Brighton at the afternoon Clare Project Drop-in, and how nervous she was!
It seemed like a no-return decision to attend. I'd settled on my new name just a few days before. As I announced myself, I felt I had fixed my identity for evermore. They might take everything away from me as my transition went forward, but not my name. I was glad that I had 'gone public'.
And now, on the eve of the fourth anniversary of that momentous event, how do I feel? How do I stand? Have I really 'found my true self'?
Well, a Big Yes to finding my true self.
I've never felt so complete and self-confident. It seems obvious to me that this is how I should always have been, my natural state, and I'm very happy that the rest of my life will be spent as Lucy Melford. I'm a little sad that my transformation began at 56 rather than 16 - forty years later than it might happen nowadays - but the date of my birth meant that early diagnosis and sympathetic treatment were simply not possible. As said in previous posts, had I been able to recognise and articulate what was wrong with me at age 16, I would either have been laughed at, or sent to a mental institution to be drugged or electrocuted until I was a docile imbecile. I escaped that fate, and that escape is some sort of consolation for the 'wasted decades'.
Do I blame anyone in particular for my late transition? No. I suppose I could say - although it means little - that 'society was to blame'. But then it always is. It's the same story now, in 2012. Society is not yet ready for certain things that will be normal for the next generation. It's a constant rule. But change always does come, as history has proved with the gradual acceptance of all sorts of things that were not normal in my childhood - for instance: rights and equality for women in the home and at work, cross-cultural relationships, guiltless sex before marriage, straightforward divorce, legal abortion, a normal life lived on credit, rights and legal protection for gay and black people.
It may in fact be that I've managed to transition at the best time, and will be among the first transsexual women to enjoy a full life in every sense, without having to consider stealth at all, and (hopefully, post-Leveson) without having to contend with mockery and censure from the press and other powers that could drag me down.
How do I feel? Optimistic for the future. Content with my present life. But sad for what the last four years brought.
Look what I've lost in that time: my parents (both dead); my partner (hopelessly estranged); some of my family (they can't cope with my transition, or are averse to it); a very old and dear friend (the same); all of my partner's family and friends (the same); all my life savings (taken away or spent). The emotional battering in particular has been dreadful.
All this said, any or all of it is the usual experience of people in my position. And of course, the loss of both parents meant that I inherited a home. I was also obliged to buy out my partner's share of the caravan, but then this placed a holiday asset entirely in my hands. And I did equip myself with a lovely car to to tow it with. So it's not all bad by any means. But please don't tell me that a nice home, a jolly little caravan, and Fiona, mean that I've popped up smelling of roses. They don't compensate for the loss of so many people that I used to love.
I keep several diaries going. There are two holiday diaries, Caravan Diary and the more general Travel Diary. There's Money Diary (all my bank, credit card and major cash transactions, with a running balance and a daily spending target). There's Photo Diary (where and when for every photo shoot). And there's Event Diary, which records the stuff that I don't necessarily put in the Blog. I was reading up November and December 2008 yesterday evening. I wanted to look at the background events that led to that debut at the Clare Project. I'd written at some length. And I read on, well into 2009, up to Dad's death in May 2009.
Funny how your memory plays tricks with you. I hadn't remembered anything wrongly, but I'd forgotten that the Lucy Melford debut occurred amid a storm of negativity from my parents and partner. My goodness, I was being hammered! I'd put all of that out of my mind, forgotten it. It was shocking to read all about it again, but - four years on - it didn't upset me. It was after all firmly in the past.
But reading on into 2009, I couldn't help noticing how Dad kept imposing restrictions on how he wanted me to be. It was the same old control being laid on. For example: not to begin hormone treatment (a request that I had to quietly ignore). Not to have surgery while he was alive (he made me promise that). Not to embarrass him with female clothing and behaviour (which forced me to be a part-time woman until he died). In late February 2009, Dad announced that after our April cruise he wanted to have a 'man to man' discussion with me about where I was going. That sounded very much like an attempt to 'make me see sense before I went too far'. Then in mid-March he made me an offer: he'd sell his house and we'd move to North Devon, buying a really nice place there instead, which I'd have when he died. Somewhere sunny and beachy. But I'd have to give up 'becoming a woman'. It was a frank bribe to stop my transition in its tracks. He really didn't understand what was going on. It was meant to be a very tempting inducement; but I couldn't stifle the feelings inside me, and I said no.
Reading the Diary now, I realised that I had discarded most of these incidents from my ongoing memory, and had clung instead to those moments on the cruise when Dad and I seemed to bond. Now I saw that Dad wasn't by any means acquiescent to my transition, didn't understand my feelings at all, and was going to keep fighting me on it. M--- always maintained that he would never accept me as Lucy. I think now that she was more right than wrong. I don't say that Dad would always have set himself against me, as Mum did, but he'd need a lot of time to accustom himself to Lucy and get to appreciate her. And time ran out for him so soon.
He died of a cardiac arrest, and I have often wondered whether, in those last months, he abandoned careful eating and indulged himself in heartwarming fry-ups to an unwise or reckless degree. He'd certainly had a tasty fry-up as his meal on that last evening. I knew he missed Mum badly, and had only me to live for. It's not a good thought, but my 'stubbornness' in carrying my transition forward might have made him feel the best thing would be to eat what he liked, and let Nature intervene with an inevitable death. A kind of suicide or self-euthanasia. If he made that decision, he said nothing to me about it, and all the indications were (when I examined his personal effects after death) that Nature intervened sooner than he expected. He was caught off guard, unprepared. But I don't enjoy the notion that I may have contributed to my father's death.
Well, it's another thing to live with. I don't feel guilty; just sad if it's true.
How do I stand, then? Pretty well. In four years I have acquired the appearance, voice and demeanour of an ordinary middle-aged woman, and I seem to be universally acceptable in public. I am secure with a pension, a nice home, a nice caravan and a car to be proud of. I am surrounded by a stack of personal possessions that reflect my many interests. I eat well, have a good social life, and get away for 60-odd nights of the year. I'm a bit overweight, but otherwise in good health and mentally active.
What's missing? Well, I'd like to have more non-trans friends. A little more money. More fitness. I can do something about those things.
What about love, and a close relationship? Ah, not so easy; and not something I feel I need urgently. Or could fit into my life as it is now. Or would really want to.
Is happiness simply a state of mind? What's better to go for - short-lived thrills and sensations, or long-term contentment? The eternal dilemma. At least I'm free to choose.