I get out in public every day, by which I mean I'm on view to neighbours or actually walking on town streets. Not just driving about in my car, anonymously. I am constantly in people's eyes, and have frequent reason to speak to some of them. Their reactions - the look in their eyes, their expression, what they say and how they say it - suggest strongly to me that nowadays there is nothing wrong with my presentation. Whether it's a man or a woman, or a child, I am clearly being taken at face value. Which of course is excellent. De facto perfect passing - at least in a public situation.
My goodness, how it feeds my self-confidence! It's taken quite a while to get here, but I feel that I've most definitely got past the first step where general public acceptance is concerned. And consequently I feel happy to accept any invitation, go to any social gathering, and attend any event where I might be questioned before gaining admission. Confident that no sticky moment will occur.
I do recognise that other trans people must be able to spot me a mile off. But then I can spot them too. Truly, 'it takes one to know one'. We both know exactly what to look for, which little things give one away. But even in Brighton the chances of accidentally coming face-to-face with another trans person are very small. They are effectively non-existent elsewhere, unless at some special trans-centred or LGBT-centred event where people come together.
And some 'ordinary' people - strangers, I mean - must know the signs too. Perhaps the partner or ex-partner of a trans person. But again the chances of encountering them are vanishingly small. However, unless I were close to them, and saw recognition in their face, I would not know that they had spotted me. Which might be a source of trouble. But they still wouldn't know exactly who I was.
The dangers of blogging, and outing myself as a named person to the whole world, have been pointed out to me. But to be honest I think it most unlikely that any casual reader of this blog would know it was me, if we happened to meet in real life. It might be different if some of my posts had been videos, and they had seen my characteristic expressions and mannerisms, and heard my voice. But I've been careful not to expose myself like that. There are only the still photos - a lot of them, to be sure - but I'm of the opinion that a still image - a silent image - is not a patch on a video for conveying what a person is like in the flesh. So I haven't much fear that anyone will tap me on the shoulder in the street, or in some pub, and claim to know exactly who I am from glancing at my blog.
What am I saying so far? That I clearly pass well enough for everyday purposes, and that I'm pretty sure that I won't meet anyone who might see through my presentation, or actually know my name. So I should now be able to function as a bog-standard woman with no baggage - well, a middle-aged bog-standard woman - and expect to be treated as one, by everyone.
And women are behaving as expected.
But not so men! They do know I'm there. They certainly don't blank me. They clearly do see a woman. They are actively courteous and helpful, and often chatty if the situation permits. But not one has been amorous or flirtatious.
Now in a way I'm highly relieved. The last thing I want is constant pestering from men trying it on. Some might relish the ego-boost that provides, but to me it would be a problem, just unwanted attention, with no point to it, and possibly quite annoying. I don't want to engage in sexy banter with delivery men and scaffolders and sundry jack-the-lads. On a more serious level, I don't want to make any connection that might lead to a date and a possible relationship. Not even with the most urbane and sophisticated man-of-the-world imaginable.
So far as I can see, any woman who is nicely turned out, and still has looks of some kind, will get attention from a man. Therefore I have thought, not without reason, that once my passability reached a certain level, I'd be eyed up. And maybe a lot of the time quickly dismissed as plain and uninteresting, or too old, or too tall. But surely not always. Yet there has been no interest. Or rather, there was a small amount of attention early in my transition, then less and less as time has gone by. And yet my presentation skills have improved, and although I'm not 'beautiful' and never will be, I'm definitely a 'prettier' proposition than I used to be.
So why no 'hello darling' approaches, wanted or not? I think it may be more subtle than just a question of physical attractiveness.
I think it's that old bugbear, the male legacy. I spent thirty-five years at my job, learning how to assess situations, come up with ideas, make decisions, take the lead, be in charge, and just cope. I spent even longer playing the strong, reliable, dependable, can-do, never-get-lost, know-where-I-put-it, not-dependent-on-anyone bloke. You can't easily throw that off.
Yes, I can be attentive and quiet when a man wants to speak, waiting my turn; I can be bubbly and frivolous and playful as occasion requires; I can be decorative; I can talk like a woman, with woman's words. But I can't be a damsel in distress. Nor can I be the sort of woman that a man instinctively wants to comfort and cherish. Because I'm not vulnerable. I have it all sorted. I'm too organised and confident for my own good. I offer a man no role. I must seem too articulate, too well-informed, and too interested in current affairs, for the comfort of most men. How can a man show off and impress me?
Before anyone hurls accusations at me that I think only in stereotypes - asserting for instance that men want only dim-witted bimbos, or women who can't quite run their own lives properly and need men's helping hands - I hasten to say that I have in the past known men of brilliance and genuine discernment. They exist in abundance in academia and the professions generally.
I am making a simple point in simple terms: I am too self-assured and independent to be fanciable. I'm not fragile enough to stir men into playing the white knight on a steed. And I think these things will keep them away. Yes, yes, I know that's what I really want; but just now and then it would be nice if the odd Sir Lancelot gave me a wink.