Yes, it's another of those anniversaries today.
Five years ago, on 9 December 2008, Lucy Melford made her first rather timid public appearance. This was at the Clare Project in Brighton, recommended to me by Dr Richard Curtis in London, whom I'd just had my first consultation with. I'd been to see him six days before, but as J---, and not in obviously female garb. And the getup for my debut was hardly girlier. I wore the thick silver necklace that I usually wear, and a red top from River Island. The rest of the outfit consisted of black jeans and other odds and ends that J--- might himself have worn in the past. It was a very tentative outfit indeed.
Even so, I was in a proper state, desperately hoping that nobody would accost me in the semi-darkness on the way to the Clare Project. I imagined being stopped and roughly handled. A demand would be made to see what I was wearing under my coat. Then the cat would be out of the bag. I felt positively frightened. The issue of meeting a roomful of complete strangers was nothing compared to the terror of public denouncement in the street, and having to run for my life!
Of course it was all right. The Clare Project was a safe haven, a sanctuary, and I could relax. I was immediately invited to an Evening Gathering only a few days ahead at a house in north Brighton, and this galvanised me into buying a proper female outfit - classy black velvet dress, shoes, everything I'd need. There's nothing like a definite event to concentrate the mind!
I plunged in fearlessly, and discovered that, by and large, no eyebrows were raised in any of the Brighton and Eastbourne shops that I visited. I even used the fitting rooms. All this suggested a certain public acceptance from the outset, although I chiefly put it down to not making any accidental mistakes with what I said, and how I behaved. This rapidly built up my self-confidence, and let me learn very quickly how to get by. There must have been times when I looked ridiculous, when I deserved to be mocked and jeered at, but I came through those first weeks unscathed. The gradual progress from that wobbly beginning is chronicled in these blog posts, which began in February 2009.
How long do you celebrate these anniversaries for? Not forever, surely. I'm going to make this the last time, excepting possibly the tenth, fifteenth and twentieth anniversaries - although even by 2018 I may think it's all so much in the past that it's not worth a mention. I'd like to think that I'll have something more interesting to post about.