I can't pin it down, but at some moment during the last few years - it may have been in February 2011, just before my surgery - I shed all guilt and moved on from being an apologetic figure to a person who said sorry only when she was genuinely at fault, and needed to make immediate amends.
So if I now slop tea over your carpet - silly me - I will of course say sorry and rush to help sponge the carpet before the stains become fixed in. If I nudge your Ming vase, or your Wemyss cat, so that it wobbles dangerously, expect a contrite look on my face that says it all. And if I say, in my innocence or ignorance, a well-intentioned word that devastates, I will be the picture of sincere apology, anxious to heal the wound and save a friendship.
Mind you, I expect the same in return! We can all make mistakes, we can all be bulls or cows in the proverbial china shop.
And look here, I'm not going to apologise for breaking 'unwritten laws' or 'old Spanish customs' or anything that is a fault only in the imagination. For example, I won't say sorry if my dress sense offends your dress code. Or if I speak my mind when 'well-behaved women' (read: subjugated women) would keep their mouths shut. I won't apologise for going to the heart of the matter, when it has always been the custom to tackle the issue through 'the usual channels', using a tired old formula or ritual that just wastes time and makes somebody feel important.
I won't apologise for not believing in your favourite bit of pseudo-science, or for unwittingly transgressing the rules of your club or sect. I may well take care to keep your feathers unruffled - I have no wish to offend - but I'm disinclined to observe rules that I didn't write, and offer apologies for breaking them. I am however all for considering sound advice, whatever its source.
And here you may see where I am coming from: I do not see any escape from using good personal judgement in all things. I can't agree that one should abide by ready-made rules and instructions, especially as a substitute for proper thinking about what the situation is, and what is the reasonable - and human - thing to do about it. That's why I used the word 'escape' just now. It's much too easy to hold forth that the Rule Book says this, or the Instruction Book that, and therefore nothing else can be. That's a cop-out, a substitute for getting to proper grips with the situation. A recourse for the lofty-minded and the squeamish alike.
I noticed this happening after I came out. I'd be bludgeoned with writings and opinion that asserted I could not be as I thought. Writings and opinion from psychologists and feminists who denied the existence of transsexual persons, or explained them in sinister terms. These were pushed at me. I was urged to feel that I was defying the judgement of experts, and to proceed was being perverse. My own self-awareness and self-knowledge did not count at all.
Put starkly, if I were going to 'explore' my delusions, I would be putting all my close relationships in jeopardy, and hurting everyone concerned. I was cornered. Pressure was applied. Inducements to desist were suggested. My interrogators threatened to become ill 'if I did not stop what I was doing'. It was a situation in which the need to apologise rode on my shoulder and pecked at me all the time, influencing my reactions to every sharp or perplexed question and comment.
And yet the issue wasn't so hard to grasp, nor to think about: I know I look like a boy, but I'm really a girl.
The more you looked at this proposition, the less outlandish it became, but still the first thought of my nearest and dearest was how it impacted on themselves, and not on my welfare and urgent need for positive understanding. No, I was plainly in the wrong, and was most definitely expected to say sorry. Sorry for being me, and needing to become me in all ways. Sorry for stopping the show, and cancelling the future. Sorry for not wanting to play-act any more. Sorry for not wanting to keep up a mode of life that had become dishonest.
I must have been a maddening person at that time. Conciliatory, non-confrontational, never angry, always calm, obviously still caring; never saying what was really wanted, that I was a deluded prodigal, ready to recant - or alternatively a devil. I merely said I was sorry, or let my battered self-esteem say it for me. It would have been better had I turned, and exploded with defensive anger - but I could not, because it wasn't in me. And believe me, if anger were really a key element in my nature, it would have been revealed under such pressure. It did not come. So I endured verbal abuse until time brought changes and an end to the tirades. And an end to the constant need to be apologetic.
In hindsight, I won't now criticise anyone who felt that I betrayed them, or at least sidelined them, in my drive to emerge as my true self. Self-interest is ugly, and though mine was made uglier still by opposition, I can see how my behaviour could have been interpreted as perverse obstinacy, blinkered self-belief, selfishness, a callous disregard of other people's feelings, and an abandonment of love. All of them things to apologise for. My opponents - my most loved ones - embraced not me but academic texts they had desperately researched, and outworn social standards, and did not look into my heart. They did not believe me, nor my motives, they believed the 'experts'. They came to entirely the wrong conclusion. This has cautioned me never to 'look up what the experts say' in this kind of situation. Doing that misled the ones I loved, and I was given no hope of ever being accepted by them as Lucy Melford.
I could feel entitled to a little wry bitterness over this. But I reject that. Nowadays, when these people are dead or otherwise lost to me, I want to take a bigger view - one that doesn't make me the hapless victim of perplexed misunderstanding, and then of later desertion.
What really happened? I confronted some human beings with a shock disclosure, and they acted as human beings well might. They had choices, of course. They could have leapt to my side in delighted support. They did not. By nature and upbringing - or sad gaps in it - they could not. I accept all of this now.
But do they, or at any rate the ones left to think about it, accept me? Or are they still expecting me to say that I'm sorry? I hope not, because I do not feel sorry for anything. I had discovered a truth about myself. I could not undiscover it. It was erupting from within. The pressure valve had blown. I took stock, considered the consequences deeply - and they seemed fearful - then acted on my best judgement, and carried through a rational plan to get me from there to here. Outsiders have kindly considered it mostly successful. I'd like the insiders to agree with them. I hope they have at last set their books and texts and expert opinions aside, and are now simply prepared to look at me fairly and straightly.
Whatever happens, no apologies are needed. And that applies to both sides.