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It’s never too late…..

I am told it is never too late to be yourself…..I struggle with this as I have put off being myself for so many years, some would say procrastinated but hey I guess the time has finally come. Why now, because the pressure has become too much to bear. There have always been good reasons not to put myself first, not to be selfish.

Importantly, I have been empowered by an amazing couple who are supportive and only see me as the woman I am. They have enjoyed my small successes in taking, often only small steps, out of the closet; talked to me about it all, supported me at every turn, listened to my anxieties…and there are plenty of those.

So why a blog? Well as with so many blogs this is intended to be a record of my journey to womanhood. A record of the ups and downs on this journey. I hope that it may encourage other mature ladies to take the plunge, those who say it is too late now. There are blogs that have been really important to my understanding of the challenges I face. To name but a few My Road to Womanhood (My Road Redux), Cassidy’s Quest, Large Blooming Flower, Retrobassgirl and so many others. Lucy Melford, Lynn Jones of YATGB, Rhiannon Rambling, Upside down in a cloud, Paula’s Place, Hannah’s Thinking Again…the list goes on. People who have lives as well as being trans.,

It is not as if i have not known what i needed to do for some years now and in stealth i have worked quietly towards this point for nearly twenty years. I know that I have gender dysphoria, I know that I have to be myself and that I cannot continue to deny myself. For many years I did not know that there was such a thing as gender dysphoria. I grew up pre- internet so, along with many others, I just thought I was different. 

I knew when I was around three, I was a girl just like my best friend at preschool, Tess. As I grew up I was to be blunt quite effeminate looking though not in any way camp. I was an innocent looking choirboy in a cathedral school. I loved everything about girls, their dresses how they looked, make up their whole way of being. I remember vividly watching my mother and her friend refreshing their lipstick after meeting for coffee in town. I was absolutely fascinated. Seeing her in her slip getting dressed, watching her put on gloves before putting on her stockings so as not to ladder them. 

I needed to be part of that world, I hated having to be a boy and do boyish things, I was no good at them. I retreated into my music and books and lived in my own world.

As puberty came I endured years of confusion during which time I would, like so many others, buy my girly clothes and underwear and then purge them all because it was wrong, I was a freak, it wasn’t right. Yet all the time I would be yearning to be a girl. Girlfriends were forever disappointed that I wanted to hang out with them..I was not desperate to have my wicked way with them, affectionate cuddles were lovely.

Fast forward to the late seventies, I came across a book at the library. Conundrum by Jan Morris. She was writing about being transexual/transgender. This was the first time I had come across this. I read the book from cover to cover the first evening and I was stunned…..I understood, the jigsaw came together. I read the book several times, renewed it…..how could this be? She had undergone re-assignment surgery! 

Then the internet came into my life. Good grief, I was not alone. If I was a freak then there were lots of us.

Fast forward again to now, here I am, finally taking real steps towards transition. I have to be aware that I am never going to be that stunning model that I expect we all dream of being, but at the very least I can be me. Hopefully, I will achieve a level where I can pass or at the least blend in and be accepted as the mature woman I am. 

It will do

There have been discussions this week about one of my projects at work. It is nearing completion and with the current uncertainty in the country with both inflation and the rise in prices for materials it was made clear to me that I should be absolutely clear about the financial position of the project. I have for some decades effectively worked on my own. I realise this does, or has in the past, allowed me to adopt a relaxed approach to what I do tending to deal with everything with a broad brush. One way of describing my approach would be as long as there is a margin then it will all work out; some better than others! 

With hindsight it has not worked out well. I have to take responsibility for schemes not coming together or being profitable as a result of that approach. I would say unexpected difficulties or unforeseen circumstances arise which cause them not turn out as they should have done. That doesn’t take into account that the preparation was not thorough enough. If it had been then some of the circumstances would in all probability not have been unforeseen.

This must not happen with the current project which needs to be taken to the finishing line effectively and profitably. As a result of these discussions I have been nailing down the figures to make sure there is sufficient funding available to complete the project and for it not to come to a grinding halt. This is a small building development and I work with a local builder. Prices are rising and costs are being described as “provisional”. For example one material we need was £11 a metre in March and is now £26 a metre. Fortunately, in the short term the sale prices are rising too so my initial approach may turn out in this case not to be a liability. At the same time with inflation rising as it is, the strong sale prices may well suffer so the project would become squeezed from both ends.

What does this have to do with being trans and growing into my authentic self. All of the projects which are current, started before I transitioned, before I started to learn about trying to do things properly. Of course I do not mean I deliberately didn’t try to make things work. What I do realise with hindsight is that what has happened comes from my approach which was always “that will do”, it was to do with how things appeared, doing just enough for something to seem okay was enough. I took on too much to please other people, fingers in too many pies, so the attention given to each project was not sufficient to do anything more than just enough.

I have written about my friends and mentors who have really helped me on my way to finding my authentic self. I am a different person from the one that set out on these projects and I am intent on completing them properly. The result is that I have been putting the effort in as I have grown and on this project I know I must deal in the detail do away with the broad brush approach. I need to do myself justice, good enough is no longer acceptable. There is unravelling to be done as a result of my previous approach, but I have been getting to grips with the detail. I am giving it my best shot. Concluding these may be the last ones I am involved in. If not then I am only interested in trying to do my best, to do justice to my authentic self on anything new I may undertake. Yet again my friends have shone a light on things I needed to see at the right time.

Last few steps

They say the last few steps are the hardest. The last few steps before a new beginning, does that count? I was really quite down for a couple of days at the end of last week. In reality there was no valid reason to be despondent, down, but then emotions have little to do rational matters. 

A long running saga had taken a substantial step forward in being resolved. Something that could be described as a festering sore sitting in the background always there, never dealt with. What I hadn’t realised was that I was still emotionally invested in the outcome. Clearly, I was by my response which took two days to work through before I realised that what had happened would enable me to try and resolve what was left to be done. I would like to say resolve it unemotionally. That was not the case. A phone call was made which was definitely fuelled by emotion yet that was the catharsis that enabled me to put it behind me. I hope that the remaining stages can be resolved now in a straightforward way.

This is one of a few old matters that need tidying up, resolving so that they do not impinge on new beginnings. All of them require effort. All of them are matters that I have tried to take in hand and deal with to enable me to move on free of them. None of them are easy to resolve.

It seems really strange that somewhere on the horizon there could be a way of being, of living in which I am not carrying around these burdens. I am so used to them being there. It is as if I don’t deserve to be without burdens to carry, always carrying that ball and chain. I do not say that in anyway feeling sorry for myself or any similar feeling, more an awareness that actually it doesn’t need to be like that. I have caused that, it is down to me I have given myself these burdens and it is down to me to alter it.

When I was away recently I saw a glimpse of life not controlled by dealing with these burdens, a life were historical old chestnuts did not run your life. I had managed to put the on hold for a week. Well more or less on hold, some minimal work was done to keep up the momentum of sorting them. 

It feels as if I allowed, or even created, these issues to keep me pre-occupied from facing who I am, keeping me busy and that how I did not face up to myself was replicated in not facing up to and dealing with these various matters, allowing them to become the burdens they have become. 

Since I have accepted and stepped into my authentic self, accepted who I am these matters have changed from being “that’s how life is”, “I can cope that is what I do”, to burdens that need sorting to give me the freedom to live the life my authentic self deserves, in the now not held back. 

Of course there will always be challenges, things to deal with, I do not expect everything to be rosy. What I hope for is to be able to deal with challenges as and when they arise by facing them honestly without fudge. There has been too much fudge in my old life that is now being sorted. It all needs to be consigned to history, it is part of my past. That does not mean I cannot use skills learned through that part of my life in the future. I can. It just  means they must be used properly this time. 

Clearing the decks, taking those last steps to make that happen is certainly demanding, needs focus. The other day someone sent me the old chestnut :-

          “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery today is a present”. 

That particular day I did not know how to unwrap the gift wrap and find the present. Those last steps changing course to be free from those burdens is the hardest part of the journey. I unwrapping the gift wrap. 

Change

In my last post I wrote about routine, how it helps me to be focused and at the same time be more free. In this post I am looking at making a significant change in how I live. I have agreed to move in with my friends and share their home. Simple enough you would think. Yes it is. Making the decision is the easy part, I have no doubt this is what I want to do.

Then comes the next stage. I have a house, a home of my possessions. They have a home of their possessions, so two homes and only one house. In my home I have been still been sorting possessions, stuff which I inherited from my parents’ house when my father died ten years ago. Amongst those possessions were papers, items from his parents’ home from when they died in 1965. It has been agreed “don’t bring much with you”. That’s fine. How do you do that? Where do you begin.

In principle I have my own room and apart from that we share the house. So what I need is just for my room, it is a good sized room, yet the room has loads of fitted wardrobes, thank goodness, and there will be a bed there. 

There are a few items I know my children want so let them have them now. Then what, possessions have emotional connections. Yet this a new beginning. Another new beginning. 

When I transitioned I had not expected to feel so disconnected from my previous life. In that life I feel as if I used possessions to make things right, to keep me connected. There is also an element of this is “mine”. I do not need that now. I do not need things to be okay in the way that I did. I want to be free from them. 

Not all of them. There is a picture which I was given on my 21st birthday that still resonates with me, an Autumnal scene, that is coming. Two really unlikely items, an Ali Baba washing basket which came from the house of a good friend that died two years ago, a simple reminder of that friendship along with a small pottery bon bon/ trinket dish from his home, beautiful in its simplicity. They still mean something to me, a connection. The odd other practical items I enjoy, a T light holder that looks lovely when lit, a writing table/desk. There again there is a choice, they are both nice pieces. The smaller one is a genuine antique, Georgian. It was expensive and because of this I always worry about it being damaged, cup rings, scratches whatever, so although of course it will not fetch any money, they never do when you sell, that is the one that should go I would be free of the worry. 

I have at times been obsessive. Some years ago I bought a Victorian Watercolour at auction which I loved and then proceeded to find as many as I could of the same artist until I had probably a dozen or so. The original purchase remains but it is just a painting now, no more. Somehow the obsession tarnished it. It is still a beautiful watercolour but there is no emotional connection. I have done that more than once.

When my first wife and I parted, I left just with a large holdall. I left behind all the books I had collected while at University, some 800 or so and a not insignificant vinyl collection. The books have built up again, nothing like as many, maybe 100? They are friends a comfort being there. Virtually any book or music can be found online. How many do I need? Very few, a small bookshelf will easily accommodate what I would like to keep. 

An advantage, in my eyes anyway,  will be I will not be leaving my children the hoard of possessions, clutter I inherited from my parents. It has taken a lot of time and effort working through it all.

So the plan? Put together the few items I would like with me, let the children have what they want, if anything, and then have the house cleared. Be free of possessions, not be weighed down by them. It is still some weeks away. I will be interested to see how it works out. What emotional attachments come up as I put the plan into action.

Routines

I run my life to routine. It hasn’t always been this way. I would have prided myself in not having a routine, being spontaneous I would have called it in all likelihood, going with the flow. As a former hippy, flower power generation (that dates me) that was what it was all about wasn’t it?

About six years ago a spontaneous, spur of the moment action resulted in my meeting someone who became my mentor in, frankly, all areas of my life. I have mentioned before how I procrastinated. Something  I have to acknowledge was true, yet I was not aware that I did. My mentor, for the sake of this post let’s give her a name, “my mentor” feels clumsy. I will call her Nesta. Nesta pointed this out to me on many occasions until the penny dropped. What I had considered careful consideration, you cannot make a decision without careful consideration can you, was indeed procrastination about making any decision. If you consider something for long enough there is a good chance there will no longer be a need to make the decision.

So Nesta imposed routines. Times for when everyday things needed to be done, for writing a diary, for exercise generally imposing some discipline into my chaos. Strangely from the nature of our relationship I was very grateful for Nesta’s input that she should care enough to want to do this.  How did this work out?  I can honestly say it has been really good, and would not change it. I would waste so much time and not even know it. I have grown and developed in so many ways. One way which really cannot be ignored is that I transitioned. No more faffing about, no more I don’t want to hurt this person, I might not be able to earn a living etc, etc, always a reason not to yet I had known for years I was trans, I had been secretly taking phyto -oestrogens to try and stay sane but no, this wasn’t the right time. There isn’t ever a right time I have discovered. 

In terms of decision making Nesta has shown me, just make a decision. Some say that there is no such thing as a good or bad decision. Decisions have different consequences some of which may appear, with hindsight, better or worse so therefore potentially a good or bad decision. No decision ends up in paralysis in my experience. I was away visiting Nesta a couple of weeks ago and my routines were suspended for a week as I was on “holiday”. The only routine continued was a mantra I use daily. What did surprise me on my return home was how important it was for these routines to be back in place. At first, I felt really quite at sea.

One of those routines is to put time aside on Mondays to post a blog. If it was left to me to feel the muse I have no idea when a post might get written. To make sure I stay on top of my work I prepare a list in the morning setting out what I need to do if possible on the day. I check back from time to time to make sure I have not overlooked anything. Monday’s list contains “post blog”, except this week it didn’t. The blogs are always written spontaneously (alright, I realise that is self-evident), writing what comes to mind when I sit down in front of the keyboard. It is usually just triggered by stuff going round in my head. 

As is this one, not on Monday’s list, no blog written. I am disappointed with myself. Spontaneously it has caused me to look at how important they are to me in getting things done and I am so grateful for Nesta’s input in sorting out my previous desultory approach to life. It would not surprise me without Nesta’s input if I was still just thinking about transitioning. By taking decisions I have found my authentic self, stopped hiding from who I am to simply try and live the best life I can. It takes time I am still sorting out “difficulties” in my work where procrastination, drift, allowed projects to stagnate. 

For me routines are not limiting. Routines are a tool enabling me to be more effective, giving me more time to live to be spontaneous.

Layers

I have become aware how often one becomes aware of another layer peeling off the onion. There have been so many changes, layers peeled on the journey of transition. Each time a layer is peeled you feel real progress has been made.

I have been out full time for almost four years now. At first I was very conscious and having to “brave it” every time I went out. Then it became okay and although conscious and hyper aware it was less of an ordeal. Over the years it has become easier, like everything practice makes it easier, less threatening. Your fears become less as experience shows you that your worst fears have not materialised. Of course that does not take them away, I am always conscious that they are in the back of my mind. It is just that I do not allow them to rule what I do. 

That being said I do take precautions not to put myself in situations that are potentially risky to my safety, as I now realise do women generally. Again something I had not taken on board before transition the extent that women are vulnerable and do take precautions for their safety. 

One thing I have noticed that has happened with the pandemic and the consequent isolation is that I had become out of practice in being out and about. The first few times caused more anxiety than I had felt prior to the pandemic. 

Returning to the layers, my dress sense has changed as the years have gone passed. What I thought was appropriate at first has altered. It was important for me to always wear skirts, dresses. A symbol of my femininity, yet if you walk down the average street you will be lucky to see anyone in a dress or skirt. I visited my daughter some time back which involved going on a ferry to the Isle of Wight. I was the only person on the ferry wearing a skirt. It was fine, just something I observed. When on the island we went for a walk, had lunch at a restaurant, walked some more, passed loads of people….not one dress or skirt. More recently walking down the High Street, waiting in the Doctors surgery, no dresses, no skirts.

So what layer has peeled away now. I realise I am no longer needing to wear dresses to feel feminine. I have joined modern day womanhood in jeans and trainers. When I first transitioned there was no chance at all of me being able to go there, none. However it is not just the clothes that have changed. It seems that somehow I have accepted the change in me, I do not need to wear symbols of femininity, to have a badge, a uniform. At last I can just be me. Will there be more layers…..probably. I must wait and see.

A Way forward

Well, I am back from the first proper break in a long time. Back to the grindstone of chasing people who do not do what is needed to make my work move forward. It was lovely being away surrounded by stunning dramatic countryside, lots of water, lochs, mountains and very few people. Wild life too, red deer at the side of the road, four seasons in one day…rain, sunshine, snow.

The further south I returned there were more people, then more cars on the motorways returning to the veritable ants nest of humanity rushing around, people chasing their tails.

I have been looking to slow down with work in any event but this has certainly brought the desire forward. One of my friends I have been staying with has been talking about regrets. I have talked about regrets before. I was full of regrets in so many aspects of my life, personal, professional, not having transitioned earlier how my fake pretence life had brought about a lack of authenticity. How I had pursued what others thought I should do.

The best I can say about all of that now is that what I have done and what I have been through shaped me. I cannot change it so there is no point in dwelling on it. I hope I will in some way manage to help my friend reach that point, to look forward and not back. When you look back you cannot see the way forward.

For me, my way forward is to reduce what I am doing and find a route out of the ant’s nest. 

What matters

We are all taught that we have to achieve, that we fail if we are not successful. I am in my seventh decade (shh, don’t tell anyone) and I am only just learning that really isn’t the case.

What matters? In my case being authentic, being who I am. For how many years did I hide who I really was in case it hindered being successful, stopped me being acceptable and unable to progress conventionally.

People matter. Genuine people who take you for who you are, non-judgemental, no games. I work in property and at the moment I have a site that is not going to plan, that is an understatement, there is a possibility it could go horribly wrong. I have a colleague who is funding the site who has very substantial assets, who could afford to walk away without any impact on his life. We have had a long conversation today in which he has made it clear that his objective is to get me out of the situation without loss. If that can’t be done then to protect my interest, so in the long term I do not have a problem.

We discussed relationships, he has a fear of being committed living 24/7 with someone yet he is in love with “his lady”. She would like to live 24/7 together. Yet after a year of trying options they have to come to accept he is her boy and she is his girl. It doesn’t have to be conventional provided you are committed. I shared that I had had a relationship for 14 years where we shared space for 4 days a week, yet we were an item it worked, that now I was in an unconventional relationship, not living together 24/7 but committed 24/7 and it worked. It is what matters to you, not what people think.

I was speaking to a good friend yesterday who appears to be struggling with wherever he finds himself right now. I feel quite clear, whatever it takes I want to be there should he want to share. If you love someone it does not matter how they got into a mess, what matters is supporting them to find a way out of their mess totally without any judgment.

One thing I feel is important is not eating yourself up with blame. From what I can see nobody sets out to get themselves into a mess. These things happen and beating yourself up is just counterproductive. Learn by all means but feeling shame, beating yourself up does not get help anyone to move forward. 

What matters for me? Connection, no bullshit doing the best I can not to play games. Life is too short, especially in your seventh decade!

Gender Recognition Certificate

I have received an email from the Gender Recognition Panel, my application has been listed for hearing. I had begun to wonder when it would be having applied last October and the twenty week listing period having expired some weeks ago. It will take another twenty days to notify me of the outcome This will either be no, yes or we need more information.

I had been in two minds whether to apply or not for some time as the major impact seems to me psychological as the only real right I gain is the right to be buried in my adopted, authentic gender as well as acquiring a birth certificate in my authentic gender. That would of course make my life easier though at this stage of my life the need to produce a birth  certificate seems to be minimal. I cannot remember the last time that I was asked for one.

Why did I apply in the end. My Consultant Psychologist who is very senior in the Gender Identity Community, although he has recently moved to another senior position not in England, said that the way the Gender issue is being pushed by the government in England could mean restrictions on trans people who do not have a Gender Recognition Certificate. Coming from a leading professional who had already assisted me in changing both my Passport and Driving Licence and was confirming my transition. I had planned to wait for the Scottish Government to make their reforms as my birth certificate is Scottish and the Scottish Parliament are committed to make reforms in relation to obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate by way of self ID. However his advice seemed to be something I should not ignore. So I applied.

Now the decision is imminent I am quite anxious as to whether it will be granted. Since applying there has been a significant increase in transphobia and the dreaded single sex spaces argument and in recent weeks there has been a noticeable fight back setting out clearly that the proposed changes, reforms to the Gender Recognition Act have no effect whatsoever on the issue of single sex spaces and that if they want to change the law on that then they have to argue for changes to the Equality Act. Fortunately, the relevant Minister has stated categorically that the government have no plans to do so.

So on Wednesday my application will be considered and in due course I will know whether the various letters showing I have been living in my acquired gender, along with the letters confirming my diagnosis prove to be sufficient. Fingers crossed he panel accepts what I already know for certain, I am a trans woman.

Regrets

I have been reading a book that was recommended to me this week, The Midnight Library by  Matt Haig. Its central theme is one of looking at various possibilities of a life you might have had if you had made different choices based on the only book in the library which you have written, the Book of Regrets. I have not yet finished the book though it has made me think.

I have had two marriages and a third long time relationship. There have been other relationships which went nowhere for various reasons. I have brought up four children. I have had both success and failure in my work and I have worked in several different areas.

I have taught myself to think that one should not have regrets, that there are no bad decisions and once you have made a decision then that is it for better or worse. Maybe that is why I have tended to procrastinate, put off a decision. Strangely though I have a reputation for procrastination I am also impulsive. If something touches so that I feel it in my core, that’s it decision made. Actually no mental decision is made, I just feel it, do it.

So do I have regrets. I do not think so as every possible change of path would have led me to places, not known, but which would have meant other facets of the life I have experienced would not have happened. Of course you cannot really know that as if it was meant the argument would be that it would happen anyway.

Looking back I can see how my choices were impacted by my experiences, that my life might have been better if different choices had been made. You can’t actually say better, different.

I do not know about reincarnation and don’t know what I believe in. What about Karma? On the basis that I would not to be reincarnated if I can avoid it, I sometimes suspect hell is here and now living I believe is that in life you have to face whatever challenges you are confronted with and on that basis if these challenges are to do with Karma then it would not matter what choices, different decisions one had made Karma would have brought these challenges up to you repeatedly until they are faced.

There are a lot of decisions or lack of decision that I have made that led me down certain paths, one that of course stands out was the time it took for me to transition. I know my life would have been different if I had transitioned when I first realised and accepted that I was trans and if I was asked my opinion now I would say go for it, don’t wait. I lost a lot of living not just what might have been transitioning but more the living a lie for so long that shut down emotions, feelings, the opportunity to lead an authentic life.

Even so do I regret it? No, I am sometimes sad that I took so long to transition, to face some challenges that have come up in my life, more than once since I didn’t learn the first time round, yet it is my life. I feel having regrets, holding onto them is limiting. I have found it really hard and often struggle to live in the present, not to look for outcomes or to live in the past. I try to be thankful for what I have now to look to the future and to try and live it to the best of my ability and learn from my many mistakes.

Watch this space

What can anyone say with what is going on in Europe. It totally beggars belief that one man can cause such a humanitarian disaster and such trauma to so many people on his belief that the clock should be turned back to recreate a Soviet bloc, to create a legacy. Basically a one man mission not supported in his country other than those who have bought into his propaganda that Russia is under threat, that Ukrainians are shelling themselves and put ting outfake news that Russia is the aggressor…really?

In all of the chaos and trauma there is the evidence and bravery of individuals standing up for what they believe in, truly amazing. Civilians picking up arms to defend themselves and their country.

Even more so it makes me realise how lucky we are not to be trekking half  way across Europe with just a suitcase or some carrier bags containing all of our worldly goods. To appreciate what is around us.

It also has highlighted the endemic racism found so much in countries, reportedly coloured people having problems crossing borders into safe haven countries. The distinction that these refugees are “people like us”, Europeans….. different from all the refugees and displaced people from the wars in Syria and other countries. It highlights the struggle of minorities, ethnic or otherwise. 

What has also been highlighted is the enormous influence Russia and Russian money has in relation to the present Government and the reluctance to act quickly in respect of imposing sanctions. I hope there will be a knock on effect that means corruption, the purchasing of influence, of honours may at last come under proper scrutiny, though it should not have taken a war for this to be the case.

It still feels out of this world, surreal, watching the events unfold in our sitting rooms, impotent to do anything effective, seeing the Russian Army shelling nuclear power stations wondering what if? What will President Putin do next? It feels as if he has a win at all cost approach which frankly is frightening.

At home this week too, Scotland has introduced the Bill to reform the Gender Recognition Act. As was expected this has sparked off the debate between the gender criticals to spout their objections. It will be interesting to see how the vote goes. There have been some really supportive speeches dismantling the gender critical view and sticking to the point which is the proposed reforms do not change the right to single sex spaces. To do that there needs to be reform of the Equality Act and that apparently is not on the Government agenda. Amazingly there have been clear statements confirming that from Ministers.

Where will these events be in a week’s time, could there be a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine, will the Scottish Parliament have reformed the Gender Recognition Act. As ever one is left just watching this space.