Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Review of 2011

Back at the beginning of the year I set out a list of things I wanted to achieve during 2011. As the year draws to a close its time to look back and see which I managed and which I didn't.

To complete the inaugural Yeovil half marathon at the end of March
Most definitely achieved. After a really good start and being on track for a personal best things fell apart in the last 3 miles. I was running with a colleague from work and it was his first half marathon. At the 10 mile mark he began to struggle and so we switched to a run/walk strategy. We eventually crossed the line just under two and a quarter hours after starting. It was a fabulous race, much better than I was expecting and one that I want to have another go at, and see if I can break 2 hours.

To complete the Bala Middle Distance triathlon in June
One week before the race I discovered that my wave was to be the last starting and that there was a good chance that I wouldn't make the cut-off time for the bike. Although this wouldn't stop me from going out on the run there was a good chance that the marshals would have packed up by the time I was making my way around the course. On top of this I really didn't want to leave my family stood on their own on the side of Bala lake after everyone had gone home. I thought long and hard about this but in the end decided to pull out. I think it was a good decision as I've seen a race report since and the weather was abysmal with a lot of people not completing the race for various reasons.

To complete the Outlaw Triathlon at the end of July
After having to pull out of the Outlaw in 2010 I really wanted to have another stab at completing it. In the end though I decided that I wasn't sure that my leg would hold up to training. In the end I didn't apply but instead took out membership at our local gym. For most of 2011 I've worked on strengthening my legs so that I can train for the Outlaw at a later date. During 2012 I plan on following the same training schedule that I will be using in 2013 when I attempt to complete the race.

Perform my burlesque routine in front of my friends and P's
Back in June I finally performed in front of a small group. It was an amazing evening. Everything about it was so perfect.

Perform a burlesque routine in front of a full audience
In December I finally had the chance to perform the routine I've been developing, over the last year, in front of an audience of nearly 100 people at Hamilton House in Bristol as part of the Pink Kitten Christmas Cabaret. It didn't quite go to plan but it was still so much fun.

Get an appointment at the Gender Identity Clinic and start the process of going full time
In March I asked my psychiatrist in Taunton for a referral to The Laurels GIC. In July I had my first assessment appointment at the GIC. In October Dr Dean confirmed that I was transsexual. At that point I began preparing to begin my RLE and go full time. On January 9th 2012 I will begin living and working full time as a woman.

Begin voice therapy
This hasn't happened yet. I was told when I had my assessment that I would have to wait until I had gone full time before I could begin voice therapy. On the 12th January I've go my first voice therapy session. If the assessment is anything to go by then the sessions are going to be brilliant fun.

Change my hair colour
Throughout this year my hair has grown more and more blonde. I reached the point thought where I wanted to have it straightened. As a result though I've had to reduce the blonde colouring in my hair because the straightening chemicals cannot be used on hair that has too much colouring. By the end of January I'll be able to do something more with the colour before having my hair straightened in a longer lasting way.

Get out and about to various places – restaurants, shops etc
This year has seen me out and about a lot more. I've stopped off at motorway services, admittedly only sitting in the car. I've been to Exeter several times for clinic appointments and have had lunch outside the Cathedral, been into Debenhams, the Post Office (briefly), Tourist Information Centre, Hotel Chocolate, Boots, Lloyds TSB and Prezzo. I've been to The Palace Hotel (and sat outside before and after performing) and walked to Hamilton House from my car when I took part in the Christmas Cabaret (both times on my own). I've even been for a walk in the local country park with a friend.

Improve my website and keep it up to date
This is going to be an on-going challenge. In June my web hosting subscription is up for renewal and I'll be taking the opportunity to update the URL to something a bit more generic.

Keep making new friends, keep in touch with old ones and meet up with some of my online friends in the flesh.
I've met up with some wonderful people over the course of the year, several of whom are on a similar journey to myself.

2011 has been a fantastic year for me. In less than 2 weeks time I will have gone full time. 2012 is not going to be an easy year but it is certainly going to be a really good one. At some point over the next week or so I'll come up with a new list of things that I want to achieve in 2012. I really can't wait to see how things pan out.

Friday, 23 December 2011

LGBT Reading Challenge

I found out about the LGBT Reading Challenge via a convoluted route involving  a post Mrs TeePot which led to Pagan Culture's Witchy Book Challenge which had a link to LGBT Reading's blog.
I'm not sure if there is going to be challenge for 2012 but regardless of that I'm going to set myself my own challenge as I have several books that are sitting waiting to be read so this will give me the incentive I need to read them.

To this end I'm going to aim to read 6 LGBT books over the course of the year. I know this means one every two months but I've got a few other things that I want to read as well.

Thank goodness for my Kindle, its certainly going to get some use over the next 12 months.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The week so far - Saturday

This post is a bit late but I have an excuse, I didn't get to bed until 7am Sunday morning. The last time I pulled an all-nighter  I was in my late teens early 20s.

Saturday was the best day I've had for a while. It started with me getting my hair done by L. This time was a bit different to normal as although I'm used to going on Saturday mornings this was the first time that I had gone as Jenna when the salon was going to be fully open and there were going to be other clients there. It had to be done at some point though, I can't keep turning up on a Thursday night when it is just me there.

I got ready, chose a sensible outfit consisting of a pair of jeans, boots and a multi-coloured tunic style dress.

Make-up sorted, purse, diary, phone and keys in my bag. Coat on and I was out the door by 8am. My appointment wasn't for a while but I needed to fill the car up with petrol and post a couple of letters. Besides the neighbours still aren't aware of what is happening, that should change after Christmas as we plan to speak to a few of the neighbours and drop notes through the doors of the rest.

My appointment went without a hitch. I'd been planning on getting my hair styled for Saturday night but L surprised me by asking if I wanted her to straighten it. We'd been planning on doing that as my hair goes a bit frizzy and curly and needs to be controlled. I opted for this as it means that it will be easier to manage when I go back to work.

After an hour and a half in the salon, a large part being spent out back having chemicals applied to my hair and then getting it washed, I was ready to hit the streets with my new, much straighter, hairstyle. It was great to be able to go to the salon as Jenna.

Back home but this time through the back door as it was more likely there would be neighbours around by now. There was always the chance that I could have bumped in to someone while getting out of the car but that was a risk I had to take. Not that it would be an issue, it would have meant explaining things to them.

I had a few hours to spare before I had to head out again and I didn't plan on removing my make-up and reapplying it just yet so I had a bit of lunch and pottered around. This did mean that my son finally got to see me as Jenna in the flesh. He avoided looking at me as much as possible as he's still not comfortable with  the idea.

Eventually both he and his mum went out to out church's Christingle service. Just before they did I removed my make-up and after saying goodbye I went back upstairs to get ready to go out.

I kept my make-up similar to what I'd worn in the morning but went for a much brighter lipstick as it would look better when I was on stage in front of nearly one hundred people. Did I say on stage? Yes, that's right. Last Saturday evening I finally performed the burlesque routine that I've been developing in front of an audience. It was the Pink Kitten Christmas Cabaret and I was performing as my alter-ego Ms Jenna Von Risque.

With my make-up reapplied I slipped into a black and red shift dress that I had planned to wear as I was expecting to go out for a couple of drinks with the rest of the girls after the show before returning home. Ha, best laid plans and all that.

The journey to Bristol was uneventful, getting through the city was more problematic and I eventually managed to get to the venue, having parked my car a good 5 minutes in a back street and then walked on my own through an area that did make me feel a bit uncomfortable and which I'd have to walk back through at the end of the night.

I walked into the room we were using to get changed with about 10 minutes to spare to the time we were all expected to be there.

It didn't take long to touch up my make-up and getting into my drummer girl costume. I was going to be performing my routine to a combination of an instrumental version of The Little Drummer Boy and the David Bowie/Bing Crosby version. I'd practiced it and felt confident that I knew exactly what I needed to do and at what points I needed to have it done by.

Its amazing the effect that nerves can have, during my run through I found that I'd finished the first part of my routine with quite a bit of time to spare. Either there was something wrong with the music system and the track was playing too slowly, possible as there were a few hiccups with the sound system, or I was doing something wrong. I didn't get the chance to go over the routine again and had to hope that when it came to the life performance everything would work out fine.

The show got started and I was privileged to watch a lot of my fellow students performing their routines. All of them had performed in public before, I think there was only one other person who was performing a sole routine for the first time.

Every single one of the performers was fabulous. The audience whooped, whistled and clapped enthusiastically. None more so than the bunch of rowdy Pink Kitten performers that were stood at the back of the venue.

Eventually though it came time for my routine. I grabbed my drum and drumstick and after the best introduction I'm likely to get I strode out in front of nearly 100 people.

To do what I did took a lot of courage, by nature I am very shy and being in front of that many people, performing, while they all watch me is something I never would have dreamed of, but I did it. I actually strode around the stage, bumped and grinded, did some salsa moves, peeled off gloves

and stockings

and finished with a showgirl pose.

I walked off that stage and felt amazing. The girls whooped and clapped and hollered at the back. I'm sure i heard someone shout "Get them off" but that might have been the audience.

Did the routine go to plan? Not at all. Nerves got the better of me and I found myself with large gaps at the end of sections where I had to improvise, once by doing a number of additional bumps and grinds. The second time by going into a prayer like pose for a lot longer than I expected. One of the girls thought that I was doing that because I'd forgotten what I was going to do next. Nope, I was just waiting for the music to catch up so that I could hit the last part of the routine.

Every single act was fabulous. Each had moments that were so memorable. Eventually the show drew to a close and it was time to pack up and leave.

I'd been planning on driving home but at the last minute was persuaded to go to an after show party at one of the other girl's homes. She had a spare room so I could crash there.

Her home is totally amazing, its so beautiful and has everything you could possibly want. That includes a room that is fitted out for karaoke. I have only ever done karaoke once. I managed to hold out for a number of hours but eventually succumbed and did my rendition of Laurel and Hardy's Trail of the Lonesome Pine.

After that I managed at least one more song which was selected for me. Maybe at some point in the future once I've had a bit of speech therapy I might be tempted to get up and do a bit more karaoke.

Eventually it was 7am and with the party over those of us who were staying made our way to our rooms and a few hours of sleep.

My journey home was a bit more eventful than the journey there as the outfit I'd chosen to wear back was lacking a certain something. I'd chosen a tunic top and cardigan, however the top was rather too short and I only had stockings to wear. I end up wearing my coat all the way home in the car. It wouldn't have been too much of an issue if I'd not had to stop off and fill up with petrol, fortunately I could pay at the pump. I also had to get into the house in the middle of the afternoon and so once again used the back entrance while praying that I didn't bump into any neighbours. I certainly learned that particular outfit requires trousers, leggings or very thick tights when I wear it next time. Probably trousers.

Saturday was a brilliant day. I managed my first public performance, now I just need to work on another routine to perform. I've got an idea for my next one and it will be a fan dance of some kind. I also know what the venue is like now and so can work my routine to fit in with that. If I'm really lucky I'll have it developed (maybe even with a new costume) for February when the next show is planned. We'll see. I've already started thinking about a couple of other costume and routine ideas, one might even be for next year's Christmas show.

I've no idea what next year will bring but I do know that now I've performed once I certainly intend to do it again. I doubt the rest of the girls would let me get away without performing again anyway.

Stay tuned for more performances by probably the only Transgender Burlesque performer in South West England.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The week so far - Thursday

Finally my big day arrived. No, not that big day. I walked down the aisle far too long ago. This big day was the one when everyone at work found out about Jenna.

I was in work by 6am as things have been a bit hectic recently and most of the team I'm part of have been working a shift pattern. This week it was my turn to get into work for the time I'd normally be getting out of bed!

On Wednesday I'd sat down with L from personnel and we'd gone over the final details. Everything that we'd thought of had been dealt with. On January 1st all of my personnel records, pension and payroll will get switched to Jenna.

Everything started well on Thursday but within an hour of arriving at work I could feel the nerves starting to build. Did I really want to be in the meeting where everyone was going to be told that in the New Year I would be coming to work as Jenna? I was beginning to wonder but I'd said I wanted to be there and I'd stick to that.

Well, that was my intention until just before 9 when V,one of my managers and a long time friend, came to talk to me. She said that the Project Manager had asked if I wanted to be at the meeting. I was surprised but told her that I was feeling nervous and wasn't sure, I'd discuss it with personnel.

It was a brief chat but it was decided that in fact my presence at the meeting wasn't required and that it might make it easier for people to ask questions and give honest reactions. If there were questions that personnel couldn't answer they could be directed to me.

The morning went by quickly and before I knew it there was only half an hour until the meeting. The plan now was for everyone to go to the meeting and once they'd all gone then I could finish up and leave for home.

Before that could happen though my Project Manager took me to one side to have a brief chat and then one of my managers came and sat down at my desk to have a quiet word. We agreed that we would speak later in the afternoon so that I could get her opinion of how the meeting went, I was already going to be finding out from personnel but it helps to have the view of someone more familiar with the team too.

With 5 minutes to go I received an email from one of my colleagues asking about the chats that he'd seen me having with management. I told him that it wasn't anything to do with what he thought it was, as he headed off to the meeting I fired one last email to him with the words "Now you know what it was about".

One of my colleagues was still sitting at her desk next to mine and I had to prompt her to go off to the meeting, she'd forgotten about it. Fortunately she didn't ask me why I was still at my desk as she raced off.

Within the next half an hour everybody would know, shortly after that the whole company would be aware.

I logged out of my PC, picked up my rucsack (when I return in the New Year it will be with a shoulder bag to carry my things and the rucsack will be consigned to be used just when I need it). I wished the only person that was around a merry Christmas and without looking back made my way from the building. The thought that crossed my mind as I walked across the car park was that the next time I set foot in the building it would be as Jenna and would be on the 9th January.

During the afternoon I spoke with personnel and V.

The meeting had gone well. There had been a couple of questions which were of a personal nature rather than work specific. People were being supportive. They'd been stunned as nobody had seen it coming. V had been watching people's reactions as L as the letter I'd written was being read out. Faces had dropped as they thought that they were being told that I had some serious illness. There was a sense of relief when they found out. I've always known that I work with an amazing team and their reactions proved that. All of this is going to take some getting used to.

As for the rest of work, the email went out and there hadn't been any reaction to it by the time I rang in. I've been told by one person that I spoke to that she's going to give me a hug when she sees me next. I'll look forward to that.

A bit of a nerve wracking time but the news seems to have gone down well. Returning to work will be nerve wracking but there is so much going on that I'm hoping that things will be a five minute wonder and then everything will settle down.

Only time will tell.

Friday, 16 December 2011

The week so far - Tuesday

This was an awesome day and made up for Monday.

This week I've been working early shifts and as a result on Tuesday when I took a half day holiday was leaving work at 10am. My son had been off school having spent a bit of time throwing up at 1am. As he's not seen Jenna in the flesh yet it was going to be a bit awkward as my plan for the day was to get ready to go to Bristol and do a few things including my burlesque class, costume fitting and visit my oldest friend.

Sick child or not Jenna was going out.

I managed to get showered, put my make-up on and get dressed without him seeing me. With a little bit of time to spare I was out of the house before the school finished for the day and hundreds of youngsters started making their way home.

Bristol was fun. I was able to work on my routine for Saturday's Christmas Cabaret.

A brief stop to see Mags and check the fit on the skirt for the costume that she is making for me followed. Having seen the mock-ups for it I really can't wait to see the finished costume. It should be absolutely awesome. Just need to work out the routine to go with it!

After that it was time to go and see my oldest friend. Two weeks ago I spoke with his wife on the phone and told her what was happening, she had told him when he got home but because it was so late I decided not to pop in. This time I rang and arranged to stop by on my way home.

I should have warned him that I was going to be turning up as Jenna but it slipped my mind. I don't know what was going through his mind when he opened the door to find me stood there. Whatever it was we sat down and talked over coffee. When I say talk, I really do mean talk. We chatted about how I'd got to where I was, he was very supportive, he told me that I should have said something a long time ago. Before I knew it 2 hours had gone by. Its probably the longest and deepest conversation that the two of us have ever had. We're going to meet up again early in the New Year when I'm in Bristol.

Nearly 40 years of friendship were riding on his reaction to me becoming Jenna. Although our friendship will undergo change it looks like there's still a lot of mileage in our friendship still.

The week so far - Monday

This week has been an interesting one so far.

Monday evening was the low point.

We had an appointment with our Vicar, his wife and a friend. We've met with them a few times throughout this journey. The last time we met we discussed my changing which services I went to, I'd offered to go to the evening service but was told that I should carry on going to the morning service.

In between that meeting and last Monday's the church council and a lot of our cell groups have been told about my transitioning from January.

On Monday evening we discussed my involvement in the church in all its forms. I was left a bit disappointed and was ready to have nothing more to do with the church.

We have a system where people pair up with someone else in order to provide support, friendship and to pray together. One of the conditions of that is that you can't have a man and a woman as a pair. Two males, two females, a male and a couple or a female and a couple is all acceptable. I currently have a male prayer partner and so will have to change. However, rather than simply finding another female that I can talk to and pray with its been suggested that I pair up with a couple. I can see that it would make it easier for a couple to be able to provide support and prayer both to me and also each other along my journey but it does make life really difficult for me as there aren't going to be any suitable couples that I can turn to. So I'm not going to be finding myself a prayer partner.
In addition to that I was also informed that because my other half goes to the cell group as me that the group had decided that they couldn't support both of us and that they were going to support my other half. For that reason I'd have to find another cell group.

Now I know that it was going to be difficult for them to support both of us but there are a lot of other groups that my other half could have fitted into a lot more easily than myself. Especially as I've been with that group since we started using cell groups nearly 10 years ago. To suddenly be told to find another group and not even given a suggestion as to which ones might be suitable was as big a kick in the teeth as they could have given me.

I have to admit that I was all set to walk away from the church at that point. If I wanted to go to church then

I could find one that was more accepting. Wouldn't be simple but not impossible.
Then last night, Thursday, I bumped into a friend from church. She knows what is happening and we've spoken briefly before the summer at a church weekend. We talked about her, me and a few other things. While we were chatting though I found myself deciding that I'd stick with most of decisions, I'd not get a prayer partner or join another cell group but I wouldn't walk away from the church. Instead I'd go to the evening service so that they have to deal with the fact that as Christians they should be learning to show love and compassion to everyone, not just those that fit within their experiences and understanding.

Also last night my other half and son went to a social organized by the cell group. I decided that after Monday I wasn't going to go. Besides I had some practice I needed to do for my burlesque routine and with the family out that seemed a great time to do it.

This morning I asked my other half if anything had been said about me not being there. She told me that our friend, who was at Monday's meeting, chatted to her during the evening and said that she realized that I wasn't going to be happy about being told the group couldn't support me.

I couldn't help thinking how funny that was. If they'd realized it was going to upset me then surely the decent thing to do would be to talk to me about it and explain why they felt that way and then get me to accept the decision, not to tell me that they'd decided and that I was being kicked out. That is so wrong on all levels and if I was an outsider looking at what happened I would immediately be thinking "do I really want to associate with a bunch of people that can turn their back on someone without providing them with any alternate support?" I already know that some people are looking at the way our church is behaving and wondering why anyone would want to be a Christian.

Come January we have another meeting scheduled with our Vicar, his wife and our friend. It unlikely that I'm going to go. My other half can go but I no longer feel the need to discuss things with them. If I do go then it will be to see just our Vicar and his wife.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

A busy week ahead

This week is going to be both busy and memorable. Probably the most memorable week I've ever had.

As of Monday I'm back working shifts, early shifts in particular which means that I have to be at work for 6am. In fact if I can get there just before that then it helps as I have to open up the building which is not a simple matter. I'm doing that until Thursday and then I'm on holiday until the 9th January.

On Tuesday I've got my fortnightly trip to Bristol. It will be a busy evening because I'll be having a one-to-one dance lesson in order to go over my burlesque routine. After that I've got my burlesque class which I'm really looking forward to as its expanding my abilities into other areas such as improvisation and storytelling. The last class I was at was hilarious as we ended up coming up with a story that involved The Chippendales and a homicidal dolphin that got sucked down into a whirlpool.

I've also got the next fitting for the costume that I'm having made. This time it will be to check the fit of the skirt.

Finally, I have to try and visit my oldest friend. I informed him about my plans for gender reassignment 2 weeks ago. This week will be the first time he gets to meet Jenna in the flesh and also to talk about what I'm doing.

Friday looks like being a busy day as I need to take a friend to a hospital appointment in Bristol. After I get back from that I've got an appointment at the salon for a full body wax, eyelash tint and an eyebrow wax. Finally I can get my eyebrows done in a really feminine shape.

Thursday and Saturday are the big days this week.

On Thursday my immediate work colleagues will be informed about my plans for gender reassignment. Shortly after that everyone else at work will be told. I expect I'll be the topic of conversation at work for about 10 minutes and then that will be it until January.

Saturday will be the day I enjoy the most. In the morning I'm going to go and get my hair done. However, it will be Jenna that goes, not my male self. There will be lots of curls and it will be set so that I don't have to worry about it for a good few days.

In the afternoon after redoing my make-up I will be picking up S, one of my neighbors and we will be driving up to Bristol where I will be performing in a Christmas burlesque show. My first real public performance. I'm going to be performing a variant of the routine I did earlier this year but this time rather than to Clare Teal's Stone Soul Picnic I'll be performing to an instrumental version of The Little Drummer Boy which has the David Bowie/Bing Crosby version in the middle of it. Hopefully S will be able to video the show, in particular my part of it. If so I'll have to upload it.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Not long now

Only four weeks to go now, 31 days as I write this post until I start living and working full time as Jenna.

Next Thursday all of my immediate work colleagues will know about my plans for gender reassignment. From what I've been hearing there are quite a few people that know already. The other day I was told that my project managers boss has known for something like 2 months.

As soon as my colleagues have been told I'll be off on leave until the 9th January when Jenna will return to work.

Notifying people that I've changed my name has been an interesting experience.

A number of places its simply been a case of changing details online and I've not needed a Deed Poll or other form of notification that I've changed my name.

A couple of times its meant that the easiest way to deal with the change is to delete an account or remove myself from a register and then create a new account or add myself to a register again under my new name. The latter is what I did with the Organ Donor Register.

So far the only people that I've had to supply my Deed Poll to have been the bank (all I need to do is to tell them when I want my account details changed and it will all happen automatically), DVLA (for my driving license), store card, a health insurance policy and the Land Registry because I own my house.

There are bound to be people that I've not informed of the change of name and so I expect I'll be getting post in my old name for quite some time to come, although I'm sure scrawling "Not known at this address" on most of it and posting it back will deal with most of that.

Its been interesting going through this process as its given me a good idea of just how many people know of our existence, even if it is just being registered on a computer system somewhere. Next time I read a story or see a film where someone erases a person's identity then I'm just going to laugh out loud because its not an simple as its made out to be.