It's July 2012 and I've just made the most monumental step of my life. To live 24/7 as the woman I should have been born as was once in my wildest fantasies and now it was reality. I had the long process of changing my title and name with everyone from driving license, the bank, cards and many more. There was the small matter of returning to work, which was not such a big deal. I finally pierced my ears, which felt like a right of passage. Finally, all my male clothes were either thrown away or taken to a charity shop.
However, names and clothes didn't make a woman out of me. I now had to start with the development of the woman in me. She already had a start with the two and half years of exploration we had already laid out. However, the man in me was still there and I had to get rid of him.
I liken this part of my journey to a flower bed in a garden. We started with a bare patch of ground in the seventies when I was born and over the years plants have grown that represent me. There are a few flowers from my childhood but most of it has become weeds, nettles and brambles which have taken firm root in my soil. Recently I have trimmed a few of these weeds and tried to plant a few flowers in amongst the undergrowth but they have struggled to compete. It's time to clear out the plants I don't want and try to stop those nettles and suchlike from growing at all.
Like any good garden, this was not going to happen overnight. For eight months I struggled and I can put this down to my workplace. Transitioning in a sawmills was never going to be easy and although I hear of other trans women managing such a thing in a very masculine environment, I personally found it an impossible task. My employer trying to dismiss me actually showed me how much damage my workplace was doing to me. I fought the dismissal and opted for a leaving by mutual agreement. I did not want to work there any more and on reflection this was one of the best things that happened to me during my transition.
I took a flamethrower to my garden and burnt the whole lot down. I had to start again because those eight months had turned me into something else again. I was a kind of man presenting as a woman and it was not pleasant, probably worse than the man I had been.
I had a couple of months of living a simple life and whilst trying to find new employment, we realised just how much care my partner, Mandy, needed with all of her health issues. I decided then to become Mandy's full time carer and started setting in place the procedures for getting this formally recognised. Being a carer is not an easy life and quite involved but it can be very socially isolating. I realised this quite early on and started trying to find some voluntary work. I already had my Samaritans work but this was not quite the social activity I wanted. I was looking for something where I could interact with other people and charity shops seemed a natural option. They seemed to have everything I was looking for which included company, work and dealing with the general public - this interested me a great deal as it felt a good way to completely embrace the woman in me.
Finding a shop to work in was not such an easy prospect. The first place never even replied to my application form. The second called me in and after an interview, said there were no positions available. The third offered me a trial and trial was an apt word, I worked harder than some paid employment I have had - it was like a sweatshop and thankless. I was at the end of this road and decided there was one more shop I would try.
This shop was one that Mandy and myself had shopped in many times and we had always liked the quirkiness of the place. It was very different from any other charity shop in the town and this appealed to me. We walked in there one Saturday and I asked to see the manager. She was away getting something and would be back in a little while. This was the last straw for me, I had had enough. It was time to go back to the drawing board and find something different. Something made me change my mind, we went off for a coffee and tried again an hour later. The manager was there and after a long chat decided I could try it out one morning the next week.
This was to be one of the important parts of developing the woman in me. The next few months saw me working quite hard in the shop. It was very important in that I was interacting with many other women and probably gave me the shove I needed in the right direction. I learnt a great deal from everyone, staff and customers. The customers in particular gave me a great deal of confidence, because although the occasional few would react to me, most were incredibly supportive. Although this didn't actually directly make the woman in me, it did sow the seeds in my garden to grow my future self.
Those seeds grew well, nourished in the new confidence I had in myself. I started pulling out the pesky weeds that kept appearing as my male self was not going to go away overnight. He would appear from time to time, and it took determination to stamp him out when this happened.
In August of this year my garden got some more help with the addition of some fertiliser called estradiol. A total of eighteen months since I started my referral had passed and finally I was getting some medical treatment. The charity shop had sown the seeds, the hormones made everything really grow and mature. Suddenly with all that testosterone gone, I could relax and start to enjoy being a woman. It really did feel like a breath of fresh air.
It was not all perfect. The new feelings with the hormones could be quite intense and I was liable to quite extreme outbursts of emotion. A blood test found my levels were over three times the maximum they should have been! An adjustment brought them back down and I gradually stabilised my mood over time.
I worked my new garden steadily for over a year and a few weeks ago found that she looks really good. I have talked about this feeling recently, but I have an idea that I have arrived as the woman I should have been. This was a sudden realisation, almost overnight, but it feels good. Of course, there is still work to do physically with my gender reassignment surgery and even emotionally I will still need to be removing the occasional weed and planting new flowers.
I now feel a different person completely, very happy in myself emotionally. I can now look in the mirror and it is so good to see the woman looking back at me. She is a nice person, one that I can relate to and she is me!