but there isn’t much I can do about it
and how she changed my life
by Louise Anne Smithson
Suzanne, Debbie and I spent the first half hour or so over dinner on Wednesday evening discussing the visit by Suzanne’s doctor and health visitor together with her rather bleak prognosis. Debbie and I were both in awe of the calm and controlled way in which she spoke of her situation and her imminent demise, as if it were the most natural topic of conversation to have over dinner. I think we both found it difficult to put in words our feelings of sympathy for her.
‘How can you accept the unfairness of it all, without getting angry and bitter?’ asked Debbie.
‘I have been aware of what is going to happen for more than two years now and have had plenty of time to be angry and bitter, but in the end it didn’t help. All it succeeded in doing was to alienate me from people who were trying to help. Meeting Tom last year, and then, more specifically getting to know Clare over the last few weeks has helped me come to terms with my situation.
I looked down, feeling embarrassed. All of my issues were as nothing compared with what she was facing. There was an awkward silence; at last Suzanne turned to me and said:
‘I’m getting fed up with this gruesome conversation. Let’s talk about something a little more cheerful. Clare, why not tell Debbie how you got on this afternoon?’
I did as she asked and related the full story of my own appointment, and the likely outcome and timetable.
‘You certainly don’t hang around once you’ve made up your mind,’ said Debbie. ‘It was only just over a month ago that we had to talk you in to spending the Christmas and New Year holidays as Clare; now you are planning to do so for the rest of your life. Are you sure that you know what you are doing?’
‘I know, but once I began to entertain the idea of spending the rest of my life as Clare it was as if the final piece in the jig-saw had been put in place. I have hardly thought of anything else since then, and the more I think about it the more convinced I am that it is right for me. In fact I feel quite guilty as my father and my good friend are both seriously ill, and yet I still spend most of my time thinking about myself and my future.’
‘It sounds as if your father is on the mend now, and worrying about me is going to make any difference to the outcome, so I would far rather that you thought carefully about what you are planning to do,’ said Suzanne.
‘But don’t you think that Clare might be rushing in to things?’ Debbie asked Suzanne.
‘I’m not going to make any specific recommendations to her as I will not be around to help pick up the pieces if anything goes wrong.’
Then, turning to me, she said ‘if you want my opinion, Clare, I suspect that what you are planning to do is the right thing for you. However, it must be your decision and you should go into it with your eyes open wide as to the difficulties and delays involved, and above all what you will inevitably have to give up in the process.’
‘I will have to satisfy all concerned that I have carefully thought through the implications and know exactly what I’m doing, before I am permitted to take any irrevocable steps,’ I said. ‘However the longer I leave it the more prolonged and difficult will be the task. I am already twenty and am conscious that my looks will soon become more masculine.’
‘You don’t look at all masculine at present,’ said Debbie. ‘That was one of the things I always noticed about Tom.’
‘It was one of the reasons why Tom was never successful as a young man. But inevitably my feminine looks will change unless I take some action. In fact I now wish that I’d faced up to the issue when I was sixteen.’
‘Were you aware of wanting to be a woman when you were sixteen?’ asked Suzanne.
‘No, not specifically, but I was just aware that things weren’t right for me as a man. Unfortunately
I ignored those feelings hoping they would go away, whereas I should have discussed them with my parents or looked for counseling. I suppose I was lucky in being a late developer. The sad thing for many young people in my situation is that their body starts to change before their mind is fully mature. However, as far as I’m concerned I now know what I want and have never felt as confident about the rightness of a proposed course of action as I do now.’
‘In that case, all I can say is good luck to you,’ said Debbie.
‘Hear, hear,’ added Suzanne.
I thanked them both and we moved on to talking about other things – Debbie’s new relationship which seemed to be going quite well, and my own abortive one, which now seemed to be ancient history.
‘I’ve made discreet enquiries with a couple of Andy’s male friends, but neither of them knew exactly what is up with him. Apparently he gives everyone the impression of not being too happy with his life at present but doesn’t appear to want to take anybody in to his confidence,’ said Debbie.
‘Please don’t trouble any more on my account, Debbie, it sounds as if the whole thing is over now,’ I said, but was unable to disguise a note of sadness in my voice. ‘I’ve plenty of other things to worry about with my transition, keeping an eye on Suzanne and also my Dad’s plans to come and see me in a fortnight.’
‘Sometimes people don’t know what’s good for them,’ commented Suzanne.
I sighed, but had no particular wish to continue on this subject, so I attempted to change it.
‘My Dad is still adamant that he wants to come up to London the Monday after next, and has even bought the train ticket so there will be no change of mind.’
‘How is he doing now?’ asked Debbie.
‘He sees to be recovering quite rapidly after the scare he gave us and his friend is looking after him, but whether he is up to such a long round trip in a single day is a different matter.’
‘What does he want to come for?
‘I’m not sure what he wants: he already knows about Clare and the way I live and has seen me most days on MSN, but whatever it is appears to be important to him.’
‘In that case you’ll just have to wait and see,’ said Suzanne.
‘I’ll meet him off the train and bring him here for lunch so you can meet him, and he can see where I live now.’
‘Yes, I should like to meet him.’
Our informal dinner party broke up soon afterwards as both Debbie and I had to work the next day and Suzanne found that she soon became tired these days.
These days I was no longer concerned about being out in the street dressed as Clare, and although I quite often received admiring glances, I was confident that nobody was seeing me as anything other than a young woman. I was also quite happy when dealing with people who came to our office, or those I dealt with over the phone. I quite enjoyed flirting with the messengers, knowing that in all probability they would never have the confidence to ask me out. I now dealt with any phone calls that came in and had even spoken to some people at Head Office who had previously dealt with Tom. I once even found myself answering a question as to what had happened to the young man who used to do my job. My two elder colleagues also now seemed to accept me as one of their female colleagues and were happy to share conversations with me on subjects that they would never have discussed with Tom. In fact they hardly ever made reference to my past. It was as if all trace of my previous life had disappeared, which was really how I wanted it to be.
I was quite busy working in the office mid-morning on Friday when my mobile phone began to ring. I looked at the display and was most surprised to see that it was from Andy. I was in two minds about what to do. I really wanted to talk to him, but the last thing I wanted was to be told that he didn’t want to see me again, when I was in the office and in front of my colleagues. I was not yet taking female hormones, but was not sure whether or not I would be able to control my emotions, so I sent him a ‘busy’ signal. He again tried to contact me at lunch time but Helen was eating her sandwiches and reading a magazine at her desk, so once again I didn’t take the call, but rather sent him a text saying: ‘Busy 'til 3.30 can u ring me later?’ I toyed with the idea of adding the word ‘luv’ before signing it but in the end decided just to add ‘C’. A few minutes later he texted back, ‘OK will do,’ which succeeded in leaving me in a state of great emotional turmoil and unable to concentrate on my work for the remainder of the day.
I cleared my desk and said farewell to my colleagues promptly knowing that Andy might ring at any moment. I’d just left the office and was in the street when my telephone rang once again.
‘Hi Clare, its Andy.
‘I can see that from the caller display,’ I replied, trying my best to stay cool and not give anything away.
‘I’m sorry that I haven’t rung you before now.’
‘It has been nearly two weeks,’ I replied.
‘Yes I know. I needed to think about things.’
‘Can we meet up again for a coffee?’
‘Andy, if you have something to say to me you can say it now, over the phone’ I said, preparing myself for the worst.
‘No I can’t. At least give me half an hour of your time.’
I guess I owed him that for taking me all the way to Sunderland.
‘Alright, when do you want to meet?’
‘Now, if you like? Would you be able to meet me at that coffee bar near to St Paul’s on your way home?
‘What about your work?’
‘Not a problem, I can leave early; they owe me plenty of time.’
I’ll have to ring Suzanne to warn her that I’ll be late home, but I suppose I could be there in half an hour.’
‘Good! I’ll see you then.
I always took trouble over my appearance when I went in to work, but I found a ladies’ toilet in a shop nearby just to make sure that I looked alright, as any girl would have done when facing a difficult interview. I looked fine, but I tidied my hair, refreshed my lipstick and brushed some mascara through my lashes just to be on the safe side, and to give myself the opportunity to prepare for our meeting. As a result I was a few minutes later than I’d said. Andy was already sitting down at a table in a corner of the café, far away from the other customers. He was looking quite anxious as I came over and took a seat.
‘HI Clare, can I get you something to drink?’
‘Black coffee, please.’
He placed the order, and also one for himself and we waited whilst our drinks were delivered to our table. There was an awkward silence and I was determined not to be the first one to speak. I was also determined that whatever happened I was not going to cry. As soon as the waitress had left I looked at him expectantly.
‘Sorry I didn’t phone.’
‘As I said on the phone, it has been nearly a fortnight, but I guess that was up to you.’
‘I wanted to, but I didn’t know what to say.’
‘But now you do, so why don’t you go ahead and say it.’
‘Clare, I really like you ….’
He hesitated, looking for the right words.
‘I really like you but I cannot cope with who or what you are?’ I suggested.
‘I wouldn’t put it like that.’
‘OK then, how would you put it?’
‘It’s just that I thought we would just take things steadily and play it by ear, but then I started to get worried about the way in which my feelings for you were developing. Then we spent the night together and there was meeting your father who treated me as if I were your regular boyfriend.’
‘It was you who asked me out. I’m sorry the way things worked out; I wouldn’t have planned it that way. I had no idea my father would be taken ill just as we were about to go out with one another.’
‘I realise that but …’
‘But you are also frightened by the way you feel and what other people might think of you,’ I said finishing his sentence for him.
‘The first of those is certainly true. I feel in real danger of getting hurt by you.’
You’re in danger of getting hurt, what about me?’ I thought to myself but didn’t reply.
‘I don’t even know if there will still be a Clare in a few weeks’ time.’
‘Andy, I can assure you that once I’d told my Dad I’d gone beyond the point of no return. Tom is now dead. My friends, work colleagues and family all know that Clare is going to be here to stay. This week I have begun the process of formally changing my gender. In a week or two I hope to begin taking the female hormones that will change my body. I will also then change my name, and in time will apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate. It will inevitably be a prolonged process, but if you cannot deal with who I am and who I was whilst that is taking place, then it is better for us not to see one another, no matter how much we both might feel for the other.’
‘You look, sound and act so like a woman and I feel really attracted to you,’ he said.
As he did so his hand gently touched my own. I would like to have left my hand touching his but instead found myself gently withdrawing it. I was amazed at how calmly I was reacting although my feelings were in utter turmoil.
‘Andy, why don’t you admit that you are worried that I’m still physically a man, no matter how I feel inside?’ I said quietly so that there was no danger that we might be overheard.
‘It felt so good when we were in bed together on Sunday morning.’
‘It did so for me as well, but if you can’t come to terms with who I am then there can be no future for us.’
‘Can’t we at least remain friends with one another?’
‘What and go to the pub or a football match together? It would never work. Andy, I want to become a real woman, not half of one. If I have a boyfriend I want us to have a real relationship together. Maybe I’m expecting too much at this stage in my transition, but that’s the way I feel. If I can’t have that then I have plenty of female friends.’
This last point was something of an exaggeration, but he wasn’t to know. He didn’t answer and our conversation seemed to be going nowhere, so I decided to take a stand.
‘Look Andy, I shall not be going anywhere, so if you wish to renew our relationship you know where I am and how to get hold of me. But I won’t wait forever and if a better offer comes along in the meanwhile I intend to take it,’ I said picking up my handbag and leaving my coffee untouched.
I didn’t look back to see how he reacted to what I just said, but made my way to St Paul’s tube station. It wasn’t until I was on the train going home that I wondered whether or not I’d done the right thing
I told Suzanne about my meeting with Andy once I reached the flat and asked her what she thought.
‘If he can’t accept you for whom you are, then you are better off without him,’ she said.
‘I know that, but it is difficult for guys. They are brought up to bury their feelings and emotions and just live according to this macho code that someone somewhere has determined should be the way all men should live. It was hard enough for me to come to terms with my wanting to live as a woman; although I’d always known that I wasn’t happy living as a man.’
‘In that case all you can do is to give him a little time to come to his senses, but in the meanwhile you should get on with your own life.’
‘Yes, I intend to do that,’ I replied.
I was learning fast; men may be the physically stronger but it is women who usually hold the power in any relationship. Life as a woman was more complex than that of a man, but was also far more interesting.
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudo!
Click the Good Story! button above to leave the author a kudo:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.