Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Cyprus 2018

We had booked a holiday in Northern Cyprus (the Turkish bit) staying in a friends villa with a private pool. This was our first holiday with Lucy travelling and staying as herself so was a big deal. We went with our daughters, my son and his wife and their 4 month old son.

We had a bit of a nightmare on the flight out as the first was cancelled after a 5 hour delay (2 hours spent on the plane) and we had to go back home and return the next day for a new flight which was delayed by an hour.

We had no problem getting through security each time etc however the gate staff were quite unprofessional both times. Lucy was dressed quite adrogynously and was wearing glasses whereas in her passport photo she is not. There was a query by the gate staff in both instances where in the end I had to tell them she was my wife and transgender at which point there were some sniggers. We didn't say anything however I have contacted the airline to ask for a copy of their policy for dealing with transgender customers so we will see what that brings.

There were no issues with the passport control in Larnaca nor the border control staff as we had to go over the border to Northern Cyprus. Not that we were expecting any issues but it was always a worry especially as we were entering a muslim country. It was an hour and 15 mins drive from the airport to the villa but it was great being able to see the different views, driving round the bottom of the mountains and notice the difference in population density in Northern Cyprus.

We knew our friends villa was lovely as we had seen some pictures however they did not really show how large, spacious and beautifully decorated the place was. There was definitely a wow factor when we opened the door and every last detail was perfect.

The pool was 20 metres long with a waterfall feature at the end. It was perfect, not cold at all and great for swimming and playing.

There were mountains to the left and the sea to the right. It was a great aspect and the sunsets were amazing which we viewed sat on the patio every evening.
Our friend had thought of every detail. There was a large bbq area with various gas fired cooking areas with hot plates and rings as well as the bbq. Lovely seating in a flower covered area with Turkish lanterns setting the scene at night.
We felt so at home from the moment we arrived to the moment we left.

It wasn't a densely populated area and the nearest supermarket was a 10 minute drive away but luckily we had hired a car so that was not an issue. My son and his wife drove off to the mountains and local castle on a couple of the days but we were happy to spend most of our time at the villa around the pool as it was very warm.

Lucy was free to relax and be herself and for me it was quite emotional seeing her wearing the right holiday attire for the first time ever. She had her natural hair styled in an easy to care for style which really suited her and she was really relaxed and comfortable around the family as they were with her.

Her hair is now really long and curly and she let me straighten it and partially put it up. It looked great and gives her possibilities to go out as an every day option without having to wear a hot wig (we are looking into the possibility of a weave).
We went off to the main town on one day and had a walk around the shops and stopped for lunch. Although Lucy dressed adrogynously she was more on the female side and had nail varnish on, her hair up and some lovely girlie sandals. No one said anything and we all felt very comfortable. Lucy felt so comfortable that she even went into a shop to look at a bikini and once the shop assistants realised Lucy was the potential purchaser they were very helpful and, a first for Lucy, she even went into the changing room to try the bikini on which fitted perfectly and she obviously purchased. All very exciting.

We went out for dinner a handful of times and the food was lovely and so cheap as the exchange rate is so favourable. Lucy had a few wobbles while were away. Dysphoria is never far away and sometimes the slightest thing can trigger it. As a result outside of the villa she mostly dressed adrogynously as that is how she felt most comfortable.

The journey back over the border coming home was non eventful and although our flight home was delayed by an hour it wasn't too bad. It is lovely seeing Lucy at home with tan lines in the right places!

The whole holiday was lovely and really relaxing and our friends villa has a place in our hearts. Everyone agreed that we had all had a fantastic time and we are already planning on trips back there next year.... yes trips :)

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Nearly there.......

What a lot has happened since I last updated my blog. Where to start…….

We were going to tell the remaining key people before we jetted off on holiday however as with all best laid plans they do not always go to plan.

My parents returned from their holiday and the following day I went round to see them. I felt anxious all day and I know Lucy was feeling it too and she nearly backed out of letting me tell them but luckily she didn’t. I sat and had a conversation with them explaining the situation and they were totally amazing. As predicted my dad checked I was ok and although he does not fully understand the situation (he is 84) he was amazingly supportive and accepting. As for my mum, well all my worries were unfounded and she was great too. It was all such a relief. They asked a few questions but ever since have been really supportive. My dad in particular has gone out of his way to make sure he is using the right name and pronouns and when he came over last night he was very interested in the radio station (which Lucy was working on at the time) and we were able to show him some of the things we have been involved in over the years, pictures and magazine articles (Lucy and the radio station are in the Transliving magazine this month).

Whilst I was at my parents when I was telling them my brother rang. His holiday flight had been delayed so he was around when I thought he wouldn’t be. My mum was chatting to him and I asked how long he was around for when she just passed the phone over to me where I proceeded to fill him in. He was surprisingly great and said that as long as I was happy and ok, then he was too. Since this conversation he has said that now knowing this situation a few things from the past make sense now.

The following day I received a text from my ex. It seems my daughter had told him about Lucy the night before. I knew I should tell him about Lucy as ‘our’ children are heavily involved with Lucy but hadn’t realised my daughter had taken it upon herself to tell him before I had a chance. Our relationship over the years has not been great although in the last 2 years it has settled down tremendously. The text he sent caught me off guard and when I read it, all I could say was ‘wow’. He was super supportive and also said he was proud of our 4 children for having the right attitude towards the situation. This took mine and Lucy’s breath away…. So unexpected but so great.

A day or 2 later one of my sons came over to see us and said that him and his girlfriend had told all their friendship group. We were not expecting this just yet however they had all been at a BBQ together and they thought it was the right time. We know many of this group personally and I have actually worked with several of them, and a few I have known since they were young children going to school with my sons. Everyone took it well….  Some of the lads were shocked (Lucy has hidden it so well) and although they did not necessarily get it, they were all supportive.

We had planned to tell Lucy’s mum a week before this but her partner had suffered a stroke and although he was better and back home the last thing we wanted to do was contribute to affecting his health. So just before going on holiday Lucy rang her to tell her. We really were not sure of her reaction however she was amazing and so super supportive to Lucy. She was not aware of the situation despite the signs when Lucy was younger but she was adamant that Lucy was her child and she would love her and support her no matter what. This was a very emotional conversation for Lucy. Her partner was great too although when speaking to Lucy he still calls her ‘boy’ and ‘son’ and we don’t think that will ever change but you know what, it’s not the end of the world and he is 88 years old and these are his standard phrases. I had a chat with her mum too and she didn’t ask much but think that was because everything was new and she was still taking it all in.

Her mum has been contacting us ever since and WhatsApping me while we were away on holiday asking how it was going (our holiday will be a different blog post). Lucy spoke to her again last night and she is struggling with Lucy’s name. She only knows Lucy as the deadname and it was a name she chose and couldn’t understand why Lucy had not picked the female version of the same name.  Lucy just said that she doesn’t identify with that name at all and I know that she didn’t want any name that would remind her of that part of her life. Lucy was a name she really connected it. I’m sure in time when her mum has met the real Lucy that the name change will become easier. Last night she said she has told Lucy’s sister who we have not really had a great relationship with (she also has a brother we don’t see). Her mum sees Lucy’s sister all the time so I suppose it was logical that she would tell her. Her sister took the news really well, commented that she has a sister at last and wants to meet her. I am a little wary however it has made Lucy very happy and that’s what counts. We are going to visit and stay with her mum next month and as her sister only lives 10 mins away I’m sure we will get to see her as well. No matter what the whole situation put a big smile on Lucy’s face which always makes me happy. As for Lucy’s brother, his mum will tell him and his wife after we have told everyone. There is no need for them to know at the moment.

Lucy’s mum also told her own sister, Lucy’s aunt and her adult children have been told (Lucy’s cousins) and they are all fine and have taken the news well. 

Lucy doesn’t have any contact with her dad however we are in contact with her uncles, cousins and nan on that side of the family. They are lovely but we don’t see them much or have much contact so they will be told when we tell everyone else and I’m sure they will filter the information back to her dad.

This leaves one really important person who still hasn’t been told. In many respects he is the most important person and this is Lucy’s eldest son (we are estranged from the youngest son). We had planned to tell him before going on holiday but Lucy decided that she didn’t want to drop the bombshell and then go away on holiday and leave him. She wants to be there for him, to answer any questions and field any emotions. They have such a great father son relationship and she will be devasted if they lose that and of course, it is all at risk (we have heard so many other sad stories from our friends regarding their children). He is the one person she is the most scared of telling and finds every excuse not to tell him just yet. It is delaying telling him that is delaying telling everyone else. He must be told before we go public and Lucy is stalling as I know she doesn’t feel strong enough to risk their relationship. He is the lynchpin to everything and has been for a long time and has no idea how important he is to the whole situation. She has to do something soon as it would be horrendous if he heard from someone else. He needs to hear it from her.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

‘Go live’ day is coming......... all change!

After numerous false starts over the past 3 years and 17 years of living a double secret life the time is coming when everything becomes one. It is an exciting and nervewracking time. It seems that unlike many other trans people Lucy has been slow approaching this goal. I speak to many partners who have been running along after their loved one trying to catch up with them as they are like a horse who has bolted; once the partner has been told they want to declare it all to world and are on full speed ahead leaving the partner stunned in the wake. It has not been like that for Lucy. She has considered every single option from every single angle and from my perspective it has been like dragging a reluctant horse out of the stable! 

There have been various times we had planned to tell everyone but there has always been a reason not to, the latest being a very good reason with all her heart issues (I will let her off this one). Each time a plan is made I silently psych myself up, plan the conversations in my mind and then it all stops. Emotionally I don’t think I can do this anymore. I cannot keep living this twilight world, keeping secrets from people, not being honest about what we are doing, trying to remember which pronoun and name to use around different people. This has to be the final time, the real time, it is time to be us, the real Avril and Lucy.

She has lived full time as Lucy for over 2 years, it’s just people don’t realise she is there as they are not seeing her as she is not shoving it in their faces. She changed her name nearly 3 years ago, bank accounts, passport, etc were changed a long time ago and her driving licence has come back leaving the taxi badge etc to be changed. She changed the name on her car insurance and the agent was fab, used the correct name from the beginning and even wrote off the usual admin fee charged to change details.

We have a clutch of people around us that do know and of course my kids and our daughter have been fab. A few of my work colleagues know about Lucy and have been amazing. One colleague always wants to have a chat with Lucy if she knows she is on the phone. We have a new guy starting at work in 2 weeks and I have spoken to my manager as I want this new person only to know Avril and Lucy. There is not much point in giving the deadname as ‘go live’ is only a week later. This means there are a couple of other people who work in my office and the senior director whose division I work in that I needed to tell before this new chap starts. So, yesterday I spoke to my senior director who was great (he was worried as he thought I wanted a word him as I was going to resign) and said to let him know if I needed any support. I said I was fine, we are great and that my immediate manager has been very supportive. The other people in the office were great too and super supportive.

And then it is the rest……. We are going on holiday abroad on 29th May. Lucy is obviously travelling using her passport, the booking is in her name as are the airline tickets. Therefore this is ‘go live’ day although we won’t have told absolutely everyone by then, the rest we will do when we get back. We are sort of dropping the bomb and running away but this way it gives us some breathing space even though we will be still able to log on to social media while we are away but also gives people a little bit of time to deal with it without us being around. We are not going away on our own, our daughters are coming with us as is one of my sons, his wife and our grandson. It does leave two of my boys back in the UK but they have said they will be fine plus the majority of people I’m sure will be conversing with us.

So what is the plan? The plan changes all the time. We are running out of time to tell everyone face to face before we go away. We don’t want to tell some people too early for fear of Lucy being outed before we have had a chance to tell people in our own way. We are close with one neighbour so need to tell them as she will see Lucy leaving the house for holiday; this neighbour sees everything. We will probably have a chat with them just before we go. I think she will be fine, but again who knows. My parents are away until 24th May which does not give us much time but I am planning on telling them when they are back. One of my sisters knows already which leaves another sister and my brother to tell. My brother goes away just before us and as my parents come back so I only have a small window of time to tell him. I think it will have to be a telephone call after I have told my parents, probably while he is away on holiday. Not ideal but I need to tell my parents first as I am very unsure how he will take the news. I wanted to tell my other sister before I speak to my parents as I think she is the one my mum may lean on. I wasn’t sure how my sister would take it but I rang her this morning and she was great. She said that everything just all made sense as she had noticed some of Lucy’s changes and everything has fallen into place. She was very supportive and said lots of nice things which was a relief. She did ring my other sister immediately after and I understand that was a supportive conversation. I was a bit nervous in telling her as it was a planned phone call which I haven’t done with anyone else but it all turned out well.

Lucy’s mum will need to be told as will her eldest son (the younger son is travelling and estranged from his dad so we will leave the other son to speak to him – we are not expecting a positive outcome). This is Lucy’s issue to deal with and I’m not sure what she is going to do. Her mum does not live locally and we have no time to visit her so I expect it will be a phone call. We don’t any contact with her dad (her parenets are long divorced) but no doubt he will hear via other family members. I doubt he will make contact. When ever I try to talk to Lucy about the timing for telling her son and mother she gets dismissive. I know it is because she is nervous and is not looking forward to the conversation. My kids have said that they will all be there for her eldest son and will do their best to support him but that does all depend on his reaction. Whenever and however she does it, I will be there to support her through this.

Then we have a clutch of close friends. I have mentioned them before. This will be phone calls or a text (they will ring if we send a text as I’m sure they will be convinced we are joking). I have no idea how they will take it. A positive response would be great however in these circumstances you plan for the worst. Watch this space.

In preparation for holiday we have been clothes shopping for Lucy. She has never bought holiday clothes before so it is all a bit exciting. She now has several pairs of lovely shorts, mix and match bikinis, tops, flat sandals (shock horror!) and some really gorgeous swim suits. She went out yesterday and had her eyebrows threaded and AT LAST they were done beautifully with a proper shape and colour. It has really changed her face. She even told the technician after about her situation and showed her some pictures of us out and about. She also had her ears pierced again so now has two sets of earrings in her ear lobes now. For me this was the biggest indication that this ‘go live’ date is really happening. She wouldn’t have had them done as it will affect her refereeing for what is left of the season.

She has decided that she will give up refereeing men’s football. As much as The FA will protect her in regard to the clubs and the players, they cannot control comments from the crowds. She referees at a high level and just doesn’t want to put herself into a position where she will get abuse. Most clubs serve alcohol and all it takes is one drunken supporter to shout abuse and then it just starts everyone off. It is such a shame as football is her passion. She will still referee women’s matches but they are not as frequent as the men’s matches and they are slower paced. Sad times.

I have heard back from the NHS Trust that I had the meeting with. They have arranged for our friend Jo who runs the organisation SEE Change Happen and she is going in to do a taster session with some of the NHS staff. I have been invited to go along too so of course I have accepted. This is next week so it is all happening at once!

Trans Radio UK is going from strength to strength. Listeners are increasing and are still worldwide. She has now interviewed all sorts of different and interesting people, featured many trans DJ’s and musical artists and their music as well as the mainstream stuff. We now have new logos and are looking to get some t-shirts made up. We are looking to broadcast live from some of the events happening over the next few months. Lucy and the radio station will be featured in the next edition of Transliving magazine too. If you have not liked the Facebook page, please go and like it and share!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Just Charlie

Just Charlie is a film that premiered on Sky Cinema yesterday. 

#JustCharlie  @JustCharlieFilm

“A teen football star who is being courted by a top club is torn between wanting to live up to his father's expectations or shedding his ill-fitting skin”
"A heartwarming story of a fun-loving teenager Charlie, who unveils a secret that takes him on a road paved with obstacles, prejudices and confusion"

We found out about this film from the Trans Radio UK interview that Lucy did with Kellie Maloney last week. We did some research about the film, watched the trailer and eagerly awaited the premiere day, 16th April 2018.

We didn’t get to watch it until last night, it premiered at 9.40am so recorded it as we were both working, and had seen that already a few people that had watched it were giving it great reviews. So we settled down to watch it together last night.

Virtually from the beginning I was in tears. Watching Charlie struggle with her identity, the hidden secrets, the discovery, the football coach trying to find the right words to show his support of what he had accidently discovered, thest best friend rejecting her, the fathers brutal denial of what was clearly obvious, the mother supporting Charlie whilst trying to address her husbands issues and the unquestionable, unwavering support from her sister Eve.

At the beginning I made a few comments to Lucy as I could see so many parallels to what she has told me and the psychologists about her younger life especially as football had featured so strongly for her too but I felt she didn’t want to engage with me. Too much was too close to home, except I don’t think she would have received any support at all.

We watched the rest of the film in silence, holding hands, squeezing in uncomfortable but realistic moments and mostly I had quiet tears streaming down my face. Crying for Charlie, crying for Lucy and crying for everyone in our life who would connect with this, crying for the people I don’t know and angry at the transphobic and ignorant characters that I know exist in real life. It is one thing having the person you love tell you about these things but totally different seeing it being acted out in front of you and to think Lucy had experienced this on her own before we met just breaks my heart.

The film really covers the struggle for transgendered youth and their families but also shows what society is like. Even though it is more empathetic nowadays there is still a very long way to go but it was great to see Mermaids being featured when the mum, the friend, the sister, the father were researching to find out more information. 

Having had 5 children of my own, I can only hope that I would have been a supportive parent should any of them been transgendered. I cannot say for certain as I have not had to face this challenge but feel in my heart of hearts I would have been. Maybe because I did have a transgendered friend in my teenage years when it was mostly hidden away and not as open as it is now so it wouldn’t have been something new for me. There is a NescafĂ© Gold coffee advert that says that we meet roughly 80,000 people in our lifetime. I use this figure when talking to people about how low the incidence of being transgender is and ask them how many transgender people they have knowingly met. Apart from community friends, most other people say Lucy is the first for them which just proves my point. By comparison in my non-community life, Lucy was the 3rd transgendered person I had knowingly known along with lots of other eclectic and colourful friends. I wonder if my easy acceptance of Lucy’s situation is down to this plus I think my parents were very open minded about life as I was growing up bringing up myself and my siblings in a non-prejudice environment. I can only hope that I would have been a supportive trans parent and will certainly be a supportive grandparent if the situation were to arise.

Anyway I seemed to have digressed…….

After the film had finished we were discussing whether it was harder coming out as transgender as a child/youth or as an adult. I’m not sure we came up with an answer as both have their different challenges but certainly the sooner you can transition before puberty the better chance you have as being accepted as an adult as the ravages of either hormone has not had a chance to make its mark.

All in all it was a great film, it wasn’t sensationalist and dealt with the Charlie character in an empathetic way showing the internal struggles that are real for everyone no matter what age you are.

When Lucy interviewed the director Rebekah Fortune for Trans Radio UK she said that selecting the right actor to play Charlie was key. It wasn’t about having a cis or a trans actor for the role but was about finding the right child. Sadly many trans children wouldn’t have been able to do it as they would have been too vulnerable which I am sure we all understand.

Looking at their Facebook and Twitter feeds today the response has been amazing:

Just finished watching Just Charlie!! BEAUTIFUL film!! You must all be so incredibly proud of the film you have created!! If you haven't seen it then… WATCH IT!! It's honestly incredible!!

Just Charlie’ is the most eye opening film I’ve probably ever watched

Wow this is such a powerful film. Spencer Coile said "With an influx of trans representation in television and film, Just Charlie is a touching reminder that these stories need to be told. And perhaps it is our job to listen."

Just watched Just Charlie & have to say it is a great film would highly recommend you check it out taking a current topic & engaging you into the topic & the ending was superbly done

@justcharliefilm it’s incredible! @BeCoMeCast The casting is unbelievably perfect, Rebekah Fortunes directing is incredible and works in beautiful harmony with Karl Clarke’s stunning cinematography! Harry Gilbert is breathtaking as Charlie. I need to lay down!

Just Charlie: a phenomenal lgbt film about a closet trans teen, this depicts how hard it is as a trans person, please watch it

Sobbed all the way through #justcharlie set in #Tamworth and #Lichfield #netherstowe

At last a decent film on @sky - #JustCharlie. Highly recommend watching.