This Wednesday, 22 January, was a big anniversary. It marked ten years since I was first in public as a woman.
The occasion was the UK Angels tenth birthday party, which was held at Pink Punters, a well-known LGBT nightclub.
Prior to this I had, of course, been acting on my trans nature since I was very small, but only ever in private. In 2004, other trans people online recommended I go to the Boudoir dressing service to be properly made up, which I did. Jodie the proprietor in turn recommended the Angels forum as a good way to get to know other trans people, and to get information and advice on trans life and on the trans scene in Britain. She was right and a very good forum it was. It's still going https://www.angelsforum.co.uk/phpforum/ although I haven't been there for some years.
So there was going to be a party. And the people I had got to know in the forum were all planning to be there. Good opportunity to go out as a woman and make a lifelong dream come true? You bet!
Although the forum posts following the event have long since been deleted from the Angels forum for reasons of space, I can still remember that day as though it were yesterday.
I arrived at the Campanile hotel opposite the venue in mid-afternoon and spent nearly five hours getting ready. I've improved my routine a lot since then, but I needed time to feel that I'd got my hair, makeup and party clothes as right as I could make them.
I wore a sequinned black jacket, a silver lace skirt and silver top and my Tinkerbelle necklace (it was the nearest thing to an Angel I have!) My wig was my first, one I had bought from the Boudour. Perhaps rather '70s in style, but still a favourite. My makeup was what Jodie had recommended, based on Kryolan foundation.
And then came that heart-stopping moment when I reached for the hotel bedroom door handle. Although I knew that just about everyone in the hotel was there for the same reason as me, this was the first moment anyone was going to see me as Sue. Inevitably, I hoped I would (a) pass as a woman and (b) scrub up nicely compared to my friends. These are the kinds of worries we have to start with and later we allow to drop.
Tingling with nervous anticipation, it took a false start before I finally stepped into the hotel corridor and allowed the bedroom door to close behind me. And then I walked down the corridor, heart in mouth. Of course, I was well used to walking in heels. But walking the short distances in your own home and walking a long straight corridor are two different things. And being out of your private safety zone for the first time adds to the awkwardness. Supposing someone spots me, I worried. No-one did, but I did steel myself not to scarper if someone else entered the corridor. And then out the front door into the car park and the cold January air. I'd never felt the cold on my legs before, a new and weird sensation, but one that felt right. And then (deep breath!) into the reception block (don't look at the receptionists and they won't spot me!) to the bar where the girls were all meeting ... and right near the door I recognised several from their profile pictures. Safe!
What a crowd of TGirls! At least 50, I'd say. There I met Emma, Claire, Gayna, Wilhelmina, Justine, Bea, Louise, Dee and many others... all for the first time. And Ange was there, the one whom I'd met up with a few times before. There was Jo and the other 'staff' of the forum, and Jodie Lynn from the Boudoir. I recognised several others but with so much to take in I didn't get to say more than hi.
There aren't many photos of me from this event, but my favourite is this one, which Emma took.
|L-R: Sarah Cat, Ange P, me, Wilhelmina, Claire. Emma behind the camera. All still good friends.|
I hadn't the courage to go out into town to eat in a restaurant so several of us had agreed to have a meal in the hotel bar. And then it was time to go over the road to Pink Punters. Again, several firsts: my first time walking in heels on tarmac, grass and down a muddy embankment, my first time in a public street, albeit briefly, my first time trying to avoid getting knocked down by fast traffic and still look dignified and feminine ... and again that breeze around my legs.
I don't recall the party itself quite so well. A club's a club and I mainly prefer to sit and chat to my friends with a pleasant drink in my hand and, with so much to exchange, the conversations went on happily for hours. I suspect there was dancing (I don't have much of an ear for music, rhythm or movement, so we'll call my motions dancing, to be polite). And then the return journey across the road and through the car park in the cold air of the small hours, tingling with the thrill of what I had just experienced. With so much adrenalin, I found it hard to sleep. But that didn't matter.
I can't believe this was ten years ago. It actually seems like a lifetime ago that this happened, but in a good way as I packed so much in afterwards. After this event, I returned to Pink Punters a few months later with some of my friends from that night. That was the first time I went to a restaurant in the real world as a woman. Gradually over that summer I went out more and more, for the first time locally and in central London, then to have makeup and wig advice in Mac and Trendco, and then to Sparkle in July 2010. From which point, a lifetime's worth of fear and worry about living authentically as a trans person evaporated and the period 2011-13 when I spent most of my time as a woman was the most amazing of my whole life - see the early days of this blog. It can be done, you just need that initial courage and, ideally, the support of the trans community to do it.
So many thanks to all my trans friends, to my friends who are supportive allies, to people who take time to organise events and support for trans people. Thanks to Jo and Kim Angel for setting up Angels and to all the great friends I made through that site. Thanks for reading this blog, too, and sharing part of my life as a trans woman. It all began properly that night ten years ago.