Going Out In Public

Going out in public can be terrifying for a trans person - especially if it's the first time you've presented as yourself in public, or you're in an unfamiliar or scary environment where you don't know how people may react if they realise that you are trans. It was no different for me - I was very nervous when I first took the plunge while on holiday in August 2002.

Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have some brilliant friends to help encourage and reassure me - and after the experience that followed I found that I was able to cope quite happily by myself. Without those friends, it would have been much harder.

The holiday came about because my then wife and kids were flying overseas to visit family, and I certainly didn't want to stay in the house alone all week! My plan was to visit family friends (Bev & Andy - my eldest son's Godparents) in Telford, and then drive up to visit a couple of friends (Janey & Jo) in Barrow-in-Furness.

As it turned out, I was able to present full time as myself for a whole week. The following account (adapted from an email I wrote for a friend after the holiday), sums it up quite well:

I dropped my wife and the kids off at Gatwick last Monday afternoon. As they walked through the departure gate my eldest son kept looking back at me and waving while his brother looked back over my wife's shoulder. She herself never looked back, which didn't surprise me, although it still hurt.

I was quite visibly in tears as I left the airport to drive back to Basingstoke.

Once I got there I packed up the car (including our dog Tyghe - a big fluffball of a rough collie) and drove up to Andy & Bev's place in Telford - I think I got there around 9:30pm, and I couldn't be happier to be away from home.

Several weeks earlier Bev had offered to help me with my makeup before I headed up to Barrow, so I had the distinct impression that they expected me to be "in role" this week!

The following morning I asked her before getting ready if she was really sure - and she told me not to worry. I took ages getting ready, and the results were good enough for me not to be too scared about venturing out.

We went out to visit an open air Victorian museum (Blists Hill) nearby and I was stunned to find that hardly anyone paid me any attention - the only obvious one being a little girl in a bakery we had to queue in for ages who asked her friend "Is that a man or a woman?" Her friend answered "I don't know"...which I thought was not a bad start considering!

Here's a pic of me with Bev's daughter Kerensa when we stopped for a bite to eat:

Bev's daughter Kerensa and I when we stopped for a bite to eat at Blists Hill

I was a little overdressed for the day (it got much hotter than we expected) so afterwards we went back home to change before going into town. We just had time to hit a makeup stall on the market, then CMD and New Look in the precinct.

In CMD they were totally infazed by me (though I think they read me straightaway), but Bev told me afterwards that the (much younger) staff in New Look didn't know what to make of me (not that they'd show that to me of course!). I figured out then that being "read" doesn't generally matter - act natural and most people will be friendly, which is all that counts really.

Bev helped me pick out loads of new tops in a very short space of time - and being able to try them on in the shop was fantastic! I also discovered that some of the more daring styles I'd never have looked twice at before suit me perfectly - so now I'm a lot more adventurous when I'm shopping!

The outfit I wore to travel up to Barrow-in-Furness

The following morning I drove up to Janey and Jo?s place in Barrow (200 miles up the M6). While I was getting ready, Bev gave me an impromptu makeup lesson (especially the eyes). I went for a more summery look, with a long skirt and a sleeveless white top.

Walking across the car park as me was wonderful enough, but being able to sit in the café with a large cappuccino (I needed the caffeine and the chocolate!) was simply stunning. No one stared or looked oddly at me (although I think the girl who served me read me), and afterwards I went to the Ladies (woohoo!) to freshen up.

Once again, I had no problems. A good indication that things were fine was that there was a mum and her young daughter in there at the same time, and the little girl came to the hand dryer next to the one I was using without any reaction from her mum. I was literally walking on air as I left to go back to the car.

I stopped again (to buy a map of Barrow) at the last Services before I left the M6. I'm certain I got read by the guy on the counter (he just looked confused) but by then I didn't care - I knew by now I could do it, and nobody's going to tell me I'm a guy anymore?

My first in person meeting with Janey and Jo was fantastic, and I felt so welcome and at home. We had a lot of catching up to do!

I didn't go out the following day, but did go for the slightly different look in this rather cheeky pic (I know! - I just couldn't resist doing this one):

You can tell I was starting to get my confidence!

I can honestly say that I didn't realise how much my makeup had improved until I saw this picture.

On Friday afternoon Janey and I went shopping in Lancaster. Before hitting the shops we stopped for lunch at a (very friendly) cafe and after we'd finished our meal one of the staff asked me where I got my clothes. We had a right little chat! Whether I was read or not, it just didn't matter - the people were very, very friendly.

By the time we left town I'd bought a cocktail dress (the scary thing is it really suits me!), a rather nice jacket, some more tops and a miniskirt. Of course I just had to try everything on first...

All in all it was a great day. I'm starting to realise how different female society is, and it suits me perfectly.

Although we didn't go out in the evening, on Friday evening we had a rather tasty Indian takeaway delivered (beforehand I went up to the restaurant to get a menu so we could decide what to order, and then to a local off-licence to buy some drinks).

Afterwards we talked and talked. Janey retired early(ish!)...Jo and I kept chatting. By the time I went to bed it was 5am and I was quite drunk (wine and peach schnapps - what a combination) and had made a resolution or two about my Faith and contacting old friends. I was very tearful at times, and Jo was brilliant. Talking things through with her really helped.

Needless to say, the following day was a little sluggish. In fact, I didn't manage to successfully put my makeup on until 4pm!

Janey and I

Before I knew it was time for me to drive back to Telford. With a bit of confidence behind me I decided it was time to show off a little, and went for a somewhat gothic look. Also in my mind was the thought that if anything was going to make people look closer at me, an outfit like this would. Here's a pic of me with Janey just before I left.

I'm happy to say that again I had no problems when I stopped at Services - everyone treated me with courtesy - no odd or confused looks from women in particular. I even had a door held open for me by a group of younger girls (early 20s I think), which is a very good sign.

When I reached Bev and Andy's place they couldn't believe the transformation, and how far I'd come during the week. I still find it hard to believe myself.

The following day I went shopping in Telford on my own. I wasn't dressed in anything particularly flashy (a tan knee-length skirt, long sleeved white top and healed sandals), so you can imagine how stunned I was when I got wolf-whistled! I didn't dare look to see who it was so I just kept walking - much faster.

Sadly, the following day (Monday) was the last day of my holiday. I spent the day with Andy and Bev (we didn't go out anywhere) and I can honestly say I didn't want the day to end. I took this picture about 3 hours before I left. I think it captures the feeling of contentment I felt very well, as well as showing how far I'd come during the week:

The last day

Before leaving I changed the skirt for a pair of jeans (with healed boots of course!), which is actually harder to pull off than wearing a skirt - people have fewer clues to go on so you're more likely to be "read". However, once again no-one paid me any attention (with the exception of one car that beeped me when I stopped in a lay-by to take Tyghe for a quick walk. I must be doing something right).

I eventually got home at about 10:30pm. I felt an odd mixture of feelings when I eventually took my makeup off...a combination of contentment, confidence and sadness - the latter because I knew I would have to start acting again the following day.

Sure enough, the following day I was a bit of a mess. It hurt terribly - while I was waiting for Karen and the kids at Gatwick I was close to tears. Seeing the children again helped a lot though - I couldn't believe how much they'd grown in only a week!

The one thing that helps me cope is the knowledge that soon I'll be myself - after this week I'm convinced that putting the start of my Real-Life Test off any longer than Christmas would be a very bad idea. Besides - I'm already a 36A, so if I leave it too long it will be really noticeable (it's tricky enough concealing my true form already).

I transitioned four months after the events described on this page, and I've not looked back since.

If you are nervous about your first time out in public, I hope this account might help a little...sometimes the reality can be more full of hope and fulfillment than the pain we expect. If there is one thing I've learnt in the many years since this little adventure took place it's that things proved to be far, far better than I'd ever dared expect.

Good luck being you!