The best laid schemes o’mice and women gang aft a-gley, as a certain Scottish poet nearly once said – which is by way of saying that my plans and timescales for transition haven’t quite worked out as hoped. Having had what I thought was a clear picture in my mind, as 2017 has progressed I realised there were certain things – practical and emotional – that I’d failed to take account of, or at the very least under-estimated.
To set the scene, back in the summer I devised a plan whereby I expected to go full-time not too long after the festive season – to coincide with my birthday, in fact. It somehow seemed appropriate – a rebirth, if you like. Now, being a bit of an introvert I’ve never been one to celebrate birthdays surrounded by hordes of friends and family members. I’ve been coerced into it a few times against my better nature and rarely enjoyed it – I’m simply not wired that way. Give me a nice, home-cooked meal, a bottle of fizzy wine, some nice music and the company of those nearest and dearest to me and I’m as content as anyone could be. No party poppers, balloons or drunken taxi-rides home – just my own warm bed at the top of the stairs at a time of my choosing.
In the balmy warmth and lightness of a summer evening it seemed like a good plan. Unfortunately I completely forgot to factor in a number of things. The first was that, well, there’s actually quite a lot going on already at this time of year and it’s hard to avoid. The truth is I’ve never really enjoyed the festive season since childhood. The reasons are many and various, but much of it comes down to the expectations that others try and place on us, which over the years have forced many like me into becoming something or someone we’re not while trying to think of it as ‘having a good time’. Whether it was enduring overcrowded pubs and wine bars in my teens and twenties, surviving the ritual debate during the married years of whose parents we’d spend Christmas Day with – and I still shudder at the memory of Christmas dinner with my then in-laws – or the customary office night out complete with over-priced, mass-produced food eaten in a restaurant with tables packed so closely together you have to eat with your arms tucked in, to a soundtrack of Now That’s What I Call Christmas played at a volume making conversation impossible. Humbug!
In recent years I’ve learned successfully to politely decline or avoid much of the seasonal nonsense, but as time’s passed the memories and regret of being expected to be someone I’m not at this time of year are still felt keenly – perhaps for obvious reasons. I’m just not at my best at this time of year. Each year I try to fight it, tell myself to roll with the season and make the best of it, but it’s always the same. I end up feeling in various measure guilty, a social failure, anxious, depressed and just waiting for it to be all over. This year’s seemed worse than ever, the first time in my life I haven’t even sent Christmas cards, largely because I couldn’t bring myself to sign my name as Bob for yet another year to friends I rarely see and distant relatives who don’t yet know of my plans. Part of me says that if we’re in touch so infrequently then it shouldn’t matter, but somehow it does – to me, anyway.
So eventually I realised that my seasonal mood was hardly the frame of mind in which to be celebrating new beginnings, although to be fair my plan hadn’t been shared widely so it doesn’t particularly feel I’m losing face by delaying matters.
A further complication is that I happen to be in the middle of setting a number of personal administrative matters in order. All I can say is that it makes more sense to remain legally Bob until they’re complete – which will hopefully be in not too many more weeks’ time – and then simply add to the ever-lengthening list of places and people I need to notify of my change of name and gender. I’ve had to produce enough identity documents in recent weeks as it is, without further confusing or delaying matters by throwing a Deed Poll into the mix.
Finally, I confess to being a wee bit disappointed with the progress made by my employer following my initial meeting with HR back in September. Admittedly, I’d been vague about my timescales but had expected rather more progress than has actually taken place. Some weeks ago I thought it sensible to ask what kind of notice period would be sensible for them to allow all necessary changes to records, IT systems and suchlike to be made ready for Day One. Realistically I know such changes are never going to happen overnight, so I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t being unreasonable when choosing my intended workplace transition date. So last week my manager Penny, HR adviser Melanie and I met off-site to bring each other up to date with our respective plans and progress. Melanie had done some investigation into logistics, however the general theme of reaction was along the lines of, “Ah, we knew we’d have to deal with something like this at some point…” with no department actually having plans or processes in place. Melanie had also unearthed some online resources available only to HR professionals and uncovered a document a bit like an employer’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which goes into far more detail than the one I’d produced about who will do what and by when. We bounced a few ideas around about the best way to co-ordinate changes the myriad of IT systems to which I need access to do my work, and ended up deciding it might be best to appoint someone from IT to act as a kind of overall project manager, trustworthy enough to be brought into confidence. In the meantime Melanie has promised to complete this new MoU in detail before my next GIS appointment in January, as I’d like to be able to at least demonstrate some kind of progress workwise.
She also has estimated that 6-8 weeks would be considered reasonable notice to allow everything to happen as it should – not least the communication element.
On balance, perhaps it’s just as well I didn’t land my employers with a transition date too soon into the New Year. Ironically, I feel as much relief as frustration that fate has conspired to delay my plans for a little longer until the world has returned to normal, and to make sure I get things right. Also I need to keep reminding myself that there’s no-one applying any pressure other than me myself. The GIS is unequivocally clear – in fact my consultant went out of her way to emphasise the point that – I dare say within reason – as far as they’re concerned full transition will happen in its own time and at a pace of my choosing. The only time-dependent element of the process is that evidence of the first registration of the Deed Poll starts the clock ticking should I decide I want to pursue the surgical option. Other than that, everything else is in place to happen – waiting lists notwithstanding – and the rest is down to me to crack on with.
So that’s me up to date. I wish you all the Season’s Greetings, and that 2018 brings for you whatever you wish for yourself. There’s no question that it’s going to be a year of change for me. Bring it on.