Two weeks away and unsurprisingly I have a lot to unpack!
I have just spent two weeks away in a caravan with my teenage children.
Week one my mother spent with us and even though I had effectively packed two suitcases, one for dad and one for Dee., I only got to spend 2 days as myself.
My caravan is not one of these large, luxury, home from home on wheels types that everyone seems to have. It was a 26 year old battered and unloved, damp ridden restoration project that was bought by my ex for family holidays even though with hindsight by then she already knew she was going to be leaving. After having seen it sat in the driveway for three years, during lockdowns I have done my best to make it watertight.
I have painted and decorated it and took on the road without actually knowing how it would fare.. Two weeks later I have parked it back up outside and am delighted to have stayed warm and dry.
The suitcases were stored under the front seats during the day and the caravan park facilities, with taps that would only stay on while they were being held, showers where the water would run for 5 seconds before you needed to press the button again or worse restrooms with no running hot water at all, were not conducive for shaving every day, let alone all over, yet somehow I did achieve this for two weeks.
During the first week I explained on the drive to the site that I intended to use the time away from anyone who could possibly know us to actually be myself for a while and everyone was vocally supportive of this.
So the morning of the second day with the help of my mum and my daughter I selected a summer dress to change into and was even persuaded to wear my ladies swimming costume under my shorts and teeshirt as we went to the beach. While my mum and the children went down to the sea I sat behind the windbreak using a buff as a swim cap and spent 5-10 minutes simply plucking up the courage to take off my tee and sit on the beach in my swimming cossie. The costume itself was a traditional one piece costume with padded bra area, I had also worn a pair of knickers underneath so I could more successfully tuck, but was happy that nothing that shouldn’t show would show while I was wearing it.
One or two people walked past us on their way to or from their cars and the ice cream van, but no one was really staring.
I just sat and waited for my racing pulse to calm down but by the time my family came back to where we were camped out I was starting to feel okay again.
We were far enough away from other beach users that there was a good 10 metres or so between spots, my sons face fell as soon as he saw me and he said he was not going back in the water. My daughter asked if I would like to go swimming with her, and so hand in hand we walked down to the sea, me absolutely conscious of every single other person on the beach and being absolutely sure that at any moment I would hear someone sniggering or start disapproving, and my daughter doing her best to distract me by telling me that she thought I looked great. Except for the hair on my back! (Both my kids (13&14) are on the autistic spectrum and say what they think. My mum had theoretically shaved my back the night before because waxing strips were pathetic and left as much hair on as they took off)
No one said anything within earshot of me and no one seemed to be staring anymore than people do at others on the beach, but it was a big thing to go swimming as Dee. When we went back to the car I drove a little further up the track and using the beach towels we got dried and changed, with me putting my dress and hair on bewfore completing my lower half so that by the time someone else pulled up and asked us how the water was, he referred to us as “ladies”.
As we drove to the local town I asked my son if he facied stopping for a coffee, but he said no, very quickly it became very apparent that he would not stop anywhere, eat anywhere, or even go into the supermarket with me, “dressed like that”. We left him in the car and my mum, my daughter and I went into a couple of charity shops (thrift stores) and started looking for things we thought would suit one another. There was still no trying clothes on due to covid, and with the mask I did not need to feel as self conscious about my face coming under scrutiny, it was fun and we decided to pick something up for dinner at the local supermarket as well as look for sandals for everyone to use for the campsite facilities rather than wearing trainers.
Once again when we pulled up outside the Asda we we asked my son if he wanted to come in, “I can’t. What if someone sees dad dressed like that!” He hissed. That hurt, I thought I looked quite good, I was wearing my white summer daisy dress with open toad sandals and my daughter had even found a small shoulder bag to fit my purse and phone in that looked great. As we were looking through the clothing racks for my daughter someone approached and said, “excuse me, I don’t suppose you get get that down for me could you?” pointing to an item of clothing on the top rack. I saif “Of course!” and reached up and took it down for her, she said, “Thank you love. I wish they’d keep the chocolate up there instead!” We all laughed and they left us browsing. No comment or change in the interaction so I think I was just accepted as being the slightly taller woman. At 5’7″ I am not even tall by UK standards, but my mum is only just 5′ if that so I seem tall next to her. When we went back out to the car my son refused to even talk to me, and instead talked to my mum about me looking like that, so I snapped at him, said that no one else in the entire town had looked twice at me today , not even the woman that I had just talked to in the shop, and the only person being mean and horrible to me was him. I told him that now I felt terrible and sad that the nice day that I had wanted being myself had just been ruined by him being the only person in the whole of of the country that was determinied to make me feel ugly and stupid and that he did not need to worry, I was driving straight back to the campsite and changing as soon as we got in so that he wouldnt have to look at me. I should not have lashed out at him, I knew he would find me being Dee hard, which was part of the reason to go somewhere no one knew us to go out for the first time, but dealing with that kind of emotional hostility is draining, and I had so much internal transphobic voices and self worry that I could not add his to my mix.
I drove back to the caravan site which thankfully seemed to be empty, stormed out of the car and into the van and took everything else off, my son by now had figured out that he had upset me and apologised, but he didnt want to be seen with me looking like a girl. I expressed that he had really hurt my feelings and that being a girl was important to me, that I was Dee all the time, even when I don’t look it and that it was really scary to change the clothes I wear in front of other people, but having him being disgusted with it made it all so much harder. We both apologised for being mean to each other, and my mum definitely had a word with him about it when they were off washing the dishes as he kept bringing it up as he processed it that night and the next morning.
Two days later I tried again. This time I wore loose bright red cullotes that had been found on the charity shop, and I had drive to the small towns public toilets and changed in there, my son went out of his way to compliment me on my clothes and did his best to call me Dee instead of Dad. We went for a proper walk around town and even went out for lunch in a cafe, I am not sure if our server clocked me, as he did seem to pause for a while after taking our orders, but he was polite and served us our lunch and I enjoyed a quiche with salad. We looked in just about every charity shop we could find, I made a point of going into a few computer shops with my son so that he could see I would still look in those places too, and we stopped and ate fish and chips and then I changed in the loos on the way back to the campsite.
My mum told me in a quiet moment that my son was worried that I was only going to do things with his sister and that we wouldn’t do things together any more. He was also worried that someone was going to make fun of me or beat me up and wanted to protect me. He was still very relieved when I went back to being dad, even though I did say that I was still Dee, I just had to hide her most of the time at home, but it was progress. As a day it was much calmer, overall a wonderful and totally normal experience and while I was a little self conscious about my voice I tried not to let it bother me and to be as confident as I could when talking to the people at the tills. No one batted an eyelid the entire day as far as my peripheral radar was concerned.
I felt I had pushed the good will and coping mechanisms of my son enough that even though my mum and daughter asked if I was going to go out as Dee on Sat or Sun I decided against it. As much as I so desperately wanted to, I have to give him time to adapt. He really did well
My clothing haul was great, I am much closer to having a summer wardrobe I can mix and match from.
My favourites are a lovely pair of summer sandals, a brand new pink and grey money purse, and I also fell in love with a long mustard jumper that we ended up buying for £1 because there was no price tag, my fondest item however is the scarf my daughter bought for me because it has the trans flag colours.
The second week was wonderful in a different way because I got to tell another friend, we were swimming with the children and catching up as you do, and after a small conversation as we waded back towards the shallows her response was simply, “Aww, I didn’t think I could love you more.”
I am pretty much 2 people away from being able to be myself no matter what event is happening with my friend group and the two people I have left are open allies on FB so I can always message them if needed.
Overall the holiday has been very emotionally exhausting, but ultimately incredibly wonderful. I have stretched myself, and taken a few more important steps towards being able to be myself everywhere except in my home area. My mum and my daughter have really been practicing using my name and even trying to use the correct pronouns, something I am doing with my daughter who is currently exploring being nonbinary, but they do not like simply being referred to as my child as we discussed the dearth of non gendered names for calling our children.
I have also thoroughly enjoyed myself and spent a lot of quality time with my children with days spent enjoying coffee, doughnuts and an awful lot of time on various beaches.
I have also started formulating a way to get to the point where I can move and socially transition by speaking to some colleagues who work in other areas that I know will be allies and asking them to put their feelers out for me so I can quietly position myself ready for a move.