Edited extract from ‘Shirley Anne – My life story’ (2002)
When the actual decision to change my direction in life had been made I began to search the advertisements in the newspapers looking for some inspiration.
One day whilst browsing the advertisements in a local newspaper I noticed a group of articles under the heading ‘Personal’ and I glanced down the page to a group calling themselves the ‘Beaumont Society’. This was evidently an organisation which supported those in society who were transgendered and also their partners. Knowing that I was such a person I hoped that maybe they could help me. This would be the avenue for me to pursue my lifelong ambition to become the woman I knew I was. I circled the advert but didn’t pluck up the courage to telephone them until the following day. When I did a woman answered my call and after a couple of questions she suggested I call another group called the ‘Northern Concord’ (now manchesterconcord.org). They were a self help organisation for transgendered people who met weekly in Manchester. I called the number and somebody called ‘Christine’ answered. She was very nice, informative and welcoming. I tentatively asked about the meetings and she was quick to give me directions on how to get there and looked forward to meeting me the following Wednesday. The meetings were held in the ground floor of a night club which the group hired every week so there was a small entrance fee. I had a week to sort out some clothes, make-up, wig and all the necessary things for a night out as a woman. When I look back to that day, I must have looked a sight! It has to be said that although I thought I looked smart in my outfit it must have been obvious to those I met on the way there that Wednesday that I was a guy in a frock! It is a learning curve after all, I’d spent most of my life looking like a bloke. I was surprised at the ease with which I walked down that street in Manchester that night just two days before Christmas in 1998. It was a dry Wednesday evening and I was making my way to the night club for my first proper outing ‘en femme’. As it was my first time I was naturally a little apprehensive and didn’t know what to expect. I had never done this before in public although it had been a dream all my life to do so. My marriage was on the rocks, my wife had lost all interest in our relationship so I was out to have a good time and get something of my life back. I was apprehensive it’s true but at the same time I felt so relaxed and in a positive mood. I was greeted at the door by a young man named Chris (later I discovered he was a post-op FtM) who then introduced me to Christine, the woman I’d spoken to over the telephone and with whom I’d arranged to meet. Christine was also transsexual but for health reasons, I learned later, could not have an operation.
The entrance fee had been waived as I was a newcomer. I was glad of that because I’d just paid for parking and I hadn’t very much spare cash because of Christmas. Christine was very welcoming and she introduced me to everyone there. We had a few drinks and there was music to dance to or just listen. It felt so natural being there with all these people who, like myself, had a story to tell. I was to learn though that we were not all the same in our outlook, our personal ambitions or our need to be there as we each explore our feelings. Some of the ‘girls’ were cross-dressers or transvestites. Others were, like myself, transsexuals.
After an hour or so, my new friends Christine, Gwen, Linda, Jamie and myself decided to move on from the club and go elsewhere. I felt safe in their company and began to learn how to be ‘street wise’ in this place I’d come to eventually call special to me. This was where I was to learn what it meant to live as a woman if only for a short period each week and to gain confidence to become the woman I was.
Yes, it is amazing just how confident I was and more and more became after that first real night out dressed as a woman. It was as though I’d always dressed that way. It wasn’t the fact that I was hiding myself either because those whom I met or saw had never seen me before, didn’t know who I was, so there was no need for that. In fact I often wondered how those other ‘girls’ managed. Quite a few of them only changed into their femme persona on arrival at the club in which we all met. They seemed oblivious to the fact that others could see them as males and were not bothered about it. I would see them and talk with them as they transformed themselves into women for the evening. To me it hardly seemed worth the effort for many of them would be ‘en femme’ but for a couple of hours. I could never do that myself and I changed as early as possible so that I could stay ‘en femme’ as long as I could. That was often up to eight hours at a time. How I longed for it to be twenty four hours and every day. I eventually got my wish. Anyway these people who changed at the club, as far as I knew, were all transvestites. I don’t ever remember seeing a transsexual changing in that place. There must be something in that. I think it would have been an embarrassment for me to have had to change at the club. I suppose the reason for that was because I really only wanted the world to know me as a woman, as Shirley Anne. Later when the time came for me to come out to my family, friends and acquaintances, I found the idea to be rather daunting and yet, because over the previous two years I had become more confident, perhaps more blase, I didn’t hesitate but just did it. I would often say to myself when faced with such hurdles in life, ‘What is the worse thing that could happen as a result of my actions’? With that thought I knew everything would work out. Yes, it would be difficult. Yes, there would be obstacles to overcome. Yes, there would be taunts and awkward situations but to let these things stand in the way of my destiny and desires would have been a stupid thing to do. I had to go through with it. I would never have forgiven myself had I not done so. It is easy to say with hindsight that many of the things I did through transition and through my life in general could have been done in a better way. Perhaps they could but the end result would not have altered. It took me many years, even after childhood, adolescence and early adulthood to lose my naivety but life is a learning process and some learn more quickly than others. I know people who are very streetwise, know all the pitfalls in life and consequently sail through it all quite easily. As a child, my self confidence, self consciousness and persistent bullying all took their toll and I grew up to be very naive and ignorant of so many things. I learned very quickly what was safe, what was not, what was acceptable and what was not through meeting people and listening to their experiences. Of course there is always chaff with the wheat and all that needed sifting out. Some people are only after what they can get from you or for some unknown reason take a dislike to you and throw you or attempt to throw you off track. I guess the essence of what I am saying is this, that you listen and learn, make friends and associate with those who really take time for you. As someone who like me, was a bit naive during my transition and for a short time afterwards, it pays to observe these things. I have found though, that most people in the transgendered community are very friendly and very supportive of one another.
Did you ever wear high heels? They are not the most comfortable of styles to wear and are most certainly not designed for walking too far in. I found it very difficult to wear high heeled shoes at first and my mistake was to wear the highest I could get my hands upon. I have learned sense since those days. It pays to educate your legs as it were over a period of time by gradually increasing the heel height until you become accustomed to wearing them. There is an upper limit to the height of heels that can be worn and that is determined by the size of the feet. It is a simple matter of geometry, a small foot can only wear a relatively small heel height and a larger foot a relatively larger one but the effect is just the same. The foot is raised at an angle to the floor and the ball of the foot has to carry the whole body weight. Over long periods in wearing the heels, they become uncomfortable and can have a detrimental affect on the spine. They are though, very feminine, very sexy and they do attract admiring glances from men. One of my passions is the buying and wearing of shoes in all sorts of styles although I have to say that my collection was, at that time, probably very modest compared to those of other women. That however has changed and I have quite a collection now! My own personal comfort height in heel is about four and a half inches. Anything higher than that for me is hard to walk about on even though I do possess a few pairs of higher heels. They are just for fun. I call them my carpet slippers, they are alright to wear if you can sit down most of the time!. Nobody in their right mind would walk about in heel heights too high all day long. One style of shoe that I have never been comfortable with is the platform sole. I think they are dangerous. I like to feel the floor beneath my feet. Many girls however, like them. It takes practice to wear high heels and it should be done gradually so that the leg muscles can gain strength and become accustomed to them. There is also a right and wrong way to walk in high heeled shoes. I have seen some ‘girls’ hobbling and teetering on ridiculously high heels with their legs spread apart trying to maintain their balance. They are walking as a man would do or somebody who was not used to them. Some would say like John Wayne after a long day in the saddle! It isn’t easy being a woman sometimes but it is worth it!
Now high heels are great to wear indoors, on carpets and level floors but when wearing them for the first time in years out in the streets it is something else. This isn’t a problem now and I always say, you cannot beat experience. What an experience too, high heels, a skirt and top, make-up and the obligatory wig and handbag. Well after all my hair at that time was still growing and I hadn’t ‘come out’ as yet. I had to spend the rest of the week in male mode.
Some of the girls at the club were genetic females who accompanied their husbands and supporting them in their ‘hobby’. One such couple were Gwen and Linda. Linda being the wife. I felt however, different. I hadn’t given this much thought over the years because I had always considered myself a woman trapped inside a man’s body. Eventually I met with a few transsexual girls. I had a lot to learn about it all and was amazed at my naivety. Here I was at fifty three years of age and it was all new to me. I learned a lot over the next two or three years and importantly, how to go about achieving my lifelong desire to become a woman physically. I had big decisions to make, life changing decisions. Once taken and acted upon there would be no turning back the clock.
Over the next couple of years going there once and sometimes twice weekly I became more feminine in my appearance and demeanour. I became more and more passable as a woman and my confidence grew. From that very first day I went out socialising ‘en femme’ I felt really relaxed. It felt so natural being a woman. I knew I was on the right path.
One night in late Spring of 2001, I was returning from my usual Wednesday evening out ‘en femme’ in Manchester and I found the downstairs lights at home were still on. It was about one thirty in the morning so I knew that someone was still up and about. My wife would have long since retired to her bed as she arose early for work and liked her eight hours sleep. Our youngest son would most probably be doing the same. He was at an age where he seemed to live most of his life in his bedroom. It had therefore, to be our eldest son who being nineteen often persisted in staying up very late. This particular evening I had decided to drive directly home without changing my clothes beforehand. Usually I did change before coming all the way home. Looking back I guess you could say it was fate. I parked the van in the garage and teetered in my high heels over the concrete path to the front door. I quietly opened the door. Our house had a small porch so there was another door inside leading into the hall. I noticed a light was on in one of the two front lounges and the hall light was now off. I assumed that my son was now watching the television in the lounge. I hesitated but finally decided to go inside and try to make it to the stairs and up to my bedroom. Just as I was about to open the inner door the hall light came on. My son must have seen me but as the door had a frosted glass panel he would not have been able to see clearly. I had not switched on the porch light either. He asked if I was coming inside to which I replied, ‘In a minute’. What was I to do? I had thought he would just go about his business, maybe to bed but he lingered about in the hall or the lounge. It was as though he knew something and was being curious. I decided to reveal myself. ‘OK’, I said. ‘Are you ready for a shock’? ‘What do you mean’? Came the reply. ‘Switch the hall light back on’, I said, for by this time he had switched it off. He did so and I took a deep breath and walked in. His face was a picture. I could sense the thoughts whizzing around in his head and said something like, ‘This is what I do on a Wednesday evening’. I then told him that as it was late I would explain more to him the following morning but now I have to get some sleep. I did see him the next day and I explained to him about my gender identity problems and that my intentions were to fully transition. I had to tell him about my relationship with his mum and what had been going on in our marriage and the reasons for my decision. It was a lot for him to take in and I know it took some time before he and his brother were able to accept the situation. He asked if I had told his brother and I told him that I hadn’t. I had not wanted to tell either of them prior to their forthcoming examinations so that they would not be burdened with it all. Unfortunately my eldest found out too soon. He had just finished his first year at university so was able to cope with the news. I told his brother a couple of months later when he too had finished his examinations. I found it extremely difficult to explain my feelings to my sons and I felt I was letting them down. I tried to explain how their mum and I had grown apart and how the relationship had deteriorated over the years without going into too much detail. Once they both knew, there was then a long period of adjustment to get used to the way things were going to be from then on. It was around Christmas that year that I told them that my plans to transition were about to start, how I was starting hair removal, having hormone therapy and preparing for surgery. They seemed to get getting used to it but I know they must have been hurting inside. Throughout the process I kept re-assuring them of my love for them and how going through transition would not affect that love and support. Since my operation both of my sons have proved to be loving and understanding. Sons anyone would be proud to have.
In the late months of 2001, three years after my first outing to Manchester, I was out with three friends in one of the bars there. ‘Jane’, a close friend and I were with a married couple who were also our friends. The husband was transsexual and had let it slip in the conversation that ‘she’ was going to have the operation in the following May. She had been on hormones for some months. It was during that evening that I made the final and definite decision to complete my own transition and to start down that road to have my own operation. Little did I realise that just eleven months later I would be back home after having had that same operation.
In December that year of 2001, I made my first appointment at Liverpool Epilight Clinic to begin the long process of facial hair removal. I continued with that treatment for more than fifteen months by which time most, if not all the dark hairs had been permanently removed. However it has taken a few more years to rid my face of the remaining grey and white hairs because I had to resort to electrolysis. The epilight treatment could not do that. It takes much longer at only half an hour each week. At this point I will say that shorter sessions using electrolysis is much better in reducing any likelyhood of skin damage. The epilight treatment actually benefits the skin in many ways. The result is that my skin is much softer than it would otherwise be. In January 2002 I ordered my first hormones and anti-androgen tablets from abroad, Thailand by coincidence, using the Internet, I must state here that it is very unwise to take any medication without medical supervision. These preparations can damage your health if not taken under medical supervision. I was about to make an appointment with a psychiatrist who was also a registered doctor of medicine anyhow and he would be monitoring me as would my own doctor, once she knew. So I began the hormone regimen early that month. At the same time I organised the first of three visits to see a psychiatrist who specialised in gender dysfunction or dysphoria as it is sometimes called. His clinic was in the heart of London. Now this was going to be a real test of my confidence. The first appointment was in early February and I’d asked my wife, we were still married at this time, to take me to the railway station in Liverpool. She did so but reluctantly and so there I was out on my own standing on the platform in Lime Street, Liverpool trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. I had failed. I was ‘clocked’ by a few people. This was a real test of my confidence and self assuredness. Not everyone latched on to the fact that I was after all still a guy in their eyes. I found my way onto the train. I had purchased the ticket using the Internet and it had been posted to me so I didn’t need to stand in a queue to buy one. Having found my seat I began to relax and waited for all the other passengers to board and take their seats too. Fortunately none of the passengers seated around me paid any attention to me at all which helped me to relax in confidence. I tried to read but found it difficult. I was too excited and was wondering how my interview would go. After a long journey the train pulled into Euston station. It was quite a long walk along the platform to the main concourse where I hoped I would find the taxi stand. I was wearing four inch high heels which I had become accustomed to and as such they were not a problem. I’d chosen a smart skirt and top and a lightweight coat to complete my outfit and if I say so myself, looked rather elegant. I had decided not to take the subway thinking that it would be easier by taxi but I changed my mind and walked to the nearest subway station. I was clocked by some young schoolboys who had walked past me. What is it with children? I reached my platform and by then they had reached theirs. Unfortunately it was directly opposite mine. The taunts and jeers came as expected and they shouted across the gap between us. I walked to a quieter area where nobody was any the wiser about my experience. The tube train arrived and I found a seat. I had to take two trains to get to my destination. As I sat there facing other passengers a guy smiled at me. It was a ‘knowing’ smile but he was nice and just sat there presumably admiring me and not saying a word. Next to me sat a man with his young son. They were much too involved with each other to notice me. A couple of women sat opposite and likewise paid me no attention. I was happy about that after the recent taunting and once again my confidence grew. I’d thought in the past that being clocked in London would be no big deal, after all it was the capitol city and quite international and cosmopolitan. Many people from different countries and backgrounds lived and worked there. Being a transsexual woman would be no problem. That wasn’t always true. It just depends on where in that city you are. I survived the journey to my next connection. They say that during certain times in the day the tube trains get very full and my next train was no exception. I was forced to stand and suffer being squashed by my fellow travellers. I will never forget a certain young couple next to me. She looked deep into my eyes and turned to her boyfriend to whisper in his ear. It was blatantly obvious she was talking about me. Clocked again! So I thought I passed quite well, huh! I was thankful that it was only a short ride and I was relieved to get out of that situation and back into the street. Soon I arrived at my destination which was only a few hundred yards away from the station.
A little sign was placed on the iron railings which surrounded the base of the large old office block. A small gate opened to a fairly steep set of steps leading down to the entrance of the clinic. Quite an inconspicuous location I thought at the time.
I entered the door into the reception area. It looked like an open plan lounge with a kitchen attached and an office area to one end. This is what it was. I was greeted by the secretary who I learned later was a post-op. transsexual. She was very pleasant and offered refreshments for which I was most grateful. It was almost an hour before the psychiatrist arrived but I had been early anyway. It is difficult to get somewhere far away and be right on time but rather than be late, I made sure I was early. Another girl sat with me and she had the first appointment and went in soon after the doctor arrived. I was the doctor’s second appointment and waited a half hour before he could see me.
I had no real idea what to expect when I went into his consultation room but he was so nice and very professional and I felt relaxed and at ease. After a few introductory words he encouraged me to speak about myself, my childhood, family, youth and of course my feelings toward my gender. I told him how, since as far back as I could remember, I knew that I was a female inside and how throughout my life I’d been haunted by the fact that I felt trapped within a man’s body. He asked about my marriage and my relationship with my wife, her feelings and attitude toward me. I spent the best part of an hour explaining things to him. He asked quite a few questions but let me do most of the talking. The meeting went very well and he told me that my condition was real and that I was suffering from gender dysphoria. I would be assessed as to the suitability for gender re-assignment surgery, the very reason for my visit to him I now felt assured that I was doing the right thing. He told me to make another appointment to see him in three months time which was May. I was keen to have surgery that year and did not want a long drawn out consultation and I asked if that would be possible. He suggested I could have surgery early the following year but I insisted I wanted it before Christmas. He said that after two more visits I might have my request for a referral to see a surgeon. I was over the Moon with excitement. After the May appointment, the next one would be in August and hopefully I could receive the referral and organise my trip to Thailand for surgery.
The journey home met with no problems, nobody noticed me and I was able to relax and savour the day’s events. I’d arranged with my wife for her to collect me in Liverpool and she didn’t let me down. She didn’t speak much about my day but just kept the conversation alive with small talk. This was typical for her because she would not confront a situation. It must have been obvious to her that I was serious in what I was doing but it made no difference. I had of course kept her fully informed of everything but she lacked an interest as she had done for so many years. Never once did she challenge me or ask to sit with me to talk things out. We had been sleeping apart for about seven years by this time and she wasn’t showing an interest in that either.
On my next visit to London, in May, I again travelled by rail but on arrival took a taxi to the clinic. This consultation lasted but a half hour. Dr Reid asked more questions but this time it was mainly about my current lifestyle and how I was coping living full time as a woman. He gave me much advice regarding the operation, breast augmentation and procedures and asked if I’d any particular surgeon in mind. I explained that my intention was to have the operation in Thailand under the care of Dr Suporn, a very qualified surgeon specialising in this sort of procedure. He could see my determination and when he suggested I make another appointment to see him in August I pressed home my request for a possible letter of referral so that I could proceed with the organisation and arrangements that I would have to make. After a brief hesitation he agreed to supply me with such a letter on my next visit. I had been adamant in my desire to have the operation that year and I think under the circumstances he relented and gave in to my wishes. I was elated and left that clinic so very much excited. Now I could plan ahead and start the ball rolling. I made the appointment with the secretary and started back home.
My youngest brother, David and his wife Tracy offered to take me to Manchester airport for my connecting flight to Heathrow where I would fly on to Bangkok, Thailand. By the end of August all arrangements had been made and it was now a waiting game for the big day. My wife would not communicate with me at any time much as she had done so over the last few years. I was torn between my love for her, her attitude toward me and the need to get my life back on track finally to pursue my lifelong desire to have my operation. Over the years I had fought that need and sacrificed my own desires for those of my wife and children but this had to change. There was no alternative to what I was about to do. My marriage was a sham and had been that way for so long and yet I stuck close by my wife in the hope that things might improve. How foolish I was and had been. Despite all my efforts all I got was rejection. On the morning of my departure my wife looked at me and said, ‘If you really loved me you wouldn’t be doing this’. Talk about an eleventh hour plea! I held her in my arms for the last time and said to her, ‘I do love you, I always have but what would change between us if I stayed?’ ‘Nothing’, I said. I was broken hearted inside but I left with my brother and so began my journey proper into womanhood. Oh how easy it must be for those who are not married. I was caught up with all my plans and preparations not to let things at home get me down and it was not until my return home one month later that I felt the grief of my lost love. I had feelings of immense sadness and loneliness for many years during the latter half of our marriage but it seemed harder now. During the next two years leading up to my divorce I began to accept my loss but on that day I broke down and it took me many months to eventually come to terms with it all. I still have moments of sadness when I think about it but that is love isn’t it?
So I arrived in Manchester and the three of us had coffee and chatted until it was time for my departure. David and Tracy left and I proceeded to the check-in desk. The main lounge was fairly empty that day and I sat down and watched the planes until I was called to proceed to the boarding area through Customs. All my papers were in order and I went through with no problems. Mind you it was an internal flight but even so there was a tightening of security after the recent terrorist activities. I had decided to travel to Thailand wearing a wig for my own hair was not very long and it lacked style. I wore a skirt and top with a jacket which could be carried on arrival in Bangkok if it was too hot. I looked every inch the woman, so I thought, until one guy who spoke with me asked if I was going for the operation. I had to say yes of course, for he knew but he wished me all the best and went on his way. I have to admit that this sort of thing happened quite frequently before my operation and even later on my return home but over the last few years few have made such comments. This for me is a realisation that my transition is complete whereas before I was just going through the various stages.
I took my seat on the short journey to Heathrow and a young couple sat beside me. They were going to the Far East for three months visiting various places before returning home. They were newly married and they brought back memories of my early years of marriage. I wished them well on their journey and let them be.
I had some difficulty at Heathrow in trying to find the correct route to board my main flight but eventually I found it. All the passengers had to queue for the bus which would take us to the plane and one or two people in that queue made me feel a little nervous as they repeatedly stared in my direction. I looked them straight in the eye and smiled. It worked. It usually does. We had already passed through Customs and now we were all off to Bangkok. Most of my fellow passengers were on holiday but there were some who seemed to be on business. You can always spot them I feel. I settled down to the long flight ahead. They say that long haul flights can be a cause or contribution to contracting deep vein thrombosis because of having to sit for long periods without any muscular activity. I’d been aware of that fact so I took it upon myself to get up and walk about as much as possible. Fortunately I was seated near the rear of the compartment where there was a small space free of any furniture or fixtures and I and a few others made use of the opportunity to exercise there. In fact the area was never without somebody using it just for that purpose. The in-flight movies left much to be desired so I listened for the best part to the various radio stations that were available. They were broadcasting old comedy shows like The Goon Show and Around the Horn to name two but however much one is interested in a pastime boredom eventually steps in. I remember taking more notice of the plane’s location screen which showed things like altitude, temperature, speed and estimated time of arrival as well as it’s current position. there was a man sat in the seat in front of mine who was using his laptop computer and it appeared to be in Chinese, Although I knew I shouldn’t have been looking, I was fascinated as he selected blocks of pre-written script and pasted them together to form meaningful sentences. Well meaningful to him that is. I could have watched him all day and not learn anything about his work. It appeared to me that the language cannot be written word by word but has to be compiled from blocks or phrases which when linked make sense. That is how Chinese language is used. In any event I had no idea what he was doing and I chastised myself for being nosey. Once in a while I would look out of the window but for a long time there was nothing at all to see except mountains or desert when we were over Afghanistan or northern India. Eventually we crossed the border into Thailand and soon we landed at Bangkok. The views over the surrounding countryside were wonderful and I was amazed to see such a lot of water in the form of rivers, canals and small lakes dotted about. I love seeing the landscape from a few hundred feet up, it gives a real impression of perspective.
I sailed through Customs quite easily and after collecting my bags made my way out to the main exit from the airport. I was informed that the nurse who had been assigned to look after me would be there to collect me and take me to the hospital. She would be looking after me for the duration of my stay in Thailand. I saw ahead of me a crowd of people standing behind some metal barriers each of them waiting for passengers from the flights. Some of them were holding up pieces of card with the name of their passenger written on them. I searched until I saw one with my name on it. It read Shirley Anne. A diminutive woman with a big smile on her face was holding that card and trying to make herself seen amongst the milling crowd but I saw her quite easily and gave her a wave of acknowledgement. She promptly made her way out to greet me which she did very warmly. Not only was her greeting warm but I could feel now the tropical heat of that land too as we made our way out of the building to the car park area. It was only a short walk to the car but we had to negotiate all the hustle and bustle of that busy place. On the way she suggested I get some bottled water for the journey and promptly bought some for me. Her name was Wannee and she was around forty years old. She was a very warm and pleasant woman who would become a friend as well as a nurse during my stay. The journey to Chon Buri was fairly long taking the best part of an hour down the motorway. The road was all concrete as tarmac evidently would not stand up to the intense heat. For a great deal of it’s length the motorway was elevated which gave wonderful panoramic views of the countryside. It was really nice to be chauffeured for a change instead of having to drive myself. Wannee and I talked about so many things and I learned that she was very keen to improve her command of the English language which incidentally she spoke quite well. I became in her eyes, ‘The teacher’. Her English was far and above my command of the Thai language of which I knew very little. I quickly learned phrases like ‘Soh wadi ka’ which roughly translated means ‘greetings’ and is spoken whilst bowing forward with the hands together and touching the tip of the nose as most people from the Far East seem to do. The Thai people are beautiful, charming, very hospitable and polite. Being a Westerner I stood out among the crowd because of my height. Most people in Thailand are small in stature.
Finally we arrived at the hospital. Not knowing what to expect I was taken by surprise by it’s modernity. Wannee took care of my suitcase and other luggage and arranged with the duty nursing staff my check-in requirements. I was then taken to be weighed, x-rayed and finally moved upstairs to my private room. All the rooms on my floor were occupied by transsexual girls like myself who were undergoing gender re-assignment surgery, breast augmentation or some other gender related surgery.
I was given time to unpack and sort myself out before the surgeon would pay me my first visit. The room was very spacious and had it’s own ‘en suite’ bathroom, television, telephone and a wonderful balcony behind a glass wall with sliding door access and views over the beach and seafront. I was told to get undressed and put on my hospital regulation gown.
An hour or so later I was visited by Dr Suporn and his lovely wife Aoi. The doctor went into great detail regarding my proposed surgery and as I was having breast augmentation too we discussed how that was to be done. I was shown in graphic detail the whole procedure relating to the re-assignment on his portable computer. Now I am a little bit squeamish when it comes to things related to surgery and the sight of blood so I would much rather have forgone his carefully prepared demonstration. I tried to look as interested as I could out of politeness and respect for the man. After all he was the one who would make my dreams all come true. Aoi measured my chest as she tried to assess a suitable size for my implants. We tried different sample breast forms inside my bra until it was decided which was the most suitable. I wanted to be sure that I would look as natural, normal and as well proportioned as I could be once it was all over.. Surgery was scheduled for eight o’clock in the morning of the following day. I had arrived at the hospital around three o’clock in the afternoon but had been so busy that I hadn’t noticed the passage of time. I had not eaten anything all day but of course I was not allowed to have any food in any case. A little surprise awaited me before I could relax and get some sleep. Not having had major surgery before I was not prepared for what came next. One of the duty nurses came into my room holding a length of rubber tube, a funnel and a container for holding water. You will have guessed by now what these things were for. Colonic irrigation is the polite phrase. Not exactly fun but absolutely necessary especially as I was about to have abdominal surgery. I can say that the nurse was finding the whole thing amusing after my seven journeys to empty what she had pumped into me. Finally it was over and she gave me a mild sedative and soon I was fast asleep.
Around six thirty the following morning I was awakened by yet another nurse and lay there whilst she shaved my genitals and surrounding area. Now I have never had anyone do that to me before and I found the procedure quite novel but it tickled a lot. It was all I could do to stop laughing and her gentle touch didn’t help at all. Finally she me told to take a shower using some special anti-bacterial liquid soap. I dried myself, put on the special garment I was to wear for the operation and climbed onto the theatre trolley which had just been brought into the room by the young male orderly. Wannee came with me and we made our way down the corridors, into the elevator and on to the operating theatre. The theatre nurse prepared me for the surgeon. I was fitted with cardiac monitoring sensors and a drip was connected to the previously fitted tube which was in my left wrist. The anaesthetic was administered through this tube. I looked at the clock high on the wall facing me as I lay there unable to move. It was precisely eight o’clock. Then all went black. That was it! I couldn’t change my mind now.
The next thing I remember was being gently woken by a young nurse who was stroking my temple and whispering quietly in my ear. ‘Shirley Anne, wake up now, it’s all over’. I opened my eyes and smiled at her. I noticed the clock on my wall and it was exactly four in the afternoon. The nurse went about her duties recording my condition, checking my urine bag and other things then finally left me a while so I could gather my thoughts and rest. From that moment on and until I left the hospital to complete my recuperation at the hotel I was well looked after and cared for by all the nursing staff and duty doctors. It took me a while to regain my appetite and I began to eat again the next morning. Slowly I regained my strength but I was not allowed to get out of bed until late on the fifth day and then only for a short time. The greatest fear was that I might fall or my stitches would come out. It was hard having to stay lying down for five days but it was essential that I did so. I was heavily bandaged and looked like a baby wearing several layers of nappies (diapers). If I did get out of bed I had to be very careful as I also had to carry my urine bag. The previous four days had been rather boring and very much routine. Wake up have some breakfast, if I could eat it, read the newspaper, watch some television and gaze out over the sea view. The days were broken by the frequent visits by the nurses who went about their duties emptying my urine bag, giving me my medications, bed baths and taking blood pressure measurements I was often asked later if I felt sore after the operation. Was I in pain? Well it was only the tight bandaging around my chest that caused any real discomfort. Having breast augmentation causes a build up of fluids which added to the pain by increasing the pressure. After three days the doctor cut away those bandages much to my relief but the build up of water had made my new bosom twice the intended size! It would be another two weeks before the excess fluid was syringed out and my breasts could look anything like normal in size.
On the morning of the seventh day a small group of people came in to my room and stood at the foot of my bed. They were Dr Suporn, his wife Aoi and several nursing staff including Wannee. The doctor was there to remove my bandages and the internal packing that he had placed inside my vagina to prevent it’s collapse during the healing process. Obviously he was making sure that everything was in order and that there were no complications. I remember with amusement how he sat there gently removing the packing into a bucket and it seemed to be never ending. I was thinking about stage magicians who pulled out endless lengths of handkerchiefs from their pockets and I smiled. When he had finished doing this he presented me with a hand mirror and I was able to see for the first time my new vagina. I was so thrilled. After he cleaned me and spoke a few kind words to me I thanked him for his wonderful skill and the result of his work. I was left in the capable hands of Wannee and another nurse. Wannee presented me with a dilator and proceeded to show me how to use it. I was to use it twice daily each for two hours for the next three to six months gradually reducing the frequency after that. This was something I had to get used to for the next few years but at least now I only have to use it occasionally.
She inserted the dilator for me the first time and when it was in as far as it could go she placed a two litre bottle of water between my legs to stop the dilator from being ejected. Unusual but very effective. Dilation was necessary to prevent the shrinkage of my new vagina and to maintain it’s depth especially during the healing process. It was during the healing period that dilation was most difficult and painful but it became easier as the months passed by.
Two hours later Wannee returned and helped me to remove the dilator and allowed me to have a shower and get dressed ready to leave the hospital. Meanwhile she began to pack my belongings for me. When it was time to leave I said goodbye to the nursing staff and Wannee took me down to reception and I was discharged. She used her own car to transport me to the hotel and I wanted to make a contribution for her expenses. Evidently that wasn’t necessary as she was able to claim expenses as part of her contract. She made it clear that I was in no way to assist her with my luggage and that I was to just relax and take things easy.
The town of Chon Buri I suppose could be compared to any one of many small English towns in many respects except for the climate of course. There was nothing outstanding about the place as far as I could see. It was just a busy little town going about it’s daily business. Situated between Bangkok to the north and west and Pataya in the south, both busy tourist places, Chon Buri lacks the attraction these other places provide. I was surprised therefore to find my hotel somewhat up-market. No doubt there were other hotels just like it dotted about but I was unaware. The hotel was situated off the main highway which ran through the town, in a large cul-de-sac. It was an impressive building with a glass frontage and inside boasted a very large reception and lounge area. With Wannee’s help I signed in and was given a room on the third floor which overlooked the main entrance. We used the elevator to get to the room.
The room was quite large being classed as a double and indeed was fitted with a double bed with bedside units and a telephone. One wall was covered in wardrobe space with a television refrigerator.and cocktail bar all built in. Under the full room width window was a seat. The bathroom was fitted with a bath and shower, toilet and large vanity mirror. There was an electric kettle and daily complementary water, tea, coffee and biscuits were provided. This would be my home for the next three weeks.
I began to unpack my things as Wannee explained how best I could douche my vagina over the bath using the special antiseptic solution and syringe provided by the doctor’s clinic. This was something I had to maintain for some months but I quickly mastered the technique. I settled down to yet another dilation session and Wannee left me for a couple of hours assuring me of her return later. She really was a dedicated nurse and I could tell that nursing was a major part of her life. She wasn’t married except to her profession. Over the next three weeks we became very close friends. I learned something more about her three years later and on reflection it was not really a surprise. Obviously I shall not divulge that information, I have no right to do so, save to say that she was an excellent nurse and friend to me. It was a very sad moment when I had to leave later.
When I was at the check-in desk I saw a young girl who was co-incidentally booking her room too. However she left for the hospital for her own GRS immediately and I did not see her again for another week. We met up again on her return and we became close friends. Her name was ‘X’ (I hide her real name for her security) and she was from the Philippines. She was unbelievably beautiful. When I first saw her it never occurred to me that she was pre-op.. When she arrived from the hospital a week later I decided to visit her in her room and make her feel welcome. I learned that she really appreciated that and welcomed my friendship. We spent a lot of time together after that and became very close friends. She wept when I had to leave for home. On that day I tried to concentrate on getting my things together and into the car that was to take me to the airport. X was so upset and I could see the tears in her eyes as she put on a brave face, give me a hug and said her goodbye. I tried not to get too emotional and it wasn’t until I was seated on the plane that tears began to pour out of me. I really missed X and all the others there too but mostly X. I had been like an older sister or aunt to her and we had grown so close. She has since moved to the United States but we still keep in touch by Email. We met again in June of 2009 after seven years and she is even more beautiful now than she was when we first met. I have changed a lot too.
My three weeks at the hotel were spent mostly indoors. We were not supposed to do much walking for obvious reasons and at first it was a bit painful to do so anyway. There were quite a few girls there from around the world all having undergone surgery of one sort or another and we met up for mealtimes and had a good chat together.
In the evenings we had entertainment with our dinner. Many Chinese people stayed at the hotel and it was customary for individuals to get up and sing karaoke. Although I was invited to do the same I declined the offer. I don’t think my voice at that time was feminine enough to pull it off but I enjoyed the efforts of the others. One of the most important things about being post-op. is to look like and be accepted as a woman, so when one evening I was joined by two Chinese gentlemen for dinner they asked about my husband I was very flattered. Over the next few years those sorts of compliments have been more regular.
So I tried to keep occupied as much as I could. Other times were spent dilating or just relaxing. We each of us had to visit Dr Suporn’s private clinic daily in the afternoons but it was very close to the hotel and just a short walk away on the main road. Aoi would be there with her children and nursing staff. We also had free Internet access while we waited to see the doctor. After my first week at the hotel I used to accompany Wannee to the hospital each day during the week while she visited the other patients there. I enjoyed meeting girls from all different places who had come to Thailand as I had done for their own surgery. Such was the popularity of Dr Suporn.
In my final week there I was taken along with X and another girl to see a local market, a Buddhist Temple, a shopping mall and one night to a variety show in Pataya by way of a break for us. If ever I return to Thailand I would make it more of a holiday but I would go and see everyone at the clinic.
Leaving Chon Buri and all my friends was hard but it seemed more difficult for X. She came with Wannee, another girl called Sonia and myself to the airport at Bangkok. I made my way to the concourse with my new found friends and booked myself in for the return flight home. I was confident in their presence but later, when alone, I became less so. Waiting for my flight was a tense time for us all and we spoke in small talk as people do when something is about to happen. Nobody likes saying goodbye but we try to put on a brave face. We hugged and kissed and finally said our goodbyes but I could see that X was having a rough time dealing with my departure. We had both grown so close during our short time together and she was like a daughter to me. She had many troubles in her life and as such living at home was hard. She desperately wanted to leave the Philippines but was torn between her own ambitions and her family. She had an American boyfriend and hoped one day to go to America with him and start a new life there. She was an intelligent girl and would do well given the opportunity. Tears filled her eyes as she struggled to say goodbye and let me go. I held back the tears trying to make things easier. Easier for who? I was hurting inside too. It wasn’t until I was seated on the plane that I began to weep a little for I knew that it would be many years before I would see X again.
I felt so alone sitting in the waiting area and indeed I was. I kept looking at my reflection in my hand mirror and thinking to myself, ‘Do I look OK, do I pass’? I knew I was no Madonna, no Mona Lisa and I knew in my heart that there would be difficult times ahead. Gradually my femininity grew and now I think I pass very well as a woman. Well after all I am one! At least the guys I meet see me that way. Usually these days only those whom I knew previously or those who have found out reveal their knowledge of me.
The flight to Heathrow was pretty much uneventful but I settled into the long flight home and tried to get some sleep. I managed a few winks but I have never really been able to sleep when travelling so I remained awake for most of the journey home. The flight was something like eleven or twelve hours long but it made no difference, I stayed awake. On arrival at Heathrow I made my way through Customs to board my connecting flight to Manchester where I was expecting to see my brother and his wife who would be taking me home. I waited in a cafe for the flight and had some tea and a sandwich. Now I have to confess that I wasn’t at my best that day. My hair was a mess and I am not sure my make-up passed the test either but I was at last, back in England to begin my new life as a complete woman. I was paid kind attention by one man and then another but I wasn’t sure if they were just being polite, curious or if it was genuine admiration. It may have been my appearance but it may have been that I had been ‘clocked’ in that they were not sure themselves. Either way my confidence was beginning to wane a little. It can be so difficult when confidence is lacking and my life had been that way for many years. I was improving day by day and the occasional knock back was hard to bear. Finally I was able to board the plane to Manchester and I sat near a window and waited for my fellow passengers to finish boarding. I was keen to get home and gather myself together. I was unfortunate to be on the same flight as a group of young football supporters returning home from an away match in London. They were probably supporting Manchester United but I am not sure. I didn’t take much notice of them. I guess they were in their early twenties and they were full of high spirits and very noisy but fairly well behaved. My mistake was to look over in their direction. One of their group definitely did clock me and began to snigger with his mates. They glanced back in my direction but they said nothing. Perhaps they were more mature. There is always one in a crowd who wants to be a nuisance. Anyway my pride took yet another knock but it served to remind me to make a more concerted effort in the future to look more like the woman I was supposed to be. It takes time to turn down the volume so as to blend in with all the other females on this planet and I was learning the hard way. I was fortunate though to have a middle aged couple sitting next to me.The woman must have grasped my predicament because she began to engage me in conversation and kept me talking during that long half hour flight. I was so grateful for her company. I made certain that most of the passengers disembarked before me and my passage out of the plane went smoothly. I went to collect my suitcases from the carousel but heard my name being announced over the tannoy system. ‘Will Miss Shirley P***** please report to the luggage desk’? I knew it. My luggage had not arrived with me from Thailand. They took my details and said that they would forward my cases to my house the following afternoon. Well at least I didn’t have to struggle home with them myself I thought. I had my medications, toiletries, dilation and hygiene equipment with me in my hand luggage so I wasn’t too bothered about the rest. The luggage was duly delivered to my front door as promised.
After a long walk to the waiting area, there was my brother and his wife waiting to greet me. I must have looked a little disheveled when I met them but they said I looked well. I suppose they were just being polite. Big hugs all round with the greetings, ‘Hi sis, how are you’? I have a wonderful brother in David. We made our way to the car park and began the drive out of the airport.
I was on my way home and to my new life as Shirley Anne.
Shirley Anne Feb 2009