Mostly, as a customer, I’m called ‘madam’. The occasional cheery lady behind a till goes for ‘love’, or even ‘darling’. But I added a new one on a Saturday afternoon – one of those last, precious days of freedom – when a customer-services lady on the other end of the phone said, ‘No need to panic, my dove.’
I was in a proper tizz. I’d forgotten a laser-zapping session and stood to pay around £100 as a cancellation fee. The phone lady called the clinic, and then reported, ‘They say you’re very sweet so you can just rearrange the appointment and they won’t charge you a fee.’
Suitably charmed and relieved, I calmed down, but by Sunday morning I was getting frantic again. I was kneeling on the floor of Dad’s utility-room-cum-pantry, surrounded by supplies for his self-isolation.
The cans, packets and bottles piled up around me as I desperately tried to keep up with the trays being carried in from the Tesco van outside. ‘Don’t you fret, my dear,’ the kindly, middle-aged driver said, as he began to lend a hand. ‘We’ll soon get this sorted.’
Now, many an intelligent, independent, grown-up woman might bridle at being called ‘my dove’ or having a man very gently let her know that she’s becoming a touch hysterical, but not to worry because he’s going to make everything all right. But I am not one of them.
In the first place, I actually was fretting. I’ve always been prone to drama queening, and massive does of oestrogen don’t seem to have helped. It was deeply reassuring to have a soothing voice in my ear and a helping hand to sort everything out.
Secondly, I have learnt in recent years to recognise and be grateful for kindness when I see it, whether it is delivered in appropriately PC language or not. I value a warm heart over a woke dictionary any day.
And thirdly, no transwoman ever minds being the victim of everyday micro-sexism. After all, being treated like a woman is the proof that she has passed as one. And that is a pearl beyond price.
Likewise, I will always take a compliment, particularly when it comes from other women, because it’s such a sign of acceptance as one of the tribe. I was at the chemist one day, picking up my hormone patches, when the lady dealing with my prescription said, ‘You’re looking really nice. I meant to say it the last time you were in.’ Another of the staff smiled at me and nodded encouragingly in agreement.
Half an hour later, Dad’s amazing cleaner Joyce, who is both a licensed pilot and an FA-qualified referee, was similarly sweet. And this has been my overwhelming experience of transition. It has been far easier than I expected, utterly joyous, in fact, largely due to the kindness and acceptance I have experienced.
But if every cloud has a silver lining, it follows that in a life filled with silver linings there has to be the odd dark cloud.
Still basking in those lovely ladies’ compliments, I got involved in a Facebook debate about self-declaration: the idea that a transperson can just say, ‘I am a woman,’ and immediately make it so. As I have said before, I’m not a fan.
I believe that claims should be backed by evidence. So, I posted, ‘I’ll wait until I have completed this process, surgically and legally, before I definitively say, “I am female.”’
Then it will be the truth and, what’s more, the law of the land, founded on court rulings that specifically considered and rejected (on scientific grounds) the idea that the genetic differences between men and women pose an insuperable barrier to transition.
Sadly, however, some people haven’t got the memo. Immediately I got a comment to inform me that I was wrong. I could never be female, that was basic science. ‘You will always be male.’
That is about the nastiest, most hurtful thing you can say to a transwoman. It effectively denies our identity, as if we are simply the creations of our own self-delusions. So it hit me like the proverbial punch to the gut.
But then I thought of all the lovely women who have welcomed and embraced me as one of their own. And I got up, tidied my hair, swiped on some lippy and carried on with the rest of my day.
Read Diana's column every Thursday at 11am. Catch up on the last two columns here: