A train to London with my wife, a walk across town, through the park in the rain. A visit to the GIC. Much anticipated, over in about an hour.
I'm there as my everyday scruffy bloke. Stubble and all. Nervous as hell, which is crazy. The clinic is easy to find and the receptionist is friendly, but this has been weighing upon me for months. And my trousers are wet. Damn summer showers.
A couple of other patients show up, both transwomen, neither very far into the process judging by their demeanour. We smile at each other, then an uneasy silence. My usual survey of NHS waiting room reading material, Marie Claire, GQ and some interior design magazines. Then a welcome arrival, my online friend Kay. A middle-aged lady now long-post-op, on one of her very last visits to the clinic. She'd said she'd try to arrive a bit early. We chat, she turns out to be brilliant at putting the nervous at ease. I'm called away to the consulting room and she settles down for a long chat with my wife, for which I'm extremely grateful.
The consultation was very similar to my previous ones with my local psychiatrist. Stepping through my background, my life story, where I want to go. Setting out my options, which are somewhat limited. Recognising that I need help to stay where I am, but that it may one day go pear-shaped and I might need to go further. Above all, I'm talking to someone whose job it is to know about the problems faced by someone like me, who has seen many hundreds of men and women like me and for whom nothing is a surprise.
In fact, there was a surprise in store for me, I was handed a piece of paper and told to go up the road to the hospital for a blood test. Despite the fact I'm not asking for hormones, they want my base hormone levels. Which turned out to be a blessing, something of a psychological boost. Instead of coming away hopeless I had something in my hand, something to do.
I've never been a fan of blood tests. Bad experience many years ago. This one was expertly administered though, completely painless and over very quickly. So with twenty minutes taken at the blood test clinic we found ourselves on the Tube back to the mainline station, surrounded by schoolgirls on their way home. Lucky things, just at that age at which they are turning from children into women. And they are probably finding all that excess estrogen to be annoying. Life's not fair, is it.
So, back home before the time I'd have been home from work anyway. Enough time for my wife to take me out for a meal. It's me that should be taking her, for what she's done for me today.
All in all it was a positive experience. Yes I came away with the same challenges as I went in, but I didn't expect them to hand me a miracle cure. What's important is that I'm now in the system and can access what limited specialist help there is available to someone in my position. And one thing's for certain, my next visit towards the end of the year won't weigh on me nearly as heavily as this one did.