I’ve had two main fears about coming out as trans. One is jibes from the beer-swilling men’s men down the football ground and the pub. The other is the reaction of people I work with – will they still want to be my clients? Yesterday, I met a chap who inspired me totally to take that final step.
I’ve been working on myself a lot this past couple of years. I’ve put more into bettering myself in this short time than I have in all my other 41 years combined.
But if anything’s suffered, it’s been my business, which I launched in 2012. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still doing fine – I’ve taken on staff, income is alright and the thing I make (I won’t go into detail here) has been declared “Thing of the Year” twice in a respected Midlands-wide award scheme. I’ve also been up for five other awards in that time.
So pretty good, but I’ve not really been pushing the business forward as a successful entrepreneur should as I’ve been too busy focussing on my transition, on being happy, on getting more confident and on learning new skills, whether they involve ballet, cycling or makeup.
So I decided I’d go back to what I did when I started out – and that was attending loads of business workshops and seminars, listening to the experts and soaking up information about how to excel in anything from sales to social media. And lots of these events are free. Some of them even give you free bacon cobs. What’s not to like?
So the first of these was the Derby Business Show yesterday at Pride Park Stadium, the home of Derby County FC. I thought about going “en femme” (surely there’s a better phrase!) but chickened out and so went in bloke mode. One step at a time and all that.
As soon as I walked through the door and saw lots of women wearing skirt suits, I felt like I’d made the wrong decision. Must try to be braver next time.
I’m not keen on the whole networking thing. I’m a real people person, but I can’t just walk up to someone I’ve never met before and start trying to sell myself. This is why I was also crap “on the pull” in my younger days. That and the fact that I wanted to BE the girls I fancied – not just snog them.
I did meet one person, a lovely guy I used to work with in my previous job – he’s also launched his own business and is doing really well. But networking, nah?
I was there for the seminars – four of them. One was about tricks to make more money, another about how to attract ideal clients and a third about social media. They were all really good, delivered by engaging people who really knew their stuff.
The fourth was at the end of the event as many people were getting ready to head home. It was called “How to Smash Your Goals and Achieve GOLD”!
I didn’t really know what to expect – maybe someone talking about how make massive “gold” profits so that entrepreneurs could buy their next BMW or timeshare property.
But I couldn’t have been more wrong. The man leading the seminar, Steve Judge, arrived and opened matters in a rather unconventional fashion, by shouting:
Think Alan Partridge in the Day Today…
So sort of like that – but Steve Judge is far, far cooler than Alan Patridge. What then unfolded was probably the most inspirational story I’ve ever heard.
Basically, Steve was involved in a terrible car crash, which resulted in his car being bent in half – and his legs being smashed to pieces. Awful for anyone, but disaster for Steve, a keen runner.
I’m going to cut a long story short. Our hero was in a bad way – one leg could be saved by physio, but the other was looking like it would need to be amputated. Steve pleaded with the surgeons to just do their best.
The leg was saved – except that the bone had broken so badly that four inches of it had to be removed. The remaining bones were fused together – and then Steve had to begin the long and arduous task of growing new bone so that his leg was the same length as the other one.
This he achieved over months and years, wearing something that looked like a torture device around his leg, made up of stainless steel rings and spikes.
Eventually, the bone lengthened and the muscles strengthened. Steve taught himself to walk again, breaking the pain barrier again and again. He eventually got back into running – and then cycling and swimming.
He trained like a demon every day and the upshot is that he won GOLD in the world paratriathlon championship for two years running – and silver the third year.
Now that is an insanely potted version of an amazing story from a really top guy who’s worked tirelessly to overcome all the odds and achieve his goal.
What I’m going through right now is nothing compared to what he’s been through, but his story really struck a chord with me – and inspired me.
At one point, he asked us all to think about what our main goal in life was. I dunno if the others in the room had BMWs or timeshares on their minds, but I know my transition was on mine. I sat there with a big smile on my face, imagining myself in a few years’ time, how I’d look and feel.
And I made a few notes – as I did with all the seminars. But these notes could be used more from a personal point of view, as well as for business. Some were from slides, others from the horse’s mouth.
No regrets – be the best you can be.
Pretty self-explanatory, that one.
Don’t lean on your excuses – turn your issues into challenges.
There’s no such thing as normal. Don’t compare yourself to other people.
F*ck normal! It’s grey and beige! And then this beauty:
The meaning of life is happiness.
Which is pretty much my philosphy, too. I mean, just four little soundbites there, but his presentation was full of nuggets like that, about using your time in the best way, working hard, following your dream and being happy. I was in complete awe of this man.
The presentation finished with a massive round of applause, and I headed off to one of the stalls to speak to a lady who’d delivered a social media seminar earlier. I gave her a business card, crossed out “Andy”, wrote Andie – and told her why.
Her reaction: “Ooooooooh!” She seemed impressed! Everybody’s cool about this. People aren’t horrible if you explain to them what’s occurring.
Then I went back to Steve’s seminar area and gave him a business card, again crossing out my old name and replacing it with my new one – and telling him why, only in much more detail this time. I wanted to know if this inspirational man had any advice for me during my transition. And of course he did!
He loved that fact that I’ve started Slimming World and long-distance cycling to better myself and noted my high self-confidence (which pretty much didn’t exist a few short weeks ago).
Carry on doing what you’re doing.
Then he said I should try giving presentations myself – talking about being trans and helping others on their journey. I said that public speaking was a bit of a phobia for me.
But he just said he had the same doubts when he began public speaking (only last September)… “Now I’ve got the confidence, and I don’t care what people think of my leg”.
He also said:
Slimming World would love you.
And said my group would be a good place to start in terms of coming out to more people, instead of just one to one, as I have been.
Well, I just might do that, Steve! And it’s the Woman of the Year competition in August. How awesome would it be to win the group’s Woman of the Year 2017 after winning Man of the Year 2016 – an award I felt a bit funny about and didn’t enter this year?!
Finally, he mentioned his “words of affirmation”, something he’d spoken about during his presentation.
Tell yourself how good you are, about where you’re going and, when you’ve achieved what you want to achieve, how much you’ve done.
And then he said he’d invite me to a networking event as his guest. Right, I need to buy a skirt suit for that one!
So there you have it, folks. I know that, as an inspirational and motivational speaker, it’s his job to, well, be inspirational and motivational. But I’d like to think I took more away from his presentation – and our chat – than most other people there.
Steve’s now retired from triathlons and, as well as running his own business, is also a Scout leader. And I wonder how many of those boys and girls he inspires to great things. Probably every single one. Keep up the good work, Steve!
PS Find out more about Steve by clicking here.