The sand sunk in three inch foot shaped clumps on every step as we jogged the first quarter of the golden painted bay. The humid haze that hid the evening sun behind its frosted panel made every drop of sweat on my skin tree-sap sticky. We stopped along the rocks at the end of the beach for a moment to stretch after our warm up. I felt James briefly look down at my shorts; he didn’t say a word about them. “It’s a bit soft isn’t it.” he said referring to the ever increasing pillow-like surface.
“I think the tide must be just going out, it’s still wet along the edge. I never thought to check the tide before we came.”
“I saw it when I came across the harbour.”
We stretched just enough to at least have ticked that box. James mirrored stretches in his big grey baggy tee and his bermuda length shorts. I never thought for one minute he would wear anything else. It would have to be a very special occasion for an outdoor clothing pursuit for James. Carefully planned in a special location where he would feel comfortable amongst anonymity. It certainly wouldn’t be in his home town, if anywhere.
“Ready to go?” he asked.
We set off to run the length of the beach slowly moving up a little off the soggy sand to something we might at least not break our ankles on. It’s been a while since James has seen me in something outside of the house that is unmistakably female. It was a fifty-fifty decision. Either my three-quarter length running leggings complete with flower petal safety reflectors just under the back of the knee and the ability to define the curves on my legs that I desire or my black size twelve shorts with Adidas side stripes that shape in much the same way, are unmistakably feminine and which I also adore as much as the black leggings. Either would make me happy but unsure whether James would feel uncomfortable in his own town with me in the leggings I made way not risking his feelings and wore my shorts. I couldn’t leave home without the leggings though incase for some bizarre reason I changed my mind and dropped them into the boot of the car.
Despite taking precaution I still wanted to know what he thought. I was curious about the look he gave me but didn’t want to ask him directly. “I wasn’t sure…” I said between breaths, “whether to wear my three-quarters… or these…”
“Short aren’t they.”
“I suppose they are.” I said casually, “Really nice to wear.” I said trying to normalise the conversation.
We jogged to the other side of the beach. The smell of curry sauce on chips wafting from trays in the hands of teenagers at the promenade in the wake of metal shutters coming down on the traditional shore-front chip shops.
“Aw, Curry and Chips.” James said as the smell chipped away at his motivation. We stopped at the end of the beach for a moment.
“You need a break?”
“No, keep going.” he said, “if I stop now I won’t get going again.”
We decided to head back to the block laid strip of the promenade as the sand still hadn’t quite set and hardened enough. The seafront was a little busier that usual. Normally the only life apart from the odd dog-walker was the imagined warmth from the street lamps that poured pale amber in long dusk spots and tall shadows of the palm tree leaves. I felt ever so slightly exposed, almost for James rather than me. Constantly worrying about whether he was okay with it all. It seems strange to worry considering he dresses himself but given he hasn’t explored the years of experiences that I have I can fully understand if out-in-the-open makes him uncomfortable.
When the run came to an end we parked ourselves at a bench on the end of the promenade amongst the shadows and quietness of this victorian resort long past it’s hay day. James sat while I ran in circles warming down and generally being silly. I hopped onto one of the benches and jumped bench to bench on my tip toes until I sat next to James. “Sit down will you.” he said.
James was still positive about running. It felt good to me that he enjoyed it. We even discussed the next run while the summer still supports warm late evenings, gentle lapping of the waves and O-zone therapy.
This evening I felt like I needed to go running again. Wearing my three-quarters I slipped on my trainers, quickly looking down to check I looked acceptable and comfortable despite being out in them many times. I realised I was still wearing my softly-coloured pastel socks with pale pink tops, they were ultra-feminine. I thought for a moment as it felt like one little step further, one silly insignificant step but still something. I mentally shrugged it off, closed the front door and jogged through the estate.
Another sticky evening despite the rain earlier in the day and the only excuse I had not to go was the onset of a headache. I didn’t want my running time to just be with James. It was more than that. Besides, running alone has a different therapy. Running with someone is social and shared. Running along brings on thoughts and combined with a high in take of prescription oxygen my mind is freed. I get to think. It’s not just mulling over thoughts. With the heart rate and fresh oxygen rich blood flowing problems are solved or even just accepted.
When it comes to my gender dysphoria the guilt is simply nullified. Who I am at the very core just makes sense. I feel who I am and unashamed. Of course it doesn’t last forever as the working week starts and daily life continues with the stress of the commute, clients, colleagues or the multitude of other things drop into the shopping bags that weigh me down and stop me feeling the freedom. I then end up with little time to make the progress I want. May be I simply need to just run everywhere. Keep jogging around the office as I go about my work hoping the feeling remains.
It wasn’t totally euphoric this evening. The headache was under control but not enough to completely drop everyday life but that said even a simple thing such as realising my black sports bra strap was showing a little from under the wide neck of my top and that I really didn’t care almost felt like confirmation of sorts.
Today I took a walk to a place that reminded me of the last two years before I ‘temporarily’ decided to go back to my old career which I continue to do. It reminded me not to feel too comfortable in my current job and not to take things too seriously there. With any luck I’ll soon be back on track with a career that I want as Hannah. Both are important. For me these would both make me feel like a millionaire.
Until next time.