Sometimes I find it hard to keep an open mind.
For instance, because I was taught that homosexuality was a sin in my R.E. lessons at school and heard LGBT phobic preachings from Christians, I sometimes found it hard to believe that not all Christians are LGBT phobic. However, becoming friends with people who were loud and proud about being LGB and/or T AND Christian as well forced me to think again.
Even so, when I saw the advert requesting volunteers at The Salvation Army, I still wasn't sure. After all, The Salvation Army are evangelical Christians and evangelical Christians are supposedly the extremists of Christianity!
The Salvation Army's past also paints an unsavourary picture, being former supporters of Section 28 which banned the "promotion" of homosexuality in Scotland.
However, the advert was posted in the LGBT section so I presumed they must've changed their stance and I took a chance. And sure enough I have been welcomed with open arms!
I thoroughly look forward to my volunteer work at The Salvation Army as a mentor to beginners in computing and the internet. Not only that but it has also re-awoken my desire to teach professionally and I have now applied for a training course in teaching at Preston College.
And to think that all this happiness and friendship I've found at The Salvation Army AND the possibility of a new career could've been denied me if I'd stayed in my comfort zone, believing The Salvation Army would persecute me!
Slimming World was something else I wasn't sure about.
I knew I needed to lose weight but thought slimming clubs were a waste of time and money. I also wasn't sure how I'd be accepted - would they accept a trans woman to their ranks? But, on the strength of two friends' recommendations, I gave Slimming World a go.
Unlike The Salvation Army, I wasn't welcomed with open arms at first. They were definitely unsure about me to start with but I stuck with it and, being one of the most regular "losers", I began to win people around and formed some friendships.
I am now three stone lighter than when I started and I feel fantastic for it! All the health problems I had before with my ankles and knees and the IBS I was diagnosed with have all mysteriously vanished! All my clothes have also mysteriously grown in size (after having all mysteriously "shrunk in the wash"!) and I have a far better selection to choose from in the shops now I can fit into a size 14! I also have never enjoyed food so much since I started on this diet! You'd never think meringue and chocolate sauce on your breakfast every day would be possible but on the Slimming World diet it is! And I love it! And, most importantly, my mental health has also improved because I feel happier for being thinner and actually think I look pretty sexy, in my own way, when I look in the mirror!
So it saddens me now that I think I've reached the end of the road with Slimming World as I shall miss the friends I've made there. But I've achieved my goal and got back within the healthy range for my BMI so the motivation to lose more weight just isn't there.
However, the food I was introduced to by Slimming World is far too nice to give up! And that, by far, is the best thing I've got out of it - a new way of living! But, again, it could so easily have been denied me if I hadn't taken a chance and sought out Slimming World.
So I believe it's very important to keep an open mind and try something new and that is something that I put into practice far more than I ever did before.
It started with transitioning, of course, and nothing could be more of an example of trying something new than that! But, unlike some, it didn't stop after transitioning. I kept at it.
Not that I wasn't afraid of being "outed" and suffering transphobia first hand, but I didn't let my fears hold me back. I kept venturing into the unknown and every time I've been rewarded in more ways than I can easily quantify!
And life's just grand when you live it! :-)