So on Friday 18th March I was invited as a guest of Tesco to the Stonewall equality dinner 2016 at the London Hilton on Park lane to which I obviously accepted. I won’t lie I was extremely nervous as I had never been to London on my own and had avoided situations that involved travelling as before I came out as transgender I only used to go to work then come home and do family things. I couldn’t socialise because I didn’t feel comfortable in myself and didn’t like myself. So I managed to reach the age of 43 without ever experiencing train / plane travel. I never went to events on my own or met up with people I had become a social recluse and didn’t know how to fix it either. Luckily for me after coming out and obviously speaking for Stonewall Scotland , Out At Tesco etc I started to gain more confidence helped too by the many friends that I began acquiring who kept pushing me out of my comfort zone which is exactly what I needed!
Anyway the 18th soon arrived and before I knew it I was flying down to London City Airport from Aberdeen and had to find my way from the airport to the Copthorne Tara in Kensington which unbelievably I made it too. I met Alex from Out At Tesco at the hotel reception for 18:30 and we shared a taxi to the Hilton where the event was being held. As we entered the Hotel I was so nervous , I mean I felt out of place and at the same time like a princess entering a palace. Sad I know but hey that’s how I felt. We went up to the reception room which was packed with hundreds of people and we were given champagne whilst we waited to go through to the ballroom for our meal and the main event.
The event started and we had our meal which amazing by the way. We listened to speeches from Ruth Hunt, Keegan Hirst, Malcolm Sinclair etc and the room was filled with so many influential people that my head was going to explode. Therese pointed out that sitting behind me was Anthony Cotton from Coronation Street and Sir Ian McKellen to which the first thing that popped into my head was selfie, I know I should be ashamed of myself. I admitted to Therese that there is no way that they would agree to that or even speak to me and Therese being Therese said “What you want to meet them then? Come on let’s go!” I couldn’t believe what she had just said and got up to follow her across the room to Anthony where by she whispered something into his ear and before I knew it he was saying hello to me and we were getting our photo taken. Unbelievable !!!
Just as quick as we had just met Therese took me off to meet Sir Ian McKellen where by she introduced me as Justine the girl who had spoken at the Stonewall Scotland Work Place Conference in Edinburgh and to my surprise he said “Oh yes Justine. So pleased to meet you!” I just about fell over and couldn’t believe what was happening. That man is so down to earth and not like I had envisaged at all it was an absolute dream come true to meet him and get my photo taken with such a legend. Next I was taken over to meet Mary Portas who was wearing the most amazing emerald green suit that you had ever seen and yes I had my photo taken with her . You just don’t miss an opportunity to get a picture with such an inspirational woman. On our way back to the table who should I bump into ? None other than the amazing Suki Sandhu and he knew me too !!! Then I bumped into the inspirationally amazing Jake Graf and the stunning Hannah Winterbourne , So yes you’ve guessed it another photo opportunity had arisen.
During the evening there was a charity auction hosted by Christopher Biggins which was amazing and some of the bids were huge! This was the point of the evening that I sat so still and took no pictures in case they thought that I was bidding. After the auction and our table getting through copious amounts of champagne & wine it was time to get up and dance and believe me by then my nerves had totally vanished. I was up dancing with everybody and having an amazing time !
The next day on the flight home I was just so buzzing remembering all the amazing people that I had opportunity to meet at such an amazing event. So before I finish I would like to thank All those at Tesco & Out At Tesco for making this possible.
Thank you John Dickinson & Therese Procter.