A letter to myself 365 days in the past….
So, you’ve finally did it. You came out! I couldn’t be more proud of you. I know that’s funny to hear from your future self, but I know more than anyone else how hard this was for you. I know how much effort, sacrifice and perseverance you put into your transition. Hell, I can’t think of one thing in your life you worked harder at than your gender. But you did, and oh my God was it worth it.
I know that the lead up to this was terrifying. All the long hours working on a higher pitch to your voice just so you will be taken as feminine on the phone. All the fear of building a wardrobe from scratch just so you can be seen as feminine. All the time having electrolysis done just so you don’t have the horror of a five o’clock shadow on your face. All the anxiety of what make up will work for you. All the knowledge that you had to gain to be able to explain yourself as a trans woman.
It. Will. Be. So. Worth. It.
Your open letter at work goes down really well, and everyone emailed you such nice things. The kudos that you get and the heartfelt congratulations will certainly be more than you expected. I think it spoke to a lot of the staff directly and you reached out to all of them in such a considerate and heartwarming way. It broke down a wall and connected you with people you would have never suspected. People who share their experiences coming out, friends of theirs who are trans, or just the admiration they have for your experience. After a while, people just start to treat you like a girl and you can finally talk about all the experiences about being a woman that you always wanted to have. Even the board of directors were congratulatory and the couriers were giving you high fives. Needless to say, you breathe a sigh of relief. It does take a while for you to be gendered correctly on the phone. Once that happens though, you know that you’ve arrived. So work goes well, and dare I say you pioneered things there. If anything else, they can’t ignore the visibility of gender variant people anymore. Never forget, just having your be the first one to come out in that company the way that you did will create an opportunity for someone else in the future. Hell, someone puts the pride flag on the outside of their office shortly after you come out. Just saying.
You will finally be able to discover your heroes. All the transgender women that have informed not just your gender but what’s possible living out authentically. Women like Laura Jane Grace will show you that you don’t have to conform to what people expect women to look like and especially sound like. You find someone that allows you to be a little bit punk yourself. Women like Gwen Harworth will show your parents (yes, they do meet her in person) what can be gained when you can shed the pain of living in the shackles of conformity. Women like Imogen Binnie will give you literature that finally gets you...really gets you. Women like Hari Nef will show you that femme can be validating, empowering, and whatever you want it to be. Women like Janet Mock will show you the bravery of a trans life, filling your spirit with determination to be seem as a woman of colour. Women like Jen Richards will show you trans characters you can pour yourself into and connect with. You will finally have heroes on your wall and in your life and in your heart. Heroes that inspire your spirit. For the first time in your life, you will be able to see transfemininity as something to aspire to. I promise you, there will be more to add to this list. Many more.
I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but I can’t wait for you to finally experience the fashion you’ve been missing out on your entire life. All the new things that you’re going to be experiencing for the first time, all the things you wanted to do but were scared. It will all be a reality for you. For instance: You’ll finally be able to shop for clothes with other girls, and you’ll also have found your fashion (more or less). In the summer, you will rock the hotpants. That’s right, I said hotpants (you got legs for days, girl). You’re going to look fabulous in heels! You’re also going to have pink hair. I know, right? Who would have thought that pink would be your new favorite colour. Basically, you’re not going to have a hard time passing as femme. Although, after a while you begin to realise that you don’t want to pass as badly as you did before. As much as you like reveling in your femininity, it’s going to be more about being seen as yourself. Slowly, just a little bit, you will find that you won’t have to sacrifice yourself just to fit into femininity.
Oh my God, and all the friends you’re going to make along the way. You’re going to have so many friends you don’t know what to do with yourself. You’re going to join a transwomens volleyball team. Believe it or not, you’re going to meet Toni and Ariel who will take you for your first photoshoots. Hot damn, do you ever look good. The empowerment to see your beauty in a way that’s only reserved for fashion models will be yours. And those pictures will be a wonderful gift just to simply see yourself as a woman. You get to find more friends who share a queer, trans or gender variant experience with you. From them, you gain insight to your own self as they gain insight to themselves. You can share your inner worlds and struggles in a way you never could have before. That will be a treasure. Believe it or not, you will have moments with younger trans women where you can act as a elder to them. Even though you’ve only been out of the closet for a year, you have a life experience and knowledge that will be a resource to them just as other trans women were a resource to you (don’t let it go to your head, it’s a big responsibility).
You also legally change your name. Your full name. Like, first and last. I know that’s not something you were expecting to do, but it was something that you eventually had to do. I think that journey is so nuanced that I can’t really explain in words how you got to that resolve. Just know that it feels right and it makes sense to you. In time, you’ll see. I shouldn’t forget: You finally change your gender marker as well! Now you can finally tick female off on government forms and have a drivers license with your name, gender and face on it. It’s not going to feel good; it’s going to feel right. That’s what it’s all about.
Over the year, the laws and advocacy for trans people significantly increases and we are drawn into the limelight in a very big way. The Liberals get voted into office (good riddance) and the justice minister introduces new legislation to enshrine gender identity into the charter of rights and freedoms. And BC updates it’s human rights code to reflect that as well. What a time to be alive.
There’s also dating other queer women, and now you have the opportunity to explore that in your life. It’s going to come with it’s own set of complexities, but trust me when I say that you’re going to love being seen as a woman by other women. There will be femme parties you’re going to go to that will be off the hook. In that, you’re going to find a massive sense of belonging. I’m not going to lie, it’s going to come with it’s own significant ups and downs. It will come with the challenges of unrequited affection. It will come with it’s own desires to fit in to someone elses expectations again. There will be heartache for sure. But that’s how you know it’s real, and that’s how you know you can still love again. I think you’ll find that your greatest struggle will not be finding someone to love, but being open to being loved again. I know you’ve been hurt and that’s why it takes guts. It’s not going to be about the women, it’s about your ability to be with those women. That, is what’s going to change for the better.
I know that all of this didn’t come without its sacrifices. I know that you left a whole life behind just to live full time. People that you loved, people that you cared about, and being someone for those people are no longer an element of your existence. I know that kept you from coming out, and I don’t blame you for that. I know who you cared about and what they meant to you. I know who you were and what it meant to be someone for somebody else. In time, you’ll learn to understand that maybe it was a life, but it wasn’t your life. Right now that might seem like cold comfort, but it’s true. You will also find that as much acceptance there is in Vancouver and living in Canada, there’s a whole world out there full of danger and violence targeted against you. So far, that’s something you haven’t had to worry about. Just don’t forget that it’s always there.
As well, your progress will be filled with challenge. You will still be misgendered by people in your daily life (albeit you’ll have more fortitude to correct them). You also leave your job for new opportunities. It wasn’t easy, but it was the right choice. You will have to deal with grief in a way you never have before. You will fight for recognition like you never have before. You will struggle, and I mean struggle, with acceptance of yourself like never before. It will be painful. It will be tragic. It will hurt.
After all that, I don’t know what the future holds. At times, it feels bleak. I question why it’s so hard. I question what I will do and where I am going to go. I question if it will get any easier, or if everything will get worse in a way that I’m not prepared for. I can’t promise you that your life will be any easier living authentically; or that you will be free form torment. I can’t promise you that it will get better or that you will come out of this like a phoenix from the ashes. I can’t promise you a good life.
I can promise you one very important thing: You will be alive.