As I write this, my fingers are swollen from jet lag and lack of sleep. I’ve been in Canada 24 hours and some change. It was exactly the 24 hour anniversary of my arrival when I woke up at 2 am. My insomnia seems fuelled by hauntings from my old life; shouldn’t I be doing something my mind worries, and yet, there isn’t much to do. I have 80 days of summer ahead. However, there is one monumental challenge that stands at the beginning of this reprieve from work and worries: clothing. It is not only garb but the process now of externalising my personality. Though in Korea I could do this in controlled bouts, I was never totally free to express Mina, there was always the ghastly spectre of running into students, colleagues, or ajima stares. And indeed, all of these things happened—expat bubbles are dreadfully small, even in a city of 20 million.
Now there is almost a sense of desperation to my desire to be recognized as female. I took scarcely more than a few gender neutral H&M t-shirts from Seoul: all of my other clothing was trashed. Therefore I need to shop, and yet this seems daunting without Jenny (she is in Kansas). And yet, each moment I do not, I risk being constantly misgendered. Though I think I am verily pretty and most of my facial hair is gone, I still read as male in a t-shirt because of my height. I’ve entered the stage where I feel I have to try and present as feminine as possible for fear of being read as male. On my first day back I even put makeup on to drink beer with an old friend, even though I was in my pyjamas. I will say that his customary directness was, on this one occasion, very welcome as he immediately exclaimed how much my body had changed since the last time I saw him. Most people are too polite (at least I think that’s what it is), or too close to my transition to notice. In the latter case, only when presented with photographs do they notice the not insubstantial changes. Of course, the average person doesn’t assume you are trans. They assume my 38 B chest is merely fat, this is confirmed in their minds by my bigger butt. The lack of facial hair, where once there was a thick dark bed of black moss, seems out of place to these people, but they cannot connect the dots. A woman I came out to at the end of the year party on my last day at my school said she had suspected something and showed me a text her husband had sent her with a picture of the two of us together two years ago. She said she wanted to confirm that I was indeed the same person from two years ago, she was right to suspect something.
I desperately want external validation of my gender identity. Being misgendered feels more and more like shrapnel. And now I have simply to wait to gauge the reactions of all the people I haven’t seen in a year or more. In a way, I hope their reactions are as explicit as my aforementioned friend’s. Of course, clothes will help in this. Now I just have to go to the shop. You know the old adage, “The clothes make the woman.”