Toronto was a whirl of shopping and getting used to being me. It was surprising how easy this was. At first, I felt shy and nervous. I waited a few days as I didn’t want to go shopping alone. What was most nerve-racking was my ability to understand people around me. I felt vulnerable and slightly voyeuristic. In Korea, I always felt isolated in public, closed off by my ignorance of the language. The distance had become comforting. In Toronto the lack of linguistic isolation was jarring. It took a number of days to build up the ability to filter people out. After this, things started to go well and I felt at ease. I met my therapist, face to face for the first time, and I spent a lot of money. But there was something out of place.
While passing in public was thrilling, and each new experience of being properly gendered was elating, being home felt odd. It was as if I had become slowly alienated to the place. What’s more, no one really acknowledged the changes in me, once more, I suppose, out of politeness. This seemed to only magnify the feeling of alienation: “estranged” feels too strong, as I still know these people, but I some how didn’t fit. After the long weekend, Jenny and I joined my sister and headed east on a caravan style road trip that also included my mother and her partner—and a dog.
The highway from Toronto to Montreal managed to avoid driving through any urban centres once east of Oshawa. The effect of this was to give the impression of a vast country populated merely by cars on a singular road. We bypassed Montreal on the 30, and the St Lawrence River was the first differentiated landscape we’d seen. The sun had begun its slow daily summer death, and the city silhouetted the flooded river in the gloam. Willows pleasantly lined the river on the many islets that choked the ancient transport artery.
Along the road, we stopped often for my sister’s 15-week old collie puppy. Each rest stop felt like a cis-hetero stronghold. I felt I was infiltrating the castle; a spy sent to gather information. Would I slip by? So far I’ve gone unmolested, knock on wood. To make matters worse, trips always seem to fall on weeks after laser hair removal. I have little hair left, but I feel like the stuff I can’t shave off for a week is a trans flag affixed to my lower face—in other words, a bad time for espionage.
The provinces slowly bled into each other: a vast landscape of water and endless forests dotted with Tim Hortons and petrol stations. When I had to pass people in the street or at petrol stations I covered my face, feigning a yawn or an itchy mandible. Most people didn’t notice or care. After a few days, I started to notice something, people, even in small town Canada, were just treating me normally, as a woman. The hair finally shed.
We eventually arrived in Nova Scotia after a brief sojourn in PEI. Camping the rocky shores of southern Nova Scotia was problematic, I didn’t want to use the toilet without wearing makeup or a dress. Being misgendered was foremost on my mind, and yet it wasn’t happening, to my knowledge, save once, maybe. The “maybe” incident was unremarkable but made me feel more inclined to constantly appear feminine. A common problem for trans women. I know my family thought of me as silly or glampy on the sand swept beaches of P.E.I. in my big hoop earrings or applying mascara at our campsite in the truck, but they didn’t understand the fear of being misgendered, to know what it felt like to at any moment hear those words that would invalidate my whole existence. Maybe camping wasn’t the best idea for my second week full time.