Not long before my last therapy session, I was hosting one of my Mastery support group meetings at my home. The conversation may have been about taking risks and doing something you have never done before; we would show up at a meeting in a costume representing what, for each of us, was a risk. Each of us had our own ideas about what that would mean. Someone else in the group suggested that it would be great if I came to a future meeting dressed as a woman. Other seemed to agree. I, for one, was not so sure, although I felt a mysterious desire to present myself as such, I was not into admitting it. Once, back when I had been at Concordia University, a group of film students had asked if I would be interested in being in one of their films: in drag. I hastily declined. A bit too hastily as I had initially liked the idea, but had suppressed that immediately. Discomfort is what I had felt then, and now at the meeting. But, the idea simmered over the next few months.
In August, I assisted at a Mastery workshop. I had given myself and assignment: I would do a monologue, dressed as a woman. Not only would I wear a dress and make-up, but I would shave all of my body hair as well as my face, very closely. I would go all out. I practiced a song from one of my soul music CDs, a box set called Beg, Scream & Shout: The Big Ol' Box of 60s Soul; the song was Betty Everett's 1963 hit "You're No Good". I rehearsed daily. I spent the Friday before the workshop doing my nails and shaving. By Saturday evening, I was shaking with nervousness, but during a break, I and a friend who was going to do my make-up hurried backstage to get ready. I could hear the workshop going on while I got ready. When it was my turn, I came out to the hall to a round of thunderous applause and went through my routine, hating my low voice the whole way: to this day, the only thing I did not like about my performance. When I finished, I got a standing ovation and a bouquet. My friends, including those who were in my group the previous year, were all there to support me. This was not just a monologue; I had broken through something big. That became obvious the following day when I broke down in front of my assistants team. I had had some very unsettling dreams overnight that had left me with troubling questions. Who was I? Was I not who I thought I was? I felt very freakish, like I had felt for most of my life as others during my childhood and adolescence had bullied and attacked me as weird, or "acting like a girl". I had unearthed feelings that would not, could not be buried again.
At work, things sailed along that summer. We moved into a new building and opened it the first week of September. I was beginning to feel more confident in my job and was starting to enjoy the people I worked with. I also wanted to do something with my life that allowed to express and create more. I felt it was time to strike up some kind of balance between creativity and responsibility. I held my twenty-eighth birthday at Kitsilano Beach on one of the warmest days of the year. I had also begun to dress differently. Gone were the pseudo-outdoors clothes. I was now wearing velvet shirts in bright colours or jewel tones. I had begun to wear rings and in early October, I decided to get my hair lightened like so many others seemed to be at the time. I had mine lightened to bronze. I feared that others at work would not like it. They did not like it; they loved it. My supervisor gave me the thumbs up. The night of my new hair's debut, the library was having its official opening of its new branch. There was a huge party complete with councillors, the mayor and other local leaders. All of the staff were there. I got some compliments. At the end of the evening, I was introduced to a councillor as the most "interesting librarian". It had a ring to it.
A Mastery friend had invited me to a Halloween house party over in the west side neighbourhood of Arbutus Ridge. I had begun shopping for costume effects at the end of August before the huge rush for Halloween. I was going to be a Martian schoolgirl. The evening of the party, I got completely ready and then applied copious amounts of green body paint and facial foundation, followed by green fake eyelashes, eyeshadow, lipstick and nail polish. My costume, from a now long gone shop called Cabbages and Kinx, was vaguely Sailor Moon-ish and, yes, very green right down to the knee socks. I also got a pair of green antenna topped with a pair of stars which blinked alternately. I was a hit at the party and managed to get a few pictures of myself. I also wound up on some camcorder footage which I saw a couple of weeks later. I got two glimpses of my future at that party. Many of the people there were from the local bisexual community which I had been looking to become a part of for sometime. Also, another Mastery friend, a woman dressed as a man, asked me how I felt about being dressed as a woman as I seemed so natural. I said that I felt great. To this day, I wonder if she, and many others, knew what was happening within me. All I could say then was that I had never felt better, more alive.
I DJ'ed another Christmas dance party at the Mastery house I had gone to the previous year. I was a hit again and was gaining a reputation as party animal. I could deal with that; I had certainly experienced worse. The hosts chipped in to get me a gift which was very sweet of them. I gladly do this as long as I was asked to.
I spent Christmas dinner with my White Rock relatives, only not in White Rock, but one of their relative's houses in Burnaby. I phoned Montreal from there; my grandmother, cousins and others were at an uncle's house for dinner. I spoke to everyone briefly. My hair was now gold. I wore a silver velour shirt with a black wide collar blazer and pants feeling very glam. I would have had my nails done and make-up on if I could gotten away with it. The energy was there regardless.
1998-99 were my peak years in mood, self-discovery and the still pervasive sense that things could only get better. I was on my own, making up for the lost time of my late teens and early twenties and trying to balance that out with being a professional. In those years, it all seemed to magically balance out by itself. As the last year of the century dawned, I felt as if I were caught in an updraft. My part-time position became permanent at the end of January. Then, full-time a month later. Elated, I began looking for a better apartment to move into, one that was not on the ground floor, was brighter with more than one window, and that had a bathtub.
Socially, I was making strides as well. One Friday evening in January, during a week in which I was volunteering for a Buddhist conference at the Shambhala Center, I went to a cafe on Davie Street in the West End. The regular bisexual community social night was happening there and it would be my first visit. I shyly introduced myself to some of the others. They seemed friendly. I recognized a few faces from the previous year's Halloween party. I forget what broke the ice that night, but by the end of the night I had made more new friends. I decided not to join everyone in going out dancing at Denman Station as I had to be at the Centre the following morning, but I trusted that I would be seeing more of these folks in the near future.
To be continued ...