Monday, 9 April 2012

About Me, Part 56: There'll Come a Time

Turning forty was the last straw. A wake-up call to end all wake-up calls.

I spent from May onwards running and posting to a Facebook group on the year 1970, for those born that year like me. I had also been in Vancouver for fifteen years. So much had happened. The city and the country were changing. I felt that the month of my fortieth should be signified with a monumental vacation. I had saved up enough time to take the entire month off. It started Labour Day weekend 2010, after seeing a few films earlier that week with a bi friend at the annual Film Noir Festival at the Pacific Cinematheque downtown.

For my fortieth, I wanted to have a party at the community garden. The garden had a plaza with a stage and room for tables and chairs. The plaza had been left over from when the site had been used for a cultural exhibit during the 1986 Expo. I invited friends from every area of my life. Many could not make it that partly cloudy, mild Sunday. But, many others did including my friend from my first outing earlier that spring, who came back up from the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle early so that she could get to the party. A fun afternoon, outdoor potluck, I had also planned some entertainment. Not comedy this time, but music. A few weeks earlier I had seen a local gypsy swing, folk, cabaret band called Maria in the Shower playing at the farmer's market. The trumpet player played with the kind of earthy growl that made me picture a street band on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. I could only afford two of them, but also offered them any food available. I actually got three musicians for the price of two as one of them could play trumpet and accordion simultaneously. We were all wowed. I had asked for no gifts, although I did get a few as well as a large scroll on which people wrote birthday wishes. I wanted guests to donate non-persishable food to the local neighbourhood house instead: and we got a lot of donations. Together with the donated produce from the garden harvest that year, the donations were quite substantial.

On Labour Day itself, and my actual birthday, it poured rain. My landladies invited me upstairs for dinner. We also sat around listening to old LPs, some free jazz and soul as well as singer-songwriter. It had been an ideal birthday weekend, both social and quiet.


The first week of my month off, I spent settling into my own schedule: sleeping in, going out later, meeting friends for coffee. I kept in touch with one friend, the now former host of Queer FM, by Facebook as she was now doing a degree in journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa. One evening, I went to a drop-in dance lesson in the West End hosted by Not So Strictly Ballroom where I tried the rumba and the waltz. Given the choice, I preferred the rumba. It was another step forward in life, as it was my first time as a follow and enjoyed it immensely.

I went to another appointment at the clinic during the second week to update my doctor on how I was doing. Restful, because I was on vacation, but anxious for all the usual reasons. And somewhat depressed still. I had already mentioned my history of depression to her. She recommended that we deal with the depression before we deal with anything else. I agreed. On my subsequent visit, during my last week off, I got a prescription for Effexor, what I had taken a decade earlier. I started taking it immediately.

The previous week, however, had been the best of my time off. As an urban gardener, I fantasized about living on an organic farm. The third week of September 2010, I got the chance. I stayed at Foxglove Farm, over 120 acres of vegetable crops and chicken coop next to Mount Maxwell Provincial Park on Salt Spring Island. I stayed in one of the original farm houses, now converted to a cabin for visitors. It was, like the other accomodations, furnished with rustic and antique furniture. I brought a few days supply of dry and frozen goods and got some fresh produce and eggs from the farm itself. Mornings, as the roosters crowed and the sun came up over the Straight of Georgia and the rolling farm property, included me cooking apple pancakes and lamb rosemary sausages for breakfast. Then came a walk around the farm. 

One day, I walked down to the town of Ganges to spend the afternoon there taking in the gift shops, the library and the many used bookshops. I also bought some mint tea at the health food store. The next day, one of the owners of the farm went to the tent where the hired students were drying beans. Everyone was having lunch and I was invited to join. Over a quiet meal, ideas and projects were discussed: urban farms in the inner city (the owner was establishing one next to the Astoria Hotel in the Downtown Eastside), sending organic produce over to the Mainland again. A couple of visitors, organic farmers from Washington State, came by to have a look around. It was endlessly fascinating. I could so easily picture myself as a farmers wife. It would be great. I held that image in mind as I came home that Friday in a virtual downpour. Back to Vancouver. Home from the forest.


On the first Saturday of October, I was still technically on vacation as I would be starting work again on Monday. I went to the Out In Schools fundraiser at the WISE Hall with a few friends. This time, I went as Vanessa. Afterwards, I walked home, one of my friends and I accompanying each other. When we got to my street, she got on her bike and rode off. I had taken yet another step.

And the next came the following weekend, on Thanksgiving Sunday, when I and a man I had met on OK Cupid went to a friend's Thanksgiving potluck dinner. My friend was the same one who worked at the clothing store that I bought most of my clothes from. She and I had become very good friends over the nearly a year since I had first walked into the store. When my new male friend came by my house to pick me up, I answered the door; when he saw me, his eyes popped. "Whoa!" he said, stunned. I laughed, but I also felt my face get hot. Flattered? You think?

That evening was a lot of fun. My nerves, jangly at first, eased as the evening wore on. There were a pair of cat ears circulating among the women at the party. When I put them on, everyone complimented me. My friend drove me home later. I guess I was a bit high, emotionally speaking, as I had never been out with a man before. We agreed to see each other again soon.


My love for writing resurrected, thanks to my book blogging at work, led me to register for a course at the UBC Writing Center. By hook or by crook, I would find myself back in a classroom again. I started my Creative Non-Fiction Writing course in October and it ran until the end of November. In it, began to write short pieces, mini-memoirs, essays, more experimental pieces. I felt that I had found my "jazz": an art form that I could jam in, exploring the fresh, new (at least, to me) ways of writing. I had not experienced that since I was a Creative Writing undergrad twenty years earlier. By the course's end, I had written a great deal more material and had met several fascinating people. We continued to workshop our writing for a little while afterwards before going our separate ways.

But, I did not stop there. I registered for the Freelance Article Writing, Part One course starting the following February, fully intending to write pieces for magazines and newspapers.


My radio show entered its fifth year, still going strong. I had done a five part theme on soul music in 1970 in honour of my fortieth. In the fall of 2010, I did a Halloween themed show, complete with haunted sound effects and YouTube B-movie sound bites. Creatively, it was one of my favourite episodes. In November, the CITR Fundrive only ran for one week, so in addition to my one Fundrive-themed show, I had guests on the entire month: special guest month. I launched that month with an interview with my swing dance instructor. I followed that up with a show based around a regular guest who was a local record collector, DJ and writer. The following week, I had my first phone interview with one of the DJs from the local soul music event, then called the Astoria Soul Club. The last week, I spoke to another soul DJ about music and his experiences as a youth in the Wigan northern soul scene in Lancashire, England. November was, singularly, the best month that I had on air to date.


I went to the Halloween dance at the Grandview Legion, this time dressed in a female costume. I dug out one of my old wigs and bought a sexy nurse outfit. As the dance was supposed to be zombie-themed, I got some death make-up, complete with "dried blood" and "scars". My costume was actually applauded during the best costume contest. But, something more happened. Some people had begun to notice how comfortable and natural I seemed in costume: in short, I was not only dressed female, but also behave that way, naturally. Another dance asked me about this. All I said was that I crossdressed regularly. But, to the organizers of the dance, with whom I had become good friends over the previous couple of years, I finally came out expressing my fear that I would no longer be able to come out dancing. He assured me that that would not be the case. He, his partner, his partner's daughter, basically the whole family, supported me, hands down. I breathed deeply for the first time in a long time. 

About a month later, I was at the Calabash Bistro, a Caribbean restaurant on the edge of Chinatown, listening to a couple of my soul DJ friends spin that evening. My dance instructor and a few friends came by. I came out to them that night. I began to feel the pace of my life speed up.


After an autumn thinking long and hard about my next move transition wise, I made the decision to begin hormone replacement therapy. I could no longer stand to be housed in a body that had never really felt like mine. I took too much effort to keep it shaved, waxed and as feminized as possible. I got a medical requisition from my doctor at the end of November. The following Saturday, in December, I went to get my blood work done at the Fairmount Medical Building near the hospital. It had been a fasting test, hence I had not had breakfast that morning. After the lab visit, I rushed out for lunch, intending to go to Helen's Grill. On the Main street bus, I ran into an acquaintance from my tai chi class. I had begun to take classes again, with a new instructor back in 2007. I had stopped in 2009. Now, I thought about getting back into it once again. I followed my old friend to lunch at East is East on Main, where I met up with my new instructor. Explaining that I had just had blood work done, I came to both of them. They were also very accepting.

With a couple of weeks off for the holidays, I went to a couple of trans support group meetings as they were very difficult to make during a regular work week. I went fully dressed, as I had for some of my sessions with the gender specialist, although, I still cabbed it downtown. It was at the second of these that I announced that my blood work had come back all clear and that I would be starting HRT in January. As I said it, I felt a rush of excitement, and joy that I had finally found the missing piece of the puzzle that was me.

Things were delayed somewhat when a came down with a urinary tract infection on Christmas Eve Day. I spent that day, after I got antibiotics at my neighbourhood drop-in clinic, and the next few resting. I did visit friends close by, but kept a low profile mostly just to rest.

By New Year's Eve Day, I felt recuperated enough to go out for a waxing and mani-pedi. I was going to a burlesque New Year's Eve party that night at the Vancouver East Cultural Center and wanted to go in a sparkly purple and black vintage scheme. I did, but the cold that night made me freeze in my thin, billowy pants.

The first week of January 2011, I went back to my doctor, with up-to-date results, post-infection; I was all clear again. I got my first hormone prescription. Once I picked it up, I waited a couple of days before starting it. On January 12, 2011, I put on my first Estradot patch, took my first Spironolactone pill ... and stepped into my future.

I have not regretted it one bit.


Last May, after nearly four months on HRT, I decided to start this blog, inspired by the many blogs, vlogs and YouTube channels out there with the personal stories of transfolks worldwide. In my own country, we are more fortunate than most in the world today, but full civil rights for transpeople has not yet been achieved. The last federal election in Canada was ominous. Yes, the New Democratic Party became the official opposition, but the Conservative Party (social reactionaries among them) got their majority government, and we have gotten a taste of what that means, since then. With that election's results, and the end of the Trans Rights Bill C-389 when the old parliament dissolved, I felt that more us in the trans community need to be telling our own stories. This is how history is recorded and preserved, but more importantly, it is how everyone else will come to realize that we are human, with human dreams and human lives, just like them. We just seek to right a, perhaps prenatal, wrong. The more everyone else sees that we are part of the same world, at work, at home, at school, in line at the store, in the parks, in the outdoors, in traffic, in the street, the more everyone sees that they already share the world with us, and we with them, the more they will learn to accept, even celebrate us. Celebrating us, is celebrating diversity, celebrating humanity.

My blog has been, and will continue to be, an offering on my own individual story, here so that others can see that coming out can be a long, struggle, often with others, but also with oneself. And that assumes that someone is only dealing with one issue in life (lucky you!). I hope those who about to transition see that coming out journeys come in all shapes and sizes; they are not always the lightning bolt realizations that they are shown to be in the media.

It has been a great cathartic and grounding experience writing this "About Me" series, in a big way, the heart of my blog, but it will also be a relief to go back to short blog posts about facial hair removal and my favourite music and films for a while. Please feel free to comment about any of my posts in the comment sections below each one.

Thanks for reading!  Love, Vanessa.

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