It all started during the application process when I hoped to get accepted to a university in Canada. Never before in life, had I been asked on an official form whether my preferred name was separate to my legal name, nor had anyone asked me anything more complex than “are you male or female”, with no acknowledgement of anything beyond the binary. Boy, was I in for an eye opening experience.
“Wow, it’s amazing that things like this exist here!”
“Wow, it’s amazing that things like this exist here!” has become one of my most common phrases after recently moving to Canada after living 22 years in the Caribbean. It’s not even the typical stuff moving to a more developed region would bring; like diverse job opportunities or how there’s a store chain for literally every type of thing you could think of! It’s the fact that, as a Trans-woman, dressing how I want and embarking on any commute no longer feels like I’m a new exhibit at a museum. There are no glares, no slurs. No one urging to me to “find the Lord” or calling me “the devil at work”. Interacting with sales people is no longer an awkward game of watching them either laugh internally or cringe away from me in discomfort as we conduct business. As I get ready in the mornings, I no longer go through the internal turmoil of “do I want to dress to please myself, or the please the public?” My university not only uses my preferred name and pronouns during official correspondence, but they even provide resources right on campus, both medical and social, for transitioning people like me.
Back in the Caribbean, I used to suppress myself as much as I could, without driving myself too crazy, for my own safety and comfort. I remember the panic attacks, the thoughts of suicide, the experiences of verbal and near physical assault. I vividly remember trying to buy my first pair of women’s clothing in Trinidad, back when I was at University there, and being told I wasn’t allowed to try anything on or even purchase because this is a women’s store for actual women. I remember trying to grow my hair longer in Barbados and being open laughed at in public and feeling like I would actually be attacked. Fast forward to a few days ago, I was shopping across multiple stores for some winter clothing as it’s getting cold here soon; and not only did no one get upset about me browsing in the women’s section, but I received pleasant help and guidance from the attendants on staff.
Moving here has been overwhelming in more ways than one. Not only is there a great culture shock of living in a completely different society, but now that there’s so many social weights off my shoulders. I feel relief.
So many things I was either barred or shunned from, or were otherwise uncomfortable for me to experience are now much more accessible.
I feel like I can actually progress in my transition.
I feel almost encouraged to progress.
It’s a whole new world of acceptance, understanding, and opportunity, and it’s so sad that I had to travel almost four thousand kilometres to finally be allowed to feel comfort within my own body.