Ottawa, May 2018
Comfortable, actually quite comfortable. Comfortable with my hair and make-up. Comfortable with my clothes. Comfortable with my presentation. Comfortable in my mind. Comfortable being me.
Comfortable is the best word to describe how I felt during my time I was able to present that part of me that normally remains hidden. It was also an incredible feeling of freedom.
I was able to attend some training in Ottawa at the end of May, for a new Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) national initiative called Positive Space Ambassadors. It is the CAF’s take on other Federal Departments programs but keyed for the military. Ambassadors are peer helpers, resource providers and facilitators of Positive Space information for LGBT and non-LGBT members of the CAF.
This was the first time I’ve been away on training by myself and I packed “extra” clothing(+), in anticipation of having an opportunity to dress while out of town.
After a very informative day one of training on the Tuesday, which included an introduction session where I “came out” to the group, I asked the instructor if I could present that part of me the next day. “As long as you dress in business casual, in fact that would be great. You are free to express yourself. That’s what its all about”.
As I had some difficulty finding a hotel room at short notice, I ended up staying at the Algonquin Collage Residence and Conference Centre, which turned out to be a very busy spot. Bus loads of high school kids, business and trade people coming and going, but this did not deter or even make me nervous with the thought of dressing around them.
Training ended quite early, so that afternoon/early evening, I took the opportunity to change and take a stroll along the Ottawa River. I also took the opportunity to wander through a mall, visit a MAC store and chat with the very nice sales lady and on the way beck to my lodgings, pick-up a pair of pantyhose from a Shoppers Drug Mart. Later I wandered around the collage campus, passed many others doing the same. It felt good to get out!
Wednesday I was up early to have that all important close, close shave (I’m lucky I don’t have a heavy dark beard anyways) and dress in my grey pinstripe skirt suit. My mind was at ease, again no nervousness or second thoughts as I walked out the lobby, across the parking lot to my car, passing many others. No “emergency bag” of male cloths, this was me for the day.
I got to security, handed them my Mil ID and drivers licence, the Commissionaire handed me my temporary pass and ID, “here is your pass Ma’am. Have a nice day”.
It was quite a walk from the front gate to the building we where in, the furthest I have ever walked in heals…it took a bit longer than the previous day, lol.
I wouldn’t bore you with all the details of the day, but needless to say, it was a fantastic day. Well accepted, many questions and many chances for education. By the end of it, my mind was in a different place. I don’t want to use the work normal (as there is no such thing), but that’s how I felt. However, comfortable, really covers all the bases.
That evening I was to go over to my father-in-laws for supper and watch the hockey game, but I took some time after training to change and take another local stroll, before changing back to drab and heading over.
Thursday was a major milestone…I flew home while presenting female!
I had enough time in the morning to make sure everything was in order before heading to the airport. Again, no emergency way out, this was it. Stopped at the front desk to get a printed copy of my bill (for my claim), stopped enroute to fill up the rental with gas, returned the car at the airport, checked in at the self serve ticket machine (needed to get a clerk to tag my bag as it was fee being military), and then proceeded to security. I’d left plenty of time to get though…just in case. Turned out I got there at a very quite moment. No lineup, straight through in like 30 seconds! It now turned out I had two hours to kill before boarding!
My ticket had been issues without a seat assignment, so as boarding started, a number of manes where called out, mine included, to get a new boarding pass. The new pass was printed and picked up by the gate agent working the other side of the counter, she scanned it then handed it to the agent I was dealing with, who was about to scan it again but was to told “I already scanned her through”. My agent then said “I just have to see your passport”, that’s what I had in my hand and as I did I said “bad hair day” (male picture), laugh, “Oh don’t worry about that. Have a great flight”. And it was.
Side note. I had talked with an Air Canada agent before leaving Halifax about ID requirements. Transport Canada states that you can use Government issues photo ID, or two pieces of non-photo ID. If there has been a Legal change of name or sex that is not yet reflected on your ID, then an official letter is required to state such. As for a case like myself, nothing legal changed, only presenting a bit different than my photo, there “should” not be any issue. Its just like a long haired woman shaving their head, or guy growing out his hair since the ID photo was taken. There are stories of those who have run into stubborn/inconsiderate agents, but hopefully, through education, this is rare.
Transport had been arranged for the drive home from the airport.
I saw the driver and went up to him and asked “for Greenwood?” “Capt B?” “Yes. I’ll need about 10 minutes to get changed” (I could not arrive home dressed as I was), “No problem, your the only one I’m picking up”.
I know of a quiet area with a gender neutral bathroom and did a super fast transformation. I walked up to the driver again, who was on his phone, waiting a moment, he looked at me inquisitively, I said “For Greenwood”…pause…strange look (as he only had one person to pick up)…2,3,4 “I mentioned I had to get changed. I’m ready now, we can go”…pause, 2,3,4…”OH!”
The hour and a half drive back went quickly as we talked about many topics, including of course the military and LGBT issues.
I believe I was very lucky to not have had any negative experiences during those couple of days. I’m hopeful that maybe, despite what is going on in other parts of the world (North America…), that acceptance of those who are “different”, is no longer a big deal. And as the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states, we are guaranteed and environment free from harassment and discrimination and are free to express who we are in a free and open manner.
Before writing this entry, I had put that short blurb about still being around. After I did that, I went back and read my last full blog entry and was somewhat stunned. I could not remember writing it. What was there was very enlightening, considering what I had just done. I had learnt much during the training, but how I felt after the fantastic experience of those days, only leaves me now with more questions, especially after re-reading what I had wrote. Yes, I am changing. I’m getting older. Life is getting shorter. My Give A F@$% Factor has changed. I have this part of me that needs to be freed.
I’ll close this entry with a quick mention of a couple of notable events that occurred over the last 11 month: Got out to supper, twice, with a group of local trans* friends and spouses (we are all over the spectrum). Had “the talk” with my wife…lets just say it’s now more of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” relationship. It’s more than she bargained for. She understands its part of me and that I need to express it, she just doesn’t want to see or know about it. I hate that I have lied to her in the past, but that’s a wound that may never heal. Somehow life will continue. That magic balance, a compromise will be found.
In the mean time, not to end on a downer, I’m personally comfortable. So much so, that a number of co-workers now know and all have been absolutely fantastic about it. 🙂
Hopefully it wouldn’t be another year before my next entry.
Enjoy who you are!