To all my friends,
As you all know, I have been finally taking steps towards a complete physical transformation that will make my outside look more like my inner self. I have accomplished a lot this year after a first few months when I had to deal with depression resulting of finding dead ends whenever I tried to get somewhere. I had a hard time finding the right hair removal clinic. After expensive encounters with people who took advantage of me I finally found a clinic in the area where the treatments actually worked beyond my expectations since day one.
I am enclosing some excerpts from my extensive correspondence with Gloria, an incredibly courageous human being who had to overcome terrible odds to become the happy woman she is today. Having her as a friend, having her advise and experience has saved me untold suffering.
PREPARING THE GROUND AT WORK
April 7. I am preparing the ground at work. A week ago I sat down with my supervisor, a lovely French Canadian lady, and told her –off the record for now- about my plan to transition on the job. She was absolutely supportive and understanding. We have developed a great working relationship to the point that she relies on my opinions very often. I didn’t ask her for anything but she asked me if it would be ok if she did some probing on her own to test the ground with the big wigs. She promised –and I didn’t ask for any promises either- that she’d do everything within her reach to guarantee as smooth a transition as possible but she was very realistic and gave me some scenarios, both comfortable and uncomfortable on what the likely reaction may be to end up saying I had to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. I was surprised at the accuracy of her comments and even asked her if she had ever seen anybody transition on the job but she smiled and shook her head. After that conversation I haven’t noticed any changes in her at all towards me and she seems to be as comfortable as ever with my presence. I am happy I told her as I am sure she’d be one of my best allies when push comes to shove; if I decided to tell her it was because I have always felt she is genuinely sincere at all times and has a great sense of fairness.
April 18.My supervisor talked to HR and, off the record, told them about someone who would be transitioning on the job and apparently the head of HR was very supportive; HR didn’t even ask who it was and only requested to be told as much in advance as possible before I started to go full time just to make sure they had time for some preparation. With the electrolysis finally working all I need is to start hormones before jumping to the other side. Right now I am not desperate but hopeful that things start going my way for a change. My supervisor has been wonderful and keeps calling me for overtime shifts at time and a half as I told her I would need all the money I could make. I work from home most of the time now as I hook up my computer to the company server and that way I save a lot on gas also.
OUT AND ABOUT AS MYSELF IN FULL DAYLIGHT
June 22. Going to the CAMH (Center for Addiction and Mental Health) for my meeting with Maxine, the head psychologist was quite fruitful, I showed up as Lucia and was careful to dress kind of low-key and it worked beyond I expected. I was terrified to be out in the open in full daylight but all my fears vanished when I realized that I was not getting any dirty looks or the kind of unwanted attention that’s scary. The machine at the underground parking lot would not accept my credit card and I had no change on me. I had to go to a nearby Tim Horton’s for some loose change, to my surprise, everything went smoothly. Needless to say, I was ecstatic and the experience proved a really good one as it boosted my confidence. Of course, the fact that I was not wearing an awful lot of make up to hide the hair follicles was a big part of it and I steered away of big hair and high heels. My friend Gloria is so right when she says that passing is just the ability to blend in and that dressing like most females of your age range is key.
July 1st/ I went to the grocery store as Lucy to get some things they had on sale. To my surprise, on my way in a guy gave me an emphatic ‘Good morning’ for which I was not ready at all and that made me a little nervous; I just mouthed a reply and went in. I walked around well aware of my surroundings only to realize that I was not the focus of attention at all but dreading the moment when I had to go to the cash register. To my surprise –again- the cashier, a teenager, didn’t even give me a second look. I always use my credit card to get the points but as my legal name is on the card I just swiped my debit one. I did it with the magnetic stripe facing the wrong direction and the cashier corrected me to which I answered with my best smile, she didn’t give me a second look.
My visit encouraged me so much that I went to the nearby Shoppers Drug Mart where I got some pressed powder for oily skin with the same result, I went on to the Sally Ann store as well as the Superstore with no problems whatsoever, I was in such disbelief that went straight to one of my friend's place, her mother-in-law is visiting from Cuba and she didn’t recognize me at first only to hug me and wish me good luck. It was a VERY good day.
My birthday was on Saturday and I decided it would be the best day to start the HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) I will call my family doctor’s office tomorrow for an appointment. Let’s see what happens.
HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY
July 7.Just ten days after starting hormones I felt some minor pain in my nipples for 2 days and the very tip was a bit swollen, and then everything went back to normal. I find (and I do hope is not my imagination) that my oily skin is not as oily as usual, which is so desirable as I have always suffered from this acne prone skin that I have hated for so long! Is this my imagination? I only started hormones on June 28.
July 14/Once again, the pieces of the puzzle keep falling in place. This is my time!. I went for my appointment with my family doctor and told first to his nurse and then to an intern who is working with the doctor the reason why I was there which they knew of course; they were super nice and, then the doctor came in and he seemed like a different person as he didn’t question my decision to start myself on hormones and just asked for the type of medication and dosage I was in..
July 17/ Lucy is way better and it works both in Spanish and English, my family doctor asked me if it was ‘Luchia’ or ‘Lucia’ with the stress on the first syllable, when it’s actually on the second, that’s when it downed on my that spending the rest of my life clarifying my name was not an option, so I will stick to Lucy for now.
My doctor’s demeanor was absolutely different and there was no hesitation on his part to offer immediate help. On my way back I toured some stores and did some shopping and the next morning I went for my bloodwork –again as Lucy- with no problems and again some more store browsing; the nurse at the lab reception looked at my health card twice and then asked me to spell my last names and asked for my date of birth, then she said with a smile ‘interesting’ and then added ‘you look good’. I was a bit nervous while waiting in room with some 20 other people but I didn’t get a second look.
As I was all dressed up, on my way back I stopped over at a second hand store where I got a jacket and a blouse. It was sooooooo nice to be able to pick what I thought would look good on me and go into the fitting room. It felt great, then I walked into the Shoppers Drug Mart nearby and Payless Shoes, where I tried on this ugly pair of shoes just for the pleasure of enjoying my newly found freedom. Then I went to the Superstore where I browsed some stuff I want to take to Cuba in September and then walked around in circles just to enjoy the freedom. It felt like a dream, it was as if I were invisible to everybody else. I made a point to get close to a couple of little girls who were playing on the cosmetics section and even dropped something intentionally just to see if I caught their attention and they just acted normal, looked at what had fallen, then at me and then went back to their games…
I know it’s too soon, but I’d swear that my oily skin is changing for the better and also my eyes are drying up and going red. Not so happy about the second but ecstatic about the first.
My two main priorities now are getting an entirely new wardrobe and dress full time , hormones and, of course go on with electrolysis. I just can’t wait any longer.
Aug 8. I put on make up and dressed up to go for my first batch of hormones. There were two ladies at the pharmacy, one of them came to me very quickly, asked for my last name and got the medication ready; she looked at what it was and said with a big smile that there were some possible side effects but that I probably knew that already, then she added that I still had to listen to the pharmacist. The pharmacist was on the phone, speaking loudly as if wanting to make everybody aware of her presence, she had what appeared to be an eastern European accent, most likely Romanian. When she came to me and looked at the medication, she looked up at me with manifest disgust and with even more disgust started telling me about the medication. I thought I’d make it easier for both and said I knew everything there was to know. Just then the other lady brought some printed material and told her that the Sikh guy had printed them for me. The Romanian-sounding lady said “HE says that HE knows all there is to know” I swiftly corrected her ‘She’ and turned to the other lady with my very best smile and said : ‘I’ll take those, I appreciate your help’ she smiled back and I made a point of turning around in the opposite direction to the disgusting lady without even bothering to look at her again, then I stayed right there, with my back turned towards her, pretending to look for some over-the-counter medication for a couple of minutes, then I left with my chin up. Went to Wal-Mart, the boutiques in the area, Payless Shoes and the grocery store, I still have a hard time believing that I am out there in full daylight. I am just ecstatic.
Aug. 15. My friend Bill passed away over the weekend and I found out this afternoon; He was one of the most generous souls that I have ever met, also the happiest.
He requested to be cremated and his ashes to be scattered over the Grand River; a ceremony to that effect will take place in early October.
I will never forget the person who opened the doors of his home and his heart to me, he shared his roof and his food with us and he gave me a lesson of generosity that will live on forever in my heart. He even gave me financial support so that I could make it out of Cuba and he signed an affidavit at the Canadian Embassy in Havana taking full responsibility for me. This gave the final push for them to give me my immigration papers.
This is Bill's last email:
Aug 9, 2008
It sounds like you are doing wonderful in your new life. I am so happy for you and wish you all the best in the transitional period. I am sure that you will come through with flying colors.
It is wonderful to be able to be yourself and live life as you feel it inside.
It must be such a liberating feeling to go out as a woman and be received as one. Isn't it amazing that the Sikh guy at the pharmacy was so cool about it and the European woman so uptight? It is the opposite to what I would have expected.
I can't tell you enough, Lucy, how much I appreciate your understanding and support when I have been in difficulty and I want you to know that I support all that you are doing to live your real life to the full. I know you will live a full and rich life from now on.
You must be excited about your trip to Cuba. If I don't see you before you leave, give your mom and dad all my love when you see them.
With lots of love,
Aug. 18 I haven’t come to terms with my loss yet. It will be some time, I knew I loved Bill but had no idea his death would hurt so much. I guess the hormones are partly to blame for my emotions but just partly. Bill was just such an incredible human being! His generosity was beyond what I can put in words; he called himself an atheist but I haven’t met anybody who followed God’s golden rules more closely; life has taught me that true Christians don’t go to the church, don’t try to convince you of a creed, don’t wear a crucifix around their necks and don’t consider themselves better than you just because they preach something. Bill was the closest embodiment of what Christianity means to me, he meant well in everything he did, he had a smile at all times, I never saw him angry or frustrated, he lived his life to the fullest, there was no place for rancor or hard feelings in him. He just lived and shared all he could share with anybody; he just had the nicest heart. Like I said, it will be some time…
Aug. 23.Some people really surprise you. There is this Cuban couple that I met for the first time 2 years ago at a friend’s during my mother’s visit. They have two little daughters, one is 7 and the other one is 2. The lady’s parents are visiting from Cuba and a couple of weeks ago they all came to visit my friends upstairs. The old lady noticed my nails and eyebrows immediately and afterwards she started asking questions; her daughter had asked the same questions to my friends a few months earlier and, since both her and her husband are part of their inner circle of friends they told them what was happening. She explained it all to her mother and the old lady told her husband, at this point I have to say that both members of the elder couple come from an extremely poor and backwards region of the Cuban countryside, so, that’s ultra redneck territory. To everybody’s surprise, the two of them expressed their immediate support for what I am doing on the grounds that ‘everybody has the right to be happy’ and that ‘Sure it takes a lot of courage to defy society’. A week ago I got a phone call from them, just out of the blue I was told all of this and they said that the doors of their home were open to me and that they had even explained the whole thing to their eldest daughter. Two days ago they invited me for lunch and I went there as Lucy and everything was just great; all of them just treated me in the most natural way and the little girl just asked me if I liked silver better than gold. The old couple will be returning to Cuba this weekend and, at the time of our goodbyes, the old man just said to me that he wished me all the happiness in the world and that the surgeries weren’t too painful. He even hugged me and kissed me goodbye: ‘I hope you get married to a guy who is just as gutsy as you are’. I was nearly in tears when I got to my car. It was an unforgettable occasion, I am amazed as some of my closest friends have expressed their concern for their children knowing, and they seem somewhat worried.
Not a single one of my closest friends has done anything like this; I am still on cloud nine…
I went for my blood work as Lucy a couple of days ago and, as usual, (I am getting used to this) everything went just smoothly.
Aug. 30/2008.Today I was out and about as Lucy doing some last-minute shopping for Cuba (Superstore, Rona, Value Village, the Mall, Zellers, and Wal-Mart) No problems. At some point I realized I was pretty close to the office and phoned my supervisor, who has been wonderfully supportive, I asked her to come downstairs and she was mesmerized; she said that I looked relaxed and happy, her eyes watered –and so did mine- I have been going out only as Lucy except for my hair removal treatments.
MY VISIT TO CUBA
Sept 19/2008 I can say that, even when hurricane Ike passed close by and we had 3 and a half days of down time with no electricity, running water and gas, my visit to Cuba met all my goals. This time I did what I didn’t do last year and sat down with my parents first thing to talk at length and openly about absolutely everything regarding my present and future steps. They were quite supportive and I feel that I can go ahead without any fears or regrets.
The only damage we had at home from the hurricane was an avocado tree in the backyard that broke in two but my father said he was about to trim it anyway, so, the ‘damage’ was more a ‘help’ than anything else. Being without electricity made those three and a half days seem like they were a lot longer than they were and we spent most of the time talking and sleeping as it was raining hard and the whole city shut down.
Sept. 27. I have been going out to take advantage of the summer clothing sales; it’s an unreal feeling to be able to go out and try the stuff on and make sure it fits before paying for it. My confidence is beyond I ever expected, certainly electrolysis does make a difference and being out there in full daylight is an amazingly soothing feeling. I even had a funny thing happen; I tried on a ring in a store and it got stuck in my finger, a couple of the girls helped with some cream until I was finally able to get it out. In the middle of all that I didn’t even for a second think that they would read me which didn’t happen, I just didn’t think about it, I was completely oblivious to the possibility, only you can understand how great that feels.
I will have a meeting with my company big wigs on October the 1st. It will be in the head office and we will talk about my transition on the job. It’s about time that I can be myself at work too. Wish me good luck, of course I will go as myself, I am both dreading and wishing the moment.
MEETING WITH THE COMPANY BIG WIGS
Oct. 2. Yesterday was the big day; I went to the company head office in the outskirts of Kitchener by highway 8 without a plan, without knowing exactly what was going to happen but intimately convinced that everything would be just fine.
I have no words to describe what happened as everything flowed so naturally that I felt the weird sensation that it wasn’t happening. We could have been talking about absolutely anything else; it wasn’t at all like we were discussing a delicate issue. The company already had requested the services of a counseling service that will meet with me about the way in which the rest of the employees will be told, they even have some type of printed material they want me to see before they give it out, I’ll meet with them next week; apparently they have previous experience with 30 other similar cases and the general consensus at the meeting was that nobody really could foresee any big problems. The company staff will be told at the next Staff Meeting on the 23rd of October.
They all addressed me as Lucy and I really felt then that my transition at work will be as smooth as can be. Some other issues (bathroom, for example) will still need to be ironed out but, all in all, it was a great meeting. I left the place so happy that I won’t even attempt to describe it.
After the meeting was over and everybody else had left, my supervisor and I stayed behind and had our own little meeting. I am overwhelmed with her genuine support and kindness.
Oct 23 it’s today when they’ll tell my Dep’t. Staff. For some reason management was worried about the Auto Appraisals Dep’t. Because there is a bunch of older ladies there and they seemed to think that, because of their age, they’d be pretty conservative and the bathroom issue seemed to top all their concerns. They told AA on Tuesday and the support was unanimous, there is a lady that everybody there seems to fear who thinks the world of me and gave everybody a little speech on my right to be happy no matter what. The lady who told me about the meeting made sure she let everybody knew she was my friend and that she would not tolerate a single negative comment. The washroom was not an issue with anybody.
I will go to work as Lucy on Monday, October the 27th and again on Friday, the 31st. I will let you know how it goes. My Dep’t. Staff Meeting will be today between 2:30 and 4:45, my supervisor will phone me afterwards to let me know how it went. We are not worried at all.
OCTOBER 25. MY CO-WORKERS WERE TOLD.
Oct 25. I was just told that the Staff Meeting on Thursday was absolutely amazing. Basically there was no reaction at all; someone asked if they were to refer to me as ‘she’ and ‘Lucy’ at all times, and somebody else asked what would happen if they slipped and still called me by my ‘old’ name. My sup was ready to answer this last question to explain that such a thing would be a non-issue as my middle name would still be the equivalent of Alexandra in English and that I would not be mad at anybody. After all ‘Alex’ is still neutral. After all she didn't need to. The washroom was a non-issue as they were told I was to use the ladies’ washroom and there were no comments or reactions. Someone asked if I would go for a complete surgical change and she was told I had to live as ‘Lucy’ for a year before I was given the go ahead. It was a 2 hr meeting but the ‘Lucy’ part only took the first 10-15 minutes. They had some printouts ready but most people just ignored them.
Now, all throughout the day yesterday I was answering mails from co-workers who expressed their full support; some asked some genuinely valid questions and they were all respectful and supportive, some were even cheerful. It was announced that I would be showing up as Lucy on Monday and some people asked me if they should treat me in the same way or if I preferred to be just ignored for a while. I told them to just treat me as usual. A girl asked me if I would still be the same person, I answered that yes, but happier and she said that if I was happier then the workplace would be a better place (!)
I am not in disbelief anymore, now I feel like I am dreaming. I didn’t know quite what to expect but somehow I knew it would be this good. There is a great bunch of people at work. Monday will be the day; I’ll walk in with my head high and with the certainty that everything will be just fine.
Oct 28. MY FIRST DAYS AT WORK AS LUCY
I don’t think I can put in words my impressions of yesterday. I was just a bit apprehensive the second when the elevator opened its doors right at the company lobby. The receptionist didn’t recognize me, I just smiled and walked in; she must have thought I was somebody new. I just walked to the desk where I usually sit when in the office and there were two supervisors right there as there is a printer beside ‘my’ desk; they just greeted me in the most cheerful fashion. I went the kitchen to put my lunch in the fridge and stopped over here and there to say hi to a few people, some of them didn’t recognize me right away which was kind of fun; one of the older ladies looked at me twice to end up asking ‘May I help you?’ I just smiled and she was confused for a couple of seconds until she just screamed my old name, then she was embarrassed and put her hand on her mouth to say ‘Lucy?’ She didn’t know what to do and later on told a co-worker she should have hugged me.
Even though I felt relaxed after the first few minutes I could tell I was stressed as I had to go to the washroom every 20 minutes or so, which added the extra stress of being in the ladies room but it was ok. I ran into a group of different ladies every time and they just celebrated my outfit and eye make-up.
Nov. 1 .My second day at the office –Halloween- was as uneventful as can be; I was absolutely relaxed and everybody just came to me as if nothing, absolutely nothing, had changed. A couple of managers asked me if everything was ok and I said that everything was just fine. They seemed a bit in disbelief. The old lady I told you about came over and gave me the hug she didn’t give me the first day. She was mesmerized with my appearance and praised my courage.
No one has called me anything else than Lucy and management has changed my name nearly everywhere, they sent for a new name tag as well.
Things are going so well that tomorrow, Sunday, November 2 they asked me if I wanted to be the acting supervisor on the floor and I said yes, I will be the top authority and everybody will have to come to me for questions. I don’t foresee any problems at all.
Nov. 6 Things at work at beyond anything I would have expected; there simply hasn't been a single negative reaction from anybody and people just treat me as if nothing had changed. I was offered a coaching position on the weekends and I accepted it. It will be quite interesting because the people I'll be coaching never saw me in my male incarnation. There hasn't been a single slip with my name which surprises me a lot. Actually there was one and it was...my own, LOL. I introduced myself as Lucy to a customer and at the end of the conversation he asked what was my name again and I gave him my old name.
Management assigned me a desk (I didn't have one anymore as I was working full time from home) and ordered a new name plate, they changed my name everywhere and yesterday asked if I wanted my name changed in my pay stubs as well, I said that as long as it was legal, yes.
I am starting to like to work in the office, I feel alive, I can dress up and spend a whole day as myself which is a liberating and wonderful experience. I am beyond all the stress and enjoying it. On Sunday I lost an earring. My supervisor (My guardian angel at the company) helped me to try to find it but we didn't. I was really disappointed. She asked me if it was my first missing earring and she said 'welcome to our world, we should celebrate this!' She is incredible and always tries to please and help everybody, we all adore her.
There are 3 girls in another department that looked at me and smiled as if wanting to tell me that they supported me, but they just didn't dare say anything. I just returned the smile. On Monday I coincided with one of them in the washroom and she asked me point blank when I'd go for the surgery. I answered that it was not my decision, I mentioned the RLT and the Standards of Care; she flipped out: 'Why do they have to decide for you?' and 'How much longer?' I said that maybe a year, maybe longer. She said I should let her know so that she and her friends could go see me at the hospital. I said it would most likely happen at a clinic in Montreal and she said: 'That's ok, that'll give us a good pretext to go to Montreal, we could even find ourselves a boyfriend there', we both laughed...
Nov. 19. At work everything is just as normal as can be. I don’t really think I was a ‘celebrity’ at all, if I was, it was short-lived and I didn’t even realize it. I was coaching a group of newbees this weekend; people who never met me as a male and everything was just ok. There even were exclamations of joy when they were told I would coach them again next week.
LEGAL NAME CHANGE
Nov. 27. I finally got my Name Change Certificate, it took only 37 days.
I went to the OHIP office to request a new card and I was treated with the utmost professionalism and good humor; both the receptionist and the lady who did the paperwork were very nice and quite willing to help. From there I went to the MTO office, two funny things happened there, the first one was that one of my late friend Bill’s closest friends was standing in line right behind me, he didn’t recognize me and I decided not to say hi as the place is rather crowded and I didn’t want to have to explain myself in front of everybody. The lady who took care of me was really nice and willing to help, at some point, however, she looked confused and looked at my papers, then me, then her computer screen, I asked her if there was anything wrong and then she lowered her voice, smiled and said: “I am terribly sorry but I have to ask this question: Are you male or female?’ I just smiled and said ‘For now I am legally male’ She returned the smile, thanked me, and finished the paperwork in the most natural way, at the end she said :’ I think you are very courageous’ I just said ‘ Not much of a choice’ She gave me her best smile and I just walked out with my head high.
Dec. 16/2008 I got my new driver's license and should get my OHIP card sometime soon, when I get it I will send the paperwork for a new citizenship card, without it I can't get a new passport and without my new passport I won't be able to go to Mexico. They say it's taking about 10 months to process the application for a new citizenship card, I hope it doesn't take that long but as long as I don't have it I can't make any firm plans for a trip abroad, the summer is only 6 months away!
I went to the SIN number office yesterday and it wasn't fun when they called my male name out while I was sitting in a crowded room. The lady who did had no idea and she was indeed apologetic. Actually, they have all been very nice to me at all the offices so far.
Once I have my new citizenship card the real battle will start with the Cuban authorities for a Cuban passport in my female name, I don't know how it will turn out but I know it will be an uphill battle, we’ll see, I have been sending emails to the Cuban Consulate in T.O. but so far, no reply.
PLANS FOR 2009
I am planning to go to Mexico for some facial feminization surgery and breast implants, that depends on how soon I get my new Citizenship Certificate. It is taking 10 months, let’s see…
This is just a summary of all that I have accomplished this year. I do hope 2009 is just as eventful. We’ll see…
My very best wishes to everybody in this 2009.