The following is the first part of Paula’s account of a trip she took to Toronto in December 2010.
Wow - what a great trip to Toronto! I had been planning this for months and although I didn’t do everything I planned, it did turn out great. It was cold, about 20 degrees Fahrenheit and very wintery when I arrived in Toronto that morning.
I checked into the hotel, showered, shaved and started getting dressed. I had recently bought a new red sweater at Kohl’s. It was great to slip into that size XL ladies sweater and see it accent my new figure and curves. I wanted to wear my black skirt, but it was just too cold with snow and cold weather. I don’t think there was a single cisgendered woman in Toronto wearing a dress that day. And if there was, she would be wearing boots which unfortunately, I didn’t have. So I opted for jeans and flats and my new wool winter coat.
My plan was to hit a few of the local malls and then make my way to Eaton Centre a giant underground shopping mall in downtown Toronto. I wanted to try a Reitman’s since I heard so much about them. I found a Reitman’s close by, went in and of course, nobody seemed to notice anything unusual about me. This was my first time out in a few months so I was a bit nervous, but that soon passed.
Next I went to a Payless shoe store and started trying on shoes since there was huge selection of size 12s. I was looking for a pair of winter boots but had no luck. The cool thing was there were other women right next to me and we all just rubbed elbows trying on shoes. It was so much fun. I would keep an eye open to see if there were any looks or whispers and I couldn’t detect anything amiss.
After I was done at Payless my next move was down through the Toronto traffic to Eaton Centre and into the huge underground parking garage. I made sure to note the level and section I parked in, but neglected to remember something else important.
I went up the elevator and started walking around the mall and soon realized I wasn’t in Eaton Centre proper, so I mustered up some courage and asked a female security guard for directions. She was very helpful and called me Ma’am!
Down, across, under and up I went thru the labyrinth of underground connections all the while leaving a mental trail of bread crumbs to find my way back. Out mixing with the throngs of holiday shoppers, once again I went unnoticed. My confidence building as I went into a Laura’s looking for a pair of black pants. The sales associate who assisted me quickly grabbed several pairs of pants and got me into a fitting room. I soon found out that I was now a size 18W and was giddy with the way the pants looked. We tried on several tops and she also brought me a couple of pairs of skirts to try on.
The whole time, the sales associates kept complementing me on how they looked. When I tried on a charcoal grey pencil skirt, I fell in love with it. A size 18W and it fit so nicely accenting my curves. The girls we’re all in agreement that it was just perfect for me and it looked fabulous! It was surreal to be standing there in another country actually living and interacting as a female. It was something I never thought would happen. I bought the skirt at $90 and I still treasure it.
I made my way back to the car and guess what? I went to the orange level, section 2 N, just as I had remembered. But I couldn’t find my car.
Do you know why? Because it was a rental and I forgot the make and color!
I wandered around the dark parking garage, starting to get a little scared. First of all, I am feeling vulnerable as a woman alone in a parking garage. Secondly, if I can’t find my car, what do I do? So I keep walking and clicking my key hoping to see the lights.
I passed another women, who like me can’t find her car. She starts asking me for assistance. I don’t want to say too much and out myself for fear of causing her distress. I shrug my shoulders, smile and we commiserate as only two gals could and kept looking. Finally, I see the tail lights blink.
I pay for the parking and the clerk doesn’t bat an eye. Back at my hotel room I am not ready to call it a night. So I freshen up my make-up, put on my new skirt and decide to dine in the hotel restaurant. I rode the elevator with two chatting business men, who kindly motioned for me to exit ladies first. This small act of courtesy meant so much to me; it is as if society is saying we recognize that you are a woman. As any transgender woman knows, this is something we seek our whole lives.
Part 2 of Paula’s Toronto adventure will appear here tomorrow.
Actor Charles-Busch femulating on stage in Die Mommie Die, 2007.
Wearing Theyskens' Theory.