On kindness, gender, and moving to a new city.

February 18 2014

Hello, world.

My name is Valerie. I'm 19 years old and I live in Ottawa, Canada, but I'm moving to Montréal this summer for school. I work as a cashier at a grocery store. I am a transgender woman. I like good tea and bad coffee. I like waking up slowly to bright skies and frost on my window. I like warm summer nights spent with friends that go on and on, until everyone starts to feel dawn approaching and gets very candid, as if the sun might just not come up again. I like getting lost in cities I've never been to before - or places I thought I knew like the back of my hand until I met someone with a different map.

There's a couple of things I want to ask you to do, followed by questions.

First off I want to implore you to be kind to the people who serve you - your waiters, your dry-cleaners, maybe even your grocery store cashier. We know you're having a bad day. We've met a hundred people today who are having a bad day. Your frustrating ten minutes in line is my eight-hour workday. Practical suggestion: if you had to wait in line a long time, try helping bag your groceries if you can. I'm going to have to deal with that long line all day, but your two minutes' work just saved each person in line two minutes. In general, be proactive about making life slightly easier for the people around you, and you'll start to notice when people do the same for you.

Second, I want to elaborate on an earlier part of my introduction. As I said, I'm transgender. In the last couple of months I've come out to nearly everybody I know, including coworkers and the general public. For some reason I always expected that the most difficult part would be the few horrible people who actively hate me or believe that my gender is illegitimate. I actually haven't met very many of those people at all, thankfully. But what really makes my day difficult isn't the people who want nothing to do with me but the people who just don't notice or care that I'm not a man. Please, look at the person in front of you. Look at their nametag, what they're wearing, the impression they are trying to make on you. Someone in a dress and makeup, even if she has a deep voice, is probably trying to convey to you how she'd like to be seen and treated. You don't have to (please don't) make a big deal out of it. Just, try 'miss' instead of 'bro'. I know I'm the first trans person you've spoken to this week, or in your life. I know it's difficult. But you're the hundredth person I've spoken to today who's in your shoes. I've been told how difficult I am to see as I am ten times today.

Lastly: I am in need of advice myself. If you've moved to Québec from out of the province before, I'd love your wisdom on that process. If you live in Montréal, what is there to do and see and eat? Do you have advice on (re)learning French? What jobs are there for students with a tenuous grasp of the language? How do I avoid pissing off Montréalers? If you're trans, I'd love any advice you have on anything. If you're queer or trans or just think I sound interesting and live in Montréal, feel free to say hi.

Thank you!

Valerie Tardif-Jeffcott
[email protected]
Ottawa, ON, CA

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