My name is River. I chose this name for many reasons. She felt safe, like the cold mountain rivers of the Kootenays. She is a home of sorts. I had another, of course, a good name chosen by a loving couple for their eldest child. When I first accepted my trans identity it didn’t yet feel other. But the river swept me away from that name. I left it behind on the shore. It is growing ever smaller and the sound of the waves muffles its call.
It took a lot to find my feminine identity as River. Like a lot of people, the pandemic hit me hard. I was working directly with the public. I felt exposed and vulnerable. Sometimes it felt like I was alone in fighting for safer practices. I would read how the pandemic was bringing out the good in communities, how people were staying home, or were finding ways to enter the world safely. Maybe all of that was true. My experience was that people became selfish, mean, and universally careless. It was enraging and that anger was exhausting. It broke me.
I got help. I started treating my depression and talking about my experiences. When I was a kid I needed glasses early on. I still remember putting on my first pair and realizing how sharp and clear the world actually was. I could not have conceptualized what that was like without those literal lenses to see through. Antidepressants did the same for my sense of self. I’ve always had a very antagonistic relationship with my body and sexuality. It was painful and scary. And I had been struggling blindly without even realizing it. Now, in building myself back up and with my vision cleared I could see that conflict for what it was; gender dysphoria. I wanted to kick myself for having been so blind.
The day when I finally put everything together it was a wonderfully sunny May afternoon. I was at work watering the flowers in the garden centre. It was the first day I could do my work and not interact with customers. It was very peaceful. I asked myself lots of difficult questions. And for once I could think things through without breaking down. By the end of my shift, the plants and I were both happy. I called my best friend and told her I needed to talk. We went to a park and I told her that I didn’t feel like a man. I wasn’t certain of my gender identity but I knew that much. I am so thankful for her kindness and encouragement. I figured why not start the next year as a woman? So a few weeks later, on my birthday, I came out publicly as a woman. A few days after that I took the first steps towards my physical transition. It was all very fast less than a month really. It was exhilarating and scary. The more closets I stepped out of the more liberated I felt. I just kept on being me and learning what that meant.
It’s been nine months since that first day of recognition. I still struggle with the pandemic and the ways that people view and treat me. I had to learn some very harsh lessons very quickly about what it means to be transgender in our deeply transphobic society. But I also feel happiness and contentment for the first time in my life. I feel more and more at home in a body that was once uncomfortable and detached. Whenever I hear my name I feel alive. Like the river, I am in constant motion. Slowly changing the world around me. And always changing from within. There may be many dams temporarily holding back her waters but the river is wild, deep, and teaming with life.