The place looked the same, Katie thought to herself as she exited the bus from New York. Ten years away and Toronto looked exactly the same. Okay, sure, there were more tall condos and the stores were not the same ones that had been here when she’d left, but overall, it was the same dull, not especially exciting, city that she’d fled.
Or maybe, Katie realized, it was she who had changed so much, and her old hometown just couldn’t keep up.
She caught a streetcar to her Aunt Paula’s house. She hadn’t seen any of her family since her mother’s funeral three years previous, where, against her better judgment, she’d dressed in the only men’s clothing she still owned, a conservative black suit kept specifically for the occasion, so as not to upset anyone by her appearance. It went against her principles, but it had been her mother’s last request of her. Upon returning home she had taken scissors to the suit and then also set it aflame, just for good measure.
Aunt Paula was the only relative Katie had kept in contact with and the only one who knew about Katie’s transition. She had seemed cool about it when they talked on Facebook, but Katie had a list of back-up numbers in her phone of old friends willing to offer her crash space, should the situation with Aunt Paula not work out.
To her delight, Aunt Paula was welcoming and accepting, only once forgetting and addressing her by her dead name. Always an open-minded person, Aunt Paula, now in her 70s, thought Katie’s neon pink hair and black lipstick were fun and creative. “But really… Katie,” Aunt Paula hesitated only briefly, “You just look like a female version of your old Goth self. Except with a leather skirt and heels, instead of jeans and biker boots.”
The next day at the Trans March, Katie met up with Marge. Large Marge was 6’3″ and when Katie had known her when she lived in Toronto, had only ever presented as a fairly androgynous woman. She was married to a man. But over Facebook conversations, Marge had revealed that she was bisexual and had been experimenting with a more masculine appearance. She was happy to join Katie at what would be the first Trans March for both of them.
They met at the beginning of the route where organizers were handing out signs and giving instructions.
“Everyone needs to stay on the road, not on the sidewalks. There are first aid stations along the route if you need them. We’re not expecting protesters today, but if you encounter any, do not engage. There will be parade marshals to deal with the jerks.”
Katie and Marge joined the group and somehow found themselves at the front of the thousands-strong procession.
“Hey, you’re cool looking,” the organizer said to Katie, indicating her hair. “Wanna carry the banner?”
Katie and Marge lifted one end of the long banner and grinned at each other. Photographers snapped their picture, while news cameras filmed them. By the next morning, Katie and Marge would be on every newscast and on the front of every paper in the city.
“I can’t believe I’m here and that I’m not just marching but carrying the banner at the very front!” Katie exclaimed. She had been living as a woman since she moved to New York but coming back to Toronto to walk in the annual Trans March had been a goal since she decided to transition. To be her true self in the city where she’d always felt like she’d had to hide who she really was… it was incredible!
“Happy Pride, Katie! Congratulations!” Marge cried as they headed down Yonge Street, crowds on the sidewalks cheering them on.
After the parade, Katie and Marge headed to the pub where Katie had worked in her old life, and where Marge had arranged a surprise party of sorts to celebrate Katie’s visit. Still exhilarated by the high of marching, Katie was greeted by a throng of friends, many of who she hadn’t seen for years, and only a few of whom previously knew she had transitioned.
“Katie, it’s been so long! You look amazing! Happy Pride!”
There was no judgment here. They hugged her and greeted her by her correct name and said how proud they were of her and how great it was to see her. She truly hadn’t expected so much acceptance. Katie mentally kicked herself; her fear that her old friends wouldn’t understand was one of the reasons she had stayed away for so long.
This story is part of a week-long series of Pride-themed flash fiction. Check out the full schedule here.