<img src="http://odofemi.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/PhotoFunia-1480618817.jpg" height="429" width="600" />
//Trans life in Quebec is no joke. Between navigating dysphoria and a labyrthine healthcare system, many trans people struggle to get their needs met. Chrissy, Lee and Amiyah are trans people in Montreal trying to figure it all out.//
Play as [[Chrissy->Chrissy]] or Play as [[Lee->Lee]] or Play as [[Amiyah->Amiyah]].
You're 20 years old and studying at McGill. About this time last year, you renamed yourself Chrissy - on a secret Tumblr none of your friends knew about. Then, two months ago, you finally summoned up the courage to tell your friends and family that you have decided to transition and start living as a woman. You shaved part of your hair, which you'd been growing out for some time now, and dyed the rest of it purple - it looks so cool. You also bought some cool clothes at thrift stores in the Mile End. Having to stand around awkwardly trying to buy them totally sucked, but now you look like you're ready to front your own riot grrl band. It rules.
Getting your look down was great, but you know that for you this is only the first step. Some trans people are totally fine leaving things here, but you really want to start taking hormones. You've also noticed that people change how they interact with you whenever you open your mouth. It's the worst. You've heard about voice therapy online, but it sounds expensive.
It's all so overwhelming, but if you take it one step at a time, maybe you can make some progress. Do you [[try to find hormones->try to find hormones]] first? Or look into getting some help with [[your voice->your voice]]?
You're 14 years old and you recently figured out that you are genderqueer. You still live with your parents, and you go are a freshman in high school. You cut your hair short, because it looks cool, and have slowly been changing your wardobe to a more gender neutral style - but you still like painting your nails black. You spend most of your free time drawing fan art online. You're getting pretty good at it, too! You think maybe you'll want to go to art school some day.
Watching videos on YouTube and joining some Facebook groups for other genderqueer and non-binary teens, you start to think that maybe you'd like to change your name to Lee. And you're also thinking about asking a doctor if there's some way you can stop your hormones without going on testosterone. You're not sure yet if testosterone is right for you. The only trouble? You're not quite ready to tell your parents. You're not sure how they would react.
Do you look into [[name changes->Lee name1]]?
Or [[try to find a doctor->Lee doctor1]]?
Hormones seem like the best thing you've ever heard of. They'll soften your skin, stop your hair from falling out, and maybe even get rid of a little of your body hair. Best of all: they'll help you grow breasts. That would rule.
Not all trans people use hormones, but you definitely want them. After looking around online and asking your friends, there seem to be a few different options.
You could [[ask your GP]], [[try going to a CLSC->CLSC]], [[try to find a specialist->specialist]], or [[you could self-medicate without a doctor->self-medicate]].
This voice thing is the worst. It outs you every time you talk to anyone. You've started avoiding phone calls, because you get called Sir every time. There has to be something you can do about your voice - the trans girls you watch on YouTube all seem to have feminine voices, so you know there's got to be a way to fix this problem.
Looking around on Tumblr, you find out that there are three different things you could try to change your voice. First, there are a bunch of [[videos on YouTube->videos on YouTube]] explaining how to alter your voice. Then there are [[voice therapists->voice therapists]], but they sound expensive and you doubt it's covered by RAMQ. Finally, there seems to be some kind of [[surgery on your vocal cords->surgery on your vocal cords]], but some girls online say you could lose your ability to speak at all!
Still, you know you don't want to go on like this forever. You have to try something. Do you watch the [[videos on YouTube->videos on YouTube]], try to find [[voice therapists->voice therapists]], or look more into getting [[surgery on your vocal cords->surgery on your vocal cords]]?
There are SO MANY videos on YouTube that explain how to change your voice - for free! There are even some fancy ones that were pirated off of for-profit DVDs. You feel a little bad about those ones, because they were made by trans women just like you, which feels a little different than pirating a Marvel movie or whatever.
You lock yourself in your bedroom and wait for your roommates to leave the apartment. When you're all alone, you try out some of the vocal exercises they suggest. Eventually, you try recording yourself a couple of times, just to see what you sounds like. Ugh! It sounds so awkward. You start to feel [[hopeless]].
[[Maybe you should find a voice therapist after all->voice therapists]]? Or [[surgery on your vocal cords<-look into some surgery]]?
Or maybe the best idea is to just [[keep trying->YouTube 2]].
Seeing a professional seems like the best idea! There must be someone who can help you find one. After doing some Googling you decide to contact <a href="http://www.astteq.org/">ASTTeQ</a>, a peer-run organization for low-income trans people. You send them an email, and a few days later they send you back a very small list of voice therapists. They also explain that all of these voice therapists charge by the hour, and that you'll need a few months of appointments at least. You already blew most of the money you had saved up on your cool new clothes. This sucks.
What should you do now? [[Give up and try to do it on your own->videos on YouTube]], [[look into voice surgery->surgery on your vocal cords]], or [[keep looking for a voice therapist->keep looking]]?
You watch a bunch of videos on YouTube about vocal cord surgery. The results... don't sound the greatest. You Google it to find out more information, and it seems like the girls on Tumblr were right: there's a high risk of complications that could permanently damage your voice. It seems like maybe this should be your last resort.
Go back and [[try using YouTube videos to train your voice->videos on YouTube]] or [[try to find a vocal therapist->voice therapists]].
If you've already tried those options, you might start to feel [[hopeless]].
This list of expensive voice therapists that ASTTeQ sent you can't be all that there is out there. After spending a few days thinking about it, you start to wonder if your student health services at McGill might be able to help you. Maybe your student health plan even subsidizes this kind of thing, who knows?
You reach out to the Union for Gender Empowerment, figuring they probably would know. You're in luck! They mention that the student health services are running a workshop for trans voice training in two weeks!! And it's totally free!
[[Go to the voice workshop->voice workshop]]
When you arrive at the voice training workshop, you find out that the facilitator is some cis person. You'd secretly been hoping it would be a trans woman, and wonder how a cis person could really understand the whole process. After you take your seat, the room quickly fills up with about five other trans women and AMAB genderqueer people. The facilitator is nice and explains a lot of things about your vocal cords that seem technical but might be helpful to know. Then she tries to get everyone to work work on their voices together. You look around at all the other people here and the idea of trying to do a feminine voice in front of them makes you feel so embarrassed that your whole face turns bright red!
Half way through the two-hour workshop, the facilitator gives everyone a ten minute break. Still embarrassed, you quietly leave.
Do you [[go home and look at some YouTube videos->videos on YouTube]], [[look into surgery->surgery on your vocal cords]], or [[just give up entirely->Chrissy]]?
You decide to keep trying on your own. It's difficult and awkward and embarrassing at first, but after a couple of weeks you start to notice that it feels a little more natural. Sometimes when you get telemarketers calling you, you even try to use a feminine voice with them. And it seems to work! You get up to being called Ma'am or Miss about 60% of the time! This rules!
The better you feel about it, the more you try to work on it. Soon enough you feel confident enough to try to use your feminine voice all the time. After explaining what you're doing to your friends at McGill, they're all super supportive. After a while you forget about having to try to sound feminine. You did it!
Now that you've got that down pat, maybe it's time to look into [[try to find hormones<-hormones]]?
All out of options, you feel terrible. Each day, it gets harder to get out of bed. You notice people are staring at you on the Metro more and more, and you worry that one of these days someone might hurt you. You start to wonder if maybe this isn't worth it.
A girl on Tumblr reblogs the number of <a href="https://www.translifeline.org/">Trans Lifeline</a>, the trans suicide hotline. [[Try calling->Trans Lifeline]]?
It takes you a day or two to actually get someone on the line at Trans Lifeline. The person who answers the phone sounds like a middle-aged trans guy. You're skeptical about how he can understand what you're going through, but you try to talk to him anyways.
It turns out that he's a really good listener. And he explains how hard things were for him once, too. Just getting to talk to another trans person who gets it relieves some of the pressure. It doesn't fix everything, but you feel a bit more energized to give things [[another try->Chrissy]].
You call your family doctor's office and make an appointment. You haven't gone in to see your family doctor for a few years, but you remember that she's pretty nice. When the time for the appointment comes, you head across town to your doctor's office. The receptionist remembers you from last time, and calls you your old name. It feels uncomfortable, but whatever.
They call you into your doctor's office when it's your turn. You feel hopeful that this will be a day to remember! You sit down across from your doctor and tell her about how you are trans, and how you'd like to start taking hormones. She's really nice about it, and writes down your new name into your file. But she says she doesn't know anything about prescribing hormones. You wonder how she was able to give your mother HRT last year when she went through menopause if she didn't know anything about prescribing hormones. Your doctor tells you that you probably need to see a [[specialist]], but she doesn't know who to send you to.
You leave feeling [[hopeless]].
In Québec, the CLSC is supposed to be the first place people go to deal with health issues. They are supposed to be inclusive for everyone living in their neighbourhood, and provide all basic health services.
You go into the CLSC in your neighbourhood and ask the receptionist about getting an appointment with a doctor. You're in luck - they have an appointment open [[next week]]!
You have to find a trans-friendly doctor on your own. You email around to local trans organizations - ASTTeQ and the Centre for Gender Advocacy - and get back a few short lists of trans doctors that are nearly identical. There are about four GPs and three endocrinologists on these lists.
Try [[calling]] them? The list also included an [[STI clinic]] in the village. The whole thing seems exhausting, maybe it'll be easier to just [[self-medicate]].
Every other way to get hormones seems like a bust. Waiting lists, unhelpful doctors, and a useless CLSC make it seem like you'll never get hormones. You feel so [[hopeless]].
Some girls on Tumblr talk about self-medicating with hormones by ordering them online. You check the website out, and it seems a little fishy, but you can just barely afford a [[three month supply]] of estrace and spironolactone. You also notice that they sell xanax and valium, and after feeling so bad for so long, you think they might help you feel better, too. You could afford to buy a [[two month supply]] of hormones with some xanax and valium to even your mood out.
Do you [[just order hormones->three month supply]] or [[get some xanax and valium, too->two month supply]]?
You've spent the whole week so excited, waiting for your appointment at the CLSC. When the day finally comes, you're practically skipping on the way there!
You give the receptionist your RAMQ card, and she does a double-take before asking if it's really your card. You start to feel bad, but quietly explain that yes, this really is your card. You go by Chrissy now, though. She signs you in, but gives you a nasty look.
They call you into the doctor's office eventually and you feel excited again. Here it is! This is a moment you'll remember for the rest of your life!
When the doctor asks what you need, you explain that you're trans and you want to start taking hormones. The doctor gets uncomfortable and starts to talk about how this isn't something he can help you with. He says you need a [[specialist]], but he can't help you with that. You leave his office feeling [[hopeless]].
You decide to call all of the numbers of trans-friendly doctors on the lists you got from ASTTeQ and the Centre for Gender Advocacy. You find that all of the doctors either have waiting lists of six months to two years, or they are full and don't have a waiting list. You put your name on all of the waiting lists, just in case, but you start to feel [[hopeless]]. Maybe it would be easier to just [[self-medicate]].
You wonder if maybe McGill's student health services might help, so you make an [[McGill<-appointment]] to see a doctor there.
It takes you a few days of calling to be able to make an appointment at the McGill student health services clinic. When you go in, you have to fill out a long form about yourself. They call you by your old name when it's your turn, right in front of everyone waiting. It feels so embarrassing, but you head in to see the [[doctor->McGill 2]].
The doctor is really nice. You tell her that you're trans and want to start hormones. It goes really well. She wants to make McGill's clinic more trans-inclusive, and can definitely help you get on hormones! This rules!
She sends you upstairs to get bloodwork done. At your next appointment, if your bloodwork is ok, you'll get to go on androgen blocks and a few months later you'll be able to start estrogen!! This is so great! You wonder what will happen when you finish your degree at McGill, but for now, you [[won]].
You were able to get the healthcare you needed - but only because you're a student at McGill. Still, this is a win! Life isn't perfect, and there are still things to work on, like [[your voice]], but you're on your way.
You order three months of hormones. You have to send a money order to some address in the Phillipines, and three weeks later your hormones arrive. You figure out dosages based on some medical protocols you found online, and just start taking them. The first couple of weeks, your mood is all over the place, but after a month you even out a bit and start to feel good. Estrogen works slowly, but by the end of your three month supply, you start to notice a little breast growth. It's amazing!
Should you [[try to find a GP again->specialist]] to prescribe you hormones legally, or [[order more]] hormones online?
After three weeks, your hormones arrive - along with the small stash of xanax and valium that you ordered. You start taking the hormones and tell yourself that you will only take the other pills when you absolutely need them.
By the time you reach the end of your hormone supply, you're feeling good about the effects the hormones have had on your body, but that good feeling is also because you've been using the xanax and valium more and more. Some days you feel so sluggish from the valium that you don't even make it to class. Your grades are suffering, and that starts to make you feel [[hopeless]].
Do you [[order more]] pills, or try to find a [[GP->specialist]].
You decide to order more hormones from the Phillipines. You send another money order by Western Union, for the same amount as per the instructions that the website gave you. You wait and wait. Three weeks pass. Then another. And another. You've run out of pills now, and you feel terrible. Your mood is erratic and it's like the whole world has gone grey.
Finally your package arrives! When you open the soft envelope, you discover to your horror that half the pills were crushed in transit. What waste of money! You feel really [[hopeless]]. Maybe it's time to try to [[find a doctor->specialist]].
You call the STI clinic in the village, and the voice recording tells you that their policy is to only see one trans person OR sex worker each Monday, after 4 pm. You know a lot of trans people do sex work, and that's cool, but you also feel like this is a weird connection that the clinic has made. It makes you feel like they aren't going to understand you. Plus, they'll only see one per week? After 4 pm on a Monday? So weird. It sounds like they don't want to see you at all.
[[Hang up]] or [[stay on the line]].
You hang up. Screw that place. But without their help, you feel [[hopeless]].
You decide to stay on the line. The receptionist who picks up is rude to you and says that they're all booked up this month. She tells you to call back on the first of the month, before noon. You feel really terrible and [[hopeless]].
You write a short message on one of the Facebook groups, asking if anyone knows the process for changing your name in Québec. You tried Googling it, but the government websites were so overwhelming! You need help from someone to figure it all out.
You're in luck! A young trans guy from Québec City messages you and explains that a new law went into effect in 2016 - Bill 103 lets you change your name under 18. Even better, you don't need your parents' permission over the age of 14!!
The only catch? It's expensive, and you need to get a letter from a doctor, psychologist, sexologist, or social worker.
[[Look for a professional to give you a letter->Lee letter1]]?
Or [[try to find the $137 you'll need to change your name->Lee money1]]?
It's 2016 - finding a doctor who is cool with trans stuff shouldn't be that hard, right? Asking some of the people on the Facebook groups leads you to some local trans organizations - <a href="http://www.astteq.org/">ASTTeQ</a> and the <a href="http://genderadvocacy.org/">Centre for Gender Advocacy</a>!
You excitedly email both. It takes a week or two for them to get back to you. They send you lists of doctors, but they all seem to be for adults. You wonder if you'll be able to make an appointment on your own as a 14-year-old. You've never done anything like this before. It feels so overwhelming. You start to feel a little [[hopeless->hopeless2]].
[[Call some of the doctors on the list->Lee doctor2]]?
Or [[give up and try doing a name change instead->Lee name1]]?
To change your name, you'll need one letter from some kind of professional to back it up. The list includes doctors, psychologists, sexologists, and social workers. It shouldn't be that hard to get a piece of paper saying you want what you want, right?
[[Try calling a doctor->Lee doctor1]]?
[[Try calling a psychologist->Lee psych]]?
[[Try calling a sexologist->Lee sexol]]?
[[Try calling a social worker->Lee social]]?
Coming up with $137 as a 14-year-old with no job seems nearly impossible! But there has to be a way. You've always hated your name and you know that no matter how you end up identifying later in life, you definitely want to change it. Plus your new name, Lee, just fits you so much better.
After a few days of thinking, you come up with a few possible solutions:
[[You could try to get a job->Lee money2]].
[[You could try to sell your art online->Lee money3]].
[[You could try to ask your parents for the money->Lee money4]].
All out of options, you feel terrible. Each day, it gets harder to get out of bed. You notice people are staring at you on the Metro more and more, and you worry that one of these days someone might hurt you. You start to wonder if maybe this isn't worth it.
A non-binary kid on Facebook shares the number of <a href="https://www.translifeline.org/">Trans Lifeline</a>, the trans suicide hotline. [[Try calling->hopeless3]]?
Calling the doctors takes a lot of persistence. Still, you manage to get through all the numbers on the short list. Most of the places have full waiting lists, or aren't taking new patients. Some tell you to call back next month. At a few of them, you ask if they take patients who are minors without informing the parents. The recpetionists tell you that they don't, they only work with adults.
You start to feel [[hopeless->hopeless2]].
You try asking for help on the [[Facebook groups->Lee doctor3]].
It takes you a day or two to actually get someone on the line at Trans Lifeline. The person who answers the phone sounds like an older trans woman. You're skeptical about how she can understand what you're going through, but you try to talk to her anyways.
It turns out that she's a really good listener. And she explains how hard things were for her once, too. Just getting to talk to another trans person who gets it is relieves some of the pressure. It doesn't fix everything, but you feel a bit more energized to give things [[another try->Lee]].
You write up a short resume. It doesn't have much on it, because you've never worked before. But it's better than nothing. You put your name as Lee, but worry about having to tell a potential boss about being trans. You'd hate to have to work under your old name, it would suck.
You send out your resume to a bunch of job postings for part-time jobs online. There aren't many you can apply to, because you can only work on weekends. But you know other teens your age who have jobs at, like, Tim Horton's and Metro, so you've got to be able to find something.
Now, you just have to [[wait->Lee money22]].
Making art is your favourite thing. You spend a lot of time making Glee and Supernatural fan art. Why not try to make some money from it? That shouldn't be too hard, right?
You look at a few of your favourite fan artists' pages and see that they sell their art through this print-on-demand service that puts your art on prints, mugs, and t-shirts. All you have to do is upload the images and then they take a small percentage of the money. Seems easy!
You upload a bunch of your work to the print-on-demand service, creating your own store that you link to your Tumblr and post around a few fandom Facebook groups. You get a lot of likes!!
Now you just have to [[wait for the money to roll in->Lee money32]].
Asking your parents for the money seems like a bad idea. What would you tell them you needed it for? You'd have to [[come out to them->Lee comeout]]. Or [[try lying->Lee lie]].
You don't get any responses from your resumes! This sucks. How will you ever get the money for your name change? You start to feel depressed and [[hopeless->hopeless2]].
You get a few orders!! This is so great!
But, after a month, you've only managed to make about $25. You want to change your name faster than this! This sucks. You start to feel [[hopeless->hopeless2]].
Maybe you should try a different way to [[make money->Lee money1]]?
Coming out to your parents is your worst nightmare. They're straight and they don't have any gay friends and you've never talked to them about this stuff before. It takes you two full weeks of thinking about it to work up the courage to come out. You try to tell them one night, but the words won't form right and instead you end up telling them that you've got a cold. You're not even sick! What a weird thing to say.
Finally, over dinner one night, you put down your fork and tell your parents that you're non-binary and don't identify quite as a girl or as a boy. You tell them that you want to be called Lee now, and that you'd like their support in changing your name.
Your parents [[look at you->Lee comeout2]].
Over dinner, you work up the courage to try talking to your parents. You've been practicing all day, but every lie you come up with doesn't sound real. Still, you give it a shot and tell them that there's a prom (there isn't) and you want to go (you would never) and take a date (there's no one you have a crush on), but the tickets are $150 (a little padding never hurt anyone).
Your parents look at you, then at each other. They've never heard you express an interest in anyone before. They start to ask you all kinds of questions about the prom and the date you want to take, and why you would be the one getting both tickets but not the guy they assume you're talking about. You start to get nervous. You weren't prepared for this!! You give a few short answers, but your palms are getting clammy. You excuse yourself from dinner and lock yourself in your room. What a disaster!
Maybe you should try a [[different way->Lee money1]] to get the money. You start to feel [[hopeless->hopeless2]].
Your parents keep looking at you. They don't say anything. You start to get nervous. Why won't they say anything? What's happening?
Finally, your parents say they don't understand. "We didn't raise you like this," your Dad says. "I told you we should've put her into girl scouts," your Mom says. They start to argue with each other. As they argue, you realize neither of them notice that you're still here, so you leave the table quietly and go to your room. This is awful. You can still hear them fighting. You start to feel [[hopeless->hopeless2]].
One of the people on the Facebook groups tells you about a clinic in Montreal that works with youth!! This is so great!! They even give you the number for it. It's called AMUSE. You call AMUSE and, after being on hold for what feels like forever, you manage to get yourself on their waiting list. It's only two months long - you can [[wait that out->Lee doctor4]], right?
You wait and wait and wait and wait. Finally, after a month you get tired of waiting and call the AMUSE clinic again. They tell you to keep waiting, that you're still on the waiting list. So you wait some more. You start to feel [[hopeless->hopeless2]].
But you [[keep waiting->Lee doctor5]].
FINALLY! They call you and give you an appointment. You got the phone just in the knick of time, too, because right when you hang up your parents get home from work. Phew!
When the day comes, you take your RAMQ card and head to the clinic. They make you fill out some forms, and then you sit around in the waiting room for a long time. When the doctor calls you into his office, you get so excited! This is it!!
Sitting down with the doctor, you explain your situation. That you are 14, want to be called Lee, and are wondering if there's some kind of in-between where you don't have to go on testosterone but will stop feeling the effects of estrogen in your body. The doctor says that there is something just like that! It's called Luperon, a puberty blocker. He explains that it's really expensive, and that you'll need your parents' permission to go on it. He also says he'll need to see you a few more times before he's willing to prescribe it.
This sucks. You leave the appointment feeling [[hopeless->hopeless2]].
You try to find a psychologist. First you contact some trans organizations looking for help. They give you a list. The list isn't very long. You call around for a while, but find out that all of the psychologists are either only for adults or would need your parents' permission. Ugh, this sucks.
You start to feel like you're never going to be able to change your name. You start feel [[hopeless->hopeless2]].
You look up all of the sexologists in Montreal. To be honest, you're not really sure what a sexologist is or what it is that they do. You call all the numbers that you find, but all of the sexologists are in private practice, which means it costs money to see them. You start to feel [[hopeless->hopeless2]].
Maybe you should [[try another way->Lee letter1]].
You spend some time trying to figure out how to find a social worker. Then you remember that the guidance office at your school has a social worker who comes in once a week! Maybe she can help!
You make an appointment to see the social worker. When you go into her office, you notice a small rainbow triangle on the door. The social worker is a pleasant middle-aged woman with big head and lots of scarves. She smiles at you and asks how she can help. You explain your situation to her. She takes a while before she responds, and then says that she can help you, if you're really serious.
She suggests that you meet with her again each week for the [[next month->Lee social2]].
You keep meeting with the social worker at school. She's really nice. She even mentions that she has a non-binary friend! She's the first adult who ever really got you. This rules! Finally, at the end of the month, she says she has written you a letter that should help with the name change application! This is the best day ever! She reminds you, though, that you'll need to tell your parents eventually.
Now all you need to do is [[find the money->Lee money1]].
You are 32 years old and you just arrived in Canada a month ago. Finally! What a relief! Things were getting more and more stressful in Morocco as you were saving up for your plane ticket. Better not to think about it. You're in Canada! One of the most LGBT-friendly places in the world, at least according to everything you read on the internet!
As soon as you got here, you filed your refugee claim. But the refugee process is difficult. You have to hire a lawyer here in Canada, and you can't work in the meantime - at least not officially. To make matters worse, the only place you're able to stay is a men's shelter run by the YMCA. The men stare at you and sometimes make lewd comments. Everything in the shelter feels dirty. You're worried about bedbugs getting into the one wig you brought from Morocco - it's a perfect black to blonde ombré that frames your face just how you like it. Back in Morocco, you really liked to turn it out, and you had been on hormones for two years, but here everything is expensive and you've run out of the stockpile of hormones you brought with you.
You just heard that your refugee claimant hearing is in one month! There's so much you have to do to [[prepare]]. All your documents have your old name on them, and you really want to [[change it]]. You also need to find a doctor to [[prescribe you some hormones->amiyahhormones1]]. But everything costs money - so you definitely need to [[find some work]].
Gender Quest was conceptualized by Gabrielle Bouchard at the Centre for Gender Advocacy. Its creation was influenced by Viviane Namaste's trans choose-your-own-adventure game The Vicious Circle. Special thanks to Betty Iglesias and ASTT(e)Q for help creating the character of Amiyah!
You have to find a lawyer if you want your refugee application to go through. It sounds so expensive, though! And you're almost out of the money you saved up back home in Morocco. You wonder if Canada will ever feel like home..
Still, money or not, you need a lawyer. But how to find one? You try using the shelter computer to Google it, but all the information is overwhelming. You need someone to help you sort through it. You think one of the shelter workers might be gay, so you figure he's probably the best person to [[ask]].
You're all out of pills, girl! And though you know that it doesn't really work that way, you still can't stop seeing visions of your body suddenly, cartoonishly, reverting to masculine. It fills you with dread - but maybe that's just the estrogen leaving your system.
You need to find a doctor. You've heard Canadian healthcare is free! If there's one thing people know about Canada, it's the free healthcare, right?
This shouldn't be too hard, even as a trans woman. You use the shelter's computer to find a trans organization in town and give them a [[call]].
You need money. Lots of it. So, you decide to talk to one of the shelter workers. Maybe they know how to get jobs in Canada.
The shelter worker you speak to just shakes his head and tells you it isn't possible. You have to have legal status in Canada in order to work, so none of the temp agencies or employment programs he knows of will take you. You get the feeling he doesn't like having you in his office, so you leave feeling [[discouraged]].
You use the computer at the shelter to find some trans organizations in town. They might be able to help you get your documents changed, or at least explain how it works. You call <a href="http://www.astteq.org/">ASTTeQ</a> and set up an appointment to meet with one of their workers that [[afternoon]].
ASTTeQ's office is so easy to find! It's actually not that far from the shelter you're staying in, so you decide to walk. You see some nice dresses in the window of a shop and can't wait to get your status so you can afford them. And it's not even that cold out - you expected it to be a blizzard 24/7 in Canada, but it's April and a light jacket is fine.
You arrive at the offices of <a href="http://www.astteq.org/">ASTTeQ</a> and they [[buzz you up]].
ASTT(e)Q is in a small room at the end of a hallway. One of ASTT(e)Q's workers, a friendly Latina trans woman, leads you there and the two of you sit down to talk about your situation. You explain that you want to change your name on your documents, and the worker helpfully pulls out a form from her desk and hands it to you. She begins explaining the process, and how much it costs, but as she talks you realize that this form is for citizens.
"Can I use this form while my refugee claim is processing?" you ask.
"Oh girl," the worker says. "I'm sorry. But in Québec you aren't allowed to change any of your documents until you get your permanent resident card. Once you have your PR card, you'll be able to change your gender but not your name on that. You might not be able to change it on other documents, such as a driver's license, even after you change it on your PR card. But when you do get your PR card, come back and we can help. It costs $50 to change your gender and you'll also need to hire a lawyer. I'm sorry, honey."
What a let down. Disappointed, you go back to the [[shelter->Amiyah]].
How are you going to afford your lawyers' fees, your name change, your hormones and doctor's visits, and also get some beautiful new clothes that are also suitable for Montreal weather? It feels impossible!
When you left Morocco, you told yourself you would never do sex work again. And for a few days, you try to stay true to your resolve. But there just aren't any other options you can think of. You run into a trans woman on the street and start talking to her. She tells you that there's a massage parlour that's hiring in [[the Village]], and that lots of girls walk on [[Ontario Street]] at night.
You decide to walk on Ontario Street. The shelter's curfew is 11 pm, but you think maybe you could make some money and get back before then. Or, at least, you hope so.
It's colder at night, but it's not too bad. After about ten minutes of slowly walking up and down a couple of blocks on Ontario Street, a car pulls over. Bingo! You trot over to it, your heels clicking against the sidewalk. The guy drives you around the corner into an alley, and everything goes well. You make out with $80, and then walk back to the stroll.
Hm, maybe you should call it a night and get back to the [[shelter->Amiyah]].
Then again, if you stay out just a little bit longer, you might be able to make [[more cash]].
The massage parlour in the Village has a nice website. All the girls who work there are trans, and you suspect that probably some of them don't have status. Feeling good about it, you fix your makeup and head down there, hoping they'll give you [[a job]].
It's 10:45. You've been pacing for what feels like forever. That first guy was so easy to pick up - where are all the rest? If you don't head back to the shelter now, you won't make curfew and you'll be stuck out all night. They might even give away your bed! And what will happen to all your stuff?
But $80 doesn't seem like enough. It felt like so much when you first got it, but you've had time to start adding things up in your head while you're waiting, and you ran past $80 twenty minutes ago.
You're about to leave and hoof it back to the shelter, when a car pulls up right in front of you. Ok, there's time for [[one quick client]]!
Something felt off. And you know it's going wrong when the client slaps a pair of handcuffs on you. Now you're not going to make it back to the shelter tonight for sure. You heart is racing. Could they deport you over this? You'd thought sex work was legal - you remembered reading something in the paper about Canada legalizing sex work a few years ago, but now you know you must've misunderstand.
They hold you all night without charges. Finally they take a statement from you and when you tell them you're a refugee claimant, they decide to let you go. Apparently they can't deport you because they've deported girls like you before and they've ended up victims of violence or even murder. It's a chilling thought. In the early hours of the morning, you walk back to the [[shelter->Amiyah]].
On the inside, the massage parlour is actually pretty nice. It's clean and organized, and the woman who lets you in seems friendly. You two get to chatting and you explain your situation and that you need to find work.
"You're in luck," she says, all bubbly and bright. "One of the regular girls just quit her day shift, and I bet I could convince the manager to hire you. You're so pretty. Are you available Mondays and Wednesdays?"
"Great," she says, picking up the phone. You wait while she calls the manager. After some negotiation, she hands you the phone. The manager explains how it all works: you make $120 per session, and he takes a cut of $40 off the top. That means you make $80 for each client. After some quick caluclations - you were a math whiz as a kids - you figure that that is better than you ever made escorting in Morocco.
So, you [[take the job]].
It's a pretty good set up. There are showers and fresh towels for the clients. The space is clean. In each massage room there's a TV playing some t-girl porn. And most of these guys really do just want a rub and tug, one of the other girls tells you.
You first shift is on Monday from 10 am - 6 pm. If you see one guy an hour, you'll make out with a serious chunk of change! You're already spending it in your head - new clothes, new shoes, hormones, lawyer's fees. One of the other girls even let you borrow a silk slip to wear in your favourite colour, champagne.
Now, all you have to do is [[wait for the money to roll in]].
By 3 pm, you've only managed to see one client. The excitement has worn off and mostly you're just bored. Mondays must not be a very busy day. Still, you made $80 and that's something, right?
Plus, you're making your very first Canadian friend! Her name is Ana and she's from Vietnam originally. She came over with her parents as a child. The two of you get along really well. It's so good to have someone to talk to - you hadn't even noticed how lonely you'd become in the shelter.
At the end of the day, you only managed to make $80. But also a new friend. You head back to the [[shelter->Amiyah]] feeling happy, even if not overly optimistic.
You were right! Thank God! The shelter worker is really sweet about it and casually mentions that his boyfriend volunteers sometimes at AGIR - Action LGBTQ avec immigrants et réfugié(e)s. He gives you all of their info, and you decide to go [[the next day->AGIR]]!
When you get to <a href="http://www.agirmontreal.org/">AGIR</a>, you're feeling good. You look good, you feel hopeful, things are coming together. And this organization will definitely have the information you need - it's their whole mission!
You enter their offices and head to the receptionist. She's busy on the phone, so you wait patiently, feel a little bit of the same excitment you felt when you got on the plane to Montreal.
Finally, she finishes her call and you jump right in! You tell her that your name is Amiyah and you are from Morocco and need help with your refugee claim.
She looks at you for a moment and then says, "[[Sorry]]."
The receptionist explains, in between the phone calls that are constant, that AGIR is overbooked. You can fill out a form but it'll be three months before they're able to do your intake. You try to explain that your refugee hearing is just a month away and if there's any way you could just speak to someone, even for a few minutes-
"Sorry," she says again. "We're just too overworked right now. There aren't enough services like us, so everyone comes to us."
You fill out the form anyway and figure that at least you'll be on the waiting list. When you hand it back to her, the receptionist apologizes again and then hands you some pamphlets and papers, saying they might be able to [[help you]]. You feel a little [[hopeless]].
As you leave the AGIR offices, you look through the papers the receptionist gave you. One of the pamphlets is for legal aid! That could be helpful - and even better, possibly free!
You head back to the shelter and get the nice shelter worker to help you call the [[legal aid office]].
You were able to make an appointment for the next week. Great luck! After the issue with the waiting list at AGIR, you'd been starting to feel [[hopeless]] but now that you have an appointment set up with legal aid, things are moving forward again.
You brush out your wig and when the day comes, you head on over to the [[legal aid offices]].
The legal aid lawyer assigned to you doesn't look up from his file when you sit down across from him. He's reading directly off of it, and calling you by your legal name. You keep trying to jump in to correct him, but he just keeps talking. On the plus side, he says you're a shoe-in for getting refugee status.
"It's all in the news these days," he says, still not looking at you. "Transgenders getting killed in other countries. The refugee board has really been pushing you people through the past year or two."
You're not sure how to respond to any of that so you just stay quiet. The lawyer says he can work it all out, as long as you stay out of trouble for the next month until your hearing. That's good news, right? But as you leave his office, he calls you your old name again, and you notice you're starting to get a [[headache->hopeless]]. You head back to the [[shelter->Amiyah]].
The worker you get on the phone at <a href="http://www.astteq.org/">ASTTeQ</a> is so nice and friendly! He asks for your email and he emails you a list of doctors to get hormones from.
You mention that you're a refugee, and he explains that the interim federal health program you're on while your refugee claim is being processed covers hormones and doctors' visits! He also mentions that this program covers HIV medications and something called PrEP, which you've never heard of before - apparently, it's a daily pill that prevents you from becoming positive. This is all great news! The only problem? All of the doctors in Montreal who work with trans patients have long [[waiting lists]]. Still, he tells you, it's best to just put your name on all of them.
The other option is to try the closest [[CLSC->AmiyahCLSC]].
You wonder if maybe it's just easier to buy some on the [[street]].
You spent a full hour calling every number on the list that ASTT(e)Q gave you. You put your name on every waiting list. Some of the places tell you that they don't have waiting lists, that you'll just need to call back in three, four, or even five weeks, and keep calling until a space opens up. You start to feel [[hopeless]].
Maybe you should try the [[CLSC->AmiyahCLSC]].
Or you could try to buy hormones on the [[street]].
The CLSC isn't far from the shelter, so you don't even have to waste money on the Metro to get there. It's just a short walk.
On the way there, a man starts leering at you. You can't tell if he's coming on to you, or if he's clocked you. You start to feel nervous and hold your purse a little tighter. He starts following you, and you look back over your shoulder a few times to let him know you've noticed. Eventually, he either loses interest or had somewhere else to be, because he turns down a street and leaves you alone.
Finally, you make it to the [[CLSC->AmiyahCLSC2]].
You run into a trans girl on the street, and she tells you that the best place to work and party for girls like you is a bar called the Funspot. You head out to the bar on Thursday night, hoping to find someone to buy hormones from. Maybe you'll even make some money!
You don't have a lot of makeup, but you put on some lipstick and head to the [[Funspot]].
After talking to the receptionist, you make it in to see the doctor. The doctor at the CLSC doesn't understand your accent at first, and even though you have spoken French your whole life, you have trouble communicating with him. You notice that you're still feeling on edge from the man following you outside, and it's making you a bit crabby with this doctor who can't understand you.
Finally, you manage to get him to understand that you need a refill of your [[hormones->AmiyahCLSChormones]].
The doctor says he'll be happy to refill your hormones as soon as you get him a letter from a psychologist or sexologist. You aren't even sure what a sexologist is. You ask if that's going to be expensive.
He tells you that because you're a refugee, you can see a psychologist for free through PRAIDA - a program at another CLSC in [[Côte de Neiges]].
You go the next day to the CSSS de Montagne, where the PRAIDA program is located. But before you can even do an intake, the receiptionist tells you that you've been in Canada too long to qualify for the service you want. Apparently, you are only able to access the psychologist (and makeup and clothes!) if you get into their program as soon as you arrive in Canada.
What a waste of time. You feel so [[hopeless]]. You decide to try looking for hormones on the [[street]].
Or maybe you should just give up and head back to the [[shelter->Amiyah]].
The Funspot is not quite as fun as it's name implies. There are a few girls there, and a handful of the type of men who the girls here call chasers. They're easy marks to make money off of, but these guys aren't boyfriend material. Most of them wouldn't be caught dead in public with you. Still, you're not here for them. You're here on a mission! An estrogen mission!
You talk to a few of the girls, and one of them says she can hook you up some estrogen for $50. Pricey! But, just like your mother at the market, you are a master bargainer and manage to haggle her down to $40 - which happens to be exactly how much money you have in your purse.
The two of you go to the [[bathroom]] to complete the sale.
In the bathroom, this blonde white trans girl dumps out her purse on the counter until she finds an orange pill bottle. While she's fumbling through her things, she tries to sell you some MDMA but you only have enough money for the hormones. "Maybe next time," you tell her.
You give her your $40 and she hands over the orange bottle. The label has been peeled off, so you're not sure how much you need to take. And the pills are different, too! They're tiny and blue. The pills you were on where big and red. The dosage must be all different. How do you know how much to take?
You ask her what she recommends. She tells you that two pills a day is what she takes, and in your head you decide to try just one a day at first to see how it feels.
Now that all your money is gone and you managed to get some hormones, it's time to run back to the [[shelter->Amiyah]] before curfew!