By Rikki Dubois

It’s June 25, 2011 and I’m in Montreal. I’m sitting here rejoicing because of what is going to happen to me within the next couple of days. The flight over was uneventful and went by fast. It was only a two and a half hour flight.

My partner Charlene drove me to the airport. It was different being at the airport because of the construction of  the new terminal. We weren’t really sure where we were going. I read the signs and navigated Charlene into the parkade. We took the elevator down and were met at the bottom by a man with a golf cart. He took my suitcase and told us he would give us a ride to the terminal.

At 9:30 we walked over to the gate. After saying goodbye, I went through the maze that took me to the entrance. There was a guard there who made me stand on a mat, then he sent me to the lineup at the far left, where there was a conveyor belt. It wasn’t much of a lineup, but the two girls in front of me had a lot of stuff. They were taking things out of their backpacks and bags and putting them in the big trays that were piled up a the end.

I wasn’t sure what I should be doing, but I sure did not feel like dumping my bag in a bucket, so I took a bucket and put it on the belt.  And waited for the two girls to finish. I went to the nice lady who was in charge of checking the bags and told her that I hadn’t done this for over 30 years and asked her what I was supposed to do. She asked if I had any liquids in my bag and I told her only my makeup. She took a little Ziploc bag and told me that I could only take the liquid that I could fit in the bag.

When this was done, she had me take off my sweater and put in the bucket. She asked if I had anything in my pockets. I told her I didn’t have pockets, since I was wearing a skirt and wraparound top. She looked at my shoes a5nd said that the heels and buckles on them might set off the alarm, so she had me take them off too.

I searched for Gate E. Turns out, it was the last gate at the end of the hallway. There was a lady standing there and when she saw me coming, she asked if I was going to Montreal. I told her yes, I was. She said they were waiting for me. As I pulled out my ID to show her, her radio squawked. She pulled it out and said, “Yes, Rikki’s here.” They really were waiting for me.

I went down the long corridor that took me into the plane. It was kind of funny, because after going the long lonely hallway by myself I entered a crowded plane. Everybody watching me as I entered and made my way back to the second last seat.

At 9:55 the plane started to back away from the terminal. At first I thought the movement of the wings meant it was getting windy until I looked out the window and saw that we were moving. Takeoff was perfect and we were on our way. I was so giddy, that the smile wouldn’t leave my face. I was really on my way to Montreal.

The flight was supposed to take two and a half hours, so I thought in order to make the time go faster, I would watch TV shows. I watched Psych, which was a one hour show. When that show finished, I was almost half way to Montreal. After that, I watched the Simpsons. When that was done, there was nothing of interest for me, so I listened to my iPod and read the book I brought with me.

There was a GPS map as part of the TV programming that showed where we were. By the time I stopped watching TV, the map showed we were over Québec, so I kept busy reading and watching the GPS. It’s kind of like when we were kids on a trip and we would follow on the map to see where we were.

The plane landed at 1:30 p.m.

The information I had gotten from the doctor’s office had indicated there would be a limousine to pick me up. So I continued to follow the signs and saw the one that indicated where the taxis and limos would be parked. I walked outside and a gentleman standing there asked if I needed a cab, but I told him a limo had already been ordered, so he pointed the way for me to go. Unfortunately, the place was empty. No limos were there.

Some started pulling up, but other people were getting into them and leaving. After five minutes of waiting, I started wondering if I had been forgotten. Fortunately, I had the limo driver’s name, Robert, and his phone number handy, so I took out my cell phone and called him. He answered and said he would be there in four minutes. So I hung up and waited. And sure enough, in about four minutes, a limo pulls up in front of me.  An older gentleman gets out and asks if I’m Rikki.  When I told him I was, he opened the back door to the car and I got in while he put my suitcase in the trunk.

After we started driving away, he started chatting with me. I think he was happy that I could speak French, because that seemed to be his mother tongue. He told me that he left home on time to pick me up but road construction slowed him down. Even in another city there is road construction. Looking out the window, I could see what he was talking about. There was plenty of construction.

He told me that he was supposed to pick up Susan at the bus depot at 2:30 and asked if it was okay if we made the detour downtown to the bus depot, before going to the residence. He said it would save him a lot of time. I had no objections, so we went for a tour of downtown Montreal. While he was driving, he would point out various points of interest. When he found out I was from Winnipeg, or St-Boniface in particular, he started talking about one of his favourite authors, Gabrielle Roy. I thought it was kind of cute.

We got to the bus depot and he circled the block a couple of times, until he found the perfect place to park.  He parked in a loading zone.  He asked me if I wanted to go with him to find Susan, but I really was not interested in seeing the inside of the bus depot, so I told him I would wait in the car. As I sat waiting, I watched people walking by.  It’s funny how you can fly half a country away and the people look the same as they do at home, even if the language and culture is different.

After about 15 minutes or so, I see Robert walking down the street towards the car, pulling a suitcase behind him, with a big blond girl walking beside him. The first thing I noticed was the strong smell of alcohol coming off her. She told me she was from Hamilton and I started to suspect that she had been drinking during her whole trip. Whatever. Not my concern.

We chatted on our way to the residence while Robert, struggling with English, would point out various points of interest. A ride through downtown. I thought it was kind of cute that Robert would point out where the gay community of Montreal was and that Montreal has a bike borrowing system. He says you can borrow a bike, ride it across town and check it in at another bike rack and leave it there. He was giving us all kinds of ways to borrow bikes. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I will not have time to go biking before my surgery and after the surgery, the last thing I’m going to want to do, is sit on a hard bicycle seat.

We ended up driving on a beautiful road that was following the river. On the left, he pointed out, was the city jail. At the next street past the jail, he turned left, and then he turned right into a parking lot. What I saw in front of me, was a big beautiful old style house. Its name is Asclépiade. This would be my home for the next 10 days. I found out later that on the left hand side of the parking lot was the hospital where the surgeries are done. On the morning of our surgeries we would walk there and two days later we would be returned to the residence by wheelchair.  And no, we did not have to wheel ourselves back, an orderly would push us.

We went in and were met by Simon, an orderly/cook/housekeeper. We were given a tour of the house and shown to our rooms. I was put in a double room that I shared with Jenny, an older lady who had had her surgery a week previous. I was not really excited sharing a room, until Simon explained that shared rooms had their own bathrooms and single rooms had to share the only bathroom down the hall.  It turned out that for the most part, I had the bathroom to myself anyway. Jenny left about five days after I got there, but out of that time, I had spent three days in the hospital. And my next roommate, Alexandra, did not get there until four days later. We only shared our room for one night, because the day after she got there she went to the hospital for surgery.  I left before she came back.

After the tour of the house, I was told that the nurse had to give me my entrance orientation and have me sign some papers. She started with Susan first, so I had some time to kill. I had not eaten on the plane, and since I had missed lunch at the residence, I ate some cookies that I had noticed in a bowl that was on the table. I also had a cup of coffee and sat there at the table contemplating my situation. I had made it. I was here. I could not believe it. I was happy and a bit anxious about the unknown.

After I finished my coffee and was putting away my cup, I walked around to get familiar with my surroundings. The nurse, Manon, noticed that I was walking around like a lost puppy, so she gave me the forms I had to fill in and sat me down at a table close to them while she finished up with Susan. While I was filling in the forms, I was getting nervous. What if my blood pressure is too high? What if my cholesterol is too high? Will my surgery be cancelled?  I hoped I did not come all this way only to be told that I will not be having my surgery.

I filled in the forms and once Manon was finished with Susan, she asked that I move to the table that she was sitting at. We went through everything. She took my blood pressure, asked about allergies that I may have, then she put the wrist bands on me that had my name and allergies and told me I was free to wander around and that they would let us know when supper was ready.

I decided that I would go up to my room and unpack. I didn’t take my clothes out of my suitcase, but put it up on the suitcase rack that was in the closet.  I took out my toiletries, my book, iPod and computer. I laid down on my bed and rested until supper. I went on the computer and read.

At about 5:30, an announcement came out of the speaker on the phone saying supper was ready. I went down and saw quite a few people there. I don’t remember any of their names. Most of them left within the next couple of days. Except for Dave. He was very vocal and everybody knew him. He was a very nice guy that kept the conversations going and made sure everybody was comfortable. This had been his second visit to Asclépiade and was very familiar with the way things were done.

I don’t remember what we had for supper that night, but I do remember that it was restaurant quality and they always served the entrée with soup and a salad. There was desert and coffee or tea. There was always plenty of different juices, yogurt and fruits. Those things are important to note, because after the surgeries, everyone is on some type of pain killers and antibiotics, so that constipation becomes a problem. So, prunes, yogurt and cranberry juice became a favourite of mine during my stay.

After supper, I went up to my room and turned on the computer to see if Charlene was on so that we could chat on Skype. While waiting for her, I watched TV and read. I had even found a crossword puzzle book in the cabinet where all the books and DVDs were kept. When Charlene came on, we chatted. I told her about my flight and what the residence was like and she told me what had happened at home since I left.

When we were done I watched TV and turned out my light at 10:00 Montreal time. The bed was a typical hospital bed and we had two pillows, except that the pillows were both as thick as a folded blanket. The bed did elevate (electronically) at the head and foot, so I would elevate the head part to make up for the lack of pillow. The fact that the bed elevated at the head and foot would come in handy after the surgery. I would raise the foot a bit and would create a bowl for my pelvic region. This would take some pressure off the groin area and would help me sleep.

This was the end of my first day in Montreal. I was happy and anxious. But I don’t believe I was ever scared. I never doubted that I was doing the right thing. I was ready. Bring on my gender reassignment surgery.

Article by Rikki Dubois, a transgendered writer from Winnipeg. Her book Muffy was Fluffy helps children understand what it means to be transgendered. Order it today from McNally RobinsonMcNally Robinson.