During the pandemic, I went through nine surgeries and used face masks to help cover my transition…
By Victoria Perera
Everyone’s COVID experience was different, but there were also lots of similarities as well. Social isolation, boredom and, likely, excessive amounts of Netflix, to name a few. My COVID experience was somewhat unique. I went into the pandemic as a man and came out of it as a woman.
No, no, it wasn’t one of the side effects of the vaccination; it just happened to coincide with my transition. See, I’m a transgender woman, or transwoman for short. I lived most of my life as Victor: 6’2″, six-pack-toting alpha male Serbian strongman douchebag. I was good at pretending to be all things boy. I did ‘boy’ so well, that others seemed to think I was a ladies’ man when, in fact, I was just a lady.
So, just as I came out, a worldwide pandemic became our new reality and everyone was told to stay indoors, isolate as much as possible, and wear masks to protect ourselves and others. My work as an appraiser had me starting to work from home, living by myself due to a divorce, and wearing a mask to cover my 5 o’clock shadow. Oh, and also to protect others and myself.
Living alone for the first time was going to be an adjustment all in itself. Telling my friends and family, my kids, and everyone else I knew that I was no longer Victor and was now a woman, was going to be a whole other level of new experience I was not ready for. Throw in a pandemic, and my whole world was just about to turn into a roller coaster without brakes and a delinquent ride operator on an extended break.
After the initial hoopla settled and my new reality started to take shape, I kept most of my friends, some of my family, and even my job. The world was now in full lockdown. I started to write, wrote a whole book even. Then, I started running, but that didn’t take all day. Just like most people in the pandemic, with almost everything shut down I was floundering. I’m not much of a TV watcher, but I am super goal oriented. No more gym, less time with the kids, work didn’t take all day. My mind started to wander. HRT, or hormone replacement therapy, for a transwoman at least, is a combination of testosterone blockers and estrogen. Slowly but surely, they help change a boy body into a more feminine shape. My emotions all over the place, body fat in new places, and a million other changes were taking place – but, as they say in showbiz, hurry up and wait. It takes forever and I’m the opposite of a patient soul. I needed boobies now. HRT wasn’t going to turn my boy face into a girl one overnight. I was, at this point, not even close to passing as a woman. Thankfully, I had my mask to shield me both from COVID and from many unwelcome stares from strangers.
I had an epiphany: I would get surgery to help speed up the process and change the things I know HRT wouldn’t be able to help with. First thing I did was my face, then my boobs. Yada yada yada and finally bottom surgery in Montreal. All completed in 375 days. All during the height of ’Vid, as it’s known. And now – not one, but nine surgeries later, with all the money from the sale of my house gone – I finally feel complete.
I used the time I had during the lockdown to do the things I needed to do. Recovering from these surgeries was gruelling and lonely, but at least everyone else was lonely too (however much solace that provided). What better way to spend my alone time: locked away, not fearing missing out because there was nothing to miss out on.
We all went into COVID with one way and came out at the other end different. Maybe you are more tentative than you used to be. Maybe you’re the exact opposite. Some people see it as a wakeup call. Live every day like we will get shut down again, because maybe we will.
I went into COVID as a married man with two kids living in the burbs. Maybe there was no white picket fence, but it was the heteronormative dream we are all fed as children. From the time I was eight years old, I knew I was different from the other boys, but I also knew I had to protect myself in a world I thought would never accept me – and a family I knew never would – as the girl I was back in the ’80s. I didn’t know COVID was coming. Hell, I didn’t even know I was trans until just over three years ago. Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner’s story was my catalyst. I just thought I was weird. Seems I am weird, but that has nothing to do with being trans. I started an Instagram page, initially; it was just to look at all the hot Russian models living in Dubai. Then I started posting some stuff there. Figured I would share my story. The only thing I promised myself was that I would be honest and share the good, the bad and the scary surgery pics. A hundred thousand followers later, it seems to be working and my story has helped a few people.
The lockdown gave me enough cover to go through the hardest time in transition, the beginning stages. It’s when I was most unsure and least passable. It was the most stressful, but also the most euphoric. Being ‘forced’ to wear a mask when everyone had to wear one was the perfect chance to live my life out in public getting groceries while being protected from the ridicule I was sure I would face. Of course, my imagination is always worse than the reality, but that mask was a godsend when I was recovering from surgery A or laser appointment B. Going into COVID with a boy face and the ability to grow a beard, and now having a feminine face and no beard, is quite the shock to those who haven’t seen me during the pandemic.
Of course, the pandemic isn’t fully over; lots of people suffered from it and many died as well. I am most definitely not making light of such a terrible world event. I just tried to do the best for me that I could, given the circumstance I was faced with. I didn’t choose to be trans. I didn’t choose to have this pandemic. Much of me wishes that neither were my reality. We don’t get to choose the cards we are dealt in life. What we do get to choose is what we do with them, how we play them, and how we react to the outcomes of our choices. I chose to be me. The rest, as they say, is herstory.
VICTORIA PERERA is a 46-year-old transwoman living in Toronto. She is a residential appraiser, gym fanatic, parent to two young boys, aspiring writer/public speaker, and runway model.