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Coat Check

Coat Check: Bring a Fleece

Hi friends. I have to apologize, normally in this space there would be an interview between myself and a trans woman talking about jackets. But the interview I had lined up fell through and my backup had to reschedule. On top of that, I’m traveling at the moment and it all became a bit of a mess. But I wanted something to live in this space still. Some thoughts about going home and jackets below, and back with interviews in 2 weeks’ time.

Thanks, I love you

-Niko


I’m writing this in the back of a minivan, somewhere on the trans-Canada highway, which is very funny to me as a trans-Canadian woman. My partner, our dog and I are on our way to go visit our families, after the distance of the Covid-19 pandemic and the breadth of Canada have kept us distant from each other for years. 

We stop first in Saskatoon, where my partner’s family lives, for a brief stint before heading further westward, and finally north to the Yukon, where I’m from. My mom texted me earlier in the week, as we packed our bags in Toronto in preparation to head out to our respective former homes, to warn me of the incoming fall weather. Bring a fleece is all she said, a fleece being shorthand for a fleece jacket. Which feels foretelling of cooler temperatures, but also a reminder of what I’m going back to.

My mom has a long history with fleece, back when she could still work before her medical condition became too much to manage and she was put on disability. She used to work in an outdoor outfitting store, selling North Face and Merino wool and cross-county ski packages to all who ventured out into the cold of the northern climates. Fleece is a shorthand my family used for the sort of practical clothing required to survive when the mercury dips and your breath becomes more visible. 

Fleece never really appealed to me, though I’ve dabbled with it in my youth. For a long time, I pushed myself to don my fleece apparel and fit in. To be a Yukoner is to fit in with the fleeces and North Faces and discuss the weatherability of your outerwear, the moisture-wicking and waterproof nature of everything. Clothing in the north is perennially less a statement of fashion than it is a means of survival. 

When I started packing for this trip, I realized how much had changed since the last time I had seen my family in person, not through the distorted lens of the FaceTime calls my mother doesn’t fully understand how to do, and the occasional photo of my partner and I in our home to prove we exist as physical beings in the world. 

Clothing in the north is perennially less a statement of fashion than it is a means of survival. 

The last time I saw them it was winter, mid-January, my partner and I had gone for a late holiday visit. It was 30 degrees below zero every day we were there. I wore a thick down-filled jacket that I had bought for myself the year before I transitioned and left in a closet in my parents’ house when being trans in the Yukon drove me away. 

We wore utilitarian clothing to protect us from the cold, and to protect my parents from their relationship to the way I was changing, no longer a son but an uncomfortable daughter. My parents are loving and supportive in all the ways you would want a family to be, but still unsure of the physical changes in me. Even in my late 30s, long after I was told to expect to see any differences in myself by doctors and skeptical online trans people, my weight has shifted and moved and grown in some places and diminished in others. When I saw them last, I wore loose-fitting clothes to hide my new curves, to hide the way my butt had formed and the way my breasts sat small and humble on my chest.

But this time I have packed for a trip and brought the clothes I’ve grown accustomed to over the last few years. The last time I saw them I was just beginning to accept and understand myself as more femme than butch, and it was easy to hide in the crevices between those two worlds. But now I’m firmly resolved in my identity and ideals and am packing to dress accordingly.

For the first time, I am preparing to wear clothes that fit my body and connect to the way I feel about myself. 

I’m not packing a fleece; I don’t own a fleece. I put two bomber jackets, one floral print and a vintage piece I haggled for on Poshmark, a long jacket from Zara that my friend Sarah affectionally refers to as a long bitch coat, and a rain jacket for practical reasons. For the first time, I am preparing to wear clothes that fit my body and connect to the way I feel about myself. 

So, I wonder, here as I lie in the back of the van while my partner drives through endless Canadian prairies, will my family still love me when I am me, and not the ways I hide and cover or overcompensate because of some perceived comfort level? Maybe they don’t care—maybe I’ve been projecting onto them something that I’ve been unable to see in myself until recently. The curves and gaps and folds that make up my body are mine. The way my butt has formed and clings to my high-waisted jeans, the way my breasts lay, small and humble, on my chest, contained behind push-up bras to cheat their way to prominence. 

The way I dress, high-waisted jeans, tank tops, and a floral print bomber jacket from Zara from last year, a marked difference from when I last left and was hiding under fleece and down and clothes that fit more like sacks than outfits. Will this put me at odds, will my family not love me or accept me anymore now that I’m done hiding? Will this finally put us in a place where I am no longer a former son but a beloved daughter, back home after years away? Has my ability to find comfort in myself these last few years built a confidence that assuages those fears and puts away the memories of the person I was when I was faking it. 

I don’t know, but there is a kind of peace that comes with being excited to find out. There is no fleece in my bag, but there are 4 jackets of varying styles, and they all speak to who I am, and who I hid for so long. And just as I’m going home to see my family, in a lot of ways, I’m going home to show my family who I’ve become.♦

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