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Lockdown Walk to Hyde Park

A new (to us) look back by Lisa!

(11 November 2020)

By Lisa P.


For those of you living in North America, COVID may not have involved a true “lockdown,” whereby government mandates limited the extent to which one could move freely about one’s city. In London, in November 2020, Government dictated an almost complete lockdown, in hopes of freeing the City from the worst ravages of the pandemic during the coming Christmas holiday. Typical of these lockdowns, from 5 November everyone was instructed to remain home, with permission to leave only for a limited set of reasons (such as education, work if you could not work from home, for medical reasons, to provide care, to shop for essentials and (thankfully) for exercise and recreation outdoors. That last exception allowed me to walk and run throughout London during the November 2020 lockdown. My lockdown walk to Hyde Park (one of London’s most famous) is described in this post, which I wrote at that time.

The “Good”

I went out today with a mask but without my usual wig. I decided to walk ten miles or more so that I could visit Hyde Park. On the way, I stopped at my favorite coffee shop, Mikel’s on Tottenham Court Road just north of the American International Church, to get an “Americano.”  I had a nice interaction with the barista, who offered me a chocolate croissant for an additional  £1. I don’t think she had much business that day, as there were so few people outdoors. I took a moment to take a selfie, sans mask.

With my coffee and croissant in hand, I walked south until I came to Whitfield Gardens, just past the church, a refurbished pocket park (having been reclaimed from rough sleepers as part of the West End Projects, with the restoration of the beautiful Fitzrovia mural – see above).

The park had some very nice new benches, and the day was warming up, so I sat on one of the small seats to enjoy my coffee and eat my croissant.

As I happily ate and drank, an older (perhaps early 70’s) woman with grey hair not unlike mine stopped and said something like, “my, that is a nice place to enjoy your coffee.”  I said that I agreed and then she asked what was in the space before, because she had not noticed the park. I told her that it had been reclaimed from rough sleepers and that on a day like today it was a wonderful place to pause. She thanked me and said she planned to get some coffee and come back to the park to enjoy it. I have no idea if she read me as transgendered and stopped to talk because she was curious. But the entire interaction was so very “normal” between two older women that I think it didn’t even occur to her (at least not until after she left me).  Perhaps her eyesight isn’t what it once was! In any case, I found the interaction, like my interaction with the barista, to be very affirming. I finished my meal and needed to get on with my walk, so I did not wait to see if she might return so that we could resume our conversation. Also, I had Hyde Park and the famous Marble Arch still to visit!

The “Bad”

The day turned sunny and beautiful. I was feeling chipper after a long walk away from the confines of my flat. Near one of the entrances to the St. Pancras International train station I noticed walking my way along the pavement. As the person got closer, I could tell they were of slight build and wore garish eye makeup and female clothing. At my first glance directly at her, she flashed me a smile and made a little wave to me at waist level. I took it as a wave of acknowledgement (as in, “I know you are a kindred soul”), so I made the same wave in return. Of course, it could have been that she was trying to be noticed and when I did notice her, she gave that friendly wave. But that isn’t how I took it. It is obvious to me that many people can “read” me, even (or even more so) when I am sporting a mask. My head is just too big, my forehead is too large, and my shoulders are too broad. Any one of those features by itself wouldn’t give me away, and someone not studying me wouldn’t necessary connect all those dots, but the sum of all of them seen by someone else who is transgender would be a dead giveaway. I “made” her instantly, and I suspect she “made” me quickly as well. The realization was deflating. To be honest, I would rather she had not waved. The rest of the way home I found myself wishing I could go home, put on my favorite wig, find her again and she if she failed to wave the second time….

The “Ugly”

A terrible result of COVID is our separation from others. We walk around with masks, hiding our expressions, with muted or nonexistent conversations, leading to misunderstandings. How like the life of a CD/TG person COVID makes us all. We are hidden and separated from others, and we misunderstand the motives and needs of others. There is a life lesson in all this for me, to be sure. Do not hide, be engaged, and try to understand another person’s failure to understand! A mask may look ugly, but underneath that mask is beauty for sure.

Postscript. I have a working theory that CD/TG women have excellent antennae that vibrate whenever another CD/TG woman is encountered, and that cisgender women are more oblivious (their antennae must remain retracted!). I have tested this theory on my wife when we have been together and we have encountered a CD/TG woman, whether on the train, working as a barista or simply walking along the pavement.  My wife never notices the transgender woman. I have told my wife that she could take small comfort from that fact, as her own failure to notice these women means that many people don’t notice me when I am out and about either!  Perhaps it will give comfort as well to other CD/TG women who fear going out into the world. Do not be afraid: the people most likely to notice you are people just like you!


8 Responses

  1. Lisa, that was very nicely put, not least because the places you describe are local to me (and St Pancras station has to be one of the most impressive buildings in London, if not the country as a whole so I’m pleased to see it was on your itinerary!).

    Strangely enough, November 2020 was when I took full advantage of mask mandates and deserted streets to step outside for the first time. No coffee shops, pocket gardens or impressive stations for me, though – just a feeling of relief that the neighbours weren’t out at the same time.

    It’s hard to believe that four years have already passed since we were first plunged into lockdown. Time is normally a great healer but sadly here it has perhaps given us the opportunity to see things that seemed logical at the time from a different and less forgiving perspective. The only consolation is that it did give us time for reflection and, perhaps, the opportunity to move this side of our lives forward in some way.

    1. Amanda,

      Wow, your first time. I wished we had seen each other instead of the young CDer. We probably would have instinctively given each other a hug. Hah! My hope is you will be out again soon.

      I don’t know if you or others noticed Kandi’s artistic way of placing my “What is Most Telling” post at the beginning of the week, because masks feature in my story, yet the “tells” still told her story. And so what if people see us and can tell? For heavens sake we exist and we were out and felt the wind on our legs and sun on our face (that day)!

      You know I love your comments. Thank you as always.


  2. Lisa,
    I thought your “Bad” would have been the mirror at the coffee shop cracking when you looked in it, lol.

  3. Lisa,
    Let’s hope and pray we don’t have to return to those days , so much changed during that period , many of us lost good friends for one reason or another .

    I live about 100 miles north of London and never visited as Teresa so it’s very much on my bucket list , I’m not unduly worried it’s just one of those things I’ve not got round to .

    How do we deal with the good or bad encounters ? The simple answer is time , the more you venture out the more confident you become and usually your passability and /or acceptance improves . Eventually you’ll find you are less acknowledge by other CDers or transgirls , you have to consider if it’s helping by acknowledging her , she also could be upset by being read .

    I recall a very heated debate on another online forum over the question of speaking to another Cder or transgender person , especially if she’s had surgery , of course we could have got it completely wrong and she is a cis woman .

    1. Teresa,

      Oh, you must find time to go to London again. I have been to so many wonderful places, I could go on and on about how thrilling it was to travel the City. I never once had a negative encounter (I can’t say my “ugly” was more than simply in my mind in my essay).

      I come out on not saying anything to another CD/TG person. We don’t know what sensitivity the other person may have.


  4. Hi Lisa,
    I actually thought that the other girl little wave was kind of cool. I’ve often thought that it would be awesome if there was a way that trans girls could wear something that other trans girls would recognize instantly. Like a pin or something. I have a bracelet that is the colour of the transgender flag and I’ve had more compliments on that than any other piece of jewellery I own.

    Trish ❤️

    1. Trish,

      I like your approach to the recognition question. It says, indirectly, “say hi, if you would like!”


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