I’m Cindy Mancuso and I’m from a Montréal, Québec.
So when I was 12 years old, I was volunteering with a group of people where we were delivering the Yellow Pages to homes in Montréal. And it was a lot of work because in Montréal, we have a lot of walk ups, three-story walk-ups, so we had to go up and down the stairs and drop off the Yellow Pages.
So I was doing this and I was dressed up like I’m usually dressed up – a pair of cut-off Jean shorts and I was wearing a football jersey – I think it was a Pittsburgh Steelers, my favorite football team at the time – and some sneakers.
So I was going up and stairs delivering these books and on one of the stoops were two little girls around my age. And they were looking at me and they started laughing and just sort of staring at me. I immediately felt really self-conscious. I thought, oh my god, you know, they’re laughing at me, I’m wearing boys’ clothing, and this is what they’re doing, and I’m gonna have to be going up and down the stairs in front of them for a long period of time because there’s so many of them.
Anyhow, I went back down and I got my other book to bring up to the next stoop and I can still see them looking over. I looked at them a little bit longer and realize that, in fact, they weren’t really making fun of me. They were kind of giggling in that way that girls do when they’re looking at a boy they think is cute. At first, I wasn’t 100 percent sure, but I had that feeling. I recognized that look. And so I looked over again and, sure enough, that’s what was happening. I immediately had a surge of energy in this feeling inside of me that was incredible. I was, like, elated and all of a sudden I felt like I was 6 feet tall and I was really strong and I could do anything and it was the best day ever.
So, after that, 8 or 9 years, later I came out as an openly out lesbian and, you know, was hanging out in the village. And I’m walking around in there are a lot of gay men, along with women, lesbians, gay women. I was going into one of the bars and there was a gay man there, older than me, who opened the door and said something to me and in that moment I realized that he thought I was a boy. And that same thing happened and that same feeling happened inside of me. I was titillated, elated. It felt so good. There was something incredibly validating about that experience with that gay men as it happened with the two girls when I was 12.
I am an openly queer woman. I definitely identify as woman but I feel my gender presentation is very much the in-between. Maybe more on the masculine side. I don’t feel comfortable, I never have felt comfortable being more stereotypically or portraying a more feminine side of myself.
To be able to embrace who you are, even at the age of 12, and even if you’re different than other people, but you feel good in who you are, it’s empowering. I carried that with me. It took a long time for me to clue into a whole bunch of other things of what that meant about who I was. But I think it’s just really empowering to embrace who we are and portray that as authentically as we can. And I understand, depending on where people live sometimes, there’s more difficulty to do that. But as best as you can, be authentic.