Topline: Who will you be as the world opens up?

Whether it's a new name, new pronouns or a new relationship, many queer folks have changed a lot since the start of the pandemic

Howdy folks! I’m Mel Woods, Xtra’s staff writer. I started back in April, and am excited to be joining you for my very first edition of “Topline!” 

A bit about me for the uninitiated: I’m a prairie queer with a deep passion for ranch dressing, Kate Bush and Magic: The Gathering. Follow me on Twitter for pictures of my household’s two perfect cats, Tesla and Hobgoblin. 

I’m writing to you from Vancouver, where the sun is shining and this pandemic is possibly starting to round a corner as the case numbers for the third wave decline. My 30-year-old partner got her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine this week, and despite being a relatively healthy youngin’ working from home (a.k.a. very low on the priority list), my turn to get jabbed is coming soon too.

As the vaccine queen herself Dolly Parton once said, “I can see the light of a clear blue morning, and everything’s gonna be all right.” Or at the very least, it’s gonna be a bit more okay than it’s been for the past 14 months. 

Remember, “Topline” is just one slice of the pie—don’t forget to subscribe to Xtra Weekly to get the full newsletter in all of its glory.

What’s the buzz 💉?

In the United States, more than 58 percent of adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, and U.S. President Joe Biden has set the goal of 70 percent by July 4. Despite a slow start marred by shipping issues here in Canada, vaccination efforts are ramping up. While every province is rolling things out a bit differently, every adult who wants their first shot should be able to get it by the end of June, according to officials. 

Wherever you are, when you’re eligible, get your dang shot. The best vaccine is the one going into your arm, and every shot is a step toward the fabled “after times,” whatever those will look like. And while this pandemic won’t have a single “end date” (and will likely ravage other parts of the world for years to come thanks to inequitable vaccine access), we are rounding the corner towards returning to a bit more “normal” in North America—maybe even as soon as this “one dose” summer. 


I’m not talking about giant musical festivals or kissing strangers on the mouth at the club. But many of us will be reconnecting with friends and family we haven’t seen in over a year in the coming months as more and more of us get vaccinated. It’s certainly going to be a trip.

What were we thinking 🌅?

Pardon the tired simile, but the prospect of reconnecting with the world has a lot of us feeling a bit like butterflies emerging from a pandemic chrysalis, very different from the caterpillars we were at the start of 2020.

The trauma of a pandemic will change you, but so does the time spent at home reflecting or growing out of the public eye. And while the world felt like it stopped in many ways last March, queer folks’ personal journeys of identity and self didn’t.  

Maybe you tried out a new name or pronouns within your household. For folks going through medical transition during this time, you might be emerging from lockdown with a changed body thanks to hormone replacement therapy or surgery. Maybe you moved. Maybe you’ve gained or lost weight, or dyed your hair or cut it all off or grew a mullet. Maybe you’re like me and bought your first binder.

All things considered, my life has actually changed a lot for the better in the past year. The pandemic forced me to slow down and stop going out every night. I learned to actually eat breakfast. I bought the aforementioned binder and felt that glow of euphoria putting it on. And I fell in love.

My girlfriend and I exchanged homemade pastries from six feet apart on a beach last May. We started an official relationship in mid-June. We’ve built a shared home steeped in queer domesticity and proudly co-parent two cats. We cook together, we watch trashy reality TV together and we fall asleep in each other’s arms every night. I love her so much, and truly can’t imagine what this past year would’ve been like without her. Simply put: I’m a wife guy now, and I love it.  

I know the stereotypes of queer relationships moving fast (#UHaulLife). I’m sure this seems like a sudden or unexpected change to people I haven’t seen in a year, because to them it happened all at once. But we moved in together after nearly a year of dating, which is longer than a lot of straight couples we know. This isn’t some flash in the pan; this tender partnership has been cultivated over months.

Sharing that with the world almost feels like coming out again. And of course, my coming out as a shacked-up, self-described “wife guy” is nothing compared to the big coming outs for queer people whose identities have shifted a lot in the past year. 

For trans folks with new pronouns, that first post-pandemic family gathering where you debut something you’ve gotten used to over the past six or seven months can seem daunting. And it might be awkward, as those acquaintances and more distant family members adjust to this shiny new you without the lead-up that you or those closest to you have had. As us queers come out of pandemic hibernation, we’re going to be perceived, and people will probably have questions about how we or our bodies have changed. 

But know that those changes, no matter how big or small, are something worth celebrating. We’ve survived up until this point. We’ve made it literally through hell—not the fun Lil Nas X hell—and come out the other side as new people. 

Whatever sort of butterfly you’re emerging from this pandemic as—whether that’s a new gender or a new partner or a new life as a wife guy—you are emerging, and that’s something worth celebrating. Let’s all fly together into the light of this clear blue morning. 

In other Xtra news 🌎

👉This week, I debuted my new bi-weekly column Tik Talk, which breaks down everything you need to know about the LGBTQ2S+ corners of TikTok. In the inaugural edition, I looked at TikTok’s moderation policies, and how they can help (or hurt) queer people.

👉Writer Jude Ellison S. Doyle made his Xtra debut this week with a thoughtful look into how trans parents of trans kids are dealing with the recent onslaught of anti-trans legislation in the United States. 

👉Check out Ben Sosa Wright’s heartfelt reflection on the death of his twin brother and sharing the joy of who he was with the world. Be sure to bring your tissues.

👉Hot Docs is here! And so is our first review from the annual documentary smorgasbord. 

👉A trans military veteran shared her experiences and the long-lasting effects of homophobia and transphobia in the American military. 

👉Want more headlines? Subscribe to Xtra Weekly.


Listen to Dolly! Get that jab so we can all come out as our new selves!

Senior editor Mel Woods is an English-speaking Vancouver-based writer and audio producer and a former associate editor with HuffPost Canada. A proud prairie queer and ranch dressing expert, their work has also appeared in Vice, Slate, the Tyee, the CBC, the Globe and Mail and the Walrus.

Keep Reading

Job discrimination against trans and non-binary people is alive and well

OPINION: A study reveals that we have a long way to go to reach workplace equality for trans and non-binary people

The new generation of gay Conservative sellouts

OPINION: Melissa Lantsman’s and Eric Duncan’s refusals to call out their party’s transphobia is a betrayal of the LGBTQ2S+ community

Over 300 anti-LGBTQ2S+ bills have been introduced this year. This doesn’t mean we should panic

OPINION: While it’s important to watch out for threats, not all threats are created equally. Some of these bills will die a natural death

Xtra’s top LGBTQ2S+ stories of the year

The best and brightest—even most bewildering—stories from a back catalogue brimming with insight