Last month, 49-year-old Debbie Wooldridge boarded a train to Montreal to undergo gender reassignment surgery.
“Leading up was the hardest part. As it got closer, it seemed like the days were getting longer,” she said.
Once aboard the train, Wooldridge noticed a Queen’s student sitting near her. The young woman had short blonde hair, curled at the shoulder, and sporting a Queen’s jacket.
The train stopped in Toronto for over an hour, and Wooldridge, anticipating the upcoming surgery, used the opportunity to phone her friends.
“I’m emailing, calling my friends, I can’t believe how long it’s taken, the challenges, the struggles,” she said, adding that she was thanking her friends for their ongoing support.
Wooldridge made a quick trip to the washroom and returned to her seat, when the young Queen’s student turned to her.
“The student hands me this piece of paper and she said ‘This is yours,’” Wooldridge said.
She paused to find her reading glasses, thinking she’d dropped a piece of paper when she’d gone to the washroom.
As she put on her glasses, Wooldridge opened the note, which read “I couldn’t help over hearing during our stopover in Toronto – and it was inspiring. Never forget the journey; it’s the beginning of gratitude.”
The young woman who had handed over the note had disappeared.
“It was overwhelming, tears came to my eyes,” Wooldridge said. “It was pretty amazing she would hand me that note as she got off the train.
“Even though I had supporters along the way, here’s someone who became an ally and I hadn’t even spoken to her once.”
Wooldridge said she was so touched by the note that she carried it with her in the days leading up to her surgery.
“That note went with me as close to surgery as I could take it,” she said. “That was the last thing I read.”
Wooldridge said she wants the anonymous note-giver to know how much her act of kindness meant.
“That day I was really alone,” she said. “Here’s a person who showed some real human kindness.”
On March 7, Wooldridge woke up from surgery as a female.
“I had no regrets going in, if something were to happen … I was being the person I was. I couldn’t live my life the way I was living … It’s hard enough being who you are without being who you aren’t.
“All the work, all the pain, it’s all worth it,” she said. “It should have been that way all my life. It felt so natural.”
Now, Wooldridge is in the process of a month-long recovery at her home in Hamilton. She still reads the note every day.
“It’s important for them to know that what they did meant a lot,” she said. “She respected me as a person.
“I’m a big McMaster supporter, but that day I had some Queen’s pride.”