I have always lived in anxiety. My entire life I have tried to avoid situations in which I would embarrass myself. The thing is, I know logically that most of the things I would be embarrassed about are only from my point of view, no one else would think anything about it. It was so bad that if someone were walking behind me, I would find ways to stop walking or turn off, otherwise I would become extremely self-conscience and I would miss-step or start walking oddly. I have had to stop watching tv shows because of the anxiety they generated. I don’t know if others ever felt this way, but it was chronic for a long time.
The thing is, being transgender has never embarrassed me. Ignorance or fear was always my motivation for keeping my secret. It’s been hard to come out, difficult in the way divulging long kept secrets often are, but I’m not embarrassed at all by who I am. I am angry that I am saddled with being anything other than a woman, but that isn’t embarrassment, just annoyance. I thought that telling my childhood friends who I was would so mortify me that I wouldn’t be able to do it or I would have to just avoid them. It’s not the case at all, I am pretty at ease with who I am. Sure, I avoid the pizza delivery guy on the weekends, but mostly because they want to talk and I am not comfortable with my voice. Once I get my voice where I want it to be, then I won’t have an issue. That is about how *I* feel, not how others make me feel.
I bring this up because as I transition, I am continually in situations of potential humiliation. For instance, answering awkward, very personal questions about being transgender from friends and family. Or when I went to three different places for find a laser hair removal that was affordable and yet still effective. At each of these places, because I was coming either during lunch or right after work, I was in “boy mode”. These laser hair removal places are not just LHR, they also cater usually to other services that are traditionally for women. So, the lounges are effeminate in design and typically there are other women there as well. They see a “man” sitting in a lounge, with an attendant asking for me as “Beth”. A lot of potential for embarrassment and yet I’m just annoyed with having to be in “boy mode”. No awkwardness with talking to the attendant about my needs and asking about pricing and getting the LHR spiel about what they can and cannot do and how the LHR is done. I submitted my paperwork for starting my Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), to the WNCCHS, again I was in boy mode since I did it on a work day at lunch, still no discomfiture to be found. Granted, I have been in relatively safe spaces and the people have been kind and understanding, perhaps the difference would be if someone was antagonistic and caused me anxiety. I haven’t been in that situation yet, being a homebody has its perks.
The thing that stands out to me, is that I was more awkward, anxious and embarrassed when I was wearing my mask than I have ever been unmasked and open. I have only been me for three years now and it is a more fulfilling life than my previous 45 years. I have always avoided taking a center stage or drawing attention, I felt wrong and didn’t want others to see me. Now I am learning who I am, every day I find a new facet to who I am. A lot of people may see a newly transitioning transgender person as kind of self-involved. We have been looking at a mask in the mirror for most of our lives and now there we are, stripped away of the mask. So, yes perhaps we are a bit self-involved, transitioning if we decide to do that can take even more self-involvement. I find that sometimes I like being the center of attention, I also take selfies and want to be involved in things. These are aspects I never had when wearing the mask.
I still get anxious, I still must over-plan leaving a place in which I feel comfortable. But the feelings aren’t so acute, they don’t paralyze me. With time, I know that my anxiety will downgrade to the normal fears anyone has, with perhaps a little apprehension of being clocked by hostile cis people.
I want to attend the Hendersonville Apple Festival as me. I want to wear a sundress and have a good time with my family. We have gone for the last couple of years and each time I have been there in “boy mode”. Each time we have gone, I have enjoyed it, but there has always been a sadness that I can’t be there as me. This year that changes, this year my apprehensions will be put aside. I am very much looking forward to all the things I will do as me, instead of having to wear the mask. Anxiety, embarrassment, awkwardness, these feelings are real obstacles, but they can be overcome.