Yesterday I attended my second Transgender Spectrum Conference in St. Louis. This year I also agreed to participate in two ways I had not the previous year.
I spent a chunk of the morning being interviewed by a volunteer interviewer for the Trans Spectrum Oral History Project for the Washington University archives. It was basically 45 minutes or so of narrative with a number of questions and conversation with the orator/interviewer. The subject was the story about my transition from female to male. It was a pretty laid-back exchange and the time passed quickly.
Secondly, I joined two other trans-centric people to share our stories in a presentation called Transitioning After Our 50’s. I’ve known the two with whom I partnered for a while, so it was a good match; and each brought entirely different perspectives to transitioning to share with the conference attendees. We were to speak and end with time for Q&A. Easy peasy.
Well, it should have been easy peasy; but for me…not so much. Keep in mind that as a former technical writer/corporate instructor I have spoken on hundreds of topics to thousands of people; and I have performed music to audiences in spaces of all sizes and to more people than I care to guess. I have never in my life had stage fright when put in front of a group and I don’t think I’d call what happened yesterday stage fright; but something definitely happened.
You’d think that since I knew the subject that I was presenting better than anyone – I was speaking about myself, for fuck’s sake; that I would have no difficulty in sharing my story. I’d already shared much of it on this blog, actually. I’d had no hesitation doing that. But for some reason I struggled to find the words. I had walked in with a plan that in the end never made it out of my mouth. I got the gist of my story out there; but instead of a colorful, thoughtful offering my words became a grocery list of the steps I took to transition.
I don’t know exactly why. I had thought that since pieces of my story had already been shared through my blog that speaking about them publicly would be pretty easy. I was wrong. I made it through the talk and there were some fantastic questions and comments and thanks for what I did contribute; but the more I spoke the less I wanted to keep going – the less I wanted to talk about me. Anyone who knows me or follows me on social media knows that I don’t give up much of personal self. I mostly post funny stuff or photos of my dogs with occasional support for transgender rights mixed in. The only things you will learn from my pages is that I’m trans and love Labradors and coffee – not necessarily in that order.
It has been difficult for me and took me a long time to understand why so many people do share their stories with others. I do get it. I can see how it can be helpful or comforting to someone to know that there are people like them out there that may have already experienced what they are considering. The questions asked of me after I shared showed that what I’d said clearly affected people and made them really think about what it is like to experience female to male transition; but other than the Q & A part, the experience of speaking about it was entirely unsettling to me.
I can’t say if it is something I would do again or not. It crosses that line that I’d drawn years ago about letting others in. It’s tough to flat out say no when there is appreciably a need for people to hear what you have to say. I’m going to have to think on this one a while…and talk to my therapist.