The Onion of Trans Anxiety

Keeping with the theme of my last post, I want to explore my experience with my anxiety and being trans. While my post about my own legal liminality is a major factor in my anxiety, it is merely a layer. My anxiety is like a fetid onion, soaked in pickling layers of anxious skin. Inside are much older and more rotten layers. I feel like transitioning is suppose to relieve these issues, and to an extent it has. I feel happier with myself. I like myself, which is a fact that cannot be over emphasized enough, but my anxiety is too multifaceted to simply dissipate upon achieving some form of self-acceptance.

I suppose this post was triggered by an email I received this morning from my thesis supervisor. She wants me to present my proposal to a panel. Now, despite having been a teacher, i.e. small group performer, for seven years, I have extreme social anxiety (I can just push it aside when taking to 20 teenagers?). So, I asked if I could skip it. I always feel bad when I ask for these types of accommodations. And this morning I felt downright sick about the whole thing. But then I realized I was being hard on myself. I always feel as if people are looking at me to just try and get over it. And I think if I was only dealing with this issue, I would. But I think I am allowed a pass. I look at the extreme precarity of my life and feel like that kind of self-improvement is secondary or tertiary to surviving.

On the outer layer of my stress onion — which is a red onion, FYI — there is my lack of legal recognition, wrapped around my lack of stable medical care. Surrounding those two layers is being an immigrant (I no longer feel like expat suits me, it suggests more agency than I have). Then, just inside is the money layer, the OCD layer, and then dealing with having neurological damage. All wrapped up somewhere in that watery onion flesh is being trans. While I feel so much more happy with other queer people than I ever did with cis-het people, unfortunately, most of the world outside the queer community circle feels hostile to me. So, on one hand, I feel at ease and fit in in a way that was never possible before with a small group of people. But, it is at the expense of feeling less congruent with the majority of people — not that I ever felt comfortable with them, but I didn’t feel like they wanted to harm me. Much of this is a self-issue, dysphoria and the like. But any casual perusal of the media landscape gives more than a hostile tinge to the climate surrounding trans people. It’s hard to feel less anxious when the small number of people who want to do you harm, both epistemic and physical, are given disproportionately large media platforms to advertise their hate.

So, as I sit at the core of this onion, contemplating my social anxiety, it doesn’t seem like the thing I need to work on. What I need is stability. I need to feel safe, and like I belong somewhere. I need time to adjust to a hostile environment and to feel comfortable around other people. I need my name and gender to be legally recognized. I need to get an orchiectomy to deal with my genital dysphoria, and to speak to a doctor trained to deal with trans people. Maybe then my neurological damage will subside, it is exacerbated by stress, and I can think about working on my social anxiety. But at the moment I’m gonna take a pass. This is all so heavy.

I’m trans, a PhD candidate in Gender Studies, and a researcher.

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