Yesterday I stood up from my chair in front of a horseshoe-arrangement of tables in a senior center conference room with 15 strangers, said my name, and then gave a brief overview of my consulting practice before sitting back down again. It was simultaneously terrifying and confidence-building while also making me realize I have some more work to do.
My electrologist belongs to a small business networking group that has periodic membership drives, and she convinced me to come along as the guest she was required to bring. She was upfront about just needing a warm body to represent, and having run a business in the past and going freelance again recently meant that I exceeded her requirements.
Before transition, I would have shown up, talked about what I do, and played my part. I have experience speaking at conferences, pitching to investors, and have participated in hundreds of in-person sales calls. I don’t fear public speaking. While I still get nerves sometimes, I actually look forward to speaking.
But this time was different. Being a trans woman meant there was a lot more on my mind than how to explain myself. I almost backed out because I was afraid and felt like I hadn’t done enough work yet to be there.
Trans people put work into trying to be what we’re not for cis people and then when we can’t do that any more, we put work into being ourselves, for ourselves. Then we do even more work for cis people again in order to have our new lives integrate into the cis world.
It’s a lot of work, and I continually have to cut myself a lot of slack for not having done as much as I would like. Notably, I’ve only spent 1% of my life as myself, so it’s okay that I don’t have all my shit together.
I was afraid that my voice would give me away because I haven’t practiced speaking more loudly. I was afraid there’d be a transphobe in the room and I’d get heckled. I was afraid I’d deadname myself because I’ve done that before. I was afraid I’d wear the wrong thing and look silly. I was afraid that my body language would give me away. There were even darker, more conspiratorial and paranoid thoughts like, ‘my electrologist has already given me away and this is one of those events where it was a ‘bring an unwitting victim to make fun of” sort of thing.
It wasn’t. But that’s a great example of what being trans can do to put a dark lens in front of otherwise innocuous life experiences.
The worst thing that happened was that I fumbled delivering my overview. In retrospect, that was mostly due to lack of practice and the stress of pitching it the first time. While I’ve been having informal conversations with people about what I do now, I don’t have my elevator pitch down yet, and I have little experience presenting to groups as myself.
For all my voice and presentation concerns, if someone clocked me or didn’t like me, I didn’t notice. People were interested in what I do and my contributions to a group exercise. Two people wanted my contact information, so all in all, I consider the experience a success.
Now to work on my elevator pitch and speaking voice…