I am supposed to be coming out at work in about a week. I scheduled this coming out almost 2 months ago and I have spent the time since preparing. At this point everything is in place: I have a new wardrobe of gender-affirming clothes, my name change request was approved by the court, and HR at work has made all of their preparations. There is just one problem: I have never actually gone outside while presenting as a woman. This is a pretty serious issue considering I am planning to present full-time in a week. So over the last two weeks, I have been trying to take baby steps into presenting full-time.
The reason that I have gone so long without even trying to present as a woman is because I am a coward. I have made plans to try going out in girlmode several times in the past 17 months of my transition (example), however I have never made it past the front door. I suffer from extremely bad anxiety and struggle to get the courage to go places while presenting as a man. If I am even considering going somewhere in girlmode, I will psyche myself out to the point of nausea and vomiting. The potential risks and hazards of going outside as a woman just run through my head on a loop until I decide it isn’t worth the risk. This barrier has been insurmountable for the past 17 months, however with being out at work on the horizon, I have forced myself to slowly get past it.
I worked with my therapist quite a bit to figure out a way to gradually build up confidence. The first step was just getting past my front door, which was easily the most daunting hurdle. All I had to do was go out the door, stand around for a few seconds, and then come back in. Even that was a challenge. After a few false starts, I managed to do it once and then it became a lot easier. Next was going a bit further, to the mailbox. Then to my car. Last weekend I was able to get to my car and go to a drive-through, which I felt was a pretty big accomplishment. This weekend I went even further, into the post office and a target. In a matter of two weeks, I went from being too afraid to step outside to being able to go into a store while in girlmode.
While my efforts to gain more confidence presenting as a woman have been successful, the actual experience of doing so has been difficult and frustrating. One serious frustration is that I keep getting gendered as male while in girlmode. This is incredibly confusing to me because I am constantly getting gendered as a woman while trying to present as a man. I probably get gendered as a woman 60-70% of the time if I don’t speak, however, I have had zero success while actively presenting as a woman. I get gendered as a woman more when I don’t try to pass than when I do, and I have no idea what I am doing wrong.
The other issue is stress. Even though I am getting more confident, it is incredibly stressful for me to go anywhere as a woman. My anxiety spikes every time and I have to really force myself to fight through the fear. This stress and anxiety have lead to near-constant tension headaches, something that I was already prone to. While not debilitating, these headaches are a constant annoyance and make everything more difficult.
Overall, I am very satisfied with the progress I have made towards being able to present as a woman full-time. I can basically do everything (except work) while in girlmode, although it still requires considerable mental preparation. It takes quite a bit of willpower to get through the front door, but every time I succeed it gets a little easier. Hopefully, with one more week of experience and confidence, I will have the confidence to start living as myself full-time.