Lounging Minds Want to Know8 June, 2011
As I have gone through life the place where I feel the most anxiety has shifted. (Well, technically the place I feel the most anxiety is in my body, but that’s a technical quibble and we’ll just go with physical location in a broad sense of the word.) As a student, it was often at school but when I hit my teen years it was at home. Later it became the job site and as a teacher it has often been the classroom. Lately, however, it has been the teacher’s lounge. And we’re talking serious anxiety here. Palm-sweating, stomach-twisting, lunch-losing anxiety. Just walking in the room is enough to set my teeth and the fine hairs on my neck on edge. The reason? When I walk in there I no longer feel like a whole person and that experience is indescribably disturbing. It’s like existing in two world simultaneously, one with oxygen and one without; you never know if your next breath will fill your lungs or cause them to collapse.
Over the last several decades I have grown accustomed to feeling one thing and being perceived as something else. I have also gotten to the point where I am no longer caught off guard by someone actually referring to me by the proper pronoun (feminine pronoun). What I am not used to, is the strange new gender middle ground I exist in. Some still see me as and refer to me as male, some see me as male but refer to me as female, some see me as female but refer to me as male, and still others see me as female and refer to me as female. When I step through the door of the teacher’s lounge at lunch I am stepping into a world where all four possibilities assail me simultaneously and render me a quivering mass of nerves with a tremendous case of social phobia. I’ve actually slated writer’s club meetings every day this week during lunch, just so I can avoid feeling that anxiety–an anxiety that has been slowly eroding my self-esteem.
This, of course, makes me appear stand-offish and only serves to further alienate me from colleagues who already see me as having flipped my lid.