I have a hard time with anxiety. Like…a real hard time. I know that the Internet in general and tumblr specifically seem to be focused around talking about a lot of the things that aren’t right in one’s life, but its pretty pertinent here, I think, where my whole goal is to talk about all those weird and awesome (and weirdly awesome) things about gender, sexuality, and so on.
Anxiety is, first of all, not quite the same as stress, though people may often say that a stressful situation is making them anxious. Anxiety is, in my mind, closer to doubt. If I’m getting anxious over the fact that someone’s passing me in the right lane on the freeway, it seems to boil down to the doubts “am I driving fast enough?” and “did I do something wrong?” and so on. In fact, the “did I do something wrong?” doubt is basically the clearest summation of anxiety that I can think of. Or, rather, it’s the clearest negative summation that I can think of, with the clearest positive being “I need to be in control of this situation,” because that’s how the positive situations (read: the situations that don’t fall into the negative of anxiety) work. I feel responsible for a lot. A lot more than I should, because I’ll feel responsible if a storm knocks out a friend’s Internet and they’re upset about it, or I’ll feel responsible for my husband’s reaction when the dog dies, even though the dog is three years old and perfectly healthy. That’s anxiety, for me.
All of my own problems with gender, then, really tend to circle around responsibility and doubt. My doubts about my own gender feel like failures, like I had been irresponsible at being a man who felt like a man. I’ve been thinking seriously about gender since elementary school at least, and its all bound up in guilt or doubt, which is why I’ve been either reticent to admit or unwilling to accept that I was anything other than how I was shaped until this last (very dramatic) year.
Even now, even after starting to move forward through this roadblock I set for myself (however subconsciously), I still doubt every step forward. I am very, very anxious about gender and sexuality in myself, not only because of my past, but because that’s just how I work, currently. I don’t mean this as a poor-me sort of thing; I don’t like anxiety, it’s just sort of a fact of life for me and a ton of other people, and I’m working through it. Rather, I think that if I’m going to be talking about it in a public space, it would be helpful to know why.
The why of talking about it is tied up with the why of learning more about it. I have been reading and rereading articles, pages, and books about gender and sexuality for a while now. I’ve been trying to trace my own experiences through the tangle of information, finding analogs and parallels, as well as things I disagree with or find abhorrent.
After learning what I felt like was enough to do so, I started to write as a means of going further. I started very privately, on a locked twitter account that I eventually deleted (it was quite awful, oy), then slowly growing more and more public, talking about the whole concept with others - first in general terms, and eventually as it applied to me - until now, with this thing. It all falls into the realm of responsibility: if I did not know enough about the subject or myself, I had more to doubt when it was something that would come up in intersections with others; I was responsible for not screwing up when it came to talking about, writing about, or simply being this thing.
I suppose all this boils down to the fact that I’m striving to keep ahead of some sort of perceived point of failure. I want, at some deep-down level, to be perceived as competent, successful, or even just healthy in my understanding of myself and where I fit in the world.
I’ve been called on some pretty basic stuff, before, and it always gives the same twinge of failure, in greater or lesser amounts. Often, it means that I really, really should have dug deeper and understood what I was talking about, but it always, always triggers that heart-racing, tunnel-vision, oh-my-god-I’m-going-to-die anxiety that alternately drives me forward and keeps me back.
It’s uncomfortable to be called out like that, and it occasionally throws me for a very panicky loop, but it almost always makes me a better person overall. So please, by all means, call me out, set me straight, and if everything bears out, I’ll do my best to pull that into myself and move on.