I have heard several definitions of “fear”, but this is what rings most true to me:
Fear is the anticipation of negative consequences generally due to False Evidence Appearing Real.
In my view, fear is like a shard of broken glass. It is inherently dangerous, and if treated without caution and thoughtful purpose, will most likely hurt us. However, if handled properly it can be a useful tool and even protect us. Some have also taken this further and learned to turn it into art meant to inspire others by relating beauty, transparency, change and tranquility.
A recent encounter with personal fear lead me to a question. After thinking through my past, I came to an understanding of it.
Is it safer/better to live in fear and hide from it? Or with fear and confront it?
I, like most transgender people I know, had a sense very early in my life that I was different. I didn’t feel quite right in my body or in the role I thought I was expected to fill in society due to the gender I was born with. I was a girl who was born a boy. I was afraid. If I were found out, people would hate, shun, and hurt me because I was a girl that was born a boy. I was a very observant child. The evidence I began to gather of how people would treat me if I were to break with societies norms was generally negative. Growing up in Los Angeles, I had known, and was no stranger to other LGBTQ+ people. But for all the smiles and laughter, I saw more sorrow and tears. There always seemed to be more of a downside than an upside, which was a barricade in expressing my true sense of self.
After leaving home and venturing out into the world, I lived in places, which did not have a lot of LGBTQ+ presence. My desires to express my femininity were suppressed even more by my fear to the point of turning into a hermit. I was too afraid of letting something slip and giving others around me the slightest bit of suspicion. I also had a hard time relating to people in general because I never really knew my true self. I learned to wear masks of masculinity. Although, I did express myself in a few gender fluid ways in order to keep myself sane.
Around 2012 I moved to Ashland in the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon. After I left a job working retail in Medford, I found a new career with a wonderfully accepting company. For the first time I was in a position, city, and community where my fear became unfounded. For 40 years, I lived and hid in fear of who I am in order to protect myself. I saw and met multiple transgender people who had embraced themselves authentically as I wanted to and were generally happy.
After talking to them I realized they had the same fear I did. But, they were actually happier being true to themselves and living with their fear instead of living in their fear. I feel living in it would have prevented them from becoming, or having, what they truly want. This is when I found the courage to be my authentic self; to say to the world, “This is me!” Like them, I finally realized I didn’t need to live in fear.
Am I still afraid people will hate, shun, and hurt me because I am a woman who was born a man? Yes! Am I opening myself up to potential attacks and hates? Yes. The difference is, I now live with that fear, ready to confront it, instead of hiding away in that fear. With this decision, I have opened myself up to a greater certain happiness and joy I never would have found living in fear.
This was just one instance of fear holding me back. Now as I encounter other fears I know that no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I’d rather live with fear...truly enjoying the good times, than in it...afraid of what potentially could happen.