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A strategy for handling the stress and anxiety in those first trips out in the world

Vivienne Claire

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Vivienne Claire

I have been struggling terribly with high levels of anxiety when venturing out in public.  I posted on this forum for help and advice and the response was heartening and extremely helpful.  It gave me the confidence to know that venturing out in public does get easier with time.  Aside from that there were a number of really useful tips (e.g. anyone who notices you is going to forget about it 5 minutes later, venturing out to the same places means others who do the same will get used to you and then you will just blend in, going out in company is much less stressful, there is no shame in being transgender so, even if they do clock you, it doesn't matter, if you appear anxious and stressed you will attract attention).  I boiled all the advice down to half a dozen bullet points, wrote them up and printed them out and stuck them on my study wall.  On my next few trips out I tried reciting them in my head as I headed into my local shopping centre.  That worked for a while but eventually the urge to constantly see who might have clocked me became overwhelming and I was locked into the, by now, familiar cycle of anxious looking which increased my anxiety, which caused me to attract more attention, which caused me to keep checking on who might have clocked me and round and round in a vicious cycle of ever increasing fear and anxiety.


Yesterday I decided to try something different.  Firstly I boiled my bullet points down to "You will be clocked, some will react positively, some won't care and some will react negatively.  You do not know any of these people so their reaction is irrelevant to you.".  Before I got out of my car I told myself to assume that EVERYONE knows I am transgender so their is no need to keep checking as everyone knows and it doesn't matter that everyone knows.  I purposely parked my car on the opposite side of the shopping centre to the store I wished to visit to maximise  my walk in and out of the shopping centre.  Every time the urge to check who has clocked me rose up in my  mind I countered with the fact that everyone knows so don't bother checking.  The urge to check never went away  but the strength of the urge was much less and so I was able to resist it.  This kept my anxiety levels to a minimum and, while I cannot say I was relaxed and comfortable, I was much more comfortable than I have ever been when in public by myself.  A lady smiled at me.  On previous trips that would have filled me with terror because it meant she had clocked me.  This time I could enjoy the warmth of her smile.  Being so much less anxious I could focus on walking properly.  When I entered the supermarket and began to look for the various things I needed, I found myself occasionally forgetting about the whole idea of being trans in public.  Admittedly only for a few seconds but I felt that was a really significant change.


It was only one trip and perhaps my next trip won't go as well but I do think I am onto something.  My reason for writing this post is so that anyone else  beginning social transition might find it useful.  I would never have been able to come up with this without the kind and thoughtful of advice of other members so I thank you all so very much.  I have high hopes this will continue to help me and I sincerely hope others benefit from this post as well.

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Thank you Vivienne Claire.  I remember the anxiety you describe quite well.  Funny how now that i look back on it how much that fear may have shown to others.  One trick i've found which works well with other women is to smile when you meet their gaze.  Most will smile back and every time that happens i know i've joined my club.  Over time i've found the fun of giving and receiving compliments.  As a woman i love those bits of reassurance and cis women feel the same.

Relax and enjoy.......it's a beautiful world.





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Hi Vivienne Claire - I'm so delighted to hear that you've had positive experiences going out that have helped with your anxiety. I really like the idea of writing out the bullet points on your bulletin board. It is hard though not to be hyper-sensitive to others' reactions as you describe, but it gets easier to ignore those reactions in time and in turn their effect on your emotions. I compare the experience of early social transition and going out to public speaking - maybe I said that previously? The first time is terrifying, and the next few are still scary but maybe not as bad as the first. Over time it gets incrementally easier until finally all the anxiety has faded into just a memory. Our brains have a tendency to imagine the worst and then convince us that it's going to happen to us, when the truth is a lot less scary than that. With social transition it's a little different because it's important to be mindful of safety, but the idea is the same. As @Charlize says, those affirming smiles and compliments from other women are super reassuring. Wishing you the best in your next trips out!




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4 hours ago, Vivienne Claire said:

You do not know any of these people so their reaction is irrelevant to you.

This is important!  Just go about your business as you would have prior to starting transition.  Be you.  Smile at others as Charlize suggests.  Thats what women commonly do when out and about.  Unfurl your brow and look around with confidence.



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Erica Gabriel

Thank you for sharing, @Vivienne Claire. Going out in public is like jumping into a cold water. You can either slowly immerse yourself or just jump on in. 

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4 hours ago, Jani said:

Just go about your business as you would have prior to starting transition.  Be you.  Smile at others as Charlize suggests.  Thats what women commonly do when out and about.

I just assume that if anyone really scrutinizes me, I will be clocked.  But I go about my business anyway.

In my experience, other women are more friendly to me.  I think men are the ones uncomfortable with a transgirl.

This is one of my shopping bags I picked up awhile ago.  (my nails are a bit beat-up today)


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