I’m much more of a writer than a conversationalist – and definitely not a public speaker. Tons of people have a fear of public speaking. I don’t mind being in front of audiences, so at least I have that first hurdle out of the way. I just have a fear that I won’t be able to talk naturally and coherently. Despite this, I’ve had aspirations for a long time to verbally share my experiences, be on panels, join the speakers’ bureau, etc. I’ve talked a few times in front of audiences, mostly as part of drag performances. I’ve gotten around the talking thing by preparing statements ahead of time, reading out loud what I’ve written.
I’ve never seen someone on a panel read before, but I figured, I could do it! Why not? I had seen a message posted to a facebook group, from an acquaintance who works for Planned Parenthood. She was organizing a half-day of training about trans-healthcare for the PP health center staff: clinicians, nurses, health center managers and front desk staff. It was going to include a 45 minute panel, and she was looking for trans-people to talk about their experiences with health services – both positive and negative.
I thought my recent consultations with surgeons for top surgery would illustrate a stark contrast, so I emailed her about it and included links to these two posts:
She wrote back saying it’d be great to have me, and I could certainly read out loud. Over the weekend, I edited these so they’d work better spoken out loud, and I tried to cut them down shorter. Because, dang, they seemed short when I wrote them, but it takes more time than you’d think to read things out loud!
I arrived at the venue Monday morning, and I wasn’t even that nervous! I recognized one of the other people on the panel, which was cool. The third person came in shortly after, and we introduced ourselves – her name is Leah.
I went first to get it out of the way; I introduced myself and then just launched into it. I think, in retrospect, that I was talking too loudly (definitely not quite my natural speaking voice) but, that’s OK – better too loud than too quiet I guess. The other two people went, and they both did an awesome job speaking off the cuff. We answered a bunch of questions, and I was grateful that the person on the other side of me naturally answered first, giving me time to formulate something to say. It all went really well – people had great questions! (As an interesting aside, there were about 75 people in the audience, and it appeared to be made up of 1 man / 74 women.)
The organizer then presented us with gift bags and gift cards, which was awesome! I feel like the norm is that panel participants are just volunteering, so that was awesome that we were compensated. We lingered while the group wrapped up their training, ate some bagels and had some coffee, and then stuck around in case anyone had any further questions. No one did, but we got lots of compliments and thanks, as people were leaving.
This was totally worthwhile and something I’d like to do more of. I’m not sure how I will transition from reading things into actually becoming a speaker, but, well, it’s something to work on.
The next day, one of the bloggers that I’ve been following for a while, The Overflowing Closet, wrote this post (as part of the 30 day trans-challenge she’s doing: Day 8 – “How do you deal with being misgendered in the beginning of transitioning by people?” She started by saying, “Yesterday I gave a talk in front of 75 medical staff and personnel about my experiences being transgender and seeking medical help. The crowd was filled with people who wanted to provide better services for trans people, and one of their biggest concerns was misgendering people.”
I suddenly realized that the Leah I had met the day before is the same Leah whose blog I’ve been reading! Has this ever happened to you? Where you’re reading a blog and then you meet someone and then you connect the dots in between? Such a cool experience! I contacted her to see if I could share this, and she said of course.
So hey, here’s to making something out of all this writing and online connecting with people!