I’m standing in front of a crowded room, heart racing, ears pounding, because I know that in mere moments, I’ll have to talk to the entire room about…sex.
No, it wasn’t a nightmare, and I wasn’t talking about the act of sex, but about the sexuality spectrum, but oh man, was I nervous.
I sit on a committee at my church that is called Welcoming Congregations, and we are the people that represent the LGBTQ+ population. We do Teach-Ins and educational seminars. We handle the Pride services, and our float for the parade and we put on a really inclusive Coffee House every year called Feel the Love, that attracts everyone who wants to talk or play or sing about love of any kind.
Today, we held a seminar about Gender. We covered Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Sex Assigned at Birth, Sexual Attraction, and Emotional Attraction. We had a different speaker for each section, and for reasons I still don’t understand, I volunteered to present one.
I don’t volunteer for things. I think it’s partially an Autism thing, in the sense that I don’t like doing things if I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. And in my experience, what’s required from a volunteer will change at least a few times from beginning to end.
My need for sameness can’t handle that.
I also have a ‘no public speaking’ rule. When I was freaking out about this event, I started trying to figure out why I hate talking in front of people so much. Because I’m not afraid of people judging me, I ruled that one out pretty fast. And none of the other reasons for stage fright, like the inability to handle pressure, don’t apply to me either.
It took me a few days, but I think I figured it out. I’m not afraid of being judged, I’m afraid of outing myself.
Which is ridiculous, I’m a proud and outspoken Autistic Person, and everyone at my church knows it, so why am I so afraid?
I’m afraid because I suck at public speaking. And while, even as a youngster I was pretty good at fitting in and faking it, public speaking is not something that I could disguise. I don’t know who to make eye contact with. I struggle to control the volume of my voice. I can’t even follow along with my notes, which makes me mumble along with an uneven cadence.
And because of all of these, somewhere deep inside of me, I knew that if I was forced to give a speech or a presentation, everyone would know what I was.
I think that feeling is still inside me somewhere, and sometimes it comes out and takes the form of a boulder that sits on my chest, at the most inconvenient of times. I’m hoping if I acknowledge it, and remind it that now that I’m an adult, I’m not afraid of being different, not afraid of being who I am, that it will eventually fade.
And hopefully one day, I’ll be able to speak in from of people without the fear sitting on my chest.