Take a breath
It was the day of my talk and my body was calm. I had three hours before my talk and the nerves had not sunk in yet. This was a pretty common occurrence; the last time I talked about being intersex was on a panel at an intersex conference. That wasn’t even the first time. I spoke about intersex before when I was younger on a panel talking to doctors. Every time I’ve spoken to a crowd of people I would feel fine before it was my time to share. It is very nice to have this calm feeling, but it is the calm before the storm. Once I’m up there my anxiety takes control and drives my nerves higher and higher. During each trip, I always tough it out, and according to other people I do a fantastic job. However, this was before my talk and it was my time to enjoy what other presenters had prepared. The conference was all about educating LGBTQIA+ people and allies so my presentation fit right into the umbrella term. After the first talk I attended, my nerves started flowing. Thoughts such as no one is going to show up to my workshop kept appearing. Everyone in the room seemed to know a great deal about LGBTQIA+ issues.
After the morning presentation, I attended lunch with a twisting stomach. I sat with some girls I didn’t really know and saw familiar faces of people I did not talk to. All these factors made me ditch my lunch to find my mum and leave early to set up my room. Everything I needed was in place and in my head. My shaking hand gave out pamphlets and logged into the computer. I grabbed my notes and put them on a music stand to glance at in case of emergency. I looked out at the circle of desks and in the center saw my mum.
“You got this dear! I’m so proud of you, you’re being so brave,” she said, with a big smile radiating her love and support.
My nerve-struck arms flailed frantically to take her words in. I started taking deep breaths again, each breath a strong memory. The first breath, coming out as intersex to my best friend. Breath two, telling my family I am pansexual. Breath three, holding my friends and family who love me for who I am. Breath four, my girlfriend who supports me and is proud of me. With each breath, I refocused and allowed each thought to sink deeper in me. With the fifth breath, I reached inside to a locked scroll pushed to the side, labelled “My Intersex Story”. With my final breath, I opened my eyes and people started to file in.
Inside I felt myself clutching to my story but the time was getting closer, and it was time for me to unravel the scroll. The room was filled. Every seat was taken; some people were even standing. All these people were here to hear me, I thought with a shudder. I saw the faces of both my mums and some family friends smiling at me in the crowd. Looking again, I spied all my acquaintances and all the other people I didn’t know. I reach for the clicker which was cool against my burning hands. With this, I started and the presentation began.
Slide by slide went by in a flash. By the end of the talk, I felt as if I had been winded. All the shock of letting my story be out there overflowed my system. The adrenaline started to fade and people were coming up to congratulate me and ask questions. Some people told me how much they learned, while others said how much they appreciated me being so open and knowledgeable, and I even got offered to do another talk.
Presenting is hard and telling your story might be even harder. I feel that, like many things, practice makes perfect. I believe that knowing that the people who love you are there for you helps make life choices easier. You know yourself and you know the topic. The best thing to do when you get up there is to be your authentic self. Nerves might be overwhelming but it is about you taking the time you need to prepare. There might be people who don’t understand you or disagree with you, but you know what is true for you. Remember to take deep breaths and remember you can do anything. You are your own limit.