Whenever I have an anxiety attack, the first thing I do is to sit at the corner of my dark room and take the time to reflect on the reasons behind it. I question myself, my past and what lead me to this completely messed up state. I look at my past and the image of a terrified and shy kid comes to my mind.
Since I was young, I have been harshly bullied because of my voice and the way it impacted my gender expression. I am a cis gender male, who spent decades hating his voice. I hated my voice and always wanted to change it because it was one of the main reasons behind my struggle.
My voice was effeminate, it is still the case, it just got stronger with time. I remember being confused as a female on the phone all the times, and that was upsetting. In fact, if you look at it, there should be no problem in having an effeminate voice, because it was my biological voice, and I never chose to have it, yet the world constantly hurt me because of something I had no power over, yet I was always there ready to forgive everyone just with a simple smile.
I clearly remember how leaving home was a very painful experience, because the moment I put my feet outside my house I knew I had to force my self to act in a different way, to change my voice and try to be more masculine. It was funny because no matter how much effort I made, people would always keep bullying me at school, in the street and pretty much everywhere, to the point where I had some strangers approaching me just to request that I speak differently so that I can appear more masculine for them and for the society because this is how things work, that has been always the norm for them. That was a rule for them, and that was a punishment for me. I felt I could never fit in the world, it was damaging for my self worth.
With time I started feeling scared of my voice, scared of myself and constantly watching my movements and how my voice sounded whenever I spoke. I was reluctant to listen to my voice echo on the phone, or to my family videos whenever I appear on them, because I felt ashamed of my voice. This is what the world taught me: my biological sense of communicating with the world was wrong!
The struggle did not stop there, because many would go far to put harsh labels on me. I had no clue on how to behave, and I used to always cry from school till I get home without telling anyone. I remember wishing my father was alive, I thought if he were present, he would teach me how to have a stronger and masculine voice.
That was a wish, a wish of a young innocent kid, and while other orphans pray for their parents to rest in peace in the other world, I prayed for mine to return from death and save me from this world.
Years went by and fearing myself started to create in me a very intense anxiety, and it would get very bad during social gatherings. Speaking on a public bus or raising my hand to answer a question asked by my professors in class was a constant torture and similar to public suicide. I was hurt, misunderstood, sad and always feeling down.
The fact that I always tried to force myself to act in a specific way has created many wounds in my heart, wounds that still ache today. I still have some of those scars, but I believe I am getting better and that my past experiences with bullying and gender expression issues have taught me how to draw a path towards self love. Today I love myself more than ever. I accept every part of me, and I got my voice back; I never feel the need to make my voice stronger when talking to people, and instead of being afraid to be mistaken as female on the phone, I would proudly correct the person I am talking with, because in fact it is their problem and not mine.
Today I love my voice, I love how soft, deep, calm and lovely it is. The feelings of shame I had when I was young are now being changed into a feeling of pride. I am proud of me, proud of the voice I have, the way I express myself to the world and I would never want to change myself for anything. I also still have regrets because I let the world force me to silence my voice, I wish I had the courage to fight for myself, and to be me no matter how hurtful my life experience as a child was.
Today, I understand that If I do not love myself and if I feel secure with my own body and voice then nobody would love me. Today I understand that social anxiety is an illness that I got it with time, and that I am thankful for the efforts I have been making to address it, I live with it and I accept my life just the way it is. My life experience was hard but now I love myself more than ever. I am proudly me and I will never give up on my voice.
To all parents, before you kiss your kids and send them to school, take the time to teach them that other kids studying with them are different for many reasons and often for things they do not have any power over. Teach them how to love, how to be empathetic and how to treat everyone the same way. Teach them that bullying others can break them down and create serious mental health issues in their future, teach them that this is wrong and that nobody should mute their voice to conform to the norms of the society.