I wrote a blog post last October about my greatest fear. I mentioned that I have a little bit of a fear of both death and failure, which I’m sure everyone has or has had in their lives. I also mentioned in passing in that blog the uncomfortable feeling (but not an outright fear) that I have when flying in a plane. But I freely admitted having a fear of heights. Yeah, being at least several hundred feet — if not several thousand — gets me real uncomfortable, so it helps if I’m nowhere near a window.
What I failed to mention or even think about then — but I will bring it up here as the second of FC’s “June Jour” prompts asks about the respondent’s greatest fear and whether they’ve learned to overcome it — is a fear that may be common to some crossdressers like me: It’s the fear of your dressing up in clothing of the opposite gender being discovered by a friend or loved one, and what may result from that discovery. I’ve mentioned several times on here that I fear that someone in my family may discover that I dress up. That discovery has happened before, when Mom discovered my sister’s bathing suit in my dresser when I was 15 (I went into detail on that here). I am more mature now than I was then, but I still have that lingering fear that if my whole family, or at least key members of my family (mother, stepfather, sisters), were to discover that I still dress up as Allison, they would sternly shut me out of their families’ lives.
When I think of it, it’s not so much the fear of Allison being uncovered, but more the lose of those familial bonds. I love and respect my family — and especially my four wonderful nieces — so much. Which is why I’ve grown comfortable with leaving Allison in the closet when she needs to stay in there. That may be a harsh description for some of you, I’m sure, but when it comes to my family, the fewer people know about their son’s/brother’s/uncle’s feminine side, the better those family bonds will be.
If you don’t mind, I want to circle back to that uncomfortable feeling about flying that I mentioned in passing above, and also trot out my “Allison Clears Out a Bookmark” category: I have indeed flown on a plane a couple of times in the past. But that’s not to say that I like flying. I think it’s that feeling of being cooped up in a confined space, even if I have a seating row all to myself. Maybe it has to do with that fear of heights I freely confess to. When my family and I vacationed together on Thanksgiving Week 1991, we had a flight from O’Hare Airport in Chicago to Orlando. I had a 3-seat row all to myself on the jet. Somehow, United Airlines assigned me a seat that was two rows away from the rest of my family. But that assigned seat was next to the window. And it wasn’t next to the airplane wing either. Meaning I head a clear view of — Eeek! — a 30,000-foot difference between me and good old terra firma. I was confident the plane would have a safe flight, and the cabin space made me a little bit at ease. But that view of the ground from that window prompted me to move one spot over to that empty seat next to me.
Which brings me to the “clearing out a bookmark” point of this post: Last month, NPR’s Morning Edition aired a story about a class in California that helps people get over their fear of heights. The two-day class is for people who are truly fearful of flying. Many of the participants have missed out on travel matters of various importance because they just didn’t want to fly to the destination. The purpose of the class is to increase the comfort level of the fearful people. It’s more of a get-comfortable-as-you-go-along type of class, with the class learning about various airplane, from mechanics and the environment inside a plane (a retired jet is used as a simulator) to, yes, turbulence from a retired airline pilot who presents the class in a jovial, lighthearted manner. The class culminates in a round-trip flight from Burbank to Oakland, California.
But despite the humor of the class, there are participants who are seriously fearful of flying. The turbulence simulation doesn’t make things any easier, for sure. That fear can be so overwhelming that participants do abandon the class, including two in the NPR story who bail on Day 2 just as the class’ plane to Oakland is ready to take off.
It’s that lingering fear that some in the class still experience even when taking the class that makes me think… having a fear of something is not funny at all. I am reminded of a time when I watched one of those cheesy daytime talk shows (I won’t mention which one it is) and the host hauled a group of people with various unique fears and phobias onto the stage. Some in the audience treated it as if it were a stage comedy, laughing or at least hesitantly giggling as a man freaks out over seeing a giant tarantula or a woman sobs uncontrollably as a clown tries to make her laugh. But by the end of the hour, the guests were amazingly (this is a cheesy daytime talk show after all) overcoming their fears, all with the approving applause of the audience.
And even with the jokes and geniality of the instructor in that NPR story, fear of flying must certainly be a hard thing to overcome. At least there’s an admission that the class is only the first big step, not a cure-all; that those fears may resurface for some of the participants as soon as the need to book that next flight arises.
So, if you’re one who has overcome a fear of flying, congratulations. As for me, I still insist that I do not have an outright fear of flying. Sure, I could book a flight and go if I needed to do so. But I don’t have a need to do that right now (and haven’t had the need to do so in 19 years). And besides, I’ve always thought that seeing and appreciating America is better when you’re on the ground.