Let me see a show of hands if you’re intimately familiar with feeling like an imposter. I know most of you know what I’m talking about. Rarely is there a time when we dive into something new and don’t feel it.
I never considered I’d feel any sense of imposter syndrome when I came out as a lesbian. Yet, as I’ve started slowly but surely getting more involved in the community, I’ve found exactly that. The age old, “who am I to…” feelings have reared their ugly head more than once.
It’s an interesting concept, to feel like an imposter about your sexuality.
I used to be afraid of wearing anything that might make me “look like a lesbian.” I was afraid to sing “I kissed a girl and I liked it,” in public because I thought it might bring my sexuality into question. I certainly never told anyone that the only love stories that gave me the feelyiest feels were the ones between 2 women. Now here I am, out and proud and lesbianing all over the place like I belong in this community.
Queue all the imposter feels.
I keep meeting all these other lesbians that seem like REAL lesbians, like they’ve earned their place in the community. Why? I don’t know… because they’re intimately familiar with all the most important lesbian literature and films? Because they can reminisce about all the old lesbian dives that no longer exist? Because they’re savvy to all things lesbian and here I am never having read a single book by Gertrude Stein? Because they know all the words to every Tegan and Sara song by heart?
Yes, I’m a lesbian, but am I lesbian enough?
There seem to be all these rules of etiquette within the lesbian community that I’m not yet privy to. It’s also a relatively small community, so heaven forbid you misstep, become an outcast and are forced to move to a new city if you have any hope of meeting your next girlfriend/future wife.
I was starting to think someone should create a Lesbian Starter Kit. You know, important definitions (wtf is a lipstick lesbian?), flag identifiers, must-read books & blogs, must-watch movies, must listen-to music and a few bonus items, because every starter kit needs bonus items.
Upon further investigation, I realized feeling like an outcast is incredibly common in the queer community. And, not because of people outside of our community, but within. Being a cis-white gay man or woman is pretty much the least taboo thing you can be within the queer community. We don’t need a lesbian starter kit. Pick up seasons 1-6 of the L Word and get to lesbianing. (That was a joke). On a grander scale… feeling like an outcast is common in most communities.
I’ve never successfully managed to fit into any one community. I’ve always had a very diverse group of friends, but rarely did I belong to a specific group. Many of my friends don’t know each other. Some would love one another, but others definitely would not.
I’ve never fully subscribed to any single belief system (though I’ve certainly tried). Because what feeds my soul, what shapes who I am, how I love and how I view myself and the world, can’t be boxed into one way of believing.
The only time I’ve felt I don’t belong, is when I’m trying to belong. But when I slow down long enough to remember who I am, I'm reminded that I’m allowed to be whoever I want to be, however I want to be it. Often, that means not fitting into a single group or community. But some how, I feel a much deeper sense of belonging this way. Belonging to who? Well… myself, of course. And there is no more important place to belong.
I struggled to label my sexuality because it felt like trying to put myself in another box. I am gay. So very gay. But, I’ve also been in love with a man. More than one, actually. Does this make me less gay? Does this mean I can’t carry my official lesbian membership card? Does the fact that there are lesbians who have never fallen in love or slept with a man… make them more legit lesbians? Does it mean they “belong” more than I do? I don’t know. I’ll contemplate that while I’m lying next to my beautiful girlfriend, making plans for our next big lesbian adventure. Labels are helpful in some instances, but they can also be stifling.
It is labels that bring into question what we can and cannot do or be in order to claim them.
But, don’t we all know by now that just because we’re one thing, doesn’t mean we can’t also be another? I for one, take pride in being a walking contradiction. I’ve tried on a lot of hats over the years before realizing I didn’t have to chose only one.
I don’t have to be either/or… I can be Both/And.
So… how can you stop feeling like an imposter? Choose to subscribe to who you want to be. Let go of other peoples expectations and preconceived notions about you.
Life isn’t about living in a way that makes sense
to other people.
This isn’t just about sexuality. It’s about gender, religion, lifestyle choice and your own personal sense of style. It’s about where and with whom you spend your time. It’s about being whoever the fuck you want to be. It’s about ignoring anyone who says you can’t be that, because you don’t do it the same way they do. It’s your job to become more and more of who you are, separate from who you were told to be.
Redefine what it means to belong.
It is not my job to belong to you or to be the version of me you believe I should be. My job is to belong to myself. It’s to continue discovering all the varying bits and pieces that make up who I am. It’s about changing my mind and leaving behind pieces that no longer fit. It’s about never allowing myself to stop transforming. Transformation can’t happen while you’re stuck comparing yourself to everyone else. It can’t happen if you’re unable to embrace the things that make you different from everyone else. It won’t happen if you don’t first let go of trying to belong to other people.
Belong to yourself first.
You’re allowed to be Both/And.