The LGBTQ Imposter: Finding My Seat at the Table
I have a very queer TikTok channel. I blog for the LGBTQ+ and allies (obviously). And Hay House Publishing is coming out with my first book, Chronic Case of Hetero, in April 2023. For it being a scant 3 years since my “Self-Loveiversary” when I officially came out and accepted myself as a lesbian, my life has been flipped on its adorably rainbow-filled head. It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time, making me often want to yell from the rooftops of my suburban neighborhood, “Look at me, world!” (Which would surely result in a letter from the HOA for public displays of weirdness). But as I navigate this new way of walking through life as an out member of the LGBTQ+, sometimes it's hard to figure out where I fit in. Maybe you feel the same?
Taking On the Role of Late Bloomer Tour Guide
The life I live today is one that I could not have remotely imagined for myself ever. Even now, I find the need to float outside my body on occasion so that I can look at my day and say, “Whoa lady! Did you ever think you’d be here?!” Sometimes it’s hard to believe (and hard to remember) what the process of coming out was like. It was so big and so complicated, with so many layers of emotion like fear, shame, guilt, joy, wholeness, and contentment.
But if there is one thing I felt to my core with coming out later in life, it was loneliness.
I was surrounded by a safety net of supportive friends, spiritual guides, and therapists but I often felt alone. It was one thing to talk about my experience with people. But finding people who could look me in the eye and say, “I get you. I’ve been there” was almost non-existent for me. I realized that I didn’t want any other parents or adult or teen to go through what I had been through without a guide.
And so, I started to speak up a little louder in virtual spaces and let people know I was out there if they needed me. My TikTok site and blog initially launched as Storyteller Soul and people found me and I learned that the closet is very, very full. Questions started pouring in from all letters of the LGBTQ acronym, parents, allies, business people, and… um… not-yet allies. My content morphed into a “Dear Abby” type of channel and, thus, Queer Abby was born.
I was doing it! I was fulfilling my purpose on this earth to serve as a support and connector for others in their times of need. It was an incredible feeling until I got THE comment.
Imposter Alert in the LGBTQ+ Community
The person's comment was...
“Don’t you just love it when the new kid shows up and think she knows everything.”
I’ve gotten my fair share of unkind words (okay—more like hate) from people by being an out and proud lesbian. But for some reason, that comment on one of my TikTok posts about @AskQueerAbby being a safe space to ask questions really cut deep. Probably because it came from within the community. It came from the group that I had yearned to join for so long and just couldn’t do so. And it hurt because I am overly self-aware and self-conscious about disrespecting anyone in this space that I have just moved into publicly.
My initial instinct was to curl up in a ball, pack up my TikTok suitcase and bag of blogs, and run far away… like to the land of accountants or Etsy macrame artists. I felt like I had just made the move to sit at the cool kids table at lunch and that the space that once looked open to me was now filled by a stack of flannels, an Ani DiFranco vinyl, and a cute dog whose bark sounded like the Spice Girl’s song Wannabe.
What was I doing here? I didn’t belong. I didn’t earn it.
Fortunately, my brain likes to expend every free picoamp of energy debating itself and so it asked this very important question, “How long do we have to be ‘out’ before we’re allowed to show up and serve?”
That was enough for me. It was the question with no answer. There would always be some people who thought I didn’t deserve to attach my name to the label of “proud lesbian”, but there would be so many more people who didn’t care what the fluff I called myself, they just wanted to not feel alone. I wanted to keep showing up for them.
The LGBTQ Imposter & New Queer Terminology
Yesterday I was cleansing my life with a fresh coat of paint in our bedroom, drinking enough coffee to power a Smart Car, and binging podcasts to keep myself distracted from the unhealthy dose of fumes I was sucking in though my nostrils. But it was Glennon Doyle’s podcast, We Can Do Hard Things, with guest Cameron Esposito that stopped my breathing in its tracks. Glennon (another later-in-lifer) asked Cameron (an O.G. queer) if they felt that the new crop of lesbians could sometimes be ‘Queerens’ (Queer + Karen personality = Queeren).
That old fear bubbled right back up to the surface and I prepared to shut down my outreach once again. Esposito, a personal hero of mine, was about to opine directly to me on how I was being annoying and overly loud and should just take a seat and watch the pros.
I waited for it.
No such response was given. I suggest you listen to the full podcast here, because it was chock full of gold nuggets of insight, but the moral of the story was:
1) Yes, it can be annoying when people show up and take full advantage of the Pride collection at Target without doing any of the heavy lifting.
2) Coming out later in life is hard too.
My anxious heart was turned to goo. Cameron pointed me to my seat at the table… and there was plenty of room for everyone!
A Lesson in Showing Up
Not everyone in my circle of friends, family, and acquaintances likes the fact that I am a loud lesbian. Not every LGBTQ+ person or ally should feel the obligation to be loud in their circles. Showing up for people in the way that I do, just feels right in my soul. It’s why I went through what I went through, exactly the way I went through it. And now it’s part of my mission in this lifetime.
Just in the past week, after coming out of another dark period of hiding in the cave of self-doubt, I am reminded that when I show up, I find my people. Within 48 hours of showing up again, life brought me:
- A newly-out women, wife, and mother who is just starting her process.
- A podcast host who is a willing student that wants to be a better support to a queer family member.
- A woman in her 60's that is looking to build community for women who come out later in life.
- A friend from the past who is questioning their gender identity.
- Two different doctors seeking to make their workspaces more inclusive.
- A friend on the other side of the world who isn’t ready to come out but appreciates the connection.
And while I don’t have answers, I am always grateful to share my perspective and hold space for them as they navigate to their next step.
A Love Note to My Struggling Perfectionists
(Clarification: This is a love note to myself).
I love this quote from the artist, Georgia O’Keefe, “Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.”
I am henceforth taking the pressure off of myself to swing for the fences with every single blog post, TikTok, podcast interview, and more. Because, if I continue to do that, the fatigue of perfectionism will set in and I’ll just stop showing up for the game. And if I don’t show up, then there is absolutely zero chance of contributing to the team.
And now I will stop with the sportsball references because the truth is I only go to baseball games for the obligation to eat nachos with yellow sauce and try to catch a t-shirt I don’t really want that’s fired from a cannon.
I am not an imposter and neither are you. We are living our lives based upon our own unique, ugly, powerful, poignant perspectives.