Let me tell you a story.
When I was 13 I was in love. I did that young lesbian thing where I fell for my straight best friend. The first few weeks of 7th grade I followed her around the field where we had recess like a lost puppy. When she finally caved and decided to be friends with me, I was over the moon.
I loved everything about her. Her long blond hair, her taste in books and movies. We watched The Breakfast Club one night in my parents living room after everyone had gone to sleep, sitting close to it with the volume turned down because it was a movie we had heard was dirty. I laid across her bed in her room and listened to her play Pachelbel’s Canon on her flute.
Sometime in the midst of high school, we stopped being best friends. She started hanging out with a different crowd. I didn’t identify what I had with her as full-on “pangs of despised love” until my senior year.
In the interim, I fell head over heels for a girl the year ahead of me. She looked like Delirium from Sandman. Or Tori Amos. I memorized her poetry and read it back to her in the lunch room on one knee. We visited cemeteries like the goth wandering children that we were. We kissed one day under a gas lantern because she told me that was the ideal way to start a romance.
We dated briefly. They figured out that they were trans during our time together. I spoiled the relationship in my confusion in dealing with the totally new concept and how it related to me and to this person that I loved. That is something that I deeply regret.
Throughout this entire period, I had boyfriends who were far more serious on paper than my relationships with these women. I was an emotional chameleon. I poured myself into the molds they had for me. The perfect girlfriend. Compromising. Understanding. Patient.
My relationships always ended the same way. One big fight during which all of my bitterness at having been The Thing They Wanted but not Who I Was would come flooding to the surface.
After the breakup, I would head out on a bender that would usually end with me in a different stupid relationship. It would usually middle out with me in the arms of some beautiful girl, though. I would feel comforted and safe. But also like an impostor. My relationships with women always felt like oases in the desert. Beautiful and cool and uncomplicated.
But I worried that they were just escapism. I associated relationships with the strife inherent in making myself seem like something that I wasn’t.
After my last relationship with a man, I was so lost that I couldn’t even begin to enter into another one. I stayed single for a while.
Then I started dating Frankie.
One night, in the middle of summer, not long after we started dating, I had an ugly thought.
I’m so happy. This feels so right. Holy shit… have I always been gay?
Frankie was super nice about the fact that she’d already figured that out. She gave me ice cream. And I settled in for the process of figuring out how exactly to be myself with this new information.
It turns out, it wasn’t that different from what I was doing before.
It turns out, the only real difference was that my life was more healthy and functional than it had ever been.
I spent the majority of my life up until two years ago feeling like some kind of impostor. Like I was doing something wrong by feeling comfortable and safe with the women in my life.
Impostor syndrome is a real thing. Amanda Palmer calls it the Fraud Police. The idea being that someone at some point is going to jump out of the shadows, flash some kind of badge at you, and drag you off to Fraud Jail. You will, thereafter, stand accused of Not Knowing What You’re Doing. And there will be Consequences.
Impostor syndrome is dangerous. It’s the sound of your own voice in your head telling you lies.
You aren’t really [insert thing that you are].
You’re fooling yourself. You’re fooling everyone.
One day everyone is going to see you for what you really are. And then they’ll humiliate you.
The tragic thing about impostor syndrome is that it is so often the people who are the most qualified or genuine who feel as though they are somehow pulling the wool over the eyes of those around them. There are so many people out there who are 100% assured that they are The Best when they are really The Worst. I wish those people had crippling self-doubt hammered into them by their own brains. They deserve it.
So listen, qualified and brilliant and genuine readers, because I’m going to tell you something.
The Fraud Police do not exist.
You, my friend, are qualified. You are worthy of the distinctions heaped upon you. You are worthy of your career and your position in life. You are probably even worthy of more than you tell yourself you can achieve.
Fuck the fraud police. You’re awesome. And so am I.
I’m also suuuuuuuuper gay. Thanks for keeping me from that discovery for 14 years, Fraud Police. You badge-flashing imaginary pains in the ass.
Featured image from the lovely people over at Chaos Life.