Some Well (Or Ill) Timed Imposter Syndrome

I’m not the only writer who compares himself to others. I’m not the only creator who feels like his creations are worse than they actually are. In the world of artistry and pulling ideas out of your head to turn them into a creative piece, looking at your finished product (and at times, your work-in-progress) and thinking “this is a pile of garbage” is just a part of the process. It doesn’t have to be, but it usually is.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been slinging out a bunch of hot, smelly garbage when it comes to writing. I can smell it even before it hits the blank document, and I immediately discourage myself from the idea that anyone else would even want to look at it. It’s been hard, because every time I finish the grueling creative process with my writing, I get such a damn rush that I can’t get from anything else. So feeling like everything I’ve been doing lately is subpar, plus seeing the success of so many other writers, makes me feel like I don’t have what it takes to let my creativity shine. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m quite ecstatic to see others succeed, especially when they’re other queer writers. However, I start to feel like I need what they have in order to succeed, and I talk myself down into thinking that I’ll never have it. Nevermind the fact that what they have and what I have can exist at the same time and be equally as successful; my brain thinks I just won’t make the cut.

This all changed when I just recently received this email:

IMG_2987

Okay well, I’m exaggerating. Not ALL of it changed, but it did take me a little bit out of the immense imposter syndrome I’ve been feeling for a bit. Like I don’t know if I actually deserve the success I get because I don’t believe I’m at the level of other successful writers.

I keep going through these motions of being a writer where I feel like the talent just isn’t there, like people are just saying I’m a good writer because it’s better than saying I’m a bad one. Even receiving this email (which, don’t get me wrong, I am THRILLED about it), I feel like I’m still just some run-of-the-mill gay writer on the Internet.

This publishing house wanted a short, 1250-word excerpt for their collection. I could have just combed through my old projects and sent one of those out, but what did I do, instead? I busted my ass to write a whole new piece from scratch. I didn’t have to, as I didn’t have that long of a time to write and edit a whole new piece to send to this publication, but I did it, and that work paid off. Yet, I still feel like it didn’t actually happen. Like maybe it’s going to slip away, somehow. How, exactly? I don’t know, but I keep feeling it.

Regardless, I’m trying to stay on the lighter side of it. This is my second publication I’ve gotten in to! That’s huge! I wouldn’t have been given this if there wasn’t talent in what I do. I worked hard for it, and I know I deserve it, and as long as I keep reminding myself of that, I know I can move forward and continue to put that energy into something bigger and better, so I’m going to do what I can to ignore the imposter syndrome, and keep writing the way I know I can. This may sound all kinds of cliché, but gurl, I just learned that I’m getting published. I can get a little sappy and cliché if I want to!

And believe me, I’m just getting started. I have bigger ideas that I will for sure be putting some good energy into, so once this imposter syndrome stops being so damn loud (which may never happen, but I’m feeling optimistic while writing this), the world will see just how mighty my pen can be! (Not a euphemism, ya nasties.)

New Post on Medium: “Weight Loss Didn’t Make Me Feel Beautiful”

I talked about a conversation with a guy on a gay dating app that sparked some body image issues that I have, how they started, and how I feel about my body, today.

Here’s a little teaser to get you excited about it:

“With the weight of this continuous journey on my shoulders as some jackass on Scruff tells me that “240 is too much,” I felt myself snap. It was like he was looking into the eyes of my middle school self, and confirming the voices that implied I was ugly. Imagine having the nerve to tell someone recovering from those issues “don’t take it personally,” when it has always been personal. I might not be 240 pounds, but I’m scared to death of going back to that weight. Though there is nothing wrong with being overweight, the insecurities about my own body run so deep, that even something as simple as missing a workout makes me feel like my body is inflating all over, again. I feel like I’m going back to the days when people only saw my weight, and used that as a factor to determine that I was worthless. I was not beautiful to them, internally or externally; I was a conglomeration of fat cells over an empty soul.”

Check out the article here!

New Post on Medium: “Queerness Feels Safer”

charlotte-butcher-344987-unsplash

I’ve decided to use Medium to post all of my opinion-based pieces, creative nonfiction essays, and other various non-blog writings! I feel that it will be more helpful for putting my writing in a space where people are looking to read things, and Medium seems to be a great platform for that. I’ll still use my website blog page to update when I post stories on there, so you’ll still be in the know about what I’ve got going on in the Medium world!

The piece I just put up is about why LGBTQ+ people lean toward spending most of their time in queer spaces. I talked about the life experiences that lead me to this realization, the overwhelming societal factors behind it, and how I feel when I’m spending time with other queer people.

Click here to read the piece. I hope you enjoy it!

Love, Simon is the Movie Gay Teens Need

Did I need to see Love, Simon by myself in a theater full of teenage girls to get the full, authentic experience? Probably not, but I think there was some hidden meaning in why this was the way I ended up watching the film. There’s something about me sobbing while watching this movie in my lonesome, knowing that a lot of people in the space we shared don’t know what I’ve been through, that mimicked the way Simon felt in the movie. The metaphor stretched even further, as I didn’t know exactly who else in the theater had been through an experience of being gay in high school, further exemplifying this feeling “loneliness.” The teenage Jeff that still exists within my consciousness, where the loneliness ached the most, needed a movie like this in his life, and I know that’s why I sobbed openly in a theater full of strangers.

Love, Simon follows the story of Simon Spier, who’s been hiding his fairly new realization about being gay from all of his close friends and family. Through a social blogging site for students at the school, he discovers another closeted gay guy, who he starts emailing about being gay, while also developing feelings for him. He then becomes blackmailed by a peer named Martin, a fellow thespian who finds his emails, saying that he won’t reveal Simon’s identity to the whole school as long as Simon helps him get together with his friend, Abby. In order to keep his secret safe, he manipulates his friends’ love lives so that Martin can get what he wants, and so that Simon can keep his identity from being revealed. 

Love, Simon seems like your typical teenage rom-com about a high-schooler who’s not quite ready to come out yet, but it offers so much more. While the story focuses on Simon’s experience with learning about his sexuality through emailing another closeted high schooler, there are layers upon layers of social commentary about being a gay person in the modern day. 

The most fascinating aspect of it to me was that Simon felt he had no big reason to be afraid to come out, yet the idea of it petrified him. His mom is a hardcore liberal who attends rallies to destroy the patriarchy, his friends are all in theater and have open-minded views, and he witnesses an out gay kid at school continue to have friends (granted, he still gets bullied, but seems to handle it in a confident, healthy manner). Yet, despite how well he can see that his life could go, he just couldn’t do it, because the idea that he has to have some big coming out felt ridiculous. The fact that him merely saying “I’m gay” for the first time being so daunting compared to what straight people have to go through felt unfair, and part of him didn’t want to have to give in to that. Simply the idea of straight being the default for society was enough to feel scared to come out.

It touched on many other profound issues that I felt needed to be featured. The conversations that Simon has separately with both his mom and dad after coming out reflect such a tenderness that parents should be treating their children with after they come out. His mom noted that she felt like he was “holding his breath” for a long time, despite him being so carefree in his childhood, showing how aware she was of what may have been going on with Simon. His dad lamented all of the times he made tone-deaf jokes at Simon’s expense, without knowing he could have been offended, showing that he felt like he should have always considered the possibility that his own child could be gay, rather than just assuming they will be straight.

I think the film also approached Simon’s conflict with his friends in such a human way, because though I feel like he should have been absolved from manipulating his friends after they found out he was being blackmailed, him being gay wasn’t so much of a spectacle that it excused him from messing with their lives. While it’s definitely more mature to forgive him immediately, it implicitly spoke to how accepting they were of Simon’s sexuality to feel like him coming out to them would have been better than manipulating them so that they don’t find out. While it borders the line of insinuating Simon should have come out to his friends earlier than he wanted to, I think that particular conflict spoke to how his friends would have reacted if he had just come out to them instead of manipulating their lives.

I’m so grateful to be able to see a movie like Love, Simon finally arrive on the big screen. Jeff from ten years ago could have used a movie like this, and it’s nice to know that the gay youth of today can now look to a movie like this, and finally see stories like their own reflected in mainstream media. They need to be able to see that not everything is fire and brimstone outside of the closet. They need to be able to see parents, friends, and people the run into on a day-to-day basis recognizing and accepting their sexual orientation for what it is. They need to be able to see characters like Simon live happy lives as an out and proud member of the LGBT+ community. Representation like this is so important, and I think this movie is a beautiful, and powerful testament to just what kind of an impact a story like Simon’s can have. 

Have you seen Love, Simon yet? If not, get to a theater right this very moment and SEE THIS MOVIE. It’s too important of a movie to skip out on, so I don’t want to hear your “but I don’t like teenage rom-coms” nonsense. 

But if you have seen the movie, what did you think? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

The Problem with Excluding Trans Women from RuPaul’s Drag Race

As a community that has worked hard convince heterosexuals that we should be accepted for who we are, you’d think that LGBTQ+ individuals would be better about accepting differences. Also, if you’re someone that most of the community looks up to, you’d think it’d be because your views and position in the community is an overwhelmingly positive one. You’d also think that, as the face of a TV show, and unintentionally, the modern-day face of an entire art form, that you wouldn’t use your position to exclude an identity within the LGBTQ+ community from said art form. 

You may think I’m exaggerating, but from what RuPaul Charles, the face of RuPaul’s Drag Race said about whether or not he would allow a trans woman to compete on the show, it may not seem like it’s all that far-fetched. 

To summarize the parts of RuPaul’s interview with The Guardian that are in question, when asked about whether or not he would allow a trans woman to compete on the show, he said “probably not,” citing an example from Peppermint, a competitor in season 9 as someone who “didn’t get breast implants until after she left our show; she was identifying as a woman, but she hadn’t really transitioned.” Seeing RuPaul’s opinion on trans drag queens on her show during season 5 with Monica Beverly Hillz, which originally seemed pretty accepting, and then also seeing that Peppermint, an openly trans queen, was competing on the show, made me feel that this wouldn’t be an issue. Sure, she did have to get called out for the “She-Mail” segment of her show, and has a horrible track record of using the word “tranny,” but I guess some hopeful part of me thought that this meant her views were changing. Those thoughts all came to a crashing halt when she made an official statement on it, and now I fear that we will never be free of a problematic face of modern-day drag. 

Don’t get me wrong, I believe RuPaul has definitely done good work with the show. He’s an openly gay, black drag queen on mainstream television, casting other drag queens in the community for the show, all of many different races and ethnicities. He’s created quite a stellar piece of representation with Drag Race, and it’s amazing to see this incredibly important aspect of LGBTQ+ culture on VH1. However, that doesn’t make him immune to criticism. While he’s definitely a trailblazer for representing LGBTQ+ identities in mainstream media, his recent interview showed that he still has a lot to learn, especially as the current face of drag.

I’ve seen many people say that, because it’s Ru’s show, she gets to make the rules of who gets to compete on it. While this is true, RuPaul’s Drag Race is our society’s biggest, most prominent look into what it means to be a drag queen, and to insinuate that it’s a “cis men only” club is an insult to past and present trans drag queens. Drag Race did not give birth to the art of drag, rather, it’s a vehicle to display the talent and identities behind those who are drag queens. The unapologetic femininity in the queens’ performances is one of the reasons why the show creates such an impact, and a major reason why drag is such a powerful art form to have on mainstream television. The importance of the men being cis men isn’t lost on me, because society does encourage them to stray far away from anything feminine, yet Drag Race encourages a full embrace of femininity. However, it’s also not lost on me that RuPaul did suggest that trans women don’t have a place on his show, despite a man transitioning into a woman being the biggest embrace of femininity that could truly be done.

Ru says that Drag Race “is a big f-you to male-dominated culture,” so…what does that make being a trans woman? It seems counter-intuitive to defend this viewpoint by saying that only men who aren’t actively transitioning into being a woman are allowed to be on the show. Drag has become such a massive art form, and excluding someone from a chance at showing that art across the country just because they’re actively trying to live as a woman must feel oppressive. On that same note, Ru telling trans women that they can’t be on the show is literally a man telling a woman what they can or can’t do with their talents, at least in his world, which just so happens to be aired for all of the country to learn from on Thursday nights. 

As the lovely Monica Beverly Hillz said in the season 5 finale, “drag is what I do, trans is who I am.” Drag is an art form that anyone can (and should be able to) participate in, and to exclude people from the chance at competing on RuPaul’s Drag Race for not being a cis man is an incredibly low blow. The art form has progressed, and if Drag Race is meant to show the realm of modern-day drag, that means the face of its show (yes, I’m talking to you, Ru) should take a seat from making tasteless tweets defending their outdated views, and think about the values their show needs to convey.

All this being said, I admire what Ru has done for mainstream television. RuPaul’s Drag Race is a powerhouse for representing gay men in the media, as it shows a a cast full of unapologetically homosexual men displaying the talents that have given them successful careers. It shows such a deep look into what it means to be gay in today’s society, showing gay men of many different races with many different personalities, all who have unique experiences that define who they are. That alone makes it a trailblazer for LGBTQ+ media, but the “T” is that we shouldn’t deliberately exclude the T. They’re just as important (that’s why they’re in the acronym), and their drag is just as valid, so they deserve an equal shot at the crown, whether or not the person running the show personally believes they should.

Too Gay? Or Not Gay Enough?

I absolutely love being gay. I love being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and I feel love for the people in it as if they were a part of my own family. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not sometimes exhausting to be a gay. As I get older, it continues to be more apparent as to why my gay friends try to only hang out with other LGBTQ+ people. However, I sometimes feel pretty out of place among other gay men, as well. Though I am fully aware that there’s no reason for me to feel this way (especially among others in my own community), I often feel like I’m in some sort of purgatory between these two realms of society.

Basically, I feel “too gay” for straight people, and “not gay enough” for gay people.

I have mostly straight friends and family members, so spending time with people I know usually means spending time with straight people. While my friends and family are accepting of my sexuality, and generally don’t say anything that’s considered homophobic, there’s always a latent level of heteronormativity or straight-centric attitudes that become pretty blatant at times, making me wonder how to handle it. I’ve only recently started being able to call it out, but when I’m in environments where I feel that my viewpoint is outnumbered, it takes a fair amount of mental and emotional energy to actually say something. It’s not that I’m not comfortable with my own viewpoint, or uncomfortable about my sexual orientation in that moment; it’s that I’m preparing for a slew of defensive comments that invalidate my experience as someone of the LGBTQ+ community. 

More often than not, straight people seem completely unaware of what the genuine experience of being in this community, and will often make tone-deaf comments that are not only exhausting to hear, but extra exhausting to have to correct. I often recall a straight man telling me that he figured I was gay, asked me to confirm whether his assumptions were correct, to which he proceeded to tell me that he knows a lot about the community because he has a gay cousin. I’ve also been told that I should know a lot about penises because I’m gay. There have been many other instances, of course, but these are the ones that have happened most recently. While I harbor no resentment toward the people who made them, it’s tiring to constantly be in environments where people feel it’s okay to say these things, and feel entitled to them despite what a member of the community feels about it. It becomes a chore to have to be a walking encyclopedia for the straight people in my life, just because they won’t bother to learn how to properly navigate interactions with this LGBTQ+ person who, presumably, is an important part of their life. 

And if all of that wasn’t enough, there’s also this latent level of anxiety that I harbor in straight-centric environments when it comes to talking about my own sexuality. While it’s good to feel like my gayness isn’t some giant elephant in the room, the reality of the situation is that it’s still there, permeating the air like a rainbow-tinted mist. I often find myself becoming reluctant to express parts of my sexual orientation because of the tendency for straight people to perceive being LGBTQ+ to be this exotic experience that is far too unique to understand. My sexuality is an important part of me, and I want to be able to talk about it with my friends and family the way I know I can, but it’s hard when it just feels like talking about it is more of a spectacle than it is a conversation. It feels more like my gayness is a performance to be learned from in straight-centric environments, and having to be that person who’s more of a reference than a gay person with unique experiences doesn’t necessarily make for a relaxing time with friends and family.

As my experience in straight-centric environments becomes more expansive, I start to see why members of the LGBTQ+ community often lean toward spending time with each other rather than with those outside of it. However, the experience of interacting with other members of the community is no strut down the runway, either.

You know what the strangest thing is about me feeling this way? I don’t even know the exact source of it. As often as I dig through my mind to pull out some sort of “aha!” moment, there are no aha’s to be found. I know that there are triggers that make me feel this way, and maybe seeing the community through the lens of the internet affects that trigger a bit, but sometimes it feels like that’s only ever scratching the surface. The trigger I’ve been noticing lately is how open many gay men seem to be about their sexuality (not so much their gayness, but more so them as sexual beings). It seems like every gay man has posted a shirtless photo, most gay men have posted a pic in their underwear, and many have shown the internet their butt. On dating apps for gay men, it feels like a requirement to have all three, and a photo of your penis.

There just seems to be this widespread attitude that you’re not comfortable with your sexuality as a gay man unless you’re willing to express it in a way that bears it all. While I don’t personally feel like showing the social media realm your butt, torso, or underwear is bad, I find myself feeling like, as a gay man, I’m required to follow in this trend just to get noticed. And it’s ridiculous to feel this way, because I know it’s not true. I know that any gay man I ask would (hopefully) tell me to just do whatever makes me happy within my boundaries, but I can’t help but feel like there’s this growing clique of gay men that only approves of other gay men that show their bodies on the Internet. 

There have also been plenty of times where I feel that my interests as a gay man have to align in a certain way just to fit in with the community. I’ve been a big ol’ geek for most of my life, and I’ve noticed that being a gay geek very much puts you in a different category of gayness. It seems like the two worlds are so separate, that you have to ditch your geeky interests to fit in amongst the more broad gay community. So if you want to fit in as a “gay geek,” you might have to sexualize your identity as one a bit more by being shirtless with that new video game that you just got. If you want to, more power to you! But if that’s not something you’d want to do, I get the feeling that you’d get overlooked. Sex really does sell.

Though I have other interests that align with what the broader gay community, a few being Rupaul’s Drag Race, female pop icons, going to Pride festivals, and other entertainment that falls into gay culture, I often wonder if I wouldn’t be considered a “good gay” or “gay enough” if I wasn’t. I’ve seen it in others; they blame themselves for not being a good member of the community simply for not being into something along those lines, and for reasons that aren’t necessarily linked to any gayness associated with these interests. Luckily, most of the gay people I interact with regularly don’t subscribe to the idea that you have to like any certain things just to be “gay enough,” but given my past experiences with gay men telling me that I have to like certain things because I’m gay, I can’t imagine how much others have been pressured to do the same. It’s all ridiculous to think about because the only thing that should truly and honestly make you a member of the gay community is, you know, being gay. We’re all so different despite our similar identities, and our interests spread across such a vast spectrum, that adding extra requirements to being in the community feels like more like an exclusion than an invitation.

Like I said before, I feel like this only scratches the surface. There may be something all of this is directly attached to, but these are the things I’ve noticed the most as I become established in my identity.

As much as I love being a gay male, it can be more exhausting than I’d like it to be. Straight people being generally oblivious to LGBTQ+ identities makes it hard to interact with them in a way that’s comfortable, and though I feel at ease interacting with other gay men, I often feel like I have to be more than I am just to be accepted. I know that not every straight person is insensitive to issues regarding other sexual orientations, and not every gay man thinks all gays should do certain things just to be considered part of the community, but I can’t help but feel these insecurities when it comes to my relationship with either community. Maybe it’s just one of those things that I’ll continue to get more comfortable with over time, or maybe it’ll be one of those insecurities that I’ll never be able to shake, but always be great at hiding in casual conversation. Either way, they’re very present insecurities, and if you have them too, just know that you’re not alone, and you deserve to feel comfortable with your identity. 

Is it Bad to Identify with Stereotypes?

 Illustration by  Paul Tuller
Illustration by Paul Tuller

When I get into conversations with people about representing LGBTQ+ individuals in the media, or how LGBTQ+ people express themselves in society, the topic of stereotypes almost always comes up. People will say that characters in TV shows, movies, books, etc. shouldn’t identify with stereotypes, and that people acting according to a stereotype in real life asserts that we’re all the same. Whether it’s a good or a bad stereotype, we know that it’s harmful to assume everyone in a group identifies with it, but what do we do when someone genuinely fits a stereotype? Do we automatically have to assume that this is a bad thing? 

As an example, last week, I wrote about how J.K. Rowling should step up and actually represent Dumbledore’s sexuality with the new Fantastic Beasts movie coming out after failing to write it in the books, despite her declaring to the world that he’s gay. After publishing this article and sending it out into the social media world, I got many arguments in return saying that trying to put evidence of Dumbledore’s sexuality would feel forced, and that it seemed like I was asking that she make him a stereotype. First off, let’s note that a straight person told me this. Things always get weird when straight people think they know what’s best for the LGBTQ+ community. Aside from that, they seemed to generate this idea that I wanted him to resemble a flamboyant, over-the-top gay wizard, though all I asked was that she indicate in her content that he’s gay. They also had the audacity to tell me that the possibility of a flamboyant, over-the-top gay wizard would be a setback for the community. While I agree that this personality type could be out of character for Dumbledore, is there really something so wrong with a powerful, well-known wizard who’s the headmaster of an esteemed magic school aligning with a few gay stereotypes? 

I think what people often don’t realize is that there is a difference between identifying with stereotypes, and asserting that all people within a group act this way. If you put a gay guy in a show, and he happens to be flamboyant, this is not automatically a way of saying that the whole community is like this. If you somehow use this character to assert points about all gay people acting like that, or if you don’t give subtle hints that these personality traits are separate from his homosexuality, then that’s where you can have a problem. However, if you ask me, I’d rather the media represent gay people who happen to align with a few stereotypes than have no LGBTQ+ representation whatsoever. Presence is powerful, and erasing a gay presence just because a few stereotypes may come up is way worse than not representing the community, at all.

Some people in the community genuinely identify with traits that are considered stereotypes, and to say they don’t have a place in the media (or even in society, for that matter) just because they express themselves that way, is offensive. 

More importantly, I have a problem with the fact that people think identifying with a few stereotypes automatically makes you a bad representation of the community. I understand wanting to avoid portray the community as being just one big stereotype, but get this: sometimes people genuinely align with some stereotypes. Crazy, right? However, that doesn’t mean that having these traits is the equivalent of saying that the entire community identifies this way. Rather, it probably says a lot about you if you meet a “stereotypical” gay male, and you think “wow, this must be how all gay people act.” Underestimating the complexity of individuals in a community just because they have just a few traits that match stereotypes is pretty insulting, and a giant misstep when it comes to interacting with the community at large. At the same time, saying that someone shouldn’t act according to a stereotype is insulting, because sometimes an individual’s personality just so happens to align that way, and that should in no way affect how you see the community as a whole. 

We get so wrapped up in stereotypes, that it often becomes the only thing we see in the groups who so often get stereotyped. I personally feel it’s okay to identify with some stereotypes (as long as it’s not harming anyone), but we shouldn’t be acting like it’s a statement about the entire community. People should be allowed to express themselves in a way that makes them feel good without feeling like their expression represents more than just themselves. The only “bigger picture” that a person’s personality should represent is that there are many different archetypes of individuality within a community. Putting pressure on someone to act a certain way because it might misrepresent their community is ridiculous, and speaks more to how they believe the community should express themselves, rather than allowing everyone the freedom to be expressive in a way that makes them feel fulfilled.