What does it mean to be queer enough?
What does it mean to be queer enough?
By: Sam (she/they) | SHRIMPTEETH
It should be obvious that there isn't a right or wrong way to be queer. Since we're all different, there's no objective metric for queerness. However, it's not unusual for baby gays (any queers really) to feel like they have to measure up to a non-existent standard. When folks ask themselves if they're "queer enough" they usually mean 1. being visibly queer 2. being in relationships that are recognized as queer 3. being accepted by the LGBTQIA+ community.
All of us hold assumptions about what it means to be queer. We've developed stereotypes and codes for queerness, often based on media representation or our direct exposure to others. We want to fit in, especially since many of us don't feel like we fit within the dominant culture. But it can be challenging to feel confident or even recognize your sexual and gender identities when the rest of the world doesn't see you. If you don't feel like you have the "right" kind of experiences, expression, or relationships, you might question if your queerness is even real. In the past, I've simply said to others, "you are queer enough," but I recognize that does little to remedy the imposter syndrome, gate-keeping, and erasure that many of us regularly experience. There are certainly folks, like my girlfriend, who feel unshakable in their queerness. The idea that folks would assume she's straight seems absurd to her. Others, like myself, experience social and internal resistance when it comes to our identities. Social misalignment can contribute to the shakiness within us. At the end of the day, everyone deserves to feel valid, seen, and loved.
How to boost your queer confidence:
- Embrace the spectrum- If nothing else, you get to let go of the notion of "enough." Sexuality, as well as gender, exists on a continuum. Everyone has different patterns of attraction as well as experiences with gender identity. Having only same-sex attraction doesn't make you gayer than having some same-sex attraction. Nor does experiencing gender dysphoria/ euphoria, being kinky, looking a certain way, or anything else. Queerness is not a competition. You don't have to win or prove yourself or meet certain criteria.
- Be yourself- I know, I know, everyone says this. But unfortunately, no one can actually make you feel confident about your queerness besides yourself. I remember in my early 20s when I first tried coming out, I was incredibly concerned with what others thought of me. The more you fixate on performing queerness for others, the harder it is to discover who you are, what works for you, and how you want to express yourself. You ARE queer enough.
- Try things out- I love seeing queer makeovers, not because they're necessary, but because it's important to try new things. If you find that being straight-assumed weighs heavily on your mental health, and you have the option to be more visible, try signaling. I've found that the more I give myself permission to experiment, especially with my gender expression, the more I find what works for me. Also, remember that you don't always have to signal to others. Making small, personally meaningful changes is just as validating as having a full wardrobe overhaul.
- Give yourself the flexibility to change- When you're in the beginning stages of coming out, there can be a lot of pressure to land on the perfect label, name, pronouns, relationship structure, and expression. However, it's useful to realize that you're a constant work in progress. You most likely won't figure everything out. You might come out as one thing and then have to revise it at some point. Having a grasp on your sexual orientation doesn't necessarily mean you understand your gender identity and vice versa. It's also useful to note that certain realizations and coming-outs are easier than others. Pace yourself, it's ok to be in flux. Being queer doesn't mean you're 100% sure about everything. You ARE queer enough, even if you're still questioning things. And you're also valid if you change your understanding in the future.
- Go easy on yourself- Lastly, you are not the ambassador of the united queer nations. There's no such thing. You do not have to be perfect. It's ok to go through periods of self-doubt, low self-esteem, confusion, anger, and beyond. You're a fully complex human. And while being queer might be a large part of your existence, it's also not your entire identity. If after reading this whole article you still can't shake the feeling that somehow you're still not enough, I challenge you to brainstorm what other aspects of your identity you ARE sure of. All of this boils down to you living your authentic life. If you're worried you aren't queer enough, it doesn't have to be your main focus!
About the Author
Sam (she/they) is a proud queer vulva-owner (a clam parent, if you will). They are polyamorous; she loves many people and allows each relationship to develop in mutually supportive structures. Sam has a Master in Arts from New York University in social psychology with a focus on consumer behavior. They are a sex educator, writer, researcher, avid reader, designer (with a Bachelor in Fine Arts in packaging design from Fashion Institute of Technology), and artist who does social media content creation.
Sam created Shrimp Teeth in 2018 to talk about how we communicate / approach / talk and think about sexxx. Check out their Patreon http://Patreon.com/shrimpteeth, website www.shrimpteeth.com, or email [email protected] for questions and/or collaboration opportunities!