“Am I queer enough?”
This weekend I presented a workshop on “Queering Group Therapy.” Once again, I was struck by how many participants shared their struggle to feel queer enough to publicly claim their identity. I’ve heard this over and over, where those already marginalized, feeling like an “other” to mainstream ideals, also fear that they won’t be accepted by the LGBTQ+ community.
What’s up with that?
I spoke during the workshop about expectations laid upon us by the powerful force of our collective culture of heteronormativity. At birth, we are assigned a sex and corresponding gender based on sex characteristics (which vary a lot more than we think, by the way). From that point on, we are corralled onto a well-worn path, telling us how we should behave, think, feel and look according to our gender. Many people find this dominant narrative constricting, even those of us who identify as the gender assigned at our birth.
Homonormativity follows a similar track, except that the relationships involved are between same sex partners. A dominant narrative still prevails, telling us how gay or lesbian should look, how we should feel, act and dress. Again, many find these expectations limiting.
The term “queer” offers an escape from these labels and predetermined identity norms. Stepping into the rainbow smoke screen of queer identity, we are allowed space to define for ourselves how we present, what we call ourselves, who we date, or if we date.
For me, finding the queer label has allowed me to relax into the fluidity and undefined nature of my gender and sexuality. Since elementary school, I’ve been striving to define my gender and attractions, and it’s never worked. I’ve been very privileged in many ways, and was given more space and support than many to explore. Yet I still experienced intense harassment and bullying as a result of not conforming to gender norms. These external messages mixed with my internal confusion, and I felt like an outsider in many circles. Even in LGBTQ+ spaces, I felt a need to place myself in a particular box, and never could.
I wonder if many of us carry this outsider feeling – a yearning to belong paired with the fear that we don’t fit. I hear folks asking this question, “Am I queer enough?” and my heart screams, “Yes, you are!”
It’s okay to not be sure, to be questioning and exploring, to date or present in ways that don’t fit expectations. You are welcome here, and you are enough.