Grace Ballard, MA, LPCC  |  Contemplative Psychotherapy

Am I Queer Enough?

“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?

Photo by Marc Sendra martorell on Unsplash

 

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.

Photo by Leonardo Burgos on Unsplash

 

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.

    4 Comments

  1. Joan kenyon
    November 18, 2017

    Labels cannot fit! You are you. Be yourself and be ok with yourself. That is what we all want to discover who we are within ourself.
    That is without labels. Be true to self and label not oneself but be you to all that come across your path. Joan
    joannelk39@gmail.com

  2. November 19, 2017

    Fitting in and gaining a sense of belonging is something we all struggle with in looking for that place where we can relax into ourself. My experience has taught me the real connection begins with the inside work of acceptance.

    I love your article as you highlight a struggle of being externally controlled by the norms of whatever group we find ourselves dwelling in.

  3. Rocío
    December 4, 2017

    Wow! Love your articles. So tired of heteronormativity and homonormativity! This is a conversation I normally have with some friends, about how rigid this world is.

    Bravo to queer!

  4. Heather
    December 6, 2017

    LOVING your articles, Grace!!!! <3

    One dimension I am feeling into involves the intersection of queerness and passing in dominant culture. Each day, I get to choose how queer I present to some degree. I ask, 'if I downplay my queerness and pass, am I contributing to the problem ?' and 'does that use of privilege, that I CAN pass, disqualify me as queer?.' As a CIS woman who dates men, it's pretty easy for me to pass, and yep, sometimes I surrender to entropy and protect my queer identity in company who I don't feel would be supportive. I ask, 'is this me protecting my queer self or is this me protecting my privilege?'

    Maybe what I'd like to say is this, maybe there are more productive questions to be asking than 'am I queer enough' because 'do I fit in,' even though it it human and real ultimately leans us into victimhood, a product of the society you mention, instead of acceptance AND accountability. We can be queer and investigate those feelings that come up around enough-ness. Can we be courageous enough to ask the deeper questions?

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