Imposter Syndrome is the worst part of being transgender. It can manifest during the worst times. Right along side tremendous dysphoria, it is one of those negative feelings that tends to overwhelm many trans folks. It is a particular bitch whenever it manifests in my life.
When I get imposter syndrome I get it in multiple layers. The first is as a trans woman formerly male presenting I often get it bad whenever I do normal everyday activities when I don’t feel I am “girling” right. It hits me with feelings I am only playing a girl and not a very good one at that. These feelings of inadequacy tend to trigger depression, anxiety and self doubt.
Another area I often get imposter syndrome is in my career. Many times my brain will trick me into dismissing the significance of my various accomplishments. These are those particularly dark days where I don’t view my triumphs as victories, rather as defeats at the hand of failure. When this iteration of imposter syndrome hits I often feel like I am not a “real” writer, photographer, artists, video producer, etc., whatever it is at the time. It especially hits me whenever I finish recording a podcast. My brain reminds me that despite majoring in broadcasting in college I have never worked at a radio station. Imposter syndrome reminds me that I once held onto a dream of being a radio DJ. I dabbled in this as a former party/wedding DJ and recently as a podcast host. But there remain days where I feel like I haven’t achieved my goal of radio DJ therefore I am an imposter pretending to be a radio host with my “little podcast.”
The other area in my life where this beast rears its ugly head is relatively new. It is in my love life. Recently I started watching playoff football with my girlfriend. She is very much into the sport, the teams and the playoff picture. I am not. Sometimes we will be watching a game and I take delight in the way she lights up talking about the game or her favorite team’s prospects for a championship title. These conversations bring me tremendous joy as her girlfriend. But every so often imposter syndrome ties to tell me I am not a good enough girlfriend because I don’t put in more effort to learn the game as in depth as she has. Other times I feel like I am only faking interest in it so her and I can have something to do. In these moments I feel less like her girlfriend and more like a friend tagging along. I know better because she is fine with our conversations regarding the game.
Whenever I find myself face to face with imposter syndrome I usually try to talk myself out of it. I remember that I don’t need to live up to stereotypes to be a woman. I don’t have to discount my successes simply because I have unrealized goals. Likewise I am a perfectly loyal girlfriend doing the best I can to share the interests of the woman I love. I have to battle this beast on a daily basis to be honest. Most days it is one of the three or even all instances. Those days are the worst. I feel like a dude pretending to be a girl, pretending to be a writer, pretending to be a good romantic partner. Those days tear me up inside. Sometimes I hide it with laughter and jokes. Other days I get quiet and withdrawn. Every once in a while I overcome the beast and remember who I am.
A recent example of when I let it really get me down was this past week. I underwent a psychiatric exam to determine if I had ADHD or some other learning or cognitive impairment. During the course of the report I stumbled upon a gut wrenching diagnosis that continues to fill me with disgust every time I think about it. I was diagnosed with transsexualism, an outdated term that has been replaced with Gender Dysphoria.
A transsexual in today’s lingo is a character you might find performing adult entertainment on the seedier side of the internet. It is not a respectable word to use when referring to a transgender individual. I spent the whole rest of the week disgusted with myself for having that word tied to my medical history. Thus I felt branded. I felt betrayed. I felt like I had been transported back in time to a period where trans people were even less understood than we are now. It blew out my self esteem as it hit me with the worst case of imposter syndrome I have had in ages. It’s compatriot word, transvestite, found it’s way into the dark recesses of my mind before pushing into the forefront of my brain. I struggled to come out of the closet for decades because I didn’t want to be thought of as a transvestite. I shudder at the sound of that word, even more so when it is coming from my own brain.
I haven’t pieced together a way to overcome this current bout of imposter syndrome. I thought perhaps if I wrote about it I might get some clarity. As I contemplate the meaning of every thought I write down I wonder even now if I will ever kick this round. It is taking every ounce of my energy to fend off the depression that is sure to follow if this round of imposter syndrome succeeds in taking me down. I have lost sleep every day this week as a result. Altogether since reading that diagnosis I have had a cumulative 5 hours of sleep from Tuesday till well today as I lay awake well past midnight.
Sometimes I can talk myself into sense of calm. I know there are other aspects of my personality that were revealed in that exam I have to contend with. I am taking this entire ordeal one piece at a time. Earlier it was my self esteem and self image shattered that caused me distress. Now it is the imposter syndrome telling me I am just a homosexual male transvestite stuck in a lie. I know none of those things are true. Yet I can’t seem to shake this and it is costing me much sleep.