What is Imposter Syndrome?

By Jasper Griswold, Columnist

It’s a familiar scene. I’m getting ready in the morning, holding my binder in my hands. I contemplate putting it on. This garment flattens and masculinizes my chest, but it also makes it hard to breathe at times. Why am I doing this? I think, turning it over in my hands. Am I even really trans?

I just hit 45 weeks on testosterone. I’ve known I was trans (off and on) since I was 16-years-old. So why am I constantly doubting myself? And why is this doubt so prevalent in the community? I’m always wondering if I’m trans or just looking for attention or trying to fit in. Am I doing enough? Would a real trans person often misgender and deadname himself in his head? The physical and social changes I make, are they enough to make me a real trans person that no one is going to doubt and try to expose as a fake? 

I’m certainly not the only trans person that experiences this. In a discussion about this with a friend of mine, he said that he has a persistent feeling of having to do more and that he’s not enough. That he’ll be found out to be a fraud and be laughed at. That when he is in gay spaces, he worries that he’s just faking being trans so well he convinced even himself and is going to be exposed.

This phenomenon is known as imposter syndrome, a mindset that causes people to feel like frauds. Pretty much every trans person I know has felt, at least at one point, that they were a “fake” trans person. And this can be exacerbated by many circumstances. Some trans people may not want hormones or surgeries and feel that a “real” trans person would feel compelled to do those things. Nonbinary people deal with society telling them that their gender itself is fake, and they might compare themselves to binary trans people and see themselves as “not as trans” as the binary trans people. Also, many trans people are told they are just seeking attention, and that is something that sticks with you. It’s hard to feel confident in your trans identity when you constantly worry if you’re even trans in the first place and not someone trying to be “cool” or whatever people are trying to convince you is your reality.

If you are trans and you deal with imposter syndrome, here is my advice. Think of one moment in your life that helped you realize you were trans. For me, it was when I upset some elderly man in a BJ’s and he yelled at me “boys these days don’t know how to treat their elders!” and all I could think was “he called me a boy!” Remember that a cis person would have no reason to feel this way. Cis people don’t get excited when they are seen as a gender other than their assigned gender. If a trans friend of yours tells you that sometimes they feel like they aren’t really trans, just let them know it is normal and it doesn’t mean much of anything. It’s just their brain trying to make them feel like an imposter, and it happens to many trans people who are certainly not “faking it” in any way.

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