I have been so lucky. I certainly never wanted for anything. As a child surely asks for what they want but is denied that shiny new toy. I may have felt like I wanted things or experiences. When those were declined, I’m sure my child self was left wanting, but as we mature into adults those wants become more closely aligned with our needs and not our whims.
White and male has become quite a distinct perspective recently. As a young white male, coming of age in a truly golden time to be such a being, I recognized how any small accomplishment was exalted and overly praised. I definitely enjoyed such praise and recognition. I also strived to be “the best boy” never realizing how strong a barrage of messages were being presented to me in my young life. I only began to feel a sting of what white and male must mean to those that aren’t, when I recognized a feeling that I now know is imposterism. The messages I received, both directly and subliminally, had led to my feeling of being a fraud. “If only they knew what I truly was, they would surely strip me if my accolades and accomplishments”. This feeling was affirmed when such news would be splashed in print of how a fellow Eagle Scout was stripped of his awards for living “out and proud”.
I sunk my heels in deeper to not be ‘found out’. I would do all kinds of mental gymnastics to align myself with what everyone saw I was: a white male— a straight, white, cisgendered, male. So how do I not be found out as an imposter? By grace, we are saved through faith, right? I worked even harder to fit the description of how I was viewed. New plan: Harder prayers, with tears if necessary, answer more altar calls, and get called to the principal’s office for punching the next person who alleged I was a homo. What I couldn’t understand was this made me more an imposter.
In our communities, we must not discount our young people’s experiences simply because they have not yet developed the language to describe those experiences. I say this because it has taken me half my life to fully develop a language and account for such an experience. Again I was lucky. I have had several mentors along the way whom have recognized how hard I was striving to ignore my true identity. They would all find different ways to convey the same message. “Find out who YOU are”.
As people do, I became exhausted with “fitting in”. It was eventually my empathy for those who were not lucky to have such privilege as straight, white, males that led me to realize ‘the other’ within myself.
When I finally turned to honesty of my own identity, I noticed the difference of not only my shift in mental health but my personal connections to others were so much deeper and more beautiful. Standing out as an individual was suddenly the only way to truly live. I have spent the other half of my life thus far, still making mistakes and leaning into what makes me feel like ‘I fit’ may actually be the wrong choice. You see, when a young person develops such a strong sense for “fitting in” and ignoring true feelings to do so, it forms terrible behaviors that are nearly impossible to reverse. I know now that doing what may draw negative attention by the majority may actually be the right choice, however frightened I may be.
As a fully formed human, I know that any privilege I may have is a blessing. I also know what may afford me such privilege may be the very thing to lean against. I have discovered the best choice may not be to simply “STAND OUT” but to “STAND WITH”.
About the Author
Lee is an actor and singer turned petstylist and aspiring blogger and podcast junkie. He followed (cyber stalked) the community for a year and became a member of Sojo in 2015.