Impostor Syndrome

Sometimes, I think transgender people lead the ultimate life of Impostor Syndrome. I spent the first 30 years of my life (well, maybe except for the first ten or so) hoping nobody would ever figure out that I wasn’t really a guy.

And since transitioning, I’m constantly worrying that people will figure out that I wasn’t always seen as a woman.

Every time someone calls me “Ma’am,” I wonder how they would react if they knew I used to be addressed as “Sir.”

Intellectually, I know that I’m not an impostor. I’m living my life the way I was always meant to. If anything, the old me was the impostor.

But still, I can’t shake the feeling that’s not how other people always see me.

I’m sitting in a lounge at the Minneapolis airport typing this out. To get here, I had to pass through security. I have TSA Precheck, so thankfully I don’t have to pass through the body scanners that sometimes identify trans people as “anomalies” because they don’t have the right kind of bulge (or lack of one) between the legs.

My identity documents, though, don’t match my appearance yet. They still say “Male,” still have my “male” name on them. They’re a reminder that I’m not exactly what I appear to be.

I got to the airport about 3 hours early, just in case there was any problem at security; just in case someone questioned if I was really the person whose name is on my boarding pass.

Thankfully, nothing happened. The TSA agent looked back and forth between me and my ID just as briefly as she did the person in front of me, and said “Thanks, have a good day!”

I breathed a sigh of relief, put my bags up on the conveyer belt, and proceeded through the metal detector into the concourse.

But that’s just the first of three times today I have to present a document with the “wrong” name on it. There’s the gate, where they scan your boarding pass, then once more on the plane, where they look at it again to direct you to your seat.

I know everything should go fine, but I still can’t help but worry a little bit. And even if nothing happens, I still have to look at the document. I still have to remind myself that the name I use and the gender I project are not the ones I was born with.

It’s an insecurity that’s incredibly difficult to overcome. Even when someone treats me like who I am, in the back of my mind, I wonder if they can tell, and that if so, does that mean they’re just showing pity for the “confused” man in women’s clothing.

I know I’m not confused. I know I’m not an impostor. But I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the feeling that there will be other people that will always see me that way.

3 thoughts on “Impostor Syndrome”

  1. Girl – you’re not alone! Plenty of us have had to go through a period of transition. I still need to call Southwest and change my legal last name so my boarding passes will have my maiden name, not my married name. I usually keep both drivers licenses with me when I travel, just in case. A few trips ago I found myself in line with a boarding pass that said “Walston”, an ID that said “Pressler” but was about 3 yrs old and so my weight and hair were totally different. The TSA agent looked at it about 10x and asked me a ton of questions. She had someone else check it, too. In the photo, my hair is a reddish color, long, layered, and I only weighed 130lbs. At the time of this flight, I had gained 50lb (which … sadly … equals an extra chin) and my hair was a short bob cut, and blonde. When I explained about the divorce and paperwork, then I got a short lecture on making sure that I had all my affairs in order. I wanted to say “Affairs is what caused the problem to begin with!” I held my tongue, but so many emotional triggers were being set off – it was super hard. I almost broke down in tears. So much anxiety just to get on the plane.

    To make matters worse, I wore a shirt that had metal on it. Which caused me to be an “anomaly” and I had to have an agent give me the feels to make sure I wasn’t packing anything. That was kind of humiliating as well. And….my kid was with me. SO it was even more awkward. LOL

    It was nerve-racking to say the least. And embarrassing, as well.

    My fault for not making sure I had my old “Walston” ID with me – in which the TSA agents never look twice even though it doesn’t really look like me IMO, and even though it isn’t even my legal name anymore. It isn’t who I am. Or ever will be again.

    I’m not telling you all this to marginalize your feelings b/c you do have a good point about the “ultimate impostor syndrome” issue. But at the same time – now you can think about me every time you travel – and know you’re not the only one standing in line feeling out of place. And if I were in line with you, with my wrong ID, we’d cause trouble for sure and have fun while we were at it.


  2. Your post is soo well thought out and soo right. It is the reason that i have held off transitioning for far too long, write more please.

  3. I feel your pain. Part of the reason why I left America and came back to the UK was the legal frustrations with name & gender change. I would’ve had to wait up to 8 months just to get my green card fixed (I was a permanent resident). I couldn’t stand seeing that name anymore, so I left. It was done here in the UK with ease in January 2015.

    Anyone who sees us as impostors is an idiot. In living life as a male, we were impostors and not being true to ourselves.

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