I have been second guessing how I “did” the conference. Did I make enough connections? Did I take advantage of all of the opportunities? Did I make enough of a difference? Did I accidentally say or do something that changed someone’s opinion of me in a negative way? Did I do it right?
The anxious mind is a dangerous mind sometimes.
Last week I answered all of these questions in ways that ultimately hurt me. Of course I messed up all the things. Or course I did it wrong and now everyone knows I am an imposter. And then I crashed.
I am not telling you this because I am looking for compliments. Honestly, I am pretty confident most of the time. I know my work and my words are solid and valuable. But I have some old wounds, some old messages that keep popping up that tell me I don’t deserve good things.
Suddenly, I didn’t trust my path or my purpose.
I felt like I lost sight of who I am.
I am an influencer, an advocate really, but how could I possibly ask brands to work with me then ask my followers to trust I was making connections with businesses that will REALLY support LGBTQIA+ folks? Every decision I make is for the forward progress of equality and acceptance, and I need to make money to carry on with my message. But what is the cost of asking for reimbursement for something that saves lives? For a message that drains my energy and fills my soul?
How do I monetize my queerness to help the LGBTQIA+ while not taking advantage of vulnerable and marginalized stories and people?
I felt like my transness was too much. I felt like my nonbinary self was a burden. I didn’t feel like someone who should be getting awards.
Because I won. I won the Iris Award for Breakout of the Year. I was recognized for using my voice in an impactful and meaningful way. I took the stage and gave a speech people complimented me on throughout the rest of the night and into the next week. But I didn’t know what I had said until I saw the video later.
Just today the official photos from the conference were posted. I excitedly went to see what was captured. I miss my friends and it was so good to see them again, even if only in still images. And then I saw myself. I stood on stage with my award. Instead of joy or pride, I was disappointed.
Not because the photos weren’t good, but because I couldn’t see the good in myself. I was too critical of my hips and my breasts. I remembered that I talked for a really long time. Maybe I should have kept it shorter. Maybe they made a mistake.
And then a few photos later, it all went away. Her story is not mine to tell, but a mom came up to me after I won my award and hugged me. And then I held her.
She cried. She was scared. She needed my help. She told me I was on that stage for her.
And I was.
I am so glad the photographer captured this moment because this is my path.
I was too focused on the masses. I am a one person at a time kind of person. Don’t get me wrong, I love speaking to crowds. The bigger the better, actually. But I need to remember that no matter how many people are looking at me while I stand alone, looking into the bright lights and trying to find my footing, I am speaking to one person at a time.
I am finding myself again. Thank you for trusting me.
I will be better about trusting myself. What got me on the stage is me. What will keep me there is you.