Welcome to !Hola Papi!, the advice column where John Paul Brammer helps people work through their anxieties, fears, and life's queerest questions. If you need advice, send him a question at email@example.com.
Another queer friend of mine told me that my "out and proud" lifestyle makes them feel inadequate. I like to dress up, and I present as very gender-nonconforming. In other words, I guess you could say I'm always "on" when it comes to my identity and how I express myself. Do I need to do better to make space for more reserved queer people? Is there any virtue in "toning it down?" I guess what I'm really asking is... Papi, am I too much?
2 Loud 2 Proud
Hi there, 2L2P!
It's nice of you to consider other people's feelings, but it's not your job to tone yourself down to make other people more comfortable. You can spend your whole life doing that and make approximately no one happy, least of all yourself. No one who legitimately cares about you is really going to feel better about themselves because you've shifted the way you walk and talk in deference to their insecurities. The person they're uncomfortable with is themselves.
Now, yes. There is a legitimate struggle for queer people, especially ones who are only recently coming into their identity, in feeling inadequate in their self-expression. I've certainly felt that before. When I first came out, I was jealous of the flamboyant gay men who dressed the way I wanted to dress and talked the way I wanted to talk, seemingly without shame. I was too afraid to do that myself, so I resented them for it.
That resentment faded away the more comfortable I got with myself and my identity as a gay man. I had to step out of my comfort zone a few times, and those endeavors didn't always feel successful (many items of clothing were bought, promptly thrown in my closet, and never worn because I thought I looked silly in them), but eventually I came to understand that it wasn't up to anyone but me to embody the person I wanted to be.
I think that resentment happens in people who aren't queer, too. I think there are a lot of cisgender heterosexual people who look at out and proud queer people confidently breaking all the rules and thinking, "Hey, how come they get to do that and I don't?" A whole lot of insecurity, feelings of inadequacy, and uninterrogated desire gets projected onto queer people. I'm pretty sure that's what's happening here. Your friend is shrugging their personal baggage onto you, probably because it's heavy and unpleasant to carry, and hoping you'll agree to lug it around.
Doing so wouldn't help anyone in this situation. I think your friend needs to reflect on why, exactly, you dressing the way you do makes them feel bad. They should ask what is keeping them from presenting the way they want to. Is it one of those internalized phobias? Is it because they're not quite sure how they identify within the LGBTQ+ community? Is it because they're afraid of how others will react to them? These are all valid questions that should not involve telling you, their friend, how to live.
It's true that sometimes being in The Community can feel like a competition. I see some people on Instagram flexing their outfits and attending Big Queer Parties(tm) in their jockstraps, crop tops, and platform shoes and I think, "Damn, why am I not living more like that?" It's not a fun feeling. But we're adults. We don't take our unpleasant feelings out on the people we care about. We log onto Twitter and take them out on complete strangers, like John Delaney.
As long as you're respecting people's boundaries, you're not being "too much." Maybe everyone else just isn't being enough.