Passing. The word itself has nasty implications. That we have to pass as women because we aren’t real women. It implies lies and deceit. It’s a controversial topic, for sure. Some say the only true way to present yourself is how you want to. Some see the need to assimilate into the gender role that is being transitioned into as seemlessly as possible. To pass. Both have a valid point.
To pass is to be seen as a cisgender person – a person who identifies with their birth sex. And with passing comes safety for some and happiness for others. I believe passing can provide both of these things. As a trans woman, I look forward to the day I can pass fully. I’m impatient for it. I’ve thought about it every day for over a year. And one of my biggest fears about transition is that I’ll never be able to pass. Terrified is the word, actually. And personally, I don’t know how I would handle that. Lately, it’s been on my mind a lot. I’m at the point where I want to live as a woman full time, but a lot of the time I just feel like I’m making a fool out of myself by insisting on people using a feminine name. Being called Natalie and he in the same sentence is totally invalidating, but I can’t insist on female pronouns because it would feel forced. And it happens daily. And I cry about it. And it makes me really depressed because a big part of transition is social, and I can’t be part of that yet. I don’t feel like a man, but I don’t look like a woman.
Being in between feels like purgatory. The magic number with HRT seems to be 5 months. I’m at 5 as of 2 days ago. From there, everything kicks up, according to trans lore. By 8 months most people pass whether they want to or not. But not everyone. And the waiting, the not knowing, is making me an emotional train wreck. The other HRT mantra is “your milage may vary.” I’m on a wait-and-see track, and I don’t know what stop is mine, or if I get a stop on the passing train at all. My biggest fear is that I never will. It’s exhausting, and it makes it really hard to keep fighting. Sometimes I wonder if I’m strong enough to do it.
A passing trans woman will be afforded oppurtunity to live as they always wanted without fear of the hate violence and trans discrimination that non-passing trans people are subject to. To be treated as a woman. To be seen what they were meant to be, and know they are.
Because unfortunately, the majority of society still sees trans people who don’t pass as the gender that’s prescribed by the bits between their legs. As a freak. And that’s not okay.
But being out as trans comes with one major perk. You can’t be uncovered if everybody already knows. It comes with more risk in certain areas of the country, but with also the freedom to be whatever and whoever you want to be without worrying. As much. Keep in mind that a defense that has been used (sucessfully) in court is the “trans panic” defense, where what’s between someone’s legs shocked someone else into murdering them. Although now illegal in one state and less common, not long ago this was a mindset in the legal system, and still is a mindset in the general public. Just recently a trans woman in the Philippines was murdered by a US Marine. Drowned in a toilet bowl when he found out. And across the internet the same comment can be found at the end of each article – she had it coming. She shouldn’t have been pretending to be a woman. Victim blaming.
That said, not passing is bound to attract more harassment and discrimination in the world we live in. And though by passing we are playing into the binary gender system, it is the only sure way to get the same unequal treatment that other women get. To be out as a transgender woman who doesn’t pass takes more courage than I can imagine. And those are the girls who are really fighting. To fight the binary by playing into it doesn’t seem right on some level, but until the world becomes a safer place for trans people, I’m afraid passing will always be an issue.
So support trans rights and respect trans people. For equality, and so trans people can express themselves however they want without worrying about passing or not passing, fight like a grrrl.
Update: So it turns out my mother outed me to the whole family at thanksgiving, and didn’t tell me. I had to find out from my aunt a few days later by her using my name in a card. This is a step I wasn’t ready to take, and though I understand why she did it, I’m not happy about it. I don’t know what she said, and being that I’m pretty sure her understanding is lacking as well, I can only imagine what they think. On the upside, wearing a dress to Christmas has become a distinct possibility, though. I’ve dreamed of that for a long time.