This post was originally published May 06, 2009 here.
I’m going to have to say, I don’t really understand some of the attitudes around passing.
For those not in the know, passing is a measurement of the capacity to either be recognized as a member of your target sex or alternately as a measurement of how unlikely it is for a person to know if you’re trans. The former can be affected by the attitudes of others, as they can know you’re trans and still see you as being a member of your target sex. The latter is more dependent on voice, body shape, facial structure, certain physical traits and in some viewpoints your behaviors.
To me, even the word itself feels off. Perhaps I’m reading too much into but it comes off like the pass/fail tests and passing as regards testing in schools. You either pass or fail at looking like a woman/man/agendered/mixture. Which is so pressuring. Like we’re literally being graded by someone and that our bodies are a source of failure or something. Sometimes it feels a little sneaky too. Like passing implies dishonesty, but that comes more from the attitudes than the word.
I can understand wanting to look good. I can’t think of any girls that want visible facial hair. I can’t think of any guys that want boobs. I can understand wanting to beat the dysphoria too. That foreign nasty feeling of those parts of the body not fitting, it’s unpleasant. And being accepted by other people as my target sex is very validating and it removes reminders of what my sex is, which helps me cope with dysphoria.
So overall the concept works. Until someone starts changing their personality, putting on fronts, changing entire behaviors and purposefully lying about their past.
I don’t do this and I am by no means suggesting that a majority does this. But some do. Some trans people refer to themselves as their target sex (not gender) before anything is changed, reinvent their past, look to specifically change their behaviors so that they’re accepted more. I can’t understand changing how you act and do things for other people. I just can’t.
My whole life beforehand was living for other people and what they wanted. I looked a certain way and dressed a certain way because other people wanted me to. I did things for my family, for my friends and for random people. And now I’m finally fulfilling my needs. I’ve grown up enough to take my life into my hands and improve it. Why would I start catering to other people again? I’ve heard some trans women talk about how they can’t transition because they won’t pass and all I can think is, “well who are transitioning for? Other people?”
If it was a safety issue for all of them, then that makes more sense. We do what we can to avoid dying or being hurt. But when people see passing as a contest? When they’re in a perfectly safe place are fabricating their first prom dress experience, their first period, etc etc, I can’t get that either. Why would someone wrap themselves in lies for day to day regular life? Doesn’t that dump an unbelievable level of pressure on a person? It seems like it would negate many of the benefits received from transitioning, by dumping that extra stress on yourself. And it really kills your ability to trust people.
I dunno, passing itself isn’t the bad thing. It really is just some of the attitudes. I’ve had it explained to me ten billion times and I still don’t get them.
Go here to read the comments on the original post.
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Tags: expectations, gender roles, issues, self expression, society, transgender