PASSING! Ahoy, my bitter enemy, we meet again. This time I have a bigger death ray…
The vapid ideas that float around out there in the world makes me really want to install a “Panic Button” in my room, or a literal wall to beat my head against. I don’t understand, of all things why it’s so hard to get other trans people to understand what is wrong with invoking the use of “Passing”. It’s like trying to teach Russian handwriting to a blind man it seems. I am sure that is a stretch, but that is not the point. I know to a degree people may feel I am bitter about this, but I have seen it nearly ruin people’s lives because these “trans gatekeepers” essentially feeding the fear of people who need the transition to survive, but are terrified to or utterly convinced they’ll fail. Transition isn’t about passing, and I can’t help that I look cis. I can’t even describe how insensitive and cruel it is, not to mention sexist and cissexist it is to judge women (or anyone) on their looks, or how “Cis” they look. Basically that is was passing asserts, is that you must look cis. It is part of cissexism.
Another dilemma that seems to arise from people’s vacuous understanding, is that they can’t separate that “transition therapy is okay” but “give passing tips” is not. Looking cis, or not (according to what cisnormativity asserts about our bodies) is happenstance, chance, and of little consequence to your gender (unless of course it causes you severe dysphoria). I do indeed look “cis” to many people, but I don’t pass. I am a woman, I am not “passing” myself off as anything I am not. Passing is also a big deal, as is mentioned a few times on Inchoaterica, because it can feed into the “Deceptive” and “Pathetic” trans tropes. All of these things help facilitate the discrimination of trans people. So why is it that people defend passing to such a great degree? It really baffles me… to the point I’d bang my head off a wall. Mind you, I started out thinking a lot about passing. I was afraid, and I didn’t know what to expect. I was isolated, so of course I wanted to “Look as Cis” as possible.
Perhaps my androgyny is the reason I don’t care about passing, and why I say that I don’t “pass”. I am just a woman, and I don’t need the approval of other people to be understood and accepted as that gender. My journey throughout has been and inside out one, meaning I was more concerned about how I felt with my body, with intimacy et cetera, and my appearance just kind of ‘caught up’ one day. Certainly, I do things that control the expressed gender ques I send others, but I am not doing it to pass. I’d do those things anyways. The point is though, that there is a difference between looking cisgender, and expecting people to look cisgender (which some men assigned male at birth, and females assigned female at birth can’t do). It’s more than just discriminatory towards trans people, but anyone whose gender is ambiguous to our culture. I had people come and comment on the original blog (in quotes) this blog is copied from on PinkEssense.com (I wrote it, of course). One person commented something to the effect of “Trans Darwinism” and I like to flipped off my bed. It can feel a little problematic because I do “fit the standard”, but I reject it and stand up against it. I think all my trans sisters, brothers and others are valid, and I’ll fight anything that is hurtful to them. You know. So here it is.
The essential basis is this… we need to have healthy, person-centric, and unbiased standard which is fair and does not set up privilege (passing undermines that and is very privilege driven). It reflects the cultural obsession with basing a woman’s value and acceptance on her beauty (a standard in itself that is not attainable for most women Trans* and Cis). In an ideal world we wouldn’t have to go half our lives being forced to be something we are not, and for many of us transitioning before puberty could have circumvented the need for electrolysis, FFS, voice feminization, et cetera. Many of us do have a wish to undo what testosterone did to us, and that is valid. However, promoting a standard knowingly or unknowingly that others can not meet it is discriminatory, plan and simple.
Not everyone can afford it (classism), not everyone will have optimal feminine outcomes, or will feel compelled to do it because of societal pressure (sexism, cissexism), some have health issues that prevent certain procedures, or simply can’t find the extra income to make it possible (ableism). This is far from an exhaustive list of ways in which promoting “Passing” can be privileged and discriminatory. Being unaware for how the current power structure oppresses different people differently doesn’t make you right, just ignorant. Being trans also doesn’t prevent one from being a cissexist, and promoting that you must look “cis” to fit in, or to avoid being othered as “Trans”. If you want back the traits you lost to testosterone, by all means reclaim them.
However, its wrong to set forth standards for others on its basis; which is the problematic logic of this very sensitive issue. The key for Danica and all of us is to have good medical care catered to our own individual needs, and for us to be able to have all the information we need to make sound decisions about our care. Passing violates that by setting up an unrealistic standard which as I elaborated is the reason for privilege, and kyriarchy. What needs to change is not the bodies and appearances of those who don’t conform, but to end the discrimination that mandates that you conform/go stealth/look cis while failing to offer the resources, even limiting it’s accessibility. Certainly, not all of us need/want FFS, and the types we want/need vary, but no one else aside for whom it directly concerns may decide what is right for you, or place arbitrary standards (Passing). My primary concern was the propagation of the “Passing” trope. Passing makes a standard that does not take consideration for exceptions, and promotes several unrealistic, oppressive, harmful ideologies.
I am happy for each and every woman who has had their life improved by FFS, and I applaud the doctors who give this care. However, none of us have the right to stand up the method by which we transitioned, or our stories as trans people as the standard for others, or engage in gender policing. Remember this, some women don’t “pass” as women and people will read them as men; and vise versa some men don’t “pass” as men (and I am not talking about people who transitioned, this is cis people we are talking about). And lastly, acknowledging both where we are privileged and where we are not is key to understanding how and where oppression exists, and dismantling it. If the system wasn’t iniquitous then it would truly fall on the individual, but it’s not fair/equal and if you were to ‘paint’ the current system as such then discussing the issue in that light is oppression itself.
Some trans women are butch, some trans men femme, some don’t want to pass, some just can’t meet that standard regardless of to what ends they go, some are genderqueer, or androgynous, and others have no gender. Some of us are queer, some are asexual (I am demisexual)… Some even transition physically while identifying as non-binary or genderqueer. Passing is not a valid real thing, just cisgender normality (cisnormativity) targeted at trans people and given evidence it’s harmful thus it should not be promoted. Like I said, the objective of transition is not to look cis, and that is the most problematic assertion of all when it comes to passing. I can’t stress enough how important it is to move away from doing things “to make you pass”, and not to “make you feel like you”. As I said, I am not against doing these things, in fact I encourage people to do with their bodies as they personally (correction) see fit. It’s destructive, divisive, and dangerous thinking. Passing is cissexist garbage, and it doesn’t matter whether you are trans or cis, it’s still wrong.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t get FFS, electrolysis, BA, et cetera, just that you should understand this, and the reality of what “Passing” means and why you shouldn’t use it. What you do should be for you. “Passing” also contributes to transnormativity, AKA the policing of other people’s genders and transition by other trans people who cause the erasure and exclusion of said trans people. You’d all be wise to be aware of this. But don’t take my word for it. Go out there, research it. I am not the only person who feels this way. And trust me, this isn’t to down on appearing feminine. You should appear as feminine as you feel is suitable, and right for you. I am not going to sit here like some feminists and rag on femininity. However, I will vehemently fight against, passing, passing tips, and et cetera because of the aforementioned reasons. All sane people should. Telling other trans people how to pass is insulting, propping “Passing” up on a pedestal is ignorant, and refusing to acknowledge privilege is the source of discrimination. Everyone starts of ignorant to this, but the key is to figure it out and fight against it.
Being aware of it isn’t enough if you do nothing about it. I rest my case.
As always I welcome critique, comments and understanding from others on this. I try to be as fair and unbiased as I can be, but when I hear “pass” – “passing” I just want to get mad. I am not trying to be “a woman”, I am a woman. Thus I do not “Pass”. Not only that but passing is an illusion. It’s the gender typing of you by other people, and no matter what you do you can’t control what people think of you. Thus aspiring to ‘pass’ is stupid. Like I said, it’s okay to get surgeries for you transition, it’s okay to be seen as “cis”, but it’s not okay to expect that people should look “cis”. Take care all, and thank you for reading.