Is Passing Really That Important?

Is Passing Really That Important?

Passing may be the ultimate goal for many trans individuals but is it really that important? Whilst passing is not the holy grail to every transgender person there is a large proportion of us that do create a mental image of ‘that person’ in our brains. The perception we create is often the look we want to achieve or indeed our outward presentation to the world. If you are a transgender woman – you will have an idea of the degree of femininity that you desire to realize.

If you spend time on Facebook, and you are a member of various trans groups, then chances are you will have seen many ‘Do I Pass?’ posts. These posts may be supportive or helpful but they can also be extremely annoying. Why? Someone’s snapshot or single personal experiences will not equate to leading factors within your own life and stepping out to face the world is a personal and individual one. You may also think that you “have to pass” and maybe your perception of passing ultimately means acceptance in society, however there are many trans people that do not find it necessary to ‘pass’.

We should briefly talk about those 3 important terms called “passing”, “stealth” and “clocking”:

Trans is strong, worthy, beautiful, imperfect and describes me.
Trans is strong, worthy, beautiful, imperfect and describes me.

To “pass” means to go about your day with society sighting you as correct gender, and ultimately not being misgendered. If you look, sound and act like your preferred gender then you we hope that people will correctly refer to a trans man as he/sir and a trans woman as she/miss/ma’am. With “stealth” you are living as your birth gender and only a few people actually know that you are transgender, you appear and present to the world as a cis person. The term “clocked” is to be recognised, noticed or outed as transgender which can lead to stress, anxiety and heightened dysphoria in both trans men and women.

It is definitely worth mentioning that for many trans individuals “stealthing” has been forced upon them, maybe their physical stature will never fit their trans self and therefore “passing” is not possible.

“Passing ultimately forces an individual to live their life in the confine of societies perception of normal which includes the looks, sounds, traits and actions typically allied to a binary gender.”

Passing ultimately forces an individual to live their life in the confine of societies perception of normal which includes the looks, sounds, traits and actions typically allied to a binary gender. Moreover, society has established certain characteristics and conformity as “acceptable”. However, in today’s more modern world things are slowly starting to change, trans individuals should know that it is perfectly fine to act/look/sound in a way they find acceptable or comfortable and that there is in fact “no right way” or “no wrong way” to live with your preferred gender or be gender fluid. So called gender traits are continually being broken down and society is starting to listen and understand about transgender issues and concerns surrounding conformity.

“We live in a world where sometimes using a bathroom can put us in a stressful and dangerous situation.”

Both complimenting and placating someone when they ask you “Do I Pass?” can also be somewhat problematic, being nice and giving encouragement is the way to go. If you give a trans person that false sense of safety and security or pat their ego with phrases like “you look awesome”, “looking amazing”, “you totally pass” and such like then when the trans person gets in a real life situation in public they expect to “pass” without question, the term coming down to earth with a crash comes to mind.

The issue here is with society and the fact that people aren’t generally caught up in breaching gender norms as us trans people are, this inevitably leads to being misgendered, picked upon, or even finding ourselves in stressful and dangerous confrontations in places such as bathrooms. With this in mind the result of placating someone’s ego can in the above instance have a dramatic emotional outcome and result in a major confidence setback or indeed at the extreme end of the spectrum to self-harming and suicide.

Transgender transition is a huge journey, a winding path with many twists and turns, it has many faces including being rough, scary and fun but it forces us to reveal hidden emotions never before faced in our lives. Every transition is a personal journey, very individual to ourselves, but if you can focus on the ‘here and now’ and try to enjoy the ride, try not to focus on the end-game of ultimate perfection in appearance. You will need to love yourself through all of these changes to your mind and body and if you can take this journey one step at a time, embrace, and love the changes then you are going to benefit from coming through your transgender transition a healthier and more lovable person.

“Going through transgender transition can be scary, exciting and fun but it is a huge journey and there are not any shortcuts.”

Many Transgender individuals are extremely happy to live within society’s confines like non-trans people do. After all, trans people look to live within blurred lines of what is “acceptable”, you can represent this as a 2 bell curves that overlap and the overlapping containment is an area which almost everybody relates or at least acknowledges; non-trans people, gender fluid, bi-sexual, intersex, questioning all coming under this umbrella (See our post titled ‘Breaking down Transgender terms and definitions glossary’).

Try hard to embrace the smallest flickers of happiness, try living without constraints thrust upon you by society and try to just be able to live & enjoy life to the fullest.

You need to make sure that you are happy, you are the most important person in all of this, It is perfectly fine for you to emulate feminine or masculine characteristics or indeed live as a stealth transgender person. You should know that you don’t have to put a pile of pressure on yourself to conform to any predefined ideals or acceptable vision, remember that in fact you can just be yourself.

If you are thinking about living full time or you are transitioning then please take a look at our article covering hormone treatment; this is a great guide for trans men and women giving some really useful information on the entire topic.

Recommended Reading: The Transgender Guidebook: Keys to a Successful Transition by Anne L Boedecker PhD (Amazon)
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2 COMMENTS

  1. I suppose in certain areas of the world it is extremely critical to pass, while other places have a lot more tolerance. I live in a small city in the California Central Valley. As a transgendered woman I regard passing as what others think, as if I could even know that. I admit that I care a lot. Everyday I dress up and wear makeup. I practice my voice, walking, gestures, attitude, facial expressions and it makes me so happy. I am 6’5″ so I try my best at everything else.

    Again I do not know if I pass, but I have a lot of friends and people, even strangers, seem happy to see me and be with me. I am certainly happy and thankful to be with them. I think it’s very important to express YOUR womanhood, while working diligently and patiently to improve the rest. It has not been easy but it has been a joy. I had to do it in front of everyone at work (middle school teacher) the gym, family and friends. Strangers do not misgender me. Only people who have known me for a long time accidentally do that. I’ve heard of trans women as victims of certain young men who seem to make it some kind of game to win to seek out and shout at some transgendered woman to out them in a public place. I’ve never seen that happen where I live as most people are just too polite.

    I think it is very important for one to express their own womanhood joyfully. They may not do everything right but I suppose no woman does. I have come far but I also have far to go.

  2. Reading Sophie’s post was a delight and its totally correct.

    Like her I’m not sure I pass but since I accepted who I am and live as I’m supposed to I feel so much happier
    like her I still have much to learn

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