In my little intro post, I mentioned that I would talk about the concept of ‘Passing’ and how it is rather problematic. And by rather, I mean a lot.
Now, this is not to say that I myself haven’t fallen into this trap, as I have. From pre-testosterone to two years on, I spent most of my time figuring out how I could look more cisgender. How I could look more like what society expected a man to look like. All so I could just… Be left alone.
When I came out as transgender, I was faced with a lot of questions. Most of them were from other trans men who wanted to talk to someone who was going through the same thing they were. This was something I expected and did not begrudge them at all. I myself had been asking my trans friends questions and trying to figure out how this whole thing worked.
There were my cisgender friends who asked questions, but these were more along the lines of wanting to know how to help me. How to make me feel more comfortable and what I’d need to find my path among the many of transition.
And then there are the people who were “just curious.” I have become utterly fed up with the phrase “I’m just curious…” as it was tagged on to every personal, intimate and downright rude question that people who were an acquaintance or a complete stranger who had found out about my trans status insisted on asking.
I found myself bombarded with questions about my genitals, how I have sex, who I have sex with, when would I have ‘The Surgery’. One man thought it would be funny to ask if I was some kind of ‘Super Lesbian’ and was very confused when I said that was wrong on many levels. You have to be both a woman and attracted to women to be a lesbian. And I am neither. Which opened up more questions, this time about my sexuality. I have had many say that they don’t understand why or how I’m gay. If I like men, why didn’t I just stay as a woman?
Because I’m not a woman.
So. If passing as cisgender makes me feel safer and it stops people from asking me questions, then why do I ( and many others ) find the concept of passing problematic?
Well, firstly it holds trans people to much too high standards. They’re expected to perform their gender to ridiculous levels, to which cisgender people are not expected to. ( For example, trans women being hyper feminine and not going out without a full face of makeup, and trans men being hyper masculine and god help him if he so much as wears eyeliner ). This leaves little to no room for self expression. And in my opinion makes trans people more paranoid and far more aware of what they look like. Constantly wondering and worrying if they are performing their particular gender right.
Then there are people who are non-binary transgender. How can you ‘pass’ as non-binary? Many would say it is an androgynous look, but that seems to fall heavily on the more masculine side of things. So for those who enjoy a more femme aesthetic will be misgendered because people assume that they’re women. And those who enjoy a more masc aesthetic will be misgendered because people assume they’re men.
Most importantly – Trans people shouldn’t have to Pass for people to gender them correctly. If you tell someone your pronouns, regardless of what you look like, they should respect that and use your pronouns. To be trans you do not have to medically transition. You don’t even have to perform gender in the way society expects you to.
There are people who no matter what they do, they’re always going to look trans. And some people are fine with this and they like this. But some people really want to be able to pass as cisgender, but for whatever reason, cannot. Which is why the whole concept of passing is problematic and honestly, rather hurtful.
It is so very painful being constantly misgendered. After two years I finally began to be gendered correctly by strangers, but it’s only around 90% of the time. And that 10% throws me for a loop every time. But if there wasn’t so much pressure to look cisgender, every day life would be so much less stressful.
I honestly don’t know if I’ve been able to discuss this topic properly. It’s a difficult one, but one I wanted to get out there first. I may revisit it at a later date if I find a better way of explaining it.
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