Gender Norms and Why I Do Not Want to Pass

For many transgender people, passing is the ultimate goal. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes it could be safety or just so that a transgender person can feel at home in their own skin, or any number of reasons, all of which are valid.

Rachel Brindell
Nov 28, 2020 · 4 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

For those who do not know what passing is, it’s the ability to be seen as a genuine cisgender female if you are a trans woman, or a genuine cisgender male if you are a trans man.

However, I have reached a point in my transition where passing is not required, nor desired. I live in a liberal state, New York, that has its own gender protection laws, and violence towards trans people seems to be at a minimum. Additionally, I feel like I can now live authentically and unapologetically as I was meant to all along.

I remember when I first came out a few years ago and went through the tedious and anxiety ridden process of coming out to my loved ones and friends, I was asked by several of them how far I was going to transition, and frankly at the time I didn’t know. My response was “until I feel comfortable in my own skin”.

Now it is three years later and I have reached that comfort level. Oh, sure I still have bouts with my old friend Gender Dysphoria, but they seem to be more like spats rather than all-out war like it did for so many decades of my life. I have had a hair transplant; electrolysis of my beard, an orchiectomy and breast augmentation and they have all helped to a degree.

But I realize now it is not only the physical, but my emotional outlook that has allowed me to feel comfortable in my own skin. Until I was able to stop the hiding and lying to myself (and everyone else) about who I truly am, I was never going to reach this point. The anxiety, shame, guilt and pain of living a duplicitous life is gone now. I am out to everyone, and no longer have to cover up the truth that I am transgender, resulting in a clearer emotional state, finally letting go of the anxiety, shame, guilt and pain with a lot of help from my fantastic therapist.

When it comes to passing, I am sure I could pull that off too with a bit of facial feminization surgery and some voice therapy lessons. Some folks tell me I pass now, although I don’t feel like I do. But what would I be teaching other trans folks if I passed, or my family and friends for that matter? I’d be teaching them that the established gender norms were correct. I would be hiding behind those same gender norms that suppressed my true self for sixty years, but from the other end of the spectrum. That will not suffice. I am transgender and will never be cisgender, and I’m okay with that, in fact I am proud of it.

But gender is not only two ends of the spectrum, but rather we fall somewhere along that spectrum. So why must I sound like a woman? I believe it’s because our society has not accepted that women, even cisgender women can have low voices. Take the actress Shohreh Aghdashloo for example.

I see very clearly that by coming out and transitioning in a visible manner, I have demonstrated to so many people including family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances that we are just human beings too, and are not the demonized version they have been exposed to by the media and others.

I pay taxes; I cook; I play guitar; I love sports; I buy groceries; I garden; I have loved, I have lost; I have bad days and good days; I laugh, I cry, I get angry; I get sick; I donate clothing to the needy; I stand in lines; I hate my driver’s license photo; I have raised kids; I hate spell check on my IPhone; I clean my toilets and the list goes on, just like everyone else.

By being visibly transgender and not hiding behind the ridiculous gender norms that have been pushed on us for decades I feel I can contribute more to both the LGBTQ community and the cis-normative community as well. After all, if we all passed, who would see us?

Empowered Trans Woman

Highlighting the experience of women of trans experience.

Sign up for Empowered Trans Woman Updates

By Empowered Trans Woman

Keeping you in the loop. Take a look

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Rachel Brindell

Written by

Transgender woman who believes in being visible to bring enlightenment and understanding, and perhaps some inspiration can be found. Writer, Guitarist, Singer

Empowered Trans Woman

Highlighting the experience of women of trans experience. Transition, Womanhood, Feminism, Intersectionality, Transphobia, Marginalization and Assimilation, and more.

Rachel Brindell

Written by

Transgender woman who believes in being visible to bring enlightenment and understanding, and perhaps some inspiration can be found. Writer, Guitarist, Singer

Empowered Trans Woman

Highlighting the experience of women of trans experience. Transition, Womanhood, Feminism, Intersectionality, Transphobia, Marginalization and Assimilation, and more.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store