The Transition Transmission: The Dreaded Question
There is one question that I see most transgender people ask at some point or another; while I understand why they feel compelled to ask, for me the answer is totally pointless. It’s that thing we hear repeating in our head as we venture out into the world seeking confidence that we belong here as the person we know we need to be. It’s a manifestation of our own doubts, and it’s the question that regardless how often it garners a positive response, we choose to disregard those responses in lieu of wallowing in our own self-doubt. So what is this question?
“Do I Pass?”
It comes up daily in the forums, and groups, and oddly enough, by the time a lot of people begin asking the question they have achieved a level of presentation that society will mostly accept. That caveat of “most” people accepting their gender presentation is the part we all need to understand. Our “tells” can vary greatly based on a bunch of factors. The age at which we began transitioning is the one things that has the greatest impact on body characteristics. Clothing and prosthetics can help augment issues with appearing as our true gender and allow us to blend in better. But such augments are never a guarantee of acceptance or “passability.” We need to change our perception of passability from one of external opinions to one of internal belief.
While I don’t recall ever having asked anyone if I “pass,” I need to admit that I might have done so. I totally understand why we do this, but I’m going to advocate for shifting our expectations regarding our presentation.
I suppose what I might be guilty of is an inversion of the question; the proclamation “I know I don’t pass.” This is intended to garner a similar response from the community where others will stand up and re-affirm our presentation. What we need to understand is that unless a community is chock full of assholes, no one is going to out-right deny our identity by whether we’ve met an arbitrary metric that is equal to being “passable.”
The people in the communities aren’t being dishonest, but they more than likely won’t respond to the question at all if they feel you don’t “Pass.” This can lead to a stilted and overtly positive response to posing the question. So what’s the point of asking it if you can’t get the truth anyway. You cannot judge the book by the cover, and truth with regard to something so subjective is something you’ll never really get by asking random people in your community. The truth simply isn’t external.
The notion of passability is not one that is simply associated with presentation. What you cannot show the world is how you move your body, your hands, or how you talk. Passing simply isn’t something that can be accurately measured by a moment captured in time. I know that after 11 months on hormones and living full-time for 14 months, I’ve had a lot of time to perfect my look, and a lot of people in the community tell me I “pass.” But some of those same people also dig on themselves by saying “I’ll never pass like you do.”
While I do everything I can to mitigate how society views me, I don’t consider myself fully passing. My voice is probably my biggest tell, with my broad shoulders and height being the second biggest tell. By in Large, most people don’t question my gender anymore, but I choose to never assume that. If I did believe I was 100% passable, there will always be that one-in-a-hundred people who realize I’m trans, and will say something that triggers me later.
There’s an mirrored version of this same issue whereby I assume I never pass and end up triggered when someone (usually men) seemingly take me as a cisgender woman. Or more confusing is how they react in a manner that doesn’t necessarily identify my gender, but leaves me triggered because I have ambiguity with regard to what they were perceiving me as. Having closure about that can give some valuable input with regard to how my presentation or mannerisms caused a person to view me as either gender.
So maybe we need to ask ourselves “what is passing?” Is it the need to convince society of who we are, or our personal need to convince ourselves? I hate to say it, but I think many of us are confused about this. And I’ll gladly admit that I have been confused about this as well.
I implore anyone who ascribes to “pass” to ask themselves what does that mean to you? The fact of the matter is, if you are assigning beauty or appearance metrics to what you feel makes up a real man or woman, then you are already failing to pass. Pay more attention to cisgender people in the world. Take note of the attributes they exhibit that do not necessarily align with their gender presentation. Then stop trying to delude yourself into believing you have to hit a mark of presentation which isn’t fixed.
Aiming to “Pass” is aiming at a moving target which varies relative to the observer. Some people are simply going to instinctively pick up on your tells, some won’t, others won’t even care. In this we must realize that being passable has nothing to do with how society reads us, and more with how we feel about ourselves. It’s an internal feeling that you are one hundred percent the gender that you identify with. Once you realize this, the question “Do I pass” need never be asked. It ceases to be a matter of the world’s perception and becomes your perception of self.
The only person who can accurately answer “Do I Pass” is the person in the mirror. Love them, accept them, and believe in them. The answer becomes simple.
“Yes, I (you) Pass!”
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