On Passing

Photo by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

One of the things that I'd like to talk about is "passing" as your preferred gender. For trans people, passing can become an obsession, the holy grail of our lives, but it doesn't have to be that way. Sure, there can be a great deal of joy and safety and self-acceptance in passing, in being your internal self in the external world, but pursuing it to its highest degree also ignores the fundamental underlying problem of what has to be done in order for a person to pass, and why we would feel compelled to go to extreme lengths to do it at all.

In every trans-centric post I've written so far, I've posted a picture of me from a photoshoot that I literally spent months preparing for. I don't dress like this every day, nor would I want to. It's way too much work, and I've got better things to do than spending hours making sure my makeup slays every time I leave the house. Most days, it's easier just to dress "like a dude," in a shirt and pants, unshowered and unshaven, as many women I know do. Stereotypically female clothing, beauty products and accessories feminize the body and aid in passing, but I don't need to wear a dress to feel like a woman. I don't need to pass as female in the eyes of strangers to feel like a woman. I feel like a woman all the time no matter what I'm wearing. That's just how gender dysphoria works.

So why is passing so important? Fear. I'm not just talking about the fear that trans people feel of being outed against their will or the fears we experience of being judged or assaulted if we don't pass. I'm talking about the fear that drives strangers to judge, to assault and to decry those of us who are different. Every time someone makes a judgment, it ultimately comes from a place of fear, fear of homosexuality and how it could effect them personally, fear of their own inner demons, fear fueled by a lack of information about what it means to be trans. I know that in my younger days, I sneered at a fair number of drag queens, and the first time I ever actually met an MTF individual (at a college PFLAG meeting in 2006) I stared at her and studied her for hours out of morbid curiosity. I have met old men who used to make a sport out of beating up “queer” individuals, men who have turned around their lives and who now live without judgment. It wasn't just time and the mellowing of age that made them change. It was information. Information is the best weapon we have against any fear we use to oppress ourselves and others.

I don't want anyone to get the idea that I think passing is never an important consideration, or that I'm shaming women who choose to wear makeup every day. Cosmetics are as much a beauty-enhancer as they are a form of armor, or warpaint for the woman warrior. To look fierce and beautiful is to become intimidating. Women who are confident, intimidating and strong are fully within their place of power, and are less likely to become victims (I've been told, and I have experienced this personally) as are transwomen who pass well enough to be accepted as women by strangers instead of being seen as "men in drag." What I am saying is that people should be allowed to wear what they like. Hairy legs and cargo shorts, lipstick and skirts, it shouldn't matter, and it especially shouldn't matter what the fears of others drive them to think about us as trans people. We carry our own truths within us, and we can share those truths with others, but we should never squash them, especially to shield others from their own fears. Whatever gender you identify with, whether you are trans or not, you know that you still feel like that gender no matter what you are wearing, where you are and who you are with. It's constant, it never changes, and so why not wear what you want, in any given combination? You're still you. Be you, and strive to be you in your own highest form. If that means pink wigs and frilly skirts, go for it. If that means tanktops and tattoos, go for it. Be you, unapologetically, and fuck what anyone else thinks. Feminine beauty “standards” are bullshit and binding anyway, and most women (transgender or otherwise) that I know personally don't have the time to slay like a supermodel every single day. We've got better things to do than to cater to anyone's fear-based judgments.

If you have a story about your own experiences as a trans individual or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link]. Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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