Passing

Two or three weeks ago and turned the corner into my apartment building’s parking lot. I found a space and saw a man striding along that looked familiar. I noticed along the path he trod that he was approaching a vehicle I associated with him. I wandered down and said hello and we had a conversation.

We got on this discussion of passing and whether it should be a necessary thing if everything were right in society. I think I didn’t do the topic as much justice as it deserved because I was talking about it only from the obvious aspect. Let’s get that out of the way first.

Most trans people want to pass for a number of reasons, and despite some arguments I’ve heard to the contrary, I don’t believe all of these will ever go away. They’re too hard wired:

  • To avoid being hassled or attacked (this one might, hopefully go away with time)
  • To be seen by others as we see ourselves
  • To be treated the same as any other man or woman

Those are the obvious reasons and there are a bunch of things that follow on from that. What I don’t think will entirely change is that I think it will be very hard or impossible for someone to present in an entirely male presentation and realistically expect to be treated as female or vice versus. There’s too much sociological wiring in the brain and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of it was effectively hard wired.

I don’t mean women wearing skirts and men wearing pants or other nonesense like that. Rather there’s this rather definitive thing that you see repeated over and over of people forming groups separated by characteristics. The most common is a uniform. Uniforms are used by schools, police, fire fighters, armies, nurses, doctors, and the list goes on to distinguish people in the group from people outside the group.

Women and men effectively have uniforms and woe to the person who ignores this. There are cisgendered women who definitely will not pass as women if they dress as men, and vice versus. Clothing is a big cue.

Now all of the above is important. As trans people we ideally want to move without people taking special notice of us and embarrassing or otherwise harming us mentally or physically.

What I haven’t listed is a reason that is sometimes even more important. I’ve known more than one trans person who’s had facial surgery who already looked good enough to be “passable”. The problem for some is that they still see their old face. They look in the mirror and see the man, or the woman they used to be. Getting facial surgery for these folks allows a break and a new existence.

Have mercy on folks who need to do that. Maybe they’d be ok in time and maybe not. It really is up to them to decide this. Facial surgery is expensive and painful and I am unbelievably grateful it has not been part of my journey. My respects to those that have had to undertake that step.

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