Why Passing Sucks!

What does it mean to “pass” as a transgender individual? The idea stems from societal and personal standards, people will visually be able to identify them as their chosen gender. The concept extends also to feeling confident that people will not disrespect or misgender you. Since early in my transition I have experienced what is referred to as “passing privilege”. This means that I rarely get misgendered or treated as the gender I was assigned at birth. It means that I am safe for the most part to walk down the street without people pointing out or realizing the fact that I am transgender. I confess, I wish this was something all my trans siblings experienced.

The concept of passing is something that I would love to see disappear into the annals of history. It creates a double standard that trans people must fit into a very small box. It also creates a level of a division for some trans individuals. For non-binary individuals, this creates an environment where in our binary culture they have to demand people recognize them or be thrown into one of two boxes in which neither is what or who they are. The concept is a fairly preposterous one when it comes to some cisgender individuals as well. I have known a cis woman with broader shoulders than my own and some who also have facial hair. I have known short statured men with androgynous figures.

I do not consider the concept of passing to be a fair idea as it pertains to the trans community. It adds to the frustration and dysphoria some of us feel when we see others who fit a more cisnormative idea of their gender. It can cause animosity between transgender individuals; we can not control what body parts we are born with, we also cannot control how our build or our natural voice look or sounds. It does not make me any less trans because I have a small frame. It does not make someone less beautiful because they are six feet tall and have an Adams apple or a man any less “manly” because he has triple D breasts. It does not invalidate someone who is non-binary because they present on one side of the spectrum. I have sadly seen arguments and spoken to individuals who are able to blend in with our society and view this privilege as something that holds them above other transgender people. I have seen people who have an impossible time getting people to view their identities as valid because they do not fit societies box, and they begin holding grudges against those who “pass” with little effort.

The idea of passing just stands to box us in. It creates a culture to where we still only use our eyes to identify people and validate them. The ease of passing is something that all individuals should be able to experience regardless of how they appear. To overcome this, we must stop asking if we pass and begin to appreciate and respect every individual for who they are and who they say they are. We must start asking people about their pronouns instead of assuming.

Like the saying goes when you assume you make an “ass” out of “u” and “me”.

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Melody Lewis