Passing is one of those things that is a big deal for all trans people - but I see more confusion about it among pre-transition and early transition transsexuals than any other group. So this blog post is aimed at them, though it's also aimed at people who don't understand the importance of keeping it quiet when around their trans friends, family, and acquaintances.
To start, what is passing? Passing is the term used for a trans* person being read as a cis person. This is important because of the rampant discrimination against trans* people. Many cisgender people believe it's their right to determine our gender for us, based on criteria they decide on. And I don't mean doctors, scientists, or researchers, I mean ignorant, uneducated average joes who make up their mind that one criteria tells the truth, be it genital configuration or chromosomal makeup. If/when they determine that we're trans, they can pick a whole variety of ways to insult us, from being loud and outing us (the practice of announcing one's trans status against the wishes of the trans person) to intentionally misgendering us, as well as plain old disrespect.
Because of the above, to live a discrimination free life, and to not suffer constant insults, it is imperative that we pass. Now, there's good news and bad news about this. The good news is passing is at least a little easier than most people give it credit for. The bad news is that the trans illusion tends to be fragile for many of us.
Good news first - passing is easier than most people really think. Many, many pre transition transgirls obsess over passing - and decry pictures of transwomen because their jaw is a little to big, or their shoulders a little too wide.
Here's the thing with that - even cisgender women have wide shoulders, or are tall, or other such signals. People ignore them because the last thing on someone's mind when they're out and about in their day-to-day lives is transsexualism. We're skewed because we live it every day of our lives, but to the average joe, we're a myth, a legend, and not even on their radar.
Now the bad - most of us do have more than a few signals to our assigned-at-birth gender. This is why when pre-everything trans people are always able to 'tell' - and their perception that because they can 'tell' everyone else can.
I won't split hairs - we do have these signals - and that makes it dangerous to get people thinking about transsexuals around us - ESPECIALLY if we're the one being asked about it/talking about it. The line of thought is no cisgender person would discuss it so seriously, so it immediately brings speculation about which 'one of us is the "tranny". They then look with that in mind, spot our signals, then our 'cover' is blown.
Now I should add, that passing isn't everything. There's something to be said for the peace of mind that comes from being comfortable in your own skin first and foremost. And even with the above, some people may never truly pass. Passing is merely an extra security level - one which does make life easier, and affords you many privileges you wouldn't have if you wore your trans status on your sleeve. The purpose of this was to get people thinking about the fragile balance of appearing as our desired gender, realizing that passing isn't as hard as people really think, and realizing that maybe chatting up your trans friend about trans issues in public might be a bit more dangerous for him or her than you give credit for.
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