I was prompted to write this because of all the “am I passing?” posts that keep popping up on reddit. I did it too, posting on reddit looking for assurances. These women that post, they do pass, they are beautiful. I’m not trying to make them feel better, just giving them the well deserved confidence they need to step outside. All people are different and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what attracts one person will not attract another. But I honestly haven’t seen a single trans woman who isn’t beautiful in some way.
I’m sure this doesn’t apply to all trans people, but for a lot of us, “passing”, “blending in” is the thing we worry most about. Getting noticed, “being read”, “getting clocked”, gave me such angst I had trouble going outside in the early days of coming out. It wasn’t that long ago that even though I was out to my family, I timed going to the postbox at the edge of the road so that no cars were coming to see me. I was certain that anyone blazing by at 60 mph would somehow clock me at a mailbox. What did I think would happen? They would “know”?
I look back and just cringe at my actions, at my reluctance to act. ”Passing” isn’t something to aspire to, unless you desire it. The ability/inability to pass doesn’t make you any less or any more valid as a trans person. It took a long time for me to get to the point where my worry over passing wasn’t a factor in my life. I was always looking for advice, looking for confirmation or assurances that I “passed”, that I was pretty, that I was a woman. I was seeking validation, that the world outside would accept me, that I wouldn’t be attacked on sight. The harder I tried to pass, the more attention I garnered. The entire time I spent really trying to pass, I was clocked pretty consistently. I was pointed at several times and whispered about I’m sure more times than I noticed. Welcome to the South? Maybe, but I think that any time you are the trembling peacock in the middle of chickens, you are going to get pointed at, an object of derision.
The moment I stopped trying to pass, guess what, the clocks stopped, well they didn’t matter anymore. I was now just doing what was comfortable for me, the cosmetics I wanted, my own hair, my own breasts, my own style. In trying to pass I was trading the discomfort of pretending to be male with the discomfort of trying to be the woman I felt everyone else expected. It’s better just to be yourself, to be comfortable in your own skin. That comfort is relayed to the others around you and sure we may not all “pass” in that instagram perfection kind of way, but we can go out in public and be a part of society. I stopped caring or even thinking about others perceptions of me because for the first time in my life, I was happy with who I was.
It’s almost a rite of passage, especially for those of us coming out later in life, to overdo it trying to pass and then coming to the realization that we only ever needed to be ourselves. And that is ok, we need to jump from the nest and learn to fly. Sometimes we fall, but we get back up and try again. It is worth it to be out, to be in the world, without the tethers of a mask or expectations of appearance.
I wanted to pass because I felt I would be safe then. Stands to reason, right? If I get clocked less, then I will be safer in public. Perhaps, but I think getting clocked has always been more about your comfort than how you look. I haven’t changed much, sure I tossed the wig and fake breasts early on, but I look essentially the same as I did then. I just don’t feel like an outsider and don’t act that way. Attitude and confidence, they bring their own currency to passing. I walk into a small conservative town car repair shop, a Trump 2020 sticker in the window, with a bunch of southern men sitting in creaky metal chairs, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and they nod their heads and give me a “ma’am” as I go to the counter. I am treated as exactly who I am because I am not trying to be more or less than exactly who I am.
I can’t tell you how to “pass”, I can only implore you to be yourself. I have some privileges, sure I’m white and established, but passing isn’t one of them. Being myself is so much more fulfilling than pretending to be a version of me for other people.