Saturday, March 7, 2015
Trans People Don't Need To "Pass" As Their Own Gender
The term “passing” is thrown around a lot during any discussion centered around someone that’s transgender. It’s pretty much impossible not to hear it. The concept of a trans person looking so much like the social expectation of their gender that people don’t guess they’re trans. It’s held up as a pedestal for trans people as the end goal, the ultimate achievement in transdom. And we really need to stop talking about it like that.
Now don’t get me wrong, I need to be very clear. There is nothing wrong with being a trans person that “passes.” And yes, I would even like to hopefully pass, but not for my own image. Truthfully, it would be more for my own safety and sanity. So that people will recognize me as my gender, so that I won’t get attacked or insulted for not passing or people obviously telling I’m trans. I want it out of necessity, and that is a scary thing.
Now cis (Non-trans) people think saying someone is passing is a high compliment. And to many, it can be to some people! But overall we need to really critically think about what we are saying when we use passing as a compliment.
When we praise the act of passing, we are declaring that they fit the minimum social expectations of how their gender is “supposed” to look, as though there is a way that men and women are “supposed” to look. When we praise passing we are saying “Good thing no one will be able to guess you are trans!” We talk about it as though physically looking like you’re transgender is this step along the ultimate path to hiding being transgender.
And why? Why the hell should anyone need to do that? Why should anyone be expected to not look like they are transgender? We are in a culture that is still defining us as bad, undesirable or ugly. We pretend that things are so good for trans people because, hey, the law (In some places at least) says I deserve access to medical care, the right bathroom, the right changing room, and the ability to make legal documents reflect my gender. Oh good, the law says I’m a human being that can be herself! Soooo progressive!!!
And yet we still harbor those attitudes of trans people being this other category, this different thing. No one wants to “look trans.” But why not? If there is nothing wrong with being transgender, then why do we hold up the highest achievement to be being able to hide being transgender? “Oh, there’s nothing wrong with you! But if you could please fit into these neat boxes of what is male and what is female, that’d be great, thanks.”
I’ve seen many comments before where a transgender girl that has not had hormones will be wearing feminine clothes, make up, and a dress and someone will say “Well, she really obviously looks like a dude trying to be a girl.” No, she doesn’t! You know what she looks like? Herself. And that self is a woman. And she doesn’t need to fit into your category of what a woman should look like in order to be a woman. And neither do any trans people. That trans guy can have boobs and wear make-up if he wants. And guess what? He’s still a guy. That trans girl can wear her cargo pants. She’s still a girl. That trans guy can carry his purse. And well whaddya know, still a guy! If a cis guy carried a purse we still say he’s a guy, which should it be different for a trans guy?
I won’t pretend I don’t want to pass one day. Remember, I need to. There is a necessity to it. The world is a scary place to be trans. And just cause we have laws finally saying we’re people with human rights doesn’t mean things are great for us. If we go out looking “obviously trans” there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Because trans beauty is just as beautiful as cis beauty. And unfortunately, the world doesn’t see that. So we’re fired, we’re beaten, we’re killed, we’re suicidal, we’re pushed away, we’re kicked out of homes, we’re kicked out of families, and we’re told that we don’t belong.
So don’t tell us “things are getting better” or “you’re going to be ok” or “I’m sure you’ll be able to pass one day.” Stop holding up trans people as “Look how beautifully someone assigned male at birth can pass as a cis woman!” We have a right to exist as trans people, not just if we’re essentially pretend cis people. Start telling us you’ll protect us, recognize us as our true genders. Don’t tell us that we “Look so beautiful for being trans” or that we “pass so well” and start telling us we’re beautiful. Period.