Recent instances of passingPosted: April 29, 2014 Filed under: Passing | Tags: androgyny, gender identity, genderqueer, lgbt, lgbtq, non-binary, passing, queer, trans, transgender 15 Comments
Some trans* people strongly dislike the notion of “passing,” because it implies a deception is taking place. They’re not passing as male/female, they just are male/female, whether others see them as such or not. I definitely respect and appreciate this viewpoint; for me personally though, I embrace “passing.” I relish the times I pass as male because although I don’t feel myself to be male, exactly, it feels awesome and validating when that’s what others see. If this were to happen 100% of the time or even 18% of the time, it’d start to feel disorienting, alarming even. But when it happens on occasion, it’s one of my favorite things ever!
It happened three times in the past two weeks. And, it was not only thrilling, but totally unexpected and unprecedented. Because in the past, I’ve passed at a distance, or with kids, or maybe with people who are much much older than me, or I pass until I start speaking, etc. But two out of three of these recent occasions, I was fully interacting with someone roughly my age (meaning: making eye contact, conversing, spending more than a couple seconds in their presence). I’m not sure if this has ever happened to me before, or if it has, it’s been a long time.
Makes me think that testosterone is doing something very subtly, above and beyond appearance. Like an aura or an energy or something that can be sensed by others. Because I look the same as I always have; I sound the same. The only thing I can think is that my shoulders might be slightly more filled out now; I might have a little bit of a different stance because of that. Ultimately, if it’s an either/or, in my opinion, I think I look female, and I love it when people think otherwise!
At Work: It was spring break, so the building was almost empty except for my co-workers and me. We were eating lunch, and my co-worker saw through the window that UPS had just pulled up, so I went down to receive and sign for the packages (usually administrative assistants would do that.) I let him into the office, talked to him about how everyone’s on vacation, small talk like that, etc. I signed his form, and he said, “Thank you, sir!.” I said, “You’re welcome.” And walked away, beaming.
At The Mall: My partner and I never go to the mall. Seriously. We have been together for 7 years and have been to a mall together once before, in that time. (Oh wait, no, twice. We went mini-golfing in a mall for a friend’s birthday.) In addition, I have been to a mall one time by myself in that time. We really had to go to the Apple store though because she finally upgraded to a smart phone, and then proceeded to smash the screen by dropping it on a concrete floor. Her protective case was on its way, in the mail! So we were just going to go there and see if they could do anything for her – a long shot, but might as well try… They could not do a single thing for her but they were very nice about it, as if they were her good buddy and just could not let her down, haha. We then walked out of the Apple Store and were directly confronted by a kiosk selling phone cases and a sign saying, “We fix phones here.” She asked, “how much?” It was reasonable and was only going to take 20 minutes. Seemed like a good option, so we watched the guy work his magic with teeny tiny screwdrivers with magnetic tips. He talked to us about how he’s only 22 years old and he already owns 10 of these kiosks. He’d just gotten back from Miami Beach for a entrepreneur conference, and he was on his way to Seattle. We chatted with him about phones, what there is to do for fun here, etc. I left to go find a bathroom and come right back. Then I left to sample teas at Teavana and come right back. Then I wandered away into a clothing store. My partner got her screen replaced(!!!) and when she came to get me, she told me that while I was gone, the kiosk guy asked her if I was her boyfriend! She told him “Yes.”
At the Public Market: I was looking at mushrooms when a little girl (3 years old?) turned and almost hugged my leg, thinking I was her mother. When she realized I wasn’t she startled, and then asked, “Is you a goioiol?” “What?” “Is you a goioiol?” I squatted down to her height and clarified her question, “Am I a boy or girl?” “Yeah.” “I’m a little bit of both.” She seemed to accept this.
Other recent instances in which I passed:
– Effeminate pirate orders fruity drink on party boat
– Passing as a teenager yet again
– Thirty-one year old kid working as school janitor
I don’t pass much at all, if ever, but I love when my friends refer to me as male even though I’m quite neutral most of the time. It is just so exciting to be perceived differently! I know exactly what you’re talking about!
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I say being read as male or female instead of passing. I feel like it doesn’t evoke the same sentiment of deception or inauthenticity that is associated with passing.
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I agree on that nuance of language. For example, in relaying someone else’s experience, I wouldn’t assume to say, “he/she passed as male/female in that situation.” I’d say he/she was read as male/female.
For whatever reason though, I really latch on to the term “passing” in describing my own experience (although I might not like it if others used it for me.) I like the idea of shifting and moving between and amongst different spaces, I suppose. Like literally passing through a fence to get to a space that may or may not be public property. (Not the same thing but sort of an analogy). I like that stuff!
I get that completely. And it’s a great point that has put things in perspective for me– thanks! I definitely feel great when I currently pass as male, but ultimately I want to be read as male and not feel like I’m passing.
The kid story made me smile. I dated a girl who had a nine year old sister who asked me that question, and when I replied “does it matter?” She thought a minute and decided no.
That stands out as one of the most validating experiences I’ve ever had. As we got to know each other better, she came to me with questions and I ended up explaining being trans* at her level, and she did okay with accepting that too, but just the initial “no I guess it doesn’t matter because I’m much more interested in the fact that you can brush my hair without it hurting” was… crazy good to hear.
Also malls are terrible things.
I hear you about “passing.” I think it makes sense to describe being read as something you’re not. For example, people regularly think I’m Chicano; I don’t mind at all, but I’m not, so I could see myself calling that “passing.”
On the other hand, it does still have a negative tinge I dislike, a connotation that one is being intentionally deceptive for person gain–as in transphobic ideas about “passing,” or, from an earlier era, racist attitudes about light-skinned Black folks “passing.”
Yes. I think it’s also “passing” when I’m seen as a teenager or a kid, because I’m not. Also I don’t see it as a deception in any way, because I’m not actively TRYING to be seen as a kid or as a man (not exactly) – I’m just trying to be seen as myself; I present myself the way I feel comfortable. If that involves wearing skate sneakers and hoodies, so be it!
You’re definitely right about the negative connotation – it can be a loaded word. I’ll work on being aware and consider whether it’s what I really want to be saying, exactly, or not…
Good on ya! I had a moment today where I was waiting for the train where a panhandler kept calling me sir. It’s a nice little treat. I always look at such instances as times when my guard is down and the real me is shining through.
I also like your answer to the little girl, “A little bit of both”.
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I like being sir’d, buddy’d, son’d and chief’d. I despise being Ma’am’d. And it irks me when the Starbucks cashier near my office says “Following guest” and then slurs it down to “following.”
So you’re saying at Starbucks, that’s how they refer to customers, or that’s how they refer to you? Like, is it when baristas are talking amongst themselves and they say “the following guest ordered that drink.” ?? I’m curious about this!
I like how customers are now “guests” and, more and more, students (at least elementary school level) are now “friends.”
It is a really good feeling to be recognized. The trick is to keep your spirits up even when you are very confidently mis-recognized.
By the way, how is the first issue of the JanitorQueer Comix going, the one where JanitorQueer saves Jersey from Germs, using bleach?
Haha, janitorqueer, the superhero, has been percolating on the peripheries!
In actuality though, there may be a web-comic launching in the near future, that might feature (a version of) me. It would be in conjunction with a brand new radio station coming soon in my home town, and it’d be musings about my record collection, what memories and thoughts individual LPs bring up. Interested? I’ll send you a link, if it materializes!
My motive for pushing the superhero janitor is that I too work in the industrial cleaning industry. Today, I used the equivalent of maybe 80 gallons of household bleach. So, while am working, lots superhero washing scenarios come mind. Goodbye, mildew!
Dang that’s a lot of bleach! What do you do for personal protective equipment? Since I work in a public school, we do not use bleach, or ant poison, or anything too noxious. I am sooooo glad for this, although sometimes it’s hard to clean with the products we do have – lots of elbow grease.
I’ve thought of superhero scenarios from time to time as well. Some of our equipment conjures villan-like battles. We have a power-washer that I envision as an evil octopus or other tentacled creature; it’s easy to get tangled up in the thing. I’ll have to see if I can get my friend to come up with a mini-comic!
I work for an employer who does not really believe in protective equipment. And honestly, bleach (sodium hypochlorite) is a safe, simple chemical compared to alot of other things. I try to wear glasses, occasionally a face shield, and super heavy blue chemical gloves. The only clothing that I have found that holds up is Dickies.
Yesterday I washed a big house, the front of the roof, and the front of another roof. Today, I am washing two big stucco townhomes, and maybe another small house.
I never intended to do this for a living. But, 10 years into it, I really know what I am doing. I get to work alone, with nobody micromanaging me.
The only problem is when I have to pee. But that is always a problem. 🙂