06 February 2013

Why I Am Not Passing Now

I am not boasting when I say that it's been a while since I've had to think about "passing".  Any time I meet someone, whether a tourist asking for directions, a store clerk or guests at someone's dinner party, I am addressed by female salutations and pronouns.

In a way, it's ironic.  The reason I say that, is not that I was born in a male body and lived the first 45 years of my life as a boy/man.  Rather, I say that because I have less anxiety about some "secret" of mine being discovered than I did when I was living as male.

Perhaps even more important, I felt more like I was trying to "pass" as male--or, at least, the idea of male that most people seemed to have--than I have felt that I was trying to "convince" someone that I'm a woman.

What's even more ironic is that I felt less like I was trying to "pass" even at the very beginning of my transition.  Even during the time I was working as male and doing almost everything else in my life as female,  I didn't feel as much anxiety about being "read" as I felt when I was living as male and worrying that someone would realize that I wasn't male after all and that there would be a terrible price to pay for it.

Don't get me wrong:  I've lost friends, relatives and other things in my life because of my transition.  When I started my transition, I knew those were possible consequences.  The only surprises, really, were that some of the people I lost weren't the ones I expected.  On the other hand, people from whom I didn't expect support gave it to me, and gave me types of support I never expected.

Somehow it was easier to imagine those things than it was for me to envision the consequences of someone finding out that I wasn't that masculine (almost hyper-masculine) guy I was presenting to the world.  I guess I was still thinking of how I was "exposed" as a "sissy" when I was a kid, and the seemingly-endless grief I got as a result.  I could imagine only an adult version of those things.  Otherwise, I couldn't foresee what would or could happen to me as a result of being "exposed". 

I did, however, have a more specific fear:  that my gender-queerness (as much as I hate the term, I don't have a better one) would be construed as an extreme form of homosexuality.  As a matter of fact, some people took me for a gay man, even if they had never seen me with another man.  Although I had been living as a heterosexual man, I knew very well how virulent and misdirected homophobia could be:  Part of my "defense" consisted of homophobia and some gay-baiting.

In other words, I feared that I would be harassed, beaten or even killed for something I wasn't.  It's bad enough to incur someone's bile or wrath for something you actually are, but I could imagine few things worse than dying over a case of mistaken identity.  I imagine that once you're dead, it doesn't much matter how you died, but I still think I'd rather not die an unjust death.

But now I am living as the woman that I am; if someone commits any sort of violence (physical, mental, spirtual or otherwise) against me because he or she finds out about my past, at least it's based on something that's at least factually true.  It doesn't make any violence committed against me more just, but at least I know that I have been true to myself and I have not denied my past.  In fact, I have not had to deny anything at all.  

That last sentence might sum up the reasons why I have not felt like I am "passing" or even have to try to do such a thing.  The effort to "pass" as someone else's idea of a man or a woman invariably involves denial; simply living as the man or woman (or member of some other gender) that you are is, as one person admiringly told me, the essence of integrity.

Well, living as the woman I am--as opposed to someone else's idea of a woman-- is as much integrity as I am capable of living.  It's the truth as I understand it, and I really don't have anything else (aside from, perhaps, a belief in a greater power) that I can use as a principle for living my life.  As a result, I may not pass perfectly, but I seem to pass well enough--and better than I ever did as the man I was trying to be.

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