The Basics Portal
Currently, trans people live in a hostile society -- and it's getting worse, not better. Blatant discrimination in employment & housing is advocated by most religions and is protected by federal & state law. It has even reached the point in some areas that trans people aren't even allowed to use a restroom! The ability to get lost in the faceless crowd seems to be the only possible solution.
However, survival on the sidewalk is only part of the Need to Pass. The essence of transsexuality is honest self-expression; having an outward appearance that matches the individual's innate gender identity and gender (personality) -- and that includes:
-- Physical appearance (face, skin & physical build)
-- Dress (stereotypes, fashion sense & hair)
-- Behavior (voice, moving, walking, sitting, eating, power projection vs modesty, etc)
-- Documentation (ID's, birth certificates, passports, social security cards, school & employment records etc)
For everyone -- trans or not -- accurately communicating gender is one of the most important aspects of social interaction.
Non-trans people get the right body naturally. As they grow up, they learn about proper dress & behavior. All documents simply happen, with the right name & gender. Trans people receive all the same necessities, but for the wrong name & gender -- someone who actually doesn't exist.
Transitioning is the tedious process of getting rid of all those wrong-gender features and replacing them with the correct version. Passing is one measure of successful transitioning. Put simplistically, if a trans person doesn't pass, they need to transition more.
Transitioning earlier in life results in better passing. Transitioning before puberty allows flawless passing
Remember that passing is passive. It's feedback from other people about how well an individual acquired the officially sanctioned gender stereotypes. Even some XX people don't pass as being female, and many XY people fail the Real Man test.
The Quest for Invisibility
...As in, Out of the Closet. A lot of people in the LGBT Community have spent their lives in hiding, pretending to be "normal", and terrified of the harassment & discrimination they'd face if the rest of society found out the truth. But if everyone came out of the closet, the numbers would be so overwhelming, EVERYONE would gain acceptance.
Maybe so, for LGB people.
...So advocacy groups think, It must be good for trans people too!
First of all, what does "Out" mean for a trans person? Most trans people consider appearing in public in the correct gender is "Out":
-- A trans woman shopping in the mall while wearing makeup and a dress.
-- A transman boldly entering the men's restroom.
In each case, success is measured by NOT being detected as trans, ie, by Passing.
For the LGB community, being “Out” means the opposite: Letting everyone know that you're gay or lesbian. And being proud of it. From the LGB perspective, a happy and successful trans person functioning seamlessly in mainstream society is In the Closet. ...And they'd be better off OUT of the closet.
So, the trans person is supposed to announce to the world, You may think I'm a woman, but I'm Really a Trans Person. She may be dutifully Out, but she's also unemployed, homeless and friendless. And maybe covered with cuts and bruises.
There's a strange irony to spending $150,000 to be able to pass flawlessly, only to "admit the truth" to everyone.
Really a Transsexual?
But what IS the Truth? Hostile and uneducated society maintains that a transsexual woman is Really a Man -- an abnormal man with a mental disease. In their eyes, passing is a crime. Most "advocacy groups" teach that a transsexual woman is Really Transgender -- a strange artificial artifact without a gender. According to the advocates, passing is a lie -- or perhaps an act of cowardice.
However, biology says that a transsexual woman is Really a Woman. Her female brain is biologically & functionally just like any other woman's. -- As are her innate gender identity and gender (personality). Passing is actually an honest portrayal of who you really are.
Hall of Fame
People who pass are far more likely to have steady employment.
They have better access to healthcare.
They tend to have a broader support base.
They have greater credibility.
They rise to prominence in the LGBT Community.
They experience less harassment.
It's common for trans individuals to compete for who passes better:
I went to the mall without being detected!
That's nothing. I went to Deathdealer's Bike Bar without being detected!
Sigh. I'm detected everywhere I go. ...As the first two step away from the third.
The ability to pass well puts a trans person ahead in both general society and in the trans community itself. They're the beautiful people of the trans universe. Their pictures are everywhere. Everyone else scrambles to be near them. Their words are golden and their opinions become law. Who wouldn't pay $75,000 for cosmetic surgery in order to join their ranks?
Well, maybe all those people who don't HAVE an extra $75,000 laying around. The ability to pass then becomes the basis for a rigid class structure: Anyone who passes well is upwardly mobile; those who don't are pushed to the bottom of the pile. ...It's human nature, of course.
The Transsexuality Portal
"Passing" means being able to survive in mainstream society without detection.
Since people who transition early in life pass better, every obstruction to early transitioning is a step toward ultimate failure. Parental support is essential from the beginning. School policies determine the course of the rest of a trans youth's life. Consider WPATH's impact when they forbid treatment prior to adulthood (they're the doctors who make trans policy) Not only that, WPATH discourages offering transitioning medical care for any trans person who doesn't pass. (See SOC pp 28-30, 61)
Many leaders don't want trans people to "Pass".
The New Gender Paradigm
Transmen have almost the opposite problem. Few bystanders look at someone with a deep voice & a beard and think, “That man is Really a Woman.” A month after starting testosterone, transmen are invisible in mainstream society.
Except the transmen can’t believe it. It’s terrifying to enter a restroom with “Real Men” who can stand up when they urinate. …In fact, being able to stand up can become an obsession: Many trans conferences have sessions that teach various techniques for doing so.
Most men are used to wielding power: In everything they do, they’re direct, confrontational, competitive, and aggressive. Transmen often have a difficult time adopting power as a way of life. They don't tell cutting jokes. They're not prepared with instant biting retorts – so they may come across as effeminate.
"Because of socialization as female-bodied people, transmen and FTMs are 'not prepared to become captains of industry'. Hormones do not change a person’s socialization, and therefore FTMs and transmen may not know how to 'play male hierarchy games.'"
-- Jamison Green
"Matt Kailey lived as a straight woman for 42 years and then transitioned with hormones and surgery into a self-proclaimed transsexual, also becoming a gay man in the process. … Kailey deftly explains so many things that a non-trans person might question—such as how … trans-men retrain themselves to become more masculine and why trans-men are often more chauvinistic than straight men (basically, because, despite living as women previously, they now must 'reject all things feminine before, during, and after the transition.'"
-- Rachel Pepper, Windy City Times book review (2006)
However, passing tends to be less of a concern for transmen than for trans women. For more info, go HERE.
Joanne Conte was a successful advocate for the underdog and for responsible government. In 1991, she was elected by a large majority to the Arvada City Council (a large suburb north of Denver). She was a political outsider who represented the average person against a firmly entrenched establishment.
Until Westword, the regional gay & lesbian newspaper, decided to involuntarily Out her. After that, she was Out of government, Out of politics, and the laughing stock of the community.
With all the commotion about becoming a passing superstar, it’s easy to lose perspective. Maybe passing isn't really so important. Consider the following:
COERCION: Transsexuality is supposed to be about honestly expressing the inner self. But Passing means making changes in yourself to satisfy other people -- to meet their idea of how a Real Woman (or Real Man) should look and behave.
Who cares what other people think?
STEREOTYPES: A trans woman is born with a female brain. She’s Really a Woman – from birth. Like any other woman, she has a natural impulse to create a style that is both unique and contemporary. She's naturally endowed with creativity, an innate fashion sense, and a feel for social presentation. During her pre-transition life, she was forced to bury those instincts and was harassed any time they popped out.
But transitioning should liberate those inner interests and needs:
Be yourself and follow your inner voice. Don't look to others to define how you should be. Don't grovel for their approval.
If someone says, “Women don’t do that!” The answer is, “I do it, and I’m a woman.”
INSECURITY: Trans people dread what might happen if they're found out -- they could literally lose everything: job, housing, social status, relationships, and more. That fear may fuel an obsession about passing. They slavishly pursue what they perceive are the official stereotypes -- even to the point of exaggeration. Every movement may be technically correct but unnaturally robotic.
It's as if they're constantly reminding themselves, I’m really a woman. I’m really a woman. I’m really a woman. ...I’ll prove it by wearing stiletto heels and a miniskirt, since that’s what real women wear!”
In fact, that look of wide-eyed terror is the first clue that something's not right. It makes bystanders search more closely to discover what's going on.
PARANOIA: A nervous visit to mainstream society often releases a surge of paranoia. Two strangers, laughing & talking a hundred feet away, must be laughing at YOU. It's because you don't pass well enough. It’s time to undergo more cosmetic surgery, so you can pass better!