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Passing isn't a linear progression

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So, I've been out for almost three years now, and looking back I'm definitely not the same girl I was when I started my transition. I've changed my physical appearance and the way I move throughout the world, and I occupy spaces with other women without really thinking much about it now. However, when it comes to the question of whether I "pass" or not, I guess it is kind of situational. Even on my most feminine days, I can still be misgendered sometimes, and likewise there are times that I'm hardly trying when complete strangers will call me "ma'am". 


At the beginning of my transition, I didn't think I would ever pass. Right before coming out, I remember having a conversation with a friend where I confided that I thought I would only ever go as far as calling myself genderfluid because I couldn't dream of seeing myself as a woman (that's not to say that there's anything wrong with being genderfluid, but truthfully that's not who I am). For a while I did identify as genderfluid and nonbinary, and that gave me the space to play around with my presentation and find out what worked for me. I dyed my hair pink, started wearing cropped jean shorts, and mastered the art of winged eyeliner. I had been wearing subtle makeup for a couple years, justifying the concealer I "borrowed" from my mother's medicine cabinet as a way to cover up my acne in high school. Growing up in a rural, conservative town I had developed a pretty thick skin because of the homophobia I had to put up with, and although I was timid at first I developed an unshakable confidence by the time I started college. After introducing myself as "[deadname], but everyone calls me 'Rory'" the first few times I met someone new, I realized that I didn't owe anyone a justification of who I am. By October, I had told my closest friends that I only wanted to be referred to with she/her pronouns, and that I was a trans woman. I kinda let everyone else around me come to their own conclusions about my identity, and over time people caught on to the fact that I wasn't a guy. I stopped seeing myself as an awkward, tall, scruffy guy, and little by little I became the woman that I wanted so desperately to be. 


Over the next year and a half I became more and more confident in my femininity. I grew my hair out and zapped away my 5 o'clock shadow with lasers. I walked around campus in 5+ inch heels and wore dresses so short my mother would have killed me if she would have seen them. Instead of using the few and far between gender neutral bathrooms, I would walk into the women's room without ever causing a stir. Even though there were still some people that called me by the wrong pronouns, I had a support network that made me feel at home while I was on campus. My college's administration was really accepting, and they helped me change my preferred name on most of their computer servers, and even let me room with another girl after I explained I was no longer comfortable living with a male roommate. 


My sophomore year I did a semester abroad in France as part of my French major. I was away from my bubble of acceptance that I crafted at my home institution, and almost completely alone in a foreign country. Along with the usual concerns of homesickness and culture shock, I went into the experience dreading the potential for discrimination because of my transness. What if my host family was transphobic? Would my classmates see me for who I am? What happens when I have to show someone my passport and it doesn't match the name that I've been giving everybody? Or those pesky body scans at the airport that have to decide if I'm male or female? What I found while I was abroad was that most of my concerns were unfounded. My host, although she could tell that I wasn't cis still treated me the same as any of the other international students that had stayed with her before. My classmates treated me like one of the girls and I found a group of other students that I was able to spend my weekends with. There was a little bit of an issue with the university I was studying at when it came to my registration and what name they would put on my transcript, but in the end even that was relatively easy to take care of (although my diploma says Monsieur Rory [lastname], gotta love French bureaucracy). And even when it was time to come home and I decided to dress as androgynously as possible to get through airport security, I was still called madame when I bought a snack while I was waiting for my plane. 


I learned a lot about myself from my time in France. I also adopted a more laid-back approach to my femininity. Instead of forcing it through my outward appearance by wearing a full face of makeup and heels that let me tower over everyone else, I let the woman inside me shine through. I really pared down my morning routine, leaving the house with at most a flick of eyeliner, some mascara, and some powder instead of spending an hour perfecting contour highlight and eyeshadow. Instead of stomping around on cobblestone streets in my tallest heels I opted for more practical sneakers and boots when I took the tram (although I was still tall enough that my bun would bump the handrail on the ceiling if I stood right under it). Despite not putting in as much effort, and not even having started HRT, this was the time in my life that I really started passing. Now, to a discerning eye I'm sure plenty of people could tell I'm trans, and it's not like I was keeping my identity a secret, but still nine times out of ten I was called by "madame" instead of "monsieur". 


Returning back to the US, I was also returning to a place where people had known me since the start of my transition. This meant that I was back in contact with people whose first impression of me was not necessarily as a woman. Even though most people meeting me for the first time would instantly read me as a woman, people that had known me longer still had this version of me that wasn't the same. I went on a leadership retreat with other students from my college, and at least three separate students, people that had known me for years and had heard me talk at length about my gender identity, misgendered me on that trip.


Shortly after that trip, I was finally able to start HRT. Although I had been out as trans for two years by that point, this was an important step for making me feel more comfortable in my body. I have definitely seen noticeable changes in the past nine months as a result, but this doesn't mean that I now pass all the time either. Recently I've started working at an RV campground, and a good portion of my job is helping people make reservations over the phone. I have a pretty deep voice, which 90% of the time doesn't bother me because it still sounds somewhat feminine just in the way I talk, but over the phone I still get "sir"-ed all the time. Our uniform at work also includes wearing a crew-neck t-shirt with our park logo, which is not the most flattering silhouette for me, and I wear a mask when interacting with customers due to COVID-19. Although I try to wear my hair in more feminine styles, my nails are painted most of the time, and I've got, y'know, boobs, I've still had customers come in and have debates over my gender right in front of me. 


I guess the moral of the story here is that passing isn't always an all-or-nothing deal. I feel like I'm getting closer to what I want as far as my presentation goes, but that doesn't mean I'm going to pass all the time. It doesn't necessarily matter if I'm dressed to the nines or stuck in my work uniform, there's gonna be people that see me as a woman and then there's people that won't. And honestly? I don't really care if people know that I'm transgender. I'm not trying to live a stealth life, and it's not like I'm keeping that part of myself a secret. I'd love to get to a point that I pass all the time, but for now I'll accept this situational passing because it's farther than I'd ever thought that I'd make it. The people in my life that are important to me all see me as the woman that I am, so what does it matter if a random stranger on the other end of the phone line calls me by the wrong honorific? As much as I'd love to, I don't have the heart to get into a debate about the complexities of gender with someone that's just trying to make a reservation to go camping every time that happens. I'm still a work in progress, and I'm fortunate that I've had the space to figure this all out on my own terms. 

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Good Lord dear, you surely like to write my chère amie!

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5 hours ago, Dinaki said:

Good Lord dear, you surely like to write my chère amie!

I didn't realize I had so much to say about this topic until I typed it all out! Hopefully it all makes sense though

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9 hours ago, Rorelai said:

I don't really care if people know that I'm transgender. I'm not trying to live a stealth life, and it's not like I'm keeping that part of myself a secret.


I am totally with you on this.  What matters to me is that I can be myself without hiding, and that people accept me as I am.  If they don't guess that I am trans, that's great.  If they do guess but treat me well, that is fine, too.  If they are mean to me, that is not fine, but it hasn't happened yet in four years.


I don't pass on the telephone.  Someone on the phone will ask to speak to Kathy, and I'll say that's me.  There will be a pause as the person processes that information: "Deep voice.  Smoker, maybe?  Trans, maybe?  Oh well, we have business to do..."  It would be nice to pass on the phone, but you can't have it all.  I'm a woman with a deep voice.  So what?  If I join a choir, I'll sing baritone.  That is the only time it would be relevant.


The main reason that I transitioned was because I was tired of the effort it took to pass as a man.  What I like about the new me is that it is effortless.

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11 hours ago, KathyLauren said:

What I like about the new me is that it is effortless.

That's an awesome way to think about this. I don't feel like I'm pretending to be anything other than myself now that I'm out. 

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