Wednesday, April 4, 2012

On Passing

Why do so many trans sites and trans people seem so concerned with “passing?” I don't get it and yet I fall prey to it as well. Sometimes the overarching concern is to be attributed as cis but sometimes the effort seems to be in deliberately being either misgendered or confusing. I know the second part if a choice (though in my gender classes I have felt pressure to 'show' my gender fluidity, which is ridiculous) but it's the first one, the pressure to be attributed as cisgender that really gets me.

I understand wanting to appear cis for safety reasons. There is a huge privilege you gain by being perceived as a part of the typical cis binary. This helps smooth the way in so many ways that cis people likely don't realize. Just not having the thread of being harmed, verbally or physically, by appearing cis (or at least lessening that threat) is likely worth it for many trans and non-binary people. There isn't anything wrong with choosing to accept a certain level of misgendering and dysphoria for safety reasons. That being said, it is an individuals choice to make and one which shouldn't be a decision which others try to influence.

Unfortunately the pressure to 'pass' is something that a lot of people, trans and cis both, put on trans people who aren't passing or who don't 'fir' a mold for their identity. For example, currently the 'in' thing for gender queer people is a kind of hardcore androgyny. Those who don't fit that are questioned to see if they are “real” gender queers or if they are faking it. Unfuck that, a person's gender expression doesn't necessarily equate to their gender identity for one and for two holy no true Scotsman fallacy badman. They aren't “real” gender queers if they don't “fit” a preset idea of what a gender queer person “should” be. That's bullshit flat out. The range of “acceptable” presentation for cis males and especially cis females is massive. Why do those who aren't cis and who aren't binary have such a narrow range of acceptance?

Just look at the difference between a cis female and a trans female. The cis person can range in gender expression from a super femininity to the most hardcore butch and they are still accepted as female. Their femininity, may be questioned, their orientation may be questioned, but almost never their gender. Now for the trans person, unless their gender expression is what is typically considered feminine or they pass well and no one knows their trans history their gender is regularly questioned and is often rejected, even by other trans people. Hell, likely especially by other trans people. I have heard more trans people accuse those of us who aren't trying to pass of “making trans people look bad.” No we aren't, those who insist on being in a box of trans expressions with no deviations are.

This behavior is ridiculous, those who are trans have every gender expression represented just as cis people do but this policing of what is a “true” trans or gender queer or neutrois expression is just horizontal oppression and merely perpetuates the idea that if you don't “fit” you are other. As a whole trans* people are already showing that cis ideals aren't working, non-binary people are showing that binarist ideals aren't working. Rather than accepting that peoples expression needs to “fit” to their gender identity we need to allow for people to express themselves and their gender how they feel is right for them not for some ideal of gender. The cis privilege of gender expression needs to be taken up by trans* people. No matter your gender identity cis male or trans gender queer you should not be condemned for your choice of expression of that gender. We need to move away form this oppressive dialogue of passing and allow people to freely express who they are.

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