I hate the whole concept of “passing”.
There are plenty of trans people that strive for it, and I’m one of them. I don’t blame anyone for it, but the whole concept brings to mind this concept of inherent cis superiority. I mean, if your goal is to “pass” as a cis person, it feels disingenuous. You’re not working to be pretty or handsome or [insert look here], but rather, you are working to emulate a physical persona that you aren’t.
This comes about because “looking trans” is considered an inherently negative thing in the majority of societies across the world right now, including from the view point of a lot of trans people.
This is part of the problem.
So… what does “looking cis” and “looking trans” mean?
From what I can gather, to look cis, or “pass”, means to be within a socially acceptable range of visual femininity…
Now dear, that’s not what a lady wears.
You better dress like a man, boy.
There is no mixing it, there is no real acceptable deviation from it, I mean, even any sort of ambiguity or androgyny is not looked very highly upon, so if you are a trans woman with a more masculine frame, society makes it a whole lot harder to not feel like shit about yourself.
This consideration of cisgender normativity also leads to rather frustrating statements from well meaning people. “Wow, you look really good as a woman!” “I totally could never tell you were trans!” “Really?! I thought you were really a girl.” “You’re really pretty for being trans.”
Cis allies out there, I love you’re help, and I get what you are going for, but please, please, think about what you are saying! We’re not acting, we’re not “trying to be” anything.
I. Am. A. Woman. End of story. If you’re confused, see more here (and yes, I am fluent in smart ass).
This whole concept of “passing” also works very well to exclude those outside the male/female dichotomy. There are plenty of people who are enigmatic in one form or another, and they have nowhere to fit within our society. It sets up this whole thing where if you identify toward male, but look visually feminine, fuck you. If you identify towards female, but are visually toward male, fuck you, but hey, upgrade!
It leaves very limited, mostly negative, spaces for these individuals, though I’m not getting too far into gender ambiguity, as I honestly don’t know a whole hell of a lot about it. I am absolutely female identified with a tiny touch of androgyny.
Then there’s “looking trans” which is usually embodied by statements like “I can tell when someone is trans.” “She’s nice but… she looks like a dude.” and every fucking “dude in a dress” bullshit, bass ackwards, fucking horrible trope ever. (did I mention I don’t like that?)
The embodiment of looking trans generally come in more negative connotations, at least when you’re talking about direct references, but, if you jump right back up to “looking cis”, look again at those well meaning statements… There’s an inherent underlying point that looking trans is bad. These things can be wrapped up as one, and can not be separated. If “passing” is celebrated as the de facto way to go, then… that means that hiding yourself is the most respectable thing you can do. Going under the radar, staying stealth, this is what you are supposed to aim for, and if you are okay with not looking like a “normal” woman or man, well… You are definitely wrong, and I’m sorry you don’t look good.
It’s fucked up, it really is. This whole concept of passing and visual acceptability is horrible. It makes it more difficult to gain acceptability for trans people (not to mention naturally masculine looking cis women and feminine looking cis men).
Try to keep in mind the things that you say when you are trying to be an ally. I know you mean well, but some things are still mean and degrading whether you know it or not. I love you all, have a beautiful day sunshines.