There Is No Behind Our Backs

I get a bit frustrated on occasion with how much us transy types limit ourselves when discussing the issue of passing. We hold ourselves back from really getting into the thick of what it suggests and implies, how it operates, what it means about concepts of minority status and privilege in a general sense beyond just what it means for us, what it means in terms of cisnormative assumptions that “passing” is even really possible in the first place not just what it means that it is, etc. Complicated and loaded enough as it is, so much seems to get so regularly left out of that discussion.

One thing that I really wish we were a bit more willing to talk about is how while “passing” is an extremely important and perhaps much more central issue for trans people than for other oppressed groups, given how it impacts not only risk and discrimination but the validation of one’s identity (similar to how the idea of being “out of the closet” means something entirely different in a trans context than it does in LGB contexts or atheist contexts), passing is nonetheless something that does operate along other axes of identity. Class-passing, passing as straight, passing as able-bodied, even passing as white, are all things that operate in the social dynamics of those respective issues and markers of identity.

Intersectionality is obviously important, and being willing to consider and educate yourself in how discrimination and oppression operate along other axes than just the ones that affect you directly is pretty fundamental to being a decent human being. But beyond just that, remembering to think about what passing looks like and means in different contexts can provide very crucial insight into how it operates in our own.

For instance, Class-passing is something that is extremely common, but usually a deliberate act, even if subconscious, and interestingly occurs both up AND down the lines of privilege, where in other contexts passing only tends to occur in terms of the oppressed party passing as the privileged (except in the case of sociological experiments, like “Black Like Me”). While passing as a racial identity other than one’s own is something relatively rare, and that is rarely really intentionally strived for but rather an erasure imposed on someone due to various ethnocentric assumptions in play about what a given race is “supposed” to look like, and in the absence of those visible signs, perceptions may default to the privileged “normal” race, white.

And in the instance of LGBTQA people, passing is, at some point or another something that does, inevitably, due to the heteronormativity and cisnormativity saturating our culture and perceptions, simply happen to us. Virtually all LGBTQA folk have been, at some point in their lives, read as straight and cis, and treated accordingly. For LGBA folk, that occurs in whatever time preceded coming out, and whatever instances occur afterward in which you may be in the presence of people who simply assume the heterosexual “default”. For trans people, this is almost the entirety of our lives prior to transition, and then becomes a fact that becomes intensely (and intensely complicatedly) interwoven into our existence and identities, through all the complexities of what we usually speak of when we speak of “passing” in a trans context.

The ultimate effect is that queer people, and perhaps especially trans people, have all been fully exposed to our culture’s unguarded attitudes about us. So many gay men have been in the presence of straight men who assumed no gay people to be present and made homophobic jokes, called one another faggot, openly displayed their insensitivity (or perhaps open contempt) of gay men, offered their opinions on it, etc. So many bisexual people have been in the presence of people talking about bisexuality not really existing (or just as stupidly, “everyone is really bi”), or just doing for attention, or being unable to make up their minds, or being self-hating gay men and lesbians. So many lesbians have been subjected to heteronormative questions asking all about whether they’re married and if they have kids without for a moment considering just how much such interrogations can sting when directed towards someone who is not afforded those assumed “normal” aspects of a woman’s life so easily, and for whom it certainly isn’t just some given about what you’re supposed to do with your life.

And every trans woman has heard the awful, despicable, hateful, mocking, sneering, condescending, theorizing, self-righteous, invalidating, fucked-up shit you cis people say behind our backs whenever the uncomfortable fact that we exist manages to momentarily not escape your notice.

Let’s make this clear: there is no behind our backs.

I know I often seem rather excessively angry and frustrated and disappointed. There are a lot of reasons for that, but one of them is definitely the fact that I know exactly the kinds of things that cis people say about women like me. I’ve heard those conversations. I’m participated in them. I know that we’re often described as all crazy and loopy and emotionally fucked-up damaged goods. I know that people love chatting with one another about the degree to which they regard us as creepy, repulsive and unfuckable, and that the question of whether someone would be “willing” (sorry, just to need to pause for a moment to say fuck you for framing it like that) to sleep with a trans woman is treated as a bit of a “would you rather?” / “truth or dare” style question, meant to probe for “flaws” in one another. I know that cis people enjoy ponitificating on what exactly we are, and what our gender or sex “really” is, without bothering to put any effort whatsoever into actually educating themselves about it.  I know about the Silence Of The Lambs and Crying Game jokes. I know about the casual use of “tranny” and “shemale” and “trap”. I know about how the simple suggestion of someone maybe being trans elicits raucous laughter because gender variance is just SOOOOO side-splittingly hilarious, the perfect punchline. I know ALL of that. And I know so much more, and so much I wish I didn’t know.

We were never even given a chance NOT to know. We’ve been intimately acquainted with the hatred directed towards us since we were little kids, first exchanging juvenile taunts of “cooties”. And that deeply colours our perceptions of the situation. We’ve all become acquainted with it through being mistaken for “one of you”, and even when not, its ubiquity (through the culture and media ALWAYS assuming the audience is purely cisgender, everything always being seen and interpreted through a cisgender perspective) makes it unavoidable anyway.

It’s also very much compounded by just how small a minority we are. Cis people can get away with assuming that we simply can’t possibly exist in their immediate, real life, because the vast majority of the time, we don’t. But you know how white people will do that awful little “look around” thing before telling a racist joke, to make sure there’s no people of colour around who might take offense (with the really, really creepy way that they just assume that because you’re white, you won’t mind, pulling you in as a complacent party to their racist bullshit and forcing you into the awful and awkward position of having to choose between confronting them and getting into what’s likely to be a hostile / defensive exchange, or becoming a tacit participant in something horrible)? That little “so this priest and this..” -looks left, looks right- “…black guy walk into a bar…” thing? When it comes to jokes at the expense of trans people, they never even bother with the look around. In their world, trans people are just this weird exotic abnormality, like Elvis or cowboys or mimes, who only exist in the jokes, or on TV. They couldn’t possibly actually be around in real life. Or in the room. Or much less be one of the people they’re addressing with their transphobic bullshit. Heck… as said, they assume there can’t even possibly be anyone who’d be bothered by said bullshit.

Not that the whole checking thing really matters. Because individual offense is beside the point. Cumulative effects, consequences, the enforcement of social inequities, the climate of hatred and ridicule and marginalization, the normalization of discrimination, that’s the issue. But the fact that trans people are so painfully aware of these things, how casually accepted transphobia is, ends up creating a particularly loaded situation.

None of us are really going to be easily deceived into thinking we’re fully accepted just because that’s how you treat the trans people you happen to know are trans. We know what’s said behind our backs. And we’re angry about it. And we’re not going to forget.

As always, ethics and being a good person is not defined by who you are and what you do when you’re afraid of the consequences or being exposed. It’s defined by who you are in the dark.

We’ve seen who you are in the dark.

It will take a lot to forgive.


  1. Lyra says

    Hi, this is my first time commenting =)

    I think what can be most frustrating about “passing” is when it leads you to question your own identity – like, I identify as genderqueer but I’m afab and dress in feminine clothes so if it walks like a cisgendered duck then it probably is one / don’t make waves just learn to “accept yourself” etc.

    A couple of friends of mine have a similar problem because they’re biracial by pass as white – they get all of the discomfort and alienation but are often treated as “not really colored” by their families and friends.

    This of course leads into lots of variations of Oppression Olympics which make me feel like every time we make a step forward we go backwards too.

  2. embertine says

    If it makes you feel any better, I definitively do NOT say things like that EVER, not because I’m worried that a trans person may be listening, but because I am not a terrible human being.

    Your blog, and others like it, has given me the courage to get into those exact confrontations you mentioned, when people assume I’m straight, or when people think that because I’m white and (apparently) cis they can make racist and transphobic jokes around me and I will chortle along because, you know, I’m one of THEM so I must feel the same way, right?

    And you know what? I love it. I love how defensive people get when you call them out on their discriminatory bullshit. It makes me feel like an avenging angel. Sure as hell makes me feel better than staying silent and fuming about it.

    • says

      You like how they get defensive? Tell me more please. I would like to know this secret of survival in an insane world. What do you do when they come back with counter-accusations? Laugh, and tell them they know perfectly well who’s in the wrong? If they say there’s no one there to be offended, how do you reapond? I would like to try this. So far all I do after calling them out is just stare incredulously, which does seem to work.

      • Valerie C says

        The trick is to treat them the same way you treat creationist – that is, debunk them and regularly citing sources. It very quickly becomes one sided when we show we have evidence and transphobes do not. Especially online. Just like how most people can’t site specific scientific findings off the top of their head about fossils (or whatever evidence you’re citing), they can usually point to where to find such things. This makes all the difference in a world when people can look things up and the more chances of coming across well cited things like blogpost, the better.

        Whipping Girl by Julia Serano is a good place to start. She cites her sources and following those is a great way to find relevant studies to cite them yourself.

        Hitting someone cyberly over the head with a biology textbook is very intimidating. Alot of pride is tide up in public appearance and once they’re made to look stupid because of bigotry and/or common sense (common sense is the appeal to popular opinion), they’re often more hesitant to re-express those views that have humiliated them in the past. Are you really going to make raciest remarks if it means someone could make you look like an idiot infront of your friend/s, significant other/s, and/or coworkers?

        The trans community in general needs to really step up the number of sources we cite when dealing with opposition.

        Here’s an example from a while back of how to call someone out and make them hesitant to even get defensive. It’s what I would recommend if you can pull off citing sources to a reasonable extent (or have the time to look them up):

        • Anders says

          Very good. The only exception I know to the rule that males have nipples are in rats. Otherwise it’s a consequence of how the various embryonic layers are put down.

        • says

          This morning Cathy Brennan tried attacking me on the web by saying gender identity is only a religion and that I have too much “faith” in gender, that believing in gender identity is hypocritical for a skeptic / atheist. Kept making pithy quotes when I tried delving into it, like “gender is fashion, sex is science”. I tried pointing out that the science and evidence actually supports our case. I doubt it will do much good. But yeah… I probably should work harder to get more posts up that present that evidence. Too much of what I’ve been blogging lately has been op-ed stuff… haven’t had the energy or time lately for a lot of research. I could (and should) be doing a much better job of living up to my little sub-title up there.

          • says

            You know, there’s a dark, nasty party of myself that to an extent sees her point (while still thinking that she’s an idiot, and is incapable of elaborating because she really hasn’t though it through my than the 4 paragraphs she wrote on her blog). Unlike her, though, it’s not about transsexualism as a whole that has elements of being faith based: it is well supported by science. It’s individual claims… like my own… It really IS only my own feelings that tell me I’m a woman, nothing else. There is no evidence beyond this subjective notion… I suppose on a certain level, it doesn’t matter… I am “happier” (it’s hard to say, because transition, and being as obviously trans as I am, has made parts of my life very hard)… It frustrates me, because I demand evidence for everything else, except this one thing, that is so important to my life…

          • says

            But your feelings don’t occur in a vacuum. They come from your brain. A squishy, mushy, material blob of goo, that presently science understands CAN and DOES often end up “wired” for a different sex / gender than what the anatomy reflects.

          • Anders says

            Miri, different situations require different methods of exploration. Since gender identity is your private identification as male, female or other, there is no method of exploring it other than your subjective feelings on the matter. It is an entirely appropriate and, I would say, the only reliable and valid method of answering gender identity questions.

        • says

          Yeah, wow. I lent “Whipping Girl” to a friend and should really get it back. I’m pretty bad at remembering citations though pretty good at remembering specific facts. Anyway, that link is amazing; glad I came back to look at this thread. Thank you!!

  3. Anders says

    I, on the other hand, am a terrible human being. Yes, there’s such a culture in my gaming-group. No, I don’t have the energy to deal with it at the moment, nor do I want to risk losing the only friends I have. I’m sorry, but it’s not near the top of my priority list at the moment.

      • Anders says

        No. No it’s not. I’ve blabbed enough about my mental state on this blog – I won’t derail it more. It’s not a matter of ‘comfy’, it’s a matter of barely having enough energy to do stuff like getting out of bed, showering, shopping… it’s a matter of not risking one of my two social interactions beyond the web. It’s a matter of survival.

        • Happiestsadist says

          But you’re fine with derailing about how it’s different and okay for you to support and enable bigotry because it might be uncomfortable. It’s a matter of privilege, pure and simple. I have very similar issues myself, and somehow can make use of my backbone.

          • Anders says

            Perhaps we are different. Perhaps our circumstances differ in more ways to you imagine. I would certainly not dare to speak about your circumstances solely based on what I know from comments on a blog. If you do, that is your choice.

    • says

      I, too, think there’s an element of ableism in expecting anyone with a conscience to have the emotional strength to confront every single instance of bigotry they encounter in meatspace, or else they’re a filthy hypocrite.

      However, I also notice that Natalie took great pains not to frame it that way. I think most people will understand if you aren’t in a place emotionally where you can go around correcting every ignorant person you meet.

      • Anders says

        Yeah, I don’t think she framed it that way either. I just wanted to raise the question “at what cost to yourself does it become tolerable to do nothing?” There is such a point, and I’m fairly certain I’m past it. But is it okay to swallow your indignation if your dream job is on the line? If it’s your paycheck that’s at stake? Natalie knows, better than most of us, what it’s like to live on a minimal budget. I think such questions are important.

        • says

          As with almost everything related to ethics, it’s a question of values, balances and compromises, weighing one thing against another. How much material comfort or security or safety is one willing to risk for ethical integrity? How much ethical integrity can you risk for material security? Etc. We all do that all the time.

          • Anders says

            It was so much easier in kindergarten when you just bopped the kid next to you on the head and took his toys. Or hers (but they’d be pink and full of cooties).

      • sisu says

        I don’t think it’s a question of confronting every single instance of bigotry encountered. But remaining silent while your friends continue to use prejudiced language and freely express bigoted ideas is a totally different manner. At some point you cross over from ignoring it/hoping it’ll go away to sanctioning it through your silence.

        It doesn’t have to mean an ultimatum or breaking up with your friends. But the next time they say something transphobic, mention it. “Actually that word is really offensive” or in response to a transphobic joke, “I don’t get it, why is that funny?” If they’re really you’re friends, they’ll respect your opinions and check their language around you. It might lead to enlightened views on trans issues, or they just might choose to use that same language – just not around you any more. And if they don’t respect that then you have the choice to continue to hang around with them or not, but you’ll at least know how much they value your opinion.

        • Anders says

          You may be right, and on occasion I try. But as I said, I can barely muster the energy to leave the house. And I don’t like confrontations even when I’m well.

          I’ll think about it.

    • jamessweet says

      My take on that particular aspect is that not everybody can be perfectly ethical about everything 100% of the time… but what I try not to do is take some unethical or ethically questionable thing I am doing, and try to defend it like it is totally the awesomest thing ever.

      In other words, we are probably all going to do things/have attitudes that are racist/transphobic/misogynist/hetrosexist/ableist/etc. from time to time, even if it never rises above the level of failing to pipe up when somebody makes a Crying Game joke in your presence. But we should at least acknowledge it as a failure rather than to pretend that there’s nothing wrong with it. And try to do better the next time.

      • Anders says

        That would be my stance too. I can’t deal with it at the moment, but I don’t lose sight of the wrongness of the act.

    • Rasmus says

      Are they talking about “30 grader i februari”? It has a trans woman character, Oh, who’s not there as a gimmick, but as an actual character.

      Swedish culture workers could be said to be a power base for LGBT people in Sweden, so it’s not surprising to see them try to give trans people a fair characterization.

      Actually now that I think of it, it’s not a very fair characterization. She’s portrayed as not having any true friends (imagine the horror if she would have trans friends!) and she’s building a house for her sister, who is consistently misgendering her and who is the closest thing to a friend she has…

      I think real life Oh would keep the house for herself and befriend other trans women since everyone else treats her like shit.

    • embertine says

      By “I am not a terrible human being”, I meant that I do not participate in such discussions, not that I always have the energy to call people out when their entitled bullshit is relentless, which, let’s face it, it is.

      I find a simple “I am walking away from this conversation now” generally gets the point across without actually having to come to a slanging match. But if you are worried that you will lose all RL interaction over it then I can see why you would feel pressured to condone, if not conform.

  4. jamessweet says

    And in the instance of LGBTQA people, passing is, at some point or another something that does, inevitably, due to the heteronormativity and cisnormativity saturating our culture and perceptions, simply happen to us. Virtually all LGBTQA folk have been, at some point in their lives, read as straight and cis, and treated accordingly. For LGBA folk, that occurs in whatever time preceded coming out, and whatever instances occur afterward in which you may be in the presence of people who simply assume the heterosexual “default”.

    One time my wife and I went out with a mutual friend and her male friend from out of town whom we had not met before. Despite the male friend suggesting we all go to a local gay bar (which we did), and despite him talking about interior decorating and fashion for like half the night, it never occurred to me that he was gay until it came up in conversation with my wife the following day.

    I couldn’t decide if I was being terribly anti-progressive, by having such heteronormative presumptions; or if I was being progressive, by just not really thinking that going to a gay bar or talking about fashion were at all out-of-the-ordinary things for a straight man to be doing. I decided it was probably a little bit of both. heh…

  5. Chirico says

    Considering that even on this very blog there are people in the comments who have no qualms with comparing trans women to aliens or residents of the uncanny valley, yeah, people really don’t have any shame when it comes to trans folk.

    • says

      Wow, I missed the aliens thing 0.o

      Bigots have a really bizarre habit of essentially assigning superpowers to the people they’re prejudiced against. Gays brainwash, and magically turn kids gay, pagans can perform real magic, women can override male self control, and now trans people are aliens who can conjure up arousal against their will.

      I’m starting to see what religious people mean when they natter on about how much “richer” their world is now that they’ve seen the light.

      It must be like being on LSD.

      • McKenzie says

        I laughed out loud for a good while, and when I read this post out to the two pals I’m in a Skype call with, they didn’t find it nearly as hilarious 🙁

      • Laura C. says

        A lot of religious people actually, seriously believe demons (who are channeled through magic) are real and take part in “spiritual warfare” through normal people. Because of that, everything you mentioned is interrelated in their minds. That’s why feminism turns women into demon-possessed lesbian witches who dress scantily (or worse, in men’s clothing!) and rebel against their husbands. I think seeing everything as supernatural is a byproduct of whatever leads people to be religious.

        Either that or the only way their leaders can get them in a frenzy about LGBT people and independent women and Wicca/Satanism/Atheism (which are somehow all the same thing) is to make them believe we’re supernaturally dangerous. Which raises the question of why they feel the need to stir up frenzy in the first place, but it’s something.

        • says

          Well, I guess it makes sense if you factor in the belief that their deity trumps everybody else’s powers. Heck – some of them probably believe that the reason the spells we heathens cast on them don’t work is that their god is shielding them personally.

          If their god is a great and powerful magic thing, then they need comparable baddies to be against, I guess.

      • Chirico says

        It was in the cotton ceiling post thread. And it was more “trans women are something not-quite-human” than something almost amusing in its stupidity like gays being wizards or feminists being witches.

  6. Anders says

    So… do you think it has greater impact when cis people protest against this kind of language. I’m protesting against the use of a trans slur at the SGU boards. Now, when Natalie did it six months ago there was a storm of outrage and misplaced defense of free speech. Now people nod and listen and say that maybe they should think a little more about what they say…

    Three possible explanations

    a) I’m an old hand at the boards, not a newbie

    b) Natalie lanced the boil, she did the preparatory work and I’m reaping the harvest she sowed

    c) people somehow think I know more about this than the trans woman… which is just bizarre

    Or possibly a little from all three menus. Something else?

    • says

      One of the unfortunate side effects of prejudice is that the views of those we are prejudiced against generally count for much less. That’s where we get phrases like “Well, if even HE is saying that…” or “I used to be one of you, but…”

      One complicating factor, however, is that for some people, any variation from the norm is considered, in essence, betrayal, and the fact that you are willing to say something on an issue like that means you’re not as “cool” as they thought you were. THAT sentiment seems to be one that is being increasingly cultivated as our society becomes more equitable, and the metaphorical islands inhabited by bigots seem to be growing smaller, and less isolated, and now there are all these people with BOATS coming, and so the paranoia quotient of their prejudice is increasing.

      So for some people, you and I will have more impact, which sucks when you think about it, but take progress where you can get it. For others, you and I will confirm their worst fears about the world.

      My take is – keep on keeping on, stand up for what’s right whenever you are able, and don’t look for thanks from the people you stand up to – just cherish it when you see real thought occurring.

  7. Anna says

    I am usually correctly gendered as female these days (I hate the word passing…I am female not passing as one)and I hear the comments more than I used to. It’s really getting to me in two ways at once. I feel like I should speak up and protect the community. That I should be willing to be me instead of hiding my history. I also realize that this will make me very vulnerable in the school environment I am in if I do.

    Not saying something is slowly eating my self esteem, saying something may jeoparadize my safety and the future i’m working hard to build. I don’t know how to win. How do I maintain my self worth and deal with the parayzing anxiety of being out?

    Honestly, I think about this every day. I feel like i’m back in my closet.

    • says

      Yeah, I think the word passing is extremely problematic too. Unfortunately, it’s such an important concept (these issues of being gendered correctly / misgendered or perceived / not perceived as trans) for understanding and discussing trans issues, experiences and lives that we can’t ditch it entirely, and for now, that’s the word we have. But it’s problematic nature is why I almost always put scare quotes around it when discussing it in a trans context.

      However, I like to think that “passing” isn’t about a trans woman passing as female or a trans man passing as male. As you correctly point out, we ARE female and male respectively. It’s an issue of “passing” as cis.

      And I know EXACTLY what you mean about that double bind. It’s a big part of why I think the simple “closeted” / “out” dynamic just doesn’t work for understanding trans identities and what we live with.

      In my case, I’ve made the decision (for now) to be totally, completely out / non-stealth. But I do this knowing full well that it’s a compromise of my own safety, privacy, and my ability to be fully accepted as a woman. I just made the choice to put needs of “the community” ahead of my own in the hope that things might be easier for future trans people someday, and the desire to do whatever I can to help ensure that future. But I don’t blame or judge ANYONE for making different choices in this regard than the one I did. Not even a tiny bit.

      • Anders says

        Especially when you consider the odds of finding someone who understands them. I crunched some numbers last night because I was bored and couldn’t go to sleep. The ‘coming out’ strategy was, if I understand correctly, a major step in the gay movement because it showed that gay people are everywhere and they’re perfectly normal people – why I’ve invited him for years to our barbecues and he has never tried to rape our children, maybe that’s a false stereotype. Etc.

        So I assumed that 1:10 of the population is gay and that we’re talking about a medium-sized company with 30 employees. If we have one gay person there, what’s the probability that there are other? 95%.

        Assuming that 1:1000 of the population is trans*, what’s the probability that their are others? 3% (and the probability that there’s more than one other trans person is negligible).

        This means that the trans person is likely to be alone. And a lonely person is easy to ostracize and bully. Two people are much stronger because they can support each other. The presence of allies will, of course, better the situation but I have no idea how common we are so I left that out of the equation.

        All my calculations assume a random distribution, btw. Active efforts to find other trans people, to organize, will change this.

  8. Eris says

    This is completely off topic (and for that I apologize) but I’m saddened by the fact that “It’s a trap!” has such negative connotations associated with it. You see, to me, “It’s a trap!” speaks of rogues (or other associated trapfinders like artificers) in D&D having to run around and check everything to make sure it wouldn’t go boom boom on you. This has lead to me having a fierce desire to declare, “It’s a trap!” whenever anyone goes around anything. Microwave? Check. Shower? Check. Potted plant? Check.

    And yet I know that for some people, doing that would be about as funny as dropping a shovel on their foot.


    /off-topic post.

    • says

      It would’ve been totally on topic for yesterday’s post, though! I was talking about how much I’d love to reclaim “trap”, but it’s difficult because it has SUCH powerful negative associations with “deceiver” / “really a man” / “extra gay”, etc. And is directly connected to certain concepts that actually get trans women killed

      • Kels says

        I’ve had anime fans use the “it’s a trap” formulation right in front of me even though they knew I was trans. Not my favourite thing in fandom, to be sure.

        Of course, the time I spent hanging around the online furry community was even worse, the transphobic terms that get thrown around there in apparent ignorance that they’re slurs everywhere else is kind of amazing.

        • Sas says

          That’s kind of funny because my experience was the opposite. The furry fans I’ve known have been much more accepting than the anime fans. I think hanging around with different sub-groups in furry fandom can make it as different as night and day; I have some furry friends in RL, and we don’t know ANY of the same people (not even the “famous” ones) because we run in different circles.

          • Kels says

            Mmm, the fact that “Shemale” is a frequent term there bugs me a lot. And I’ve talked to several folks who seemed very surprised that anyone should have an issue with it.

        • Sas says

          Oh, totally. Furries are still hella problematic, I just meant that for me they were less so than anime fans. Plus I feel like there’s a dedicated group of online furries that have succumbed the 4chan-ish trolling attitude.

    • Eris says

      Oooh! Yes, you’re right. I even went to your birthday present thread, too, but I was distracted by Tokidoki Unicorns and never made it down to the bottom. Clearly we need a time machine to send my brain back in time and shout at me, “Don’t be distracted by the cute horned ponies with wings!” Of course, my past brain is unlikely to listen . . .

    • Chirico says

      My personal favorite “it’s a trap” moment is from Army of Darkness. But that’s just me.
      As for the term in regards to its problematic implications, I also think it’s a shame. For me, “trap” has a very specific application in the context of anime characters who are drawn to appear female but are stated to be male. From my understanding the first use of “trap” in this context was Bridget from the game Guilty Gear, who I wouldn’t think would be considered trans as he identifies as male in-story. This is pretty typical of these characters, which are more or less just another character archetype like “girls with glasses,” “tomboys,” etc. In the context of fictional characters like this who are designed to be a sort of “gotcha,” I can see where “trap” might be appropriate. On the other hand, I can understand how its implications towards actual trans people can make it a very problematic term. I’m actually very embarrassed I’ve used it for so many years without thinking of the possible real-life implications.
      As long as I’m being off-topic about this kind of thing, the Japanese term for these kind of characters is 男の娘(otoko no ko). As is common with Japanese slang, this is a kind of pun: The term for “boy” is 男の子(otoko no ko), but the kanji for “girl,” 娘, can also be read as “ko,” so both are read the same way, thus the pun. It’s actually kind of similar to the term “ladyboy,” so I wonder if trans women in Japan have the same sort of reaction to it as English-speaking people do to “ladyboy.” By that same token, I wonder if “newhalf” is considered a slur there too…

      • Kels says

        It’s interesting, on a related note, that of the few relatively realistic depictions of trans characters in manga (Hourou Musuko/Wandering Son, one of the stories in Mermaid Line, Double House, and 20th Century Boys), all of them have the adult trans characters working in bars. I’m not sure this is just a stereotype, or whether it reflects the reality in Japan that it’s hard for trans women to get/keep mainstream jobs. Either way, it comes off as a standard depiction, which I imagine colours the average reader’s view of what MtF trans is all about.

        There are even fewer depictions of trans men, the only ones that come to mind right off are Hourou Musuko/Wandering Son and a brief bit in Honey & Honey.

        • Chirico says

          The closest anime gets to trans men are the so called “reverse trap” characters who are just extensions of the “tomboy” archetype. Transgenderism proper isn’t really addressed in anime/manga much, despite the growing popularity of “crossdressing boys,” which is more along the lines of a fetish/moe archetype than an actual portrayal of trans* people. At the very least, it could signal a growing acceptance of non-traditional gender roles? I would like to hope so….

    • Anders says

      Well, TBF Wizards of the Coast changed Find/Remove Traps to Spot and Disable Device. Although rogues still get Trap Sense, which I can only presume is superior skill at clocking people.

  9. geocatherder says

    I have to tell this story because it is, in a way, an antidote to all the negativity that trans folks experience.

    My in-laws, now in their 80’s, went camping a few years ago and met a person for whom they had no description except “he-she”. They meant a trans woman, but they didn’t have the vocabulary to describe her. She was a wonderful campground neighbor, and they totally enjoyed their time with her.

    So two old people, without the vocabulary to deal with it, have decided that trans people are great!

  10. cami says

    Hi, there is a fascinating short story written by the Harlem renaissance writer Langston Hughes called Passing. It is deeply moving piece that contrasts the social benefits of passing as a member of a majority group with the pain of loss and the sense of betrayal associated with denying ones membership in a minority group. It’s really good and it’s the earliest use of the term that I know.
    Also, I was talking to a friend about people talking behind others backs just this morning. He said ‘if someone talks shit about you behind your back then they are only making themselves look bad and they are making you look good.’ And I said ‘if someone talks shit about me, then I look good?’ And he said ‘yeah’ And I said ‘Then I must look really, really good right about now.’

  11. Sinead says

    Wow, I have so much re-reading to do on this article, so I’m going put this here first.

    Passing privilege is something that does effect me. I don’t pass for cis. I don’t even “read” as female to most people. I don’t pass even when I’ve neutralized my style and go looking “normal” in the professional sense.

    Passing hurts me, not for the reasons that come from safety, but rather, from other Trans people. I can’t count how many times I’ve been insulted by other Trans women (straight, bi, lesbian, etc) as such. When they have said things like “well, even for me as someone who passes” it was dismissive of my experiences.

    I’m too much of a tomboy, despite my femme appearance, so people interpret that as not being genuinely female identified. Which goes along with the whole double standard of how radfems criticise us for reinforcing the gender binary.

    I’m too tall, too broad shouldered, I can’t do a falsetto to sound more feminine without sounding inauthentic and I can’t carry around helium either.

    Argh, this issue is definitely bringing up issues I shouldn’t elaborate on.

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