Conceptual Gendering

I’ve been mentioning a bit lately the tendency within the trans community for trans people to operate as our own most committed, passionate gender police. The front lines of a system that sets up rigorously strict standards of what is necessary to qualify as a woman or a man, and what kinds of things will result in that identity being stripped from you.

It is intensely common on trans message boards and support groups for a considerable degree of enforcement of those standards to be passed along in the form of unsolicited “advice” and “tips”, nestled in the ostensible goal of helping the individual whose gender expression you’re reprimanding along in their transition.

Tips will be provided on how to dress. What facial features should be surgically modified. Which cosmetics should be worn and in what degree. Which hobbies and interests need to be abandoned, and which taken on. What “male” elements of a personality need to be pruned away, and in what ways your overall identity should be subjugated beneath the demands of a culture that has built its conception of womanhood on misogynistic principles, and conform to its idea of womanhood… an idea that places it as strictly subservient to men. How you should wear your hair. How big your breasts should be. What your genitals should look like. What emotions you should be feeling. Etc.

There is a near total lack of self-reflection as to how these standards are not only sexist, but also bundled up with racism, ableism and other concepts of what a normative body and beauty are to be. And if you’re simply unable to meet these standards, due to aspects of your body or mind that are beyond your control, you will be held accountable for that “failure”, and reprimanded as such, regardless… if not outright excluded from the community, and its supports.

“Hi, nice to meet you. So my doctor said I should meet other trans women, before I begin medical transition, so I can get an idea of–”

“Well, first of all, I can say you’re probably going to need at least $20,000 worth of FFS”

(facial feminization surgery)

The underlying concept on which almost all of this hinges is “passability”. There are a number of related concepts that each deserve investigation in their own right… to what degree are “passability” and “beauty” interchangeable, if at all? Politically speaking, why should our goal necessarily be to appear to be cis? To what degree is “passing” tied up into normative standards of appearance, along such lines as race and ability? If we’re to bury our authentic selves beneath a more “passable” persona, what was the point of transitioning in the fist place? Why are the standards by which a trans woman is said to “pass” as female so much stricter than the standards placed on cis women? What classism might be lurking in the demands we place on people to pursue expensive surgeries, or even expensive clothes and cosmetics, in order for their gender to be considered legitimate? Are we really offering “passing tips” on behalf of the individual we claim to be trying to “help”, or is this really all about validating ourselves at their expense? And to what degree are we supporting a patriarchal notion of womanhood and gender essentialism with what we do and do not define as “passing” for female?

All of those are extremely good questions to be asking. Some of them don’t necessarily have easy answers (the issue of “why do we want to pass?” in particular is very, very complex), but they’re all worth exploring, and, although they don’t get asked nearly often enough on the message boards and in the support groups, discussion is emerging in trans-feminism, for which I am grateful.

But there’s a particular big question that I’m not sure has gotten as much attention as it deserves, that concerns a particular foundational keystone on which much of the structure is built. Is it really necessary to “pass” in order to be seen as your identified sex?

One of the majour criticisms of the term “passing” itself is how it’s predicated on the concept of “passing yourself off as” something. Customarily, when we use the term “passing” in other contexts, it’s to successfully be perceived as a member of a category to which you don’t “belong”. To pass for rich (or poor). To pass for white or black. To pass for able-bodied. Etc.

So, if we are using the term “passing” in the sense of a trans woman “passing as a woman” or a trans man “passing as a man”, we are directly suggesting that a trans woman is not really a woman, a trans man is not really a man, they’re only ever passing themselves off as such. Obviously that’s a pretty fucked up way to look at things.

But we can look at it from a different angle. Perhaps what we mean in saying “passing” is that we’re “passing as cis”. Suddenly the meaning becomes rather different, and certain individuals’ focus on issues of passability starts making a bit more sense (those for whom the maintenance of stealth is a safety issue, for instance, or necessary for holding onto their careers). This is part of why it’s been relatively easy in trans-feminist circles to substitute describing someone as “passable” for describing them as having “conditional cis privilege”.

But if that were the case, the degree to which “passing” is often coached in a terminology of behaving, dressing, walking, talking, etc. “like a girl/woman/boy/man” wouldn’t make any sense, nor would the degree to which it is considered compulsory to make a certain degree of “effort” in regard to passing in order for the legitimacy of one’s gender identity to go unquestioned.

We could, in theory, salvage the concept of “passing” from its creepy implications if it meant only to “pass” as cisgender, but that’s not how we use it. The truth is that the few communities where this is the understood objective of “passing” are not the ones who so intensely lean on the concept, or use it as an excuse to police other trans people’s gender expression. Those few communities don’t often use the term at all. “Passing”, where it is so closely held as essential to being a “real” woman or man or transsexual, is hitched up to gender itself. The mentality is that if you’re not doing everything you possibly can to pass (and some things you possibly can’t), you’re not actually “trying”, and therefore not actually the gender you claim. Instead, so the theory goes, you’re just too much a member of your assigned sex to “give up” all the various “masculine” or “feminine” aspects of your appearance, personality, sexuality, etc.

But is “passing” really necessarry? Is it really a binary trait, with “passable” trans people on one side and “non-passable” trans people on the other? Is it really a case where you’re either seen as a member of your identified sex or as a member of your assigned sex? Is there a loose thread we can tug at here?

Personally, I believe it’s a lot more nuanced than that. For one thing, there’s the old criticism of the term “passing” that it is structured as a verb where the trans person is the active party. Under the usual framework, we’re the ones responsible, and we’re the ones who supposedly are determining what happens. We either “pass” or we don’t. But in actuality, it could perhaps more realistically be understood as a situation where everyone around us is gendering us, and they either do so correctly, or they don’t. We don’t “pass”. We get “gendered correctly”.

Another issue is how intensely contextual it is. Who is the person gendering us, their background and experiences, how much attention they’re paying, whether they have any prior knowledge or “clues”, whether they have reason to scrutinize us, whether or not they’re distracted by something else, the lighting, the duration of the encounter, whether or not we talk, etc. …all of that can influence whether we’re read as cis or read as trans, or whether we’re gendered male or female.

Both of those issues have been talked about before. But where I don’t see much attention being paid is the question of whether there are really only two categories into which we can be gendered. As mentioned, “passing” can be understood as either about male/female, or about trans/cis. So really, there’s at least four different ways an act of gendering can occur. Someone perceives us as a cis woman, a cis man, a trans woman or a trans man. And that’s the bare minimum. When we remember that man/woman aren’t the only possible iterations of gender, nor are male/female the only possible iterations of sex, the possibilities as to how we’re gendered in a given encounter are significantly broader.

What I’d most like to suggest here, though, is that being read as trans and being gendered as our assigned sex are two completely different things. Just because someone reads me as a trans woman does not mean they see me as a man.

And I don’t simply mean they’re willing to humour me.

The idea I’ve been thinking of lately is something I’ve been calling “conceptual gendering”. You know how when you’re like on a bus or train or something, and you see someone with an androgynous presentation or appearance, and you find yourself kind of compulsively trying to gender them? And it can get a bit frustrating if you can’t figure out how to place them? And you know how that suddenly becomes a whole lot easier and less frustrating once you allow room in your head for more than two categories?

Also, you ever notice how quickly we gender the people around us? How the vast, vast majority of the time, we instantly conceptually categorize the people around us into “men” and “women”, and once we’ve made that categorization, it becomes really hard to break? And how this process of instant categorization is very rarely ever interrupted, as in the very rare instances that produce the situation I described in the preceding paragraph?

This lightning-fast, intuitive process of conceptually categorizing people is what I mean by “conceptual gendering”, and it’s something very distinct from the separate issue of whether or not we read someone as trans. A read occurs sometimes, but almost always after the fact of the initial conceptualization. That lightning-fast, reflexive fact of being conceptually gendered one way or the other is exactly what allows most trans people, even those who don’t flawlessly “pass”, to move through the world and live normal lives anyway. We run into issues of people staring, or misgendering us, only when the encounters slow down long enough for them to scrutinize. But even in those instances, the majority of people, the ones who don’t have silly hang-ups over this kind of thing, will just proceed to treat us and think of us as members of our presented gender anyway, despite realizing we’re trans.

Again, not because they’re all just so terribly educated and enlightened and trans-positive, or because they’re patronizingly humouring us, but beccause they’ve already mentally categorized us. The conceptual categories that exist in most people’s heads on that deep, fundamental, intuitive, reflexive level are “men” and “women”. “Trans” and “cis” exist at a much higher, more formal level of cognition. By the time you get there, you’ve already intuitively decided what we are and all the various mental processes you’ve built as to how you think of and treat different genders differently are going to fall along with that initial categorization.

Unless they have hang-ups. Then they get all flummoxed and confused and stare and ask insensitive questions and generally act like assholes. But what doesn’t happen is a mental rewrite of the initial conceptual gendering, where they effortlessly fall into the mental patterns with which they react to members of our assigned sex. The fact that this mental rewrite is so difficult is precisely what gets them all flummoxed into staring and general assholery. It’s a cognitive dissonance between the part of their brain that says “trans women are really men!” and the part of their brain that already categorized us as women.

Ask any trans person. The people who knew you in your pre-transition life WILL treat you differently than the people who’ve only known you since transition, regardless of how out or “passable” you are. That’s because the people from your old life already conceptually gendered you as A, and have a really hard time changing that, whereas the people in your new life have conceptually gendered you as B, and treat you accordingly, regardless of whether or not they know you’re trans.

I’d also hold that that difference, written as it is in the subconscious biases, the little things, the details, is much stronger than the difference in how you’re treated by someone who knows you’re trans and someone who doesn’t.

It is entirely possible to be thought of, conceptually, as a member of your identified sex while being out as trans, and to be treated as such by the people around you, even those who, intellectually, refuse to acknowledge the full legitimacy of your gender. The intensity of those categorizations is just too strong and, as strange as it may sound, actually works in our favour. Once they’ve seen a woman, they can’t fully see a man. Not without a lot of effort and help, anyway (help which we’re not going to provide them).

So there’s really two different things we need to think about if we’re to have a realistic concept of “passing” and “gendering”. One is the way that we’re seen as a man or a woman, conceptually speaking, which determines how all the subconscious biases and habits and stuff are going to play out, and whether we’re seen as trans or cis, which will determine whether cognitive dissonance, intellectual opinions, hang-ups, politics, transphobia, sexual insecurities and so forth are going to enter into the dynamic (often with admittedly horrible results). But recognizing that these are two different things is important.

As is recognizing that it isn’t necessary to pass as cis to be understood and treated as your true gender. The legitimacy of that gender, or even its acceptance, is not dependent on falling in line with the gender police’s “passing tips”.

Admittedly, not every trans person is going to be conceptually gendered the way they want to be. And admittedly, dehumanization can be an even more powerful force than how a human being is perceived. But there’s no reason we have to continue acting like the inability to meet those ridiculously high standards for “passing” is necessary to live one’s life in the gender you feel is right for you.

Obscuring the difference between these ways human beings are perceived is one of the best weapons in the arsenal of the HBSers and other capos of cissexism, one of the best means they have of making us feel like we need to play along with those structures in order for our gender to be “real”. Let’s take that weapon away from them. All we have to do is notice what they’ve been ignoring.



  1. embertine says

    being read as trans and being gendered as our assigned sex are two completely different things. Just because someone reads me as a trans woman does not mean they see me as a man.

    It’s great that you say this. I’ve met a few trans women that I clocked but that certainly didn’t make me think of them as men.

    HOWEVER – I know there is still an enormous amount of ignorance surrounding transgenderism and the details/variance of transition generally, and I’m sorry to say that most of the clueless cis people I’ve met probably would find it hard to think of a visibly gender variant person entirely as their preferred gender.

    Best case scenario is that they think of them as somewhat in between. That’s really depressing, actually.

    Oddly, I think shaming grues into using correct pronouns genuinely makes a difference to their perceptions. Words have power, and reinforcing a particularly idea over and over in conversation can shift thinking in a very real sense.

    • authorizedpants says

      For me, personally, I would love to get clocked as “both” or something in between. As a matter of fact, that happened when I was younger and it brought me great joy.
      However, I got older and developed a paunch. Suddenly, I look an awful lot like a man and that’s what everybody sees.
      I’m hoping the lasers can get rid of the facial hair and the hormones can spread the girth around a bit so I can go back to being something not quite male or female.

      But, if someone was going to gender me on the binary, I’d much rather they go with “woman” than “man.”

      I’m just saying that sometimes being seen as neither man nor woman can be exactly what the person wants, so the whole situation quickly becomes extremely complicated.

      • Rasmus says

        Funny, reading your post made me recall this kid my age that I got to know briefly when I was 11 (or almost 12) and spent a couple of weeks at a daytime summer camp. I was a little uncertain initially, but then decided that this kid was a girl. Long hair, a rather feminine looking face, cute and sort of girly tomboyish clothes. Clearly a girl. Right?

        Except nobody ever seemed to mention her name and there was this boy in the group who people kept talking about who never seemed to be around when I was there. I didn’t connect the dots soon enough. I eventually ended up asking this mysterious girl what her name was (still not explicitly misgendering him). When he answered with his boy name I looked puzzled enough and surprised enough and confused enough that I had no other choice than to admit that I had been almost completely sure that he was a girl up until then. His friend thought it was hilarious. It happened all the time, apparently. The kid himself told me that people misgendered him constantly, especially in public bathrooms, but that he enjoyed having a girly look and that he did it on purpose (more expressions of surprise on my part) and that he enjoyed being that kind of boy.

        I have never until now considered that this kid could potentially have been (or have become) trans* later on. My thought back then was that he was just the male equivalent of a tomboy. Which I thought was really cool. Not at all like trans people, who I imagined would be creepy and not cool at all.

        I have no way of knowing how he or she identifies today, but what’s interesting is that I have never thought that this might even remotely have been a trans person until I read your post. I would occasionally remember him when I heard someone talk about tomboys or when I read about gender issues in the newspaper, so it’s not like I haven’t had the opportunity to make the connection in my mind.

    • says

      “Best case scenario is that they think of them as somewhat in between.”

      That’s what Lisa Millibank calls the “freak” in a gender ternary. That’s an interesting post to read along with this one.

      But I think Natalie’s point is that, say someone reads a trans woman, and has a cissexist definition of “woman”. Now rather than think of her as a man, they will probably mostly think of her as not-really-a-woman. But in the gender codebook society seems to have, there isn’t an entry for “not-really-a-woman”, so likely people will treat her as a “woman”. Grues and HBSers and such will also treat her badly because of their own hang-ups. But it must be difficult to treat someone like a man if you can’t ignore the ways she’s presenting as a woman.

      Does that make sense?

      • embertine says

        Hmm, I see what you mean. I guess I was thinking of the dreaded “he-she”, or “shemale”, which thank Eru I have never heard someone actually say in real life, otherwise their face might have met my indignantly thrown margarita*(**).

        I suppose I’ve only seen this reaction to women who transition later in life and have more difficulty passing in some respects.

        *and that would be a waste of a good drink.
        **because I am secretly Joan Collins and frequently throw my cocktails into handsome-yet-offensive strangers’ faces

  2. Catherine says

    I seem to “pass” as cis approximately 90% of the time despite being over 6 foot, until I open my mouth at least which often seems to confuse people (Got speech therapy starting in 10 days so hopefully I can sort that out!).

    I also have a large group of cis friends and colleagues from a beer related group I am a member of and have been since just after starting hormones so definitely wasn’t passable as cis back then, a large number of whom you wouldn’t think would be sympathetic to trans people at all but yet they all accept me as who I am and some have become really great friends, though I only see a lot them at the beer festivals we work at. Guess I am lucky that way to have found an accepting group of people, they mostly gender me correctly even when I am wearing jeans, a t-shirt and workboots(don’t fancy a cask of beer on my toes). I don’t worry about passing in these situations as I feel safe with these people, few times the punters are nasty (transphobes and beer not a good mixture!) and thus I tend to avoid them but luckily I tend to be management these days so can avoid them most of the time.

    Ditto goes for College where I tend not to worry too much everyone knows me as female though most realise I’m trans, used to be very open about it less so now as I got fed up with personal questions. So all in all I tend not to worry about passing in my day to day life anymore, even stopped wearing makeup except on special occasions a year or so ago…

  3. says

    I’ve been transitioning for a few months now, and I currently don’t possess passing privilege, and I am not sure I ever will. But it’s taken me a while to realize that this isn’t necessary to seeing myself as a woman, and to asking for the respect I’m due from my friends and acquaintances, and I’ve found, much to my surprise, that I’m getting it from the people whom I love and whose opinions I care about. I’d love not to get referred to as “sir” by the barista in the coffeeshop, but we don’t have a meaningful relationship. The people in my life whose esteem I hold dear, they gender me correctly, and that’s really what matters to me, I think. (Though get back to me in a few months and we’ll see how things have changed…)

    The crucial point, though, for me, is that I have to continually remind myself that just because I don’t pass doesn’t mean I can’t, or shouldn’t, do the things I want to do. I may not really be able to change people’s conceptual gender of me just like that, but I have to make sure that I am not allowing myself to dip into that dehumanization and start believing it about myself. That is so easy to do, and so seductive, and ultimately self-destructive. I’ve been there, and it sucks.

    Having finally got to the point in my life where I have figured out that I want what I need, I will not let strangers’ conceptual gendering of me become my own. I will not play into the hands of the HBSers and the cissexists. And I won’t let myself get stuck because I don’t pass.

    • northstargirl says

      The crucial point, though, for me, is that I have to continually remind myself that just because I don’t pass doesn’t mean I can’t, or shouldn’t, do the things I want to do.

      This is absolutely correct. Even 15 or so years after starting a pretty successful transition I sometimes have to remind myself of this, and even though I really don’t get too many weird looks any longer sometimes I really have to push myself to do certain things. There are still some things that fill me with dread, sure, but 98% of things I want to do, I go do them without any real concerns.

      For me, an important discovery was finding that the more I presented as female, and the more I got over the “this is new and scary to do it out in public” part of it, and the more comfortable I got, the more people would address me as I wished even if some parts of my presentation weren’t where I wanted them to be.

      Almost as amazing has been that I’m now at a point where I’m so comfortable that I can shrug it off when I’m incidentally misgendered, or firmly but gently correct people, and take it with good humor instead of brooding over it. A few weeks ago I had gone somewhere and someone’s kid bumped into me and the kid’s mother called me “sir,” I guess because I’m kind of tall and sort of athletic. A few years back that would have completely destroyed me. Now, I just shrug it off. It wasn’t said with malice, and I’ll never see that person again, so to me something so incidental wasn’t worth making a big deal about (and the mother seemed embarrassed enough about what her kid had done, so I felt saying anything would have doubled her embarrassment). I never thought I would be able to say that, but it happened.

      I’ve accepted how I look, how I sound (I hate my voice, but it works), and all that, and to me following anyone else’s advice about how I should look or which procedures I should have done would defeat the whole purpose of my transition. Transition required me to bust up the categories my family and those around me had imposed upon me, and it was meant to help me live my life the way I saw best. If I’d put $35,000 I didn’t have into facial surgery because someone told me I had to do it in order to be a plausible woman (which, by the way, I’d never be able to see for myself without a mirror), I’d not only have been financially ruined, but I’d have also fallen in with someone else’s expectations. Instead, I put the money into procedures I wanted, that would make my body feel right to me, and I’ve done very well. I found me, and I like how I look. It’s me, and not anyone else’s me but my own. That’s a pretty cool thing to find.

      My apologies for the ramble; it’s just that I like your philosophy and it touched something in me. 🙂 Good luck with all that’s ahead.

      • says

        I really like this point too. It’s good do reminded of this, particularly when my main hang ups are exactly the sort of this covered by this. I’ve been getting into a lot of arguments lately on my trans forum of choice about “age-appropriate attire” because I have a very clear idea of how I am supposed to dress as a method of my self expression. But this is deemed in some circles as not only not appropriate for a woman in her early 30s, but also threat to my ability to “pass” (and obviously, the first feeds into the second). I know that this shouldn’t matter, that “passing” is an odd goal, particularly when I have zero intention of stealth, that what I want is to be seen for who I am, a woman, and being seen as cis is more or less irrelevant to me, but it’s something I constantly have to remind myself.

        These criticisms particularly frustrate me because they are not leveled universally by those giving them out. Cis women or transwomen my age who transitioned years ago are apparently exempt, as if the age that one “becomes a woman” determines what activities, interests, and attire are appropriate.

        I think I may have lost the thread of my point in there…

        • says

          I know that this shouldn’t matter, that “passing” is an odd goal, particularly when I have zero intention of stealth, that what I want is to be seen for who I am, a woman, and being seen as cis is more or less irrelevant to me, but it’s something I constantly have to remind myself.

          This, this, a thousand times this. I don’t need to be seen as cis. I don’t wish to live stealth. I have no idea what’s “age-appropriate clothing”—heck, I barely even know what kind of clothing I like to wear, all other things being equal. Being open on the Internet and in person about who I am has been incredibly liberating for me. And the way certain elements of the trans world police these decisions—they are doing the cissexists’ and HBSers’ work, wittingly or unwittingly.

  4. daenyx says

    Your point about how we insta-categorize people we see on the train or wherever was a really interesting observation for me, because it’s not something I’d thought a lot about doing.

    But I could instantly come up with an example from just last night on public transit – I saw a very attractive woman (when she got up to get on the train, it was clear that was how she was presenting) with an androgynous appearance. I instantly attempted to gender her and was very interested in the answer… even though I wasn’t going to be interacting with her, and even though, if I *had* been in a situation where we would be interacting, gender doesn’t really factor into my assessment of attractiveness, anyway. It irked me at the time that I was doing that, and you’ve given me even more reason to try to suss out why it seemed to matter.

    There’s more thought to give to it, but something I can say now is that I know gender information affects how I interact with a stranger/new acquaintance in that I tend to be much more reserved with men, since I’ve often had friendliness backfire when men have taken it as permission to press my social boundaries.

  5. says

    This is such a clear-thinking post.

    One thing: “The people who knew you in your pre-transition life WILL treat you differently than the people who’ve only known you since transition”

    This part is depressing, and all too true. However, you did say people had a hard time changing their conceptual gendering, not that it’s impossible, and I think it’s worth remembering that the way one genders someone else is changeable. It seems that being treated as one’s identified gender by strangers will change a person’s behavior, which in turn helps pre-transition folks adjust over time, unless they just won’t let go. But being correctly gendered by people you are out to, as you say, is not “passing”. I hope it feels a lot better than passing.

    • says

      Yeah, it’s not impossible. It just takes effort and time.

      And a bit of friendship, love and care can go a long way.

      That’s one of the things I was hinting at when, while remarking how someone who’s already conceptually categorized you as female will have a hard time readjusting their unconscious biases to “male” after learning you’re trans no matter how much they intellectually regard trans women as “really men”, I said “not without effort and help (which we’re not going to provide)”

      It’s easier for someone who knew us in our assigned sex to adjust to conceptualizing us as our identified sex because we’re going to be offering them the cues, and help, and reminders. They also have time. And, though it might be optimistic to say so, I think love and friendship are a stronger motivator in this regard than hatred and bigotry are. Someone trying to see us as who we really are, rather than who they thought us to be, because they care for us I think is going to ultimately have a better chance of adapting their perceptions of us than someone who simply refuses to acknowledge the reality that’s staring them in the face just because they happen to have some bigoted, cissexist notions about gender.

  6. Sarah says

    I never liked how the transitioning narrative is often framed such that transitioning is your one “journey” to ever go through, and then once you are “successful” then it’s happily ever after for you and you should just live an unassuming life etc. Transition, write a non-threatening book about it, and call it a day. That model never really seemed fair to later transitioners and people who lack privilege in other areas in addition to being trans.

    It also has a pretty poor message even for those who are younger transitioners and live in “stealth” (what an odd term, that one). It’s the sort of nihilism that asks, “oh, you had a ‘succesful’ transition? well just live quietly and don’t stand out in any other way.”

    though, to be fair, the more you stand out the more you are judged, as culture wants to make sure that only the correct sort of people are able to reach x height (c.f. Heidegger’s “They” & Foucault). so standing out is indeed a threat to ‘stealth’ to a certain degree

    • says

      Yeah, that’s always struck me as an incredibly odd way to view life. I see transition as creating the opportunity for me to do things with my life, not as being the high point of it. It’s a starting point. My life prior was characterised by near absolute apathy, it was a life not worth caring about. To transition and fade away would be essentially saying to myself that I have in me nothing of value save the ability self-determine. If I do this, and make nothing of the full life I’ve gained for myself, then is there even any point in me transitioning at all?

    • says

      Mightn’t it also be reflected in the attitude that some trans women seem to have about not wishing to be seen with other trans women who don’t pass “as well” as they do, and therefore risk getting clocked? For some, I suppose this is a safety issue. You’re absolutely right: the view that transition is the cure to a disease, and that once the disease is cured you become an HBS survivor and get to write your non-threatening book, well, that’s awful for those of us who don’t have the same kind of privilege to get “cured” in the same way.

      • says

        It’s awful for anyone. That after surviving your “disease” and writing a shitty book, that the only life you can acceptably live in one of unassuming blandness and anonymity is horrid, and basically is a tacit statement that transwomen have no value, or even any kind of identity, beyond that of a “survivor”…

        • says

          Exactly this. It must be terrible for such people. They get exactly what they think they want, and, well, it’s over. Then they get to do things like blend in have no identity beyond their book and castigate those of us who don’t follow exactly the same path and dictate from on high that all transitions that do not follow the exact same path as theirs are letting the side down. What a petty, short-sighted, sad way to live.

      • DawnRae says

        I’ve never had a problem with appearing with other ‘transwomen.’ On the other hand I’ve never felt that transitioning was a group activity either. If I should meet someone and become their friend it’s not because of who they were or who they want to be but rather who they are at the moment. It’s not a hobby, nor a disease to my mind so joining a group or making friends solely on the basis of that kind of commonality seems irrelevant.

  7. Ringo says

    Reminds me of the time I was serving a male/female couple as a cashier and they were talking about how I was bagging their groceries. The woman used she and the man used he, and they weren’t even aware that they were using different pronouns.

  8. Hope_WA says

    It pains me to see how shallow many trans women, and a smaller subset of trans men, are when the subject of passing comes up. Far too frequently “passability” and “beauty” are used interchangeably by trans women and their friends or allies. I found it much more useful early on in my transition to simply assume that I had cis-privilege. For me, that was passing. Assuming cis-privilege means not having to conform to sexist stereotypes, since cis women don’t have to conform to them in order to have their gender validated. Wearing make-up, skirts and dresses, being into arts and crafts, apathy towards sports, a love of shoes and chocolate, and being unable to pass by a baby without saying, “Awwww!” are no pre-requisites for being a woman. Doing those things also does not mean a woman, in particular a trans woman, is selling out, if that is how they genuinely feel. The most important thing is, stealing a line from Shakespeare, to thine own self be true. After all, isn’t that why people, and not just trans people, but all people who shed the expectations and limitations that others place upon them so they can be true to themselves, transition in the first place?

  9. Frenchy says

    I’ve been always androgynous looking, though never dressed in any way to pass. But, I was so depressed that I dressed like a slob most of my “boy” life. I hated my beard so much that I removed it 12 years before transition (because I was sure sure sure I wouldn’t miss it :-). When I transitioned, I merely, put on a few gender markers (pre hormones) and got gendered correctly off the bat 80-90% of the time. So, I count myself lucky…

    Yet, despite that, I felt so uncomfortable with my male brow ridge (which was not that prominent) that I got it sanded off, a major operation!!! So, for me anything that had the possibility of getting me misgendered was a big deal (possibly or even probably being paranoid about it). I still feel insecure about my height, so I can’t imagine how someone 6 foot 4 feels.

    Right now, I’m gendered correctly I’d say 99% of the time, yet the remaining 1% (mostly due to my height, 6 foot tall) still bothers me five years after transition. This happens once every 3-4 months.

    Especially because most of those times, its not the person of person in front of me who does it, but someone gossiping to another behind me in line or some people that I pass on the sidewalk. They always seem to say “I think its a man” loud enough so I’ll be sure to hear it!.

    For someone with dysphoria, being misgendered is not good at all, for me, passing, means being seen as a women.

    Also, I know for sure that many people will treat you differently if they know your trans. Guys are especially susceptible to that.

    Most guys from 20-40 banter and flirt harmlessly with me when they don’t know, but they get very very silent when they think they know and barely look me in the eyes.

  10. Cluisanna says

    I think this post may have made me realize something important, but please tell me whether the following is wrong.
    I have often, when looking at pictures of people I know to be trans (no one I know personally is out to me as trans), noticed some characteristic that seemed to me to hint at their assigned gender, and then tried very hard to deliberately ignore that characteristic and was angry at myself when I couldn’t. However, now it seems like I thought I had to force myself to see a cis woman/man, when instead there is no problem with noticing that someone is trans – if you don’t treat them differently because of it, of course.

    • says

      That’s what happens when your society treats you as dirt on account of your gender, and won’t ever let you forget about it. Being able to take gender for granted is blessing, a luxury. A byproduct of good fortune.

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