I found out that I had been outed without my knowledge or permission at work– the panel of individuals that interviewed me all knew that I had transitioned before I even set foot in the door.  I don’t know how that information came up, but someone, somewhere, was claiming I wanted to be upfront about my transition so that we could focus on the job interview.  It might sound good and even though it didn’t hurt my chance of getting the job, it’s still complete bullshit.  Here’s why.

Now that I’m not surrounded every day by a bunch of people that watched me transition, I choose who I talk to about the things that are going on, I choose who I want to let in on my private life, and I can choose how much detail to reveal.  

In short, I have a little more control over my life, especially after feeling distinctly out of control for so long– the long road to and through transition has been littered with attempts to subjugate that part of me that is gender variant, especially using religion.  The thought that ‘if God had wanted me to be female, he’d have made me a girl’ kept me from transitioning for many years and only after I realized that God wasn’t doing anything about it did I decide to take matters into my own hands, to see if there was a better way than just suffering in misery, than trying to deny who I am. 

Once I got to the point of wanting to transition, one of the weird things about it, weird to me anyway, is that it’s primarily a way to help trans people fit in, and I feel like some parts of the process are things over which I don’t have any conscious choice, at least not if I want to actually succeed at fitting in as a woman.  The need to have trans people conform to the cissexual spectrum of normativity is probably at least part of the reason why some of us who don’t are othered for the rest of our lives.  I’m too tall, for example.  That girl over there, she doesn’t know enough about hair and make-up.  That one, well she can’t dress fashionably.  Cis women are permitted some of these deviations but trans women are supposed to be making an effort to blend in seamlessly, not bucking fashion and social trends.  Everyone else is being generous enough with us, thank you very much, and could we please not make people uncomfortable by being too obviously gender variant.

Passing is important, but what does it really mean?  At what point would I be considered to be passing?  Does everyone need to believe I’m a cis woman, or is there an acceptable failure rate, say 10%?  Do I need to actually be stealth, or am I allowed to be out and proud as much as I want?  Some of these ideas are mutually exclusive: if I’m out and proud for example, very few people will think I’m cis, and I’m potentially setting myself up for discrimination of some kind or other. 

Wrapped up in the concept of passing is the notion that all trans people are somehow ‘tricking’ or ‘fooling’ people into thinking that we’re cisgender, as though we are somehow responsible for the assumptions that a person makes about us.  I’ve talked about cissexual assumption before, and so don’t want to spend too much time on it, and I’ll leave it at this: if I’m just being myself, I can’t help what someone else thinks or assumes about my body.   In fact, that people’s assumptions about me or my body should even affect the way they interact with me is proof that (cis)sexism is still alive.  And it’s still bullshit. 

There have been some talk  over the internet about when trans people should out themselves, but we also need to take into account a person’s expectation of privacy (thanks to the good people at Questioning Transphobia for talking about this first).  Whether I get read as a woman isn’t really my fault, especially not if I’m just being myself.  Granted, I’m conforming to certain social norms, but those are norms that I’m comfortable with. 

If society weren’t so intolerant of gender variance such that trans people had to blend in, there’d probably be a lot less confusion and a lot less people crying about being tricked by the devious transsexuals.  Since we were allowed to start transitioning with the help of the medical community, trans women have been practically forced to fit in, and only those who had the best chances of living stealth were even allowed to transition.  It’s only been a very recent practice to allow trans people access to medical transition no matter what they look like or whether they’ll be passable (whatever that means) when everything is said and done. 

Once I found out that I wasn’t passing at work, that most of the people that I’ve worked very closely with for the last few months knew all along that I’m trans, I was crushed.  I felt like a prize idiot, walking around every day like a fucking beauty queen.  As I projected backwards, my memories of thinking that I was passing and doing so well caused me to feel only complete, abject humiliation. 

The stress at work has brought the depression back in a powerful way, but there have been some things that have helped me through it.  First is the fact that no one treats me with anything other than dignity and respect– it’s part of the reason why I’ve been so confident about passing at work.  If it were an issue, I’d be able to tell by the people who avoid me or the boys who won’t say hi when we pass in hallway each morning.

Even if it were an issue, if half the people I worked with avoided me like the proverbial leper, I’ve said before that a lot of trans women are willing to put up with all the bullshit, with all the problems and with all the hassle just for the ability to finally be themselves.  Living authentically is a powerful thing and even when my world is shaken, the knowledge that I am doing the best things that can be done for myself is at least a small comfort.  I told myself at the beginning that I would be happy as myself and that I didn’t have to be passable or beautiful.  In all honesty, all I really wanted was to be myself and to be accepted as that person, to be treated with the dignity and respect that every human being deserves. 

I’m trying a shift in my thinking, namely that passing isn’t about making people believe that I’m cisgender 100% of the time, but more about being accepted as a woman and a human being.  It’s about how I’m treated, how I’m received and not whether I can successfully hide the truth from every single person.

Advertisements