Thursday, November 13, 2008

passable vs. presentable

Passing, in regard to gender identity, refers to a person's ability to be accepted or regarded as a member of the sex or gender with which they identify, or with which they physically present. (from Wikipedia)

I like to think that I pass. Just today, I received an e-mail from a dear friend who wrote, "You pass so well."

But who am I kidding?

I am six feet, two inches tall (or a more dainty five feet, 14 inches tall) and I always wear heels of some height when I am out en femme (OEF). There are not too many women out there who are six-feet-two. (I list the famous ones here.) So, when I am OEF, my height is my biggest giveaway.

I can hear some of you saying to yourself, "Well, Girl, don't wear heels, then you will be shorter."

My response to that is even without heels, my height is still my biggest giveaway and adding three or four inches will not make much difference.

Last Friday at the mall, I passed some of the time.

While I was walking through the mall, I passed a few women walking in the opposite direction, who looked me in the eye and smiled. Of course, I returned the smile. When a woman smiles at another woman, it is a sign of camaraderie, so when a woman smiles at you when you are OEF, it is a good sign that they have accepted you into the club.

On the other hand, I have also passed women in the mall, whose smiles indicate that they have read me as a male. Their smiles (or smirks) indicate that they are mildly amused by my attempt to pass. Go OEF for awhile and you will begin to recognize the difference between smirks and genuine smiles.

At the mall last Friday, there were times when I did not pass.

For example, the saleswoman at Sephora referred to me as "he," then quickly corrected herself and referred to me as "she." I was not offended. When you are up close in another person's face, as when you are dealing with a salesperson, it is more difficult to pass because they are concentrating on you and therefore, are more likely to pick up telltale signs that you are male.

I have gone OEF enough to resign myself to the fact that sometimes I pass and sometimes I do not pass. There is not much I can do about my ability to pass because I believe I have pushed the envelope about as far as I can to emulate a woman without undergoing surgery.

Admittedly, my ultimate goal is to be passable, but since that is not always possible, I always try to make myself look presentable. If I present as the best woman I can be, then I will be less likely to attract attention and will blend in with the real women out there.

On the other hand, if I go to the mall wearing my highest heels, shortest skirt, largest breasts, biggest hair, and thickest makeup, I am going to attract a lot of attention. Dressed so, more people will check me out and thus increase the chances that people will recognize my birth gender.

So, I try to present myself as a real woman would present herself in a similar situation. Last Friday, I even wore dress slacks instead of a skirt in order to be more presentable and I believe that helped.

While I was at Sephora perched on the makeover seat at the front of the store, I did attract the attention of a lot of passerbys, but none of them gave any indication that they recognized me as a male. All they saw was a woman getting a makeover, so they gave me an interested passing glance and went on their way.

It probably helped that I was seated, so that my height was hidden, but I think more important was the fact that I looked presentable in that situation. I really looked like a woman who had been shopping in the mall and stopped at Sephora for a makeover.

One more thing: if you are presentable, other people are more likely to respect you and treat you like a lady even if they know you are not really a lady. If I dress like a teen queen, I am not going to get much respect, but if I dress like a middle-aged woman (with impeccable taste, by the way), I have found that I get respect because I am trying to be a female clone, not a clown.

So, the bottom line is that, of course, you want to be passable, but before you can be passable, you must be presentable. And once you hone your presentation, you may or may not pass, but at least you know you did your best come what may.

(Thank you, Michelia, for suggesting this topic.)


  1. Height is certainly critical to passing, but it's certainly not the "be-all end-all" to passing as a woman. I'm 5' 3" barefoot. When I tell T-girls this they usually say, "Oh you must past flawlessly." Not so. I have a very heavy beard and even with all the "ticks of the trade" it's tough to hide (particularly in the daytime.) And sure there is electrolysis and laser-light but those things cost money and I just don't have that much to spare.

    So to all you who wish you could trade you're "6' 2" for "5' 2"....well as they saying goes be careful what you wish for!

  2. Laurie --- That is a good point. I have a light beard and it is getting lighter all the time or maybe I should say "grayer all the time."

  3. Great post Staci/Lana! I was with a woman one time at First Event. We were having a Cosmo and chatting. She was full time and had been through FFS. Our conversation turned to the topic of "passing" and she said something that floored me, she said, "Oh I never think I pass, so I just try to be as presentable as I can". I thought, what a great attitude to have and it really takes the pressure off. So, I really agree with your post, just go for presentable. I think if we all thought that way we'd all be alot happier.

  4. Becki --- You are right; if our happiness depended on passing, most of us would be disappointed.

  5. This is one of your best posts ever. My 'girlfriends' need to hear this. They are all level-headed guys in their 40s, with the one quirk that they want to look like 22 yr old 'hot chicks', instead of just expressing their feminine side at their appropriate age...



  6. Shoshana --- You are welcome.

  7. Stacy, you are spot on. It's always best to dress your best for the situation you are going into, especially if you take into consideration people, and women especially, base their first assessment of you on how you are dressed. We all know that one of the first things a woman would inquire about when invited somewhere would be to determine the appropriate dress for the occasion to make sure that they will fit in.

    I'm also 5'14", and love to wear low heels, and believe that they make me look slimmer. I typically don't think that I get read that much, but I also work on how I carry myself and my state of mind before I go out. It does make a difference!

    Thanks as always for a great blog!


  8. BTW: Here is a very nice link for tall women!



  9. Linda --- I almost always overdress! But I guess that is better than underdressing.

    Thank you for the tall women link.