Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Passing vs. Presentable

77932999 Blogger’s Note: I am so busy with the election today that I do not have time to post anything new, so I am rerunning the following post from November 2008. Since it is four years old, you may have missed it the first time and despite that I think that the words are still applicable today.

“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.


  1. Stana -

    You make an excellent point. I try to tell trans people that passing shouldn't be the big goal, but a perfect presentation. The idea is that people will respond to you in the mode you are presenting yourself - as we are all programmed by society to respond to certain ways to selected cues. By giving off as many consistant female cues as possible, the ones that don't say female are more likely to be ignored, and a person will be trested as a female.

    For example, let's look at a female basketball player. She is female, but often not within the normal height ranges for a woman. She usually has the voice and mannerisms of a woman. She'll dress in clothes that identify her as a woman. Her face is oval shaped like a woman's face is expected to be. See and hear enough cues, and you'll identify this person as a woman.

    But with a trans person, presenting enough cues is a problem. Our shoulders are broad, our faces are boxy, we have hair in the wrong places, and our voices put nails in the coffin. So we have to work on minimizing these flaws in our presentations. Some people have less to do than others. But to me, the hardest item to work on is a voice. Not only does one have to learn how to speak in a new pitch, but also the way something is vocalized is important. Of course, let's not forget choices of words, with a different way of phrasing things....

    There will always be more things to learn to make a more perfect presentation. But in doing so, this makes it more possible to function as a female - and as a result, "pass".


  2. Stana
    Thank you for the re-run post. I agree with your points and also with Marian's comment.
    It seems to me that in the years since your original post I have become more interested in the concept of 'blending'.

    Like you cannot coach speed there is little that can be done for us large and/or tall folks. I agree with you that at my height a few more inches to wear my heels really does not make that much difference.

    Many of us need to face the realization that we will not pass all of the time. Lincoln said that "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time". What is true in the political world has parallels with us femulators.

    If we make ourselves presentable and properly attired for the circumstances in which we find ourselves we will find acceptance. Sometimes we will pass but at other times we will be accepted and/or perceived as being TG or CD or TS.

    In the past I have thought that 'passing' was the 'Holy Grail' and I am sure that for some it truly is critical to their self image and well being. I now seem to believe that for folks like us 'blending' may be preferable. I think that getting out and about and being presentable is a better and more reachable goal and something that is not only good for the person getting out but for making things better for all of us.

    As more people meet and encounter us in safe and presentable circumstances the more we will have the freedom and liberty to be out and about presenting as we choose.

    I am a Femulator. I also think that the tags CD, TV, TG and even tranny, cover who I am and/or what I do. If I were to pass as a woman (LOL) I would do nothing to make the world a more accepting place for a Femulator.


    PS: BTW I love your statement that you "are trying to be a female clone...not a clown". That is right on target.

  3. I agree with both Marian and Pat, and the truth is the better we present the more confident we become, the more confident we become the better we pass.

    In Houston last month I was so at ease and confident, I stop at the edge of a crowd and ask another woman, "What going on?" The other women, didn't read me and just answered. This is a result of the good presentation, practice and confidence.

    Thanks for posting Stana