Sunday, December 8, 2013

Did You Get My Message?

By Paula Gaikowski

In the transgender community, the use of the terms “pass” or “passing” is controversial.  What’s ironic is that we all use it in one form or another, but camouflage it with politically correct language. What’s even more interesting is if you ever go to Reddit’s  Transpassing or any one of the other related sub Reddits you would discover that the younger members of our community didn’t get the memo and talk about passing all day long.

I prefer to use the phrase “present as a woman."  If I am looking for a comment, I’ll ask how was my presentation.  With all that being said, we all have some very definite opinions about the issue. Before you click the comment link below, let me say a few things first.

What made the subject very clear and even defined for me the why we do this was something my wife said to me a few weeks ago. Having recently traded in her shoulder length hair for a pixie cut, she was still getting comfortable with such short hair. While we were getting ready for a Saturday morning of fellowship and brush-cutting at the church picnic grove, she put on blue jeans and a flannel shirt. I’ll admit discreetly to the 5000 or so readers of Femulate that she did look a bit boyish.

One look in the mirror brought about a shriek. Not expecting this response, I looked over and asked, “What’s the matter, honey?”

“Oh my gosh, I look like a man!” she blustered as she headed for her closet.

After 29 years of marriage, I came back with a practiced response that I learned before my first anniversary, “Sweetheart, you look beautiful.”

As she positioned herself in front of the mirror, this time in a jean skirt and scalloped linen top, she breathed a sigh of relief,  “There, I at least want the people to know that I am a woman!”

Wow, Bam, Bazinga! Yes read it again ladies: “There, I at least want the people to know that I am a woman!”

Transgender women just want the human race to know that we are women!

The hair, the makeup, clothes, lingerie, voice lessons, and of course, shoes are all gestures to the world that we are women. Just like the jean skirt and scalloped top that was nowhere near as practical for clearing brush that morning, they served a vital purpose for my wife; they signaled the world that she was a woman and validated her identity. It brought her appearance more in line with who she felt she was.

Just like the cowboy who wears his hat, jeans and boots in the airport, he is saying to the world, "These clothes reflect who I am, a culture that I belong to, a philosophy that I adhere too, and a vocation that I perform."

The banker, the rocker, and the professor --- they all send a message with their clothes.
That is the reason we do this --- we want people to know who we are. That deep down, under the five o'clock shadow and receding hairline, we all have to some varying extent the hearts and souls of feminine beings.

That’s why we so often ask about passing, presenting or how do I look? It is the reason why in the transgender community, we take more pictures than most tourists. Ever notice that you are the only person at the family reunion that knows exactly how to work the self-timer on the camera! We want acknowledgement, we are sending radio waves out into the Universe and listening, searching, longing to know if we are being heard.

With that in mind, instead of asking “Do I pass?”

Let’s try asking, "Did you get my message?"

"Yes, Ma'am."


Source: Femulate Archives
Actor Guillaume Gallienne femulates as his mother in the
2013 French film Les Garçons et Guillaume, à-table!


Source: ideeli
Wearing ECI.


  1. Paula picks up on something I've realized for a while - being a woman is as much a social construct as it is a biological construct. People react to a woman, as a woman, based on her presentation. Her wife realizes it instinctively. But it is not something any of us think much about, as natal women will reinforce their femininity via the use of symbols - clothes and accessories.

    In this way, natal women are as weak as natal men - most of us depend on outsiders to validate our identities....


  2. Well said, Paula. I was always a bit uncomfortable with the term "passing." I much prefer "presenting as a woman." This much more defines what I am about.


  3. I have referred to 'passing' in a 'tongue in cheek' fashion by comparing passing to the 'Holy Grail'. Like the Grail in Raiders of the Lost Ark or as quipped about by Monty Python, neither being a man passing as a woman all the time or the grail may really exist.

    I suppose that the desire to pass may be in part driven by the need to remove the fear associated with being a guy out and about while dressed as a woman.
    I am not suggesting that there are not men who due to their age, complexion, height, weight and deportment cannot pass as women most of the time but for many, if not most, of us total passing and acceptance as being a woman is simply one step too far.

    I have become partial to the term and concept of 'blending' but I can easily accept Paula's message about making a decent presentation. The idea is to do the best you can with your feminine presentation for the time and circumstances.

    This weekend I was not able to get out while dressed ~ circumstances kept my wife and I home. Saturday found me dressed in an orange shift dress with my brown pumps. I felt teriffic when my wife told me that she liked the dress on me and that it was a good style and color for me. I felt even better when she commented on my legs and told me that my pantyhose clad legs looked good. Sunday had me in my plum, sleeveless dress which I know my wife thinks is a good color for me. This is one of my dresses with a bit of a low cut neck and my wife commented that my cleavage showed a bit of wrinkled skin when I was sitting down for dinner. Having a few wrinkles goes with the terrain at my age but it is still nice that she noticed the effort I made to present as a woman with reasonable and proper cleavage.

    Thank you again Paula for your very 'spot on' comments. I like the message of presenting as a woman. Stana, thank you for ceding your space to Paula.


    1. Pat
      What an awesome weekend!!! Thank you for your always well thought out comments, it makes the writing so much fun!

  4. This gives me a new perspective - as has been said, "passing" always sounded both crass and impossible to me. "Presenting as a woman" fits right in with my chosen profession (acting) - I have to present as a variety of types and people on stage, so why not use the term in everyday life! Thank you for this break through in terminology, Paula!

    1. Julie

      Your welcome, as for the term "Presenting I'm not sure where I came across, It may have come from Stana?

  5. Nice post. "Passing" or "Presenting" - in the end, all are attempts to be recognized by others what we know we are inside. A woman! I read about the "reddit" comment. I don't blame the younger gen to want to "pass" badly. Read all these comments here where there is a mention of a partner/significant others. However, for younger gen, that may not be the case. It is important for them to "pass" since they are looking for a partner and when you are young, appearance is very important in finding a mate so no wonder they worry endlessly about "passing". And I say more power to them in their quest. Of course, with age they will redefine their views but right now they are in "survival of the fittest" mode when it comes to dating scene/acceptance and that very well explains their actions and anxiety. Being a woman comes from within. As my fav drag queen Ru Paul says- if you can't love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else?

  6. By the same token, rather than being bothered about whether I pass, I concentrate on putting others at their ease about interacting with me as a woman. They usually reciprocate by responding with kindness.