Passing Thoughts

| Aug 28, 2017

Hello! One big thing has happened in my life since my last post. I was hired for my first (real) job! I am now working at an order-at-the-counter type restaurant. It’s actually pretty fun. So far, I’ve been trained on being a cashier and washing dishes. I prefer to work the cash register, but there are pros to washing dishes too. One thing that I’ve been thinking about ever since I started working as a cashier was the way that people see me. When you have as many “differences” as I do, you wonder what people think of you as you interact with them. And of course, one of the major things that I’ve been thinking about is the thing that most trans people would be thinking of when interacting with a lot of people: passing.

As some of you may know from reading my bio and my first post, I am gender fluid. This makes the concept of passing a bit different for me than it would be for a binary trans person (i.e. MTF or FTM). Passing is especially complicated for me due to my preferred pronouns, which are They/Them. Because of the fact that in the U.S. the singular “they” is not in the common vernacular, I deal with being pushed into the binary on a daily basis. In case some of you are confused about what gender fluidity is, I’ll give you my definition of it.

Gender fluid: A gender identification that one might use if their gender moves around the spectrum of gender in any way, shape, or form.

My own personal form of gender fluidity is rather extreme. I jump all around the spectrum without really having a norm at this point. In the past the norm for me had been more feminine, but recently I’ve been very all over the place. As a person who was assigned male at birth and has gone through the process of HRT for almost a year now (actually, a year on the 31st of August), my body is rather unique and poses a challenge for passing as either of the binaries. Due to the hormonal changes, it is rather easy for me to pass as a girl. Almost too easy. I sometimes wonder if people see a girl when they look at me or if they see a trans girl. Passing as a boy is a bit more of a challenge. A lot of passing has to do with presentation, so when I am feeling masculine, I present differently. On a very masculine day, I will usually bind my chest, wear baggy jeans, and not wear as much jewelry as I usually do. I also pay attention to a few other things, such as the way I walk, the pitch of my voice, and the way I hold myself. It’s taken me a while to figure out the subtle social differences between boys and girls, and I’m still learning. It is interesting to think about how others see me though.

As someone who interacts with people for a long period of time at work, I have a chance to see how well I pass as what I want to pass as. With customers, it’s usually “she.” They usually refer to me with feminine pronouns and words, even when I’m doing my best to present as masculine. I think that in the 3 weeks that I’ve had this job, I could count the amount of times that I’ve been referred to with masculine words on one hand. This past Thursday, I was helping a customer who was this very nice older gentleman, and he called me ma’am while I was taking his order. I guess I must’ve made a face when he did it as I was trying to present as masculine at the time, because later during the interaction, he referred to me with the name on my name tag, which is a neutral name. I don’t judge him for gendering me; it’s what our society trains us to do when we’re younger. I do appreciate the fact that he corrected himself. It meant a lot to me.

Passing with my coworkers is a bit of a different story. Due to the fact that I have not legally changed my name yet, my paychecks and information in the computer have my birth name listed, so anyone who sees my envelope or my information can figure out that I’m trans. This means that any manager will know. It was assumed from the first day that I started working at the restaurant that I am a girl. It was never addressed in my interview, and no one ever asked me for my pronouns. I guess the managers had known that I use a different name from my birth name and then assumed from there. At the current moment, I do not know what all of my coworkers think of me and my gender. I do, however, know what two of them think.

A couple of nights ago, I was closing with my two closest coworkers (let’s call them Y and Z for simplicity). A little bit before closing, I told them that I had a question for them whenever they had time for it. Y said that now was a perfect time to talk, and he and I went in the back so that we could talk. I awkwardly said to him “So. . . you know that I’m trans, right?” He said that he had assumed, but it was not from anything about my presentation. He had assumed from a conversation that he and I had when we were washing dishes. We were talking about music, and I brought up my favorite band, Against Me!. For those of you who are completely lost right now, Against Me! is a political punk band fronted by the amazing Laura Jane Grace. Back in 2012, she came out as transgender in a Rolling Stone article. I was talking to Y about the band, and I mentioned that I love how open Laura was and how much I love seeing queer representation in music. That was the point where he said that he had figured it out. The conversation went very well, and at the end of it he told me that if I ever needed to talk about anything, he’s there to talk. That meant a lot to me.

My conversation with Z went just as well, if not better. Once I had awkwardly brought up my gender with her, she told me that she had guessed it due to the fact that she had heard one of the managers refer to me with masculine pronouns. She and I talked about it for a little, and she even asked me how I identified and what my pronouns were. She also said that she would do her best with my pronouns, and that she knows another genderqueer/non-binary person whom she referred to as a “they-friend.”

All in all, passing is complicated, especially for someone who doesn’t fit in with the binary. People will assume things; that’s just how people are. We live in a society that still unfortunately believes that it is better to assume than to ask. I have often told people that it is always better to ask someone what their pronouns are as opposed to assuming them, and that if they respond negatively, that’s their problem. It is extremely important to respect people’s genders and identities in general. It is very hard for people to be open about not being the norm, and we need to begin to appreciate that rather than put people down for that. That being said, it is always best not to assume. So go ahead, ask people how they identify or what their pronouns are. Chances are that they will either not care or they will appreciate it. I hope you all are having a good day, and I thank you for reading my post.

Blessed Be,
M

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Category: Body & Soul

About M: M is a 17 year old queer person who lives in Pennsylvania. She is about to enter her senior year of high school. Her preferred pronouns are She/Her and They/Them. Her favorite things are music, poetry, and dogs. M is an aspiring writer, activist, and psychologist. She looks forward to being a part of the TG Forum community, and would love to share her perspective of the world.

Comments (3)

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  1. Sophie Lynne says:

    Nicely written! 🙂

  2. tammiesmith1369 says:

    Loved your passing thoughts, M. I’m gender queer as well, male birth assignment. I identify more as female on the gender spectrum and prefer feminine pronouns, but it’s not too big of a deal for me. I’m a Tomboy kind of girl. I “jokingly” came out to a friend as a lesbian, which technically fits who I am. When I’m out in public and not trying hard to be either gender, I get both ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’, so it must be in the eye of the beholder. I’ve noticed that older people recognize me more often than others as female when I’m in queer mode. Enjoy the ride. Good vibes your way…

    • M says:

      Thank you for your comment! It’s so nice to hear that someone feels the same way as I do. Good vibes to you too!