Some thoughts on passing as a (transgender) woman.

(and I'm sure that trans men can relate to this, too.)
Passing matters to me, because I want people to see me for who I am: a woman.

Passing also matters to me, because I don't want people to see me for who I'm not: a man.
Passing doesn't mean that nobody knows I'm transgender.

It doesn't mean that I hide my past.
There is a huge difference between:

1. friends knowing that I'm trans but still gendering me correctly (because I've told them my gender)


2. total strangers gendering me correctly

When I talk about "passing," I mean #2.
I am very open about being transgender. For crying out loud, look at my Twitter profile banner, and you'll see an old bearded photo of me side-by-side with a photo of "the new me."

And I am grateful that my friends who know I'm transgender respect that I'm a woman, not a man.
I'd like to tell you some stories about times that I passed, until I didn't....... and times that I didn't pass, until I did.

I want you to understand why this matters to me.

But I also want you to understand how complicated and difficult and frustrating it is.
Once upon a time – back in January, actually, on a cold winter morning – I was at the gym.

It was only a few weeks after I'd publicly come out as trans, and I had just decided to join a running club.

It was my first time wearing feminine workout clothes in public.
As I was bent over on the side, packing up my things, one of the gym employees grabbed my attention:

"Excuse me, ma'am."

I was blocking some of the bleachers that he needed to roll away, and he needed me to move.
I was elated. I felt so validated. This random stranger, who knew nothing about me, called me "ma'am!"

It was the first time that had EVER happened to me. O frabjous day!

But when I stood up and turned around, his face turned red, and he began apologizing profusely.
"I'm so sorry," he kept repeating. "I'm so sorry for calling you 'ma'am.'"

I was confused about why he was apologizing. He had correctly identified me as a women!

But he continued to explain:

"I saw your ponytail and just assumed you were a girl - I'm so sorry, sir."
I passed, until I didn't.
Skip forward 9 months. I've got lots of stories, but I want to skip ahead to what happened not 2 hours ago, when I went to buy some tubes of Pringles at the corner grocery shop.
By now, I'm used to passing.

Visually, at least.

I've got boobs now, thanks to hormone replacement therapy. I wear make-up, a head scarf, a pink face mask, and I carry a purse. I wear women's clothing, and I have a long ponytail. My nails are pink.

I clearly dress the part.
As I was bending over to grab a can of BBQ Pringles from the bottom shelf of a display, the cashier greeted me from behind the counter:

"How are you today, miss?"

Oh, what joy. Oh, what validation.

And then, a split second later: absolute dread and terror.
If you're also transgender, you can probably guess why my elation at being properly gendered by this total stranger turned immediately into dread.
I look like a woman, yes.

But... what will he think when I open my mouth and respond, with my masculine voice, "I'm fine, thanks, how are you?"
While I'm increasingly used to passing *visually,* I still don't pass *vocally.*

I'm trying to feminize my voice. But I've still, to my shame, got an unmistakable dude's voice.
A few weeks ago, I got a very exciting call from our local Probate Court: the judge had approved my legal name change, and the documents were ready for me to pick up. The clerk addressed me on the phone by my female name and congratulated me.

I was thrilled. I felt so validated.
Later that morning, I called Social Security to ask about their procedures during the pandemic for updating my card.

That clerk must have called me "sir" AT LEAST 6 times during our brief conversation.

Passing validates.

Failing to pass makes me feel vain and futile.
The thing is, it's relatively easy to feminize my visual appearance.

I put on make-up, and I forget that it's there.

I grow my hair long, and I put on a hair scarf, and I go about my day.

I wear women's clothing. I carry a purse.
And because of my medical transition, my body is *literally* becoming more feminine. My boobs have grown considerably. My skin is much softer and smoother. Electrolysis, plus my own much improved skills at tweezing, have done wonders for minimizing my beard shadow.
But hormone replacement therapy does nothing for my voice.

Male puberty stretched out my vocal chords, and now that they're stretched, they can't be unstretched.
Trans men have a slight advantage here. Taking testosterone does lower their voices.

But for trans women, the best we can do is train.

And until I've trained my voice to automatically perform femininity, I have to constantly focus on it – unlike makeup, which I wear and forget.
I am blessed to live in a community where I'm not afraid for my safety.

For many trans people, of all genders, passing can be a matter of life and death.
But, I am still afraid, none the less.

When I joined that running group in January, I was afraid of what the coach would think when I handed him my registration form – on which I'd ticked the "female" box.
I just moved into a new apartment.

I was afraid that the landlord wouldn't approve my lease when saw that my legal name was Samuel but the name I told him was Samantha.
I haven't told my downstairs neighbors that I'm trans, nor do I want to.

I told them I'm a single mom, which I am, and that my name is Samantha, which it is.

At least one of them has heard my kid call me "Mama."

But I am constantly afraid they'll doubt me and think I'm a man.
I'm applying for jobs. I am blessed that, thus far, my part-time employers have been thoroughly supportive of me.

But... I'm applying for jobs.
A friend told me I should write on my resume that I'm trans.

"It'll help you!" he said.


In some places? Ok, sure.

But in others? Nopppppppe.
But most of all, I just want to be seen for who I am: a woman.

And I don't want to be seen for who I'm not: a man.
Passing matters.

And it's hard as heck.

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More from @ShuliElisheva

30 Aug
Imagine you were born left-handed, but you were raised to think you're right-handed.

Maybe you don't need to imagine; maybe this is actually what happened to you.


Imagine that you were forced to use your right hand for everything, despite being a lefty, and maybe you didn't even know you were a lefty, because you always used your right hand. Why would it even occur to you to try your left hand, if you just always use your right?

Again, maybe you don't need to imagine; maybe this is actually what happened to you.
Read 12 tweets
9 Jul
I wrote in a library book once.

The author referenced the "Judeo-Christian" conception of G-d as a man.

I crossed out "Judeo," and added a footnote explaining why this is a "Christian" concept, noting Jewish conceptions of G-d as feminine, agender, gender-fluid, & pangender.
But mostly... G-d isn't a person. G-d, as Judaism conceptualizes G-d, does not have a corporeal form. So to speak of G-d as "a man" is outside Jewish understandings of G-d as a formless being. But, of course, it's very central to Christianity.
Yes, there is a lot of gendered language for how Jews talk about G-d. G-d is often referred to in Jewish liturgy/texts as "king," "father," etc.

But these are exclusively metaphoric references, never to be taken literally as human elements of a human being.
Read 7 tweets

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