Much is made of the idea of a trans person “passing”. I’m not crazy about that term, as it implies that trans people are pretending to be whatever they say they are, and that only the really clever or lucky ones succeed in ‘fooling’ people into believing they are a particular gender. At the same time, I acknowledge that ‘passing’ is used a lot to describe the situation where you are read as the gender by which you identify, not that which was assigned to you at birth.

Purely by that definition, I don’t pass. Just in the last three days I have been referred to as ‘the lady’ by a stranger and ‘she’ and ‘her’ by people who know me, but just seem to have made an honest mistake.

Part of me understands this. I look at myself in the mirror, and see the same old me, even though I know that my interpretation of my reflection comes more from my poor battered psyche than a true reading of how I look. So I can really see where folk might look at me and see a woman. Damn, but they must think I’m butch.

I suppose that what upsets me when people get it wrong is that I have made a lot of progress, both mentally and physically, since the day I finally (reluctantly at first, that’s for sure) recognised my masculine nature. I’ve come so far along my personal road that to be “she’d” or referred to as “the lady” almost comes as a surprise, and a hideous reminder that I am this person in transition, not the person I want to be. A pretender. One who tries to pass.

Now if you look back at some of my previous posts, you will realise that whilst I do not identify as a woman, I also do not necessarily identify solely as “a man”, in the sense of being ‘a man trapped in a woman’s body’, or someone who just needs to alter their body to become the man they know they are. This is tricky territory. My understanding of gender has changed, even since I started this blog, and whilst I strive to be able to embrace my masculinity, that does not mean I wish to be pinned like a butterfly at one end of a gender binary.

So why should it matter so much to me when people read me as female? Surely identifying as genderqueer should mean I am happy to accept that people will read different facets of my gender identity different ways, and will then address me or refer to me in a way built upon their gender context?

That’s the thing. Whereas I am not happy to cling to a social norm which places men firmly at one end of a line, and women at the other, that does not mean that I do not have a particular picture of myself: a way that I want the world to see me. I am very comfortable in masculinity. Testosterone is the fuel I wish I’d discovered years ago. Chest surgery is the best thing that I have ever done. I vastly prefer to be read as a guy, because that is where I am at my most comfortable. That does not mean I wish I’d never identified as female. Nor does it mean that I am not happy to hold onto some of the habits that grew out of 39 years of socialisation as a woman. On forms I am delighted to be able to tick ‘male’ (in the absence of a third choice). None of these things detract from my view of gender as a kaleidoscope, nor my horror of being stuck in a set gender role.

So about the ‘passing’ thing. Actually, yes, I want people to read me as male, because, as I’ve said, masculine is where I’m comfortable. But just because I do not always necessarily look, move, or speak, or react in ways that are traditionally associated with men, I’d rather people didn’t automatically think that if I don’t tick all the right boxes for ‘man’ that I am ‘the lady’, or ‘she’ or ‘her’. I realise that for pretty much everybody, if they do not see ‘male’, their brains default to ‘female’, even if they know my name and story. I wish I could change this – wouldn’t it be great if my blog could start a change in the way people perceive gender? No such luck, I fear.

There is a lot to be said for being true to onesself, and I know that I am finally being truer to myself than I ever have before. I probably haven’t chosen the easiest of routes, nor the easiest for others to understand. I heard someone once talking about another trans person I know, saying “I don’t think he really knows what gender he is. I wish he’d make up his mind”. I would argue that someone who has thought hard enough about their own gender identity to conclude that actually neither end of a gender binary fits, has already made up their mind. Similarly, I am not confused about who I am, know how I wish to be perceived by others, and know who I am inside. Is this me having my cake and eating it? Perhaps. But who doesn’t like cake?

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