Friday, July 4, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 14: Passing

Today's question is:
"What are some of your passing tips or things you do to pass?"

I avoid giving passing tips.  It's partially philosophical (although I think it's fine to give tips when asked, it does in its own way reinforce 'passing' as a moral value), but also a matter of effectiveness.  Especially when somebody gives you a photograph of themselves, I have no idea if you 'pass' in a real-world setting.  I have years of experience being around trans people.  I notice things that cis people don't.  I've read trans men who have been on T for years.  They pass perfectly fine, it's just that I have an intimate understanding of what T does to your body.  And there's nothing I can do for things like your hand and food size or your facial structure.

Back pre-T there were dozens of things I did trying to pass that in retrospect either hurt my chances of doing so or were terrible for my well-being, and I see tips like this being bandied about in trans male forums all the time.  I just want to vomit every time somebody posts a picture of themselves, asks "What can I do?", and is told "Lose weight, you have curves!!!" even though he is at a perfectly healthy weight and losing more likely won't remove the curves anyway.  Encouraging people to lose weight is useless and can result in people harming their bodies.  Some other 'passing tips' I commonly see include cutting your eyelashes (It doesn't work and I know somebody who nearly went blind trying that; don't do it!) or carving your hairline (it's really easy to create a hairline that is entirely unlike an actual masculine hairline; I know this from experience).

A lot of traditional tips will make you look really out of place, which doesn't help you pass (things like dressing super conservative, wearing very baggy clothes, or piling on layers of clothing), and some "common sense" type tips also are often ineffective or harmful (like wearing shoes that are too big to disguise that your feet are small, binding too tight, or trying to pull off fake facial hair).

That doesn't mean you can't do these things, but I think it's more important to concentrate on things that alleviate dysphoria rather than merely ways to 'pass' better.

I have a particular loathing of behavior-based passing tips, and there are two reasons for that.

First, I have a really nasty history with it.  There are a lot of stereotypically masculine behaviors (little things like how I hold schoolbooks or cross my legs) that I naturally picked up in high school because my asshole Sociology teacher literally spent lessons on gender roles nit-picking every feminine thing I did in order to "prove" that even butch women are still feminine.

Second, in many respects this encourages misogynistic behavior and posturing.  Telling trans men things like "women are reserved, men take up space!" and instructing them to thus start stretching out and taking up a shitload of space in public is basically training trans men to emulate behaviors that disadvantage women.  This is especially pervasive when some dipshit transbro tells younger trans men how to talk to women.  For fuck's sake.

Finally, it's important to reiterate that in most of these cases (except that last paragraph) these are more personal preference than anything.  There's nothing wrong with trans men trying to pass.  I just think there's too much emphasis on it culturally, and that leads people to throwing around some hardcore awful stuff.