Hey Pandora,

Thanks for addressing the question of passing in trans-health.com. Of course, a lot of us have a large stake in this issue, because gendered aspects of our existence rest largely on interactions with others, and their appreciation of our gender. Everybody (I think) wants to be treated in a manner congruent with their gender. Trans people certainly know the pain of not being treated in accordance with our gender – not to mention basic respect we often don’t receive. I’m discouraged each time women avoid me (a trans dyke) as though I don’t belong in this community.

However, I am unable to pass. I am visibly trans – whether I like it or not. Like you stated, I too often “want to be me” without an emphasis on trans, yet this simply cannot be hidden for many individuals like myself. You indicated, “I’m feeling excluded from radical trans spaces because I do place some stock in and build at least part of my identity upon the fact that I’m a woman”. This seems to indicate that visible (MTF) trans people like myself do not identify as women – which of course is untrue. This statement makes me feel as though my status as a woman is less secure than yours, which is painful. You indicated that it is rough to out yourself (as trans) to other dykes; in my situation, it is rough to have the outing happen automatically and non-consensually.

As a visible trans woman then (yes – trans is usually part of the identity, because I don’t have the luxury of being able to hide it), I ask for understanding from all those in my community, including passing trans men and women. My attempts to accept myself involve being proud of who I am – which means being proud of my inevitable trans visibility. I have no choice but to love this. If my trans visibility (and necessary love of not passing) makes me radical, I hope that the reasons for it are clear, as are the difficulties it brings.

An additional point I’d like to make is that I believe in equal freedoms for trans and non-trans people. Trans people have long been encouraged to live more gender-normatively than non-trans people. While non-trans people suffered relatively little for engaging in gender-play, trans people are seen as deceitful, inconsistent, or insincere if we dare to play with gender. This enforced conservatism frequently produces “femme” trans women and masculine trans men. I hope for a future where trans people have the option of being butch or femme (even if for a night) without retribution. I hope that my occasional play with gender does not call my gender into doubt, any more than it would for a non-trans person.

In closing, I hope our overlapping communities can be mutually supportive and understanding of our varied situations. We need all the love we can get! Your article indicates ways in which passing is not universally privileged, and clearly being visibly trans can be very difficult. Rather than construct hierarchies (reversed or not) within our community, I hope that dialogue like this can help trans people of all kinds come together with mutual respect. Identities should not be evaluated politically.

Dana Baitz

PS – The 1-10 scale of “transsexual hierarchy” in your article is pretty true – I just can’t figure out if I’m near the top (“Attractive full-time pre-operative transsexuals”) or the bottom (“Other non-passing transsexuals”)! I hope I’m attractive in addition to non-passing! Oh – and transsexuals can cross-dress too! So confusing.