WORDS IN PASSING

Posted by Kate Whitefield on Thursday, December 6, 2012

SOME WORDS IN PASSING  

clientuploads/kate-pass.jpgAs a transgender woman, I frequently heard from those around me, during and after my transition, that I was or wasn’t “Passing”. It’s a commonly used term and it is thought that we newly transitioned women and men are very occupied by the necessity to “Pass”.  However I have adopted a new term.  I call it “Blending”

In today’s culture, in referring to the transgender community, the term “Passing” is still used frequently.   I have felt, however, that the term “Passing” implies deceit, and pretense.  Hearing the term “passing” applied to me, even approvingly, feels as though I am still in hiding, and that the appearance I project to the world is not the authentic me.  

I would argue that the reverse is true.  I feel that it is actually during the years before gathering the courage to transition, is when we are “Passing” and that is when we are pretending to be someone that we are not.   Since the age of five, I felt that I was struggling to “Pass” as a boy, and much later as an adult, I was doing my very best to “Pass”, to convincingly say to the world  that the image I presented to the world was authentic and real.  And I knew very well that it was not!  For years, my most fearful thought was “If you knew who I am inside, you wouldn’t want to know me.” I also realized that revealing who I was inside would make me vulnerable to being physically threatened, or worse! That went on for many years, and the feeling of having to “pass” stayed with me.   It was only at the time I started to transition, that my feeling of pretense and hiding evaporated. I was finally daring to reveal my authentic self and was not pretending anything.  “What you saw is what you got”.  Whether I “blended” well or not so well, I was finally revealing my authentic self. 

In truth, the point at which I stopped “passing” and began to “blend” was not well defined, but gradually the sense of rightness with me became so strong, that all pretense was gone, and I knew I was hiding nothing.   The term “Passing” was no longer appropriate and the term “Blending”, whether blending well, or not so well, was the right word to use.

Comments
Taryn on February 9, 2014 at 10:42:58 am said:
Thank you, Kate ... that's wonderfully put. I know for myself too, once I began to gain that internal sense of "rightness" as you describe it, concerns over how well I happen to "look like" a woman on any particular day have pretty much faded away. How could they not, really, when in essence, with that "rightness" comes the understanding that this *is* who I am. Now, the question "how do I look?" is still one that I will sometimes ask (what woman wouldn't!) -- but as I have progressed, I'm happy to find myself in a place where I'm not asking the question with any overtones in the sense of "do I 'pass'?"

I think, too, it has never been a helpful thing that the opposite term that often springs to mind for "passing" is "failing." Whereas, if someone happens to notice that I am a transgender person in a particular situation -- whether because I am not "blending" so well at the moment, or for any other reason -- for me, there is no sense of "failure" involved. After all, I'm not trying to hide anything -- this *is* me -- as you put it, what you see is what you get.

Thanks for the encouraging post!
Lauralee Arnold on December 17, 2012 at 12:41:52 pm said:
I really appreciate that you shared your perspective, Kate. I readily admit that I have used the term "passing" approvingly without realizing that it could feel hurtful to a transgendered person. Blending is so much more empowering a term!

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