Passing when you don’t pass

I’m back home (San Francisco) for a few weeks and it’s been bringing up a ton of memories (both good and bad).  One of those is of starting T.  Made me realise that I’m heading toward 10 years on T now and oh my god do I hate so many of you.

See, I am still hairless (don’t mind really), scrawny (mind a lot), high voiced (eh, whatever), “delicate” (fuck everyone), and otherwise feminine enough that I pass somewhere around 50% of the time in most areas.  Here I pass closer to 95% of the time, but it’s definitely an exception.

I also am only out to around 5 people where I live.  In the entire time since deciding to transition, I’ve had problems with questions/rumours about my being trans a grand total of three times.  Once because I made a bad call about a guy who ended up being an asshole.

I’ve been meaning to write a post on how I manage this almost since I started this blog, but I never got around to it.  I think I always told myself that at some point I’d start passing more and then I could write about it from a more detached perspective.  That doesn’t look to be happening so I’m doing it now.

Most of what helps me avoid having to out myself is probably not all that helpful to most other people.  I seem to have had a fairly unique childhood that ends up being closer to that of guys who came out as children/early teens than guys who came out around 18-22 like I did.  I’m going to list them anyway though in case they’re helpful to anyone else.

  • I’m Latino.  The average male height in Mexico is 5’7″.  That makes me short even by those standards, but not as short as when compared to the US average of 5’10”.  (Some sources say Mexico’s average male height is 5’5″ which is closer to the average height of men in my family.)
  • The men in my family are equally small.  This is one that will not apply to most guys who have issues passing.  I have old family pictures that show my uncles with no real body or facial hair.  When my cousin moved in with me it helped because he’s 18 now and just barely an inch or two taller than me.  People just assume my family has odd genetics (which we do) and move on.
  • I had a very neutral childhood.  I’ve never been afraid of talking about my childhood or pulling out pictures of me as a kid because for where I grew up it wasn’t particularly girly.  One of my sisters sent me a box of childhood pictures she rescued from our parents and other than a handful (first communion, various weddings, quinceañera) they’re all boyish enough.  I was in middle school in the mid-90s, the boys’ and girls’ sections of clothing stores looked basically the same.  Bit more blue in the boys’ sections.
  • I have no issues lying.  This seems to be a big one trans guys have problems with.  I don’t give a damn about lying to someone if they ask if I’m trans.  They are asking about my genitalia, I see no reason to act like the basic rules of polite society are still in play.
  • I have friends who also have no issues lying. The people who I’m out to know that they are 100% expected to lie if someone asks them if I’m trans.  This is something I think is a basic requirement of an ally.  I do not care what your opinions on lying are, outing a trans person has serious consequences and cannot be taken back.  You shouldn’t do it if you aren’t willing to risk ruining someone’s entire life.
  • I have an answer for everything.  This came with practice.  I moved around a lot when I was first transitioning which meant I had to deal with new people asking the same questions over and over.  It took a few rounds, but after a while I learned how to deal with any question that might come up.
  • I don’t take outings seriously.  This is hard.  Really hard.  I’ve found that the best response to an outing by someone who’s not close to you is to laugh though.  Treat it like a joke.  Play confused.  If they’re an old boyfriend/hook-up make a comment about how they probably wish that was true because at least then they’d have an excuse for the god awful sex.  Roll your eyes and say that it’s sad how limited their imagination is — of course the tiny, feminine-looking guy is trans.  Totally the first time you’ve heard that before.  Idiot can’t even come up with something original.
  • I keep my trans-related politics quiet.  I am still involved with trans politics.  I do still go to support groups and work on basic access issues.  I just don’t make it my entire life.  I work primarily as an ally.  I use the words “they” and “them” a lot.  The trans groups I go to are all out of my city.  People know I’m stealth so they know not to out me.  Occasionally this does require not correcting someone when they’ve said something offensive or generalising, but honestly I have to do that sometimes even with the oppressed groups I’m open about being a part of.  Sometimes it’s better to save the fight for another time.
  • Really I think the biggest one is that I’m confident and unapologetic.  Yeah, I’m short.  I’m “dainty”.  I have a high voice and I can’t lift heavy things and I tend to squeal over cute animals.  I don’t hide those things though.  I don’t give a damn if other people have a problem with them.  I expect people to treat me as the man I am regardless of my physical appearance.  And 99% of the time they do.  It usually confuses them a bit at first, but they adjust.

Obviously most guys aren’t going to have a family where the guys still look 12 well into their 40s.  That’s not exactly a common thing.  Neither is being on T for a decade without passing 100% though.  Most of you will be read as a guy after a few years on T.  For those of us who don’t, there are ways of managing.  It just takes trial and error and a ton of patience.  More patience than the guys who pass after two months can appreciate.  It’s not easy and it’s not particularly fun, but our options are either adjust or be miserable.  Personally, I try to avoid misery if I can.

3 thoughts on “Passing when you don’t pass

  1. This is part of why I’m hesitant to take T. The physical changes aren’t what I’m wild about, and my genetics wouldn’t let me pass easily, if at all.

    I am glad you shared your experiences of passing without having to be a perfect picture of masculinity, it’s definitely useful to know. It’s also good to acknowledge that not all people are able to pass flawlessly on T, I don’t see enough people acknowledge that and I’ve seen some guys who were devastated when they didn’t get the results on T everyone told them they’d have. I don’t want to discourage anyone from getting on T who needs to, this post is actually perfect because it points out that not getting perfect results doesn’t prevent passing, but it’s important to acknowledge that things don’t always go perfectly.

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    • Yeah, I knew going in that I wasn’t going to pass within a year like all the trans guy sites up at the time insisted I would. If I’m read properly by the time I’m 40 I’ll consider it a win. I could tell that just by looking at my family though, none of my male cousins had to shave every day and most of their fathers didn’t stop having patchy facial hair until I was in my early teens. I think if you don’t have that warning beforehand it’s a lot harder to deal with.

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