Authenticity and “Passing”

I originally wrote most of this as a comment to another blog I follow. But I realized it’s useful and wanted others to have the chance to consider this as well.

I really really dislike the term “passing” but I’m going to use it here because so many people in the community understand it. I prefer to think of it as just acceptance of who I am.

One of the things about “passing” seems to be a lack of effort. And I don’t mean that in the way some people might think. In fact, perhaps I mean it the opposite way.

When we’re unsure of ourselves, when we’re not authentically ourselves (which I agree is hard!), we start to “act”, and our role in society becomes performance art rather than just who we are.

But the funny thing is that people seem to be able to detect performance art versus authenticity. Maybe we try too hard. Maybe we make subtle mistakes or maybe we’re acting so hard that we don’t make mistakes. Maybe we “act” too hard and it sends signals to others.

I’m not really sure. But what I do know is that as I acquired personal inner peace, as I began to simply “be me” as opposed to someone society thought I should be, my issues with “passing” vanished.

Yeah, I admit I’ve had medical help along the way as an MtF trans woman but that help, while it definitely helped, wasn’t the final piece of the puzzle for me.

It was when I finally found a way to “be me” that I stopped acting. And almost as soon as I stopped acting, I stopped getting misgendered, etc. I know it’s not that easy for everyone. I know that hormones need time to work. I know that there are other aspects. But regardless of all those things, it does seem to me that “passing” includes being authentic, just “being you” rather than a construct.

NOTE: Part of finding that inner peace, for me at least, did come from surgery. Once I completed GCS, then I began to finally, for the first time in my life, begin to feel positive about my own body. So surgery played a role there too, but only a role.

2 thoughts on “Authenticity and “Passing”

  1. *

    In the ‘old days’, patients were counselled to be acknowledged as a woman, not as a transsexual (see: ‘Stanford Gender Dysphoria Program’, 1977 ). ‘Passing’ that ‘Passing Test’ as opposed to ‘failing’ it.

    Yes, Cara, you are your self because you are no longer acting. Perhaps this lesson for all of us is that it is natural and easier – you wrote that it requires less ‘effort’ – to be one’s self rather than enduring the travails of presenting a facade.

    There! That word!

    For those who want a different word other than ‘passing’, ‘presenting’ was another word from the ‘old days’ (see: ‘Information for the Family of the Transsexual’, Janus, 1977).


    Unaware of your post here, a friend and I were discussing this topic at dinner yesterday. She is of our similar age and one year ahead of you.

    She recalled making her same observation in her time as you in your time – that she was no longer mis-gendered as soon as she achieved her self-confidence to ‘present’, to ‘pass’, to be her true self to others. This last Summer was one crowning moment. A waitress mistook my friend as someone she knew from years earlier. That waitress clocked my friend as cis! Now that is a complement! That is ‘passing’. That is ‘presenting’.

    Cara, you may also be clocked as cis if you have not been so already. It is there for those who ‘present’ or ‘pass’ as a woman in our Western society.

    Likewise, message boards for the trans community include conversation that one’s confidence goes quite a way upon acknowledgement by the public who accept you as a woman rather than as a transsexual.

    This, Cara, supports your own self-discovery of this fact. This does not occur on a set point on one mandated chronology we all follow. This re-inforces how we find this moment on our own time during our own journey.


    Not all seek to ‘pass’ or ‘present’ as a woman.

    There are members at least of four trans / LGBT groups where I participate who shun such a notion as being recognised as a woman and instead seek to be perceived as trans. Unheard of in those ‘old days’, a common option nowadays.


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