One of the most important goals of transgender people, especially those who identify with a gender binary existence, is to pass as the gender they identify with. Speaking first hand, what a royal pain in the ass this is! People like to trot out the old hypothetical aliens when seeking to demonstrate how alike we humans all are and highlight that to an outsider, there is no difference between a native Samoan and white guy from Duluth. The same could apply to gender. These aliens, usually imagined as the cute grey guys with the huge eyes, probably wouldn’t see much different in terms of gender either, at least any more than we can tell the difference between chimpanzees unless the male has a hard on. Good for them and their adorable anal probing ways, but people sure can, and do.
Keeping with my first hand perspective, it’s not at all comfortable for me to be perceived as male, even when I happen to be in male mode. It feels like a misrepresentation, a lie, and often even a costume. Transforming a middle age male body with a pot belly, ungodly thick beard growth, and severe balding is just as hard as you think it would be. I’m not looking for sympathy or anything. This is my lot and I accept it and happy to be living in an age where the option of having someone burn part of my face off with lasers is available and affordable. Living in the sixteenth century and relying on thick lead based makeup and the possibility of being burned at the stake would have been much worse.
The point I’m looking to explore is, what happens when all that can be done, is done, and it’s still not quite enough? What if I finish zapping the beard, get fitted for a kick ass wig, let the hormones do their thing, get all Mary Kay’d up, and still get read by everyone this side of Stevie Wonder? It does happen. Some trans women are naturally built like Refrigerator Perry or have faces that would pass for the Hulk with a little green paint. The only real answer is that you just live with it.
A female impersonator might consider going into another line of work, like an accountant bad at math. It might not be a fit if you can’t meet the basic qualifications for employment. For trans women, that isn’t a consideration. No one is transitioning with a qualification that they come out looking like Evangeline Lilly in the end or no dice. Once we figure out what we are, anything is better. To highlight my Gleek status, we may want to be Quinn Fabray, but if Coach Beiste is all we can manage, it’s still better than the alternative; she’s still a woman.
Passing is way more comfortable of course. Being accepted as a woman is far better than being accepted as a trans woman, and way, way better than being perceived as a man in a dress. Some of us tell ourselves we are more femme then Ann Hathaway just to make it out the front door. Others feel they may as well be wearing a tee shirt that reads, “I have/ used to have a penis” in sparkling neon letters no matter what they do, but have found a way to be OK with that. I wish I was in the former group but stuck in the latter. It’s driven me to work on passing – getting off my ass to start beard removal, dressing low key, learning to do makeup so it doesn’t look like I have 5 lbs of pancake batter on my face. Still, when I go out, I assume everyone can tell.
Everyone is different, but in the end we have to live our lives. This is who we are no matter what we look like. If we pass, wonderful, it will always be the goal. In the mean time I’ve developed a mental exercise to make the day to day a little bit easier. If I’m going to the grocery store, I think about all the people there or on their way to buy cat food and toilet paper. Not a one of those people has a thought or opinion I care about. Who are they to me? If that is the case, what changes in 10 minutes when I’m at the store with them? Yes, I know some will see me as affront to their god, or just plain silly, but most couldn’t care less. Me either and it makes life good.