This might seem controversial and counter-intuitive, but I truly believe that for lots of reasons, passing isn’t important.
Bear with me.
What do we want as crossdressers?
I wonder sometimes, how deeply we examine this. Take a moment to consider what you want, or even why you crossdress. Really stop and think about it. Do you want to be a woman? Do you want to look like a woman? Is it just about the clothes, or is it something more? Is it purely sexual? Is it not sexual at all, but something more elusive? Is it wrapped up in your identity, and what does that mean for you?
The answers to these questions will vary wildly between different people, and each is just as valid as the other. But at the root of it all is this one universal struggle: We want to be ourselves.
What do we mean by passing?
Quick terminology check here – when we talk about passing, we mean passing as a woman, i.e. being seen as female. Passing means being able to walk down the street and have people think you are a woman. Passing without notice.
Why we can’t pass
For the vast majority of us, passing is impossible. We look around us and idealise these tiny, delicate women. Women with perfect bodies upon which they can hang gorgeous clothes; with perfect skin and faces that need no makeup to look unimaginably beautiful; who seem so utterly blissful and carefree. Then we look at ourselves and see comparative monsters. We are taller, stockier, less curvy – ultimately less feminine. We have undefined waists, broader shoulders, stronger chins, deeper voices, and hair that apparently decides to sprout from wherever it damn well pleases. Our feet won’t fit into the nicest shoes, our fingers too big for delicate jewellery, our hips too narrow for the prettier dresses.
Why do we want to pass?
This is complex. Within each of us is this seed that has grown over the years; the roots are buried somewhere deep inside us; the branches of our own identity turning painfully inwards to find still no light because we’ve built a wall to hide it – A wall built from bricks of fear, and of shame. We’ve spent so long being convinced that we’re monsters because we don’t look like women, that we’re monsters because we want to look like women. Because we’re different.
Is passing, then, the goal of looking like a woman?
Or is it the goal of not looking like a man who wants to look like a woman?
Why is this bad?
I would say that both of these are somewhat toxic.
If your ultimate goal is to be seen as a woman, knowing that the vast majority of us cannot effectively pass, you will probably be setting yourself up for failure, and ultimately depression and self-loathing.
Likewise if your goal is to hide, you are reinforcing, and further internalising, the notion that crossdressing is something to be ashamed of (it is resolutely not).
What should our goal be?
We started off by realising that crossdressing comes down to being able to be who we are; To express ourselves freely. That should be our goal. There is nothing wrong with getting better at makeup, getting better at styling your hair or choosing clothes that fit your body – but you should be aiming to do this in order to be yourself, and not some imaginary, unattainable goddess. You want to chip away the marble to find your own Venus de Milo, and not papier-mache over what you perceive as your own ugliness.
You want to throw on a dress? DO IT
You want to put on makeup and go see a movie? GREAT I’LL COME TOO
Allow yourself the personal freedom to just be you – maybe you’ll never pass, but that’s ok :)
Passing means living up to unrealistic expectations.
See more about my journey here
Please consider that for many women that are born female the experience can be the same. If you do not conform to the feminine ideal that you stated above you can be made to feel “monstrous” and clunky. That is part of what being female is in our culture – so I guess that has to be considered a normal part of the deal if you want to step into the world of looking female at any level. It sucks whether you are trans or not.
Unrealistic expectations are bad. Considering that a normal part of womanhood is awful, and part of the problem. Giving yourself the latitude to not be perfect: that’s ok.
I’ll never pass. I recognized that a long time ago, so I’ve had to create a different goal. But to get there I had to deal with all the fear that had been instilled in me over the years. Because at first, passing is seen as a way to avoid all the potential negative responses, “if they see a woman they won’t beat me up.” While some of that is society, a lot of that is generated by our inability to accept ourselves. Because if we can’t do that, we don’t have the ability to see the goal you set of “just be yourself”.
So the new goal, after accepting yourself as a crossdresser is “Do the best you can with what you have”. The result is creating a presentation that shows you care about what you are doing. It’s designed to boost the ego just a little and raise the spirits so when you go out, you do it with your head up, confident and open to the world. It seems the vast majority of the world responds to that smile and just can’t be anything more than maybe a little snarky when you feel that good about yourself. And honestly, is being happy doing something that you enjoy an unrealistic expectation?
Definitely not! I think you’ve totally taken the right approach :)
Do your best with a realistic presentation,be confident,and never flinch ! You will be accepted for being who you are and possibly included socially as well right away or after..I live it and love it !
Absolutely! :D I’m constantly surprised by how many people either don’t care, or are excited for when I dress up :D
This is awesome!!! Keep up the good work Liz!
:D thanks! I’ll keep trying :)
Well written and echos thoughts and feelings I have had numerous times over the years. On occasion I have been known to throw on a ridiculously bright colored wig knowing I was not going the “pass” that night and saying F it… If I can’ tapas I will at least have fun! I appreciate you sharing.
<3 thank you for reading! There's such a feeling of liberation knowing that you can't pass, but that it's ok. In person, I'm sure I can't pass, but the fact that I can still go out there - it's everything I've wanted :)
Wow! This echos exactly how i feel. I dress and do what i do not to emulate or assimilate, I do it just to be me.
:D awesome! Just keep being you, Donna! :) So long as you’re not hurting anyone, seems like you should be able to do what you want :)
I agree whole heartedly. Comparisons with an idealised femininity is doomed before it starts. I realised this fairly early on. I got to a point where I gave up lying to myself and started being brutally honest. I pass *somewhat*, mainly sat down in a dark room without saying anything, but I don’t go out of my way to pass, I go out as who I am, not who I think the world wants to see. Yes, I’ll wear skirts, skinny jeans and dresses, and while I love the look of the outfits dearly, their major function for me is to tell other people how I wish to be treated. Because I am a woman, I would like to be treated as one, and the makeup, hair, clothes, shoes, etc work to that end. And it does work. Five seconds with me, and people know I’m trans. it doesn’t matter. I’m proud of that fact. I don’t want to hide away in a closet, and I’m no Laverne Cox or Paris Lees. What pleases me is when I do get made, I still get treated as a woman, and people who may not have realised they’ve met a transgender person before, now come to understand that we’re ordinary. We go grocery shopping, we go for meals, we go to the cinema and the beach. We are not monsters, we do not need to hide away and we mnost definitely do not need to be ashamed of who we are, and all of that means we DON’T HAVE TO PASS to be who we are.
Thanks for the wonderful article!
Thank you for reading!! And thank for you being you! Going out can be so terrifying sometimes, but every time we do, not only does it get easier for us, but it gets easier for everyone else too, since we’re out there showing the world we exist, and that we’re not monsters :)
So thank you for that!!
Thanks for putting into words my motto in life
<3 Thank you for reading, Anita! :)
This is about as good as I have ever seen. Thank you.
Thank *you*! :)
I’m glad to be transgender and not bothered in the slightest about other people seeing that I am,Liz.It’s their attitudes to me that really matter.I’m over the moon when someone approaches me and treats me like a person.And there are alot of nice people like that out there.I love feeling feminine and expressing that feeling outwardly but don’t care about passing completely a woman.Being accepted for who I am as transgender means much more.Regards,Debbie:-)XXXXXXXXX
I absolutely agree! Being treated like a *person* is all I want – regardless of how I’m dressed :)
Great article. Passing is almost a myth, humans are experts at reading people. A tiny number of gorgeous tgs do exist, but just as with geneticfemale models, they are rare.
Thanks! I totally agree – the best we can do is be ourselves and try not to worry :) <3
Excellent article Liz, very well said! I’m going to pass this on to a few newbies I know who’ve come to me for advice recently.
My thoughts/ ramblings are captured on http://www.whatkathydidnext.wordpress.com.
:D thank you for sharing!!!
I used to get hung up on trying to pass, but what you say is true, as something will give us away, like height and feet & stockiness, like you say. I say just try & be the best you!
Be the best looking trans Gurl you can & be proud of it!
Definitely trying :) <3 Thanks for reading!
My take: how people interact with you is what matters rather than whether you “pass”.
The good and bad news is that people usually interact with you the way you expect them to. If you lack confidence and are daring them to notice you and remark on your appearance, they sometimes will. If you project a confident woman who is going about her business, that is how they will treat you.
You’re absolutely right :) Owning who you are is definitely the key :)
Passing Important? nahhhh. All about self expression and being you. So totally agree on the principal.
I think Male and Female stereotypes are good just like superheroes. Good archetypes but not necessarily right for everyone to ‘be’. I’ve always only eva wanted to be me. Crossdressing is just a word that imply’s it could be wrong to wear something? I prefer Trans. Everyone on the planet is Trans’, they just don’t know it ;) i.e. becoming something they weren’t yesterday.
I don’t think ‘crossdressing’ implies something bad necessarily – it’s the person who interprets it who is adding the connotations, good or bad. Everyone’s fighting to be themselves – some just can be themselves a bit easier :)
Great piece, I loved reading this. I came to exactly this conclusion about 4 years ago. As long as I like what I see in the mirror, I’m happy. And what I’ve found is that, once I stopped stressing out about passing, I actually had a much easier time passing! I think it comes from being happy and confident in my appearance. I relax on the street, so I guess people don’t hone in on me.
Exactly! The mirror is the hardest part for me – once I’m happy with how I look, nothing in the world can stop me :D
I enjoyed the premise of your argument & I think that for many cross dressers starting out passing is indeed their unconscious goal- it’s also intrinsically linked to the often strong desire to understand “why?”- as many cross dressers try to determine what caused them to be a cross dresser in the first place? More often than not as you say it’s down to a multitude of reasons & not just simply “nature” or “nurture” but that ever moving illusive target of “perfection” which we misguidedly assume to be passing is normally created at the same time as we first realise we are a cross dresser.
For me personally it’s always been a sexual motivation & not a lifestyle one but it took me almost 20 years to realise that the goal I was after was not actually passing but it was in fact being the best & most convincing cross dresser I could ever be. Nowadays the sexier & more attractive cross dresser I can be far outweighs any desire to pass in public & at 6ft2 with a large chin & goalkeepers hands I’m never going to but I have legs & an ass to die for and I’m proud of the fact that they look darn sexy in stockings & knickers!
Today I love achieving the goal of bringing as much pleasure as I can to others- that’s far more fulfilling & rewarding than trying to pass which is something I know I’ll never do and long since found peace with.
Hi, when I was younger,passing was very important, because I was ridiculed and tortured because I was a guy in women’s clothes. So i desired so much to be pasable, but it was more of the perception of people of me. Now its more about my perception of myself. How I feel if I decide to present myself as Eva. It selfish, I know, but life is a journey and exploration, and find where you feel happy. There are people that will love you for who you are.
I don’t think it’s selifsh in a bad sense – we’re allowed to find our own happiness :)
Thanks for reading!
l’ve figured out some things. It’s not as fun to go uot dressed up without some companions, which is even true for females. Trying to look female is too much work, except on Hallowen, or photo shoots. Most Americans are unaware that in some other cultures, makeup, hair, wrap skirts, or knee length pleated skirts are unisex items. Many styles were invented for men, but all the cool fashions are eventually usurped by women.
I don’t think it’s *too* much work – but it’s definitely work! Isn’t doing things with companions always a lot more fun? :D When I go out, it’s usually either to work (which I think counts as with companions!) or with some friends to a bar/club/restaurant/whatever :)
I love this and can echo many of the comments. I have come to terms with accepting that at 6″1″, along with my broad shoulders, and large hands and feet, passing would never be an option. But I like the idea of just presenting as yourself and letting people accept you as a guy who can coordinate an outfit to match his heels and accessories. I have to much fashion sense for one gender so why force myself to only one.
Damn right :D We’re all fighting to find a way to hide so we can be ourselves, but I don’t think we have to necessarily hide at all :)
Thanks for reading :)
I want to think as Liz, but it is too optimistic and dangerous… violence against us is my primary concern and even if I am passable to some degree, there is always some nervousness. Sucks being transgendered… as I got older, I felt more open to crossdressing yet people told me they felt a feminine presence when I did transform… and they could not see me the same way… an unknown person to them. And I wasn’t trying hard to pass, I just felt happy to wear my tight jeans and boots with heels and a lifted bra. But they notice a difference in my expression, my mood, as I embraced being a “feminine woman”. This is the problem with crossdressers… in a sense we are women willing to live in a male body…(perhaps because at some point male privilege will serve us for our purposes) yet this binary identity pisses and hurts loved ones sometimes… it brings a burden because it is like fighting a jungle, against nature. Your hair grows and you age like a man. Yet some can still manage to look pretty, this still takes considerable work. Is the solution becoming transsexual, embracing the female role and identity to the maximum? Or will some regret this change leading to a more depressive life or suicide? Women get pissed off at cds because they don’t view the cds as authentic women, not because they are physically monstrous but because they do not act the way normal women do… a typical stereotyped adult women’s behavior for example is about caring for the family, being a mom, doing the chores, nurturing, cooking, cleaning the restrroms, they don’t have time to play video games, and plus doing or engaging more feminine activities. I am not saying all women do this, feminists want freedom for women as well to do what they please without being tied to the duties of motherhood and marriage… so I guess crossdressers are ultimately men enjoying the freedoms of feminism? We are selfish, women trapped in men’s bodies that do not want to do our female duties and enjoy all the freedom except if we have a family to take care of, ie, we are parents?
You’ve said a lot of things here, so I’ll try to respond to each thing:
I don’t think it’s too optimistic at all, or too dangerous, to want to be yourself. Violence against us is definitely a concern, of course, but how will that change if we’re still seen as freaks and monsters? The more we go out, the more we are seen, the less of a novelty we will be. Of course, every time we go out dressed, we should exercise appropriate judgement.
I don’t think it’s true at all that all crossdressers are women willing to live in a male body. I am male, but with a strong feminine side. I don’t think surgery is the solution to this – surgery’s only solution is for making one’s body one’s gender.
I don’t think we are selfish at all – wanting to be who you are isn’t a selfish exercise, it’s self-actualisation.
The best two words in this article are the last two…”Fuck Passing”.
I’m a f/t trans woman, passable..yes, but will NEVER look in the mirror and see the girl I see in my mind. Your explanation is spot on, as we have all suffered testosterone’s ravaging…realistically, we’ll always see the flaws you so accurately mentioned.
The confidence and comfort I find is in ‘being the best I can be’. I cannot compete with a cis woman’s frame, size, and shape…certainly not without lot’s of surgery, which is both expensive and risky.
Being full time, there is no escape back into the shell of manhood…so we must press on, celebrating the realization of who we are and who we’ve become. Cis women have that very same criticisms of themselves, so we are very much alike that way.
So yeah, sometimes people may wonder…in my case, because my height (6’1″ in flats) makes heads turn, no matter how great I may look and feel. Being comfortable in your own skin exudes a confidence that is attractive to ALL. Most women I speak with want to be like me, and I them…it’s a constant conformation that everyone wants to be something they’re not.
So really, it’s not necessarily about ‘passing’ for me, but owning the skin I’m in. Make improvements if you can with things you do have control of (hair, clothes, shoes, make-up, weight, body shapers, voice, etc.), and embrace those things about yourself you cannot change. (height, structure, etc.) Truly fall in love with YOU.
Very well stated Ally. For me, I know I’ll never pass, but at least now I can look in the mirror and smile because I am happy. I love “me” like never before. I recently had a makeover and not to waste my day, I drove to downtown Charleston, SC and I walked up and down King St. I had never been so scared, yet so exhilarated in my life! And yes Liz, it is about wanting to be ourselves, whatever that may be. But I do think too, that many transwomen get caught up in the “idea” of passing. I know. I was there…it consumed me, wanting to pass. Somewhere along the way though, I just stopped. I remember just looking in the mirror. I seen “me” there looking back, I seen in my own eyes, the woman that had always been there. I no longer needed someone else to validate me. I no longer need the makeup, the dress, the shoes…I finally see me as me and I love it! Oh don’t get me wrong! I still love the makeup, the clothes, the SHOES! But I no longer “need” them to know that I am a WOMAN! Passable or not!
Absolutely! Learning how to be yourself – how to be honest with yourself and to truly love yourself – is a hard struggle that I don’t think ever really stops, but making progress with it yields amazing results :)
Thank you for your amazing comment, and thank you for reading :)
Your post and the comments are excellent. THere is only so much that a person can do but one can learn to reach a comfort level in their own skin.
In this day and age more and more things are accepted and while safety should never be overlooked it would seem that by and large most presentations can bet by in most circumstances. Just try to avoid joing the class of the permananetly agreived. Have fun with who you are and what you do.
I concur! I’ve had little-to-no interactions with people who have been judgy or abusive – if anything, I’ll get smiles :D
Amen to this post. I do dress in public and I do wish to look good but the reality is I am a guy. Just like a tomboy is a girl I am a Janegirl. I do not believe I need to “pass” to express my fem side. And believe it or not quiet a few people come up to me and express their approval. A smile and confidence out shines and over comes the unrealistic bar of “Passing”.
Really great thoughts! and expressed nicely
How often have we been asked “Are you passable?”.Well that is certainly a bit rude , but it doesn’t always mean the person asking is a jerk
For me, my goal is to be attractive and in my youth I hit the goal on occasion.
But it was always in a controlled context, not walking a whole bunch, not talking a whole bunch and making sure my strong points were very visible.
But I never answered that boorish question with a simple yes. I always say a true women takes care of details on so many levels that I would need to be always en femme for 4-5 weeks just to start to cover all the nuances.
Many times I have looked bad and I still remember the day I realized dear god,I’m starting to look like my mom!
We can’t completely ignore the pressure for women to look great, but we can accept that we do what we can,when we can and take enjoyment form those moments
Please do not stop your blog. I love it. What I think I love the best is how you do it, dress that is. How you want and how girls do. They can come into work all year no make up, no skirts, hair tied back, but then just on a whim or whatever, just show up hair fixed, make up, nails painted, and in a skirt. No reason, just because they want too. I would just love to be able to do that. I can go out places and pass and have long hair, but no pierced ears. Just to be able to dress or not dress whenever I want, just like women do would be amazing. I have fought this my entire life wanting to dress in neat clothes. Heck even just a jean skirt and some nice tights be a fun change. Women get to wear everything and anything they want at a whim, drives me up the wall. I do not want to present as a woman all the time, I just want to wear what I want.
I know you are busy with work, wife, and a kid.
I used to follow this youtuber “Ask A Transexual” she stopped because she ran out of questions of things to explain. What I do not think she realized was that I was not just there for questions, but for a trans person to watch. I don’t care if she had just talked about her lawnmower or her video games.
I just live in the middle of no where and don’t have any real t friends. I mean over the years I did, but a few have passed on, several quit, and the rest just moved away.
If you can not, thanks for making the blog, I have enjoyed it. I LOVED seeing the photos from the party’s you had at work. Those looked so fun. 10 years ago or so, I grew my hair out long in to go as a girl to a work halloween party. I guess I did too good of a job because they just did not know what to take me as. They were floored. Lunch came and time for the party, and no one would talk to me, not even my cousin. Now I have been to the mall and other places no problem, was an age appropriate outfit, not over the top, just super realistic. A few talked to me at other times of the day, but not at the party. I literally had to leave the party, you could hear a pin drop, they were so mean. I had always wanted to come to work dressed, I mean network administration, good grief can do that in a skirt.
I watch this girl Chloe Arden now, I don’t think 18 year old t girls know how easy the have it compared to the past. Well she is from a big city, I mean really mom I want to be a girl… mom…ok.
Hi there!! I’ll never fully disappear :D it’s just been real busy lately :S There’s definitely been a trend of trans* bloggers disappearing off into the ether – I’ve seen it happen again and again, and I’m resolutely opposed to that being me :D
So stay strong, I’ll be posting again as soon as I find the time!!
Thank you. I feel I needed to hear this today.
I’ve got really broad shoulders so it is tough sometimes to feel feminine *sad*- which means I have to shop for a 42in non-padded bust or a 44in when padded yet my waist is a 31 and (27 to 26 with a corset) and very little butt (although I just started natural supplements for that). But the sculpted chin and hooded eyes are the give away for sure…
Just wanted to say thank you. Going to go home and put on my skirt – world be damned!
World be damned, indeed! (Given the current situation with COVID-19, it might be! :S)
There are women out there that don’t fit into some people “ideal” of femininity, and so that’s a struggle that even they, whom we aspire to seen as, have to deal with. Focus less on what your giveaways are, and maybe what you can accentuate! I’m really into jewelery right now (I have literally 10 rings on my fingers, 4 toe rings, 2 ankle bracelets on right now :D) – work with what you’ve got, and focus on being happy more than anything. As hard as it is to come to terms with, what other people think *really* doesn’t matter. Your thoughts and your feelings shape your view of the world. Change that, and the rest might just follow <3
For me, now, in my dressing, although i would love to be passable, its not actually that important to me, dressing is my private time and I don’t think or picture how i actually look but more picture myself how I feel, how good the lingerie and clothes make me feel and the feel of them honestly makes me feel gorgeous so that’s how i picture myself
I’m a transwoman and passing used to matter to me a lot, but at this point I totally agree with you, fuck passing! i think as queers we need to stop looking at ourselves through cis/het beauty lens and start valuing our queerness for its own sake
thanks for this post!