My Thoughts on Passing

Since my son, Kris, came out to me as transgender, in the past 3+ years, the word ‘passing’ has come and gone in our vocabularies. The word never set well with me and when we used it that first year (Kris included), it was difficult for people to grasp.

Using the word ‘passing’ in reference to a person who is trying to beย recognized as the gender they truly are gives the misconception that the person is not ‘really’ that gender. It invalidates them.

In that first year, as Kris was taking steps towards transition, he spent a few months moving back and forth between presenting himself as female and male and sometimes adopting a more ambiguous appearance. In those early days, he was very self-conscious- not of the male attire… but of all his female attributes. He felt his face was too soft and feminine, his body too curvy with breasts and hips and his voice too high-pitched. Although he was 100% sure that he was male, outwardly he was very aware of these parts that shouted GIRL to him. He had spent over 18 years living as a girl and even though that was completely at odds with everything he felt inside, it was also the only way he knew how to be.

When he was dressed in male clothing in the beginning, he was very concerned with passing. It was an obsession that while I thought I understood, it would be a year or two before I would really ‘get it’. The truth is that at that time- he was trying to pass as male, even though he knew that inside he was male. He was still living with so much of Kerri inside himself too, that he wasn’t quite sure who Kris was. I think he had to go through that very unsettling time of wearing those boy clothes and putting himself out there as Kris while he was still being Kerri more than he wanted to admit. And he had to PASS as Kris. cropYou might think I’m insane (and who’s to say that I’m not!) but when I look at Kris, I don’t see Kerri. Not anymore. At times they feel like two very distinct individuals who share a few common traits and a history. Like twins. So much of Kris was always there all along inside Kerri. But some things faded away and others appeared.

Kris was nervous about venturing out into the world as his true self. But he was excited, too. He changed his name and he began changing his outward appearance before he knew what was Kerri and what was Kris, and I think he was passing in those early days. He wasn’t really himself yet.

It was only as time went by and he was clearly recognized as a guy that the word ‘passing’ fell from our vocabulary. As Kris gained confidence in being himself and showing the world who he was, more and more of the Kris that I know and love today emerged. Kris is not ‘passing’ . He IS.

I’ve shared an article below that I feel does an excellent job of explaining why there are issues with the word ‘passing’. I know that this article is making the rounds in other blog posts and on Facebook but if you haven’t read it yet, it’s definitely worth the read.

Op-ed: I’m a Trans Man Who Doesn’t ‘Pass’ โ€” And You Shouldn’t Either

12 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Passing

  1. Jeremy stands out in the crowd like a purple unicorn. Someone tactfully asked zir if zie was halfway through transition. Zie looked confused then said, “No, this is just me.” The less tactful ask if zie’s “half boy, half girl”. The best simply smile and say hi.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the thing you really captured is the internal struggle that a trans person goes thru…when we KNOW who and what we are, and our bodies and society say something different…thus “to pass” becomes something that on the one hand is rewarding and gratifying but ultimately can carry seeds of discontent, for it can undermine a sense of authenticity and legitimacy.

    I should not need to be “authenticated” by how people read me…and sometimes I am good with that and sometimes the treatment I must undergo is truly heartbreaking.

    I have been reading a lot of things along this line, Sissa…things that are challenging and helpful, and question the concept of “passing”.

    I guess I would say that I am so grateful for you, and for Dani…you two more than anyone else in my life (besides Jane) have received me…instantly and totally right from the very beginning, as who and what I am…and there is no stress or strain, there is not *insert beat while translation of gender occurs*

    There is just sisterhood…and love.

    One of your commenters is courageously grappling with issues that they would know nothing of if it weren’t for reading your post…and that is so fab, because it goes to what I write about all the time up on Grace Notes: the fact that each human being is in their own way “trans”…crossing over the river…from one thing to another, and always seeking to pass or struggling with not needing to…and really either actively wrestling with or running from that haunting cry in our marrow “Who am I?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s so complicated and simple all at the same time. The simplicity is accepting others as they are and accepting ourselves (transition or not). The complexities are soooooo complex!


    • Oh yes, Kris just wanted those hips to be gone! And I understand that one of the crowd feeling- Kris just wants to BE.

      Thank you! And good luck to Jeremy with the shots. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sissa, this is FAB! I will comment further when I have my lappie, but just wanted you to know that I think this is superbly written, and totes captures the heart of the issue. ๐Ÿ’•โคโค๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’–

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh gosh, thank you! The first time I saw this article was when Kris shared it on Facebook and then of course, it popped up EVERYWHERE- as these things do. When I started writing, I wasn’t sure where I was going with it. If anything, this post reaffirmed why it’s so important to write even when you don’t know where you are going.

      Your opinion means a lot to me! Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Every time I read a new post written by you I grow more impressed with you (it helps that you write so well of course) and more touched by the love you share with your son. Kris is a very lucky young man to have such a darling sweet mom!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheryl, there’s so much more than what most people realize that trans people experience. When someone asks a question, I try to answer it and I always seem to add ‘and there’s more’ because it’s not quite so simple. I’m glad he’s Kris, too, because Kerri was a real mystery to us all!

      Liked by 1 person

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