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 be 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. You 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.