A perennial debate in the trans* community relates to passing vs blending. For many years trans* folk wanted to ‘pass’ as the gender they were presenting as. Every time someone acknowledged you as a member of that gender was a small victory. Conversely every time you were clocked you felt deflated and defeated. Of course as soon as someone takes a second look at a trans* person the chances of being clocked go up exponentially. So then people started saying blending was a far more realistic aspiration to have.
This is a subtle but important change. Rather than hoping to make people believe you are a person of the gender you are presenting as, you now want to ‘look the part’. In other words you do not want to stand out, you want to just become part of the background so that fewer people will give you that dreaded second glance.
Then I saw this in a shopping mall:
‘Why blend in when you can stand out’.
This got me thinking if the majority of trans* people blend in and go unnoticed, then can we be surprised when the majority of people misunderstand us? Perhaps if we stood out a bit more we would be better understood? Or would we just feed into more stereotypes if we stood out more?
Of course there is also great personal risk involved. Some may take offense at our ‘standing out’, some may take the opportunity to verbally abuse, or worse, assault us. But with risk comes reward. A better understanding of who and what we are may lessen discrimination and abuse and may make our position in society less tenuous. Or it may make the situation worse.
This is a sensitive topic and I suspect there is no universally right (or wrong) answer. Rather, each individual needs to find the level of blending/passing/visibility that they are comfortable with and be true to themselves rather than trying to fill a societal norm. As always, your comments are welcome.
Disclaimer: There are numerous different interpretations of what ‘passing’, and/or ‘blending’ mean and as always each person has their unique take on this. I have deliberately presented the two terms in fairly broad terms for the purposes of discussion. Of course we can have a very nuanced discussion about what each term means to each person, but for the purposes of this post I am more interested in whether ‘passing’ helps or hampers the trans* cause more. I do not mean to denigrate either position or any person’s individual views or opinions. They are valid but may not be strictly relevant to this discussion.