Passing Judgement… On Passing.

… aaaand now I’m back to gender.

So this is one of those All-Time Top Irritations for me: passing.  Not the action itself – I’ll get onto that in a moment – but the way the word is used.

The arguments we’ve probably all heard before are the same ones rolling around in my head; the way it makes it sound like the responsibility falls on the transperson rather than the person judging their appearance or actions; the way that it’s only transpeople who have to deal with it; the way it causes endless confusion for non-binary-identified people – whether the possibility of “passing” as such exists, in other words; the way that it can make or break your confidence, regardless of how moronic the gender judge causing it may be… and so on.

But I think the reason the term bothers me so much is that, despite my dislike of its use and my wish to distance myself from it, it still gets in my head.

And Now For The Rant
I suppose it’s easy for me, as my not-being-binary is fairly stable, and includes one binary option but not the other.  So passing as One Or The Other is still possible, and preferable.  I’m ashamed to admit it, but I get that glowy feeling whenever I’m read as male.  But it’s not just that; conversely, I get the urge to hide in a corner and cry whenever I’m read as female.  (And yes, the use of “I’m read as” rather than “I pass as” was very deliberate.)

And I don’t like it.  It makes me uncomfortable that I can’t help my reactions.  Especially since I don’t want to be controlled by something as surface-level as outward presentation.

I’m grateful for my Asperger’s most of the time, because I’m usually unaware of how I’m being read by others.  I’m about as far from a mind-reader as you can get, and sometimes I can’t be thankful enough.  The usual way I can tell if I’m “passing” (shudder) in a way I would prefer – non-female of any kind, basically (equalling male in the Real World, which is fine by me) – is by the use of “mate”.

That means I pass as male almost all the time… from behind.  I don’t quite know why.  But I’ve not had nearly as many definite incidents of Successful Passing from the front.  As far as I know.

And following each of those times, I have come away grinning to myself, looking as bonkers as can be.  Often laughing out loud for no apparent reason.  Then laughing harder at the weird reactions I’ve received due to the first set of apparently-unprovoked laughter.  Which is even stranger considering how phobic I am of all things public.

The Most Recent Example
When I commute into uni each day, the routine usually goes like this: drive to station with mum who works nearby, use facilities in her workplace (which is usually deserted at 7.30 AM), then train and tube the rest of the way.

This involves passing various people on reception desks, and people setting things up in various rooms or cleaning and so on.  In particular, we’ve passed the same people every day for quite some time now; my mum being The Eternally Friendly One, smiling away and giggling at everyone she passes all the while.

So these same people watch us walk in through the car park entrance and walk into the womens toilets, deep in (often odd) conversation.  And usually, we also walk back out again at some point.

When term finished at uni, my mum was still working every day.  And because she’s always on good terms witheveryone, she comes home and reports all the funny conversations she’s had.  And when she was off on holiday too, it turned out that she’d forgotten to mention one little gem.

She’d passed one of these Early Morning People and done her usual bouncy greeting, and apparently my presence is noted, as my poor mother was asked where “the man she comes in with” was.  Again, on hearing this, I got the Warm Fuzzy Feeling… until I was informed that she’d been forced to out me.

I didn’t appreciate that one.  But I understood the reason for it: my mum thought it was probably a good idea to “correct” the gendering there because we’d both gone into the womens’ toilets together, and she didn’t want to cause further… confusion.  Although I must admit, I reserve the right to judge people if they were thinking along The Weird Lines.  I mean seriously.  Shudder.

But for a while there, I got the happy feeling that wasn’t as appreciated as most positive emotions would be.  I don’t like being so affected by something that’s so far out of my control.

On Another Note
I’ve recently received the assessment reporty thing from Gender Care, totalling five pages of typings about me and my gender.  And when it got to the paragraph about gender presentation and such, I have to confess – again – to a disproportionate amount of elation when I read, after the usual “natally assigned female but masculine in clothing and general appearance” part…

His voice was, to my ear, of slightly deeper pitch than average and he had a visible cricoid/Adam’s apple (perhaps as a result of his slim build).

This had been mentioned in the appointment (and I was similarly pleased to hear it), but reading this sent a special gendery part of my brain into joyful bouncing, which would have been painful… if’ I was calm enough to care.

And I really wish I didn’t.  But I do.  It made me feel better somehow, and I have spent my time, unusually, trying to see my cricoid in the mirror.  And normally I’d avoid mirrors like the plague.  They don’t like me.  (But cameras are worse.)

I wish I could encourage the trans world to pay less attention to whether or not they “pass”.  But I think I need to work on my own external locus of identity (thanks to Leonard Hofstadter’s mother for that one) before I pass too much judgement… don’t you think?

About JC

I'm a no-longer-nameless trans asexual autistic, chemistry undergraduate at a London university, pronoun enthusiast, amateur photographer and budding proofreader. Son of Optimus. Join me and be amazed. Or just join me. The sense of awe and wonder is optional.
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9 Responses to Passing Judgement… On Passing.

  1. doubleinvert says:

    A very insightful post.

    Passing can be an issue of safety, depending on where and when one is observed. I’m fortunate enough to live in a area that’s more tolerant and accepting than other areas.

    There was a time when passing was very important to me. But, passing is based on the the point of view of the observer. There’s no way I’ll ever be able to conform to everybody’s own opinion of what “passes” for female. So my presentation is for my peace of mind these days. If I don’t pass, then I don’t pass.

    • J.C. Prime says:

      Thank you! Safety is a very good point, one which I considered possibly too much at the very beginning of my transition and now possibly too little… I’m also pretty fortunate to be living in a diverse area, and your comment has reminded me to be more thankful for it!

      Totally in agreement about the observer’s point of view though – I had a mini-rant about it in my post “Social Dysphoria” – but I’m glad you’ve come to the healthiest (and most wise, I might add) conclusion, one which I’m hoping to rationalise myself into some time soon!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Louise says:

    You know, I should really know more about this subject being a psych student an’ all, but all I can say is I hope you realise that locus of control and identity is actual psychological theory and not pop-tv psychobabble :p

    • J.C. Prime says:

      Ha – I’m glad to hear it! I wouldn’t want to be spouting, you know… nonsense all over the webwaves… hmm, wait, hang on a second… 😀

      Seriously though, I was going to do Psychology further (but decided it spoilt my interest having to memorise it for exams… and then I found out that Chemistry was exactly the same). Psychology’s always been an interest of mine, particularly what they call the “abnormal” parts (ahem), so I might just have to do some further research into this theory to make sure I know what I’m talking about…

      Thanks for letting me know though 🙂

  3. Eli says:


    So much of what you wrote resonates with me. I am unwilling to identify with male because I have not been socialized with male, but when rounding socially to M or F, I ugh much much prefer the M. When you write, “I’m ashamed to admit it, but I get that glowy feeling whenever I’m read as male. But it’s not just that; conversely, I get the urge to hide in a corner and cry whenever I’m read as female.” Oh, I have been there, buddy. It’s where I live, in fact.

    And also true for me is, “…I pass as male almost all the time… from behind.” But for me it’s not almost all of the time, it’s some of the time, and almost never from the front. It’s these hips, these damn German hips passed down from my grandmother. I love my grandmother, but why couldn’t she have just stopped with the temper? I like my temper, and it’s clearly from her, but the hips too? Shit.

    And as for this, “And normally I’d avoid mirrors like the plague. They don’t like me.” You know the mirror has no agency, right? It’s not the mirror that doesn’t like the reflection, right? 😉

    Nice post, J.C., as always.


    • J.C. Prime says:


      Thank you – and likewise! You have my sympathies, hips-wise (dysphoria’s so much fun, don’t you think?) – I’m frequently frustrated by the traits I’ve inherited, which are not usually what I would choose to: awful skin, short-arsed-ness, sarcasm, annoyingly slim build, stubbornness… although tempers can be great, I agree. I like your temper too – it makes for good posting 😉

      Mirror-wise, I hate to admit that you’re right… although I swear they distort things when I’m avoiding making eye contact with myself so I jump at my own (increasingly strange) reflection! My eyes are wonky too, and I never notice in mirrors… but every time I see a photo of myself, it looks like I’m looking in two places at once. Which, admittedly, can be entertaining… 😀


  4. Eli says:

    I see your wonky eyes and raise you my wide hips! And “annoyingly slim build?” C’mon, now you’re just bragging!


    • J.C. Prime says:

      Ha! I’ve often wished that transpeople could swap parts of themselves at will… fingers crossed for scientific advancements that will allow me to, ahem, donate my build some time soon! 🙂


  5. Pingback: Choosing a Transgendered Life « My Life with Tits

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