In the context of gender, passing is when a transgender or non-binary person is perceived as cisgender.
When coming out, the idea of passing is one that offers trans and non-binary people inclusion and safety. At that stage of our transition, it’s normal to want to be seen as the gender you identify with – especially after being trapped for so long by denial and inner conflict, whilst not being able to express or live your truth. Due to the ongoing backlash, passing serves as a shield when we’re out in public. Allowing us to get from A to B safely or allowing us to use a public restroom without fear of being attacked or accused or a sexual crime.
In reality, passing serves no purpose other than safety. Maybe affirmation, towards the start of our journey. As we begin to understand gender identity, who we are and find the inner peace, we realise that passing is simply another social construct, based on what a male or female should look like and that we’ve been focusing on trying to achieve an outdated ideal, whilst inadvertently creating a hierarchy based on who can look more cisgender. Why are we doing this to ourselves and each other? We have enough to deal with, without the pressures of perpetuating body types. We’re all equal and all valid. If somebody wants to look like, act like and present as cisgender, that’s fine. That’s their experience. But they should not be expecting that same experience, or standard, of others.
For non-binary people, the idea of passing presents a more complex problem as they’re held to certain image standards by a society that doesn’t understand what it means to be non-binary. This not only creates negativity towards the non-binary community but has the potential to erase their identity.
A society that focuses on passing leads to abuse, violence and even death at the hands of those who feel we’re trying to fool or trick them. Or hate from those who think we’re trying to take something away from cisgender people. But trans and non-binary people are not trying to be cisgender. A lot of the hate is rooted in misunderstanding. Whilst we do need to adhere to some kind of social construct, the current one isn’t it. We shouldn’t be moulding ourselves to fit society. Society needs to make room for us – accepting us as we are.
If a person isn’t judged or held to a certain standard by others, they feel no pressure and therefore have no reason to live in fear or not feel accepted by those around them. There’s too much focus on passing, to the point where it affects the mental health of trans and non-binary people. After coming out, they’re consumed by the need to pass, because that’s the current narrative. I want this campaign to show that they don’t need to reach for any standard, other than their own and how they choose to define themselves. Gender identity is not about how we look but about how we feel.
Society needs to stop holding trans and non-binary people to old fashioned standards. For example, a trans woman does not have to look like a cisgender woman in order to be accepted or valid, nor does it make her a rapist in disguise. She is a woman. At the same time, we need to stop holding ourselves to those standards too. We are transgender and/or non-binary and we are valid the moment we realise that we are. Furthermore, we need to realise that we are not judged or defined by our surgeries. They help us but they don’t define us. A person who chooses not to have confirmation surgery is no less valid than a person that does.
This campaign is designed to shed light on the following:
* What it is to be transgender or non-binary
* What trans and non-binary people have to go through in order to feel accepted
* Trans and non-binary people are not trying to be cisgender
* The truths of trans and non-binary people’s daily struggles because of a standard set by others
* We need better representation of trans and non-binary body images, both online and in the media
I’ve teamed up with Unite to push the message of this campaign, which will run from Monday 16th November 2020 on social media.
Friday 20th November 2020 is Transgender Day of Remembrance and it’s important that the campaign includes this. Passing, and ultimately acceptance, has played an integral part in the unnecessary deaths of our trans sisters and brothers. With some not even recognised as their chosen gender identity by authorities, we will not only remember them but push for positive change in the narrative so others will not have to suffer because they’re held to the wrong standards.
Post something about what “passing” means to you and how the focus on it makes you feel. If you’re not out yet, that’s fine. I wouldn’t want you to feel pressured or uncomfortable. You don’t even have to show your face or reveal your voice, if you don’t want to. You’re still valid and you can still take part and share your views. If you’re an ally, speak up for the trans and non-binary people you know – amplify their voices and their struggles.
It can be a photo of you holding the hashtag on a sign (or just the hashtag or even image of something else, if you’re not ready to show your face), a poem, a statement, an open letter, a video or even a drawing/painting. However you want to express your feelings on it!! Use #PassItOn so that your message can be found and shared. Follow the campaign on Instagram and help to pass on the messages.
Encourage everyone to lift up and share one another’s stories so we can educate, change the narrative of what it means to be transgender, accept ourselves and each other. Most importantly: be your own kind of beautiful, not somebody else’s 💜