For a lot of trans people, one of the major goals is to pass. Basically, to be at a point where people will look at them and not see a trans person. This is a perfectly understandable goal and one that I would not mind achieving myself. But the truth is, not everyone can pass. There are trans women who have too broad of shoulders, just as an example, and hiding these features with clothing can be rather difficult. But don’t fret – not everyone passes, and that’s okay.
Passing privilege is not attainable for a lot of trans people – not reasonably or easily anyway. It sucks, and it hurts, but there are so many other things that are important. It should not be used to discourage you from being honest with yourself. For me, some of the people I consider the bravest are those who are able to present in public while non-passing because it increases visibility for trans people. I’m a non-passing trans woman, and I live in a fairly small town. I can’t deny that I feel nervous in that setting, but I also think that by being open about my gender, a trans person might see me and feel like they can afford to open up about themselves as well. A bit of a long shot for sure, but you never know.
Those who lack the privilege of passing can also run the risk of resentment of those who they do consider to be passing. As an example, an old friend of mine was incredibly resentful of other trans people. She desperately wanted to have what they had. It got to the point where any compliment she gave me or other trans people, I had to wonder how much venom was attached to that compliment. This is, of course, not true of all non-passing trans people, and can even occur in that case of people who are considered to pass. Another tactic that you might see from people who have trouble passing is that they may also not want to be around other trans people in fear that the association will make it even more difficult to pass.
When passing is your goal, it can create a lot of toxicity in you. Wanting to pass is okay, mind – I mean, I want to pass. But if you’re laser-focused on passing at the expense of everything else, all you’re going to end up doing is make transitioning an even more difficult process. Not only will you wind up suffering in those areas and potentially alienating others around you, but it can even make problems with passing in and of itself. By my measure, over-emphasis of passing as the goal for trans people kind of serves as a means of trans erasure. After all, when you are talking about passing, what you usually mean is “passing as cis.” And while people do have the right to choose their identity, there is something to be said about being willing to embrace who you are.