I’ve heard “straight-acting” back in the day, usually referring to masculine gay men and femme women, gays who follow typical gendered behavior to the point gaydars couldn’t easily pick up that they were gay. Men did it to either challenge the stereotype that gay men were effeminate, to “hide in the closet” that they’re gay and thus hypermasculinize their behavior, or because much of them was just stereotypically masculine and weren’t going to change something about themselves as part of some gay agenda to challenge things. Lesbians and female bisexuals who “acted straight” usually dressed more femme, engaged in female-orientated behaviors and activities, and didn’t act “butch” as the lesbian stereotype often portrays them; again, some were feminine out of necessity, some had to hide in the closet, and others weren’t going to alter themselves just because of someone’s agenda to challenge “heteronormative” standards.
This extends somewhat to the trans umbrella, where often to better “pass”, trans folk would pick up jobs, hobbies, interests, and other aspects of life of their gender identity. For trans men like me, that would mean dressing in suits or baggy clothing, working in trades like welding or careers like IT, and pursuing hobbies like video games (although this is increasingly unisex) and cars (yea…not me). For trans women, this means the wearing the frilliest clothes and the latest hair fashions, working in service jobs or something traditionally feminine like nursing or receptionist, and picking up hobbies like fashion and cooking. (Not to mention doing whatever they could to undergo GRS, especially female facialization, which helped them to finally pass.)
Look, in the US, the idea is now about being “true to oneself”, but in much of the rest of the world, survival is of upmost importance. LGBs need to “act straight”, and trans people need to “pass”. Being considered LGBT can send us anywhere from jail to death row. In many states, despite our marriages being officially recognized, we can still lose shit for being LGBT, from jobs and housing, to our health insurance (which often still denies services specific to trans health needs). So, often, acting and looking like one sex or the other is not a matter of feeling sane, it’s either life or death.
For us lucky enough to undergo gender affirmative therapy, it irks me when I hear my siblings who don’t/can’t “pass” end up trashing us who can. To say I have “passing privilege” is a slap in the face to all the hard work I put to heal my body and finally live my life on my terms. How I look and act is not an act, but the result of GRS and me just being myself, and I’m not going to change my personality just because my interests and characteristics just so happen to be “stereotypical” of men.
When I see us trans men who pass get labeled as “reinforcing toxic masculinity“, I really don’t know where to begin with this one… Look, I like video games, I work in a factory because of the good pay and benefits, I’m attracted to women. I don’t actively go out of my way to fit into a box; this just happens to be who I am, what I like. And you know what? Life is hard as a guy. While maybe I might be able to get away with certain antics more, the burden to meet goals and quotas is much harder. There are almost no laws on the books to protect me from anything, from screwing up to layoffs (I can try to claim gender identity protection, but that’s iffy at best),, whereas other demographics have laws protecting them due to their sex, their race or ethnicity, their creed or origin. (We need anti-discrimination laws, don’t get me wrong.)
If we want people to be themselves, don’t shit on them if who they are, how they behave, how they dress, or anything about them just so happens to fit within traditional stereotypes.
When I was butch, people asked me why not undergo sex change therapy; now that I’m male, people wonder why I couldn’t remain happy as a butch lesbian. Yea…