Time and again, this is what I hear:
- “It’s easy for you. You ‘pass’.”
- “People only take you seriously because they ‘see’ you’re male.”
- “Because you ‘look cis’, of course!”
These kinds of swipes, along with countless variations and other statements, reflect on a concept called “passing privilege”. Because I “pass”, or “look”, like a man, someone I am “entitled” or “privileged” to certain “benefits” that others who don’t “pass” can’t obtain access to. I don’t have issues using a communal or public bathroom or locker room. I don’t have to share my seat on the bus or train until it’s absolutely full. I’m seen as “competent” with my car’s upkeep when bringing her in for an oil change; when I say no to any form of upselling, the service person stops without double-checking. I can go through airport security without incident.
It is a serious issue between those of us who don’t or can’t pass, and those of us who do. Many of us put in the time, effort, and cost to transition, and have our bodies align with our gender identities. We pay to legalize our new names. We undergo not just hormone therapy but the various surgeries to modify and heal our bodies so we more identifiably look and live as members of the gender we identify as. We show surgery documentation to various government and private entities, so they can update the databases to let us live legally as members of our new gender Identity. Some of us even go as far to retrain our voices so they are a higher or lower register to appear more masculine or feminine.
Given how we have a Social Security number, and various interconnected databases that keep track of our history, why can’t we just go by our preferred names or other aliases without much hassle? You have some capacity to do this already, depending on your local jurisdiction—as long as you testify that the name and signature you use on any documentation is yours, you can use that alias. Unfortunately, for things like banking and Social Security, they need your dead name (if you are unable to or haven’t changed it yet), to “prevent fraud from happening”. Women who marry and take their husband’s name don’t often to jump through these hoops, and people who “do business as” another name, don’t have to provide all this information. Why do we have to?
In my lesbian days, I was once kicked out of a restaurant’s restroom when a woman complained I was in the “wrong” bathroom. I even showed my ID, showing I was legally female, but the restaurant employee told me I was making her uncomfortable—what about me?! I ended up leaving the restaurant, my meal not even finished, and went back home; to this day, I still haven’t returned to that franchise. (Hint: Red Lobster.) The hypocrisy of these women saying they don’t want “men” in their quarters are really the ones invading others’ privacy. #wejustneedtopee
The sad part about all our IDs emphasizing gender markers is due to the androgyny going on during the 1970s. Before that, there was no need to list gender identification. I have yet to hear a reason why we shouldn’t go back. A name, address, ID number and photo is all you need; things like birthday, gender, and other information should not be needed.
It’s even strange to realize that in some states it’s easier to update your passport than your driver’s ID—all you need is a letter stating you’re receiving “appropriate treatment”; that’s it, that’s all you need to state from your primary. No need for details.
And then the current political system we live in…that’s why I took this thorough, legal route. If we culturally backshifted someday, I’m protected from anything mild to moderate. Any new law that prohibited transitioning, would not apply to me. I’d still be able to live like a man, because my name change, gender designation, and general appearance are all male now, and to force me to live ass a woman again—it would be very hard to tell the people that their tax dollars would be used to force me to undergo a boob job, to have to be put on birth control for the rest of my life, to have a guy who has horseshoe hair be allowed once more into female restrooms. (Seriously, that head hair I lost, it’s never coming back, regardless of whichever hormone therapy I’m on, and I need one or the other, because my hysterectomy left me without the ability to produce ample enough of either major hormone to have my body function properly.)
What I do disagree with is people claiming I have “passing privilege” or that I’m reinforcing “cisnormativity”. Yes, I was lucky enough to have parents support me so I could pay my own way to transition, but the appearance I have is the result of testosterone first, surgery secondary. I’m the spitting image of my dad, always have been—the T just enhanced that. What I wear and how I act was always normal for me, not something that reinforces stereotypes. I also live in a conservative area, so “passing” is as much a necessity to survival, as it was a necessity to ease my social and physical dysphoria.
If price is your issue, here’s what I’ve learned: get that second job. Find a roommate. Save your tax returns. Forgo that phone upgrade. Skip the organic and buy food basics. Put off retirement. Make and stick to a budget. I was able to get a job at Starbucks, where only 20 hours each week entitles you to trans-inclusive healthcare that covers everything. You can bundle that with another job to help make ends meet while saving for everything you need. And in most states, courts will waver, if not at least reduce, the fees associated with a name change.
I hope this information helps!