Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Privilege of Passing

By Aidan Christopher

Passing privilege is a constant thing I am trying to unpack in my life, especially because I identify more as genderqueer than I ever did as male even though I decided to transition (whatever that really means). I am writing this while sitting on a flight back from Atlanta and my experience in the airport has brought me back to the topic of my passing once more. Even though all of my ID’s say female, it seems that people either ignore, rewrite, or completely miss my complicated history when I need to use my ID. I am almost always Sir’d, and when I am not it normally makes no sense and the person corrects themselves without my comment. And yet I am a very queer body, seemingly invisible in a hetero-world, and it bothers me.

When I was living in rural Indiana, I could go into any bar and would automatically be assumed not only male but straight. And what was worse, at the time I would let them continue to believe that. Today I am not so sure I could stand to allow that assumption to continue. I feel like I am always in the balance between being visibly queer and passing as male or even passing as a hetro male and understanding what that means, how I feel about it and what it would mean if I were correct someone’s assumption. In rural Indiana, the decision was based on safety and now in Chicago, though safety is important, I feel that it is more important to not allow people to remain oblivious or ignorant to the idea of variant genders. But what does this mean for my life? I am not sure I have an answer. What does it mean if I allow myself the privileges that come with passing? What if I scream from the rafters That I am queer and gender queer? Though I may not be screaming aloud at all times, I think it is important at least in my life to not be silent. I cannot be indifferent to people assumptions and allow people to continue those assumptions about me or about anyone else. But how is this done? Is it with a slip of a sentence that places questions on my gender or an outright correction on the assumption?

This is more a point of discussion than an actual post, I do not have the answers to these postulated questions, nor do I think I will ever have the answers. My life is too fluid to even have a concrete response or understanding.

1 comment:

  1. This is an interesting topic that I'd like to lay a comment or two of my own on top of. I speak with the preface that I draw from a genderqueer transman dyke identity.

    With that being said, the privilege of passing is not something to take lightly. Many conversations have been started and never resolved around these very topics. Yet the main flaw I point out in these arguments is the idea that we ourselves want to pass. This post briefly mentions that, yet leaves it up for discussion.

    I think that is very helpful, and often what needs to happen. I personally wish that genderqueer identities could be more accepted and freely expressed, but the comfort for these identities is not yet formed even within the trans community. That is rapidly progressing and changing, allowing the genderqueer mentality to trickle into grassroots ideology and discussion. However, being genderqueer is still miles away from main stream societies vision.

    Therefore, I think it's important to continue to speak up about our identities. I have not yet had the privilege of passing as a male, yet I know that I will never disrespect that privilege. I also won't feel guilty about it, because I don't think guilt on my part or on the part of hundreds of transmen will help change anything about why the privilege exists to begin with. Thus, instead of guilt I will continue to educate and remind people of the positions that I hold, and that they might hold.

    I fully respect grassroots movement, but I think this battle needs to happen from both sides. I also agree with the writer of this post that we can not always be yelling out that we are here and we are genderqueer. Yet, as long as we do not allow ourselves to forget then we won't allow those around us to forget either. We have to know which battles to fight and when to fight them.

    Good luck, friends and fellow folk.
    I believe in you all.

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