Passing is not about other people and how they see you. The only thing that truly matters is how you see and feel about yourself.
“And the category is … in the dark!”
For those of you who have seen Pose, the words of the master of ceremonies, Pray Tell, to launch the ballroom competitions will be familiar. My adaption, however, refers to how I somehow managed to remain ‘in the dark’ about Pose until quite recently. Then one day I happened to come across several rave reviews of this ground-breaking series, where many of the central roles were played by transgender or nonbinary actors. Pose immediately shot to the top of my must-see list and soon afterwards, I was bouncing with excitement and anticipation when I found it in my Netflix library.
Although there were few direct parallels in the story and lives of the characters to my life experiences, I was still delighted and amazed at how meaningful Pose was to me as a transgender woman. My euphoria, however, was rudely interrupted one night by an unexpected blow as I was watching an early episode. Inexplicably, I became aware that I was feeling vaguely uncomfortable, even intimidated, by some of the trans women (not only Elektra!). I was slightly shocked and confused since I am normally pretty confident about myself, but for reasons I couldn’t put my finger on at the time, I was shaken. What was going on? Why was I feeling that way?
It didn’t take me too long to realise that instead of focusing on how affirming Pose can be for trans women and others, I fell into the trap of subconsciously comparing myself with Blanca or Angel or Lulu. What a mistake as I found myself feeling somehow inadequate or falling short of fulfilling the profile of a “real” (trans) woman. I knew I was being far too judgemental and harsh on myself, and that we all have our vulnerable, fragile moments; nevertheless, I definitely didn’t like the feelings I was experiencing. Slowly it dawned on me that the only ‘cure’ for my distress was some serious introspection and re-evaluation of my conceptions of the nature and importance of passing.
I began with the deceptively simple question of why should passing matter to us in the first place? In other words, what are the reasons or motivations behind our desire to pass? It’s a complex subject, but for me, two clear answers immediately…