Passing

I said, by Lisa Lees

The Ethics of Passing.

It's a great feeling and often literally a life-saver to have others see you as you wish to be seen. But passing also places one in an awkward stance when people find out, or need to know, about one's past.

Secrecy—stealth—is no longer truly an option, thanks to electronic databases, Internet searches, web archives and stringent identity requirements in the age of global terrorism. It's a certainty that someone will find out, and spread the news.

Is passing the same as lying? If so, I suggest that everyone is lying about something. We all try to influence what other people think about us.

I've had it happen to me. Sailing along through life when a friend pulls me aside to say that so-and-so was telling everyone at a party last weekend what she had found out. And then suddenly the people I work with are treating me differently than they had before, without saying anything to me about why. Very awkward, for all concerned.

From my point of view, I wasn't hiding anything. I have a revealing website, I've written books, I've written letters to the editor, I've been interviewed. Am I supposed to wear a sign? Inject into every introduction, "Oh, and just so it doesn't come as a surprise later, I'm transexual. How cool is that?" Not cool at all. It's a loose-loose situation. Damned if I do, damned if I don't.

I've also had the experience of being asked to wear a dress (which I rarely do) for my first day at work and being paraded around to show off the new tranny. That job had been rather hard to land, so I didn't feel I could refuse, but I should have.

Most people do not need to know that I am transexual. That piece of information is irrelevant in almost all everyday contexts. My family knows. My doctors know. How is it anyone else's business? What's all the fuss about?

Aside from the fact that some people like to dig and dish dirt, I believe the answer is that transexuality is subversive of the myth that gender and sexuality are simple, unchanging and understood by everyone; therefore folks like me are a danger to the power structures that people build on the basis of those myths. Boo!