[Hope to add more sometime . . . ]
|TS Womens' Resources||TS Women's Successes [NEW]||Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS)|
|TG/TS/IS Links||Successful TransMen [NEW]||Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS)|
|LIFE AS A WOMAN AFTER TS TRANSITION:|
|Envisioning Life After Transition|
|The stories of others can help|
|To assimilate or not to assimilate - a key question facing postop woman|
|The issue of passing|
|The issue of stealth|
|Costs of living in stealth|
|IIIb. PRACTICAL ISSUES:|
|Bureaucratic Hurdles to Overcome|
|Changes in Social Security policies cause major new problems for transitioners|
|Interactions with the medical community|
|Interactions with law enforcement|
|Decisions about religious affiliations|
|Legal issues after gender transition, especially regarding marriage|
|IIIc. ADJUSTING TO AND FULLY ENGAGING POSTOP LIFE:|
|Dealing with Loneliness|
|Starting over in socializing and dating|
|Early experiences in lovemaking and partnering|
|Exploring your sexual orientation as a woman|
|Compartmentalizing and adjusting one's stealthiness|
|Staying healthy and being physically active|
|The Process of Ongoing Refinements|
|IIId. SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL ASSIMILATION AS A WOMAN:|
|Being an immigrant to a new social gender|
|Enjoying and finding fulfillment in the world of work as a woman|
|But what if you are outed?|
|Building and experiencing a full social life|
|More about love and lovemaking|
|Reaching out and sharing our stories|
|What happens as you get older?|
|IIIe. REACHING FOR YOUR DREAMS:|
By Rebecca Kastl
I'm sitting here in a coffee shop on a cold, windy, and rainy day in the Midwestern U.S. I'm watching people come in and order their cappuccinos, their lattes (I have one myself), and their baguettes. Small groups sit at each table in hushed conversation. Occasionally, a snippet of a discussion will filter itself out from the background noise of coffee grinders, rustling newspaper pages and ceaseless mumbling. And in the midst of this otherwise normal appearing Midwest kitsch lays a terrible secret that, if anyone knew, would disrupt the tranquility of this room with the force of a train wreck. There's a transsexual in the room! This is slightly better than having an elephant in the room, only because it is harder to hide the elephant. Had this been a year and a half ago, I'd be one of the most paranoid people on the planet. It is one of the most incessant and pervasive fears that any transgendered person could encounter - the fear of being discovered; the fear of being "read."
I know that the topic has been batted around in the transgender community like a badminton birdie, and the discussions have led to all sorts of conclusions. But I've always had a problem with the usual discussions where the conclusion is that "passing" shouldn't mean anything. I personally have a problem with the whole concept of "passing." For far too many people, "passing" means hiding - denying who and what you are, and pretending that you are not transgendered by hiding from the world. This accomplishes little except to raise the stakes of being outed. But there is another motivation behind "passing" that is altogether different. I'll forego the descent into the Politics of Bornstein (as I call Kate Bornstein's views on the dichotomy of gender), but suffice it to say that I think there is a psychologically healthy aspect to "passing" as it liberates us to define ourselves as we see fit.
The reason why this has recently come to my mind is because I have made an appointment to visit Dr. Osterhout for facial surgery this summer. I am frequently questioned and chided about going to such extremes to "pass." A pleadingly imperative "why?" usually accompanies such conversations. I would like to think that I'd be the last person to be vain enough to think of myself as "attractive," but I do feel that I have physical shortcomings that could be improved upon; my chin is too wide, my jaw is too square (yes, I'm entirely self critical, much as any woman in our consumer culture would be). But why would I choose to undergo such an extreme measure to improve upon what others declare to be little more than extraneous and insignificant imperfections?
Therein, dear friends, is something that causes us to look at the whole "passing" issue in a slightly different light than we have before. Being transsexual, the issue of "passing" takes on an entirely different perspective than what one would normally consider as a cross-dresser or transvestite. Why? (There's that word again) There are several reasons for this, but two primarily stick out when this topic comes up. The first is that as a transsexual, once we have transitioned, there is no reprieve - we cannot escape ourselves now as transitioned transmen and transwomen any easier than we could escape ourselves when we were living the life of a wrongly gendered person. When we go out each day, we are who we are. A step backwards for a rest or reprieve is a step backwards in the name of progress. Because of that, we need to find comfort in the identity that we present to the world each day.
Secondly, the nature of my gender identity is that I identify as female, not "a guy in a dress." My remarks aren't meant to disparage cross-dressers or transvestites; not in the least. I could be unattractive as a woman and be comfortable, because at least I'd be a woman. But given the temporal nature of cross-gender presentation by cross-dressers and transvestites, the issue of "passing" is placed into an entirely different context than it is for transsexuals. For the cross-dresser, the return to male presentation is normal and appropriate. Once back in "guy mode" (as some call it) the world is none the wiser about any gender issues, and the whole topic, for the most part, may be conveniently ignored. Some people who identify as cross-dressers will likely have a problem with the second point. I don't mean to be indignant here, but the basic fact of being transsexual is that life is already difficult enough; why should we complicate things further by being indifferent or dismissive about our own appearance? And this concept cuts both ways. Should a FTM not "pack" or bind because it shouldn't make a difference? Should an MTF not wear makeup? If there is something I can do to correct the gender obstacles that nature gave me, then why should I not do so? Just because I cannot escape who I am, doesn't mean that I can't work to improve upon my lot. Of course, there are those who don't fit neatly into any classical definitions used by the transgendered community, and quite often the lines between any two points on the gender spectrum become easily blurred. But in that light, the issue of "passing" then becomes one of "passing as what?" To which one would likely (and appropriately) answer "yes."
So here I sit, watching these people in the coffee shop come and go, drink their drinks, carry on their conversations, and no one appears to notice the woman sitting in their midst who isn't exactly all that she seems to be (or who is more than she seems to be). And I go about my apparently dull little life, clacking away on my laptop and sipping my latte.