Passing & Pronouns

Hey, um, so… a lot of different feelings. I wanted to talk a little bit about how I experienced passing, as a man- and I mean I still experience it, you know, because people, people don’t really know what to make of this… um… at first, I started passing about six months or so after I got my mastectomy, because I got a round little face. And it took a long time for my voice to even drop as much as I did, I had, uh, I was pretty shrill… um… so, when I first started passing, it was pretty cool, uh, it was really cool. I felt like I was becoming this new person who could have an easier life. I felt like I was re-creating myself, I was… I don’t know, um, I felt like I was being seen.

And… the longer it went, the less I felt like that. The more time I spent with men thinking I was men, being treated the way men treat other men, and women treating me the way they treat men… it was intensely distressing. It did not feel like I was being seen. Once I realized what other people meant when they saw me that way, and what that meant to them, whether or not they would have defined it the way I did or even noticed they were treating me differently… it’s a lot. Like, I, I’ve done… I work in group homes, I’ve done work in group homes for a while, and when I was a man- “when I was a man”! I mean, I wasn’t ever a man. But when people thought I was a man, they expected me to clean so much less. People were so much nicer to me.

You know, I’m, kind of mental health-wise, I’m kind of a shitshow. Um, and, um, people were so much more patient about attention deficit stuff, like about needing help, needing them to explain things, and go over stuff when I screwed stuff up… people were so much more patient with me. When I was like, kind of nervous socially, people would go out of their way to try and make me feel comfortable, in a way that I had never experienced before, you know, in my life as a woman who looked like a lesbian. And, um, going back… I mean, it’s, you know, people treat me differently again.

People, I… you know, I told my coworkers. I made them transfer me sites and everything, I told… my supervisor and everybody, that, you know… “woman all along”… I goofed…and so, now I’m back to working in an environment where everyone knows I’m a woman. And the expectations are higher again, you know, people want me to clean more, people are passive aggressive when I forget to clean, you know, it’s different, you know? And group homes are kind of interesting, the ones I work in, because it’s kind of… obviously it’s very different, but in some ways it’s kind of similar to a family environment, in that there’s a lot of like, domestic labor, and like, emotional labor, are big things, that you’re helping these people with their problems and talking to them. And like, the expectations on me in this environment, are wildly different when people think I’m a man versus when I’m not. People expect so much more emotional work from me, and like, support for people emotionally from me… the people I support too, expect more from me when they think I’m a woman than when I’m a man.

Um… yeah, it’s just a trip. And you know, women are scared of you, the way they’re scared of men. And that makes to be scared of men, and it make sense to be scared of me when you think I’m a man, but shit… I guess, I don’t know. Part of transitioning for me was- I mean, I don’t know if it was part of transitioning exactly. But… I don’t know.
Part of being a lesbian to me, and I think for other lesbians but especially if you look, you look more butch, is… this fear of being like a man, of being scary, of being predatory, of being dangerous. And having other people reinforce to me that I was a man, and reinforced to myself that I was a man, and have it reinforced to me that it’s correct when other people treat me like a man… that did not do me any favors. Um… because I’m not, that’s not the reality, it’s just not true. There was a time when I wanted that to be true, and… even then, it wasn’t true, I’m not, I’m not a man.

Um… and, you know, as intensely as passing felt like being seen at first, is exactly how intensely I feel erased now. I, it’s, I don’t know. I mean, I felt like I was doing the right thing, and even like, a couple months before I stopped transitioning, I would have told you, you know, this is who I am, I can’t help it. Um… but, obviously that didn’t play out. So yeah.

Um… I guess just… feel like I haven’t seen enough… you know, it’s obviously really hard to talk about, but I haven’t seen a lot of conversation about how difficult passing can be emotionally, for someone who hasn’t grown up as a man, who hasn’t been taught that they deserve to be given all of the things men are given at the expense of women. Um… it just, it’s just, it’s just like fingers in the wound, of like, you know, you do not deserve… this is not, this is not for you. This is for men. It just feels like… I don’t know, it just reminds me, it just reminded me… you know, that… that wasn’t how people saw me, that wasn’t what, deep down, these people would think of me, if they knew I was female. They would not think, that, you know, that I deserved all this help. I was getting this nice treatment because they thought I was someone I was not.

And you know, I couldn’t talk about my childhood? You know, I’d tell… I have sisters, I have all these stories about my sisters, and it’s really hard to talk about your relationship with your sisters, when everyone thinks you’re a man, you know, you can’t talk about Girl Scouts, you know, there’s so much shit, there’s just so much shit. Couldn’t talk- the only girl on cross country, I couldn’t talk about being the only girl on cross country, there’s just all these parts of my life, that, you know, you can’t just… you know, it’s not like a video game, you can’t just change the gender, change the pronouns, and the story stays intact. Nothing makes any- it doesn’t, it doesn’t work anymore. I can’t just… I don’t know. I don’t know.

Um… yeah. And I mean, I still get, I still get read as male all the time now. But it’s different, um, now that I can… now that I’m not so dependent on other people to see me. Now that I know what I am, regardless of what someone else sees or doesn’t see. Having some stability in my self-concept, like, makes a huge difference. I don’t, you know, I don’t… obviously I am “misgendered”, you know, people call me a man all the fucking time, you know, I go to the store, whatever.

Um… but… it doesn’t change what I know about myself, it doesn’t shake me in the same way. It sets off… it makes me kind of, you know, makes me have to think about, and do some more processing, do some feelings work, about old feelings, of what it felt like to pass, while I believed that made me a man inside, and this was a true and honest reflection of myself, um… but… it doesn’t… it doesn’t get to me in the same way anymore, um, that it used to, because I know what I am.

I don’t know, it’s just kind of a weird, it’s a weird thing. Because obviously before transition, I didn’t like female pronouns, whatever…whoo… um, but yeah, I mean, I hated she pronouns, I was all fussed about that. I was very worked up about that. And that was about what they represented to me. The same way male pronouns distressing me now, or I mean, distressing me sometimes now, is about what they represent to me now. Um, my distaste for female pronouns was about what I thought they meant, and the ideas that I had heard and been told over and over again, and that I believed, and did not question, about what it meant to be a woman, and that that was something that could not include me.

Which I mean, you know, fair enough. Makes sense that I thought that. I really hadn’t encountered communities where a woman could be like me, where that wasn’t, you know, where I hadn’t spent time anywhere, where, you know,  I wasn’t kind of a freak show. And… I don’t know. Getting to spend time in female space now, with, especially… the two times I’ve gone to female, uh, events, were events that had a bunch of other, detransitioned and reconciling women, like women who had stopped transition before or after taking medical steps, um… being around those ladies and getting to talk to everybody and be together, and not be, you know, not be such a fucking freak… made a huge difference.

This is kind of a sidebar, I was trying to talk about how it’s not fun to get seen as a man. But yeah, um… kind of looped the hell around. It used-for a while, I couldn’t stand either, I didn’t know what the fuck I was gonna do, you know, “nonbinary”, so to speak. But it really just turned out that I needed to do more, do more thinking… with my girlfriend who also used, she used it pronouns, for years… we love each other. We were both trans when we met. But yeah, we just had to do more thinking and processing, and, you know, feelings work about what those pronouns meant to us. So yeah, uh, those are my thoughts… later.

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