The Trouble with Passing

January 22nd, 2014

For many transgender people, particularly those who identify on the gender binary, “passing” is of particular importance.  And this makes a lot of sense to me.  I understand the very real concerns about people on the streets, at the job, or in a restroom recognizing you as transgender. There can be powerful, negative repercussions when that happens.  Unfortunately, we see this all the time and even have an annual day of mourning to those whose lives are lost due to the fear and hatred of others.  However, I have seen in my work that passing also comes with some troubles.

I have met quite a few trans folk who “pass” very well.  No one knows about their natal sex or assigned gender.  And these folk integrate quite well into the cisgender world.  In fact, some integrate so well, that very few people know about their transition or their life story.  And this is where the trouble sometimes lies.

When know one knows about your transgender identity, who do you talk to about the difficulties of dating?  How do you get support when you have to go to a new doctor and how uncomfortable that can be for you?  Who do you talk with about the time at the office when the discussion turned to childhood and you didn’t have anything to add?  Where do you turn when you need to talk about your body and the discomfort that pops up from time to time?  There’s a lot of benefit to passing, but when passing turns into living a life in which you don’t have support, then I think it causes some problems.

As a cisgender man, I humbly offer this possible solution – knowing that I haven’t walked in your shoes.  Nevertheless, I suggest that you don’t value your passing so much that you forget that you also need support.  Everyone does – transgender, genderqueer, cisgender…it doesn’t matter.  When any of us wall off important parts of ourselves from others, we suffer.

I’m not suggesting that you change your appearance or tell everyone about this aspect of your life.  I’m simply suggesting that you don’t forget that human connection is important. We all need people we can talk with about the challenges in our lives.  It doesn’t mean that you’re weak, you’re not proud of who you are, or anything of the sort.  It simply signifies that you are human.  And humans need to connection and intimacy with others.

If you need a therapist or counselor in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC with whom to talk about these issues, feel free to contact Mike Giordano, LICSW at 202-460-6384 or

Comments are closed.