Why Passing Isn’t Important

I don’t believe in ‘passing’.

I don’t believe there is a standard, physical or otherwise, that a t-girl needs to achieve in order to look like or treated like a cis-woman.  If there were standards, what would they be?  Can a girl have a shoe size that disqualifies them from looking like a girl?  Can a girl have hands that are too big to be a girl?  Of course not.

I used to desperately want to pass.  I was hesitate for years to dress up or leave my house because I was afraid of being clocked.  My shoulders were too wide, my jawline was too square and a million other things.  It dawned on me one day that I would never think that a cis-woman wasn’t “feminine” enough to be a woman.  If transwomen are women, then why should I have different standards and expectations for myself?

After that revelation, I was ready to step out into the real world, giant hands or not.

Over the years of being in public, I have interacted with baristas, sales clerks, makeup artists (lots of makeup artists), servers, paramedics, cashiers and countless others.  I have had mostly either really positive, or at least mundane, interactions with people in the real world.  Very few have been negative but they have happened.  Unless someone expresses an opinion, good or bad, I never know what people think of me.  Why would I?  I don’t ask the Starbucks cashier what they think of me.  Why would I care?

But I get it.  I really do.  We want to be accepted by the rest of the world.  We dream of being treated as the gender that we are presenting as.  I dreamed for years of hitting the mall and no one batting an eyelash at me as I shopped for heels.

We want to be loved.  We want others to see us as beautiful.  Or at least not yelled at.

It can be a scary world.  It’s not hard to see stories on a very regular basis of transgender people getting hurt, yelled at, discriminated against or threatened.  Some of us want to pass to avoid getting read.  If someone finds out we are trans, will they beat us up?  Will they laugh?  Will they find out who we are in our male lives?’

Some of us want to pass because we just spent over an hour working on our makeup after months of practice.  We want to be viewed as cis-women because we finally mastered walking in four inch heels (heel to toe, ladies) and dammit, we earned a little respect.  Some of us want to pass because we want that validation.

But passing and feeling confident are two different things.

I went out a couple weeks ago to one of the many malls around the Twin Cities.  I had a makeover, I was wearing one of my favorite skirts and I looked AMAZING.


I felt confident, I felt beautiful, I felt like I could destroy my enemies and deflect any hateful comment anyone could throw at me.

But I didn’t “pass”.  My hands are big, shoulders are wide, my jawline is too pronounced…

But if I waited until I “passed”, I never would have left the house that day or…ever.  Every time I hear that click of my heels on a sidewalk I wonder why I waited so long to venture into the real world.

I had countless interactions that day.  I chatted with a girl in the ladies room about shoes, a makeup artist at Ulta about lipstick and a salesclerk about whether or not that leather miniskirt was available in my size.  It was.  🙂

Not once did I worry about what anyone thought of me.  What would they say if I asked them?  Would they tell me if I was feminine enough?  That they thought I was cis or knew I was trans?  I didn’t know what they thought of me.  I didn’t care.  I didn’t spent $45 on a makeover for anyone but myself.  I didn’t wear that skirt for them.  I dressed up for me.

Based on the looks I get, whether it’s a supportive smile or a longer glance as someone is seeing a t-girl for the first time, I am pretty sure most people in the real world know that I am trans.  And that’s fine.  They can know I’m trans because, well, I am trans.  And you know something?  Most people are either wonderful or don’t care.  I am (almost always) treated with respect.

My point is that I am being treated with respect by people who “know” I’m trans.  What that means is most people (in my experience) are consciously being nice to a transperson.  That says a lot about how they personally feel about our community.  It’s really affirming and makes me optimistic about the future.

I would rather be treated with respect from someone who knows I am trans than treated the same way because they think I am cis.

Love, Hannah








41 thoughts on “Why Passing Isn’t Important

  1. I have followed your blog on and off over the years. In my humble opinion this was your best post. It lays it all out on the line in a logical and intelligent fashion. You tell us the facts and give us the reasons and it all works.
    Thanks for a great post.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have learned that whatever someone may be thinking about me is none of my business. If they start to voice their opinion, I simply interrupt them by telling them so.


  3. This is a FANTASTIC post!!! I have been through the same journey. Part of what I figured out was my issue was not other people accepting me, but me accepting myself. Once I finally did that to my core, then my fear and insecurity about “passing” went away for the most part.

    When I’m out as Dana, I have been amazed at how incredibly nice people are to me, pretty much everywhere. I’m not sure what it is, but somehow I feel I get some sort of “extra credit” from most people for being “out there”. So many smiles, so many people being generous and friendly. It gives me hope in this crazy mixed up world. Of course I’m spending most of my time in places that are diverse, and people are used to seeing people different from them, and that helps.

    And you… well… you are beautiful! The funny thing is that I can’t even remember what “passing” is anymore. I just see a beautiful person on the inside and the outside. 🙂

    Thank you again for this post. Here is to being out and proud in 2019!!!


  4. It feels like not passing is just another stick to hit ourselves with… So, why bother? Accept, enjoy, and – of course – try the best with the hand(s) you’ve been dealt. 😁

    Merry Xmas!


  5. I feel that posts like this are quite important – it lays out clearly why we all need to be (and can be) ourselves. It became a whole different world when I was able to get around the “OMG! What will people think of me?!” and realize that by far the majority do not seem to care, and of those that do by far the most appear supportive. Once I started going out, I paid more attention to the “look” of other women around me, and guess what? There is a huge range of body looks, clothes looks, and makeup looks. I may not be average, but neither is anybody else.


  6. Spot on Hannah! You are an icon to our community in so many ways; advocate, leader, blogger. Thank you for all you do.

    This post brings to mind something I learned a few years back. For most of us MtF girls our journey is out of sync with our body age. We may be in our 30’s, 50’s, or whatever. Yet as our inner girl emerges we struggle with identity, image, and defining ourselves. Sound familiar? It should, we’ve all been there. It’s called adolescence. In effect we are teenager girls seeking to figure it all out.

    If you have not heard of the 18-40-60 rule you should look into it. I know it applies to my journey and I think you might see the parallels to your own situation.

    Bottom line Hannah, just as you stated, more than anything it is confidence. Confidence to step through that door and be yourself. Don’t put too much stock in what others think, they are most likely wrapped up in their own personal world!!


  7. Pingback: Hannah McKnight

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