Fighting Pass Culture in 2017

I have written about pass culture so many times, you would think it is my biggest nemesis. Maybe because in so many ways it is. It’s my kryptonite.

So, what is pass culture? To sum it up really, it’s this belief that a trans person must pass as cisgender to be valid. And as toxic as this belief is, it affects so many of us. For a trans woman, it’s wanting to be seen as a woman and not trans woman. It’s wanting to be seen for who you are without having the world around you seeing you as “a man dressing up as a woman,” or “a man dressing in drag.”

For a nonbinary person as myself, it could be wanting to look as androgynous as possible. Or it could be wanting to pass as female one day or male another.

“It’s a dangerous world away from this virtual space in which I and so many others often take refuge. There are days when the threat of transphobic treatment seems so real that I simply refuse to leave the house: Who will attack me this time for using the women’s bathroom while dressed androgynously? Who will call me namesor be so intimidated by me that they physically assault me? Who will sexualize, fetishize, or sexually assault me?” – “Do I Pass?”: Navigating Perfomances Of Genderfluid Identity on Ravishly  

This toxic belief that we have to pass in a binary world that we don’t fit in, can choke us in a way that takes away any will we have to fight back. For me, and for so many others, pass culture is a survival strategy.

I have been choked by this toxin for so long, that fighting wasn’t even something that I ever thought myself to be capable of. For the past two years, I have promised myself I would be as true to myself as I possibly could be.

But to be completely honest, I have been terrified of showing the world who I am. The world is such a dangerous place. While I have tried so hard to express myself in every way I could, I have fallen short on so many levels. Often, I don’t wear what I want; I wear what I feel will be safe. Sometimes, it’s health reasons. I just don’t feel good enough to get dressed and do my hair and makeup. More often than not though, even if I did feel up to it I wouldn’t.

“What will the world see? Just a girl going through a punk phase.”

A faint voice in the back of my mind will tell me not to care, that I am not happy being so bottled up. Yet, I don’t have it in me to try to open up.

I thought coming out as trans would help, that being honest with myself and everyone around me about being a femme guy would mean I would have the strength to be myself. Wear what I want, do the wild makeup looks my heart desires, the crazy hair colors that make me so happy.

However, it took 2016 for me to develop that strength.

It took the Pulse shooting. It took watching hate and bigotry winning the presidential election. It took a bathroom bill being passed in a state that I travel to often. It took nearly daily mini breakdowns for me to finally break that bottle.

Fighting pass culture in 2017 will be one of my many fights to show that hate won’t win, we will be stronger, we will rise above.

It took fear of my life, the lives of my dear friends, and the realization that I can’t fight the hate when I still live by it, for me to start truly fighting pass culture.

So, this is me taking a vow not to live by hate in 2017. I won’t let bigotry control how I act and dress and express myself. I won’t live by what everyone else expects me to. I will be as true to myself as I can be. Sometimes our silent fights against the system can be our strongest, right?

I don’t recommend everyone take this vow, nor am I calling for anything like that. This is simply me talking about my own goals for 2017. And my biggest is to not let the bigotry of others control how I express myself or exist.

In 2016 I wrote, “But I still get dressed, look at myself in the mirror, and ask myself, “Do I pass?”’

This year, I will look in the mirror, and when that question appears, I will give it a big fuck you!

2 thoughts on “Fighting Pass Culture in 2017

  1. Courtney, you certainly have had a journey since I began following you here last year. This piece brings a strange mix of thoughts and feelings. On one hand, I want you, and anyone non-cis in whatever way to be safe and accepted not trying to pass for something they are not, and I also know that is not everywhere and everywhen the case. I happen to live in that state with the “bathroom bill” which is about so much more, enables so much more possible danger than that name implies, and I hear in the news of other states planning to copy all or part of it. I want to believe such things are part of a rearguard resistance by a shrinking reactionary minority and will fade into the pages of history soon. Know that I support your vow, and also want you to see to your safety when danger is clear and present.

    1. You brought tears to my eyes friend. It is such a nice feeling knowing you are supported, especially when you so often feel as if you aren’t. Thank you <3

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