Passing

I know that “passing” as a concept is problematic- it reinforces gender norms/stereotypes- but for the most part people look at others and try to fit them into their neat little boxes of male or female, so it happens all the time without conscious thought. Passing isn’t something that happens a lot to me but some days I feel more like I look male and seem to be seen as male too- probably a confidence thing. Also I think it really depends on who I’m with, I’m much more likely to be read as female if I’m with my friends.

At the gym I’m pretty sure there was a lady there once who read me as male, she went to the far end of the changing room and didn’t move from her corner until after I’d left. Another time there was someone who double checked that she was in the right changing room after seeing me. I felt bad about that, but still no inclination to use the male changing room. And on the whole, as swimming is the only time I use the changing rooms, as long as I get changed quickly there isn’t a problem.

The other day I went to the beach and got pretty stressed out when I needed to go to the toilet- I was wearing masculine clothes and a binder, how would women react if I went into their bathroom?- but it turns out that they were unisex, something I really wasn’t expecting.

Today I went into town and needed to wash my hands after eating (curse you, greasy food!). I hesitated for a moment before following my friend into the women’s bathroom, feeling like although I was dressed in ‘man clothes’ I probably wasn’t passing. The look of confusion and defiance from a small girl as I came out said the opposite.

This afternoon, still not feeling like I pass very well I went to get a coffee and was addressed as sir. Sir! I got nervous-the worst thing about being referred to as male is the person hearing your voice and correcting themselves, so I spoke quietly and tried not to act as flustered as I felt. It didn’t feel right, but whether its because that’s one of the first times its happened or because I wasn’t expecting it I don’t know.

***

 I wrote this a while ago and it’s been sat in my drafts waiting to be published. I still feel like I pass much more when I’m alone than with people, but also that I’m more likely to be seen as male by women than men.

 Also something that’s started to bug me more is being out in public with my family because they use my name so often, and it feels kind of like being out with them using my name and she/her pronouns ‘outs’ me? I’m not really sure how to explain it, but it definitely gets to me more when I’m around a lot of people than being at home.

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Name Changing in the Family

My aunt decided a couple of years ago to start going by her middle name instead because she prefers it, which led to mainly negative reactions from my family.

“Why would she do that? It’s disrespectful to mum and dad because that’s the name they gave her. She’s saying that she doesn’t like their choices”

“I don’t know, is she going to keep changing her name? I’ll just call her Cecil so she can do what she wants”

“Its so weird because she’s been -name- for my whole life and calling her -new name- feels wrong”

So everyone continued to use her old name. It was weird when she started working with my mum, mum used my aunt’s new name at work but her old name at home. I am guilty of not using her new name but that’s because nobody else was and they refused to accept it (which didn’t help but I didn’t want to confront anyone).

Back in January I changed my aunt’s name in my phone and started calling her by her new name, but only when speaking to her with nobody else about because they’re all still really weird about using it. In the past couple of months I’ve started using it in the group conversation with the rest of my family (instead of not using a name as I had been doing), while the rest of my family used her old name- sometimes directly after I’d used her new one!

A week or so ago she was in the hospital and my sister pointed out her wrist tag that had her date of birth on it, at which point my aunt turned to her mum and told her (again) that most people know her as -new name- now and nobody really calls her -old name- any more, so I said that I try to use her new name and she thanked me and said she’d noticed that I always do. When we left my sister asked me if she should start using my aunt’s new name too, if that would make my aunt happier, to which I replied that yes if thats her chosen name then she should respect that. Again my sister said that it would be so weird using her new name and she doesn’t think of her that way, but she also said that she’d try if it would make her happy. The next day on the group chat, my sister referred to my aunt using the new name which made me so happy, but still uses her old name when talking about my aunt when she’s not there. It’s a start I guess.

I guess the reason I’m writing this is because I’m scared. My aunt is a cis woman who decided to change her name to her middle name. If I decided to come out with my chosen name that isn’t remotely similar to my given name, I don’t know how they’d react. I’d rather they didn’t know and continued to use my name rather than knowing I don’t go by that and ignoring me. And that’s without even thinking about their reactions to the whole being trans thing.

Shopping

I went shopping today with my sister which was really fun. She was super uncomfortable when we were in the menswear department and kept asking why I buy men’s clothes now- but I was equally uncomfortable in the bras when she was shopping there.

In certain stores, I know that some of their lines of clothes fit me in a specific size, but jeans and things are always hit and miss so need to be tried on. I went and waited to use the changing room and the guy on the door asked the lady in front of me how many items she had, then noticed me and asked me the same. Which was fine, but as I answered he obviously changed his mind on ‘what I was’ and looked embarassed. This changing room had the weirdest system I’ve ever come across, the guy had to scan the tag that says how many items you have, and some had Male written on them while others had Female. The changing rooms were in opposite directions.

I got given a Female tag.

I was uncomfortable, the people emerging from their changing rooms as I passed were uncomfortable, and when I came out some of the guys in the queue looked at me confused. I probably could have asked for a male tag but I didn’t particularly fancy drawing attention to myself. Why do they need to be separate anyway? Nobody can see you once you’re in there and plenty of other stores have ungendered stalls.

I also bought some new boxers and when I got home my dad (who had been out to get dog food) joked that he had new underwear for me and my sister, and held up a packet of boxers. So when I said that I’d take them if he was offering and showed him the ones that I’d bought he was surprised. So now he knows that I own men’s shoes (which I wore for my graduation with my suit) and boxers.

I mean it was a pretty good day and I feel like I can get rid of some more of my clothes now I have things to replace them with, but I’ll be sure to check out how the changing rooms work before I try anything on in the future.

Leggings? No Thanks

I recently spent a long weekend at a friend’s house for her birthday. On Friday we went to an indoor place with loads of trampolines. I was torn. Should I wear the shorts I’d taken? Jeans didn’t seem very sensible. Shorts would be fine but that would mean being brave enough to show my legs which I haven’t shaved since December. One of my other friends offered to loan me a pair of leggings which I accepted, it seemed like the perfect solution- until I put them on.

I haven’t had any major anxiety since January time, but wearing those made my heart rate go through the roof, and I felt so sick. It was just wrong. They weren’t my legs. In the end I wore my shorts and felt so much more comfortable.

Something else that got to me this weekend was the way in which everyone treated one of my other friends. She often refers to herself as the Prince of ___ and y’know, just generally presents as masculine. And that’s cool, I love that. It’s nice to have her about because we’re so similar in so many other ways. But one of my friends in particular seemed to go along with her being A Dude but kind of ignore me if I said it about myself? (I mean they’re closer anyway and she’s always been like that whereas its pretty recent for me so…)

However someone came to the house who is living with a trans man and everyone was really cool about it and used male pronouns when talking about him. That was nice. I did the thing where you play on your phone when someone is talking about something that nobody knows applies to you (and I think my friend got really intense about her drawing but that might not have happened).

It was a great weekend but it definitely brought home how little I feel like a girl. I’d much rather be a guy in the group- but I spent time thinking that although I’d like to introduce myself to strangers as a ‘he’ I don’t want to go through the coming out to people I know.

On a different note, I’m graduating on Monday and despite my mum’s best efforts to stick me in a dress I’m going to wear a shirt and tie. And I’m going to look great.

Dear Grandad

Dear Grandad,

Tomorrow it will be a year since you passed away. Wow, how the time flies.

So much has happened in the last year. I’ve finished my degree with a 2:1! I went to Tenerife with uni in January, wish I could show you the pictures. You would have loved it there, we saw some incredible flowers.

Mum and Dad aren’t together any more, when Nanny was told she said that you would have been so pleased to hear that because you always thought that Mum deserved far better than your son. So I’m writing it here. You know, just so you know.

I’ve cut my hair really short, I bet that’s a surprise! I wonder what you’d think of it. I’m looking for jobs at the moment, trying to be an adult. But I’m thinking about the advice you always gave us which was to put your happiness first. I’m going to go to visit my friends in February/March in Australia and New Zealand. I’m going to travel by train around Europe with a friend at some point but haven’t got any proper plans yet. In the meantime, I’m saving up and working as much as possible at my current job.

You missed a pretty miserable summer and this year looks like it’s going to be the same. It rained at your funeral but cleared up for the wake. There’s something poetic about that I think. Your funeral was beautiful, everyone cried. You had, and have, so many people who love you. I want to be like you when I grow up. I want to be as caring, as funny, as in love with nature. I love that you chose “Always look on the bright side of life” as the closing song of the ceremony. It was a very You thing to do, trying to cheer everyone up. All of us got lost on the way to the wake, you would have found that hilarious.

It was weird sitting in your chair. Did you ever think of it as your chair? It was pretty comfortable though, I see why you liked it. I wanted to touch the windchimes hanging from the hall light as I came into your house, how I always used to even when I was tiny and you had to lift me up, but the light had changed and the chimes were gone. I missed that.

We saw a red squirrel run across your lawn on the day of your funeral, but didn’t see any in the woods. We went there with Andy and his kids and they went running about. You would have loved them, they would have loved you. On second thought, maybe that’s why we didn’t see any squirrels.

When Dad and Katie went to visit you because you were deteriorating quickly I wanted to come with them, I really did. I just didn’t want to see you like that. I changed my mind and I was going to come to see you the weekend after with mum, but you didn’t make it. I’m so sorry. I hope you understand. I think of you every time I see a British Heart Foundation sign.

I’m sorry I’ve been brushing off your death. It honestly hasn’t felt real until now. It’s not that I don’t care, I do. I love you so much. I just want you to know that. I hope you’re doing OK, wherever you are. I hope there are plenty of gardens for you to tend, and greenhouses full of orchids.

All my love,

Your Little Princess