Revisionist History: On Passing and Pretending

There was the time that the bike salesman told me “these CO2 canisters are just like the ones you used as a kid to make those pine boxcars. You remember from shop class?” And there was the time that my date asked me if my parents made me do a lot of macho things as a kid to toughen me up. And there was the time that I got cat-called only to respond in my deepest bass voice that the joke was on him. But truly, what is the joke and who is it on?

Every time I hear myself talk about being in ‘scouts’ my stomach churns. The conversation often folds into discourse on the ball games that I played and myself the ‘little kid’ who loved ‘their’ carpenter jeans and erector set. My tales, compared to contemporary accounts of my childhood, read like the heavily edited American history high school textbook ‘truth’ of the matter. I recently confessed this habit to my shocked brother. “That isn’t like you at all” he said. Perhaps.

In the recent past I began composing a discourse on trans pride and trans shame. It started after I read a tumblr post a young man wrote on wanting to be a normal boy and not wanting any attachment to the label ‘trans’. My heart broke for him. Ignoring the denial of black and whiteness in identity politics, my brain concluded that one can either be proud of their identity as a trans person or they can deny it and spend their time enforcing their legitimacy in the binary that brought us here in the first place. Don’t worry – I see the irony here. I am drawing lines in the sand that are superficial and impermanent. But as an out and proud transman, there is no other option for me than to wear my pride on my sleeve – for better of for worse.

You see, I spent part of my summer trying my hardest to assimilate into the gay community in my town. I dressed in my most dapper attire, attended all the important progressive social functions, sought and built air kiss on the cheek relationships with the who’s who of gays in the metro area. I even had a grindr. But a musical revue and the Pride festival, most unexpectedly, blew the lid off the whole thing. Ironically, it was the musical revue that re-dealt the queer card with an intense, but brief, crush on a straight girl. After racking my mind for the origin of that reality, I discovered that my focus on my gay leanings was self-selected and largely a phenomenon of over-compensation in passing as male. Pride proceeded to show me the finest that mainstream gay community and ceased any self-identification with one fateful air kiss.

It is no fault but my own that I chose to hide. The thrill of being seen for who I am seduced me into shielding the most unique and beautiful parts of myself. While it is not necessary to tattoo my gender identity across my forehead, it is safe to assume that the full history of one Elias Irving will soon replace the politically correct easy way out.

To cement my commitment to trans visibility, and consumerism, I purchased the “Nobody Knows I’m a Transsexual” shirt from Original Plumbing. I declared my own personal pride and visibility day the first time I wore it and posted a picture of me in the shirt of Facebook. I have never felt so embraced and supported in my own self-love. What did I learn here? Pride starts with visibility. Get out, get loud. And never, ever, compromise.

3 Responses to “Revisionist History: On Passing and Pretending”
  1. Lies L. says:

    You know, this stuff about visibility really makes me reflect on my own identity as a lesbian girl who is always assumed to be straight – presumably because I am big on girly things like dresses and hair bows, and you know, lesbians are all practically men, so that’s weird and unusual and can’t be right!!1 It’s so easy for me to ‘pass’ as someone who is considered ‘normal’. It’s so easy for me not to speak up when someone random – like recently a doctor – says something about ‘well, one day you’ll meet a man you’ll want to have children with, and then…’. It’s so easy to hide on those occasions. And I shouldn’t do it, but sometimes I do… and then I don’t like myself very much.

    I know it’s not remotely the same, and all that… but eh, thoughts, I occasionally has them. 🙂

  2. Madonna says:


  3. Marcus says:

    Thanks. I’ve been trying to remember why I put myslef in danger, why I feel so afraid, why I am angry that I have become the tranny instead of a guy with a name. I forgot why I hate knowing people are talking about me behind my back and how I rage that I can’t stop people in this small town from gossiping. I worry I won’t be taken seriously, I worry I’ll never be a “real” boy in the eyes of others. I worry that I might never find a partner that will really love and understand me.

    But I read your words and they remind me to be strong. To stand up for myself and my trans brothers and sisters. You reminded me that I am strong enough, brave enough, man enough to stand up and set an example. To take the heat for the others who may not be ready yet to step forward. Every choice I make to be “out” or not affects someone’s future. I had brothers that came before- some who gave their lives and hearts just to be free. Thanks for the kick in my complacency.

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