Usually I write about my trips out, but today I’m going to stand on my soap box and offer my take on subjects like “passing” and “blending”. These are often hot topics on the internet discussion board I frequent and on blogs.
I’ll skip to the end and state my conclusion first. WWYWTW, otherwise known as “Wear What You Want To Wear”.
Stana at Femulate was kind enough to allow me a guest editorial back in April on this subject. My post was in response to another guest poster, who suggested that some in our community dress inappropriately. That idea is also far too common on the board I frequent.
Let’s first discuss “passing”, which Wikipedia defines as “In the context of gender, passing is when someone is perceived as a gender or sex other than the sex they were assigned at birth.” In other words, a male-to-female crossdresser “passes” when they are viewed by others as indistinguishable from a genetic female.
Simply put, I don’t think MTF crossdressers “pass” as females. There are too many clues, subtle or otherwise, that suggest otherwise. Humans instinctively judge people based on first glances, dating back to prehistoric days when survival depended on determining whether another person was a friend or a foe. I firmly believe we see someone and instantly detect there is something different that doesn’t match our prior experiences and expectations.
I firmly believe that anyone who crossdresses and goes out on a regular basis doesn’t believe they “pass”. Kandi (“Kan-Dee”) regularly writes that she doesn’t, as does blogger Hannah McKnight (like Kandi, required reading for me). We don’t possess a magic “cloak of invisibility” that allows us to magically blend into the background, no matter what tricks we have up our sleeves (and don’t get me started on those in the community who somehow believe an extra half-inch of padding on their hips makes all the difference between “passing” and “not passing”).
I also firmly believe the idea that we don’t “pass” is ultimately freeing. No matter what you do, how perfectly you dress, people are going to know it’s a man in a dress. But as I have often written, they don’t know it’s ME in the dress–I just want to make sure it’s a pretty dress.
Also, a seemingly frequent item of comment on our crossdresser board is the myth of the inappropriately dressed crossdresser. You know, the one that stands out in the crowd, and thereby makes it worse for all of us out there who follow the “official” rules of how to crossdress. Yes, there are those in the community who believe this, based on comments on our board, or the post on Femulate that I responded to.
My own personal experience–other than attending regular meetings of the St. Louis Gender Foundation–is I rarely see a Transgender person in public (note, I did not say a crossdresser, because when I see someone, I don’t know whether they crossdress, are transitioning, or have transitioned). Perhaps ten to twenty individuals in my lifetime, and as a crossdresser I am always looking.
To buttress my own experience, I posted a question/survey on the internet board asking members, “How many of you have seen a TG person/CD out in public?” I provided certain parameters, like not at meetings or Halloween. There were 126 replies, and over 9,000 views, a reasonably robust sample.. For most of the members who chose to write posts, the answer was the same, a handful. Again, this is an audience that is predisposed to looking for Transgender/CD individuals.
In short, in my opinion–the idea there are lots of inappropriately dressed Transgender/CD people out there–is nonsense.
Which brings we to the second part of today’s discussion, “blending”. Blending is the idea that to best way to “pass” is to watch what women of your age are wearing and dress the same way so you “blend” into the background and don’t stand out. These days, that often means tops and bottoms (pants, jeans, leggings, etc). Again, by doing so, you once again have the magic “cloak of invisibility”–or so the theory goes.
Unfortunately, the same subtle–or obvious–clues still give us away. Our torsos, our hair, our walk, our voice, our height, etc., are still sufficient to suggest to others that something isn’t quite right. There is no magic formula to remain invisible–and somehow remain undetected.
All of this brings me to my conclusion, which is simply “Wear What You Want To Wear.”
Many crossdressers rarely step outside their doors.
When you do, don’t you want to wear what YOU want to wear? ,
Why let some unknown poster on an internet board–who thinks you ought to “blend” so you can “pass”–persuade you how you should dress?
The person–who knows all the “proper” rules–and goes out maybe once or twice a year, if ever? I think of them as the “church ladies”, clutching their pearls, in deference to the olden days of the skits on Saturday Night Live.
I’m often amazed by their double standard. They ask others to be tolerant of how they dress–but then criticize other crossdressers for the way they dress, because it doesn’t meet their standards (thus “shaming” the rest of the crossdressing community).
Or as I say, tolerance for me, but none for thee.
If you want to wear your dress and pearls and heels to the grocery store, I say go for it. What is the possible harm? You might even get a compliment!
If you want to wear something that was designed for someone half your age, and you like the look, do it.
I always thought I would never go out–until I did, and I’ve never looked back.
I never thought I’d go out with bare legs, but I do it regularly now.
Bare shoulders? Impossible–until I saw this beautiful turquoise dress that I had to have. I wore it out with my friend Michelle for one of my best nights ever.
Go out in summer? No way, until I found this cute strappy orange dress at Dangerfield in Melbourne. I have been on the hunt for cute summer clothes ever since–and the right summer days to wear them.
Dressing for me became a lot more fun after my friend Renee suggested that I expand my comfort zone. I did and I have and I wear a lot more cute stuff than I ever did before.
I still don’t pass and I don’t aim to blend and I wear what I want–and nobody cares! Well, that’s not exactly true–my friends tell me they like my looks.
But other people? I’ve never had a problem, but I have gotten compliments–most recently on New Year’s Eve in a sequined strappy bare-shoulder (fabulous) dress.
When I shop for things, I try them on, and see how they look. Most things I buy are in person at stores. I often text pictures to my GG friends asking their opinions. But always in my decision making process is that I’m buying something to wear out–and if I really like it, I hear Renee’s voice in my head telling me “to buy it and figure out a place to wear it”.
Don’t let other people–either those on internet boards or your perceptions of John Q Public–decide for you what to wear.
Wear What You Want To Wear.
You could say you’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest !!
The first point is deciding if you are talking about CDers or those of us who are looking at transition . I accept at my age my transition will almost certainly not go as far as hormones or surgery but I’m still out more as a woman than a man . From my own situation I regularly go out with my daughter , granddaughter , my daughter’s mother in law , my mother and some lovely GG friends . I don’t attend many trans meetings anymore and don’t often go out with trans friends . Do I pass ? My answer to that is the list of people and others not mentioned wouldn’t go out with me if they felt uncomfortable , in other words I don’t embarrass them . The question arisng out of this is obvious do I wear appropriate items ? In my case and many other transgender people the answer is YES , that is why you don’t see many of us , there is nothing wrong with blending because we need to live a normal life as a woman and not as a CDer/ trannie .
To recall an event , I get on very well with all my neighbours but recently I had two transgender friends over for a meal , was their dress appropriate ? Well they certainly raised a few eyebrows with my neighbours . One friend was upset enough to start drawing my curtains to block the view , I stopped her and tactfully pointed out her dress was possibly too short . It’s OK to preach WWYWTW but first you must have the confidence to own it otherwise the whole situation collapses like a house of cards and makes it akward for other people .
I agree that people do make that fairly immediate decision on gender , I can only say that I get read as female , once the mind is made up the slight male traits will often be forgiven .
I do have heated debates with the trans friend I mentioned , she’s of the opinion that people do know we’re all male and the public are just being kind . She has never been in the same situation that I have placed myself , so she has never experienced that level of acceptance , she chooses to dress as she does so she will always get read , I believe she does it because she’s ” TRANS” and likes to be different . The problem is she refuses to accept the possibility that I do pass fairly well , the fact is I have to work at it to achieve my goal , she doesn’t .
Personally I still see this as a road we travel down , some go all the way and some take diversions or stop short , there are no rules . What I find ironic is we are more critical within the transgender community than the general public are . I accept when I first came out and joined another forum I wanted to shout it from the rooftops , I wanted validation , I wanted people to look at me and possibly shout ” WOW” . I also admit I’ve travelled down the road much further than I expected , the view has changed and I’ve changed so much with it , it’s wonderful to say I now live comfortably as a woman and appear to be accepted for that. Call it ” Passing ” or ” Blending ” if you like the fact is it’s working for me .
First, by my count, I used a version of crossdresser at least twelve times in the post. I think it’s pretty clear what group I was talking about.
Second, for those who have or are transitioning–I’ve had at length discussions with several, and find their stories fascinating–on a scale of 1 to 10 the decision to transition is a 10 and what to wear after you transition is a 1.
Third, believe what you like about blending and passing after transitioning, but no more than an hour ago I was at a Nordstrom in Durham and I have no doubt that a beautiful and beautifully dressed SA was Transgender. I’m talking 99.9% sure, and she was in her early 20’s, if I had to guess. My companion Renee agreed.
Fourth, I believe anyone who reads your comment would say that you are proving my point about “tolerance for me and none for thee.” For example, your comment about your neighbors proves my point. You are essentially saying that your neighbors’ point of view is more important than your friends–and you agree with the neighbors, that your “friends” were inappropriately dressed.
This statement of yours proves my point 100%.
“I do have heated debates with the trans friend I mentioned , she’s of the opinion that people do know we’re all male and the public are just being kind . She has never been in the same situation that I have placed myself , so she has never experienced that level of acceptance , she chooses to dress as she does so she will always get read , I believe she does it because she’s ” TRANS” and likes to be different . The problem is she refuses to accept the possibility that I do pass fairly well , the fact is I have to work at it to achieve my goal , she doesn’t .”
Simply put, you’re saying you’re dressing “correctly” and your friend isn’t.
“Tolerance for me, and none for thee” personified.
Sorry, but bully for your friend, because she doesn’t care what your neighbors think or you think. She is choosing to live her life as she sees fit, whereas you are judging her on how she cares to dress.
You’re the problem, not her.
Last, I have no idea who reads these posts. I have a handful of friends who I know that read regularly. My guess is there are up to maybe 500 people who read my blog regularly. Where they are on the Transgender spectrum, I don’t know. What portion are “admirers”, I don’t know.
But among those who are crossdressers who read this, I hope the people who think “I wish I could wear what Dee is wearing out in public” outweighs those who think “OMG is she really wearing that?” is 99 to 1.
Because I WEAR WHAT I WANT TO WEAR.
I do take it as read that you are talking about CDers and not trangender in transition .
Living as a woman does mean getting my priorties right . I needed to gain full acceptance from people who mean the most to me , family has to come first . To retain contact with them I had to consider the items I wear , it was only fair to them and it’s worked , they are comfortable with sepnding time with me in public . Also I had to work at gaining the confidence of my neighbours , I see them most days so yes they are more important than a trans friend I see every six weeks .
My trans friend does have issues which she tries to impose on me , I’ve always had an open door policy but not to the extent of being abused on occasions by her . Sorry if you think I’m being judgemental , personally I feel I’m being realistic and totally honest with myself and other people .
My friends can wear what they wish to but perhaps they should consider if it causes difficulties with other people , if they can’t “own it ” then they should think twice about the clothes they choose to wear .
. The bottom line is I have gained far more acceptance than she has through consideration for the people I come into contact with . The fact is I’ve had to , I attend a painting group every Friday and attend National Trust meetings twice a month , I even took a week’s holiday with them last year and will repeat it this year , for all intense and purposes I feel I do pass as a woman to those people .
Wear what you choose to wear by all means but also be prepared to own it and take the rough with the smooth , that is the RW , I’ve learnt that the hard way , that’s why I’m now divorced .
I started to do this about a decade ago when I started to wear high heels as my normal shoes, even at work.
I do much more now, all in ‘boy mode’.
I like to say that my closet has transitioned. My jeans and leggings, turtlenecks/bodysuits, shorts, shoes, … all have. One of my favorite jackets is a cheetah print sherpa. Many men and women have asked where I got it. I was shopping in an Express Women’s, saw it, tried it on, and bought it. To me, it took a lot of courage to buy it, and then to wear it out and to work the first time. After 4 years, I get still compliments everytime I wear it.. So glad I bought it, such a great fine. WWYWTW
I do agree we should wear what we choose
The thing that bothers me are those in the community that want to be more boisterous
and have a kind of in your face attitude toward the world
I feel that hurts us in general as those who don’t know us put us in that category as radical and such
You are right though I’ve rarely seen trans girls in public, generally the only one I see is the one in the mirror
Yes I do dress to blend it’s how I’m comfortable especially as I get older
Great take on all of this Dee
Thanks. However, I disagree with these statements.
“The thing that bothers me are those in the community that want to be more boisterous
and have a kind of in your face attitude toward the world. I feel that hurts us in general as those who don’t know us put us in that category as radical and such.”
History suggests otherwise.
The civil rights protesters, the Rosa Parks, MLK Jr., and a multitude of others who suffered or died, were boisterous and in the face of authorities–and advanced civil rights in this country.
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison and ended apartheid.
The US as a nation exists because those boisterous enough fought for independence.
The Stonewall riots led to advances in LGBT rights. It took time, but it was those who were loud and obnoxious and forced change.
There were people in the crossdressing community who were out and about fifty years ago when it was illegal to do so that has led to widespread tolerance today. We stand on their shoulders, and owe our thanks to them.
We move forward as a culture when there are those who are loud and boisterous and stand up for rights, when many of us are afraid to do so for personal reasons. They are to be praised, not condemned.
The irony is that one of the biggest moves forward for the TG community is because of Kaitlyn Jenner, who’s political views are pretty reprehensible. However, there is no doubt that she raised the public’s recognition of TG individuals.
The voices today are of those Republicans wishing to scapegoat drag queens, who have nothing to do with “grooming” children, while ignoring church personnel of all stripes (priests, pastors, youth pastors) who ARE sexually assaulting children. Those Republican voices need to be countered by those who are loud and boisterous.
We should be thankful for those who make progress happen.
I guess Dee we will have to agree to disagree on this in I see know purpose in the way some go about demands of those of us being allowed into cis women’s spaces. Don’t take that wrong in yes I do use the ladies room when I’m en fem but if I was not comfortable doing so I would not demand I be allowed. I also try not to do so most of the time
The legislation that many states are proposing defiantly are troublesome, parents who are engaged with their trans kids should not just be passed off as child abusers, the ones I’ve met truly love their kids.
So in this yes we should stand up and be heard
Being trans is not an easy life and those who oppose us really just don’t understand because they make us out to be deviant and that is where some of these public displays can do more harm than good
We have to accept some CDers love dressing up , some can’t explain why , some like the attention and for soem it’s more of a fetish . We also have to accept some members of the public will never go along with it , we can discuss the rights and wrongs until we’re blue in the face but we do have to fit into society so it has to mean give and take at times .
Social groups and ” Pride days ” give them the chance to safely exhibit how they feel . I admit I’ve dropped out of social meetings after experiencing what could have been an awkard situation at my painting group . In some ways it wasn’t a bad thing as I had to decide where I finally was in transition , I go out as a woman daily , I live like a woman and get accepted for it .The meetings were making me take a step back to where I came from , I couldn’t deal with it and strangely the members didn’t relate the same way to me . To a point you are correct in saying some CDers could do more harm than good to other members of the transgender community without realising it .
Thanks for the shout out.
Dee and I have had many discussions about blending and passing.
I’m not interested in knowing if someone is blending or passing. I’m interested in the person as a person.
To all but .00002 of the world’s population I am insignificant.
I find this very comforting.
I don’t care if folks think I’m gay, straight, bi, non-binary, and such.
I try for reasonable personal hygiene and very comfortable clothes.
I have aways WWIWTW. It just keeps coming in and out of style.
Life’s too short and I have had to overcome too many obstacles to worry about others judgements.
Or as I say all too often, “I know how to do this, and I choose not to”.
I thoroughly enjoy being a Dee admirer. It’s coming up on 35 years.
Thanks for expanding my horizon.
You know I am a fan, and hope we can meet one day. But, I beg to differ a bit. Certainly, if you want to say none of the transgender women you have met “pass,” that is a judgment you are entitled to make. But all? Your own survey belies the fact. There are plenty of transgender people (CD and Transfemales), yet most people have never seen any “in the wild”. I think I have good “radar” and have never been to a CD or TG event, yet I have seen a half dozen over the past five years. I am sure living and traveling in big cities and taking public transit makes it more likely. Still, there have been other times when I have simply wondered about how the person I am seeing was assigned at birth. But, here is the best proof: there are a significant number of human beings in history, both trans feminine and trans masculine, whose birth gender was only discovered after they had died. Same with persons who had a black parent yet were able to “pass” for white during segregation (for the historical record, I believe we have appropriated the expression of passing from black Americans). Also, I am talking about a time when gender was more fixed. I had a young person announce to me two weeks ago they they were non-binary. I always thought this person was female. But, they disguised their gender behind much higher acceptance today for gender non- conforming individuals. I have been told I “pass” before, but that has never been my goal, and I don’t know or care all that much if I ever will truly achieve it. In the end that means I agree that WWYWTW is a good rule for life — a shorthand way of saying love yourself and don’t get too hung up on the rules of society. I very much like myself, and I believe you do too!
Dee, good post – really enjoyed it.
‘Passing’ has a lot to answer for It’s invariably equated with feminine beauty and often judged from photographs carefully curated to present the subject in the best possible light. It also begs the question that if, in a group of 10 people, 9 say you pass and 1 says you don’t, is that ‘passing to all intents and purposes’ or does the one negate the other nine?!
In fact, I’ve long held the belief that the ‘do I pass?’ question is toxic with no satisfactory answer. The reality is that there are many factors other than facial appearance that can give the game away – voice, gait, height, mannerisms and so on. Answering with a straight ‘yes’ can lead to delusion and ‘no’ can be devastating to someone already emotionally fragile, ignoring the question altogether is tantamount to saying no and, in the case of transitioners, do they really want to hear ‘hormones and surgery will give amazing results in your case’ – a long way of saying ‘not yet’?
The thrust of what you wrote is spot on. I have no personal experience of being in the outside world, at least not yet anyway, but week after week, your & Kandi’s posts in particular have a simple message ‘own it and the respect you give to others will be reciprocated’. There’s much more to womanhood than just being facially indistinguishable from one and it is ticking all of the other boxes that ultimately leads to acceptance. At that point the decision someone makes as to whether we’re trans or cis becomes irrelevant.
A couple of interesting observations , obviously you are thinking of the future and possibly how it could affect you .
Is it true to say the passing question is toxic ? Mentally it possibly is as it’s something most of us feel it’s the ulimate goal . Over the years I had to learn to curb asking the question , are people going to be kind to you or truthful assuming there is a difference . Being fulltime does change the perspective , I don’t look for compliments , somtimes a woman will comment on an item being worn and if I really like an item they’re wearing I make my comments in a similar way .
Perhaps the ” passing ” question could be turned round by saying someone passes more as a woman than a man . To me that statement sums up transition , as we gradually leave the man behind our mindset changes and somehow that vibe is picked up by other people . Choice of clothes does play an important part , most of us still read a book by it’s cover , if they like the cover then it’s possible they will enjoy the contents .
On another forum it’s often quoted that many might pass at a distance but close up is a totally different story . I must admit at one time sitting next to another person especially a woman was scary , I gradually realised they’re not looking for male traits but in fact checking out my makeup . Reading guys is proving slightly more difficult , on separate occasions they’ve told me I intrigue them . Sometimes it’s not what your voice sounds like but what you choose to talk about , there are some subjects women don’t often talk about , so I have to take care .
Thanks for all the comments. I have been out doing all day in my 4th day of pretty much all Dee time.
The trans haters aren’t interested in facts. To say that actions of some make it worse is false, IMO, because their hate isn’t based in reality. They just needed whipping boys.
Once again, when you write things like fetish you denigrate others in the community. The only person it reflects badly on is you. And when you write about others accepting you as a “woman”, you should understand they are accepting you as a PERSON, regardless of gender.
Again, it’s pretty clear the issues you face, like your divorce, is YOUR choice to present female all of the time, and has zero to do with how someone somewhere else dresses.
I believe most individuals who were determined to be posing as the opposing gender were woman masquerading as men. I suspect those individuals did so because men in past days (and today) were more powerful and economically successful. It likely had little to do with gender dysphagia.
And comparing race to a male wishing to present female is completely apples and oranges, and a dark aspect of our past, and is in no way analogous to a guy going out in a dress today.
Amanda, thanks, and Renee, thanks as always (and FWIW, Renee and I just spent four days together, reconnecting after not seeing each other for 35 years).
My comments were not intended to denigrate anyone , I’m sorry if you choose to see it that way , to state certain facts of social life can hardly be described as reflecting badly . We can push so far with society but must also accept a compromise sometimes .
You appear to suggesting I’m not accepted as a woman . Since going fulltime it can and does happen , that is the difference between your lifestyle and mine . I find very much that people who still need or want to retain a male side can’t fully comprehend all the implications of living totally as a woman . There is no back door or quick exit for me , I’m committed 100% to my new lifestyle . Sometimes the normality of it means going along with social ideals , in the past I have ridden the scary rollercoaster , I’ve banged the drum and made my protests . However with time I needed to find me and be truthful to myself , I’ve had to set up a new home and establish life as Teresa . In truth that isn’t easy but at least I’m happy and found some peace now , so please don’t question my gender when so many of my friends don’t .
Dee, firstly as a Melbourne Girl, good to know you have visited here! Secondly i think your attitude of WWYWTW is wonderful and I agree with it 100% and as they say you Go Girl!
But i do not agree with your views on passing and blending. I have been out about 30 times, across 3 continents, Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast here in Aus, London & Chicago and San Francisco in the US.
I believe there is no such thing a passing ie you cannot go out and expect no one to ever pick you, no matter what. I do however believe if you choose to blend in you can blend in most of the time. Of my 30 outings about 10 were in San Fran with a bunch of girls where no attempt was made to blend in, it was a clear case of here we are a bunch of TGirls, at bars & clubs etc. and we had a load of fun and not once did i pick up any negativity. The other 20 or so outings were doing ‘normal’ things, such as shopping, eating meals out, walking through markets, going to shows, sitting on a beach.. all these activities stuff a woman of my age (59 now) would do, dressed as a woman in her 50s would dress. I can tell you with absolute confidence that 90% of the time I blended in to 90% of the people. After a bit of experience I can tell when someone has picked me, I can see the surprise in their eyes. I can also see the hundreds of people who i walked past, that just saw a middle aged woman and it did not enter their mind that i was anything other than a woman. One very obvious experience was shopping, finding a dress I liked and wanted to try on, but they didn’t have my size.. took the wrong sized dress up to the counter, SA looks at me, no recognition in her eyes, i reach her, she smiles, i say “do you..” and i see her eyes widen in surprise.. and her smile falters for a second but she recovers brilliantly!
As you correctly said “humans judge people on first impressions..” yes agreed.. so when i walk past people at a market, what do they see when they glance? Long hair, skirt/dress, boobs, handbag, tall woman.. thats their impression.. it doesn’t enter their thought process that i would be anything other than a woman. Of course if they watched me closely, they would start to wonder, but i have blended in perfectly. The other key to blending in other than dressing age and venue appropriately is to be relaxed and ‘own it’ as being nervous will attract a second look.
Finally, there are women who are over 6 feet tall, women with tiny hips, women with hairy arms, big shoulders.. so just because we may have some doesn’t automatically make people assume we are males.
Your last paragraph is very true , women come in all shapes and sizes , it’s more than an even chance we will slot in somewhere .
Interesting footnote after a conversation with two dog walking friends this morning . They both knew me in male mode when I first moved to my new home and walked my dog five years ago . We talked about acceptance and the abilty to pass as a woman , during the conversation I realised they make the distinction because they know both sides of me so can perceive the maleness in me . I pointed out that the social groups I now mix with do not know my history , they have nothing to compare me with , so they have no reason the look for male traits . They only see what they want to see which is female . After some thought both the guys agreed with me , for a while I thought it wiser to stop taking these walks but for one I need the exercise and secondly I know them well enough to have constructive conversations .