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Can We Be ‘Read’ and Pass At the Same Time?

| Oct 17, 2011
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There is this t-girl chat room that I sometimes visit on Monday evenings. A group of regulars have a pact to chat with each other at that time. Their comments are more interesting than most idle chat room chatter. I had no sooner logged in two weeks ago when I saw one of the girls asking if we had seen that day’s article by Angela Gardner about being ‘read’ when dressed while out in public.

Sorry to say only two of us seemed to have seen it but that didn’t stop the others from having a wide variety of views about being read. One girl, Marcie, opined that was why she shied away from public places. She just knew that mall security would have her arrested or worse a pack of teens would out her. On the other extreme was a girl who claimed to be one who goes out dressed many times and she is never read. She wrote something to the effect, “I’m not any better looking than you, Marcie. People are just not that observant. You should read that article. It might give you some hints.”

Roxanne, who had originally mentioned Angela’s article, chimed back in to the effect that the article was not about how to avoid being read. It was about the different reactions one gets when being read.

Exactly, I contributed, the other point you can infer from the article is that we are probably being read all the time but the vast majority of people seem to now have no reaction to seeing a man en femme. I said it had been that way for me for many years. I added that when I do get a comment from a stranger it tends to be more complimentary and supportive than derisive.

After a little bit of skepticism I offered to post an article I had written many years ago. I added that the title said it all. After a little searching through my files I posted the article to their newsgroup.

Here it is as presented in TGForum some 15 years ago:

Passing: Is it Fooling or Just Not Offending?

A number of times I have read accounts by sisters who have ventured out of their closets and into the “real world” and they have reported that they have been so happy that they “passed”, implying that they thought no one who saw them recognized that they weren’t a woman. A typical account might be “I dressed in heels and a mini skirt and my best frilly blouse, I made up my eyes and put on some cherry red “come-fuck-me” lipstick. I drove to the other side of town and pumped some gas at the local Mini Mart. A man smiled at me, he had no idea I was in drag. I was so happy to pass.”

It’s time for a reality check, girls. Here’s the story from the other side. Last week on a Sunday afternoon my wife and I saw one of the leaders of our local transgender group walking through one of our public buildings. (I lived in Ottawa, Canada at the time) She was wearing high heels and a short skirt. She is pretty but from behind her broad shoulders, tiny butt and strong legs were a dead give-away of her true gender as she clicked heavily down the hall. Many people saw Joanne and some turned to take a second look but while few could have mistaken her for a woman no one made comment, snickered or did anything that would tell her that she was attracting unusual attention. For all I know Joanne may have thought she was passing.

Sorry Joanne; that wasn’t happening but what was happening wasn’t bad.

There are very few of us who are genetically privileged enough to have the right muscle and skeleton structures, skin and facial hair and voice to make many people actually believe we are women. Many of us further compound that problem by choosing to wear clothes that don’t flatter our body type. So we have no chance of passing, right?

Wrong. When I was in school and wrote tests one didn’t have to get a perfect mark to “pass.” One just had to display enough knowledge to show they understood the basic concepts of the course. Similarly passing for the crossdresser doesn’t have to be about appearing 100% female or about fooling others. Rather a pass could be considered to have been achieved when the crossdresser dresses and wears her hair fine enough to fit in with the surroundings. To get by en femme “on the street” or in the mall the crossdresser can “pass” by dressing the way women around are dressing. That means flats and jeans to the mall, casual clothes to the movies and restaurants; save the exotic dressing for the drag bars.

Besides dressing appropriately, there are several other techniques I could recommend to improve one’s “passing mark.” Match your makeup to the time of day. Beard cover and foundation are most important at any time. Then for day time wear little else. Heavy eyeliner, mascara and lipstick will attract undue attention and lower the passing score.

Adopt feminine mannerisms, walk with short steps, don’t hurry, don’t fidget with your hair or clothes. Avoid eye contact with strangers — if you look some will look back. In some social groups eye contact with a man would be considered a come-on; in others a threat. Neither is a situation the strolling crossdresser should encourage.

Unless you are a petite 5′ 6″ or less, keep your shoes low except for the most special occasions. Yes, I know heels feel sexy and they give a nice shape to our legs but believe it or not most people will not notice a difference and a heavy person walking on a mall’s hard floor will sound somewhat like Patton’s army marching across the Rhine Bridge. My rule is the earlier the hour, the lower the shoe. Flats or sneakers for day wear, a low heel to go dining and maybe a 3″ heel for glamor occasions.

Passing doesn’t have to be about fooling people. The vast majority of people today don’t want to hassle others. We have grown up through a “do-your-own-thing” era. We are ready for the most part to let those things that don’t directly offend us or intrude in our lives go by. That’s why my friend Joanne could “pass” on her Sunday stroll. It is why most of us can pass when we venture out in public.

We’re not fooling anyone. We’re just not offending them.


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Category: Transgender Body & Soul, Transgender How To, Transgender Opinion

Linda Jensen

About the Author ()

Canadian writer Linda Jensen is a long time contributor to TGForum. Before the days of the Internet Linda started her writing with the Transvestian newspaper. Her writing ranges from factual accounts of her adventures to fiction although frankly sometimes her real life adventures are stranger than the fiction. Linda is married to a loving partner who upon learning about Linda said, "she was part of you before I met you. Although I didn't know it she was part of the package I fell in love with. I don't want to mess up that package." "Does it get any better than that?" asks Linda.

Comments (3)

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  1. says:

    Ladies, Thanks for the feedback. If anyone would like to give comments or suggestions privately I’m always available at lindajen(at)hotmail, etc

  2. says:

    This is a good article and so was that article by Angela Gardner. I appreciate these perspectives, even as one who is post-op. For if I hadn’t been influenced by Angela’s perspective, I would have done a lot more knee-knocking out of fear before finally coming out in public.

  3. michellehart michellehart says:

    That was a really good article. It showed many of the tips that some seem to forget when being out and about. I know that we always want others to think of us as sexy but even in every day clothes, we can look sexy and feminine. We strive to be able to pass in every situation but must remember that in order to do that, we must blend in and not draw attention.

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