Passing with Pride

Pride 2013 was an interesting time, because I could feel something rumbling inside me; this feeling, I would later discern, was that I no longer identified with womanhood. I had never really been attached to the idea of being a woman, but it was all I knew, so it was at least a little comfortable.

Pride as a concept has always been a little complicated for me. Growing up, I was super closeted – turns out getting consistently called “gay” as a pejorative for most of your childhood will do this to you! It wasn’t that I thought being gay was bad, it was just that the media I was consuming was Very Straight. When I was probably 14 or 15, I wanted to go to San Francisco on a weekend; I grew up in the suburbs, so it was only a 45-minute commute, but I still had to ask permission to go. I can’t remember if I began the conversation knowing that it was Pride weekend, but after I let it slip that it was happening, my dad told me I couldn’t go and that I’d get “mixed up with all the fruits and nuts.” So, I didn’t go to Pride for another few years, until I was 20 and living on my own in San Francisco. I wanted to show up for my new friends from school, many of them queer (which, admittedly, I didn’t quite understand at the time, growing up I knew people who fit into the L, G, and B categories, but T and Q eluded me until college). I remember it being a hazy, warm summer, and we all just relaxed at Dolores Park, hanging out and being happy together. I felt a sense of community that I hadn’t before, even though I didn’t feel like it was necessarily mine to have.

In 2012, I went to Pride with a somewhat new realization that I was not straight, and that I was attracted to people regardless of their gender identity. This discovery was scary and exciting and life-changing. Magical, even. I had been spending a lot of time on Tumblr, and surrounding myself with other LGBTQ folks, and suddenly I had a vocabulary that I hadn’t sourced from before – I had words to describe how I felt! This made 2012’s Pride inherently exciting. I had recently started shaving my head in order to look more androgynous, and was generally leaning in that direction. I wasn’t hyper-feminine at the time, but I didn’t want to be the femme-presenting person that I had been up until this point.

Pride 2013 was an interesting time, because I could feel something rumbling inside me; this feeling, I would later discern, was that I no longer identified with womanhood. I had never really been attached to the idea of being a woman, but it was all I knew, so it was at least a little comfortable. Being “out” was still fairly new to me, but I had just entered my first relationship, and my boyfriend happened to be a cis man. (For the record, we are still together and he has been nothing but incredibly supportive throughout my entire journey.) If he came to Pride with me, I was worried people might see us together and think, “Oh, look at that straight couple, what are they doing at Pride?” I wanted to be able to be there for me, and not just in alliance with lesbians, bisexuals, gays, and trans folks: I was queer! Pride was for me, too!

Later that year, I started feeling those “maybe not a woman” feelings more intensely. What did this mean for me? What did this mean for my relationship? I wasn’t really sure, but I started identifying as non-binary, and it felt comfortable. But I wasn’t sure what to do, because there is no one right or wrong way to present as non-binary. Androgyny is deeply rooted in this largely unattainable ideal of thin, white, and slightly masculine-leaning. I was too fat, my facial features too feminine, I thought, to achieve this. How would people know unless I explicitly told them? The widely held androgyny ideal erases all of the infinite ways that gender can be expressed and presented! This leads to the concept of “passing,” which I believe is closely guarded by straight cisgender people; looking “straight” and “cis” is the goal, and I understand that being able to defy that comes with a lot of privilege that a lot of other trans people may not be afforded. That being said, the idea that people might think I’m a straight woman stresses me out a lot. It’s something I have tried to shake over the years, to some degree of success.

It’s June again, and even though Pride festivities have been officially cancelled due to COVID-19, the idea of passing sneaks its way into the forefront of my mind. The most upsetting part of Pride being cancelled is that there will be no Trans March, which is the only event I have regularly attended over the last few years. The Trans March is such an important and beautiful event, beginning at Dolores Park and ending in the Tenderloin, in an area now known as Compton’s Transgender Cultural District. Gathering together with other Trans people and allies provides me with a sense of pride that carries me through the year. Even though Trans March won’t be happening this year, I am still looking forward to celebrating my friends and our Trans identities in other ways, like making zines that share our experiences. Being transgender is beautiful regardless of the season, and I am forever grateful to the trans women of color who paved the way in our fight for rights as a community.

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