There are always conflicting ways to look at the same events, people, and actions. Non-fiction demonstrates this phenomenon. It is simply one take of the events that happened. Since we are all informed by whatever experiences we’ve been through, we end up with different versions of events, even in the smallest way. The best non-fiction tries to distill that essence, splicing together multiple narratives into one, but it always has an overriding element: what is important to the story? That depends on the story that’s being told. We debate what is or isn’t material to a story, we insist some things are done in an objective manner, but what’s material changes from person to person, and objectivity is a nice concept, but what does it ultimately mean? As people, as societies, we decide, but these are malleable concepts that change over time. But we like narratives, we like resolution. Resolution may be different to you; it may be telling the story that you set out to tell. To one person it’s more; to the next person, it’s less. Irrelevant of the style, we all have a story to tell, and each of our lives is a version.
Beyond that, I hold conflicting views of myself, often simultaneously, and you might too. Take my body, for example. There are times where I’m really happy with it, when I manage to kick out a good time on a run, when my hair falls just right with just a touch of waviness, when I thoughtlessly put things on the high shelves in my kitchen. There are times where I feel saddled by it, when most dresses I try on are just too short or too tight, when I realize that this is the most I’m getting out of estrogen and it doesn’t feel like that much, when my makeup only serves to highlight everything that feels wrong. I am much better at managing the negative feelings now, but I will probably always deal with some level of frustration with my body. Some days I feel all of it at once. I may have reached a point where I know there’s nothing wrong with me, but I still interact with a society that rigidly enforces both a consensus and their own views on concepts like gender to my detriment. At times I’m just a man pretending to them. Sometimes I’m something else entirely. Sometimes I’m a woman but I can tell there’s an asterisk attached. Sometimes I’m just a woman. I never really know how I’m going to be treated by the people around me. It might be a good way to tell if they’re assholes or not, but it isn’t necessarily something I want to deal with any time I interact with people.
Going stealth never really felt like an option for me. I’ve said that before. I just don’t think I have a body where I could get to a point that I pass that well. And I didn’t want to, particularly. It also would have meant giving up some things that I rather like. Like my friends. But getting to a point where there was a portion of my life where no one knows I’m trans? That would be nice. Even if I don’t talk about trans stuff at work, I have been misgendered enough by people I work with over the years to know that will never really be the case. Most of the time, I’m pretty happy being openly trans, it’d just be nice to turn off every so often if that makes sense? It’s not because there’s anything wrong with being trans, it’s just sometimes I don’t want to be called sir when I’m just going to get a cup of coffee. As much as passing is a complicated concept (because, to a degree, it’s living up to specific cis standards of how people should look that aren’t that great for trans or cis people), I understand why a lot of trans people seek to. There are certainly things I have done personally to pass better. So I don’t begrudge those who do or judge people who seek to; besides, it’s restrictive of other peoples’ autonomy to say what they should or shouldn’t do. I never desired facial feminization and I still don’t. If I did anything else from a surgical perspective, that wouldn’t be it. For some people that’s important, and it helps. And if it does for them? Cool. I’m pretty happy with my face and that hasn’t changed. Just because it’s not for me doesn’t mean it’s not for others. And who knows maybe I’d feel different if my insurance covered it or I came into some money. I just think it’s important to always ask myself if I want to do those things, but agency also matters.
It can be difficult to separate whether my attitude on passing is informed by my body and my body of experience. In fact, there’s no point in trying to separate it. Those experiences obviously and inevitably influence my viewpoint. If I wish I did pass a little better sometimes, it’s because I believe it would help alleviate some of the stress that goes along with being trans in our society. Sometimes someone says something about passing and I’m in a really frustrated mood and it feels patronizing because I don’t feel like I do as much as I might like in that moment; other times it looks like the smartest thing I’ve read on the topic and a nice viewpoint that I don’t have based on my body of experience. Sometimes it feels like both simultaneously. Most of the time I’m happy and I’m trying to seek more viewpoints and challenge myself to learn more and be open-minded. Most of the time I realize that there are a lot of valid ways to express the same general idea that there is no right way to be trans and I want to see that in as many expressions as possible. But sometimes I’m having a bad day, full of petty jealousy I wish I didn’t possess for a life that seems better superficially based on looks. I’m not proud of that feeling; that’s not who I want to be. So it’s something that I’m always working on. And perhaps someday I truly won’t feel that way, but that day is not today.
I could lie about it and tell you or myself a different version of the truth, but what’s the point in that? What good am I doing if I’m not being honest with myself? And how do I know other people aren’t feeling the same way about me? While to some degree my opinions is not just informed by what I think but the information I’m getting around me, perhaps I’m just focusing on the wrong input, or stuck on the negatives. It’s alluring to think of how one superficial element could change my life for the better, but in an interconnected system, it’s hard to know the outcomes. And it’s much easier to think about what positive things might change without bothering to forecast the negatives. That isn’t to say passing doesn’t confer some positive affects for the people who do, it’s to say I probably haven’t thought about the negatives, and they exist whether I realize it or not. It’s just a different version of events that ultimately still has a pretty similar outcome. Either way, I would still be a trans woman in a society that is still deeply uncomfortable with us even existing, let alone thriving. And I don’t just need to rely on my own version of events, I have seen and read many other versions to form a consensus. Objectively, we need to make the world a better place for all trans folks. Based on the narratives I see, based on my own experiences, there are still a lot of ways we can do that. They’re all important. So what’s this? This is just one more person’s version of the events to help support that point of view.