I’ve heard “straight-acting” back in the day, usually referring to masculine gay men and femme lesbians who follow typical gendered behavior to the point gaydars couldn’t easily pick them out. Men did it to either challenge the stereotype that gay men were effeminate, to “hide in the closet” that they’re gay and thus hypermasculinize their behavior, or because much of them was just stereotypically masculine and they weren’t going to change something about themselves as part of some gay agenda to challenge things. Lesbians who “acted straight” usually dressed more femme, engaged in female-orientated behaviors and activities, and didn’t act “butch” as the lesbian stereotype often portrays them; again, some were feminine out of necessity, some had to hide in the closet, and others weren’t going to alter themselves just because of someone’s agenda to challenge “heteronormative” standards.

This extends somewhat to transsexuals who would pick up jobs, hobbies, interests, and other aspects of life typical of the sex they were transitioning to. For transsexual men like me, that would mean dressing in suits or baggy clothing, working in manufacturing or IT, and pursuing hobbies like amateur carpentry and cars (yea…neither for me). For trans women, this means the wearing the frilliest clothes and the latest hair fashions, working in service jobs or something traditionally feminine like nursing or receptionist, and picking up hobbies like fashion and cooking. (Not to mention doing whatever they could to undergo sex change surgeries, especially female facialization, which helped them to finally pass.)

In the US, the idea is now about being “true to oneself”, but in much of the rest of the world, survival and ”passing” are of upmost importance. LGBQs need to “act straight”, and trans people need to “look cis”. Same-sex attractions or not living as the sex you were born as can send you anywhere from jail to death row. In many states, despite our marriages being officially recognized, we’re still at risk from losing our jobs and housing, to being denied child custody, to being denied certain health insurance benefits (which often still denies sex change therapy). So, often, acting and looking like one sex or the other is not a matter of feeling sane, it’s a matter of life or death.

For us lucky enough to undergo a sex change, it irks me when I hear my siblings who don’t/can’t “pass” end up trashing us who do. To say I have “passing privilege” is a slap in the face to all the hard work I put in to heal my body and finally live my life as the man I always wanted to be. How I look and act is not a performance, but the result of sex-affirming treatments, psychotherapy, socially readjusting, delaying essential milestones, and paying huge medical and legal costs. I’m not going to change my personality just because my interests and characteristics just so happen to be “stereotypical” of men.

Members of the LGBT community are not automatically here to challenge stereotypes. If the goal is to be oneself, let them be themselves.

When I see us transsexual men who pass get labeled as “reinforcing toxic masculinity“, I really don’t know where to begin with this one… Look, I wear baggy clothes, I’m bald, I work in a factory because of the good pay and benefits, I’m attracted to women. I don’t actively go out of my way to fit into a box; this just happens to be who I am, what I like. And you know what? Life is hard as a guy. While maybe I might be able to get away with certain antics more, the burden to meet goals and quotas is much harder. There are almost no laws on the books to protect me from anything, from screwing up to layoffs (I can try to claim LGBT protections, but that’s iffy at best); whereas other demographics have laws protecting them due to their sex, their race or ethnicity, their creed or origin. (We need anti-discrimination laws, don’t get me wrong.)

If we want people to be themselves, don’t shit on them if who they are, how they behave, how they dress, or anything about them just so happens to fit within traditional stereotypes.

When I was butch, people asked me why not undergo sex change therapy; now that I’m male, people wonder why I couldn’t remain happy as a butch lesbian. Yea…

%d bloggers like this: