Passing vs. “Being Clocked”

In automotive culture, when you’re speeding and a speed cop measures your speed as being out of bounds, some English-speaking cultures refer to that as “being clocked.” It’s a sort of “gotcha, now you’re in trouble” thing. Somehow this has found its way into transgender culture so if a transsexual girl, for example, tries to come across as a normal girl and she fails to do so, then she’s “been clocked.”

When you’re not clocked, that’s referred to as “passing.” The adjective for someone able to “pass” to a sufficient degree, whatever that means, is “passable.”

Every idiot male who’s ever placed an ad to trawl for a t-girl on Craigslist seems to have discovered that word (though punctuation and spelling still remain undiscovered).

Many t-girls never come out because they are convinced they will not be able to “pass” to a sufficient degree (whatever that means).

One such t-girl is someone whom I like and whose blog I like to follow. She seems to have a sharp mind and a strong desire to come out and live as the girl she is, but the counterforce is stronger yet. Since she’s blogged in an open context I’m assuming it’s OK to quote her anonymously:

“I have no courage to transition … my biggest fear of all is never passing and just being seen as some freak monster.”

Much as we can sympathize, we can also analyze the assumptions behind that statement.

The “never passing” is a more complex form of “not passing.” So, let’s just begin with “not passing.”  The girl thus seems to consider two basic options:

  • a) passing
  • b) not passing and just being seen as some freak monster.

However, there is a third option — one that’s by far the most likely:

  • c) not passing and NOT being seen as some freak monster.

I live my life every day in the latter category, and nobody has offered me any haunted house freak-monster contracts. My Halloween outfit is always that of a hot stripper, and when I’m dressed like that the sort of house that many people seem enthused to take me to is a cathouse, not a haunted house.

When a t-girl uses “passing” as a measure of success, life is very stressful and it’s almost like being a con artist — perceptive people become a problem. And then when one is “clocked” that’s a huge disappointment for the t-girl and no doubt that ruins her moment (or event, or mood, or day) and this is probably not lost on whomever just clocked her, which (if it’s a mean person) is then relished.

Ironically, t-girls who dread being clocked have inspired an informal cottage industry of idiot males who stare intently at t-girls and then get a smug sort of knowing leer as soon as he figures out the girl is a t-girl — as if that’s some major cognitive achievement and as if she’s actually trying to hide something. In many cases, e.g., me, she isn’t. This sort of behavior makes the guy look SO lame, and it’s typically the dimmest-witted males who do this.

As to hoping to pass, or even caring, I use a different approach — basically I simply presume that I don’t pass. I’m 6″ tall with large hands and feet, and my face has too many male features to generally make me pass.  And that’s just fine by me. I’m a t-girl and if people can see it, so be it. Being a t-girl is a genetic condition, not a mental problem or a moral failure.There’s no reason to hide it.

In some sub-cultures, news to that effect hasn’t quite managed to filter down. It’s stuck in line behind the news that:

  • Being gay is OK (yes, even if they wanna get married),
  • Domestic violence isn’t OK (yes, even if she’s “running her mouth”)
  • Evolution is neither a hypothesis nor a fact, but a theory (which means it has approximately the same scientific validity as the theory of gravity).

Some sub-cultures have only recently accepted that the earth isn’t flat and that it’s also not just six thousand years old. There’s a lot of information processing backlog there, folks. Such places are best avoided, period — by t-girls and for that matter, by anyone who prefers intelligent interaction.

Before we pick on the US small-town and/or Bible Belt mentality too much, it’s a sobering thought that some entire countries have a prevalence of cultures that are vastly more anti-reason and anti-rights yet. You would find these by looking north and east from the Ukraine, or south and east of the Med. Enclaves of Western-culture exceptions are few.

Anyway — what I strive for is to look good, to be happy and to be friendly to nice people. That works well for me. If someone thinks I’m a cisgirl (normal girl) then as the interaction becomes more intimate then that actually becomes awkward — because I’d feel the need to “out” myself before things go too far.  One girl was hitting on me and I felt the need to make sure she knew I’m a t-girl in case that affected her opinion (it didn’t, and she’d already figured it out).

So, for me, “passing” can actually be a problem.

Here’s an example from yesterday: I was at a junkyard, and I’d gotten a ride there with a friend — and so my morning schedule was constrained and I didn’t wake up soon enough to put on ANY make-up. And, yes, I wore nice clothes, but they were invisible underneath my dirty jeans (Gloria Vanderbilt designer jeans, but still) and shapeless sweatshirt (under which were some large fake boobs that were probably hard to discern). I also wore some black and dusty combat boots and a dirty cowboy hat — not exactly Ms. Fashion Show.

After eight hours me of getting yet more dusty and dirty as such, one older gentleman smiled at me with a look that I recognize only too well — he was basically falling for me. I didn’t particularly care, one way or the other. I was there to remove and buy used BMW parts, not pick up anyone. So, I waved and smiled back. He beamed and asked if I’d gotten all decked out to come there today. Wow, if he thought this was me “decked out” then if he saw me without the hat, with make-up, and hot clothes and jewelry then he’d probably like me even more. Especially on Halloween!

Anyway, I said a vague and friendly thing in reply, and I could see from his expression that his brain was going into overload. My voice is not bad but it’s not exactly “silver bells tinkling” so that was his cue that I’m a t-girl, and I could see him reprocessing a lot of his prior observations. From then on he was silent and looked puzzled and a little sad. That’s fine. If someone doesn’t like me for who I am, they don’t like me, period. I focus on those who do.

As I learn to look, sound and move better (for ME, not for others) then passing more and more will lead to more and more such scenes — unless I happen to pass 100% of the time and I doubt that I ever will. And, not passing is just fine with me. It basically has to be so, because I’m a t-girl and there’s a limit to how feminized I can hope to ever be. Even if I were visually perfect, it might take me years to learn to speak, dance, move, walk, run, cough, laugh, sing, etc. as a girl and doing so perfectly might take forever.

Meanwhile I’m openly a t-girl and if someone has issues with it, they can take a hike. Most of the time, though, enough people are super-nice to me, and life is good. Some people have issues with who I am but that makes them narrow-minded. It doesn’t make me anything negative, and certainly not .. how did she phrase it? … some freak monster.

A t-girl who needs to pass all the time so as to be happy is basically holding herself to an impossibly high standard, and if that’s her prerequisite for coming out, she’ll never do so.

Science has shown that t-girls are born that way. Disliking them makes as little sense as hating gays or tall people or albinos. Yes, gay people can act straight, tall people can slouch, and albinos can douse themselves with tanning lotion, but really they should do so because THEY want to, not to so as to humor the worst segment of society and to basically grant the most negative premises of one’s most narrow-minded adversaries.

Similarly, t-girls can pretend to be otherwise, but why would we? To prevent bigots from feeling uncomfortable with reality? Frankly, I’m OK with bigots feeling as uncomfortable as they deserve. I’m not their problem.Their bad ideas are their problem. And it’s THEIR problem –not mine.

That said, some t-girls dress and put on make-up in a way that is overly sexual or girly relative to the rest of their look. Although they’re 100% within their rights, and there’s something to be said for the Burning-Man “anything goes” approach to social critique, a fashion faux pas does tend to raise eyebrows even in non-narrow-minded cultures. Imagine, as an example, a cisgirl in her 40s who’s dressed as if she were a 16-year old going clubbing. It’d look more odd than hot — and she’d get funny looks.

The stares that a t-girl gets (and might take personally) might well be due to her simply violating female dress code norms — and she’d get the same reaction if she were a cisgirl.

In case you were wondering: as a t-girl, I am fundamentally female, and so, yes, female pronouns — and if someone needs to be guided or reminded, I’m OK with that.

A logical approach goes a long way.

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