Not Foolin’ Anyone—Least of All, Ourselves

No Trans Dilemma in Being Who We Are

The one-joke plot that titillates gender-binary culture is the person in drag who’s fooling no one but themselves and the idiots on-screen with them. To name a few examples:

  • Victor/Victoria

  • Bosom Buddies

  • Some Like It Hot

  • Ace Ventura, Pet Detective

  • Tootsie

  • Mrs. Doubtfire

  • Virtually every Shakespearean comedy

The premise behind the charade is that it’s a charade. Look at that fool trying to get away with masquerading as the other gender!

Passing is important to trans persons, but not for the reasons some people think. Being trans is not about fooling anyone, especially ourselves.

Enlightened Rogues

The scenario also plays out in “enlightened” allies’ telling of their encounters with trans persons. “Then I said, ‘Oh m’gosh, I would never have known if you hadn’t told me!’” as if that’s the highest compliment the ally can bestow. Of course, the ally ends the story with, “They were so happy that I had no clue, they cried tears of joy!”

Ahem. Perhaps they were crying because they had to deal with a would-be ally.

To pass is to strut past gender-binary roadblocks and jokes, to live as ourselves.

Nobody’s Fool

Passing is important to trans persons, but not for the reasons some people think. Being trans is not about fooling anyone, especially ourselves. We’ve lived through years, even decades, of not being at home with ourselves and having no way to communicate that displacement, no way to channel the anger, no way to vent the relentless depression and sense of loss and dissociation. Further, passing isn’t a wink to ourselves that we’ve fooled the world. Being trans is not a costume but finally being who we are, regardless of what anyone else thinks. The passing we do is not with others, not with ourselves, but instead is …

  • passing a store window and seeing our true selves in the reflection

  • passing the day without writhing in our own skin

  • passing on sadness, regret, closeting, shame, and hopelessness

To pass is to strut past the gender-binary roadblocks and jokes, to live as ourselves.

Some Like It Hot and similar vehicles aren’t about trans people but about the insecurities and dilemmas of cisgender people posing as someone they’re not.
Movie post for Some Like It Hot, featuring Marilyn Monroe, embraced by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon in drag.

Some Like It NOT

I’m an artist and writer who displays my work and images of myself to the public via social media and in-person. If I worried about whether the eyes that peruse me know I’m trans, I’d be much unhappier than when I had to butch it up as the dude I was assigned at birth-through-54-years-of-hell. But that’s the Some Like It Hot joke. To avoid being killed by mobsters, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon make the world think they’re dames. How far can the boys push girdles, heels, and lipstick? Hilarity ensues.

Some Like It Hot and similar vehicles aren’t about trans people but about the insecurities and dilemmas of cisgender people posing as someone they’re not … which makes you wonder why cis bigots legislate trans people’s access to bathrooms, sports, children’s story hours, and living in the world as persons of dignity and worth.

I don’t wonder. Cisgender bigots enjoy the privilege granted by their hegemony and suffer its consequences, much like Southern slave owners yoked themselves to their own tyranny. Cis bigots, religious zealots, and gender-critical haters of trans people fool themselves into think they’re free … of obsession, fear, and self-tyranny. When they laugh at drag characters, they’re like racists who nyuk at blackface minstrel shows. The clown face laughs back at them, stumbling in the dark.

Trans folk will take a pass on trying to enlighten them. We’re here to be us.

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