Stand P A T

I saw a bit of Marci’s latest show on Discovery Health.  I don’t watch Discovery Health much, and I will admit that when they pulled out the drawings of to transsexct and reshape a penis, well, enough for me.

But I was amused at the whole transsexual voice thing, so I pulled on my headset and made a voice mail for TBB, who is now somewhere in the Phillipine sea.

She said she laughed when she got it, me all high-pitched, mask resonance, sing-song, breathy, with just a touch of southern accent.  But she admitted that when I wasn’t goofing around, it sounded pretty good.

“I remember,” she replied, “traveling with another transwoman and deciding we would spend the whole trip squeaking like Mickey Mouse. It was fun, but it didn’t do anything for my voice.

“As transsexuals,” she continued, “we change so much about ourselves.  Why not change our voice, too?”

Why not, indeed?

It’s tough for me now, with two calls a day to parents who can barely hear me in the first place, between failing ears, failing focus, and lifelong challenges with nuance.  I end up needing to punch through, and that isn’t quite doable with a new and sweet voice.

A few years ago, I got into a discussion of how transpeople born male use tells to flag their status.  Lots of crossdressers were offended by those remarks; in their view, they were being authentic.  But in the view of others, we can see the tells.

Part of that is maturity, of course.  We become more polished, more finished, more together the more we actually are who we present ourselves as being.   I know that my tells of years ago were there for a reason, and while I remember people explaining to me where they were, I now understand that they were part of what I held.

Today, I look together and polished.  But I don’t work my voice to be high, breathy, and such.

For me, the challenge is always when someone first sees me as one thing and then comes inside my passing distance.  It’s that shift, that change, that shock that gives them a start and causes them to reconsider.   The moment when your sex changes in someone’s yes, well, that’s hard.  It happened to TBB when she was chatting with a retired seaman at the bar, at least until

I suppose that one technique could be to reduce the passing distance, to become more femaled so people don’t see.  That’s what changing my voice from the gender-neutral one I use (the man voice went away years ago) to a more feminine one would do.

The problem is, though, that no matter how I reduce my passing distance, there will always be one.   My bones, my throat, my hair, all that can still get me clocked, can still create that shift.

In the old days I would avoid that slip by being clearly a man-in-a-dress with no pretense of passing.  Over the years, though, as I have come to know myself as a woman, evidenced by people who know me as a woman thinking I look odd trying to pass as a man, that technique doesn’t  work.  I’m not a man-in-a-dress at all.

So what I do now is PAT; I Pass As Transsexual.  I don’t work to pass as female, rather I get the messy bit over quickly and just get identified as a transsexual woman.

Don’t get me wrong; I’d rather PAF, Pass As Female.  I’d like to feel comfortable and confident and not wait for the third gotcha, but in my mind, if people as beautiful as Candis Cayne and Calpurnia Addams can’t really pass, will get outed by the gay guy, just like Kaylynn in Brooklyn, well, then I don’t think I have much of a chance.

I just suspect that the more I try to PAF, the more trouble I cause when someone comes within passing distance.  I remember Jeanette Talia talking about her tricks, and how they got angry at her when she didn’t pass, because they didn’t want the scrutiny.

I like my cute voice, and would really like to believe it can help me PAF.  And it might, sure, it might.

It’s just that I will always have a passing distance, especially if I want to talk about my experience as a transperson in the world, and make no mistake, my experience is that of a transperson in this world, and not that of a man or a woman.

So I stand PAT.

Can’t really imagine any other way.

9 thoughts on “Stand P A T”

  1. thank you. that comment answers a lot of questions very concisely.

    as for PAT, it fairly describes most “high functioning” trans experience, i think. perfect passing is often claimed but rarely true, and most of the time it’s a matter of getting the cues past the threshold where misusing a pronoun (for instance) would simply make the other person look rude or silly. the fact is that most people “get it” and if you don’t actively offend them they’ll return the courtesy.

  2. I am glad this is a good thing for you; I really am.

    The only response my brain can seem to muster in relation to me is the phrase “That sucks.”

    Need to focus on things that make me feel good for a while…and I think I see PAT as failure or pointlessness on my part.

  3. Ms. Rachelle has noted that in her early days she saw a failure to PAF as a failure in her performance of transsexual.

    I think that makes sense. In order to PAT, you have to be seen to be performing woman at a high level, and that requires the attempt to PAF, to blend in and assimilate as a woman born female might.

    That’s the difference between transpeople born male who primarily identify as men or not-men and transpeople born male who identify as transsexual, evincing a deep desire to be female and woman. The second group has the drive to assimilate in a way that crossdressers (even skin-crossdressers,) drag-queens and androgynes just don’t.

    Grace, I understand your desire to PAF and your resistance to PAT. I also know that you are smart enough to know that changing the physical sex of your body, including all the markers that you went through puberty as male, isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

    That leaves you with a choice to indulge your “brain’s” judgement of “sucks” or to do what you can to live your life as a woman.

    As Cigfran notes, the key to most “high functioning” trans experience is doing the best you can with what you have got, and PAT.

    I spent years seeing PAT as failure and insufficient. It still isn’t really enough for me, but while you can’t always get what you want, if you try sometimes, you just might find you can get what you need.

    Or something like that.

  4. I can’t live my life as a woman without passing.

    So I guess I can’t live my life as a woman.

    What I need is to be seen as female, and this really just makes me think I’m never going to get there.

    Passing as trans implies the concept of “separate but equal”. I don’t want separate but equal.

    I need to stop talking about this, because it’s extremely fucking depressing. Sorry.

  5. Many, many people have lived their life as a woman without perfectly passing as female. The “fact” that you “can’t live your life as a woman without passing” — presumably passing as female – isn’t proven.

    Note, though, that I didn’t say “passing as trans.” There is quite a range of trans expression, and much of it only queers the gender assigned at birth; crossdressers, drag queens, butches and such.

    I said “passing as transsexual,” which is, at least to me, the idea that people see your expression as true, authentic and polished enough to trust that expression of gender over any indications that may reveal you are not perfectly female.

    Lots of people express trans, but few immerse themselves enough to “pass as transsexual.” And PAT does indicate assimilation into the role of a woman. While there may be limits to that assimilation, there are limits to all assimilation. You can ask those who are too fat, too tall, too handicapped, whatever.

    I’m not talking about third gender, separate expression here, not at all. If I was, I wouldn’t use the word passing, which implies assimilation and NOT separation. I’m not against third gender, but I always knew it wasn’t me. I have always said that I like gender as a system of communication, offering rich meaning in choices & symbols.

    Beyond the depression is the possibility of passing in the world in a gender role that empowers you.

    Don’t be sorry, Grace. I understand how tough this is, how much we all dreamed of magic that changes our bodies and makes us normative & loved. Losing that dream is painful, taking away paths of virtual comfort and pleasure.

    I just suspect that embodied comfort and pleasure come when we walk in the sunlight, and not just imagination.

  6. I’m not talking about an outside world “can’t”. I’m talking about an internal “can’t”.

    I don’t want to try if it’s not going to work, and ‘work’, in my definition, is defined as being passable as female.

    I’d really rather just not talk about it any more. I have to find a way to feel good tonight so I can sleep, and thinking more about this is going to make it worse.

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