Passing with Pride

June 20, 2018 in inQueery

Pride has always been weird for me because when I was younger, I was super closeted (turns out getting consistently called “gay” as a pejorative for most of your childhood will do this to you!) and it wasn’t necessarily that I thought being gay was bad, it was just that the kind of media I was consuming was 99.9% Very Straight. When I was probably 14 or 15, I wanted to go to San Francisco on a weekend – I grew up in the suburbs, so it was only a 45-minute commute, but I still had to ask before I left. I can’t remember if I went into the conversation knowing that it was Pride weekend, but after I let it slip that it was happening, my dad said no and that I’d get “mixed up with all the fruits and nuts.” So, I didn’t go to Pride for another few years, until I was 20 and living in San Francisco. I went as an ally to support my friends – growing up, I knew people who fit into the L, G, and B, but the T and Q eluded me until college. Most of the people I had met through student housing or friends of friends were queer, and I wanted to show up for them. I remember it being a hazy, warm summer, and just relaxing and hanging out and being happy together; I vividly remember taking a nap at Dolores Park and it was one of the best I’ve ever taken. I felt a sense of community that I hadn’t felt before, even though I didn’t necessarily feel like it was my community to have.

In 2012, I went to Pride kind of newly realizing that I was not straight, and that I was into people regardless of their gender identity. It was scary and exciting and definitely life-changing to make that kind of discovery and to be comfortable with that; it felt really, really nice to be able to finally put how I felt into words, and a lot of that had to do with surrounding myself with other LGBTQ folks and I had been spending a lot of time on  tumblr, and I had gotten this vocabulary that I hadn’t had before. So this Pride was inherently exciting. I had started shaving my head in order to look more androgynous, and was leaning that way – I wasn’t hyperfeminine, but I didn’t want to be the femme-presenting person that I had been up until this point.

Pride 2013 was an interesting time, because I could feel something rumbling inside me, and that feeling was that I no longer identified with womanhood. I had never really been attached to the idea of being a woman, but it was all I knew, so it was at least a little comfortable. Being “out” was still fairly new to me, but I had just started seeing someone and this person happened to be a man. I was worried that people would see us together and think “oh look at that straight couple, what are they doing at Pride?” I wanted to be able to be there for me, and not just in alliance with lesbians, bisexuals, gays, and trans people: I was queer! Pride was for me!

Around the end of 2013, I started feeling the “what if I’m not a woman” feelings more intensely. What did this mean for me? What did this mean for my relationship? I wasn’t really sure, but I started identifying as non-binary, and it felt comfortable. But I wasn’t sure what to do, because there is no one right or wrong way to present as non-binary; androgyny is largely rooted in this largely unattainable ideal of thin, white, and slightly masculine-leaning. How would people know unless I explicitly told them? It’s tough, because while I am white, I am not thin and have somewhat soft features, and I was still dressing pretty femme at the time. The widely held androgyny ideal erases all the infinite ways that gender can be expressed and presented. This leads to the concept of “passing,” which I believe is guarded by straight cisgender people – looking straight and cis is the goal, and I understand that being able to defy that comes with a lot of privilege that a lot of other trans people don’t have, but “passing” as a straight woman stresses me out a LOT.

It’s June again, and that means Pride is coming up. With Pride comes the idea of passing and how-do-I-make-it-so-that-I-don’t-pass and trying to figure out how to escape that concept. I’ve come to a point with Pride where the only events that I feel safe, comfortable, and seen at are trans-centered, specifically Trans March in San Francisco. Trans March is the only event where I don’t get a knot in the pit of my stomach saying “you look straight, you look like a woman, this isn’t for you,” which is largely just my never-ending impostor syndrome talking. At Trans March, I have never felt “othered” and like I don’t belong. I deserve to be at Pride as much as any other queer person – I deserve the right to celebrate my identity and feel comfortable and remember those who fought the good fight.


Maira is a Visiting Writer at inQueery. You can see their short-form rants about queer feelings on Twitter @B0NEMACHLNE.