Usually it goes like this: I’ll be sitting at a restaurant with my back to the waiter. He’ll come to the table and launch into a well-worn, “Sir, are you ready to -” and then he’ll falter. Does he get a better look at my face? Is it an earring or a mannerism? One way or another he realises I’m a woman, and, deeply embarrassed, he tries to smooth over the hiccup with a pointed, “Miss, are you ready to order?”
But just once, it went like this: I was in a crowded bar for a DJ set on Long Street. I was wearing my snapback cap and was one of the taller people in the crowd. A toned white guy with his guns out was trying to make his way across the dance-floor. He laid a hand on my shoulder, pushed me gently to one side and said, “Sorry brah,” before squeezing past.
That was it. That’s all it took.
The fraternity in that moment was unlike anything I’d experienced before. Countless guys have pushed past me in clubs, but those short, minimal interactions are always flavoured by our gender divide. Being mistaken for a man was subtle. It was in the way our bodies moved around each other and in his tone of voice. I had sudden, brief access to a privileged spaced, and I found myself thinking, “This must be what it feels like to interact as two men.”
It was just a tiny brush with what trans man Thomas Page Mcbee describes in his Self-Made Man series for The Rumpus. As he transitioned on T, he realised quickly that “passing” is so much more than simply being perceived to be a man. For him, “it was a whole customer service chorus of “bro’s” and “dude’s”, and friendly banter; it was a difference of such scope and subtlety that I can only describe is as startling (…) My voice embedded me into a parallel world beset with assumptions: about my competency, my sexuality, my predilection for fraternity.”
Read the rest of Self-Made Man #9: Passing