Where am I?

Olivia Jaramillo discusses passing and whether people would still be nice to her if they knew she was transgender.

It’s been interesting this 2018. I haven't written for Transgender Universe since January. Events in my life have ironed out. Mentally things are more stable, even though the shadow of Trump still looms large on all of us. I can say that overall my transition while being Active Duty has been successful in its majority. Everyone in my unit has assimilated well to the change. Many people always approach with compliments and with motivating words saying how much bravery it took to change in a workplace such as the government, more importantly in the military. I always say it must be harder for other people, working in purely male dominated career fields. And yes, there is bravery to that--I applaud all of those transgender men and women doing so!

But why has my transition been as smooth as it has been? Well, I believe the answer is twofold. One, because the government has a policy of zero tolerance towards hate, discrimination, and bigotry, and at least in my career field it is well upheld. Not only that, everyone has been great in understanding the issue and understanding me. I have gone to work and showed that in many ways, the ways that count at work, meaning professionally; I am still the same. The second aspect is my assimilation into the binary. This is something that many of us strive for: passing. I've been fortunate in that I've been able to do so as well as I've been able to. 99.9% of the time, the only reason they know I'm transgender is because I tell them or someone else does.

And it's in this second aspect that I want to base my article: Why do we want to pass? I want to because I just want to live my life, as close to "normal" as it can possibly be. Thanks to passing I can step out of my house and go shopping anywhere I want to. I've been able to date (which is ridiculously complicated but I've been able to do it), my family is more accepting of my transition because I pass as well as I do, and recently I've even been able to play semiprofessional soccer in a regional league. I love soccer and being able to play again has been great for every aspect of my life!

"ARE PEOPLE NICE TO ME BECAUSE THEY DON'T KNOW I'M TRANSGENDER?"

I feel more authenticated in so many ways than I ever have felt. But, there's always a “but,” there's something that is bugging me. Are people nice to me because they don't know I'm transgender? Are other people nice to me because I am transgender and I pass so well? Am I betraying many of my brothers and sisters in the trans community because I am bowing down to the demands of the binary?

It feels wrong. It feels wrong to have to blend in so well with cis people just to live my life. I don't want people to snicker at me, or at any other trans person for that matter. It's not a matter of developing a thicker skin so as not to feel insults; it shouldn't have to be.

So, are people nice to me because they don't know I'm transgender? Well, the simple answer is yes that's true. Living in Utah, north of Salt Lake City, many of the people here are consumed by the Latter-Day Saint religion (Mormons). They are extremely judgmental and in general closed off to the LGBT community. My neighborhood is completely quiet on Sundays, for everyone's out at church. This would be the best day to go grocery shopping, but I go on Tuesdays. In many ways, I've used my living environment to perfect my passing. In my early days of transitioning it was scary to go out in public, I would dress as unisex as I could, so as to make people be as unaware of me as possible. It's a terrible life to feel you have to go from shadow to shadow hiding from the public.

"ARE OTHER PEOPLE NICE TO ME BECAUSE THEY KNOW I'M TRANSGENDER, AND I PASS SO WELL? "

Are other people nice to me because they know I'm transgender, and I pass so well? The answer to this is yes. It's easier for people to just assimilate boy/girl, man/woman. It's aesthetically ok for everyone to see a pleasant tall lady instead of "Bill in a dress". I have a problem with this. As much as possible, I try to educate the cis community on trans matters. I want them to know that there’s a difference between gender and sexuality. I want them to know that "Bill" maybe has always been "Willow" in her mind, and for whatever reasons she couldn't transition until her 40's or 50's or even 60's! I want them to know that "Willow" is a person, a human being with feelings just as much as any other person. Trans people go to work, they have families, they have hobbies, they eat, sleep, laugh, and cry like anyone else does.

Am I betraying many of my brothers and sisters in the trans community because I am bowing down to the demands of the binary? In my opinion, this is not an easy one to simply say no or yes to. Betraying would be to not attend trans events because I don't want to be seen with my brothers or sisters. Betraying would be ignoring calls of help from my trans friends. But at the same time, is betraying blending in with the people that yell insults at my friends? Am I not betraying the community by having the majority of my friends be cis people who like me because I pass so well, and we can just go do whatever we want?

I want to hear what you think on the subject.

Comments
No. 1-4
Emily Wells
Emily Wells

Aisla very correct; Australia did vote YES to Gay Marriage with 61.6% agreeing. To correct any unintentional misconceptions - in my reply, I was referring to the electorate of Kennedy where the majority voted NO; and to just to confirm this is where I currently live.

Aisla
Aisla

In 2017 an overhwelming percentage of the Australian population voted YES to marriage equality

Emily
Emily

I read your article and guess you could say that I am lucky, or is that unlucky?

You see as MelissaD explained years ago the model was to transition and move on with your life - it still very much promoted as being the 'right' thing to do even today. Except when I transitioned I never had nor could I get that passing privilege, so moving on was never an option. Yes not passing has meant a lifetime of sneering, insults, jeers and sometimes outright violence. But for all the negatives, not passing has also been a positive because I neither had to be resilient and strong, or curl up in a corner and hide forever.

To exist beyond the negatives, I had to practice and learn resilience – no not learn to get a thicker skin but to actually learn to be resilient. I learnt how to cope with the negatives, how to pick myself up and bounce back, and then forge ahead by educating people (including LGB people) about transgenderism. I like to think my little tiny efforts have helped the world change. Yes, we still don't have equal rights as trans-people, but we have certainly come a very long way.

Today I am the only publicly open transwoman living in one of Australia’s most conservative communities. In 2017, 58% of the population voted ‘No’ to Marriage Equality, religion is way of life and the elected politicians are extreme right wing. I don’t just exist here – I thrive. Working in a senior management position with the regional health service, I am treated with respect and fairness. I am recognised as being transgender and I’m frequently asked to tell my story and educate others about transgender people at local community workshops.

Yes, the negatives from about 20% of people are still there– that’ll likely never change – but overall most of the community are accepting, embracing, and affirming. And the reason – well it is because I am open about who I am. I am willing to answer questions and thus give people the knowledge needed to understand and accept me as who I am, a proud and visible transwoman.

MelissaD
MelissaD

Years ago the model was to transition and move on with your life. It was also for protection as we had and still don't have many legal rights as trans. Unfortunately this put us out of sight out of mind for the general public. It allowed us to live but didn't promote the cause. There was also no talk of a gender non binary as we transitioned from one side to the other it was very much binary. July 7th marked my 26th "rebirth day" if you will. I've done a lot of thinking on how things have and haven't changed over those years. There comes a point you are tired of fighting and just wanted to enjoy your grandkids.

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