My name is Serena Daniari and I’m a correspondent at Mic. When I was a young trans girl growing up in a conservative suburb of Dallas, I had no language to articulate my transness and I had no transitioning guidance to follow. At times, I felt completely isolated, hopeless and misunderstood. I often wished there was an outspoken and accessible trans voice whom I could connect to and engage with when I began dressing up, starting my hormones, going under the knife and ultimately presenting myself to the world as the woman I’ve always been.
In December, I spearheaded a multimedia reporting project called Walking While Trans to explore the diverse and nuanced experiences of trans individuals navigating public spaces. Since the project’s launch, I’ve received an outpouring of questions and comments from people across the gender spectrum inquiring about what it means to be a trans person in the 21st century.
As a member of the trans community, it is both a responsibility and a privilege for me to expand the conversation that began with Walking While Trans in order to open minds and amplify trans issues. If we look at the media landscape, there’s a clear lack of authentic trans stories being told by actual trans people who have endured the historical and contemporary realities of trans identity. Current media coverage of trans issues often focuses on the epidemic of transgender homicides, military bans and “bathroom bills.” The reality is that trans existence is much more robust.
With that in mind, I’m excited to announce the launch of Transplaining, a weekly advice column that will dive into trans issues, written by yours truly. Anyone is free to send me questions focusing on trans issues. No topic — from dating to sex to the process of transitioning itself — is off-limits. Although I can’t speak for the entire trans community, I hope to provide an understanding of trans identity through the lens of my own experiences and insights. This column aims to celebrate and clarify what it means to be trans in the 21st century.
If you have a question, feel free to email me at email@example.com. Your information will be kept anonymous. I look forward to hearing back and spilling all the hot, piping tea with you inquisitive boys, girls and nonbinary folks!
Now let’s get to the first question.
I’m a trans woman, but I don’t pass. I am 6 feet tall and very broad. My face is masculine because of years of testosterone poisoning. People always give me evil glances because they can tell I’m trans. How do I make peace with the fact that I will never be passable?
The angst you describe about “passing” — the ability for trans people to be perceived as cisgender — is all too common within the transgender community. We are so often conditioned to believe that we are fakes and frauds, attempting to fool the outside world.
Being a cisgender woman is in no way superior to being transgender, although trans women are frequently told otherwise. We are all women. And even though we may experience our womanhood in unique and nuanced ways, we should all be celebrated equally. Pitting ourselves against one another in a competition of acceptance is a battle in which we all lose.
My own relationship with the concept of “passing” has shifted greatly. I spent many months at the start of my transition in quite an androgynous state. My hair was at an awkward length, and I had not yet figured out what my version of femininity looked like. Dealing with the “evil glances,” as you aptly put it, was and sometimes continues to be a great burden to bear. Years later, I’ve realized that trans people are not attempting to “pass” as the gender we identify with. We do not live to deceive others. We simply want to exist in peace.
For additional guidance, I reached out to prominent transgender activist and blogger of TransGriot, Monica Roberts, who encourages you spend less energy on your appearance and to “focus on the social aspects of being a woman,” like being referred to with the correct pronouns by friends and family.
“We trans women can be the most self-critical about our looks,” Roberts said in an email. “Try not to beat yourself up as you morph into your body and get comfortable in your skin.”
Although it may sound like a platitude, it is only once you begin to realize the beauty in your own transness that you might find some peace. It’s no easy task, but you will become better equipped with the tools needed to silence the outside voices. Remember that your personal contentment is what matters most.
For just a moment, try casting the negativity of others aside and recall the process it took for you to understand and accept your trans identity. Think about how courageous it actually was to start living a more authentic and fulfilling life. Draw inspiration from that resilience every day when you step outside of your home. Being trans is beautiful, unique and powerful. Surround yourself with those who affirm you and applaud your journey.