Some transgender people are blessed with passing privilege. This means they can present as their identified gender in public without people generally being aware that they are transgender. They usually have very little to no problems with many of the areas that transgender people without passing privilege struggle with. A good example is the bathroom. Someone with passing privilege has no issues using the appropriate bathroom for their identified gender. Conversely, without passing privilege, a transgender person may very well get harassed while trying to use the bathroom which can include being forcibly removed or even arrested. For the most part, transgender people who do not pass as their identified gender have it a lot harder than those of us who do pass. Discrimination seems to come with a double standard.
Society has been conditioned to see gender in a male female binary and can have a lot of trouble when someone does not confirm to either of the two defined choices. When someone dresses and lives as one gender while still looking a lot like the other gender, it can be confusing for people who subscribe to the male female binary model. These people can get nervous about it because they don’t have a place to put the person they are seeing. This nervousness can sometimes lead to fear which can lead to a heightened level of discrimination. With a passing privileged transgender person, they can be easily put on the binary and this makes it easier to accept them. This binary concept of gender is absolutely outdated and for a gender fluid transgender person, it can be one of the biggest issues in their daily lives.
Being able to pass, which is also referred to living in stealth, is the goals of many transgender people. I lived in stealth mode for a long time and enjoyed a rather discrimination free life. The downside to stealth, for me, was always being on guard and never letting people get too close to my secret. It was a burden to stand in the shadows all the time. There was a constant fear present because it always felt like it could all come crumbling down at any moment. There is also a certain level of dishonesty that becomes necessary as I was always editing stuff from pre-transition for pronouns and leaving out details that could lead people to my old life. Despite the burden I carried, most transgender people who are unable to pass would take that burden without hesitation.
When you do not have passing privilege, everything you do in public is a chore and in some cases it can be dangerous. A good day may be people just snickering as you walk by while a bad day can involve a public confrontation. Sometimes people are just unable to demonstrate any form of compassion towards a transgender person. The sad part is that some of these people will actually be civil and respectful to a transgender person with passing privilege. There are also those who would be just as rude if they knew. I once had a person tell me that they were okay with me in one breath while in their next breath they put down someone else because they did not pass. I don’t think they realized that their comment towards the other transgender person invalidated their support for me.
If you take a transgender person who identifies as gender fluid, it becomes even more complicated. They may present as a girl one day, a boy another day, and some combination of the two on other days. For a gender fluid person, the male female binary completely breaks down and does not work. They are good examples of why we should look at changing the way we perceive gender. A three gender, or more, system would be a better model. By providing education and a more fluid gender model, it will sow the seeds of anti-discrimination. We can achieve a world where how well you pass does not influence how well you are treated.