Right before boarding a plane (the second plane trip since I began transitioning) I read a story on twitter by a fellow trans woman who had a truly ghastly and unforgivable experience on a QANTAS flight from Thailand back home to Australia.
My first reaction was fear - I sat in the waiting area for our gate, wondering how I'd cope with these kind of things on even the very short flight I was about to embark on, with Virgin Australia.
I mentioned this to my brother and we used the remaining time before our flight to have a wine at a nearby terminal bar.
Nothing happened. I had a lovely flight, was never misgendered and suffered no issues on the flight, related to being a trans person or not. I was addressed as ma'am by everyone, and the politeness was precisely what I would expect, and what I received in the many times pre-transition I'd flown presenting male and with a male name on my boarding pass.
On that flight, I mused on two aspects to this.
Firstly, that this doesn't actually need to happen to me in order to be terrified of it. In the same way that one or two transphobic incidences can be enough to have my nervous and lacking confidence when in public, hearing about the experiences of women which I know could happen to me will stick in my mind forever.
I've never had an issue in public toilets either, but knowing that abuse and awkwardness happens is enough to have me nervous every time I use one.
It's important for these experiences to be publicised, obviously. HUGELY important. And companies who let it happen on their watch deserve to have their businesses and public images suffer as a result, whether or not that actually happens to them.
The second thought that popped into my head - that I have not been misgendered in at least three months. It's of course quite possible people clock me as or suspect I am trans, but at no point has anyone awkwardly assumed it, brought it up, or made my experiences interacting with them awkward as a result. This is a huge privilege.
I never in a million years guessed I'd be so lucky. My genetics and simple luck have given me the privilege to choose who I come out, and thus far largely avoid the transphobic abuse that so many of my friends have suffered, from misgenderings to flat-out abuse.
I do not hide being trans. I don't tell every person I run into on the street, of course, but I am proud of doing what I've done to make my life bearable.
It's something I try to remember at all times - not every trans person has this luxury.
Privilege isn't a zero-sum thing. You can tally up, if you're that sort of person, a collection of privileges you have, but it's not as simple as 'trans or cis'. Many things factor in to your experiences, from your gender identity & your assigned gender, general appearance, hormone levels pre-transition, time (if any) you've spent going through HRT, its relative effectiveness, your financial situation, your ability to cope mentally, your lineage, where you are able to live...
I am aware that it's still quite likely that I will suffer transphobic abuse in future, that 'passing' isn't something magical you either do or don't manage. I won't ever, I suspect, quite shake that it's often on my mind. "Does this person know? How will they react to their suspicions about me if so? Do they care?"
It shouldn't matter, but it does for our personal safety and comfort.
In fact, some trans people I know quietly appreciate the blend of features they have as a result of their situation. But it's tough to do that if you're constantly told that you simply must look perfectly "male" or "female". If we can move past 'passing' as a required aspiration, it'd be great to find ourselves in a situation where more and more trans people could be comfortable enough with our bodies to learn to appreciate our uniquenesses.
Once or twice in the last while I've had someone give me a 'compliment', noting how they'd "never know I was trans", or that I "pass really well". It's an awkward compliment to receive because while a factor in all this is how I carry, dress and style myself, it's still something which was largely out of my control. A compliment on something you can't do much about, such as discussing a specific body part rather than a choice in personal style or something you've accomplished is a rather uncomfortable thing to hear.
Just ask any woman who's had someone tell her she has nice breasts. For most of us, that's just uncomfortable.
Please consider, if you can, that 'passing' is a complicated and problematic subject, if many of us seem fixated on it it's simply because we're trying to manage our own personal safety - and it only exists as a concept because of the inherent transphobia in our society.