Notes On Passing

“If you had to, could you pass for straight?” I ask myself, looking at dusty folded pants in my closet, an administration of a strange test I give myself when I indulge a fear of queer failure.

I wonder, in these moments, if I’ve lovingly surpassed a point where my being is so intertwined with gaiety that I could never be mistaken for straight, that any attempt to dip under (or over) hurdles of sexual otherness could disappear. Have I become the person whose open mouth and soft hands channel a lavender frequency? Perhaps. So what does that mean if I had to hide? Could I? Could anyone? Should any of us?

The pants that I don’t wear are typically for this: passing. As my uniform of shorts reinforces, I am underlined by a non-masculine, unstraightened sensibility. Does a simple pair of pants cover this up? “I’m wearing something different,” I think. “I’m straight now.”

It’s not just the clothing though. What about the technicolor hair? What about the subtle hip swinging in my walk? What about my voice? Are there other tells? The irony of the situation is that, a decade ago, I believed I did pass, to some people. Most saw through the skinny jean ruse but others did not. The question now is if I’ve evolved into a gangly curly rainbow or if I can flatten myself into a generic man? Would anyone ever take me for macho? Or am I marked by the brotherhood of faggotry?

I assume — I believe! — that I could be mistaken for straight if seen from afar. I could pass, then. If I didn’t walk, maybe they’d find me counter cultural. If I didn’t try to hug them instead of shake a hand, maybe they wouldn’t question me. If I stood with a woman, maybe that would offer an illusion. Perhaps if everything was baggier or less colorful or shorter or taller or less white or something: perhaps if I were more something, I could pass.

But do I even need to pass? Of course. Long has been the way of the queer set to stand out and blend in. No level of queer outsiderness eclipses the occasional silencing of self, internally or externally, to appear to be what you are not. If we all are performing roles and resonating that which we wish to be seen as, we can easily shrink and shirk, to confuse our nature over queer assumption.

I may never need to pass though, thankfully, as a point has been reached in my life and where I live and in this time that affords an ability to stand out. But this all seems so fragile, that you could be forced back in at any time because of political action or geographical shift or career change: these things happen, the box of your life dumped all over the sidewalk to be collected and reconsidered.

This is a unique circumstance, passing. This is the type of shadow life that few in minorities are afforded, to be able to suck your head back in your shell to appear to be a rock instead of a strange alien creature amongst hares. It is a privilege and a constant, recycling challenge to your mental health. It is a form of motion, a state change, a flexing from wrong to right — and it’s weird. It’s double consciousness sucked through a straw, a revolving door to another universe.

I may not successful pass ever again in my life — nor may I need to — but the thought lingers. Could I if I had to? Hopefully I won’t have to find out.

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