I have been transitioning for 5 years so I am very “cis passing” in my environment. For me, it is amazing to have that validation, but at the same time it makes be feel like I am hiding. I try to be outspoken and open if it serves a purpose in that environment. I noticed that people treat me differently since transitioning – I am a white, male passing 30 year old. But really I am a transgender Jewish, pansexual man. I see that people talk to me differently, listen to me differently, and interact with me differently. Even people I have known for years unknowingly treat me differently; like my opinion somehow matters more now then when I was female identified. I notice my privilege and am aware of it. I think that helps to ensure I don’t lose myself to my new found privilege.

Authenticity does not mean openness, though. You can be stealth as a transgender individual and still be authentic. Authenticity to me means being you, unapologetically. I strive to be authentic in every aspect of the word. Authenticity means something different to me at the beginning stages of my transition to now. Being a “passing male” was what made me authentic at the beginning. Being a man of integrity, love, compassion, and strength is what makes me authentic now and what I strive for now that I have become more comfortable in my body.

Again, being visible isn’t a goal for everyone in the transgender community. For me, I am visible for those that can’t be. Some of our community deal with the risk of losing their jobs, their homes, and their lives to being visible; I am aware of my ability to assimilate so I feel that I need to be visible and be counted so that people can meet one of us to know that we aren’t scary and that our lives have value. Being visible and being counted means that we do exist – we are your neighbors, your friends, your coworkers, your family. We aren’t making this up. We aren’t deviants or fetishes. We are real people trying to make sense of this world just like everyone else. We exist, and we’re not going anywhere.

Elijah Palles
Phoenix, AZ.