(This post is part of a series. You can read the second post, in which I discuss queer impostor syndrome, here.)
In this post I reference Janet Mock to illustrate certain points (along with other people and myself) and recently, in promotion for her book tour, she released a short video expressing her own complicated relationship with the concept of “passing”. Her words and experiences are important to this conversation and I’d like to share them here:
Thank you for watching; now back to the original post.
Passing privilege is an interesting and complex thing and, for those who have it, it can be both helpful and confusing and sometimes both and more at the same time. There are many different specific types of passing privilege but I’d like to talk about a couple of broad interpretations and then a little about my experience with it.
Notes on “Passing”
“Passing” is essentially the ability of a person to be automatically regarded by others as a member of a certain larger group. Passing privilege comes in when a person is generally regarded by others as a member of a “societally normative” group or a specifically privileged group (cisgendered, heterosexual, able bodied, educated, white, etc). This can take on a lot of different forms depending on the identity and presentation of the individual and it can be incredibly confusing (because: life, amirite?) so let’s start with some generalized examples and then dig deeper.
- The privilege of being identified as part of a group to which a person personally identifies
- The privilege of being identified as part of a group to which a person doesn’t identify but which carries societal privilege
Any individual aspect of a person’s identity can fall into one or both of these categories (See? Complicated.) Furthermore, as you might pick up, “passing” has more to do with other’s perceptions of a person’s identity rather than that person’s actual identity, so the way a person “passes” can be in sync or in conflict (or both) with their actual identity.