There are different definitions for this term, some not so nice, some benign. For individuals with a non-typical gender identity like myself (as I am a transgender woman), “passing” can actually mean death in many ways.
You see “passing” is somehow seen as a measure of one’s success at being yourself. I suppose that the vast majority of transgender people wish they were born as a “cis” (from Latin ‘on this side of’…read “normal”) version of their identified gender, living a life with cisgender (referring or relating to people whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex) privilege.
As we haven’t been this lucky, it’s necessary to transition our gender expression to match our gender identity. For some, if they start early enough in life there are less to overcome, but it is always a long process which might include hormonal therapy, facial feminization, gender correction, name changes, clothing and makeup.
How well these have worked has been traditionally measured through how passable one is, that is…how easy it is to be accepted in one’s identified gender without getting misgendered. This act of measuring our success is mainly self-imposed, but it is also pushed by others. Even within the LGBT community, we make statements and assessments on how well someone passes. We have YouTube videos and online articles providing hints on being as passable as possible. When someone feels that they can’t meet these standards, they hurt and sometimes hurt too much.
Is it not enough to simply live authentically? Can we not just be ourselves even if that means we are women with receding hairlines, or men with breasts? Passing is NOT a checklist on the way to gender perfection. Passing should simply be about passing by the obstacles and struggles on the way to being one’s authentic self!