I am never sure how my girlfriend doesn’t pass. She’s curvy with long pink hair and a dimpled smile that lights up a room. Her skin is soft and her lips are plump. She listens, loudly, to music that I consider embarrassingly girly (I have some unsorted toxic masculinity to work out – it’s a leftover from a past where I was afraid of anything feminine because I was afraid of the masculine in myself). She dresses like any other girl I know – jeans, trainers, t-shirt, hoodie, occasionally a dress if the weather is nice enough. None of this makes her a woman – how she feels inside makes her a woman – but when I look at her I see her curved cupid’s bow, her feminine cheekbones, her long eyelashes over her green eyes, and I think, That’s my girl.
I never know what I need to pass as. Before the last meeting for trans people I went to I sweated in front of a mirror for an hour, thinking about dresses, flannel shirts, binders, bras. Non-binary people aren’t fat. Non-binary people don’t have long hair. Non-binary people bind any breasts they have. Non-binary people don’t wear dresses. I don’t know how to comfortably be that person. I never know how I’m supposed to look to be seen as myself, but I do know how I’m supposed to look to be beautiful, and that’s not whoever I am either. I am fat, I am obviously queer, and that’s just for starters. I don’t pass as who I am; the world considers me a woman, and the world considers me to be ugly.
My girlfriend finds my broad shoulders beautiful. She likes that my hands are much smaller than a man’s ‘should’ be. She likes that my tummy is much bigger than a woman’s ‘should’ be. She likes the shaved side of my head as much as the long, pink-tipped hair on the other side. My girlfriend thinks that I am pretty, that I am handsome, that I am the most beautiful person on Earth. She is right.
Nobody needs to pass to be beautiful. Being a certain gender, passing as that gender, being attractive – those things are all independent of each other. Passing keeps us safe, and passing may help us achieve our ideals of beauty, but I promise that, if you don’t pass, somebody out there thinks you’re the most beautiful person in the world.
I don’t know how people see anything masculine in who my girlfriend is, even when I see and love the parts of her she thinks make her look ugly. I see those things as girly because she is a girl. My girlfriend doesn’t pass, and she’s beautiful. I hold her broad shoulders like she holds mine. I hold her hands that are so much bigger than my small ones, and I think, That’s my girl.