Just a quick mention, before I answer this one: a particular question may well be considered rude by most trans folks– I can’t speak for anyone but myself, and everyone’s entitled to what they may or may not feel comfortable answering– but I myself don’t mind even the embarrassing ones. I like to think of this blog as like a safe space for any and all questions folks may have. It is nigh-impossible to offend me, so ask away! :3
My answer may not sound like a super positive one this time, either, but I want readers to get the truth from this blog wherever I can manage it.
Short answer: No, I don’t usually pass as male to strangers.
Long answer: Without T and top surgery, just a binder and short hair, I don’t usually pass, because most social occasions involve wearing pants, and aside from some major scarring from the phalloplasty, my body hasn’t really changed much at all from back when I was in full-time Lady Mode over ten years ago. Weight mostly distributes along my thighs, and if I don’t bind, I get absolutely nothing but “ma’am"s.
Thing is, after having phalloplasty, I’ve found I no longer *care* if I pass or not. Which is a HUGE change, and I never thought it would happen so drastically after just one surgery, but it’s totally true! "She"s and "Ma’am"s bounce off my unharmed self-confidence like Teflon now as I pipe up, "Ah, it’s ‘he,’ actually” (or “they,” if I figure I’m in an environment where folks will recognize what “nonbinary” is) and it’s AMAZING.
Oh, and one exception. Guys don’t question me once they see me using a urinal. I’ve gotten the occasional surprised look there, but nothing more. Other guys usually don’t like making eye contact in a bathroom anyhow, which works in my favor.
I *should* note I’m saying this from a relatively privileged position, because I work in an odd-hours office job where everybody knows me– not, say, retail, or public transit, where people can be a lot harsher to strangers that don’t pass.
I’ve heard that it takes multiple “female” characteristics before your average stranger will ignore a single “male” cue, so I tend to wear clothes that help push me over to the “male” side at first glance, like non-flowery hats and hoodies, and use more masculine body language (not crossing my legs when sitting, giving a quick head-nod to other guys I pass on the street or hall).
I’ve also come to appreciate the importance of friends/co-workers introducing me to new people if possible, because being introduced as a guy by somebody else can be a big credibility boost. I have to hand it to one of my friends for having the idea to quickly dismiss any “I thought you were a…” with a shrug and “Oh, yeah, he gets that a lot.” It acknowledges how femme I look, while waving it away as not a concern.
The most interesting reaction I’ve found is when a group of men and women first see me, and each of them judge me to be whatever they themselves are. It’s like they read me as whatever gender they’re most comfortable with. This has led to some amusing (to me) conversations where one person’s calling me “he” and another’s calling me “she” all throughout the conversation, and neither seem to notice any difference.