It’s an interesting question on several accounts. Passing usually means not being identified as a male in women’s clothing.
But we know that we can’t fool all the people all of the time. So what would you consider a good number? People might say 95%, until you tell them that means that they are read by 1 in 20. That might mean 2-3 people on a bus or train car, or several people on a city block.
OK, how about 99%? That might be one person in every large city block, or one in every 2 or 3 blocks in a smaller city. Suddenly things aren’t looking so good.
But what if people read you (or at least suspect) but you are unaware of it? They may say something out of your view or out of your earshot. Not necessarily something bad, just noticing. This situation happened to me.
I had just started going out in public. My friend was putting on a show with CD/TG folks talking about the life of a woman. After our rehearsal, we all went to a nearby restaurant before the show.
The restaurant was on the lower level with the waiting area above and connected by a ramp. It was a family style meal, and since everything was already paid for, we left at different times to walk back to get ready. There were a lot of people up in the waiting area.
As I was leaving, I overheard one elderly woman say to her friend, “You see that table of women down there? I don’t think they’re women, I think they’re men.” Her tone was one of curiosity. I didn’t hang around to hear her friend’s response. But clearly the people remaining at the table had been read. I never heard anyone say anything about it, so I’m guessing there was no comotion about it. From my perspective, they had been read. From their perspective, they had no idea. So the question is, did they pass?
I’ve been to other restaurants or shops where it was obvious that we (or some) were definitely men, but there was not even a double take when they heard a man’s voice. A couple of times I went en femme into the Dress Barn right by my house (before they closed). Both times one of the sales associate looked at me, and then said “Oh, Hi.” She recognized me as I would often go in the store in male mode. But other than the recognition, she went on with her business. Did I pass? I think I might have if she didn’t know the male me.
So maybe passing isn’t what’s important. We don’t know what other people are thinking, so we don’t know if we are recognized as males or just treated like anyone else. Perhaps acceptance is more important than passing.