pass verb /'pas/
a : to move in a path so as to approach and continue beyond something
b : to go or make one's way through
c : to go uncensured, unchallenged, or seemingly unnoticed
d : to be accepted or regarded
e : to identify oneself or be identified as something one is not
Of all of the weeks of my life, it seems strange to say that this one has been particularly difficult. As someone who has struggled with mental illness from early childhood and who braved a protracted battle with addiction as a teenager and very young adult, I almost can't take my current pain seriously.
It has been five years since I suffered symptoms from my mental illness. My life isn't just going well: it's going perfectly. I have a partner I adore, a fantastic relationship with my family, a wonderful group of friends, and a great job where my skills are respected and I am adequately compensated for my work. I am closer than ever to attaining my dream of attending medical school. I have interviews on the calendar. I'm so close.
What hurts is that I still have to lie. The lies were laid very long ago; there is nothing new to invent. I will lie and claim my illness — my absence from school — was anything but what it was. I know from experience that I cannot be frank about my illness. Experience has taught me, time and time again, that coming clean about the fact that I'm a crazy person is not something that can be done in a single interview or in a single essay.
When I come clean about what I am, who I am, it takes months and weeks of work to convince people that the stereotypes lie. That I'm trustworthy, that I'm honest, that I'm steady as a rock.
I have to lie to appear trustworthy.
This isn't just some egocentric complaint. What hurts the most about the fact that I have to lie is that for every one like me — for every soul that passes — there are a hundred who cannot pass, and cannot hide from the bigotry I lie to shelter myself from.
When I read an article about an atrocity, I can count on hearing that people like me cause atrocities. That we're responsible for mass shootings. That we're the only possible explanation for child abuse and sexual assault. That people who are different in their heads are broken, dangerous, suspect. That we should be subject to extra scrutiny and checks on our personal liberties. That we're not different, but wrong.
When I shirk my identity to gain access to the educational opportunities I deserve on the basis of my merits, I feel like a coward and a quisling. And yet to embrace courage would be to neuter my potential to do good on the scale I believe I can do good on.
I do not require sympathy. If other people want to tell their stories about passing — as cisgendered, as white, as straight — those stories would be welcome.