Being transgender generally means that you have the genitals of one sex, but a gender identity usually associated with the other.
For some teens, being trans is a deep part of their identity, and they seek out others in the same position, or look for those who welcome transgender friends and partners.
Other transgender teens are less interested in being part of a queer community, and are more interested in passing as their accurate gender. Many however, feel deep connections to the transgender community, but still find passing an important part of their daily experience.
Sometimes referred to as going stealth, being taken for the gender with which you identify can be an ultimate goal. Not only can having people accept your gender presentation be personally fulfilling, but it can also allow a transgender teen to feel much safer in a hostile world.
As the blog, Trans Youth Takes on World explains:
"Passing to me seems to be about two things: it’s about making sure that others see our gender as we wish them to, but it’s also about survival (disappearing in order to make sure we don’t become targets). As such, although I’m inclined to argue that we should try and downplay the importance of passing in trans communities – after all, not everyone can pass, and you can spend so long worrying about it that you barely end up leaving the house – I think people have every right to work towards passing. Anything that minimises public harassment has to be a good thing."
Of course, passing can also create unique problems. A transgender teen says:
"I am a f2m trans. I have recently met a gal, and we are very close. I have not yet told her I am trans. I feel like a jerk. But I am a man in my eyes so I haven't felt the need to tell anyone. The only thing is we are getting closer so I know I have to tell her. I feel so guilty but I am so glad to be seen as the man I am without me worrying she is seeing me as a woman."
This can be a really complicated situation. On the one hand, this guy has every right to be seen as who is he. On the other hand, a potential partner might feel like this is a pretty serious omission, if he doesn't tell her.
Another question that often comes up is how does sexual orientation work when you are trans and passing? A good way to think of it is that sexual orientation tends to line up with your gender identity, not your biological sex (often identified by your chromosomes and genitals).
Here is how another transgender teen explains his sexual orientation:
"I'm a heterosexual trans male, and dating a straight girl who has only been with men. I am nothing other than a male, although I do recognize the variation in each trans-identity. To me, dating a bisexual girl or pansexual girl would only make me have more trouble feeling like the straight guy I am, despite other anatomy I came with. Many straight "stealth" FtMs want nothing more than to just be with a straight girl and have a heterosexual relationship. Others feel that their trans identity is important."
For people like this teen, having a heterosexual partner can reinforce one's notion of self. But like passing, this is a really personal issue. While it might be a crucial issue for one young person, it simply isn't that important for another.