Passing

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Passing is the sociological term used to define and classify the actions of people who are able to be regarded as members of social groups other than their own, or the ability of a person to be regarded as a member of the gender they physically present. Passing does not necessarily or automatically imply deception on any level, in most instances. [1]

Because of the high-profile, political nature of racial identity and sexuality passing, these are the two forms of passing that the media and popular culture most often focus on. However, passing is more common than most people realize. In fact, it's possible that incidents of racial and sexual passing are not the most common forms of passing, just the most well-known. Some examples of other forms of passing include:

  • An atheist raised in a religious family who pretends to still have religious beliefs when visiting family and childhood friends;
  • A job applicant who lies about previous experience, education and qualifications, and then must maintain the lie after being hired.
  • A person raised in an upper middle class or wealthy family who pretends to be a "self-made" middle class person, especially if they can make obscene profits from their "ordinary guy" image; (e.g., Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Kevin Trudeau)
  • An autistic person taught that "autistic behaviors" are "socially inappropriate" will attempt to suppress their own neurology in an attempt to appear normal. This is no more humane than forcing left-handed people to do everything the way "normal" (read: right-handed) people do everything.
  • A Jew "passing" for a non-Jew by not wearing religious symbols like the Kippah and trimming his beard if male[2]

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  1. It also has been argued that "passing" among trans people has as much to do with gender attribution by others as the behavior of the trans individual themself.
  2. This impossible for orthodox observant Jews but rather common for secular and less religious Jews; sometimes this is done intentionally in areas known to be "dangerous" to Jews
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