The concept of “Passing” and Transgender Identity: An Analysis of Jackie Kay’s Trumpet

Surinder Kaur

Department of English, S.G.A.D. Govt. College, Tarn Taran, Punjab. Email:

  Volume VII, Number 1, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.25274/bcjms.v7n1.en-v7-01-03


The concept of “Passing” dates back to eighteenth century meaning hiding one’s race or sexuality and passing as the priviledged race or sexuality. Black individuals passed as white in the U.S in order to escape slavery. Hence to “pass” denotes an act of being something you are not in reality. Passing calls for an erasure of one’s true self in the presence of others so “passing” is perceived as a performance. Today, the concept of passing is associated with transgender individuals. It is often reduced down to a “good/bad” dichotomy. Passing as cisgender can ensure safety, an escape from verbal and physical violence and it can reaffirm a transgender individual’s identity. However, passing can be seen as deceptive or hiding on’s true identity. Since passing signifies a performancee, some believe passing for transgender individuals simply means passing as man or woman. This supposition leads to the idea that “passing as cisgender” means a transgender creates a new identity for him/herself and establishes a new set of narratives- a conflicting set of narratives (one told and believed by trans person and another by medical system). The proposed endeavour attempts to analyze Jackie Kay’s novel Trumpet (1998) as it exposes this conflicting set of  “double narrative” of Joss Moody. The novel narrates the life and death of Joss, a trans man, who passes as a cisgender man until his death. Using Foucault’s ideas about life and death, I aim to foreground the metaphorical killing of Joss by other persons in the novel. He is able to pass as man during his life but after his death when he can no longer control his body and medical system has access to his body and power over his body, punishes his identity by revealing its sex as female.

Keywords:  Passing, Cisgender, Transgender, Conflict, Narrative, Identity