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Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity
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Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  1,878 Ratings  ·  122 Reviews
Nobody Passes is a collection of essays that confronts and challenges the very notion of belonging. By examining the perilous intersections of identity, categorization, and community, contributors challenge societal mores and countercultural norms. Nobody Passes explores and critiques the various systems of power seen (or not seen) in the act of “passing.” In a pass-fail s ...more
Paperback, 354 pages
Published November 27th 2006 by Seal Press (first published November 6th 2006)
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Sometimes, I have trouble reading non-fiction at a decent pace. I'm far more of a fiction reader, and so it is usually very easy for me to take weeks to finish a book like this.

Except I read all of this one in less than three days, because it was that awesome.

Like all collections of this sort, there were some essays that weren't quite as good as the others. In this case, though, there wasn't a single one I thought was bad- just some that were vaguely incoherent in what they were trying to say. B
Dec 09, 2008 Calvin rated it liked it
p 25 "All Mixed Up With No Place To Go: Inhabiting Mixed Consciousness on the Margins" by Nico Dacumos
Dacumos talks about going to Smith College being a brown, low-income... "Looking back, I feel sorry for all of us. All of us, white students and students of color, economically privileged and poor, queer and straight, transgender and nontransgender, found ourselves in an overwhelming situation with no one to help us navigate the difficult negotiations and acts of violence that occur when people
Oct 30, 2012 Amy rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. I love the work that Mattilda does to fight assimilation and the erasure of an honest queer culture. I find stories of how people are read by others and how that structures and shapes interactions to be fascinating. I quite purposefully don't pass as much and when I do, I'm always a bit amused at the interaction. I'll be honest - this book was A LOT OF WHINING. And posturing. I don't need to read pages about how you are "really butch" or "really biracial" - jus ...more
Aug 19, 2016 Jenny rated it really liked it
Although this book is 10 years old, many of those essays could take place today. Reading, I could see here and there details that have changed over the years (in Canada at least), but we are still far from being able to say most of these people could "pass" without performing an act that is not inherently them.

Once again with books from the early 2000s, the words "they/them" seem to not have existed to qualify a person whose gender is known, even if that gender doesn't fit the society-recognized
Nov 09, 2014 Joshua rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbtq

there may be a few essays in here that are a bit dull and don't go anywhere, but the majority are outstanding. Such a variety of perspectives from different backgrounds and different issues, the only thing I felt was lacking was a bisexual - oriented essay, but this is only a minor, personal complaint. The connection this gives to so many different sexualities, gender expressions, gender identities and races really reinforces the commonality in the issue of passing, and the way in whi
Feb 26, 2009 Bluestocking06 rated it it was amazing
This books takes everything you think you know about queer theory and feminism and identity politics, connects it all, rearranges it, and spits it all out in a thought provoking never before seen way. No one will hold your hand as you try to understand how being FTM makes someone understand their mixed latina heritage, all you can do is try to keep up and keep your mind open.
Nov 19, 2015 Emily rated it it was amazing
This is a dizzying collection of narratives from all across identities.

I loved the variety in narrative style, ranging from coolly academic to deeply and dramatically personal. Mattilda does an excellent job bringing voices from all across the map together to collaborate (or really, collectively deconstruct) identity politics. So many of the essays in this collection express a simultaneous anguish over not passing and a conscious rejection of the boundaries and expectations placed upon us as hum
Ambrose Hall
Sep 16, 2016 Ambrose Hall rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbt
Nobody Passes is about gender, but it’s also about all the many other ways that people can pass or fail to pass in their lives. It’s a collection of essays, stories, conversations and interviews by all sorts of people that Mattilda has brought together, and it covers class, race, religion, sexuality and gender. It’s quite specific to US culture, but I found gaining a closer and more personal insight into US identity politics really interesting, especially as we (in the UK) import many of these i ...more
There were a couple essays I had to skip because of triggering content, but overall this is a really good collection, with a lot of sincere and very vulnerable parts. I cried a couple times. It was really interesting seeing all the different ways the authors explored the concept of passing (and not "just" issues related to being trans), as well as how passing has affected the authors' lives and their perceptions of themselves. The essays by people of multiple ethnicities were often the most enga ...more
É F.K. O'Conghaile
As with many anthologies, the essays here can be very good-or-bad, depending on what's being talked about, what the writer's experiences are - and specific to this book: how it relates to the concept of passing. In my reading, I feel there are about 10 good essays out of 27 total. But those ten are mostly really fantastic.

First, let's talk about the bad stuff. The essays I didn't like were typically the ones written by self-entitled name-reclaimers missing the point. For example, in "Passing Las
Feb 12, 2010 Kim rated it really liked it
Shelves: theory
A collection of essays on all sorts of passing and "contradictory" ways of being: the rejection of submissive sexuality by many feminists, passing as white, air travel as trans, being openly radically queer in your racist/sexist/homophobic parents' house, identifying with queer struggle and sexuality when your attractions are "hetero." this book has a very open view of what it means to pass. I haven't read all of the articles but so far what is lacking is an explicit discussion on the politics o ...more
Jul 02, 2016 Kit rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gender
a series of contributions that articulate a feminism and queer radicalism that is about challenging, not accessing power, that is about pushing the framework of the structures of power and gender, rather than trying to fight it on its own terms, or by humbling ourselves as just a "harmless" member of society like any other in order to make progress for equality. It challenges the idea that you have to be a "good victim" in order to be considered a victim at all. For example, saying that "it coul ...more
John Carter McKnight
Jun 06, 2011 John Carter McKnight rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academic
Just what an anthology should be: diverse, utterly readable, thought-provoking, of generally high and uniform quality. Nobody Passes is a can't-put-down tour de force of race, gender and cultural queering, eye-opening, provocative, moving, often hilarious. Really just a wonderful, readable book.
Sep 04, 2015 Keira rated it really liked it
[content warnings: sexism, racism, non-binary erasure, bi-erasure, sexual assault, incest, r*pe]

This book is a collection of individual stories about how parts of different peoples identities are erased by others (either intentionally or unintentionally), how they purposefully change how they appear to 'pass' as being a member of a certain group, and how these experiences effect their personal identities.

What does it mean to be a bisexual if no one can tell you are? What does it mean to be a r*p
May 22, 2013 Julie rated it it was amazing
This was a great choice to read following reading GenderQueer. Like that book, it is a collection of personal essays, this time on issues of passing, but defined in the broadest terms, to include more than just gender, race, ethnicity. While reading the book, I found myself thinking about issues of passing and identity in many other areas of my life. (The most obvious one is geek/fandom communities, and passing as a fan online and at cons; but it also applied more far afield.) I found the book g ...more
Dec 23, 2008 MRM rated it liked it
A mixed collection of essays. I liked the premise, how "passing" can refer to many aspects of identity (not just ethnic/racial or gender). A few of the pieces I thought were too bogged down in the authors' exhausting recountings of intricate strains of identity, and I had to laugh at the two women whose dialog makes up "'And Then You Cut Your Hair'" ("When I have short hair, I use it to signify queer identity; but I find that straight people don't really pick up on that. [...:] On rare occasions ...more
Jun 18, 2011 Yasmin rated it it was amazing
From my review:

"Nobody Passes exposes the problems that arise when we assume that a left/progressive agenda depends on commonalities between varying causes of social justice. It also exposes the continuing inequalities faced by those who don’t pass, refuting the notion that a world where sexual and gender identities are celebrated is necessarily a better one. As Rocko Bulldagger wryly asks in “the End of Genderqueer,” “…when exactly does this smug queer future begin?” The book challenges our che
Jun 15, 2014 Manuel rated it it was amazing
Loved this book since the beginning! I would highly recommend this book to everyone who wants to have a good time, specially on this specific genre, there was a few things that iwould have changed in this book but that happens most of the times i read books so it's not such a big deal. Loved it, thats all i've gotta say. Well deserved five stars.
Courtney Baker
Dec 10, 2014 Courtney Baker rated it really liked it
Overall, a great read. Some essays are better than others; the authors do not represent a monolith. Each essay feel honest, though, and each feels important. The questions asked are questions that resonate not just for the people in what ever unique situation the author is in, but oftentimes to almost any queer situation.
Jun 15, 2016 Rae rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-non-fic
The essay format can make non-fiction really palatable, even to people who aren't normally into NF. This book's essayist are primarily talking about their first hand experiences, so it's almost like reading a collection of those salacious articles magazines like Seventeen used to run - "I Was A Teenage Shoplifter!" You know what I'm talking about.

What I loved most about this book is how much it broadened my perspective on what constitutes passing. I went into this book thinking it would be stric
Sep 05, 2007 Jen rated it it was amazing
Wow. This anthology was amazing. There were a couple essays that were less than stellar, but the rest of the (well-written, insightful, sometimes painfully honest) essays more than made up for it. A number of the contributors tackled issues and topics that aren't often discussed, that are taboo - even within a lot of the more radical factions of the queer movements. My favorite, I think, was Jen Cross' "Surface Tensions." The intersections of an identity as a victim/survivor of child ...more
Mar 05, 2015 Mykia rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015, school-read
This book was very interesting! I learned so much and I'm actually glad I got a chance to read this! I want to read more books about gender studies and sexuality!

I did only give this book 3 stars because while some of the essays were absolutely incredible and held my attention like non other, some of the essays were super bland and I couldn't even read them.

I'm not doing a review, I don't think, I don't know yet, because I have to do a book review for a class, idk I might just post it. Right no
Mar 14, 2012 Tove added it
Shelves: own
This was the first book I ever read about trans- identities, so the acts of acquiring and consuming it were significant in themselves, for me. A collection of essays by a diverse group of talented writers, it explores facets of the transgressive, rebellious nature of transgender identity in heteronormative space, as well as the politics of 'passing' in other ways -- political, sexual, ethnic, and so on. (Or something. I don't know. That's a more jargon than I usually wrangle, and I'm overdue for ...more
Creatrix Tiara
Jul 11, 2014 Creatrix Tiara rated it it was amazing
The very first story talked about how the author had been questioned for their "people of colour-ness" - and I knew I found a kindred spirit. While the introduction posits this book as being primarily about gender, there were really plenty of stories exploring intersections of identities, where things were not so clean-cut, where choosing one identity over another was fraught. Very few of the writers had found answers, which actually was a relief - as someone who finds the idea of labels borderl ...more
Aug 05, 2012 Rachel rated it liked it
This anthology is a very mixed bag--the author also rejected rules of what to include. So most stories are about gender, but others are about any differences that cause difficulties. That would be fine, if broad, as a theme. But the quality is very uneven. For me (maybe not other readers), there is way too much self-righteous convoluted conceptual thinking, to the point of polemic. Some of it is political correctness that denigrates other people's ideas of what is politically correct. Worse, muc ...more
Sep 14, 2011 Paul rated it it was amazing
The whole time I was reading this collection of essays I struggled to define it succinctly so I could tell my friends what I was doing with my life ("I'm reading this book Nobody Passes. It's about..."), but I failed. Which is, actually, really exciting. I thought this book would be about gender, the queering thereof, and things gendered and queer (in general) - which it was. But it also contains essays about passing under other circumstances - passing as white, passing as queer, passing as femm ...more
Apr 17, 2016 Zeo rated it really liked it
Shelves: glbtqetc, _my-shelf
Where That's Revolting has stuck with me as something challenging and provocative and pushing me further an broader, this was immediately validating upon reading (well, some of the essays; others felt like they were the best available option to insert in order to suggest that passing was not just an issue of race and gender) and has largely been forgotten since. Don't misunderstand; it's a great book for people who don't regularly have the question of passing at hand, and the shortness, directne ...more
Mar 23, 2011 Jennifer rated it really liked it
If you grab this off the shelf expecting it to be about "Gender and Conformity" as linked terms, you may be disappointed. Although there are several contributions that address both gender and conformity, there are equally as many contributions that address these topics as separate issues. For instance, trying to pass as a person of color or passing on passing as part of a culture. This does not, in any way, take away from the intentions of the book. Gender and conformity need not be linked to pr ...more
May 03, 2010 James rated it liked it
Collection of essays on passing, with a focus on intersectionality (often, but not exclusively, trans + something else). Big variety of approaches and viewpoints (and quality of writing). Interesting experience to read some things that seem too radical even for me -- I should do that more often. The best of these allowed me to look through the eyes of someone with very different experiences than my own a little bit -- the worst seemed like mini-hit-pieces on small political scenes that the autho ...more
Jan 04, 2011 Javier rated it it was amazing
This book was chock-full of amazing essays, and whenever I'd whipped it out on breaks at the workshop I was teaching, one of the other medics would walk by and go, "oh-my-god, are you reading that?! It's SOOOOO good!" and it was. I feel like I want to make this my go-to "here, let's start you on the road to unlearning some of those oppressions you've internalized" guidebook for some of the people I love who are well-meaning, but still often pretty overtly racist/sexist/etc, along with bell hooks ...more
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Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is an insomniac with dreams. She is the author of a memoir, The End of San Francisco (City Lights 2013, and two novels, So Many Ways to Sleep Badly (City Lights, October 2008) and Pulling Taffy (Suspect Thoughts 2003). Mattilda is the editor of five nonfiction anthologies, most recently Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectific ...more
More about Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore...

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“If we eliminate the pressure to pass, what delicious and devastating opportunities for transformation might we create?” 13 likes
“U.S. society, after all, continues to be starkly segregated along class and race lines, never allowing people to have the sort of interactions necessary to undo prejudices, stereotypes, and oppressions.” 1 likes
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