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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

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  2,365 ratings  ·  142 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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B. Reid Lewis It is very US-centric, since many essays include geographical aspects of the US (i.e. SF, NYC, etc.) and more US-focused immigration identity and poli…moreIt is very US-centric, since many essays include geographical aspects of the US (i.e. SF, NYC, etc.) and more US-focused immigration identity and politics. Still a great collection of essays, though.(less)

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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
Oct 19, 2012 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
Jan 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, feminism
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
Aug 18, 2014 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
Ambrose Hall
Jun 12, 2016 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
Megan Hex
Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfic-2017
This is a book of essays which started out as a work about gender and ended up including race, religion, sexuality, ad a few other things. All the works center around the idea of passing: who can and can't, feelings of whether one should or shouldn't, and what do you give up in order to do so. I'm nonbinary and I will never be able to pass as what I am, but instead often unintentionally pass for something else; reading the experiences of others with these lines we blur was an interesting experie ...more
Feb 26, 2009 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.
Evelyn Woagh
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
Lulu Joanis
Jul 11, 2020 rated it liked it
My first experience with Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore: I appreciate her radical politics, such as Gay Shame, a way for queer folx to distance themselves from archaic notions that the goal of queer activism is assimilation, that the be-all-end-all should be gentrification of gay neighborhoods and legalization of gay marriage, to illuminate that rainbow capitalism is no longer a risky decision of economic solidarity but rather contributes to the predatory of cycle of LGBT+ youth homelessness and ob ...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
Nov 19, 2015 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
Aug 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
With how much queer politics change and how fast they evolve, I sometimes wonder if anthologies more than a couple of years old will still touch me today. This one definitely does. As usual, Matthilda's anthology has surpassed my expectations, creating a diverse range of issues and related identity in which we (don't) pass each day. There wasn't a single essay in this that I didn't thoroughly enjoy. And I related to many personally.
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
what stuck with me:

-the introduction by berstein sycamore.
-innocent victims and brave new laws: state protection and the battered women's movement, by priya kandaswamy
-what i learned from being g minus in the world of homohop commerce, by ralowe t. ampu
-pino's father by tommi avicolli mecca

and then i forget how i felt about everything after that.
Dec 14, 2016 rated it liked it
A lot of great stories that made me stop and think about how society perceives/treats certain groups of people. However, a lot of these stories came off as people complaining about not being understood? At the end of the day, who cares what others think of you?

Either way, these are all conversations we need to have in order to be better to and more understanding of others.
John Carter McKnight
Jun 06, 2011 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.
Paige / River
Mar 14, 2017 rated it liked it
A mixed bag of essays, some enlightening and some confusing or a little off the mark. Content warnings for sexual assault, incest, homophobia, transphobia.
Alexan Martin-Eichner
each essay is at least somewhat interesting, and there r a few rly terrific ones like the essay on homohop. superbly edited/collected overall, good sampling of topics/voices/styles of essay.

many of the issues addressed, like the evolution of the battered womens movement, have since 2006 become relatively popular/well-known narratives among the queer social justice literati, so someone ~in the kno~ (like myself) might find a lot of familiar material; but the essays r skimmable enuf that i dont th
Cyrée Jarelle
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books of all time. Changed what I thought made gender relevant and wasnt afraid to be critical of dominant queer paradigms.

My favorite essay is "The End of Genderqueer" by Rocko Bulldagger, and it has only gotten more prescient as time went on. Should be read in every gender studies class.

Also give Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore her flowers while she's here--modern, anarchist queer theory would not be what it is without her and not enough people say so. To say this book changed
Sep 07, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5...This book made me reflect upon how I view my gender identity even more so than I have before. Didn't think that was possible!
Jul 01, 2016 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
Dec 23, 2008 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
Aug 24, 2011 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
Emory Black
[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
Jun 18, 2011 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
Raffi Marhaba
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer
As someone who recently came to the realization I was trans, this book resonated with me way above and beyond from what I expected. And the reason why is because this book treats identities as a whole, and not as if they existed in a vacuum.

My favorite three top stories were "Passing Last Summer", "Innocent Victims and Brave New Laws" and "No Longer Just American".

"Passing Last Summer" explores the intersects of disability and gender identity. Incredible essay.

With "Innocent Victims and Brave N
Jun 25, 2007 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
Jan 22, 2009 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
Creatrix Tiara
Sep 22, 2011 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 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
Jan 08, 2016 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
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Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is most recently the author of Sketchtasy, out in October 2018. She’s the award-winning author of a memoir and three novels, and the editor of five nonfiction anthologies. Her memoir, The End of San Francisco, won a Lambda Literary Award, and her previous title, Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to ...more

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“If we eliminate the pressure to pass, what delicious and devastating opportunities for transformation might we create?” 16 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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