Grave endings: the representation of passing

by Monique Rooney

© all rights reserved

At the 2000 Academy Awards, Hilary Swank won the award of “Best Actress” for her role as Teena Brandon/Brandon Teena in Kimberley Peirce’s Boys Don’t Cry (2000). Based on the true story of Teena Brandon who was murdered in Nebraska in 1993 after she passed as a boy (Brandon Teena), Boys Don’t Cry depicts scenes of crossdressing. Like most passing stories, the film ends with the brutal exposure of the passing girl, with her rape and finally her murder. Even though Swank, dressed in ultra feminine gown and jewels, had just been awarded “Best Actress” in the role, she found it necessary to refer to Teena Brandon, repeatedly, as “he” and as “Brandon Teena”. Further, Swank’s acceptance speech – beginning with the words, “We have come a long way” – intimated that the film’s overt and explicit (rather than censored) coverage of sexual violence and gender passing was somehow more politically radical and progressive.

Defining truth through identity, Swank’s self-congratulatory exposure of the passer’s authentic, because visible, identity, in fact contrasted with film’s representation of this identity. The liberal humanistic and nationalist values affirmed in Swank’s speech and paraded at the Academy Awards are, moreover and ironically, critiqued in the film. Asserting the film’s “acceptance” of “difference” and “diversity”, Swank thanked Brandon Teena for “teaching us” to “always be ourselves” and to “follow our hearts” and “not conform”. This sentimental flagging of the passer’s transformative potential and hypervisible presence (as a boy) simplifies the film’s more complex treatment in which Teena, the passer, is exposed and murdered because he/she represents indeterminacy. Swank’s celebration of the passer’s role in Boys Don’t Cry thus misreads but also re-presents the film’s characterisation of passing as an inexpressible presence, as a crisis at the heart of representation itself. The liminality of the passing role is unable to be articulated; but it emerges in Swank’s ambiguous appearance both on screen and off.

Swank’s performance on Awards night stresses the passer’s political and rhetorical efficacy, as the passer functions in Swank’s discourse as a vehicle for propaganda. Through an analysis of this and various other narratives of passing, this essay will interrogate ways in which the passer both represents, and is an effect of, the mobility of discourse. This is to say, the representation of passing facilitates critical discourses about essentialist categories such as race, gender and sexuality. At the same time, the passer is deployed as a device of this rhetoric who signifies the unstable ground of representation. Beginning with the practice of passing for white in late nineteenth and twentieth century American fiction and non-fiction, the discussion here will first identify the importance of the topic to the emergence of critical discourses about race as well as gender and sexuality. I will then go on to analyse recent critical receptions to this theme and its current relevance to debates not only about minority group politics and deconstruction but about how the critic is positioned in relation to this debate.

Integral to this study is the reflexive knowledge that the passing theme, with its emphasis on the process of reading, itself generates this very analysis. For through a proliferation of reading, passing is both productive and destructive as it continues to operate as an effect of the very instability it locates in discourse. These ideas and practices culminate in this essay in a return to Kimberley Peirce’s Boys Don’t Cry to posit that the passer’s position as the point of narrative instability is a product of the process of reading itself. Hilary Swank’s performance of “Brandon Teena” illustrates the way in which the reader of passing makes visible that which he/she reads. It is this narrative fascination with the figure of the passer that almost always leads to an exposure and accompanying condemnation of the passer.

In this way, we can see that the act of passing clarifies the importance of both reading and being read in representation. Although the reader is interimplicated in the process of passing, it is the passer who is made responsible and often punished for the transgression. Passing is a dynamic between spectacle and spectator in which an individual presents, and is taken to be, an identity which is other to the one originally designated. The passer cannot exist without a reader who only temporarily engages in passing and is therefore able to disavow his/her part in the crossing. Caught in a mediating role, the passer is a marker of representational transience and is thus a pivotal figure for thinking about figuration and narration, about the reader’s desire for deferral and detour and also about the competing desire for closure, for attributing clear beginnings and endings even where none exists.

The many black Americans who have allegedly crossed the colour line to live as whites suggests that passing is a desire to flee the constricting condition of belonging to a racial minority. Not that passing for white is purely about escape from racial heritage. The black American author, Walter White, passed in order to travel to the South to investigate lynching and other crimes against blacks. White’s autobiographical self-portrait articulates the challenge the passer poses to racial classifications:

I am a Negro. My skin is white, my eyes are blue, my hair is blonde. The traits of my race are nowhere visible upon me.1

Passing not only problematises classifications of the visible body, thereby challenging the meaning of racial belonging, but also the possibility of accurate representation.

The passer’s abstraction of self from too legible identifiers such as race, nationality, sexual orientation – margins that define the invisible centre of subjectivity – suggests that classificatory boundaries are more arbitrary for some individuals than others. Yet these margins continue to define individuals, like the white-skinned “Negro”, who experience both the possibility of freedom from and the restrictions of being a marginalised identity. The attraction of passing lies in the hope of reaching a destination at which the previously illegitimate body may become legitimate, the marked body may become discreet, the socially and culturally determined body may become an abstract, free body. The desire to pass is the desire to make less visible a stigmatised identity.

However, narratives of passing problematise this desire for freedom by highlighting the machinations of crossing and, through this representation, bringing the passer to judgement. Conventionally, in passing-for-white stories, the passer is exposed to be a traitor and/or a fraud and is duly punished through either their capitulation to the past identity or through death. This structure unfolds through the passing narrative’s revisitation of the passing scene–a scene of looking and being looked at. Most passing stories are therefore not about successful passing. The passer cannot tell his/her story and reach the freed destination. Stories about or documentation of passing chart the disclosure of as well as the act of passing. For example, the protagonist of James Weldon Johnson’s fiction, TheAutobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man (1912), describes the compulsion to narrate his hitherto secret passing identity as an impulsive “thrill”, analogous to that: “… which forces the un-found-out criminal to take somebody into his confidence, although he knows that the act is likely, even almost certain, to lead to his undoing”.2 The compulsion to confess is reinforced at the end when the narrator has crossed the colour line by marrying a white woman. The narrative closes on feelings of nostalgia and shame when the narrator admits: “I cannot repress the thought that, after all, I have chosen the lesser part, that I have sold my birthright for a mess of pottage”.3 This biblical reference to slavery, a state in which autonomy is denied, provides an historical background to the passer’s desire for self-determination and transcendence. The narrator’s inability to forget his past enslaved self remains in tension with the idea that passing allows the newly made “white” man to be in control of his own destiny. The passer is compelled, through story telling, to return to his former self.

Johnson’s narrative not only represents the passer as a double (past and present) but also as a fragmented body. The divided self is axiomatic to the act and the representation of passing and is analogous to the operation of synecdoche in language, the replacement of part for whole. In racial passing, for instance, the light-skinned subject synecdochically presents a white appearance as a white identity. This draws attention to two important aspects of racial identity. Firstly, the visible surface of the body is not necessarily a reliable or stable signifier of the body as a conclusively knowable entity. Secondly and contradictorily, for the passer, as an otherwise marginalised (because raced) subject, the body’s visible surface becomes the central locus of an epistemology of identity, precisely because the body is misread as white. For the opportunistic passer, looking white functions as the point of a fraudulent entry into proper subjectivity and this inauguration destabilises the meaning of subjectivity per se. This exemplifies the primacy but inadequacy of the visual surface that registers individuals as, but is unable to completely represent, an identity.

The passing story draws attention to this stigmatised and divided identity thereby returning the passer to the symbolic order from which he/she initially desired transcendence. Yet without this representation, the challenge the passer poses to categorisation would not be known. The act of passing thus reveals a classificatory system which is inherently unstable. At the same time, narrative fascination with the passer suggests that this figure is fetishised as a vehicle of possibility. The transient passer operates as a narrative detour, a marker of indeterminacy, who must be exposed and inevitably punished for the transgression.

Representing the passer

The representation of passing has historically operated as a kind of metanarrative, a reading of reading, analogous to W. E. B. Du Bois’s famous definition of being both African and American as a form of “double consciousness” (in The Souls of Black Folk).4 The experience of double consciousness, of seeing oneself seeing, is axiomatic to the structure of passing. This structure recurs in the range of texts I survey in this essay. From Nella Larsen’s reading and writing passers Irene and Clare in her novella Passing (1929), to James Weldon Johnson’s former and present narrator in autobiogaphy and, finally, to the example of Teena and Lana in Boys Don’t Cry, the passer stands for doubleness and division rather than singularity.

Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom (1860) depicts two passers relying on one another to escape slavery. Ellen Craft passes for white and as a male slaveholder transporting her slave, actually her husband William Craft, to the North. This narrative begins not with a singular self but with the figure of two:

My wife and myself were born in different towns in the State of Georgia, which is one of the principal slave states. It is true, our condition as slaves was not by any means the worst; but the mere idea that we were held as Chattels, and deprived of all legal rights – the thought that we had to give up our hard earnings to a tyrant, to enable him to live in idleness and luxury – the thought that we could not call the bones and sinews that God gave us our own: but above all, the fact that another man had the power to tear from our cradle the new-born babe and sell it in the shambles like a brute, and then scourge us if we dared to lift a finger to save it from such a fate, haunted us for years.5

The narration of combined escape, in which husband and wife depend on one another, complicates their illegitimate status as slaves and, through the trope of gender inversion, the proper designation of slave and master. Like James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography, this passing narrative challenges the concept of whole, singular identity by representing the escaped slave as a fragmented subject who strives to call his “bones and sinews” his own. Also, as silenced passer, Ellen Craft exemplifies the passing narrative’s revaluation of the spectacle and its association with passivity. In order to protect herself and William, Ellen pretends to be deaf so that she need not communicate with fellow passengers. She bandages her right arm so that (since she is illiterate) she can excuse herself from signing the registration form at customs. William’s narration of and reliance on this crippled and impaired “master” undermines the dominance of the narrator over the narrated, the spectator over the spectacle.

The theme of passing thus mobilises certain kinds of readings. This is evident in critical receptions to passing which clarify the importance of both reading and being read in representation. In recent years the theme of passing has proliferated, becoming a source of fruitful debate within a cross section of established and newly-emergent disciplines, including literary theory, philosophy, cultural studies, race and ethnic studies, gender studies and gay and lesbian studies. In this context, passing again operates as a threshold topic, providing cross-cultural interlinks between old and new, high and low, mainstream and minority disciplines and subjects. Across these disciplines, the theorisation of passing has facilitated discussion about identity politics and, in particular, about the way in which the critic or pedagogue is positioned in relation to the object of study.

For some, passing for white is a betrayal of race and a destabilising act and theme, especially for minority group coherence and political legitimacy. Reba Leewhose story is documented in I Passed for Whiteconnects passing to racial betrayal and snobbery (her school teacher told her: “Don’t give yourself any airs because you’re an octoroon”).6 Black feminist critics such as Barbara Christian have disparaged passing, highlighting the pathos of the “tragic mulatto” who passes for white.7 Personal ambition and wish fulfilment are shadowed by ambivalence and nostalgia in Langston Hughes’s poem “Passing” (1950) in which the passers are “the ones who’ve crossed the line / to live downtown” but they “miss you, / Harlem of the bitter dream, / since their dream has / come true”.8 Clyde Pulley aligns passing with betrayal and fragmentation. In Blacks who Pass for Indian and White (1978) he writes:

If a man loses his ethnic identity and culture or tosses them aside, he loses a part of himself, his family, his friends and his race. Rather than becoming one, whole human being, he comes to be a part of many things. He becomes a Protean Man, like Proteus of Greek mythology, who could change his shape easily but could not commit himself to a single form.9

Here, passing troubles an at least ostensible singleness of purpose and coherency of political aim.

Ambivalence and anxiety about authenticity are the main tenets of an article recently published in the Sydney Morning Herald by the journalist and sometime current affairs frontman Stan Grant who raised the issue of passing for white in relation to his own middle-class identity and to changing perceptions of Aboriginality. Grant lists some Aboriginal pejoratives for those who have “passed” – “‘uptown niggers’, ‘coconuts’ (brown on the outside white on the inside), and ‘Gubbahrigines’ (after ‘gubbah’ black slang for whites)”– and then declares his own position as a middle-class Aborigine who has enjoyed many of the privileges associated in this country with being white. On the one hand confessing that he possesses all the accessories of whiteness (“a successful career, travelled the world, live in a nice home with a nice car, send my kids to private schools”), Grant also outs an Aboriginality that goes “to the very core” of his “being”. Citing an African-American writer, Eric Dyson, who argues “we must transcend the gaze of race and look to a more ecumenical constellation of forces-age, gender and class among them”, Grant closes his argument with an expression of ambivalence: “You don’t have to suffer to be a “real” Aborigine; but you don’t have to appropriate and exploit their suffering to be one, either”.10 Although this poses a challenge to essentialism, Grant’s third-person positioning of Aboriginality (“their suffering”) is distancing. Grant articulates the passer’s mediating rolethe desire to escape as well as read the past identity.

Theories of passing have proved useful in recent debates about deconstruction and essentialism. The interrogation of identity categories, through the passing theme, is often accompanied by a celebration of fragmentation and division. Amy Robinson writes that passing is a “skill of reading” and enables a negotiation of the difference between minority and mainstream knowledges. 11 Following Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s reading of homosexual identity as an “epistemology of the closet”, Robinson argues that passing demonstrates the inadequacy of the visible/invisible dichotomy as the dominant lens through which raced and sexed bodies are viewed. The passer’s crossing reveals the presence and value of “situated knowledges”, that is the difference between minority and universal understandings of the body. The practice of passing, in Amy Robinson’s argument, has a transformative and ethical potential, allowing for a rethinking of identity in terms of both universal and minority group values.

Elaine Ginsberg’s collection of essays, Passing and the Fictions of Identity, mirrors the overall depiction of race and other identity categories which are introduced in the title as a fiction.12 The passer is represented as an agent capable of escaping determined identities. As Ginsberg writes: “In its interrogation of the essentialism that is the foundation of identity politics, passing has the potential to create a space for creative self-determination and agency: the opportunity to construct new identities, to experiment with multiple subject positions, and to cross social and economic boundaries that exclude or oppress”.13 The concluding essay is, significantly, Adrian Piper’s autobiographical account of her ability to pass for white, and her desire not to.14 Placing this self-willed figure at the end, the collection represents race through its mutability and the racial subject through a newly-emergent autonomy. In Juda Bennett’s The Passing Figure: Racial Confusion in Modern American Literature, race is also asserted to be a “metaphor”, a mobile, specular category.15

By contrast, Judith Butler’s essay “Passing/Queering” in Bodies that Matter (1993), a reading of Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929), situates passing as a theme and an act that contests notions of free will and agency.16 Passing is again a threshold topic in this argument, mediating the difference between acting and being. Bodies that Matter addresses claims that Butler made in her earlier book Gender Trouble (1990) in which she argued that gender is performative. In Bodies that Matterpassing, along with other identitarian themes such as drag, allows Butler to explore the problem of materiality in relation to performativity. For Butler, passing is an instance of the way in which “race” and “sex” have been constructed, in opposition to gender, as regulatory norms that cite the body’s materiality. Pamela Caughie, following Butler, theorises the pivotal connection between passing and the regulation of racial and sexual categorisation. Passing illustrates the irreducible part the (socially and historically specific) body plays in cultural discourse. Caughie is careful to separate the difference between passing’s history as a social practice rather than just a linguistic trope. Passing is a theme and practice which seems to momentarily stabilise, for Caughie, the instability of deconstructive terms: “One advantage I see in using the term “passing” is that the distinction between passing as a conscious practice and passing as an inevitable condition of subjectivity is never sure; for to fix that distinction would be to insist on a kind of control and certainty that my reconceptualization of “passing” is meant to call into question”.17

In several readings of Nella Larsen’s eponymous passing novella Passing (1929), the theme of passing as exposure is redoubled through its effect on its critics. There are two passers in Passing: Irene who evades her own self-definition as a passer (becoming in the end a more successful passer) and who outs the other passer Clare Kendry by telling her story. Irene Redfield is casual and more secretive about passing (her black friends and family are unaware) than is Clare Kendry, who has permanently crossed over and married a white racist. With what Judith Butler refers to as a “killing judgement”, 18 Irene decides to expel Clare from her life rather than have her own oscillating sexual and racial identity made more visible by Clare’s presence. Irene’s expulsion of Clare is, as Kate Lilley argues, a feature of the allegory in which “the prospect of ‘outing'” is “accompanied by a will to closure and simplification”19 This outing, whether of one’s own or someone else’s secrecy, also proliferates in receptions to the story. Reading Passing as a text about lesbian as well as racial passing, Barbara Johnson tries to catch herself “in the act of reading as a lesbian without having intended to”.20 Peter J Rabinowitz declares that he taught Passing in a course on “Literature and Ethics” to “expose [his] students to how carelessly they read”.21
Whether making visible or invisible the desire to crossover, passing narratives are only temporarily or superficially able to represent the self as a whole, fixed entity. The reading and writing of passing opens a discussion of how systematic categorisation works, its reliance on exclusions and inclusions, on marginalised and normative identity positions and on conscious and unconscious omissions and secrets. The narrative of passing is in this sense very different from the practice of passing itself which, if successful, never acknowledges or looks back upon a prepassing identity. By contrast, passing narratives anatomise the body and become hyper-aware of its constitutive parts. They draw attention to the fractured and disempowered but fetishised role of the marginalised subject.

The death of the passer

The trajectory of passing, as depicted in James Weldon Johnson Autobiography and Larsen’s Passing, suggests that the passer’s drive to escape the body does not end in total freedom since the passer is also driven by a nostalgic desire to narrate his/her beginnings. Although the passer has initiated power and control by passing, he/she cannot sustain this transgression and surrenders to proper bodily and textual inscriptions. Passing is a transgression of social and cultural norms and also a form of denial, an act of willful misrecognition, which momentarily forgets that the self is a fractured identity. The passer is the site and the possibility of representation itself; by becoming the obvious marker of figuration, the passer indicates the instability of figuration itself.

The passer’s overempowered, solipsistic disregard for both a multivalent body and social and cultural categorisations leads to exposure, a murderous judgement, and ultimately to the passer’s loss of complete power. The unsustainable desire for mastery is relinquished since it has been based on, and utilised parts of, a body that will not be subordinated. Destructively reliable, the body is discovered to be an incomplete locus of identification, engendering both the death and the life of passing. The passer thus oscillates between self-as-everything and self-as-nothing, between an overblown egotism and a self-shattering loss of power. Leo Bersani argues that this oscillation is inherent to sexuality and articulates the always illusory nature of power and control. He writes in “Is the Rectum a Grave?”:

. . . the self which the sexual shatters provides the basis on which sexuality is associated with power. It is possible to think of the sexual as, precisely, moving between a hyperbolic sense of self and a loss of consciousness of self. But sex as self-hyperbole is perhaps a repression of self as self-abolition. It inaccurately replicates self-shattering as self-swelling, as psychic tumescence.22 (218)

Taking pleasure in its tumescent suspension of death, passing is a narcissistic and masochistic activity. The passer’s failure to transcend the limitations of text and body stresses the importance of detour and deferral. As a marked and marking threshold figure, the passer signifies the act of crossing itself by attempting to evade his or her origins and eschatons. This deferral, imagined as no end and no beginning, is enabled through the close reading of body and text, a closeness which is necessarily blinding and self-destructive.

In Boys Don’t Cry, the characterisation of a passer who falls victim to a “killing judgement” conforms to the convention of passing narratives. Hilary Swank’s acceptance speech, which expects to transcend the very discourse that it exposes, similarly demonstrates the way in which passing radically challenges aesthetic, social and cultural norms only to insist on the necessity of classification. Swank’s speech was paradoxically preceded, on the Awards night, by a short from Boys Don’t Cry which contradicted the actor’s celebration of “difference” and “diversity”. The short depicts a scene in which Teena is questioned by police after she has been brutally raped and beaten. An interviewer questions Teena, in this scene, not so much about the rape itself but about her ambiguous gender and sex. The interviewer wants an “exact” answer to an unanswerable question: “Why you runnin’ around with guys when you’re a girl yourself [sic]”. Teena’s incomplete answer is at first muted; when her words become audible she extracts her own agency, the first person “I”, to say merely: “a sexual identity crisis”. This muted self-censorship mirrors an earlier scene in which her rapists, John and Tom, had exposed Teena’s “real” identity to Lana (Chloe Sevigny), Teena’s girlfriend, who refuses to look. This refusal to look and to speak rehearses the film’s thematics of passing as an inability to totally see or to know difference, resulting in the killing judgement that is the film’s outcome.

The first scene in the film depicts the problem of classification through the theme of cinematic specularity, particularly its reliance on the device of the mirror. Teena is introduced in motion, running from a group of angry men who are pursuing her. When she finally reaches the safety of her cousin’s trailer, he demands to know why she doesn’t just “face up” to the fact that she is a dyke. Teena answers: “because I’m not a dyke”. Later, after Teena fatefully encounters Lana, John and Tom, there is a scene in which she dresses as a boy. Reinforcing the passer’s hypervisibility in the late twentieth century, the preparation process is put on display. In contrast to the initial disavowal of lesbianism, this scene enacts the cliche of homosexuality through gendered inversion as Teena binds her breast and toys with using a dildo and ends with her trying on of macho poses in front of the mirror. However, suddenly aware of her posturing, Teena looks at the mirror and laughs then self-mockingly calls herself an “asshole.”

This self-abnegation returns to the former disavowal, “I’m not a dyke”, and suggests the passer’s deliberate misreading of the body. Teena’s denial of her gendered status is inscribed through her denial of the vagina as the naturalised, but always lacking, sign of femininity. Although she has repudiated lesbianism, the self-parodying “asshole” avows identification with homosexuality through displacement to another homosexual figure. The “asshole”, as Bersani writes, is the part aligned with effeminate gay male sexuality, it is “the heterosexual association of anal sex with a self-annihilation originally and primarily identified with the fantasmatic mystery of an insatiable, unstoppable female sexuality”.23 Teena thus avows, through an allusion to gay male homosexual practices, identification with the specular orifice. This orifice is, in Lee Edelman’s words, the whole that defines the part and it is the sight of this figure which leads to a disavowal of definition, or figuration, itself.24 Through an identification with this specular sign, which is everything and nothing, Teena draws attention to the inadequacy of gender categories. This is made particularly apparent through Teena’s characterisation of herself as the penetrater rather than penetrated, as in the sex scenes with Lana in which Teena is positioned as the one “on top”. The film makes clear that this improper figure, the penetrating girl who abuses classificatory practices, cannot be faced and therefore must be annihilated.

This annihilation is prefigured and aligned with the space of the cinematic itself in a scene in which Teena is the runaway driver in a high speed car chase. Typical of the female passing figure, Teena is a usurper and a picaro, a reckless adventurer and a lover of action. In the passenger seat of the car is Lana, who Teena is trying to impress, and in the back seat is John, Lana’s ex-boyfriend. Also the perpetrator of Teena’s rape and murder, John’s position in the backseat is significant in this scene. Just as he repudiates the homosexual panic that leads to his murder of the “asshole”, John is the backseat driver who is later able to disavow his part in the crime. A criminal and a self-mutilator himself, John has already noticed Teena’s sexual ambiguity. In an earlier scene, he lovingly says to Teena that she “has the tiniest hands”. John’s phobic disavowal of his desire for this deadend figure drives the film, from the less visible “back seat”, to its murderous conclusion. In Teena’s hands, as she accelerates the car whilst the police draw in closer, John quietly directs Teena from behind. Advised by John to veer off the road, Teena steers the car into the darkness and as she does so the screen turns black. Teena’s words, “I can’t see”, are literalised for the cinema spectator as the screen becomes a vortex, a black hole which signifies the end of film itself.

By concluding on this deathly reading, I don’t mean to insist that the passing figure is only able to be represented at a cost. Unable to escape narrative closure, the passing spectacle also makes more recognisable the productivity of reading. Reading, as Lee Edelman writes, is the “faceless face” of representation and can only be fleetingly captured: “the fact of our ability to catch a glimpse of it here bespeaks the possibility that we might not have done so had we not been prepared to identify what otherwise has the ability to ‘pass'”.25 The survivor Irene in Larsen’s Passing is a productive reader who engages in passing only to expose her double. Lana, Teena’s passing girlfriend, is another such reader. “I look so different from the outside”, comments Lana, looking at some snapshots of herself that have been taken by Teena. The passer recognises her blinded sight by reading, momentarily, her own part in the murderous plot.


Monique Rooney recently completed her doctorate on “passing” in American fiction and film in the English Department at the University of Sydney.


1Walter White, A Man Called White (New York: Arno Press and The New York Times, 1969), 3.
2James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man (New York: Garden City Publishing Co., Inc: 1912), 3.
3Johnson, 211.
4 W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, Three Negro Classics (1903; New York: Avon Books, 1965), 214.
5William and Ellen Craft, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom (London: William Tweedie Strand, 1860), 1.
6Piper, “Passing for White, Passing for Black”, Passing and the Fictions , 234-69. Reba Lee (as told to Mary Hasting Bradley), I Passed for White (London: Peter Davies, 1956), 14.
7 Barbara Christian, Black Women Novelists (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980) 72.
8 Langston Hughes, “Passing”, The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, ed. Arnold Rampersad (New York: Vintage Classics, 1994), 417.
9Clyde Pulley, “Introduction”, Blacks who Pass for Indian and White (Chicago: Adams Press, 1978).
10Stan Grant, “Aboriginal identity comes in many colours”, The Sydney Morning Herald (11 July, 2001).
11 Amy Robinson, “It Takes One to Know One: Passing and Communities of Common Interest”, Critical Inquiry 20:4 (Summer 1994): 715.
12 Passing and the Fictions of Identity, ed. Elaine K Ginsberg. (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1996).
13 Ginsberg, “Introduction”, Passing and the Fictions, 16.
14 Adrian Piper, “Passing for White, Passing for Black”, Passing and the Fictions , 234-69.
15The Passing Figure: Racial Confusion in Modern American Literature (New York: Peter Lang, 1996).
16Bodies That Matter (New York: Routledge, 1993).
17Pamela L. Caughie, Passing and Pedagogy: The Dynamics of Responsibility (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999), 26-48.
18The “killing judgement” closes the passer’s fatal trajectory: a “chain that leads from judgment to exposure to death”. Bodies That Matter, 173.
19Kate Lilley briefly addresses Larsen’s novella in relation to the theme of passing in the writings of Terry Castle, Barbara Johnson and Judith Butler. “Lesbian Professor”, Australian Feminist Studies 11:23 (1996), 87.
20Barbara Johnson, “Lesbian Spectacles: Reading Sula, Passing, Thelma and Louise, and the Accused”, Media Spectacles, Ed. Marjorie Garber, Jann Matlock and Rebecca L. Walkowitz (New York and London: Routledge), 160.
21Rabinowitz, Peter J. “Betraying the Sender’: The Rhetoric and Ethics of Fragile Texts”, Narrative 2:3 (October 1994), 201.
22 Leo Bersani, “Is the Rectum a Grave?”, AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism, ed. Douglas Crimp (Cambridge and London: The MIT Press, 1988), 218.
23 Bersani, “Is the Rectum”, 222.
24 Lee Edelman, Homographesis: Essays in Gay Literary and Cultural Theory (New York: Routledge, 1994), 238.
25 Edelman, 219.

If you would like to contribute to this discussion, please email [email protected]