"Passing" basically is whether someone is perceived as the gender they are expressing themselves as, that is female, male, or another gender.
For many transgendered individuals it is of the utmost importance to pass, where as some may choose not to, as it very much depends on their gender identity or expression. Many transgendered people also strongly oppose the presumption that all transgender people want to pass as either male or female. For many, gender identity and expression are not about conforming; these individuals consciously and intentionally present their gender in ways that do not conform to one of only two genders.
Note : How a person is perceived by others is not always consistent.
For example, it's not uncommon for a transgendered person in a store to be called "ma'am" by one and "sir" by another. This creates discomfort, embarrassment and for most times makes an unsafe environment for the transgendered individual. Ergo leading to the person feeling dysphoric, anxious and depressed. In many cases not being able to pass is a security hazard. As transphobia paves way for people to discriminate, abuse physically or mentally. And hence we see many hate crimes such as murders, rapes, and issues of unemployment, illiteracy and many more.
Passing is also important to many not only because of their own dysphoria, which is an internal conflict, but rather the external sources of conflict. These external sources or gendered constructs are what pressurize a transgendered individual to, try to conform towards these constructs. These constructs of how a man or a woman should look, sound or behave are harmful not just for the trans community but also cis gendered individuals. As it debilitates individuals from freely expressing their range of gender expression.
Men are expected to be strong, unscathed, rugged, dominant, provide for the family, emotionless etc. Likewise, women are expected to be poised, dainty, graceful, submissive, look after the family, etc. Inadvertently you are confined within a box, and get consumed by the overwhelming pressure of conforming.
None of the aforementioned are what make a man or a woman, as they are just societal constructs created by others.
All it creates is people who are insecure, suppressed and have a frail understanding of who they are. What makes a man or a woman is their own subjective and unique definition that they give, to being their most authentic selves.
The dysphoria as a resultant of not being able to pass is crippling for many transgendered individuals.
I myself am a victim of these toxic constructs that society has heavily burdened me with. As a result of struggling to conform, I struggle with depression and anxiety associated with my dysphoria. But over time what I have realized is that, we internalize the external sources of conflict. That is blame ourselves for the wrongs of others. For eg. I don’t look man or woman enough. Here, you are associating yourself and blaming yourself for the illogical and toxic constructs of society. There is nothing wrong with the way you look, sound or behave. Everyone is meant to be unique. There is no set way of how a man or woman looks, if you look around you will find all kinds of different men and women in various shapes, sizes, colours, etc. Hence, learning appropriate coping mechanisms are essential to be able to function productively and healthily. Like problem solving, rationalizing, relaxation, humour, physical activity, rather than escape, numbing, risk taking, self-harm.
To conclude, what we need to solve these issues is the deconstruction of these social constructs and demolishing transphobia. Which are in it self a huge task at hand, but looking back as a society we have come a long way and are slowly but surely progressing towards achieving these goals.
Our existence itself is an act of revolutionary activism.