Realness is the perfect illusion. In “Paris Is Burning” the illusion is held up to the “the great white way of looking.” Flaws have been erased and behaviors modified. Scarry says we exist in a world based not on truth but on fictions.
When I think about “real world” data in healthcare, I think about real as a form of passing. Passing a test… tests administered to the body. And passing as access… gaining entrance to care. Entry requires separation of body and data —they exist in two realities. Systems of care are “labelizing,” a term used by trans healthcare activist, Chloe Dzubilo. The system performs illness, performs gender, performs pain at points of entry to care.
In sick communities there’s a term that comes from realness. It’s called able-passing. Able-passing describes symptoms imperceptible to the gaze and undisclosed in order to keep a job, get healthcare, or maintain relationships. Its benefits dissipate as the illusion becomes harder to maintain. Your body fails… then, as Muñoz puts it, “your slip is showing.”
I understand able-passing as within queer studies: an imperative to blend in, in the interest of safety or survival. I also take up the suggestion by Fred Moten that moves past the “labelizers” to a productively missing state “passing through the impossibility of the real.” Breaking down the song lyrics “aint nothing like the real thing,” Moten says there is no thing like the real thing. It can’t be found. So what do we expect to find in the data? It is digital ephemera used to imagine new fictions.