On being stealth

I just got an inbox full of questions about being stealth and why and how that affects me so rather than respond to each of them individually (sorry guys, I don’t have quite that much free time) I figured I’d do a post.

First of all, it’s important to note that stealth is just as much of a spectrum as gender.  On one end you have “everyone up to and including the cashier at McDonald’s knows I’m trans” and on the other you have “I don’t even tell my sexual partners”.  In between there is a whole lot of grey area.

I’m about two ticks away from the far “don’t tell anyone” end of the spectrum.  My sexual partners know (it’d be damned near impossible for them not to), as do my doctors, friends from my pre-transition days, and a few very close friends in each city I’ve lived in.  One of the things about me is that I have a chronic illness so it’s important that at least one person nearby knows in case I end up in the hospital or something.  I carry a card with me at all times stating both my trans status and every medical issue I have just in case I need emergency treatment.  It’s a little annoying and could lead to outing if I’m not careful, but my health is more important to me than staying stealth.

That’s really what stealth is about, figuring out what’s important to you and adjusting your life to meet those priorities.  For me it’s important to just be one of the guys.  I don’t consider myself to have had a girlhood so much as a childhood and I seem to have missed every aspect of female socialisation I’ve heard talked about so I don’t think the trans part of me is all that big of a deal.  It’s not even so much that I’m annoyed by people thinking of me as a girl as that I’m confused by it.  I don’t get it.  I think of my pre-coming out days and just see me, not a girl or a boy or anything other than a kid/teen who went to LGBT youth groups and loved biology and would not shut up if you got them near a stage.  I don’t identify with the whole ‘sisterhood’ idea and I’m not sure anyone who grew up in my town could be said to have had a traditional upbringing so the ‘female to’ part of FtM isn’t really something I think about.

Which is why I’ve never had a problem staying stealth.  I don’t feel stifled by it.  I’ve never had a conversation where I’ve felt like I was hiding something.  I’ve never had to stop myself from saying something that would out me.  I talk about my childhood all the time (actually, I think people might be sick of hearing about it) without problems.  I never did anything specifically for girls so I’ve never had to lie.  Some of what I grew up with was a bit odd for a little boy, but in my town it wasn’t odd.  For instance, I was a cheerleader when I was younger, but there were a good dozen or so boys on the squad so it never really occurred to me to hide it.

This is probably why I don’t consider stealth to be nearly as big of a deal as most guys who transitioned around the same age a me.  I had a childhood experience that more closely resembles that of the kids socially transitioning around eight or nine now than that of other guys who transitioned at 20.  I don’t really know why other than that I was raised in a unique area and was apparently a fairly androgynous kid, but that’s how it turned out.  Stealth wasn’t even really a question when I was coming out.  I knew I’d come out, transition, pass, and never look back.  Nothing else made sense to me.

Now, that’s not to say I ever wanted to completely leave the trans community.  I don’t particularly like most of it and I want to strangle about half the people at every group I go to, but from the second I realised there wasn’t much of anything for guys like me I knew I wouldn’t be able to leave entirely.  I just don’t do activist work as a trans guy.  I go to groups that aren’t in the city I live to make sure guys coming out know that there are options beyond genderqueer and masculine binary guy.  I work with LGBT groups to make them more trans inclusive as an ally rather than a trans person.  I do youth outreach and mentorships both as a gay man and as a gay trans man (that’s one other person I’m out to, the co-ordinator at the local BB/BS) depending on what’s needed.  Most of the time I don’t have to be out, but occasionally there’ll be a kid who needs someone to talk to.  I keep this blog.

It’s about finding a balance.  For me that balance sways toward being more stealth.  For other people it’ll go more toward being out.  All options are just as valid and no one should be told otherwise.  We’re different people with different needs.  Nothing at all wrong with that.

3 Replies to “On being stealth”

  1. Really good text, and what you write makes a lot of sense. I’d say you do a lot of trans activism by maintaining your blog and forum, though 😉

  2. I was recently told about your blog by a friend and firstly want to say thank you for making it.

    I’m pretty much the only gay ftm I know, and I REALLY don’t fit in with the trans community in my city, so it is really nice to know there are others like me out there.

    The whole stealth question is something I’ve been pondering lately. I’m planning on moving for school next fall and it will be the first time I’ll really have the option of being stealth. I’ve passed for 4 or so years now and I TRY to be as stealth as possible, but the trouble with living in the same place as before transition, and having mostly gossipy queens for friends is that new people always seem to find out.

    Part of me is excited at the prospect of being able to be stealth, but part of me feels, I don’t know, guilty? A lot of the trans people I know have the stance that if you are not openly trans, that means you are self-loathing and hurting the “cause”. And at times, when I have complained to my cis friends about being outed as trans their attitude is “What can you expect? People will find out “the truth” about you eventually.”

    I don’t know what to think sometimes? Does being trans mean that I have a responsibility to be an educator about trans issues to the world at large for my whole life? If I don’t tell people that I’m trans, does that make me a liar who is trying to deceive everyone by hiding “the truth” about myself?

    lol, sorry for long-winded ranting

    • Anyone who thinks you have a responsibility to educate people can go fuck themselves. You’re a person, not a campaign. If you want to keep your private life private then that’s your right. It’s no one’s business what may or may not be in your pants.

      And that’s really what this comes down to: whether or not people are right when they assume you have a penis. Let’s not bullshit here, it has nothing to do with your internal identity. It has nothing to do with whether they call you ‘he’ or ‘she’ or think of you as a man or a woman. If you’re read as male and you identify as male the only question is whether or not you have the parts commonly associated with being male. Which is absolutely no one’s business but your own and those you choose to share it with.

      The truth is that you’re a guy. You’re not lying to anyone by letting them think that. It’s true. Think about the people you know. For all you know they could all (or almost all) be trans. If you’ve not seen what they have in their pants (or even have without asking about possible surgeries) then you know exactly as much about their gender as they do about yours. That’s not lying. People who think so clearly believe that we really do think with our genitalia.

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