Deciding whether or not to ‘go stealth’ as a trans person
Stealth: A behavior or way of living in the transgender community where a fully transitioned person lives completely as their correct gender and does not reveal that they are transgender.
A transgender person may ‘go stealth’ in order to avoid transphobia or simply because they wish to be seen as simply male or female and not transgender.
I arrived at the point in my gender transition where I must make a decision – do I tell people that I am transgender or do I keep it secret? I met a new group of friends- the only group in my life where I was an assumed cis man. In this rare space, I could exist like any other guy without being attached to my past of having once been a girl.
Hesitation did not stem from fear of negative treatment; rather, for once gender just felt simple, not convoluted with confusing labels. I was just a guy. Not, ‘the guy who was once a girl’. Not, ‘the guy who has a vagina’. Not, ‘the guy who injects testosterone’. Not, ‘the transgender guy that everyone has so many questions about’. I was afraid of someone perceiving me as ‘not a real man’.
Whether people know a little or a lot about being transgender, I couldn’t help but consider that by them knowing I was transgender, an automatic mental confusion or complication was added to our relationship. For example, sheer curiosity about what being transgender even entails- how people view themselves in relation to me when their tidy, comfortable definitions of gender are rattled and flipped upside down: What is a boy? What is a girl? Does that make you straight? Are you gay or what does that make you? What does that make me?
The most awkward part – knowing that people also wonder about my genitalia: If you were not born a boy, what do you have in your pants? So, you are a boy without a penis? Behold the elephant that lives in the room with me, sleeps next to me in bed and follows me, suffocatingly close wherever I go! I feel him breathing down my neck and all the tiny hairs stand up in hypervigilance- a constant reminder of that which I will never have.
Even though it is subconscious, we assume one’s genitalia, based off secondary sexual characteristics – if you have boobs, long hair, wide hips, then you have a vagina; if you have facial hair, a deep voice, and appear male, you have a penis.
In this society where having a vagina means you are irrefutably a woman and having a penis means you are irrefutably a man, even the possibility of being seen as “less of a guy” due to these misconceptions, would be the biggest let down.
People assume I am a CIS male and with that comes the subconscious assumption that I have a penis and I admit, that is validating to me. People subconsciously assuming I have one almost makes me feel like I do. I could almost pretend it was there and I enjoyed this delusion as that is the closest I will ever get to having what I do not have.
But none of this is true. Sex assigned at birth is not my gender. Just because one has no penis does not make them female. Not all people who appear male, have penises. I do not have one and never will and this does not make me less of a man. I will not reduce myself or others to a single body part. I am not a cis man nor do I need to be a cis man in order to be legitimate.
Furthermore, none of us will ever know what other people are thinking. Such a flimsy way to define ourselves – by what we hypothesize other people are or aren’t thinking about us!
I will never completely ‘go stealth’. To erase the courage and bravery it took to get me where I am today, would not be my authentic existence.
Actually, I don’t want to simply be just a guy. I am a guy who is capable of carrying a life altering secret but I am blessed with the duty of full-heartedly, honestly assessing which new people entering my life are trustworthy and genuine enough to know my secret. Every person will have to earn my trust and respect just like in any other aspect of life.
I am a guy who used to look like a girl. I am a guy who pees differently in the restroom and was socialized as a girl. But, I am a guy who had to shed my old skin to get where I am today. It is never easy seeing our armor disintegrate through the rear-view mirror as we move forward into the unknown but I did it. Molted, now this new skin and the secret it nurtures is my ultimate trust barometer.
I want to help other people, work with transgender youth to help them find their authentic selves. I want to be ‘out’ and proud of who I am because the world can learn from me. I was born into this body to have the courage to transform because it will allow me to change the lives of other people. What a waste it would be to hide somebody’s hero.