“Going stealth”. For many transgender people just starting out, this is often seen as the holy grail of one’s transition. Finding a job, romance, etc. all seem to ride on the hope that no one ever know our past. I would surmise that this is due to the fear that coming out as trans usually requires resigning one’s self to sacrificing much of the lifestyle and benefits we once had previously in favor of living authentically. That or the very real possibility of avoiding winding up murdered on a street corner.
However, being able to live within the confines of our truest identity without anyone being the wiser still does not make us impervious to the losses we may incur to attain that level of comfort. At the end of the day, only those who are blessed to have a job within an LGBTQ-friendly organization, an immensely loving partner, open-minded family/friends, etc. seem to make it out with enough still in tact to not need to literally begin from zero. Then again, some may deliberately wish to begin from zero, starting anew and completely erasing everything that connected them to a past life that now seems nothing more than a dream.
Though I’ve never been confronted with this inquiry of my personal stance, I’m almost certain that many would consider me to have succeeded in living under the radar as a woman. The truth is I decided early on that “going stealth” was not a goal that I should pursue in my personal narrative. To quote myself from January 2014:
All that’s left to do is embrace who I am becoming. All the consequences. All the hardship. All the doubt and the love and the pain. I know now that hiding my past won’t do my future any good. Though I still hope and pray my accomplishments and failures were not for naught.
I subjected myself to the process of reintroducing myself to many people I’ve known for years, worked with people who knew me pre-transition and, in feeling open with someone who I have connected with, have openly admitted to being a transwoman. I also have made it one of my life goals to establish myself as a voice of encouragement to support those who are struggling in their transition and educate people who have questions about me and the transgender community. Basically, me being a transgender female is no secret to anyone within my circle of friends or those who were in my professional network pre-transition. On the other hand, those who I meet in passing are none the wiser nearly 100% of the time.
To some, it may seem like I achieved the ideal transgender lifestyle: Striking the coveted balance between being almost dangerously open, yet “passing” within society. In truth, this balance is merely a mirage brought about by cautious preparation and sheer willingness to face my self and reality head-on. By completely embracing my past and, from the very start, relinquishing everything and everyone who could affect my future – friends, family, career, etc. – in favor of prioritizing my very real need to start actually living, I was able to achieve a level of free-wheeling self-love akin to those famous transgender figures like Janet Mock or Laverne Cox. Though seemingly flying in the face of self-preservation, not hiding who I am among my circles of influence (and having their support) allows those on the outside the opportunity to avoid viewing being transgender as a threat or an anomaly.
None of this came easily for me, and yet I am one of the more fortunate ones. For many the living space to work out their future, or a lack of computer to help navigate their trials, or makeup or razors not being readily accessible to them is a very real issue. Many transgender people across the gender spectrum are unable to even come close to achieving a meaningful balance which places them in even more danger on the streets solely due to their appearances. What’s worse, even beautiful trans girls who have achieved some semblance of stealth are still murdered. This is why I am of the belief that “going stealth” – essentially benefitting from the good fortune we’ve been met – is using self-preservation as an excuse to remain passive while our brothers and sisters struggle, become assaulted victims, or commit suicide.
To stand by and watch should make anyone furious. Not just me.
When it comes to the trans community – especially those who identify as female or queer – none of us are safe. That is why I speak out as one of the fortunate ones. I refuse to be so irresponsible to only simply benefit myself as I admit time and time again how blessed I am to “pass” pretty much 100% of the time even with minimal makeup. Whether achieving the illusion of balance as I have or completely erasing one’s former life, “going stealth” is not inherently misguided. Being among the privileged, ignoring those who are suffering for being unable to achieve basic comforts within their gender identity…is simply deplorable in my opinion.
There’s no better time than now to speak out and show the world just how prevalent the “T” really is.