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What I Think ‘Going Stealth’ Really Means

Face-off illegal personIf you are an ardent aficionado of crafty military technology, I promise you can keep on walking. Seriously, you are going to hate this. OK, now that he’s gone, I’ll clarify and say I’m talking about the whole concept of trans stealth. This is hardly original because over on Transadvocate they had a whole big Stealth Week. I found it as gripping as Shark Week, even though no seals were eaten. Though I was not specifically invited to participate, I decided to horn in on their gig and regale my disenchanted readers with my own thoughts on the matter.

For those of you who might not be familiar, going stealth commonly refers to trans people who have successfully transitioned and who have chosen to integrate fully into the right gender without being super up front about their past in another life. Attractive idea, yes? Over on TA, a lot of great thoughts on this were floated, most of which concluded this concept being a terrible idea. I wrote a few pieces on the subject myself in the past and decided it was time to kind of hone the concept in my own direction.

Some say stealth, and implied 100% passability are the ultimate goals for anyone undergoing gender transition. This is the holy or wholly grail of clean and clear authenticity. No one else needs to know because it was simply a matter of a personal medical condition that common sense suggests should not be advertised any more than a wicked case of the crabs long since eradicated. Others claim that living an authentic life means acknowledging the whole of that life, even the decades one wishes were better spent. We have a moral duty to our friends and lovers to let them know, not to mention to the trans tribe at large. Hiding ourselves behind a fabricated past is less palatable than feeling a wet spot next to the toilet absorb through your sock. You can pretend it’s something else while you are stuck sitting there, but deep down you know it’s piss.

For me stealth means something else, and passability isn’t even a factor. Stealth is achieved when we embrace a sense of self-assuredness and comfort with ourselves that allows us to interact with individuals, groups, and society at large where the apparent degree of our trans-ness is no longer a factor. Be clear, however, this does not mean that strangers will no longer stare, certain people will no longer treat us like shit, or that all dangers associated with being trans will disappear; more on that in a second. It does mean that being able to insert ourselves into personal relationships and social constructs where our being trans is not a defining factor. In this model a trans woman, comfortable in her female identity and successfully projecting that is able to relate to people and groups ideally as human to human, or at least woman to man/ woman/ child. This is what cisgender people do, aside from self-created ethno-religious categorization, but that is another ball of wax.

Here’s why I think that is the best model for the concept of stealth. There is a good chance that is the best we are going to do. I’m not convinced that there are many amongst us that are 100% passable. We may be to most people, but there always seem to be some who have that extra sensitive radar that at the very least invites questions. I also agree with some of the assessments over on TA that there is risk involved of being discovered, which in turn puts one right back in ‘living a life of deception’ mode, and really, I would think everyone would be sick and tired of that already. I know I am.

Just to clarify further, I’m not advising that it’s a good idea to lead off a dinner party conversation with a detailed blow by blow of your SRS (see note at the end), or walk into a ladies room and shout, “I used to have a wang, y’all!” You are going to have to use your best common sense judgment of where the line is between TMI and intentional denial of identity. We are trans, we will always be trans, and no matter what we do, if someone is determined enough, they can conclusively prove we are trans. Instead, our blending an assimilation into wider cis society is determined on who we are, how comfortable we are with ourselves, and what we say and do.

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