Stealth is a word that is banded around a lot in the trans community, especially once a person has spent some time on Testosterone and particularly once they have had top surgery. For those of you who don’t know what it means, being stealth is to be able to ‘pass’ as the gender you identify as without question, and not tell anyone. You live life as though you were born cisgender.
Now, before I go on, please do not take this as me stealth shaming. I am all for stealth people, I congratulate them for being able to do so, and I know that I too have passing privilege and I am fully aware of this.
In this post I want to explain my thoughts on my own transition, and explain why I myself do not feel like I have to be stealth at this point in time.
I am post top surgery and have been on hormones now for one year and three months. I passed as male 90% of the time before either of these things. I have a naturally masculine physique and my chest was not too large pre-op (though enough to need a binder). The only thing that gave me away was my voice to strangers. They’d call me ‘he’ then hear me talk and I’d straight away be ‘she’. It was very difficult, but within a matter of months of starting T, I was not misgendered any more (except for the odd confusion at my camp nature that is).
I could be stealth right now. I could create a new online persona, delete or close off all of my old accounts and start fresh. I could get rid of my old photos, go to a new place and start fresh. I could.
But at the moment, I don’t want to be.
I am a trans man. By this, I say I am a trans person – I do not fit with the gender assigned to me – and I am a man – my traits are predominantly masculine and I identify mostly as a man. This does not mean however that I identify as wholey male. I myself am non-binary. This means I do not identify as a binary gender (i.e. male or female) 100%. I am not agender, I do not feel like I am neither male or female; I am not gender fluid, I do not identify as both male and female genders. I feel like I am male and other. By this I do not feel female. I do not feel male. I have a portion of myself that feels other. This is not a negative to me. I am happy with myself. Do I think I am always going to identify this way? Maybe not. I know I will always feel mostly male, but the percentage of me that feels male may change. At present, I am probably at a 90:10 split. I want my body to be as masculine as possible. I want ripped abs, I want a snail trail that makes people drool, I want to walk along and not have people question my gender in whispers along the street. I want the ability to tell people as and when.
Right now, I feel I have the last part almost done. For the most part, I go out and do not get questioned. I am a young man. My barber tells me every time how lucky I am, I am a “handsome young man with a full head of hair, [I] will never go bald!” I go to a new doctors surgery and have to explain, by the way I am a trans guy. Most of the time, they don’t realise. It works highly in my favour and I am so happy with it. However I still have big scars across my chest. Today marks being exactly 5 months post op, my scars are still quite red and fairly raised up, especially at the front. I don’t have a problem with this but it does mean I get a few strange looks and it does confuse people. I have yet to be questioned, however it is still early days.
I have other things stopping me from being 100% passing all of the time, but I have been stealth in certain circumstances. I have done two paid jobs now whereby I have been entirely stealth. I worked a Christmas job and a Summer job at separate companies, and in both of those only management were aware (though with the Christmas one, I did tell three others as they wanted to follow me on tumblr and that’s a little hard without knowing!). It went fine and without a hitch. My only worry was someone coming into the staff toilets and getting confused. The best part was, the Christmas job was pre-T. I loved it, don’t get me wrong, but it was exhausting. I don’t like to talk about myself a lot, but when people ask questions about school, about why I am able to stand cold weather (answer: I used to ride to school in a kilt every day and no tights, rain, wind, snow or shine, because the only other option was trousers the same colour and fabric as the bright, harsh blazers), and about things I did growing up, I struggle. I am not good at lying and I struggle to discuss these things without accidentally outing myself. I almost did it at my summer job, I was talking about my first paid (official) job, and I said it was at a woman’s clothing store where I was taught to measure bras. Alarm bells instantly went off and I could see it in the guys face, he was puzzled, why would a bloke be working there and why would he be taught that? No matter how camp he is? I stumbled out a response, explaining that it was for older women, and I happened to be the son of a regular and they were desperate for staff hence I got the job, and I never had to do a fitting. It was such a close call.
I don’t want close calls all of the time.
I want to be able to talk to people without feeling like I have to hide stuff. I want to show off comparison photos. I want to educate, without being asked what I know about it because it doesn’t affect me. I want to be open.
This is true right now. This does not mean however, that it will be true forever.
Being stealth is something possible for trans people at different states of their lives. I could be stealth for five years, then decide you know what? I don’t want to be any more. That would be fine. I could also be open for five years, then decide I don’t want to deal with the questions, with the constant invasive stares, with the well meant but unfortunately offensive statements “I’d have never believed it! You don’t look at all like a woman!” But most of all I don’t want to hide my gender. I am not a binary male. At this point in time I am at least 10% other. I don’t want to hide that. That other part is trans. That other part is what makes me non-binary, it’s what makes me gender queer.
However I unfortunately feel I have to add this bit on, as it is something I have seen quite often of late. If you know me, and we are out and about, and I am gendered as male, I have someone say they knew it or whatever else, please do not correct them. If I feel I need to, and I have enough spoons, I will do it myself. I can cope with being gendered as male to strangers, I don’t mind when people who have never met me before assume I am male. As long as they do not see me as female, I am okay with that. Female is the only state I do not like to be identified as. Anything else is okay.
If you do know me, or you do refer to me at some point, please use any pronouns, aside from female or ‘it’ (I do not like how this refers to me essentially as an object). So not ‘she/her/hers’ or ‘it/its/itself’, however ‘he/him/his’, ‘they/them/theirs’ or any other neutral pronouns are fine. Thank you!