The Stealth Transgender Dilemma
As a stealth Trans woman, I’m no longer out and visible. That means I’m safe and not subject to the hate and harassment that often accompanies being out. However, it also means I get no acknowledgment or recognition for my journey. It’s not that I necessarily need any acknowledgment, but it feels like this massive section of my life is just gone and invisible. I do have friends that know me. My family, of course. But to the larger world, I’m just assumed to be a mature woman with an associated history.
That history or lack thereof can definitely get me into trouble. When I’m speaking to others about my past I have to be careful. I have to rearrange pronouns and create a mythological past that never happened. Or at least a past that didn’t quite happen exactly as I tell it. That’s because I was a male in my past. I grew up with 5 brothers, yes, but I was the sixth. I wasn’t the second sister, but the sixth brother. I wasn’t a unique female surfer in the 1970s but just another guy. I didn’t birth my children and my children’s other parent wasn’t male. The list goes on and on. There’s a saying that says, the truth is always behind you but lies are always in front. Out there like land mines waiting to be tripped over. It wouldn’t even be that difficult except that these same land mines are handed to others who share your secret, like my boyfriend or my daughter or son. Everyone that knows my past also shares in my deception. In that sense, I often wonder if I’m doing more damage than good by being stealth.
I was reading an article recently about a young transgender artist from New York. She was being acknowledged during pride month for her work. It struck me that I’m an LGBTQ+ artist too. But I get no recognition for it. I don’t have a badge that says, I’m Transgender and I’ve struggled. Maybe more than this young lady given the difference in the eras and acceptance levels that we grew up with. As I read about her and looked at her Art it made me a little sad that my Art, especially the Art dealing with my transition sits in my portfolio or in a storage container collecting dust. No one sees it and it speaks to no one. It doesn’t cause others to think or consider the journey traveled and the struggles I had to arrive where I am. Who am I as an artist if I’m not authentic? Or does my Art really need my Trans status to be relevant? Do I want it to? And how about me as a person? How significant is my gender status to the person I am today? I certainly don’t want that label to be more important than someone’s simple relationship with me. Is that possible if I came out again?