The different levels of stealth and why I’m not sure

Keeping in mind that I’m no expert on the subject, I’d like to touch upon what is commonly referred to in the trans universe as “stealth”. Being stealth means not divulging your trans status to at least part of the people you meet. But there are different levels of stealth in life.

First, there’s the ones that are not stealth at all: the out and proud. There can be many reasons to be OaP, from wanting to advance popular acceptance of the trans world, wearing clear identifiers and writing it proudly because you want people to know (think Laverne Cox, who does TV appearances and plays the role of a trans woman on a show), to simply not having the choice because the body or the voice doesn’t leave room for interpretation (think Michelle Blanc). Being OaP serves its purpose in the world, but most trans people will only remain in this state of mind during their transition, moving on to the other stage once they are done.

This second level of stealth is partial. Your family, close friends and partners are people you trust with the information, hoping they won’t tell everyone around them. But at work, with acquaintances, going out shopping, those are times and places where it’s simply not necessary or desired to spew it out at the first occasion. This is where most trans are in their lives especially after their name and genders are changed on official documents (and, in most cases, after surgery). Partial stealth can even extend to sexual partners in some cases, assuming it’s after surgery, though in my opinion that’s going a bit far. It implies some form of hiding the truth or simply lying when talking about one’s past. For example, when I talk about the fact that I’m a parent and there is another mother in the picture, how do I answer questions about who the father is? Saying it’s a donor is simply lying. This is generally where I fail to maintain stealth status with someone.

The other extreme is deep stealth, or full stealth. It means cutting ties with all your current life, moving to a different city, and inventing yourself a past from scratch (based on your actual past, of course). From what I’ve seen, deep stealth is sometimes the only way to escape an abusive or dangerous environment, to start off with a clean slate. Since it often means a complete break from the family, it’s probably often done when there is no support from them at all, or even complete rejection. Of course, even deep stealth still has exceptions: medical professionals and the pharmacy where you get your hormones would have to know at least something of your situation.

So where to I fit in in all of this? I’m not sure yet. At the moment, I’m testing the waters, meeting new people and not coming out to them, being in high level interaction situations and sticking to conversations that don’t involve sensitive subjects. But of course, all my friends and colleagues know who I am, my family is supportive and I have no reason to change any of this. The question remains, would I stay out and proud after my transition? Do I want to spread my knowledge and opinions, help acceptance, or do I just want to stay stealth most of the time except with close friends and relatives? I can’t really know my feelings on the subject until after I’m done. In the meantime, I’ve avoided support groups and trans organizations simply because I don’t belong in them.


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