There are a lot of politics surrounding the notion of “passing” (that is, not generally being recognizable as trans after transitioning) and trans* people who transition and can/do pass. These politics follow an odd pattern. There is this irrational fear in parts of the cis- world that trans women who pass or blend in are some kind of stalking monsters whose aim is to prey on unsuspecting heterosexual men (no one who has ever met me had ever thought of me as a super-predator … most of my girlfriends have claimed they could take me in a fight, and, well, they’re right). However, usually when cis people see me walk like a duck, talk like a duck, quack like a duck, it helps them accept that I, well, I am a duck*. Actually, most of the antipathy towards trans women who blend in with cis women comes from … other trans people. They don’t question my womanhood, but they do look with disapproval on trans women like me who are or want to be deep inside the binary.
More on that issue another time. It’s actually the necessary frontispiece, in this case, to say that, while I probably don’t pass or blend completely right now, a year or more down the road, I think I might. Now this is what I really want to talk about. I do not have a credible option to be truly “stealth” (having no one really know I’m trans, in my day-to-day life). The only way this could possibly happen is if I were to completely abandon the professional field which I studied for seven years of graduate school, internship, and residency, in which I became board certified, which I honestly love. My field is simply too small – most of my colleagues inside my specialty will know when I go full time, because of the connections I inherited and the connectedness I craved and developed. So no, I can’t go deep stealth. I could go a more shallow stealth. In many places, there are only handfuls of people in my specialty practicing, and not all of them at connected in the way that I and most of my classmate are. So what I could probably do is go full time and then move somewhere where HR, and maybe my immediate supervisor, know that I am transgender. If I shut this blog down, silence my trans story in favor of a nondescript story of my womanhood (which would not make for a great herstory), I could probably maintain this indefinitely.
There’s really one thing I would lose, besides a level of my sense of personal dignity, if I did this. It’s my ability to advocate. No pride parades. No calls for local, state, and national government to increase LGBTQIA+ rights and protections. All of that would “blow my cover.”
I have to admit, it’s a little tempting. Oh, not forever. I’m a connected queer. I just don’t have it in me to isolate. But the thought of doing this, especially early after transition, when it would be more possible, is awful tempting, just to have the experience of simply being known as a woman, before having that as most of my life space (as opposed to limited areas of my life space, when I’m around only strangers) becomes infeasible. If I wasn’t so connected, if my field weren’t so reliant upon webs of references and colleagues and mentors voicing their support of me, I can’t honestly say I am sure I would reject the option.
On the other hand, I also view it as something of a blessing that it’s not much of an option to me. The truth is, I like advocating. This road has been hard for me. I did suffer. I’ve been bullied and bruised. I’ve been called countless names, which healed far more poorly than the bruising. I’ve played a role that doesn’t work for me for a long, long time, at first in ignorance and then knowing the truth full well, but not seeing a way out. I didn’t always know how I would survive, and although I never gave up, I was often sure I would die unfulfilled, and there are parts of my journey that I survived I know not how.
I know I’m not the only one going through this. I’m not very strong, and I’m not very brave. I’m not at all courageous. I get scared. I cry. But I feel that if some brother or sister could suffer a little less because of my being out in the open, I will wear the target, and suffer the attacks, and if I must fall, I hope that I shall look braver than I feel as I fall, that the fight I put up will scare our enemies, and embolden our allies, and that I acquit myself with some small measure of honor. I also do it because I believe that if people like us have the audacity, we can shape the world in an inclusive way, instead of letting bigots shape it into a maze of exclusionary movements and spaces.
Mazes are not really very inclusive spaces, but I will point out that Labyrinths, which are a completely different thing, have major genderqueer cred
I could vanish into the night. I choose instead to stand my ground and advocate.
*I am not a duck, just to be clear. I am a woman.