Being Stealth is quite common amongst trans people. It means that you’re only out to a select few, but in everyday life you still present as the gender you were assigned at birth. It can be trying, but there are many different reasons a trans person might feel the need to do this.
Things being stealth is:
- A way to keep a job. Sadly a lot of people and workplaces have transphobic policies, and may use someone’s trans identity as a catalyst to dismiss them. Thankfully, in the UK this is prohibited under the Equalities Act 2010, but it is not always the case elsewhere in the world. Sometimes having to be someone else and go by a dead name for a few hours a day is better than the possibility of being fired and struggling to find new work, but it really is a shitty situation.
- A safety measure. I can speak to this one: I have parents and family who constantly make transphobic and queer-phobic ‘jokes’ that I am expected to find funny. Now, whilst I don’t think they would physically harm me if I came out to them, they do a pretty good job of mentally and emotionally putting me down as it is, so there’s that abuse to think of. There are people out there who’s lives would literally be in danger if they were openly trans. Don’t out someone without their permission, you could be the cause of serious harm.
- A private matter. Maybe you’re not ready to be openly trans yet. Maybe you feel the only people you can tell are your closest friends. And that’s fine. Coming out is an entirely personal matter, and no one should be forced to do it against their will. I’m looking at you, Perez Hilton, you fucking scumbag.
Things being stealth is not:
- A deception. Trans people who are stealth are not doing it to trick you in any way, they’re doing it for one of the reasons above, or many others that are personal to them. You don’t get to dictate when and where someone should come out (again, looking at you Hilton), and you don’t get to act hurt that they didn’t “tell [you] sooner”.
- A game. Don’t make references and comments about your friend’s trans identity in the company of others when you know they’re not out. It’s not funny, you’re not being clever, and as mentioned above, it can be really dangerous.
- Some sort of trophy. I don’t speak for all trans people here, I would never pretend to, but I know I get really tired of having to wear my old name and all the gendered expectations that come with it. I’m not asking for applause for hiding my identity on a daily basis, because in an ideal world I wouldn’t have to. It’s not a trophy I want to hold up and show off, so please don’t congratulate me on how well I can hide who I really am.
It is trying: it’s been about 15 months since I first came out as trans, and I still haven’t been able to tell my family, so every day I have to live with being called my dead name, and being talked to like I’m a girl. This is particularly aggravating when a conversation between my da and I will be shut down because I’m being “too mouthy for a girl”, or he tells the story of how he cried on the day I was born because he wanted a boy. But it is necessary, because as a family they’re only just getting over my sister and my aunt being gay, they wouldn’t be able to process this in a way that wasn’t harmful.
So to everyone I’ve been able to come out to and who help me stay safe, thank you. I may not always show it, but I am eternally grateful.