Many people in the community will have heard the term “Stealth”. It can mean a multitude of different things to different people. For those that don’t know, it is essentially living one’s life in a post-transition era. This can take many forms. The most extreme example is the cutting off entirely of one’s previous life and starting completely afresh. People who take that form of stealth will often move town, change job/career, no longer see people that were in their lives (though those people may not have been accepting anyway!), and never divulge their history. Why should they? The life before was a fallacy, something lived for others but miserable to the person in question. I don’t blame someone who makes that choice.
Some problems can occur though. Some trans people are fortunate enough to have supportive friends and family, a supportive workplace and will probably have made many new friends during transition. Is it fair to take a view of starting afresh in that case? Do you sever ties with those friends and family because they know your past? Do you suddenly cut yourself off from a community that you drew support from? Some trans people do, and can inadvertently or deliberately hurt a lot of people in the process.
In my case I do have supportive friends, a supportive workplace, and made many new friends within the trans community. I have been what some would term an activist and made friends and contacts through those activities. However, there comes a point where it becomes exhausting. The media is still full of nasty people you once respected, writing attacking pieces all the time. Every time you look at your social media account you see more hate, more fear, more debate on whether you exist or not. As an activist, you feel a duty to call it out, question all these pieces, educate people and do this all in a calm and reasonable manner so as not to inflame the situation. My cis friends and colleagues don’t have to worry. The temptation to return to that simpler life grows. However, I couldn’t ever cut off everyone that I know or have met.
I like the idea of handing over to a new generation. We are in a time of awakening so to speak. Every day more and more trans people feel they can come out. They feel able to come out because of pioneering work of those that have come before. I felt I could come out as the law changed due to the tireless efforts of trans people in the early 2000s. I had no role models in my line of work but I have worked to remedy that myself. Hopefully it becomes a little easier for those that come after me. Then they, if they choose, can do what they feel is needed. I think it becomes important to step back and let the new generation in.
It comes down to the question of what am I transitioning to? I was assigned male at birth, but my identity is very much binary female. I see my transition as progressing to bringing my body in line with that identity. I am not transitioning to “trans”, I am transitioning to be female to all concerned. Part of that means moving on from the transition stage of transition to a post-transition era. I plan to keep my career going in one form or another, keep my friends old and new and see the past as the past and focus on my future. That is marrying my fiancée, raising a family and growing old, with the false start consigned to the dustbin of history!
Everyone is different. Some of us wrongly or rightly aspire to the cis ideal of our genders. There are those of us that go to great lengths and expend large resources having procedures to alter our appearances to fit these ideals. Some of us are fortunate to need less than others. Am I striving to achieve a cis ideal? Probably. I want to have the right reflection in the mirror look back at me, and admittedly a lot of that is to do with the societal expectations placed on me during my upbringing and socialisation. It would be wonderful to live in a society without such expectations, a society without ideals of womanhood or manhood, a society where people are just people on a great spectrum of gender identity and presentation. I choose to accept people that way and take everyone at their word and desire; however society doesn’t seem ready yet.
As much as I would like to blaze a trail toward an ideal society, I also want to just get on with the rest of life. I am trans, but I don’t want it to define me. I am a daughter, fiancée, friend, scientist, runner, swimmer, human being. Will I leave the activism behind and hand over to others? Will I take that step and be stealth in new chapters of my life? Honestly, as tempted as I am, I still feel an overwhelming need to help. As long as that help is needed and wanted, visibility is needed.
Cloaking shields off.
Dr Charlotte McCarroll