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111 Responses

  1. Nick
    Nick September 8, 2009 at 6:22 am |

    Monica, thanks so much for this unbelievably comprehensive and provocative post!!

  2. Dee Ann
    Dee Ann September 8, 2009 at 9:06 am |

    EXCELLENT article! This unspoken truth needs more exposure. Too many of our sisters were and still are FORCED into stealth mode as part of their “treatment”…
    Without visibility it will take much longer to achieve the goals I believe we all share… To live our lives as we are(!); weather that means as “pre”, “post”, “non”, or any other means of expression. Buying into the gender binary can only result in continued oppression.

  3. jayinchicago
    jayinchicago September 8, 2009 at 9:33 am |

    I have thought and considered to think this post is wrong headed. “Stealth” trans people didn’t create cissexism, and they/we shouldn’t be blamed for it.

    Besides the fact that many trans people these days aren’t “stealth” or “out”–those words have no personal meaning for me.

  4. jayinchicago
    jayinchicago September 8, 2009 at 9:35 am |

    also, i really can’t believe you thought it was appropriate to post this here, on a cis space that does not have the greatest track record in regards to trans people, particularly trans women.

  5. Betsy Billet-Doux
    Betsy Billet-Doux September 8, 2009 at 9:46 am |

    I agree with jayinchicago.

  6. panqueque
    panqueque September 8, 2009 at 9:57 am |

    Great article. Thanks for the links to Christie Lee Littleton and Justina Williams info.

    jayinchicago, I don’t get your comment at all. Monica–who runs one of the most prominent blogs dealing with trans issues out there–was asked to guest post here, and you’re saying it’s “inappropriate” that she posts on trans issues? wtf?

  7. Pollik
    Pollik September 8, 2009 at 10:09 am |

    A really well written and eye opening article. I have not previously heard of Anita Hemmings although, with a little thought, perhaps I should have guessed that stories like hers would exist.

    While part of me would love stealth people to be open about their history, I would never criticise people who do not feel strong enough to stand up against the tide of prejudice. People who are stealth can also contribute to the ’cause’ in other ways…when (and if) they are eventually outed and society turns against them where they were previously loved and respected, what more dramatic examples could we have of blind, unthinking and irrational prejudice on the basis of colour, sexual orientation, gender ID or….

  8. Emmett
    Emmett September 8, 2009 at 10:21 am |

    While part of me would love stealth people to be open about their history, I would never criticise people who do not feel strong enough to stand up against the tide of prejudice.

    “Stealth people are cowards”, not ten comments in. Why am I not surprised?

  9. Betsy B
    Betsy B September 8, 2009 at 10:37 am |

    @panqueque – way to miss the point entirely.

    @Emmett – no shit, right?

  10. ginasf
    ginasf September 8, 2009 at 10:38 am |

    My disagreement with what you’ve written Monica is that somehow Christie Littleton wouldn’t have gone through her legal battles if she hadn’t been stealth. You can claim if she had been on the front lines as an out transwoman it might have been a different outcome, but given the culture of the state she lived in, I doubt it. Avon WIlson likely stayed in stealth not because of what she was told by doctors, but because she experienced herself as a woman and she didn’t want to live her life seen as a freak. She might have been concerned for her safety. Her business, not yours. And as was written, don’t blame someone in stealth for the intolerance of the culture they lived in.

    My issue with your essay is you don’t take into account the individual identities of the people involved. Some African Americans might have lived in stealth because they ultimately, internally, identified more with ‘white culture and identity’. Perhaps they just weren’t up for the complexity involved having a foot in both worlds (and, yes, they had privilege to even have that option, just as certain transpeople, by virtue of their appearance, voices, age of transition have a passing privilege as well). While ‘living undercover’ wasn’t perfect, it’s likely their ‘out’ identity wouldn’t have been any better or comforting. You’re thinking about the ultimate political aspirations of the community while I’m thinking “hey, you have one life to life, it goes by fast, do what you need to do… just don’t be a hypocrite.” Let’s face it, there have been many out transwomen who’ve been murdered, and who is anyone to say that someone who prefers the safety of an imperfect stealth solution is somehow wrong-headed? Who are you to judge?

    Very few people actually live in ‘full stealth’ today (and only a very small % could ever do it, anyway). Many trans people live in a kind of situational stealth where some know about their trans status and others don’t. That’s called “I get to share my info where I want.” Just as someone who was adopted isn’t required to share their story except with those with whom they feel comfortable (or for legal/medical reasons). Their lives, their choices, not anyone else’s business, even yours Monica.

    I also have issues with your statement about diminishing the identities of non-ops within this essay. Sorry, not applicable. There are non-ops who are in some form of stealth (although not total) as well. And, as we’ve discussed previously, there are LOTS of trans people who don’t identify as WBT or HBS syndrome who believe there are key differences between transpeople who fully intend to get SRS and those who identify as non-op or transgender and this isn’t a part of the ‘stealth vs. out-transperson’ argument nor do I agree with your assumptions it’s all about racism. I’ve known African-American transwomen who felt exactly the same way.

    @jayinchicago: I don’t understand your second comment either. Please explain. Monica’s here to discuss what she wants to discuss, why should she have to filter it?

  11. panqueque
    panqueque September 8, 2009 at 11:02 am |

    Betsy B, I totally get that this site has had and continues to have serious problems with dealing with trans women’s issues. But Monica has made a decision to guest post here, and I’m sure she has damn good reasons to do it. She’s made numerous posts over the past week; why is this one suddenly flagged as “inappropriate”?

  12. Hazumu Osaragi
    Hazumu Osaragi September 8, 2009 at 11:20 am |

    I’m functionally stealth at work — meaning I don’t ‘reveal’ to each and every client my trans history. If asked, though, I’ll answer the question truthfully. There are people at work who know, though. I can well imagine that I get outed quite a bit — “you see that woman with the big videocamera? Well, she [was born male/is really a man/-(insert your own 'I know what she REALLY is' statement here...)]” It happens, I cant’ stop it, no sense worrying about it, and there are enough righteous people who know and don’t care to completely outweigh the very few obsessive bigots.

    I’m functionally stealth when I buy bread/eggs/milk, or gas, or whatever. I don’t reveal. There’s no need to, and it would be a breach of society’s unspoken etiquette on this topic. If there’s not a reason to know, they don’t want to know.

    However…

    I came to the realization that those who are angrily, militantly deep-stealth in almost all circumstances (up to but not always including long-term intimate partners,) are passive-aggressive.

    I can well imagine the following internal monologue — “If they think that ‘trannies’ are dirty/nasty/sick/etc., I’ll show them! I’ll pull the wool over their eyes, and have the last laugh!”

    I’m a DES ‘son’. I’ve read the research. Girl brains in a boy body. I was force-’masculinized’ by well-meaning relatives as well as misguided peers, like almost all transwomen. I think that it is more in keeping with displaying a true feminine nature to accept both your whole self (girl spirit in boy body) and that there will always be that some few who will handle that knowledge badly.

    In contrast, militant stealth is hanging on to a masculine need to win at all costs, to ‘defeat and vanquish’ your enemies. Problem is, everybody outside your HBS/WBT tribe becomes your enemy.

    I don’t need that mess any more.

  13. Susanna Boudrie
    Susanna Boudrie September 8, 2009 at 11:25 am |

    Hi

    I disagree. On many levels. First I disagree that is equivalent to black americans “passing” in white society. But that is an argument that I think has to be discussed between people of color; being white I don’t think it is legitimate for me to argue about it.

    Second because stealth for women born transsexual is in reality for most not on the opposite scale to being out and open about your history. My friends and family (yes, I have kept them all, especially my grown up son) knows my history. I am an activist; meeting many politicians and officials. But my colleagues and neighbors don’t know my history. And I would never be out to them. Being stealth, although not “ultra” stealth is definitely not a mistake. – And there are other jurisdictions where the Littleton case couldn’t happen.

  14. jayinchicago
    jayinchicago September 8, 2009 at 12:24 pm |

    This is why I said what I originally said:
    This issue is very contentious among trans people, and I assume every trans person knows that. To have the argument splayed out here for cis people (who as far as I can tell frankly *can’t* understand this issue, not being trans) and their comments, as if this space hasn’t been trans misogynist, is misguided. Any back and forth among trans people just plays out for cis people’s prurient interests and makes us comic relief for cissexism.

    To that end, I want to make a few more comments and then I will try to stop responding and will continue having this conversation in trans space, as I have been for years now.

    1) “out” “proud” is verbiage from LGB liberation. LGB liberation is great, don’t get me wrong, but trans and LGB are not categories that can be flawlessly compared. The idea that because I do aspire to be largely stealth means I’m “closeted” doesn’t make any sense–I am a man, and if I’m getting recognized as one according to this post that makes me “closeted”? I don’t think that is logical.

    2) The responsibility for education does *not* fall on trans people. Often the burden does indeed fall on us, but that is not as it should be. If (and I have done this myself pre-transition) a trans person chooses to do trans activism and education, I support them. Also, it’s a fallacy to state trans advocacy can only come from trans people open about their trans statuses.

    I am not a coward. Just because I would prefer people I work with (for example) to not have intimate knowledge of what my genitals looked like at birth does not make me a coward.

  15. jayinchicago
    jayinchicago September 8, 2009 at 12:28 pm |

    ok, one more comment.

    a tiny part of me thinks that stealth can actually be subversive *because* cis people think they have a right to know the trans status of trans people. I don’t want to play into that.

  16. CJ
    CJ September 8, 2009 at 12:32 pm |

    So…let me get this right. For those of us who identify as man/male or female/woman and live that way without letting people know our medical histories (which for a lot of, that’s what transition basically is, with a lot of social crap thrown in), we’re lying? And how is this not a variation of the ‘if you don’t tell people you’re trans, you’re asking for trouble’ blame-the-victim line of reasoning so often pulled by cis people?

    Furthermore, the ability to be open about one’s status is itself a privileged position. Being open (or ‘out’) in New York City is a lot different than, say, being open in Minot, SD or Bell Buckle, TN.

    I go to school as a man. I work as a man. Most people don’t know my history. Yet I also put the word out in raising funds for Duanna Johnson’s funeral. Time and energy/spoons permitting, I plan to do something to help my school become more trans friendly for when a student wishes to transition while on campus. I’ve also helped people access resources in my hometown so that they could start medical transition and in the future I plan to continue my efforts in this direction. I’m helping to reform one of the largest US trans conferences. There are many other stealth trans people who do the same thing, while there are many out trans people who more destructive than helpful.

    And as a black person, I take exception to the idea that living stealth is the equivalent of ‘passing’. The very term implies living as something one is not, and the use of the term in this context implies that trans men and women aren’t really men and women and we’re lying by living as men and women. I’m sorry if you do not feel you’re a real woman, but I know I’m a man and I will continue to live as be a man without divulging my medical history.

  17. Leyla
    Leyla September 8, 2009 at 12:46 pm |

    Sorry, but on a site like this I would have expected a more disability-friendly approach. That you don’t even manage to provide alternative text for the pictures, so that visually impaired people could at least know what they are about, is very disappointing.

    Aside from that, I enjoyed that article, am always glad for the insight some of the contributers here provide. (Which ist the reason this neglect negatively surprised me…)

  18. ginasf
    ginasf September 8, 2009 at 12:48 pm |

    @jayinchicago: “a tiny part of me thinks that stealth can actually be subversive *because* cis people think they have a right to know the trans status of trans people. I don’t want to play into that.”

    Agree. It also goes against cis ideas how they know what trans people look, dress, sound and behave like. More than anything else transsexual people do, it creates a deep crack in cis assumptions about the legitimacy and ‘reality’ of their own gender identity/expression vs. the ‘phony’ gender identity/expression of transsexual people. And that makes most cis people profoundly uncomfortable. In some ways, it is ultimately more transgressive than being the ‘out’ transgender person who is identifiably so. People have a right to live their lives according to their own needs and comfort level and not according to the needs and preferences of someone projecting their own life issues onto theirs.

  19. JasperGregory
    JasperGregory September 8, 2009 at 1:40 pm |

    Monica,
    Thanks you for your thinking outside of the box. I also think that the emphasis on stealth and passing undermines collective action. I think none of us will have the option of being truly “out of the closet” until Behaviorally-Female Males like me and Transwomen join forces to become very, very visible. We need to stop contributing to our own invisibility.
    it is time for “We are here! We are Queer! Get used to it!”.
    I made a video blog post about this subject: Passing And Stealth Are Bad For Us In which I cover many of your same points.

  20. ginasf
    ginasf September 8, 2009 at 2:44 pm |

    @jasper:

    See, this is one of the reason some people don’t like broadcasting their trans history. You may be queer, but a lot of trans women don’t consider themselves queer. Again, once one is ‘out’ to strangers, you get a lot of people projecting their issues/concepts/categories onto you. Also, your video is full of a lot of ignorance about transwomen… I might suggest vlogging about your own issues and own direct experiences, not a community of which, like it or not, you’re not a member.

  21. Delphi S. Lomeli
    Delphi S. Lomeli September 8, 2009 at 3:11 pm |

    I agree wholeheartedly. When I began my at-work transition, I took advantage of the fact that I was being hassled, probably for “appearing” gay. I told my boss that I was not gay but undertaking my gender transition. I decided that much of the negative diatribe directed at us is from “innocent” ignorance. Too me it was clear that only by being completely open could others judge me for my performance at work regardless of my changing appearance. I was a case study for those who were now having their first encounter with transgender females. I knew instinctively that only by placing myself “on stage” completely transparent could I create a positive impression of myself as a human being albeit with a twist. This approach has worked well. Now, my co-workers can relay their positive experiences with me to others who know nothing about transgender females. This could not have been accomplished had I remained hidden in the shadows. By walking alongside each other during the past year, the at-work bonding has been super positive as they have come to understand that a gender transition is not a soul transition. I am who I am despite my changing exterior. I am overwhelmed by their acceptance, love and support. What do I do? I am a hospital security officer, part of a staff that is 98% male.

  22. JasperGregory
    JasperGregory September 8, 2009 at 3:57 pm |

    @gina
    You take a narrow reading of Queer as LGB. I use it to mean being different and embracing difference. In this reading any Gender-Variant people who reject passing are queer. I stand by my slogan. We gender variant people should embrace our queerness rather than passing.

    I consider all non-passing transwomen to be part of my community. I define myself as a transwoman who chooses not to transition or to pass in any way. i am speaking about the community of people born like me. I do not divide based on whether they choose for body modification like you do.

    Caling me ignorant and saying that I am not part of the community tries to silence me in an ad hominem attack, without engaging with the arguments themselves.

  23. gogobooty
    gogobooty September 8, 2009 at 4:35 pm |

    Is Anita Hemmings related to Sally Hemmings, slave of Thomas Jefferson, who went to Paris to serve his family and returned pregnant, and later bore several more of his children?

    I have “The Hemmingses of Monticello” here, I’m going to check in the index!

    Interesting connection, if it is one.

  24. Emmett
    Emmett September 8, 2009 at 6:06 pm |

    Well, I have to say, with this post and its puke-inducing comments, I’m finally convinced to take this blog off my reader permanently. Good job, Feministe. Way to improve on those trans issues.

  25. JasperGregory
    JasperGregory September 8, 2009 at 7:01 pm |

    Emmet finds the comments puke inducing. No doubt he will talk about this as transphobic. Its not. It is just a viewpoint he does not agree with. I am doing an experiment by live-video blogging my responses to Jay, Gina, Susanne and Emmet. I read their comments and respond.

    Look at the first two video posts: here

  26. Susan
    Susan September 8, 2009 at 8:09 pm |

    Many of us don’t see ourselves as part of the transgender community…never have, never will. The fact that we aren’t “passing” as female but are female is a difficult concept for some to comprehend, especially the transgender. We have our surgery, merge with the mainstream and go about out lives. We have no desire to be out and prefix our identity with trans. Doing that demeans and minimizes who and what we are, accomplishing nothing but relegating us to some less-than-other-than-different-than special type of female.

    We are fed up with the GLB and transgender speaking for us; we don’t speak for them. We are frustrated with the Jaspers of the world including us within their narratives as though they have some special insight that qualifies them to do so; they do not. It’s offensive to us. We live our lives quietly within the mainstream, quite differently than the transgender with no desire to be special in any way. There is no imperative that requires us to conform to the politics of the transgender, and we don’t…a point that drives the transactivists mad.

    Acknowledge our position, then leave us alone…exclude us from your narrative…we are quite capable of speaking for ourselves should the need arise.

  27. Elly d'Yckgirl
    Elly d'Yckgirl September 8, 2009 at 8:59 pm |

    Concerning passing or being stealth, I think the question is not as much whether it’s good to be open about being trans or not, but how to allow people to have spaces where they can be open about that and to be more confident if/when they want to disclose it to other people.

    And those spaces have certainly multiplicated since a dozen years ago, so as a person who had the luck to have those, I’d have trouble blaming previous generations trans people (or people who don’t live somewhere where there is such thing, or have less privilege than me) for not being as open as I can be now; besides, even if they were relatively stealth, I think it’s not unlikely that I can be open now partly thanks to them.

  28. eastsidekate
    eastsidekate September 8, 2009 at 9:51 pm |

    I just don’t get it– not the OP, and not some of these comments.

    I know Monica’s written plenty of thoughtful stuff, some of which I agree with, and some of which I don’t. But these comments! :teethgnash: Some of you should really re-read some of the excellent past posts here by trans contributors, you’d…ugh….

    Look. I pass for the most part. I just do. I take hormones for my own reasons (I hated how I felt on T, as well as what my body was like), and eventually people started correctly perceiving me as a woman. Also, I’m out. But, and this is the kicker, being out as trans isn’t the same as being out as a lesbian. People assume I’m a lesbian when I tell them about my lesbian lover, or take part in PDA, or even when I start talking about queer culture. They generally don’t pick up that I’m trans unless I talk about my genitals, my medical history, or otherwise very deliberately out myself. This includes being out and active (say, writing about trans issues at the college I teach at, in print etc.,). So, I’m totally out, but for the most part, functionally stealth. Also, I’m not sure what this has to do with surgery. In other words, I disagree with Monica on most of her post. It happens.

    I just don’t get how stealth is so damaging to “us”, nor why other people’s choices are my business. However, I do get that being stealth may 1) create some personal problems/stress and 2) alleviate other personal problems in stress. For a lot of trans people, the benefits outweigh the costs. Heck, even if that weren’t true, I only get to live my own life.

    As for the comments…..
    Folks have addressed most of the worst comments, but Jasper Gregory, pleased to meet you. I’m feminine, and super freakin’ queer. Doctors identified me as male at birth. I’m out and proud, and I fight for the right of everyone to be themselves. Yet at the same time, I’m a woman, and I’ve taken steps to be happy with my own body. If you’ve got a problem with my queer, femme, lesbian identity, take it elsewhere. The sign that I’m “passing” (e.g. people perceive me as a woman, and a queer one at that) is none of your business. Also, just…. :headdesk:

  29. estrobutch
    estrobutch September 8, 2009 at 9:53 pm |

    If You’re going to criticize trans people for personal decisions about their own safety for their political consequences that this post deserves pretty harsh judgment for the political consequences of bringing a discussion that needs to happen among trans ppl into a cis dominated space.

    Trans status is not cis ppl’s business. There’s no reason they need to think about or be educated about what “stealth” or “out” mean for trans rights.

  30. eastsidekate
    eastsidekate September 8, 2009 at 10:11 pm |

    I suppose redirecting the comments to what I think Monica’s point was would be useful. I’m not sure that stealth wasn’t pushed on white trans folks (I think the evidence is to the contrary). There were a few high profile white trans women, but I’m not sure that they did much to improve the lot of us. I guess my question is, how much of the struggles that young trans women of color face are due to the lack of out black trans women decades ago, versus racism, sexism, and transphobia? Likewise, I think it’s important to look at the term “transsexuality” as a construct. There have always been “trans women”, but we haven’t always been labeled as such.

    I’m not sure, but I have the perception that white “trans women” have been more likely than “trans women” of color to assume the labels “transsexual”, “transgender”, “woman born transsexual” and the like (or have the labels thrust upon them). If this is true, I’d be curious to hear the causes (after all, “trans*” is a very recent phenomenon). Also, it might be interesting to discuss (in a different place) what this may have meant for the status of “trans women” in different circles.

  31. Ariablue
    Ariablue September 9, 2009 at 12:04 am |

    I really enjoy being attacked for making personal decisions about my life. Way to win converts to the TG religion, by the way.

    It’s interesting that the author feels perfectly justified in judging everyone else’s situation and decisions. I find that is typical among the TG proselytizers. How charming.

    “Stealth” and “out” are completly meaningless to someone who is born with the transsexual syndrome. Those are terms for gay and lesbians, and forcing them onto people with birth defects in this manner is gross abuse.

    We are not “stealth”. We are men and women. Keep your heirarchy and labeling schemes off of us, and mind your own damn business.

  32. Ariablue
    Ariablue September 9, 2009 at 12:12 am |

    Seriously Hazumi? Being a woman makes me “angrily, militantly deep stealth”? It’s “passive aggressive” to just be who I am? I suppose I’m “shrill” if I disagree with you too.

    This sort of nonsense is exactly why those who live in “trans” world just don’t get it.

  33. Dyssonance
    Dyssonance September 9, 2009 at 1:36 am |

    Apparently, as usual, I’m going to be against the grain.

    To take the tripartite issues of race, stealth complex, and internal strife (all of which are rather intertwined for the U.S. population to a degree that may or may not be similar outside the U.S.) into a cis sphere is, indeed, something that needs to happen more, not less, in my personal opinion.

    While the status of genitals are not the business of cis people, the arguments around it are — as they show that there is division of the same sort within this tiny fraction of the population that mirrors the greater one.

    For one, the particular concerns of the groups with which, despite her personal feelings about them, the poster Susan is aligned, are concerns predicated on the understandings of cis people (ex: they feel that since cis people do not understand the difference between transgender and transsexual, that they, as individuals, suffer more).

    That argument is not one that can be solved without input from the cis community — ideally pro and con, to widen the discussion. After all, they do sorta have social control of the lives of all trans people, figuratively and literally, in ways that actually create the sort of dissension.

    To the point of did the system create stealth or did transfolk create — well, its fairly well documented that in the US, the system worked to use it, even if they didn’t create it.

    The racism enters into the question because of cultural variances in the ethnic communities regarding trans people (with my personal intersection of four, even on my limited scale the differences are huge) and the inheent institutionalized nature of te kind of racism involved.

    Which is ultimately the issue — there is an institutional effort to enforce heteronormativity on the part of the system and nature of the stealth complex (which includes comportment, visual aesthetics, and complicit secrecy) which was a requirement of many, many transfolk for a great while.

    It is not cowardly to enter into stealth, either. It is, however, strictly a personal choice — there should be no requirement that one does so in order to receive treatment, as was once done.

    There is a price to pay, though in that for those for which stealth is not an option, even after all the surgeries and work, there will be fewer role models, less effective statistical data with which to aid them in improving their lives, and the continued insistence by the greater population that a transwoman who is secretive about it is somehow deceptive.

    This is because the stealth complex is built on the concept of deception as a whole, as the language around it demonstrates.

    So stealth is wonderful for the individual, but pretty lousy for the class. This, by its nature, creates a conflict within the community, as you have those seeking to effect social change and those seeking to avoid notice, which is needed for social change.

    At this point, the question is not so much “should one go stealth”, however, so much as it is a question of can one. And the answer to that is that for most people, no.

    And that is not a function of the media exposure (more in the last 5 years than in the entire 40 years prior to that), but rather a function of data and information systems that are not responsive to the needs of privacy.

  34. Susanna Boudrie
    Susanna Boudrie September 9, 2009 at 1:55 am |

    I am not queer; I am not trans. I am a woman born transsexual (Susan’s term). Period. Transsexualism is a condition (biological; not mental health issue) that we can’t live with. We have to become “whole” being only women or men, not in between. While transgenders seem to thrive in being trans. So it is no issue for them to proclaim that you have to be out and open, that’s what they want and need. While for us you demand us to be something else than what we are! You’re denying our rights, imposing on us your needs!

  35. eastsidekate
    eastsidekate September 9, 2009 at 8:18 am |

    Monica, I still see a couple of problems here. The first is that a lot of commentators are being asshats. Second, while you’re pointing out problems with WWBTs (I tend to agree with you on this one, although they’re an easy target), I don’t see much distinction in your essay between the concept of stealth and WBT/HBS– most of the stealth trans women I know don’t identify with the WBT/HBS crowd, and actually do fight for the rights of all people. Third, as has been pointed out, I join other commenters in pointing out why calling out stealth is really offensive– people have the right to live their own lives as they see fit. Lastly, I just don’t agree with the last paragraph of your last comment, and it’s not clear to me what this argument has to do with race. Other folks have pretty much already made my argument for me on that one. The ignorance of race in these comments may be a function of the racial biases of the commenters, but I also think it’s largely due to our taking offense at things that you’re saying about stealth in general (and that you’re making this argument in cis-space). It seems to me that you’re claiming that part of the plight of today’s trans women of color is due to stealth. Plenty of us our rejecting that argument as made in reference to all trans women (both its truth and the ethics of making it).

    Is your argument that because trans WOC were more likely to be forced into stealth than white trans women, today’s trans WOC face additional hurdles that their white sisters don’t? Or, is your argument that stealth has caused trans people problems, using trans WOC as an example? If it’s the latter, I think some of us have talked about why that’s a problematic argument. If it’s the former, I simply don’t get it– the evidence isn’t particularly clear to me.

  36. Tab
    Tab September 9, 2009 at 9:12 am |

    Being stealth/not out to most people =/= being one of these HBS people.

    I consider myself a man with transsexualism. I’m cisgendered, fit into the binary, don’t rock the boat with my gender presentation. That’s just how it happened for me.

    But I absolutely cannot comprehend this hate from other trans people towards those who are not in the binary, to those who are visibly trans and happy to be so.
    (I can comprehend the distaste from the transgendered towards cisgendered transsexuals a little more – reifying the binary and all that crap. I don’t agree with it at all but I’m familiar enough with the theory to at least know what they’re basing it on.)

    Cisgendered trans people who don’t want to shout about it aren’t cowards, they just want to get on with their life and reveal their medical status on a need-to-know basis. Trans people who are proud of their status and visibly different or queer aren’t sick freaks or deviants who harm others.
    We’re all fighting the same fight for respect and we shouldn’t be arguing amongst ourselves – in the eyes of bigots, all of us, conformist or not, are freaks, and pointing “oh, but I’m not like THEM!” won’t protect you.

    If even we can’t understand that people live their lives in many diverse ways and tolerate a wide variety of behaviours and expressions, what hope is there to get the rest of society to understand us?

  37. Betsy Billet-Doux
    Betsy Billet-Doux September 9, 2009 at 9:40 am |

    Yeah, I really resent being put in positions where the HBS/WBTs are “on my side.” Between Monica and, as usual, Jasper, that’s what’s happened here.

    And eastsidekate, I think most people here are leaving thoughtful comments, on “both sides” – who is being an asshat? I think it’s a legitimate concern that Monica is posting about sensitive intra-trans issues on a cis-centric blog that has on-going problems with cissexism. I think it’s a legitimate concern that she’s likening stealth to the LGB closet and racial passing while missing some of the concrete differences. What about that constitutes someone being an “asshat” here? Disagreeing with Monica?

  38. Betsy Billet-Doux
    Betsy Billet-Doux September 9, 2009 at 9:43 am |

    And Monica, if you actually read the comments, you’d see that another trans POC posted to disagree with you in a pretty thoughtful way.

  39. Mercedes
    Mercedes September 9, 2009 at 9:57 am |

    I had mixed feelings about this or a similar post when I first saw it, and still do.

    Yes, absolutely yes, being out and providing a real, tangible human face to transsexuality not only goes a long way toward acceptance, it is the primary route.

    However, I think there’s a danger in “if onlys” and believing that things always would have been better. If there had been more out transfolk years ago, the legislate-against-it fearmongering backlash would have also been kickstarted years ago, because we’d have been seen as more of a credible threat. Yes, Avon Wilson’s story might have helped people overcome the fears of transition and micsonceptions years earlier, but that might have resulted in more people living in the trans ghettos at a time when HIV ran rampant with no reliable information to combat it (awareness does not always bring earlier acceptance, so the poverty issue may not have changed in any significant way). We honestly don’t know how much if anything would have improved, or how much would have been counterbalanced by more social antipathy. You could be right that some of the social changes and maybe legal protections might have happened sooner, but it’s hard to know.

    Another example, I do agree that stealth has hindered the discussion, and fostered some of the divisions that we see now, including the WWBT philosophy. But some of that comes simply from people learning to define and express themselves openly. As the gay community became able to articulate their issues as ones of sexual orientation, it facilitated the ejection of our issues, which they felt irrelevant or even embarassing. As lesbians who did not fall under the “butch/femme” motif felt comfortable enough to come out and define themselves, they ejected those who they felt perpetuated “bad stereotypes” of who they were. As feminism came into its own and defined itself, it ejected sex workers, transwomen, even housewives and more who didn’t fit the emerging definition of the modern woman. Those things weren’t right, but tend to accompany a developing community’s process of defining itself, as people get carried away and use that process of self-definition to (by comparison) also define others. Time and stealth have exacerbated the divisions in our community, but they still likely would have happened.

    That’s not an outright criticism, but a reminder. “If only” is always tempting to think about, but we tend to forget about life’s tendency to counterbalance.

    There’s my disagreement — otherwise, I do think that your post provides some interesting things to think about. While I don’t believe that people are required to be out and proud, and recognize the toll it takes, I certainly believe (and have observed) that the cumulative presence of out folks is the path to positive change. The greater need is there.

  40. Pollik
    Pollik September 9, 2009 at 10:50 am |

    @emmett

    ““Stealth people are cowards”, not ten comments in. Why am I not surprised?”

    That is not what I said and not what I meant.

    By all means criticise what I say, but criticising something I didn’t say feels to me to be a little desperate.

  41. jayinchicago
    jayinchicago September 9, 2009 at 11:19 am |

    “How many times have we heard it said in feminist spaces and elsewhere ‘why don’t you just stay hidden, then you wouldn’t suffer as much? Or in relation to another trans murder the ‘deceptive’ tag”

    This is again blaming cissexism on trans people. Even if you don’t understand why that is wrong, our responding to the terms of cissexist fallacious reasoning in those terms can never be liberationist. Our liberation will come from our own theories and terms, and not reactionary thinking couched in the same oppression being thrown at us.

  42. atlasien
    atlasien September 9, 2009 at 11:28 am |

    Monica, as a Racialicious regular, I just wanted to say that I read your articles both there and here, and think you’re doing really valuable work as a historian of African-American trans people.

    I’ll stick the tip of my toe into the debate because I think cis people like me have a place in it (a secondary place). One, just out of common humanity, two, because trans-hatred can sometimes rebound onto cis people and three, because cis people have more privilege and power and responsibility to fight against that hatred at its source.

    So I just try to keep an ear out for strategies articulated by trans experts and I don’t expect to hear a unified voice speaking for everyone… it’s more like a chorus. I agree with Monica that the presence of internal debate is pretty natural and doesn’t make me think the issues are any less vital.

    I don’t think Monica herself is blaming trans people for cissexism any more than she is blaming black people for racism. She’s simply mixing pragmatic, organizational concerns with theoretical ones… it’s not fair that the burden falls so heavily on certain people, but that doesn’t alter the fact that the burden is there. As a person of color, I get that point on a visceral level when it comes to race.

  43. ginasf
    ginasf September 9, 2009 at 11:32 am |

    @Monica: I agree with you this is obviously your essay and your choice where to put it, period. I don’t agree you get to turn around and say “this is only about trans POC.” If you write about Caroline Cossey (which you recently did on your blog) is that only for white trans people? Your essay, as I read it, compares how passing for white affected black people with how stealth affects trans people. I don’t see a stamp saying “trans POC only”. We all have many overlapping communities (and most of us in this thread fall under the category of having transitioned). The genie is out of the bottle, live with it.

    I agree with some writers’ comments about your seeming need to equate anyone who accepts stealth as a plausible choice (and, again, only a very small % of transwomen of any color even have that option) is somehow WWBT. It’s a cheap shot. Nor are a lot of the WWBT even really in stealth. The woman in Spain who started the WBT concept (which I DON’T agree with) has her photo on the Internet.

    Let’s talk more about historic stealth. First off, many of the transitioners in the 50-60s weren’t in stealth. As Joanne Meyerowitz writes in her excellent history of transsexualism in the US, there were many activist transitioners during this period who did, in fact, seek other trans people out and even create activist organizations. Just because someone said they were going to be in total stealth to get meds/surgery doesn’t mean they stayed that way. There were many trans autobiographies written during this era. Trans-WOC Delisa Newton was in Sepia magazine in 1966. That’s an act of activism and public bravery on her part even if she later seemingly went stealth. There are many transitioners who have gone stealth (of their own accord) for a decade or two only to get involved with the community later on, like Leslie Townsend. What, now people don’t get to have their own timeline for their lives? You talk about people in stealth moving away from home… well, last time I looked, Monica you moved a long way from home. You honestly mean to tell me you never thought about how this affects your trans issues or you living as a woman in a new city? You did it for work and they only did it for reasons of stealth? Who’s to say? Trans people in stealth cannot be treated as a monolith, no more than any other part of the community can be viewed as such. No more than you can speak for all trans POC.

    A few years ago I was privileged to meet an POC FTM in his 60s who transitioned over 40 years ago, is married nearly that long and wasn’t even out to his adult kids. He’s lived his life the way he felt he needed to. Do I agree with him not telling his sons about his history? No. Is it my business? No. See, for all the activism he could have done in those years, he’s raised his kids, been an amazing husband, and brightened the lives of those who know him as a man. So should I get to turn around and explain to him in a pompous tone, “you KNOW, you REALLY have to come out to your sons, you really need to be there for the community.” Last week I found myself sitting at the same table as Ms. Majors (amazing!!!) who was addressing a meeting of transpeople in SF (I think she would say she was lucky to still be alive after all that happened to some of the women who marched by her side). Polar opposite in terms of history and path from the FTM. Did I feel one was necessarily better for the community than the other… honestly, no. We need both of their experiences. And from my perspective, the most important glue the trans communit(ies) could use is less judgement and more mutual appreciation and empathy.

  44. Emmett
    Emmett September 9, 2009 at 11:34 am |

    Don’t dither, Pollik. It is perfectly clear what you meant by “people who do not feel strong enough” to be out as trans. Insert “weak” for “coward” if you wish. The meaning is the same either way.

    Strength has nothing to with it.

  45. Betsy B
    Betsy B September 9, 2009 at 12:04 pm |

    Gee, that’s interesting, because I know several African American trans people who are some degree of stealth. Again, you should probably actually read comment #16 by CJ.

    I’m personally just really sick of a false dichotomy in the trans communty where we’re all either genderfucking radical TG activists breakin’ down the binary or deep stealth HBS/WBT assimilationists doing nothing for the rest of the community. I don’t agree with the HBS/WBT folks on a lot of things, but I still don’t think they have any moral obligation to live the live the way I do.

  46. Betsy B
    Betsy B September 9, 2009 at 12:06 pm |

    Strike out out one “live the” in my last sentence.

  47. Bad Hair Days
    Bad Hair Days September 9, 2009 at 12:09 pm |

    @Monica:
    The moment you mentioned WWBT you made it about them, too

    @jayinchicago and @Susanna Boudrie

    The Stealth people Monica meant are not people like you (and me) who are partly stealth but people who live in denial of their previous condition, up to the point of being agressive against people who are open about it, because they turn the spotlight to the condition.

    The fact, that its the well integrated people, who are hiding, leaves more space to the flamboyant ones (shown as deceptive) or the unlucky ones (shown as failed males) the media likes so much.

    Its a catch 22 where each side has good arguments.

  48. eastsidekate
    eastsidekate September 9, 2009 at 12:35 pm |

    @Betsy Billets, My comment about asshatery wasn’t aimed at those who disagreed with Monica. Rather, Pollik’s comment @#7, and JasperGregory’s comments were beyond the pale IMO.

    @Monica, I’m not sure if all of #41 was aimed at me. I detest WWBT theory, largely for the same reasons you laid out. However, I’m with ginasf in that I’m not sure what stealth has to do with WWBT. Most of the people I know who aren’t out share my dislike of HBS/WBT dogma. As far as I’m concerned, you’re creating a strawman, conflating a handful of racist, homophobic, economically privileged, judgmental and extremely vocal white trans women with all white trans women who aren’t out. That doesn’t pass the sniff test.

    In terms of posting this piece at Feministe, yes, it’s your right. You’re a guest of the editors, whereas most of us doing the commenting are interlopers who weren’t invited by anyone. However, here’s what I see happening:

    #1) You posted an essay that makes an argument about how trans people should live their lives (in this case, it was about stealth, but the same would have applied if you commented about marriage, child rearing, or any other concept broadly applicable to all trans people).

    #2) You used your specific community (in this case, trans POC) as an example to support your argument in #1, and discussed the consequences of #1 for your community.

    This is most excellent (aside from the judgmental aspect of #1). However, you then objected when folks outside of your specific community failed to discuss #2, instead of choosing to focus on what your argument in #1 means for all trans people. The largest object seems to be that you’re telling trans people– all trans people, how they should be living their lives. People tend to balk at that sort of advice, regardless of the context.

    Given that this isn’t a space centered on trans people, or POC, it really shouldn’t surprise you that folks are focusing on the part of your essay that direct impacts them– the part that says that lots of my friends are living their lives incorrectly, and that encourages cis people to assume that all non-out white trans women subscribe to ultraconservative, racist, homophobic, and classist theories of gender. I’m sorry, but I can’t not respond to that. I’m trying to build community, and be an ally to my friends that choose not to be out.

  49. eastsidekate
    eastsidekate September 9, 2009 at 12:56 pm |

    @BadHairDays
    Okay, so you, jayinchicago, and many of my friends aren’t the aggressive WWBT that many of us (including Monica and myself object to). How is conflating stealth with WWBT productive? Doesn’t that just feed into the meme that many trans women are ultra-conservative keepers of the patriarchy?

    Also, can we address another problem with this essay– the assumption that there simply wasn’t an abundance of out trans-women of color in the 60s and 70s? ginasf mentioned Delisa Newton. What about Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson? They were both pretty out, and Johnson was certainly an AA trans/gender non-conforming woman. What about the Dewey’s riots in 1965? Perhaps it’s telling that the first examples of historic trans/gender non-conforming WOC I can think of were involved in the often violent fight for social justice, while your (and everyone else’s) example of an early white trans pioneer is the coy, demure, and relatively well-off Christine Jorgenson.

    Somehow, I don’t think the issue here is about stealth. I see a media that was (and still is) fascinated by heteronormative, affluent, white narratives of transsexuality. I also see that racism and classism played a large role in keeping trans WOC oppressed (as they still do).

  50. TammieH
    TammieH September 9, 2009 at 1:07 pm |

    Thank you Monica for a great post. I am white and I feel that I do have a right to comment, I am ashamed of how African-Americans have been treated and are still treated, but I am also ashamed of how other minorities are treated in this country and all over the world. I am not sure why some people have to feel superior to others, but it seems to be a need. It is equally as much ashame that others have to feel they need to hide who they are because of that. Whether those who hide their true selves are a hindrance to the progression of a full, open and accepting society, who knows? I am not sue if that can be measured.

    For me, when I started to transition, there was no way that I could go stealth, to be able to find employment as a trans-person was one of the most rewarding things that I have ever done, I do not have to hide, or worry about being outed. Having said that, for the most part, everyone has been very supportive, co-workers and customers. I do get dirty looks and I have been called “sick and disgusting” by a very cute guy in his 20′s. Some are inquisitive, which is nice because I am always willing to educate.

    It does wear on me, even some of those who seem to have no problem with me, use the wrong pronouns at times. They make me doubt myself, sometimes I feel like I am on display in a cage, someone to poke sticks at.

    But I am one of those who have always been completely honest and open to others and myself.
    I am a transsexual and I always will be a transsexual even after surgery. Even though my brain, my soul, my inner being is female, a little plastic surgery will never change this shell to match, maybe that opinion will change, who knows, ask me in a couple years.

    I do not know if there is a correct way to do this, maybe its just being true to one’s self. Although I wish that everyone could be out and proud of being who they are! What I would hope for some day is that we would stop judging others, those who are like us, those who are from other parts of the LGBTQ community, and from those who hate us.

    We want others to accept us, when we cannot even accept the diversity in our own community, fighting and arguing about petty differences instead of embracing other ideas.

  51. Bad Hair Days
    Bad Hair Days September 9, 2009 at 1:16 pm |

    > How is conflating stealth with WWBT productive? Doesn’t that just feed into the meme that many trans women are ultra-conservative keepers of the patriarchy?

    I never intended that. Most blogging classic TS/WBT/HBS people I know not only identify as feminists but are very active in that. (e.g. Cathryn or Suzan ).

    I wanted to point out to jayinchicago and Susanna Boudrie what is the difference between what Monica means and being partly stealth, not make an excuse for them and me commenting.

  52. Tobi
    Tobi September 9, 2009 at 1:30 pm |

    Monica, when you describe stealth folks from decades past, who split off from their families, created new identities, and never had any contact with the trans community — do you think that’s what stealth folks are doing today? Perhaps some are and I wouldn’t know, but everyone I know who calls themselves stealth does things a lot different. And as Gina points out, many of the stealth folks of the past didn’t do that either.

    Personally, given the electronic identity tracking technology of the day, I don’t think it’s possible to be deep stealth the way those doctors once encouraged. The way I talk about stealth, and the way I hear others talk about it, is more specific. I know tons of folks who are stealth at work, don’t want their name in the paper, but still come to trans community meetings, volunteer, and phone bank. Can you clarify if you’re criticizing that as well?

    If you do, how far does it go? Is it inappropriate to ever pass as cis (essentially what stealth is)? Should folks out themselves at the grocery store? Wear a button announcing themselves as trans on the street? Or does it all come down to the activism — if you are an active member of the trans community, mentor others, and act as a role model, does it matter whether or not your coworkers know you are trans? Because some of my best trans role models and supportive community members are stealth (and active in the trans community), yet I’ve still benefited greatly from them.

  53. eastsidekate
    eastsidekate September 9, 2009 at 1:44 pm |

    Sorry Bad Hair Days, I understand that you were drawing a distinction between WBT/HBS and all stealth people. I was making a larger point about the essay. I thought you were reassuring jayinchicago and Susanna Boudrie that Monica wasn’t talking about folks who were stealth like they were, but rather a different type of stealth folks (WBT/HBS). I take the fact that you feel the need to reassure some stealth folks that Monica wasn’t really talking about them as evidence that this essay is using a narrow and inaccurate stereotype to describe a wide range of stealth trans people.

  54. Ariablue
    Ariablue September 9, 2009 at 3:09 pm |

    Monica’s incessant racism on this topic says everything you need to know about the subject.

    Stealth is an insult to every man and woman who was born with this birth defect, had it treated, and moved on to live the best life they can. Calling someone “stealth” is a callous dismissal of their manhood, or womanhood. It is not for the transgender crowd to judge the lives of people who were born different. You are no different than the bigots you decry when you do this to us.

    “Transsexualism” doesn’t need a (new) public face. People get it. They don’t get transgender. The more you try to push the two together the starker the contrast. And the whole thing slips through your greedy, grasping fingers.

  55. Dyssonance
    Dyssonance September 9, 2009 at 4:10 pm |

    *sigh*

  56. Betsy B
    Betsy B September 9, 2009 at 4:39 pm |

    There you go. Focus on the WBT/HBS, ignore everyone else taking issue with the post. Makes things easier, doesn’t it?

  57. Betsy B
    Betsy B September 9, 2009 at 4:44 pm |

    @Ariablue, I dislike with how Monica has characterized herself as speaking for all African-American trans people on the issue of “stealth,” since I know several for whom she doesn’t, and several trans people of color who more generally don’t appreciate her token status and assumption that she is *the* voice of trans POC. That said, Monica can’t be “racist” towards white people. White people have systemic power and privilege on the race axis. I make fun of cis people sometimes when I need to vent, but that doesn’t make me “cisphobic.” If being called “vanilla” really hurts you, it’s probably time to put on your big girl pants and deal with it.

  58. Bad Hair Days
    Bad Hair Days September 9, 2009 at 5:03 pm |

    @Aria
    There you go. I’m not happy with the term “stealth” either, because it inherintly says I’m hiding something. When all it is to it I let the people see me as what I am. Which they ultimatly stop if they know of my past.

    And BANG – there is the point. I wan’t to live in a world where it is clear to everyone that Transsexual or HBS or WBT are born not made, not just people who want to change gender down to their sex, when it was all about sex to start with.

    When the world is still like this, people still think its OK to be so shocked about the “truth” that they fell in love with a men on discovering a women with a medical history up to the point to killing them.

    It’s good for you to have your medical history unknown – until “proven” otherwise. Then it becomes your worst nightmare.

    Call me a transgender activist, when I’m not in the sense of the word. I’m used to it.

  59. Rachel_in_WY
    Rachel_in_WY September 9, 2009 at 5:19 pm |

    It seems to me like this comment thread is a great example of the failure to distinguish a critique of cultural scripts and pressures from an attack on personal choices that follow (or not) those scripts. Monica was pretty clear about not condemning any individuals who choose not to disclose their trans identity. And it was also pretty clear (to me) that she was instead criticizing the pressure put on many trans people to hide their identity. This doesn’t amount to criticizing those who choose to hide it. There’s a world of difference between making a personal choice whether or not to disclose, and being pressured into not disclosing, both explicitly and through cultural systems of privileging and oppression. And it seems to me that we have to be able to step back and critique the scripts and the systemic pressures at play without always being accused of attacking individuals when we’re not.

  60. Betsy B
    Betsy B September 9, 2009 at 6:03 pm |

    Yeah, just like radfems critique the “cultural script” of transgender and transsexuality (or, “Transgender Politics), and claim to not judge individual people. Color me skeptical.

  61. Bad Hair Days
    Bad Hair Days September 9, 2009 at 6:46 pm |

    I want to say one thing…
    … I may have white privilidge, but this is wideley based on american concepts – I live in switzerland, and there culture is much more of a dividing point than the color of your skin. Extremly foreign to me is the concept of hispanic people being othered, because spain is a european country. No one others spanish people here, Its already to mixed up to distinquish. And when it comes to switzerland the concept of a foreigner is much more likely to other you than a “race”backround. Speaking the local accent makes you a part, not speaking it, like I do, others you. Local habits like typical western culture gives you the privilidge. Not shared by visibly othered by wearing a Hijab because you say your not of this culture, but stand to islamic traditions….

    Xenophobia is true here as everywhere, but it is not exactly related to skin tones. So its not easy for me when it all is seen through a colored lense.

  62. Rachel_in_WY
    Rachel_in_WY September 9, 2009 at 8:31 pm |

    Yeah, just like radfems critique the “cultural script” of transgender and transsexuality (or, “Transgender Politics), and claim to not judge individual people. Color me skeptical.

    I’ve interacted with a lot of these radfems, and from what I’ve seen they are always, always attacking the people, and not the cultural scripts. If we can’t critique cultural scripts and norms and values and expectations, then what the fuck are we doing here? What? How is change ever supposed to take place?

  63. Bad Hair Days
    Bad Hair Days September 9, 2009 at 8:41 pm |

    I want to give you an example. There are two famous transsexuals in mainstream media in the german speaing room (including austria and a lot of switzerland). One is the well known Kim Petras who recieved timely help. The other is Lorielle London ( http://www.lorielle-london.de/ ). She transitioned after she became famous, but the very first sight in a reality TV show where she participated I knew she was transsexual. Even if she is the nightmare of a lot of transsexuals now, because of her favor for publicity and other critics, no one ever came to the idea to other her as black… not even the german version of SUN (BILD) did it, and for those young wich share our condition she is a role model. Noone ever thinks about her being of colour.

  64. Susan
    Susan September 9, 2009 at 10:25 pm |

    Yes, Ariablue, just more racism and attack.

    Guess the author would cry racism in the worst way if we referred to her “peeps” as BTWWNRFBTW (Black Trans Women Who are Not Really Women But Trans Women).

  65. Renee
    Renee September 9, 2009 at 11:29 pm |

    @69
    Seriously, SHUT THE FUCK UP. I’m not even going to be nice about it. How dare you use the term “cry racism”. Not only have you insulted Monica, you have insulted every single person of color that reads this blog. We don’t use the term racism lightly. This is about lives asshole; flesh and blood experience. So when you accuse one of us of “crying racism”, you are diminishing the struggle that we must fight every day. You stink of privilege, so do us all a favor and move the fuck upwind. I’d rather be around rotting meat than you.

  66. ginasf
    ginasf September 10, 2009 at 12:56 am |

    I agree with the foulness of crying ‘reverse racism’ and playing gender cop. Not needed, doesn’t add anything to the thread and not making me respect your opinions in the least. Whether you agree with Monica’s post or not, kindly speak to her with respect if for no other reason than some of the recent comments make you sound like a Grade A jerk and bully.

    Really, I wish people would concentrate on some of the real issues EastsideKate and Mercedes brought up because slamming Monica’s identity doesn’t make me feel connected to you either as women nor as participants on this blog.

  67. Susan
    Susan September 10, 2009 at 1:41 am |

    Awwwww…the expected uproar. No bother there, Renee, you can bet you’ll never be around me if I know you’re in the area…and definitely I’ll take your advice and be UPwind if you ever show up and surprise me. Racism is racism and your shout downs don’t change a thing.

    ginasf…the second WWBT is used, it insults me, is racist, and offends me. If you like it, splendid, but I don’t.

    Feministe, the BTWWNRFBTW are our rad fems.

  68. jayinchicago
    jayinchicago September 10, 2009 at 1:41 am |

    rachel_in_wy, you said the following:
    And it was also pretty clear (to me) that she was instead criticizing the pressure put on many trans people to hide their identity.

    This statement demonstrates the disconnect I’m seeing and why this rhetoric doesn’t move me. I don’t have a trans identity–do cis people have a cis identity?
    If that’s the language you want to use, you are going to utterly lose people like me who may be transsexual, and may not be HBSers, but also may not be “trans by identity”.

  69. Dyssonance
    Dyssonance September 10, 2009 at 1:42 am |

    The poster of #26 and #69 has said many interesting things in the past regarding their contempt for feminism.

    I’m sorry the readers here have to be exposed to such racism, sexism, and outright hostility as she can and will put out in her campaign of bigotry.

  70. Dyssonance
    Dyssonance September 10, 2009 at 1:44 am |

    jayinchicago,

    while you may not be trans by identity, you are by description, which is likely a better structure for the discourse.

  71. Dyssonance
    Dyssonance September 10, 2009 at 1:48 am |

    Susan,

    after this post: http://tgnonsense.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/on-feminism/ on your blog, I strongly suggest you consider carefully your words.

    Because if they go back and see Leigh’s ode to Schafly, they probably will find you a bit less credible.

  72. TammieH
    TammieH September 10, 2009 at 2:06 am |

    Do some people just get off with just being so hateful? I cannot believe what I have read here. I saw nothing wrong with Monica’s initial blog, I cannot believe how nasty some people can be.

  73. uccellina
    uccellina September 10, 2009 at 2:19 am |

    You know, this conversation – and more than a few of its participants – hasn’t changed at all since I was following the trans theory usenet group (and a couple of others) in 2001-2002. I may not agree with everything Monica says, but I think it’s a damn shame that her original post has been completely buried by the reiteration of the same arguments made by the same people that went on then. Only now! with more! racism! Thanks for that, Susan.

  74. Jill
    Jill September 10, 2009 at 9:22 am | *

    Apologies for not stepping into this thread sooner — I just returned from vacation and have been very busy, so I haven’t been following the comments. But Susan, sweet Jesus, that’s enough. You’re banned.

  75. ginasf
    ginasf September 10, 2009 at 12:02 pm |

    Honestly, I don’t hear a lot of pressure from anyone (transmysogynists included) to ‘hide our identities.’ If someone has instances of it, I’d be curious to hear them. The people who hate transpeople hate them not because they ‘flaunt’ their identities, but because they don’t find the identities legit or real (like their own). I have heard people castigate transwomen for not behaving/dressing/conversing like ‘real women’ but I don’t believe us changing our behavior to suit them would have any effect whatsoever on those assumptions. I also think the old saw about “trying to fool people into believing we’re women (or men in the case of ftms) would be there whether we were in stealth or not. Baring having a big ‘T’ stamped on our forehead, if we looked or behaved anywhere near our internal genders, there would be people complaining about deception. So, how does a pressure for stealth even come into play these days? I’d like to hear more civilized discussion about this. Is this just another disagreement about how sub-groups self-identify?

  76. Rachel_in_WY
    Rachel_in_WY September 10, 2009 at 2:37 pm |

    @jayinchicago

    do cis people have a cis identity?

    Yes. It’s just that it’s an identity that’s privileged, so there’s no pressure to hide it. I’m not using “identity” as a pejorative. I’d be happy to substitute the word “history” here.

    @ ginasf

    This is only tangentially related, but I’m cissexual and genderqueer, and I definitely experience cisprivilege via my rather feminine appearance, but I also experience a lot of subtle pressure to behave in a more feminine way in order to “pass” as cisgendered. Mostly this pressure has been in the workplace. But I’ve also received a lot of “friendly” advice about how my daughters will be effected by my failure to be feminine enough and how my students won’t listen to me/will reject me/will mock me for being genderqueer. This in spite of the fact that I’m hands down the most popular faculty member in my department, have the best evals, have won several teaching awards, have students lining up on the waitlist to get into my classes, and teach courses on gender identity and feminist theory. I know this is different from the experience of many trans people, and from being explicitly told to go stealth in a therapeutic environment. But it at least indicates that the conversation is still relevant.

  77. ginasf
    ginasf September 10, 2009 at 3:45 pm |

    @Rachel: Thanks for sharing your experience. But I think being told to conform in terms of gender expression is not the same as being told “you should be in stealth.” There are gender therapists I’ve heard of (one who does evals for SRS in British Columbia) who want their clients (at least initially) to come to them in “women’s clothes” (I’m assuming they mean dresses???) That is trying to enforce gender conformity and using an expression of binary gender conformity to evaluate whether they really ‘are women’. There are, however, transwomen (and transmen) who don’t necessarily conform in terms of binary gender expression yet are still in stealth. I’ve heard of a number of transwomen who are dykes and live, in essence, as mostly cisgender masculine women in stealth. I still want to know if some of you have had experiences where you’ve been told to live in stealth by someone who had influence/power over you?

  78. ginasf
    ginasf September 10, 2009 at 3:46 pm |

    correction: I meant cissexual, not cisgender.

  79. jayinchicago
    jayinchicago September 10, 2009 at 5:12 pm |

    rachel_in_wy:
    @jayinchicago

    do cis people have a cis identity?

    Yes. It’s just that it’s an identity that’s privileged, so there’s no pressure to hide it. I’m not using “identity” as a pejorative. I’d be happy to substitute the word “history” here.

    I don’t think that’s really true. Very, very rarely do I ever see cissexual people refer to themselves as cissexual–they assume that “woman” or “man” just about covers it. Many take huge issue with even the word cissexual, should they become aware of it. They would probably find the notion that they should reveal their cissexuality because they have a cis “identity” or history to be absurd.

    I think that’s where I see critiques of various degrees of “stealth” to couch themselves in revolutionary spirit, but to operate comfortably under the cissexist paradigm.
    I also take issue with your repeated usage of “hide”. Please feel free to go convince cissexual people they are “hiding” their cissexual status because they don’t bring it up to their neighbors or at a job interview or something.

  80. Dyssonance
    Dyssonance September 10, 2009 at 5:37 pm |

    @Jayinchicago

    while the language could have been better, I’ll grant, the argument trying to use Cis or Trans as identity categories fails miserably.

    While an individual may choose, for whatever reason, to identify as Ci, its irrelevant, as the purpose of the language is solely to show that a particular group has expectations that are not equitable to another group.

    In short, the use of cis is not an identity — and really shouldn’t be discussed in such terms. Cis is an adjectival prefix.

    Its primary purpose is to reveal privilege, as ell – to equalize the discourse o the topic. As such, of course its going to generate “issues” among hate cispopulation.

    Wen I, personally, call for the and of stealth, it is purely on one simple and direct basis: those in stealth will be uncounted, and by doing so they create greater difficulties for those who cannot enter into stealth.

    It is, simply put, a question not of revolutionary spirit, but of simple survival — either as an individual, or as a group.

    Incidentally, the reason why “hide” comes into play is because of the language around the discussion of stealth — including the very term stealth, itself, which is suggestive of (and adapted from) the concept of “hiding”.

  81. Sahara
    Sahara September 10, 2009 at 7:11 pm |

    I think some people should comment on the substance on the post. This is not about white people at all. And Monica clearly said that she was not judging the personal choices of peeps who went or are stealth. From my reading of it, she is looking at the consequences of a structural issue and hypothesising about what else could have been.

    I know Monica basically said the above in her response, and it would be good to listen to her first but the way this thread has gone is just unbelievable.

    And to those who are chewing out Monica because she is writing in a cis space – yep it is one and everyone should be able to post here, but then why are YOU here? Just to chew Monica out on a cis space? Wow, really productive.

    I’m not saying that everyone has to agree with Monica, and people make some good points – but to focus on being offended because WWBT are mentioned is unnecessary.

  82. Rachel_in_WY
    Rachel_in_WY September 10, 2009 at 8:44 pm |

    @ ginasf – yes, I don’t think these are exactly the same. But I can empathize with anyone who’s calling for an end to pressure in any direction on issues like this. It does seem like a deeply personal decision – and often one of survival – and any time there’s pressure put on one group of people to perform in a certain way I intuitively side with those who oppose it. I also think the discussion has to leave space for individuals making different choices at different stages in their lives.

    @jayinchicago – I agree that the “identity” talk can be problematic. In spaces like this it can be fairly common for people to own the “cis” tag as a matter of course, but obviously this isn’t the norm just about everywhere else. Still, when you’re talking intersectionality, it is one of those “locators” that’s commonly used to identify a person and how they’re situated in their cultural framework. And to me it does seem like an aspect of my identity which privileges me in a pretty profound way, and it’s hard to conceptualize that privilege without access to this kind of identity concept.

  83. Ariablue
    Ariablue September 11, 2009 at 12:41 am |

    No. Racism can come from anyone, anywhere, anytime. Someone does not get a pass simply because of their skin color- that would be racist in itself. I’m surprised to hear this sort of excuse on a feminist blog, but then again maybe not.

    Monica’s incessant racism is a tactic to cover her agenda. For those who don’t know the real story, please let me explain. You see, there is a tiny minority of people born with a very rare birth defect. Science is coming closer and closer to understanding it all the time. It’s a terrible life-threatening problem and there is a high suicide rate among those afflicted.

    Monica and her ilk come along and attach themselves to the problem. They use the lack of public knowledge about this problem to their own advantage, and then present themselves as the spokespeople for people who really do suffer from it. When the people who are really affected by this issue protest, they are re-labeled from men and women into trans-things, and told their are elitist for having a birth defect. Voices are silenced false with cries of homophobia and racism.

    This crass misuse of these accusations does a disservice to everyone. My birth condition is not a joke, nor is it a gender playground for people who want to dress up in frillies. I am through giving these people the chance to reform their ways, because they have proven time and again they are the worst sorts of oppressor; they torture you with the approval of their own conscience.

    Monica is a racist because she uses race against other people. End of story.

    Transgender it is a recently created word used to describe people who play with “gender”. Transsexual is a word that describes a birth condition. One does not turn into the other; you either are born with a transsexual condition, or you are not. Transgender does not own transsexual, nor does it own intersex which it is trying to absorb even now. People are starting to speak up against this appropriation and abuse by the GLBT.

  84. Dyssonance
    Dyssonance September 11, 2009 at 4:02 am |

    @Aria,

    all of which works great as long as ethnic groups makes the same separation you do. Culturally and lingusitically.

    They do not, however.

    So, in that sense, the kind of stuff you are talking about, when applied to ethnic men and women, is indeed racism. Worse — it is not a personal and intentional racism, it is an institutional and impersonal sort.

  85. Ariel Silvera
    Ariel Silvera September 11, 2009 at 7:41 am |

    I’m going to grab on to what commenter Tab said, which was dutifully ignored.

    I want to preface this by saying I’m not speaking from American experience. I’m from Argentina, and I live in Ireland. I also don’t speak for anyone’s trans experience, except my own.

    First, Aria, I don’t understand how you can say that a rag-tag bunch like those of us in the trans spectrum can really oppress you. We’re an oppressed class ourselves, remember?

    I respect your understanding of your personal situation as a condition. I’m a genderqueer transsexual girl, undergoing HRT. I don’t think I have a birth defect. But this doesn’t make me less of a woman, or you.

    I also respect anyone’s wishes not to be associated with the ‘trans’ label, though I do not agree that science categorically indicates transsexuality is an illness.

    I, myself, take on the label ‘trans’ proudly, because it is a way of making sense of myself. I expect that you’d respect that too, instead of being dismissive and cruel towards our experience.

    My experience of feminism and trans activism has shown me that we have to fight together. Both ‘stealth’ and ‘out’ trans people in this country fight together for better policies, better healthcare, and better protection from harm. Ultimately it benefits us all. A lot of trans people have no access to medical treatments. A lot of people do. Ultimately we find ourselves fighting the same battles: respect and confidentiality from physicians that treat us for ANY illness; legal recognition of our gender; campaigns to inform the public about trans realities to avoid violence against us.

    I don’t care if some people are not interested with joining in. We all make our choices, and we all have our good reasons. There is nothing cowardly or lesser in that. My mother was an activist in her youth and she’s seen so much hardship and cruelty that now she cannot come to a single march. She’s not a coward, she’s worked hard supporting us through her job, which she never misses on even if sick. She’s not a coward, and neither are ‘stealth’ people.

    Yes, I agree that a visible, loud trans voice helps. I want to be a visible trans person that can help be a good role model to younger members of the community who are coming out. This is my choice, and I do not apologise for it.

  86. Leigh
    Leigh September 11, 2009 at 9:51 am |

    “I, myself, take on the label ‘trans’ proudly, because it is a way of making sense of myself. I expect that you’d respect that too, instead of being dismissive and cruel towards our experience.”

    Nice that you can simply ‘take it on’. I always thought one had to actually have the transsexual medical condition, but I guess these days thats not necessary. One can just “take it on” regardless, and those who actually do have this condition can I suppose just “like it or lump it”… Way to go guys!

  87. TammieH
    TammieH September 11, 2009 at 1:55 pm |

    There are those who believe that we as transsexuals should live a certain way, we have activists who believe that we all should be out, we have stealth trans who believe we should all live in stealth, “just shut up and live”.

    Monica said nothing in her original blog that was racist…people DO like to read between the lines don’t they. That is how the narrow minded bible thumping far right use the bible against us.

    African Americans did/do go stealth, for good reason. As I have said before, We ALL hold prejudices, what do we do with them…act on them or realize we have prejudices, learn, and try to change.

    It also seems that we have become a more angry society, angry to any apposing idea, we have to learn to embrace differing ideas as we want to embrace diversity. Anger does nothing more than drive people apart and cause more division.

  88. TammieH
    TammieH September 11, 2009 at 2:07 pm |

    here are those who believe that we as transsexuals should live a certain way, we have activists who believe that we all should be out, we have stealth trans who believe we should all live in stealth, they believe we should just shut up and live for the most part. I do not believe either is necessarily wrong, but I do believe out is better for our community as a whole and definitely better for our own soul, but that is my opinion

    Monica said nothing in her original blog that was racist…people DO like to read between the lines don’t they. That is how the narrow minded bible thumping far right use the bible against us.

    African Americans did/do go stealth, for good reason. As I have said before, We ALL hold prejudices, what do we do with them…act on them or realize we have prejudices, learn, and try to change.

    It also seems that we have become a more angry society, angry to any apposing idea, we have to learn to embrace differing ideas as we want to embrace diversity. Anger does nothing more than drive people apart and cause more division.

  89. Leigh
    Leigh September 11, 2009 at 3:03 pm |

    The more you WWBT flap your gums, the more you look like right wing Republicans.

    …. and the more you refer to us as “WWBT” and ” guano “, the more you show your racism. So much for “reasoned, thoughtful discourse on issues ” .. I am guessing that would only be if we agreed with you.

  90. Karen Colon
    Karen Colon September 11, 2009 at 9:45 pm |

    I thought that it was a great article. But sometimes “stealth” is not sought out, but we are thrust into it. When I got my first job after transitioning, I told the people I was close to at work about myself. They were good about it, but nicely advised me not to tell everyone because some people may not understand. It was not until years later that I realized this may have been said because I was working as a matron. That stupid bathroom thing again! Looking back I can’t believe how naive I was at that time. That kind of changed my way of thinking a little. Now I belive that I am more cynical, and I will never get that kind of innocence back. It will take some effort on my part, but I understand how important it is to embrace that innocence. Because embracing the innocence and portraying that is the only way to change the world. Let the young people know that the old ways are not always right. If I had more role models giving me the message that it is not okay to hide, alot of pain and suffering could have been avoided during my young adulthood. Let those young adults not be ashamed of who they are. The more people who know about us, the more acceptance will come in the future.

  91. kaa
    kaa September 11, 2009 at 10:08 pm |

    This whole thing gets so heated.

    First stealth does not mean necessarily mean being afraid, or ashamed and it certainly does not mean not working for change or not helping other TSes. I have known of a number who are stealth who have done that.

    Being out does not necessarily mean being an activist or helpful to others or a good person either.

    In many places now, unlike the old days, being stealth is not nearly as necessary for survival or safety as it once was. But it still does mean very different textures to ones life.

    We as individuals should be able to live in the way that makes us happiest.

    If being very out makes you feel best then be out (though I suspect many who chose that route will eventually regret it)

    If you don’t want surgery then fine… but be aware that will cause you difficulties in life and realistically, given how important physical sex is to human relationships it will always be that way. Accept that as part of your choice of path. You can’t change human nature.

    If being deep stealth makes you feel best and you can pull it off, great (though I think being stealth from a spouse is a HUGE mistake)

    Most live somewhere in-between the extremes.

    Often time what path is chosen has a lot to do with practicality and individual situations and not want one truly wants … and involves a lot of hard decisions and gut wrenching compromises no matter what the path.

    As long as we respect others decisions and understand that different paths mean different sacrifices (and ACCEPT the sacrifices of our paths, instead of trying to tear down other’s paths in the misguided belief it will make our own easier) we can all get along and even work together for some things.

  92. Ariel Silvera
    Ariel Silvera September 12, 2009 at 9:59 am |

    @Leigh: thank you very much for a) invalidating my identity and b) taking me out if context. After a post where I asked for respect no less!

    Yes transness is my identity. It’s an internal self knowing of who I am. I don’t need any phycisian to tell me how to be myself, I just need my hrt prescriptions and that’s it. This is okay for me. This is my truth and it’s not your place to deny it as I do not deny yours.

  93. Leigh
    Leigh September 12, 2009 at 3:07 pm |

    @ Ariel

    If, as you say, you have an internal self knowing (we call it inate), how could anything I say invalidate your identity? You stated in your previous quote to Aria, that you are a genderqueer who doesn’t think you had a birth defect.

    Well if you don’t think you had a birth defect then you are saying that you’re happy with the body you were born with. That’s fine, and I can certainly understand how you can define as genderqueer, but honey, transsexuals are not happy with the body they were born with and move heaven and earth to have it corrected. Therefore, in my opinion, you are not transsexual and cannot rightfully claim that position. To do so is to invalidate the identities of those born with birth defects known medically as transsexualism.

    I corrected decades ago but have never considered myself as intersexed even though their may be some scientific evidence to the contrary. I consider the intersex condition a seperate condition, and I don’t feel the need to annex their condition. Why do you feel the need to annex the transsexual condition?

  94. This week, I have mostly not been blogging about… « bird of paradox

    [...] pontifications on TransGriot’s post (Stealth was a mistake) at [...]

  95. TammieH
    TammieH September 13, 2009 at 12:32 pm |

    I know this to be true..from gay to heterosexual to transsexual there are varying degrees of social norms and those that are considered not normal “by some” across the board. So much that there is a blending a graying, so many people or groups of people do not fit into any one single category, that the categories walls seem to fall and spill over. We know this.

    The same is true for our community, there are those of us hate our bodies so much that we do not see how we an ever be truly happy inside them, that death is the only way for true happiness. To those who are more comfortable, those who even might be OK with not having surgery, those who want to be out to everyone because they are so proud of who they are, that they want everyone to know…to those who want to be the person that they wish so bad that the only way to be is to push the past so far behind them because they feel that is the only way to be treated as the gender they are. Between those extremes lies an infinite number of variations of trans.

    It is not for any one of us to say what is right or wrong…there is no right or wrong! Do I wish that everyone would or could be completely out? Yes! Do I believe if everyone of us were out it would help our cause? Yes! … But I realize that we are all different, our experiences, our choices, our economic background, our dreams, our physical and mental strengths, everything that has made us who we are at this point in our lives.
    So, No…I Will NOT judge others!

    As I have said before, we want to be fully accepted by society, but we cannot even accept the differences in ourselves. There simply is no one right way to be! We must open our minds in order for others to open theirs towards us!

  96. ginasf
    ginasf September 13, 2009 at 1:31 pm |

    ^ Thanks Tammy… totally agree! This is too intensely personal an issue for any of us to be entitled to judge one another.

  97. Leigh
    Leigh September 13, 2009 at 6:26 pm |

    Yes yes .. the so termed gender spectrum theory .. so how come the transgender machine are disowning Jasper ? Is s/he not transgendered enough or did s/he fall off the spectrum?

  98. Sophia
    Sophia September 13, 2009 at 7:04 pm |

    At the same point of time, that doesn’t mean that as a community we can’t judge ourselves. If we accept that part of our community are young and perhaps unable to see the viability of accepting themselves as trans, then a sufficiency of clearly identified trans role models is surely desirable. If there are members of our community who find aspects of transition hard, or any particularly trans specific set of life issues are difficult, or if stealth is not possible, its not too much of a crutch to have as many out trans people about and vocal about their life strategies.
    Now if people want to argue that stealth works best for them, or that visibility is a bad political stance, well I live near Sachsenhausen and I can certainly respect those points of view. But if stealth is accompanied by a belittlement of community and a denial of any meaningful trans identity, I’m afraid I don’t quite understand how those who view themselves as passing through a birth defect, for example, can expect to have a voice in discussions of trans community issues. Perhaps someone might point out how I must be mistaken in this regard.

  99. Ariel Silvera
    Ariel Silvera September 14, 2009 at 1:31 pm |

    Leigh,

    Thank you for your condescending rant which, once again, presumes to tell me who I am or what my history is.

    I don’t hate my body. My body is my own, it will still be my body in a decade when I’ve been on hormones for a long while. It’ll simply be more adjusted to who I want to be and how I feel.

    I am genderqueer in that I mess around with people’s concept of gender. I’m transsexual in that I was born with a male body, which isn’t what I feel I should have. But transitioning does not mean I hate my flesh, it means I love it and want to be able to love it more.

    Never pretend to tell another trans person who they are or how they should feel. I hope you’ll respect other trans people in the future as I’ve tried to respect you, whereas you’ve treated me dismissively.

    regards

    ariel

  100. ginasf
    ginasf September 22, 2009 at 12:25 pm |

    http://zagria.blogspot.com/2009/09/georgia-black-1906-1951-housewife.html

    An interesting story about an African-American transwoman in stealth. Was she wrong to do what she did?

  101. ginasf
    ginasf September 22, 2009 at 11:26 pm |

    “Stealth was a mistake.”

    What would you have done differently if you were her?

  102. Jen
    Jen September 25, 2009 at 12:45 am |

    Monica, I very much appreciate your thoughtful article and this is definitely the type of thoughtful, intelligent dialog than needs to occur more! I have one slight disagreement with your analogy and some comments of my own that I hope will add to the conversation (though I’m sure will drive some girls batty *smiles*). While I cannot in any way comprehend the issues of of the African-American experience let alone the African-American transgender experience, I think comparing being a transgender woman who is attempting to become on the outside what she is on the inside is different than the example of an African American pretending to be something they are not. That may be a minor nit given the crux of the article that pushing militant stealth can do irreparable harm to some. When I look at how the grass-roots, political and medical efforts have effected positively and negatively in my own transition, I end up seeing many pros and cons. In some ways, the level of “transparency” that any one transitioning woman accepts for herself is a personal decision and based on what they want their life to be like. I have chosen to get as close as I am able to get to “passing” which I am ABSOLUTELY still working on :). I am a woman, I live as a woman, and I personally do not want to spend my life as a “Trans-Woman”. That is my personal choice. However, I will also say that, at times, the advocates for people should be able to look any way they want, don’t need to try to pass and be “out and proud”, especially in the political and work environments, create the impression of to the world (right or wrong, just reality) of what a transsexual woman is. I had to overcome the expectations and previous experiences of all of the people I work with, including HR when I transitioned in a professional environment. I also had to overcome the stereo-types created by whoever decides they want to let the discovery channel do a special on them with no thought to how it impacts public perception :) As much as I agree personally, that everyone should be able to be whoever they feel they are inside, and that some women have more, or less, resources with which to transition, we are the future generation’s examples and we are setting the expectation of everyone around us when they meet the next one of us or decide the next law. Striving for passing to the best of our resources and abilities is a great motivation and a great example even if we never fully get there. Being “out” with class, thoughtfulness and dignity at all times requires no money and no doctors. Moinica, you have shown both with your article and I hope people can learn from your example. Hugs, Jen

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