Trans* In Toronto
I have a been a member of the trans* community for the past ten years and I have noticed a phenomenon that causes a lot of controversy within my community. Stealth – otherwise known de-transitioning or living as a cis-gendered person of the gender to which you have transitioned. The opinions about this practice are very polarized and have swung back and forth over the years. I am curious to know if this practice is healthy and if a trans*person can be healthy, long term if they are living stealth.
~Trans*and happy in Toronto.
Greetings Trans* in Toronto,
I am happy that you bring up the topic of stealth. This is a topic that we all deal with in the LGBTQ community even if we aren’t conscious of it on a daily basis. Going stealth is a deeply personal decision and is made for many and varied different reasons. At times, a person may make the choice to go stealth for safety, to experience a more authentic gender socialization, for jobs or political reasons, to protect the family, or for a number of other reasons.
Within the trans*community, as you noted in your question, there can be a lot of controversy around this topic citing stealth as being a way of denying your trans*status and putting trans* people back in the closet. As many of us have experienced in the last twenty years, cultural acceptance and integration has depended largely on the straight population having a personal connection with someone in our community…to see the daily struggle that an LGBTQ person lives within a society that rejects and suppresses their identity. Therefore, the concept of going stealth, or even deep stealth (no one at all knowing your gender status) therefore denies your community their right to have the visibility and theoretical subsequent acceptance that is they right.
However, on the other hand, many trans*folks deal with a whole host of issues that support the concept of stealth as the best option for comfort, safety, and even survival. I read an article recently where an author made an argument that even dating is easier when the dater initially presented themselves in stealth before coming out later as trans*.
In my own work with trans* individuals, I have observed that the decision to go stealth is often based on safety or perceived safety initially and then as they find their family or workplace accepts them more than they anticipated, they will come out as trans*. I have also observed that as my own patients begin later stages of transition (several months to a year after “passing), they will often choose to go stealth in order to experience a more authentic gender role for a period of time.
Regardless of the reason, going stealth is a personal decision and as long as an individual feels supported by at least a small community of safe individuals, they can sustain a perfectly healthy mental state for as long as they wish. However, going stealth due to perceived or real safety threat and having no one to confide in about your concerns and stressors and take a toll on anyone’s psyche.