Stealthy lies

by on Jul.11, 2010, under Trans

[UPDATE: This post refers only to my own experiences. It is in no way meant to condemn those who live stealth lives. It is also a bit outdated, seeing as I’ve been coming out as trans in recent months]

So I’m stealth, yeah? Stealth, for those of you that don’t know, is the peculiar trans phenomenon of completely hiding your past from the world. You pretend that you have always been one particular gender, that you were born that way, that you have never been anything else. To be honest, I’ve never been very good at it.

Oh, that’s not to say that I’m NOT stealth. I don’t tell anyone about my past, and I don’t think anybody knows. If people do know then they have never said and the straight guys I’ve slept with have never gone “OMG, tranny!”. There are a couple of close cis friends that I’ve told but we don’t really speak about it. What is there to say to them?

But that doesn’t mean that, to me, stealth isn’t a phenomenon of deceit. I was never born female or went though the things a cis female went through. I don’t know how scary a first period was, or the panic of thinking I might be pregnant. I don’t know what it was like to be a girl growing up and watching boys with lustful eyes. I’ve never known fear of males. I really honestly don’t know anything about those things, except what I can glean from reading the experiences of others.

I was was never a girl. Let me repeat that: I was never a girl. So me ever talking about those things as if they happened to me is a blatant lie, a very dangerous lie, one that leads to a lot of hatred for us as trans people. I grew up as a boy. I had Lego and toy cars. I played in the mud and went hunting for tadpoles down the canal. I discovered what fun a penis is and what masturbation is like. I played with toy guns and was aggressive at times. We can argue about artificial gender divisions and nature vs nurture, but whatever your views, I was raised as a boy, with boy privilege and boy social rewards.

On the other hand, I was never a man either. I started HRT when I was 18 and transitioned at 19, as young as I could independently do it. There isn’t really a point in my life where I’ve lived as an adult male, as a man. I will happily accept that I was a boy, but a MAN? No way. I was never one of those.

So what do you do when talk turns to childhood issues? I can’t force myself to lie and say “When I was a girl” and carry on as if I have a cis background. On the other hand, it’s not normally easy to drop  “When I was a boy” into a conversation, unless you wish to extend every conversation by 10 times to accommodate the “whut?” factor. So I normally avoid the issue or use gender neutral language. “When I was a kid”, “When I was growing up”, etc.

However, that only goes so far. Once you’re in with a group of women talk will, eventually, at some point, turn to very womany things.

Sex. Contraceptives. Periods. Pregnancy. Babies.

I’ve only got experience of the first one (and then only with analogous equipment). The rest? *whooosh over my head* I ain’t got a clue. And that’s really painful to admit, because it feels like it makes me less of a woman. I’ve missed out on a huge part of the experiences that make cis women the women they are. If you’re a cis female you may not think that periods are anything more than a nuisance, but if you’ve never had one you’re constantly wondering what it’s like.

(And don’t get me started on pregnancy. That is a REALLY FUCKING SORE POINT. I want to get pregnant. I can’t. A whole can of fucked-up is waiting to be opened right there, like the spaghetti hoops of doom).

You may wonder then how I cope with these conversations. You know, I don’t think I do. I tend to go quite quiet (which if you’ve ever met me, you’ll know is odd) and possibly blush a bit. It’s at those times that I feel such a fake.

So maybe I shouldn’t be hiding my past. Maybe I should be saying “When I was a boy” and commenting “Ooh, I don’t know what that feels like”.”Nah, I never had a period as I was a boy back then”,

It feels more honest that way. But I don’t think I’m brave enough yet.

6 Comments for this entry

  • Julian

    just read this and i relate *so* much, albeit from the opposite direction. i’ve never been a boy and yeah, still learning to be ok with that. found you via twitter and by way of Elaine, you seem pretty awesome :)

  • Cyberspice

    Hey I checked out your link from your twitter account because you seemed interesting (Seeing half of a tweet conversation between people and following it up always seems quite stalkerish to me actually but this time I had to respond).

    I didn’t transition quite as young as you. I did transition at Uni (cliché) in the 90s though and so my working life has been stealthy. I never say stealth because there are many who do know but just not in my day to day life. Also if someone asked out-right I wouldn’t lie. If I refer to my past I always say “when I was young”, “as a child” etc.

    I have many geek girl friends and like you conversations sometimes go to childhood, development and so on. I do have two sisters though who are younger so I watched them develop. Sometimes I can use third party experience to enter the conversation. I don’t talk about me I do talk about my sisters. Some people may find it odd that I don’t talk about me but it does make me feel less left out. But yes sometimes I do feel a fake…

    PS. A lot of my female friends are lego fans still :-)

  • Jenny

    I’m not quite sure I agree, I grew up climbing trees, playing with lego and riding my bicycle.
    much like my nieces do today.

    There are little girls who don’t have periods, who don’t have all the parts working to have that happen, there are woman who can’t have children.
    There are even some who’ve not had sex.

    The human experience is huge, there are so many different ways to live and be, so many different shades of life and experience.

    Whilst your expierence is different, who’s to say it’s in any way invalid. It’s just another shade of the human experience.

  • undertoad

    Just seen this pop up on twitter and I found it difficult to read, mainly because I found it pretty offensive. I’m a young trans man, and began hormones at the age of 19, two years ago now and from having invested a lot of time in various LGBT groups since I was about 15, something which has stuck with me is that you hit all kind of problems when you try speaking on the behalf of other people, or speak in a way that doesn’t distinguish clearly between your own and other’s experiences or feelings. Maybe this was the implication in your post, but it felt like you were speaking to other trans people and it felt like, to me, that you’re telling me I’m being deceitful in being stealth. And telling me that I wasn’t a boy up until that moment I realised/came out or whatever.

    I’m a man and to me, I was a boy. I was a boy who was given a girl’s name and girl’s clothes and sent to a girl’s school and played on the girl’s team. I was a boy going out with straight boys and gay girls and who used the girl’s toilet. I accept that it is no doubt different as a man growing up without male privilege and a woman growing up with it and if you see yourself as a woman who used to be a boy then that is fine. But that’s not the case for me.

    I’m not lying, I’m not deceiving anyone and I don’t even believe that I’m ‘stealth’. I’m living my life as a man and there are certain things about it that I don’t share with people. And that’s not just my gender history. I have some of the best and closest friends I have ever had.

    This is all kind of irrelevant if it’s the case that you don’t think that the way you’re choosing to live and view your life isn’t the only ‘honest’ option for all trans people. I know this will just come across as a very defensive post, but all I really want to say is that I believe you can only speak for yourself. No one likes being judged for how they choose to live their lives, especially if it’s been difficult enough to get there anyway. I don’t think that you should think like me at all, I just don’t want it to be implied that my decisions are ethically corrupt, which is pretty much the overriding feeling I got from this.

    • Unaverage Girl

      Thanks for reading the post and replying. I don’t in any way speak for other people with that post – I’m purely talking about my own experiences.

      I don’t think there is *any* obligation for a trans person to reveal their past experiences. None at all. This is purely about me coming to terms with my transness and the fact that I’ve kept it hidden for so many years.

      I’ll amend the post to reflect that it is only talking about my own experiences.

  • undertoad

    Cool cheers I thought that that was probably the case, just like to double check sometimes. I am happy for you that you’re coming to terms with stuff :)

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