Who knows? Who doesn’t know?- Being Stealth is Sometimes Stressful

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I’m constantly paranoid that somehow people know I’m trans. I know, I know, my voice is deep, I have facial hair, and it probably wouldn’t even cross most people’s minds because they are totally oblivious to trans* people. Still, I wonder. Recently I was having dinner with some friends and somehow it came up that Warren Beatty and Annette Bening have a transgender son. I froze, nervous that it was coming up because the guy I was talking to was trying to subtly figure out if I was trans too. I need to stop overthinking things.

Part of my concern is that I assume that queer people’s gaydar must extend to transdar (is there even such a thing). I’m used to being a big queer billboard, so I feel like people can read on my face that I love Hedwig and the Angry Inch and that I’ve done drag and run a gay-straight-alliance. Of course, these things are no more apparent by looking at me than the fact that I took French in high school. It’s not written on me somewhere, it’s something I need to share with people for them to know. Another worry I have is that I’m concerned about my online presence. At first I was confident that no one would stalk me enough to connect the dots. I mean, if you do some serious digging you could probably find out my birth name, find my youtube, etc. It’s like like trans* stuff comes up when you google my name, but there’s stuff out there. Not only that, but I’m sure there’s something to tip someone off on my facebook. I’m finding that some of my new friends have a tendency to stalk professors and such online, so I can only assume they took a good look at what I’ve got out there. Thus the anxiety.

I guess it’s not a big deal if people know, though. If anyone does know, they haven’t given me trouble about it or passed it around. The reasons I’m stealth are for my personal safety and because I was tired of being the token trans* person and being treated differently all the time. Right now, it’s serving both of those purposes, so I shouldn’t be concerned.  I sat through a lecture on gender the other day without everyone turning around and looking at me or calling on me to educate them by answering personal questions about my body or my life story. Again and again I’m glad that I’m stealth. It is abundantly clear that a lot of the people around me are very ignorant about LGBTQ issues (not my friends or professors, but people living in town and a lot of the undergrads), and I really wouldn’t feel safe living here as an out trans person. It frustrates me to not be educating people sometimes, but I also realize that it would just be a drop in a bucket. Besides, being born transgender does not mean it has to always be my job to educate people, and I’ve already done plenty of that in my life.

Things are getting better on the friendship front, in any case. I’ve made a couple of solid friends, and yes, some of them are guys.

Masculinity and Male Bonding

Recently I went out  to the bars with some of the people from school. My idea of a good time is more like hanging out over ice cream, but I did the best I could with a beer. Anyway, it was a pretty fun experience. I’m really liking the other people in my classes, even though we don’t have a whole lot in common. That became more and more clear when one of the guys enthusiastically asked me if I do (play?) fantasy football. I told him no, which I think disappointed him a little bit, so he switched gears and asked me if I play video games. I told him that I do, but primarily Super Mario Bros (I didn’t mention that I am more than a little obsessed with the Sims 3). He meant something more along the lines of Call of Duty or Halo. I wouldn’t mind those games, but for some reason first person games with 3-D graphics give me motion sickness. He gave up after that.

I’m well aware that I’m a nerd, this wasn’t some sort of wake up call for me. I was in band in high school. I collected Star Wars action figures. I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not into sports and I don’t know anything about cars, but I still found myself questioning my masculinity a little bit after I went home. These guys weren’t traditionally masculine, a lot of them were nerdy too (I mean, we’re in grad school). Still, there was a more masculine edge to their nerdy pursuits. They like simulation games where you shoot people, I like simulation games where you make people houses. It’s not really a bad thing, I’m glad that I’m not into violence. I just felt a little left out, on the outside looking in.

This is how I feel about male bonding a lot. Apparently this isn’t unusual. A lot of guys feel that they aren’t masculine enough or that they have trouble connecting with other men. I still feel weird about it and blame it on being trans. I don’t know if that’s why I am the way I am, though. Sure, I missed out on a lot of male socialization, but it isn’t as if my dad is (or has ever been) a bro. I’m a socially awkward, anxious, non-athletically inclined, liberal intellectual. I’m pretty sure I was born this way. I don’t like fantasy football, and that’s totally okay. I just wonder if I would even be thinking about this if I was cis.

Past and Present

I went home for the labor day break and had the interesting experience of going through my old clothes. I found the feminine stuff that my ex-girlfriend pressured me to buy in late high school because she wanted me to look more like a fashionably androgynous lesbian and less like a 12 year old boy. I tried one of my old polos on to amuse my partner and mom, demonstrating with my broad shoulders and abundant chest hair that more than just my gender expression has changed since I last wore that shirt. I have to say it was a bit odd to pass some of those clothes on to my female partner, particularly since she never knew me as someone who would’ve worn anything even remotely similar to the stuff we unpacked. How many women can say the nice new clothes they got over break were hand-me-downs from their boyfriend? It’s just a little bizarre, even though at this point I should be used to reconciling my past with my present.

I’m only really realizing how much my past influences my current perspectives, primarily because my transgender status isn’t something that is taken for granted (or even known) among the people I’m in contact with day to day now. Just as it’s strange for me to look back at myself as having once worn feminine clothing, it’s strange to interact with the world without that being common knowledge. I’m in a class where we are expected to write about our unique perspectives and unpack how our personal experiences impact the way we view the world. This makes being stealth difficult, because I feel like it is inauthentic not to share how being trans has influenced me because it is one of the number one things that defines my perspective (directly and indirectly). I look at gender, sexuality, privilege, oppression, and a million other things differently because of my life experiences being raised a woman, out as a lesbian for most of my teenage/young adult life, transitioning, and now living as male. I can’t even begin to write anything without touching that. I’m queer, but I’m not living a visibly queer life. I don’t even know how to share that with others and still remain stealth and honest. In many ways, my perspective is being erased, even though I’m stealth of my own free will (mostly). I considered taking my professor aside and explaining to her my situation in regard to the class, but I just don’t know her well enough to feel comfortable doing that. Besides, it isn’t terribly pressing and I know I can get by.

Someone online recently asked me if I think that transition ends or if we are constantly transitioning our entire lives. I really think I’ve hit a point in my transition where I have most of the body stuff sorted out, although I still have dysphoria and things aren’t perfect. I don’t really track my changes much and taking testosterone has become a chore. I’m in this stage, though, where I really feel like I’m emotionally transitioning. I’m exploring and sorting out my place in the world and generally just dealing with the aftermath of physical transition. Things move so quickly and single-mindedly with testosterone and top surgery and everything else that its now time for me to just slowly reintroduce myself into the world. Suddenly, noticing new facial hair and researching how to change my legal documents doesn’t dominate my life, so now what? I think this, even more than when I was pre-T and figuring out my gender identity, is the time for me to step back and really think about who I am as a person and sort out where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going.