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To Stealth, or Not to Stealth?

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

hidden woman

As we move further into Pride season 2019, I've been asking many of my clients about whether or not they are interested in attending Pride events locally or nearby in Colorado. For many in our queer community, Pride season is a time of celebration and remembrance of the Stonewall Riots that paved the way for us today. However, for some in the transgender community Pride is not a celebratory event or even on the agenda to attend. So why is it that some in the trans community enjoy being out, loud, and proud while others prefer to fade into the background and live a stealth life?

Your Transitional Goals Shape Your Outlook

First, for those of you who aren't familiar with the term stealth let's review. Stealth is a term for transgender people who are not questioned about their gender identity. They simply pass as male or female along with the rest of the cis gendered world.

While many of my trans and non-binary clients are very vocal about their gender identity and pronouns, others simply want to blend in without question. What creates these difference in individuals? Well, there isn't a lot of research as of yet to answer this question in its entirety, but from personal experience working with those transitioning, it appears to be individual outlooks on life during and after transition.

For many I've watched struggle to 'pass' sometimes being more vocal and public with who they are provides a sense of empowerment and belonging. For others who pass very well or who transitioned young in life, the idea of drawing attention to themselves by outting their gender identity could become a social nightmare. The concept of belonging to a specific group that shares your ideals and values is also key in relationship development. If you happen to belong to a group of cis gendered men and/or women that are not heavily involved in all things rainbow or queer, and you yourself don't connect to that community what benefits would you receive in suddenly joining your fellow LGBTQ brethren? On the flip side if you are all about the rainbow and trans colors and find yourself at the front and center of activism, how well would you connect with someone who didn't hold those values as core principles?

'Stealthing' Can Vary Depending on the Situation

The concept of living a stealth life can mean numerous things to many individuals. It can also bring about opposition within the trans community at large. For many transitioning the ultimate goal is to pass without being 'clocked' (questioned about your gender identity). The reality that many trans or non-binary individuals face is that passing might not be an option everywhere. For some though, passing and being stealth is important only in certain situations. For instance in the work environment, when meeting new potential friends, and in public spaces passing might be important. Typically close friends and/or family are aware of someone's trans identity, but for many trans individuals being open about transitioning in all situations is counterintuitive to where they are at in life currently.

I've watched many individuals in my office struggle, grieve, and overcome different types of adversity as they've moved forward in their transition. Once on the other side some of those individuals no longer want to be apart of a community that suffers such harsh inequality. Who can blame them though? For others, that adversity draws them in further and emboldens the desire to fight that good and long fight all minority groups continue to grapple with.

There's No One Right Way to be Transgender

So is it right or wrong to be stealth or not? That question can only be answered by you. For trans folks who are not apart of the queer community it doesn't make you inherently better or worse people. And for trans people involved in the LGBTQ community it doesn't make you better or worse. We all have different priorities and interests in life to attend to. The question that should be asked is are you living the best life for you and those around you?

If you find that you are experiencing difficulty with you gender identity don't hesitate to reach out to us at Identity!

Devin Pinkston Grand Junction CO

Devin Pinkston is a local mental health counselor and Gender Therapist in Grand Junction Colorado. Call to schedule a consultation today at 970-644-2392.

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