24 July 2008


As in, Transsexuals Who Are Ashamed of Transsexuals.

Some older conservative transwomen prefer to live in complete stealth, never revealing their trans history - and frowning on those who are out as trans.

I used to be like that several years ago, when I would out myself as a lesbian, but never as trans - but that has changed since, and now most people I deal with know of my trans history as much as my lesbianism. It partly has to do with the nature of Perfect Girl and Sarah - a trans novel is much more convincing when written by a transperson.

Calpernia Addams (whose name I've been mentioning here a lot lately) has heard quite a bit from the TWAATs, and has put up her rebuttal on her diary. I'm copy-pasting her message below so that it speaks for itself and spreads near and far.

To Transsexuals Who Are Ashamed of Transsexuals

Living in stealth can be comfortable, and I can’t deny that I would have tried if I hadn’t been outed so publicly in 1999. But ultimately the facts still exist that most trans women were assigned the male gender at birth, grew up being pushed toward the male social role, and had to undertake a colossally difficult transition to align their bodies and social roles with their hearts. You, Andrea, I and every other trans woman has been through some version of that process.

I am simply living my life with an openness my history. While my soul has always been female, it is simply a lie to say that I did not have to go through some major struggles to attain the physical body and social situation of a woman. I’m just tired of lying about my history. I do not feel that saying “I am a woman” is a lie. But saying or implying that “I never transitioned. I have always lived in the female social role, in a female body” is a lie to me. You may somehow feel differently, but this is how I feel.

I offer the radical idea that I can be both honest about my past and still claim full womanhood. In the minds of many older trans people and conservatives, a history of transition disproves their womanhood so they lie about this history to everyone in their lives. Sometimes even to themselves. “I’m not trans- anything.” Rejecting labels is understandable. Claiming unqualified womanhood is understandable. But you grew up for some part of your life forced into the male social role. You underwent medical, legal and social transition steps. This doesn’t mean you’re not female, but it is a fact of your history.

And to the smaller set of self-diagnosis fans, unless you’ve been genetically tested, or reliably diagnosed by a doctor, you are probably not intersexed. I’ve seen so many of these Shush Brigade members insult real intersex people by reading a page or two on Klinefelter Syndrome, circling “overweight” and “short attention span” on the symptoms list and suddenly self diagnosing themselves as “intersex”, and thus even further away from the hated label of “transsexual”. This is pathetic, and an insult to people really dealing with IS issues. Get a reliable diagnosis if you really think this is the case, otherwise… save it.

Some conservative gays say they don’t mind other gays as long as they are “quiet” about who they date, what they think and what they feel. “Why can’t you just keep your private life private?” they say. At the same time, heterosexual people freely place photos of their boyfriends and spouses on their desk at work, discuss dating with friends openly and perform their socio-sexual rituals such as dating and marriage with much pomp and circumstance. Similar sentiments come from some transsexuals who are ashamed of transsexuals (TWAATs, for short), usually the old guard who had to transition in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. “Why can’t you just be quiet, why can’t you just lie about your history?” That’s just not my thing. I’ve come to the conclusion that if you don’t get this at all, and you’re over 30, you never will and we should just agree to disagree right now. If you don’t like what my visibility is doing for (or “to") the community, but you won’t leave the safety of invisibility to counter it, then I guess you’re just out of luck.

I do enjoy being able to walk down the street without being called names, and being able to flirt with a handsome man at a party without dealing with the prejudices that usually come from him knowing I’m trans. I don’t wear it like a tattoo on my forehead. But if that handsome guy asks what I do, I will find a way to tactfully explain to him as much as he needs to know, with consideration of how closely we might interact in the future. If Mr. I’ve-just-met-you says, “You must’ve been a very cute little girl.” I will probably reply something along the lines of, “Well, I certainly wanted to be.”

I am an entertainer. I have always been an entertainer. There are plenty of women like me: Bette Midler, Cher, Madonna, Mae West, Barbara Eden, Bernadette Peters… the list goes on. Those women are strongly associated with drag queens (the ultimate anaethema to TWAATs) because of their combination of overt femininity and entertainer’s spirit. If I were a gay man with those qualities, I would be a drag queen. Because I am a woman with those qualities, some TWAATs would use that as a sign that I was less of a woman and more of a drag queen. Obviously, I disagree and say that I simply share the qualities that also drive women like Madonna and Bette Midler and Cassandra Peterson and others.

I wish everyone the best in their choices of stealth or varying degrees of openness. But if people like Andrea and I don’t work to make the general public more comfortable with transsexuals, people like you will face losing your job, your legal rights, your spouse, your access to medical care and maybe even violence from phobic idiots if you ever slip up even the tiniest bit one single time and out yourselves.

Being out is not for everyone, but remember that it was at one time illegal for someone who was legally male to even wear female clothing in public. Your identification papers were quietly changed to say female because out trans women were willing to fight that legal battle years ago. You can quietly get hormones and surgery from legitimate doctors because out trans women fought for that right years ago. Your neighbor is probably not going to assume you are a child molesting Satanist if you ever were outed because women like me were willing to go on television and show a likeable girl-next-door image. Every moment of comfort, peace and safety you have as a stealth trans woman has been bought by those loud, abrasive drag queens, transsexual picketers and women willing to make positive efforts in the media.

I’m not advocating that every transsexual person be out about their history. It’s a colossally individual choice, and one that was made for me years ago so I’ve never had the luxury of considering it. Living in stealth allows you to avoid most of the stupid, ignorant prejudices that stupid, ignorant people still carry around, and that’s a wonderful freedom. But never forget who walks the line and maintains the integrity of the medical, legal and social safety wall that surrounds your Shangri-la of comfortable privacy. Your bubble may pop someday, and it will be our work that means the difference between some social embarrassment vs. complete ruin for you when that happens.

Feel free to share this note with your friend, or anyone with similar questions. It’s an important idea to get out there to those women who live comfortably in the stealth bought with years of risk and battle by women who were not so comfortable.

Calpernia Addams

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