Is it your responsibility to live openly as “Transgender”?
BY STEPHANIE HALL
There is an unfortunate trend within the Trans community for some Transgender persons to make value judgments about others in the community based upon whether one chooses to live openly as Transgender, or to live in what some call “stealth” mode. As commonly understood, for a Transgender individual to live in stealth is to live as the gender with which they have identified and felt was their true gender from their earliest memories. The “stealth” aspect as identified by these individuals is to hide, or more properly refuse to advertise or publicly announce at every opportunity the fact that they are Transgender, which is seen by some as a betrayal of the Transgender Community.
As children, and until the time comes in life to acknowledge the truth and begin a new life as they always felt they should — those who are Transgender do not dream of one day being Transgender; they dream of being male or female, depending upon the gender into which they were born by genetic characteristics. The journey of transition is then undertaken to set right what nature got wrong. Transition being the adoption of the mental and physical being of the gender with which we identify and have felt was our true gender from the time of first awareness.
According to Merriam Webster, transition is defined as “a change from one state or condition to another”, also “a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another.” Given the meaning of the word, when applied to the Transgender population transition takes us from one place or state of being to another; specifically from male to female or from female to male. Therefore, to have transitioned but to identify primarily and present oneself as Transgender, to what has one transitioned?
Heretofore, to transition successfully meant to arrive at a place that would allow a Trans person to live and conduct themselves within society as a woman (M to F) or a man (F to M). To do otherwise places one in a middle ground between genders, to which the noun does not truly apply. Of course, where on the gender continuum a Transgender person ends up is entirely a personal choice, and one which each individual should be free to make without pressure or scorn. However, to castigate another Trans person for successfully transitioning to either end of the gender spectrum, and then living happily as their identified gender is dictatorial, discriminatory — and exactly the type of intolerance that we fight against.
Being Transgender is a state of being that just so happens based upon what some call an accident of birth. It is not a state of being to which one ultimately aspires or desires as a destination. Clearly, everyone who is Transgender cannot help but live in some respect as a Transgender person. The question comes with regard as to how one presents themselves to the world; the public at large, and others they may encounter on a daily basis who would not otherwise be aware that they have made a gender transition. When, to whom, for what reasons, and to what extent you choose to disclose your status as Transgender is a personal decision that cannot and should not be dictated by another person. To mandate or pressure another Trans person into disclosing their status as being Transgender places that person in a potentially dangerous situation upon each disclosure. Ultimately, it is every Transgender individual alone who must deal with the consequences of that disclosure when and if made, and thereby not the business nor place of the community to make that decision for another.
Few would argue that living life as a Transgender person, to proudly and openly proclaim one’s identity as Transgender may present many difficulties and challenges in life. To live life with your Transgender identity on your sleeve as the saying goes, may invite open ridicule, denial of access, accommodation and services, discrimination, hostile treatment, as well as the risk of actual violence, sometimes resulting in serious injury or even death. As with all of life’s decisions, there are consequences, and it is not for me, nor anyone else to dictate the correct choice for any Trans person. I would never begrudge anyone the right to live as they deem best to achieve the happiness and contentment in life that eluded them for so long, and neither should the Transgender Community as a whole.
At the root of this disharmony is disagreement about advocacy, publicity and messaging. While advocacy is an honorable endeavor, and its goals are absolutely essential to the continued acceptance and advancement within society of all those who are Transgender, the role of vocal advocate is not for everyone. Forceful vocal advocacy is best suited to certain individuals with certain outgoing personality types. Advocacy falls flat when engaged in without the skills and personality to accomplish it effectively.
There comes a time in the life of a Transgender person during and after transition to make a decision as to whether or not, and if so when and to what extent they wish to involve themselves in advocacy — which is an individual choice that must be respected. The fact is that advocacy comes in many forms and degrees of involvement — all of which can be beneficial and effective. One may choose to engage in vociferous activist protestation, public speaking, online advocacy through the written word, or by simply donating time or money to Transgender causes and advocacy groups in an act of passive advocacy. To argue otherwise, and insist that all Transgender persons live openly as Transgender, robs them of their freedom to live as they see best for themselves, which is ironically exactly what the Transgender Community advocates in favor of. Insisting on a strictly defined code of conduct for those who are Transgender is the type of forced conformity that the Transgender Community fights against, and to do it to ourselves makes it no more palatable, and possibly even more egregious.
The one thing we who comprise the Transgender Community want above all is for the public to allow us to express our gender identity and live as we choose without fear of ridicule, reprisal, discrimination or violence, and without being forced into conformity with another’s conception of acceptable gender expression. Is it then too much to ask the same of our own?
~ SLH ~