Just like Star Trek, this one is engraved in stone and followed only by older, more experienced trans folk: never acknowledge another trans woman in your presence whom you do not know personally.
The reason? Trans women don’t like to be outed. Me, I don’t care. You’d have to be blind or half-drunk not to notice that I’m trans: six feet tall, big hands, broad shoulders, deep voice, and a face that could stop a clock. But those who do pass—and even those on the “border”—don’t want to be outed. Being outed by anybody is a dangerous condition. It could easily result in that trans woman’s death, especially if she’s with someone who doesn’t know that she’s trans, like a male date or a co-worker. It’s embarrassing. It’s a loss of status. It’s annoying: ”I spent all this money to look feminine and now some newbie just ruins it all by saying brightly, “Hi! I’m transgender, too!”
Trans women who have fully transitioned and are living “stealth” don’t like to be reminded that they’re trans. They’d rather be taken for what they are, who they are, which is simply a woman, not a trans woman. That modifier “trans” is like fingernails down a chalkboard to many transitioned and stealth trans women. When a newcomer to the “community” screws it up by starting a conversation, it’s kind of a slap in the face to a trans woman who’s spent many thousands of dollars to look perfectly feminine.
I’ve done it a couple of times and stopped doing it when a friend who was indeed fully transitioned and in deep stealth informed me that I should just keep my stupid mouth shut and not say anything to another trans woman; pretend, in fact, that I don’t even see her.
So if I see another trans woman, even if she’s sitting in a waiting room and we’re the only ones present, I don’t see her and she most certainly does not see me. It’s kind of sad, really. It’s a necessary safety precaution, especially in the red States and in the Deep South, but it leads to a “divide and conquer” condition because we can’t openly acknowledge each other unless it’s an occasion where many trans women are together, such as a civil rights march—and most stealth trans women do not participate in such.
It leads to this ridiculous, imposed set of “standards” whereby trans women who don’t pass are excluded, ostracized because they don’t meet the cis-gender, heteronormative standards set for natal women. It’s an imposition of the antique gender binary, but most transitioned stealth trans women welcome that because it does indeed offer some security from the hatred and bigotry every trans women experiences on a daily basis, even in the most blue and liberal of States and cities.
It’s not going to change unless the cis-gender world changes its attitude toward us. When we’re no longer in danger of being killed for who we are, we might be able to acknowledge our own publicly and even welcome those who don’t necessarily meet those arbitrary standards of femininity and beauty.
Until then, the Prime Directive remains in effect and woe betide those who violate it.
(Michelle Rose is the co-author of the Lambda-nominated book “The Color of Sunlight” and is an associate English instructor at a major American university. This article was previously published elsewhere.)
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Categories: Transgender, Transsexual, Trans
Yes. I thought it was me being confused on this! I get it, but kind of don’t. When I see another trans woman, (and, I’m pretty obviously trans too), I would love to have s small interaction. I’ll try to make eye contact, at least? On the other hand, it is good that it being nothing to acknowledge is good—just normal people, out on a normal day. I will say that I get a “look of approval” from cos woman quite often. Eye contact, a sly smile, and we mouth hello to each other. Very nice moments!
Frustrating! I always try to discreetly acknowledge another sister 🙂
I pass WELL. I am an older but beautiful Webcam model and English teacher. I have appeared on national television and national newspapers in Europe as a Pageant Model. At this point, few people in real life can detect that I am trans, unless I tell them so. I get complimentary whistles and comments from random men in the street about 2 to 5 times every single days such as “Wow, Blondie !” or “Wow, what boobs ! ” and similar comments. And this article is spot-on. I am American, but I will never return to the USA as long as transphobic Trump and his zombies make it too dangerous to my health and happiness. I have the boobs, thighs, legs, and underarms of a 23 year old natal female as to skin tone, beauty, smoothness, and quality. This article is amazing and expresses my feelings precisely about being outed involuntarily. I live fully stealth feeling, except when posting on a page such as this one or if someone knew me before I transitioned to beautiful Jennifer and still has interest in associating with me. Most people I currently associate with did NOT know me before I transitioned. My Twitter is @JeniferBarbie69 and my Skype is Jennifer Lopezgomez Jennifer xx
Not so much a comment, but an exercise in self-promotion. yeah, we get it, you’re all that
Way to go
This article addresses many points about passing, how others react to one as a trans lady, and related topics. I have shared some of my own personal experiences — which I feel is just what is called for here. Jennifer xx
You may have all the beautiful features of a Woman except for the most important, the Soul.
Sorry — your style of rude reply and personal insult is precisely the reason I mostly now stay away from online English-language trans groups. I now do my stuff mostly in Spanish, and in real life and mostly with cisgender people and it is much better for me this way. Sharing of successes and failures, happiness and sadness, with fellow trans ladies SHOULD elicit mutual confirming happiness, congratulations, helpful suggestions, and so on. But way too many trans women, for various reasons, tend to engage in ad hominen personal attacks against other trans women. From my perspective, why do so many trans women attack and deride other trans women by intentionally mis-gendering other trans women (such as me, Jennifer) but so many others trans women also get bullied by other trans women. We as trans women certainly have enough challenges in life dealing with religious bigots, TERF’s, and so on. Other trans women should know better — but I solve this trans-on-trans hatred by simply dealing mostly with cisgender people male and female, NOT telling people in real life that I am trans, mostly with Millennials who are more open-minded than people my own age, mostly in Spanish, and much less so online in English now. I respect others, but I find that especially online in the English language, others are frequently not so respectful in return. Problem solved by avoiding being online much in English-language trans groups. I maintain trans contacts with a few great trans friends face-to-face in Spanish, and a small number of great online English-speaking trans friends, some of whom I’ve met in real life and some of whom I’ve never met in real life. Jennifer xx
What do you mean by that? Best get to explaining or putting context to that comment, or someone (me) is going to blast you fur making it.
Thanks for the comments!
I would have thought this was obvious. You missed an important point though. After 3 decades in my female life I don’t identify as trans anything. For me, it amounts to”You looks pretty good considering your a man.”
It happened to me once and it is for this reason I never socialize with trans females.
THIS is horrible ! There is, unfortunately, a lot of trans-on-trans hatred, intentional misgendering by trans women against other trans women, and so on. In my opinion, other trans women should know better than to bully and intentionally misgendering other trans women — we have enough challenges dealing with religious bigots and TERF’s — but because of this trans-on-trans hatred you are sharing that you have experienced, well, me, too, and I now, FINALLY, pass WELL — and STILL get some trans-on-trans hatred against me. Since you say you do not pass well and get hatred — well, perhaps trans-on-trans hatred and bullying relates to other more complex issues than passing — I don’t claim to be any expert on this subject — just trying to connect the dots. Good luck ! Jennifer xx
Would I distance myself from the trans world if I were able to blend and not be noticed? Probably not. My work with trans youth and emerging adults is to important to me. I am concerned that many women who blend have turned their back on the community that helped them through the tough times. It is not necessary to out themselves but I do wish they’d donate funds to groups that are on the front line of fighting for our rights because no matter how well one passes there is a record somewhere and TERFS are lurking.
I’m an older trans woman who has some measure of passibility. I don’t necessarily hide that I’m trans, even though i would love to be seen purely as a woman; and not as a trans woman. That said, there’s such a need for advocacy and i feel that if I’m not using what privilege i have to help others, than what good was the torment that i suffered? If i can make the next generation’s journey easier, than that’s what I need to do. After all, I wouldn’t be here today if not for the public advocacy of my trans elders.
Well, TERF’s indeed and also religious bigots. Kudos to you for helping other trans. I used to do that, but I experienced so much hatred against me as I became more and more “passable” and my physical feminine beauty gradually increased over time — that I now very seldom associate with trans groups in the English language. I mostly associates with cisgender people face-to-face in Spanish and few know that I am trans female. I am simply known as Jennifer, female, beautiful but older lady. I feel happy for you that you are able to find happiness for you and others by continuing to help other trans people. Jennifer xx
I have to respectfully disagree with this statement:
“It’s an imposition of the antique gender binary, but most transitioned stealth trans women welcome that because it does indeed offer some security from the hatred and bigotry every trans women experiences on a daily basis, even in the most blue and liberal of States and cities.”
Perhaps at one time this was true, but not today. In four years living in Tucson, I have never been faced with anything worse than being told things like “you’re just a man who wants to be a woman” and that doesn’t happen very often. I introduce myself by saying “my name is tommie and I’m not a guy” and most often, that’s all i have to say. None of my friends have ever reported serious problems and there has never been anything so bad that it made the news here.
It really appears to me that the really serious malevolence toward trans people is pretty well confined to the bible belt, mormon country and inner city ghettos and even in those areas, as the community’s visibility increases, conditions are improving in those areas too. Most trans women I see posting from outside those trouble zones are reporting pretty smooth sailing and a lot of the people I see whining a lot about transphobia are people I wouldn’t particularly like as a person, their transgender status aside.
Great for you. But last year; https://www.glaad.org/blog/honoring-known-cases-deadly-anti-trans-violence-2017
I live a block from the home of a teen who killed a trans / gender queer classmate in their classroom. I have multiple friends who have been physically assaulted within the last 5 years. These attacks happened in areas we’d consider “safe”. I have friends who have been thrown out of locker rooms here in California and had their gym memberships terminated. I don’t know what world you live in, but the risk is real. Just because YOU haven’t had an issue, doesn’t mean other trans women aren’t at risk.
I am American by birth (Kansas), but I have chosen to leave the United States some years ago. I have lived most of the time for years now in Latin America, with a small amount of time living in Europe. Glad to hear you are treated well in the USA. I feel much safer and happier in Latin America most of the time, and Europe some of the time. Jennifer xx
Jennifer, just remember, the rate of trans murders in Latin America is outrageous. While you may feel safe, the data indicates it might be otherwise.
Lexie, thanks…! I agree that Brazil statistically-speaking indeed shows as extremely dangerous in many parts of Brazil for trans females. I probably wouldn’t risk living in Brazil — or if so, I would observe with great caution what locations I would frequent.
Where I live it is rough for early-transitioners. But super-duper once one passes WELL and especially if one achieves a notable degree of physical feminine beauty. I speak from my own personal experiences over the years on this. Years ago when I first started my HRT medical transition to JENNIFER, I actually got fired from my job as a University professor at a large university here solely for being trans. I have had yet transitioned at time at work, yet my boobs were growing so big I could not hide them anymore, and my face was drastically feminization as I wanted — but they didn’t like that because androgynous trans ladies face a lot of social and work problems here. I have a few androgynous trans female friends here face-to-face, and they frequently don’t even change their ID documents to F for female due to “incongruity problems” we might call it due to social expectations here. Androgynous “gays” as some bigots call androgynous here in native Spanish get a LOT of ridicule and are sometimes murdered. I don’t face much threat of this — I face more a risk of rape as any beautiful female cis or trans here does.
People here, socially-acceptance-speaking, expect a female or a male, not in-between. Physically stunning female beauty is not necessarily a requirement, but it helps a lot. But some older trans ladies I have known personally in real life from when I lived in Europe for a bit, who lack youthful physical feminine beauty but PASS superbly well as what I will term “undoubtedly beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt female” — superbly physical-appearance as cisnormal female of age 60 or 70 or 75 — in my opinion such trans ladies in their 60’s or 70’s would do spectacularly well where I live in Latin America.
I lived in Europe for awhile to much more complete my physical transition to beautiful JENNIFER because I got of a social rejection here while my physical appearance was still somewhat androgynous.
Although, in the United States especially under the transphobic Trump and Pence and their transphobic followers, it seems the haters of trans people sure are “out in full force.” I feel a lot happier and safer here. I am well-treated here at least 95 % of the time, most of my neighbors do NOT know that I am trans. I wear short denim miniskirts most of the time in public, and strappy blouses. I feel VERY happy with this. Jennifer xx
Lexie, How do I upload a profile photo for use in this forum from my computer hard drive ? Thanks ! Jennifer xx
I believe you have to have your own WordPress account. You don’t necessarily have to blog, but you can use it to surf other bloggers. I hope lm right about this. In this case, I’m posting outside of my wp account so there is no photo.
Got it, Lexie ! Thanks much the practical info. Jennifer xx
I am visible for those that cannot. I wish they could. I wish there wasn’t a Need for some to have the stealth in order to stay alive at all. I wish young teens didn’t feel so much despair in that they cannot escape the hate they experience because they can’t pass yet so they commit suicide. I have a transman friend that needs stealth as much as any sister in the obvious dangerous places. This I why I agree with the author.
I remember what it was like to ostracized by the passing in my earlier years. I had vowed then not to do the same thing because it made me fall into depression for a bit. I thought i would never make it past the ugly-duckling stage. I had no one to tell me it the hormones will eventually kick in (i’m thin-bodied so it took longer for my weight to redistribute to the right places). I literally wanted to die. This is why I disagree with the author.
Now that i’m more mature (certainly not 100%, but completely passable to drunk and old people), i realize the author’s caution for respecting stealth. It can be and is dangerous for some. I also remember the ones that Need inclusiveness. Not just from the allies, but from the mature as well. Don’t worry, if i see you are fully transitioned and return only a smile, I’ll understand. I won’t out you. 🙂 But if you are not fully transitioned and looking for some recognition as a human, I will be glad to strike up a conversation with you. To do otherwise can be devastating to the new one. That’s what sisters do.
I will continue my work as a trans advocate so that the author and those that relate with her will someday not feel that Need to be stealth. I am visible for those that cannot.
Stealth sure works much better for me. I agree it would be much better if stealth were not so necessary so much of the time. Jennifer xx
As a “natal” (and, for the record, I HATE those type of labels) I ALWAYS acknowledge Trans-women and men when I encounter y’all.
Not that I will EVER out any of you, never. I do it because each of you needs that one person who loves you today. I may be that one, and I’m happy to be. There is too much ignorance and hate in your lives, and if I can ease some of that hurt and fear, I will. You deserve nothing less.
That is lovely of you, Ms. Audrey. Hugz to you for being such a strong emotional supporter of us. Jennifer xx
Does anyone know how to upload a profile photo for use in this forum from my computer hard drive ? Thanks ! Jennifer xx
“Outing” as what? As long you all talk about “trans” it is just YOU who make a difference. I am a woman, I see no difference between me and other women, only my forced education, to have been beaten into the wrong role for a time. The genitals … well it also belongs to the “trans” bullshit ideology to think that women may only have a vagina. The assignment “trans” to a woman with a dick is the same bodyfashistic bullshit like speaking of (non-) biological women, “real” women or “people (just) feeling like women”, if you would accept the fact that we (all, everyone who claims it) are women, without any trans, without any “but she has/d a …”, without any “but …”, you would see there is nothing to “out” because we are just women.
All the “trans” assignments that makes it seem reasonable that something would have to been “outed” towards others after you say you are female/ a woman is the artificial weaking ideology of GENITALISM (male = penis / female = vagina // male with penis = cis/inter / male with no penis = trans/inter) that reduces you with just THEIR point of view. This is the oppressors language, imagination and problem and it should stay at them and never affect or push aside my own language, imagination and reality anymore.