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