Diane Wilson
Search my site:
Diane Wilson -> Gender -> Gianna Israel -> Self -> Stealth or Storm?

Gianna Israel Gender Library

*

Self

-

Transgenders Receive $95 Million

-

Abusing Your Inner Child

-

Dealing with Isolation

-

Gender Birthdays

-

Balance

-

Primary Feelings

-

Names

-

Why Bother Coming Out?

-

Embarrassment & Shame

-

Perseverance

-

First Time Experiences

-

Gender Mirrors

-

Suicidal Feelings

-

Competitiveness

-

Healthy Sex Drive

-

When Hope is Lost

-

Managing Fear

-

Stealth or Storm?

-

Tired

-

Regrets

-

Fantasy (1)

-

Fantasy (2)

-

Anger

-

Transgender Issues & Depression

-

Being Your Own Star!

-

Guilt

*

Family

*

Health Care

*

Closets

*

Transition

*

Living

*

Community

*

Legal

*

Special Focus

Gianna Israel Gender Library

Stealth or Storm?

Common sense dictates that decisions about disclosure must be of an individual's choosing, because a variety of consequences can arise from sharing gender issues with friends, neighbors, colleagues, and even strangers.  What remains a constant theme about such choices is that having a transgender identity also calls for learning the distinctions between sharing basic information, telling all details, or saying nothing. Sometimes knowing how much to share can be confusing.

In the best of all worlds we could share who we are without negative repercussions, however life is not so simple for ourselves or anyone else. To help resolve confusion over these issues before disclosing there are a variety of essential questions a person may ask him or herself.  What is the purpose of telling others?  Is it to gain support, to share of oneself, or to prevent others from finding out from a third party?  And, what is the context of the situation?  The person's relation to your life can predict how much he or she really needs to know about you.

During my years of providing counseling services to others, I have observed one important distinction worthy of consideration.  Peoples' reasons for disclosure can vastly differ between individuals who are in the 'coming out process' and those who have lived in role for years.  In many instances newcomers feel that it is a requirement to tell just about everybody, and they do so in the hopes of gaining support for their transition and new identity.  However, after a person has gone full-time permanently, disclosure becomes more and more optional.

Most new men and women experience a point in transition where it becomes unnecessary for others to learn about your gender issues, and every possible detail, unless somehow your telling is going to positively impact yourself and them.  Gender identity is interesting in that as a component of self-identity it is both public and private.  Those feelings and activities which you might share with a loved one or best friend may not be something you would need to share with the general public.  Only those elements which the public sees, such as your presentation, are open game for commentary.

How do people in the general public react to your sharing deeply personal information?  Some people may believe it interesting, others might find it sensational, and then there are those that really don't care to hear too much.  Sharing private information can make others feel uncomfortable and uncertain how to react.  This is particularly true when this is done out of context with a situation, such as discussing your genitalia in the workplace.  Doing so may make others wonder if your sharing requires them to do the same.  When determining if there is a reason for talking about gender issues, ask yourself if you are in a setting where others would casually share the same information with you.

Within personal relationships I often hear of newly transitioned persons discussing their gender issues with spouses, and most particularly extended family, best friends and acquaintances.  After telling, each person usually expects support, and when this does not occur he or she is then often deeply hurt.  The sentiment that most characterizes such situations is that nobody can expect support, only hope for it.  Also, no one can demand that others relate to gender identity issues immediately, since it takes time for people to assimilate new information.  Pay attention to how your telling will effect others, particularly since these individuals may be hearing about the issues for the first time.

The most complex question I receive about disclosure comes from transsexuals who wonder if and when it is appropriate to discuss gender identity issues with a new romantic partner.  Unfortunately, whether you are pre or post-operative, there are no immediate guarantees that you will be rewarded for honesty.  There is some certainty, however, that you may fatally damage a trusting relationship if your partner were to discover from a third party that you are a transsexual.  Regardless of transition status, one underlying principle is paramount.  Trust within relationships goes hand-in-hand with choice.  There are some individuals who would be vehemently opposed to dating or sleeping with a transsexual, and telling one's status early within a relationship affords a truly uncomfortable partner the choice to move on.  On a positive note, the majority of transgender persons have meaningful relationships, and early disclosure often allows for a future partner to respect the whole you.

Among post-operative individuals there are some who are so capable of passing that disclosure is not necessary in romantic situations.  In fact, many of these persons insist that telling a date is not an option.  Why? The most common concern is that disclosure will alter the relationship forever.  And, the whole matter of dealing with complex issues may seem more than the relationship can bear.  This explains why some transsexuals get caught in new relationships, and are fearful of disclosing, while others establish relationships with the intent of deceiving from the get go.

Are there easy answers to these relationship dilemmas?  No.  Generally most post-operative people do just fine not disclosing within brief affairs, if they make certain to seek from the partner an agreement that their private contacts will go no further.  However, if a friendship seems bound for public interaction, the matter of telling needs to be reconsidered.  While a romantic interest can easily walk away from a private affair without hard feelings, things may become unnecessarily complicated if it were first discovered that you are a transsexual by your partner's friends and family.  If there is any damage control to be had, again, go on the side of caution by discreetly telling up front before a relationship becomes serious.

Minimally, it is possible to disclose that there is something different about yourself to a interested party without saying you have a transsexual identity.  Carefully inform your partner there are aspects of your past you do not care to share, and have not discussed with others for years. Then, move the conversation ahead by stating you are willing to engage in a relationship for who both of you are as people today.  If the partner later finds out that you are a transsexual, you can point him or her back to the original conversation.  Or, you can simply deny the rumor, by calling it a strange story.  Whichever you choose, bear in mind that you will have to live with the consequences of your actions.

The preceding information introduces several compelling questions that typically linger on the minds of transsexuals and others.  Is it really possible to live stealth, where nobody knows that you are a transsexual? And, can a person be passing perfect?  For the limited few who either have the natural attributes or can afford genderizing surgeries, these things are possible.  However, the cost of living stealth can often be a lost sense of identity.  This is so because in order to become the perfect man or woman, and lose all transgender associations, the individual must give up his or her history.  And, going into the stealth closet can be just as isolating as pre-transitional isolation, because there will be nobody who relates to your secret needs, feelings and questions.

Losing one's history and being isolated is a terrible and often unbearable circumstance.  This is why it is so important to learn how, when and how much disclosure is appropriate in different types of situations.  Discuss these issues with your friends, support group and therapist.  Learn as much as you can how others have handled disclosure, and also how they dealt with the consequences.  Essentially, the more information you can gain, the less likely it is that you will be forced to resort to black and white decision-making.  Finding a balance can be a good thing.


GENDER ARTICLES. This educational column authored by Gianna E. Israel is regularly featured on the 3rd Monday of each month in Tg-Forum, the Internet's most up-to-date, weekly Transgender Magazine <http://www.tgforum.com/>. Several weeks later each article is forwarded to Usenet and AOL <Keyword TCF>. Each column has been written to inspire contemplation and dialogue. Columns may be reprinted in any medium insofar as each article, its introduction, and the author's contact information remains unaltered.

GIANNA E. ISRAEL provides nationwide telephone consultation, individual & relationship counseling, evaluations and referrals. She is principal author of the Transgender Care (Temple University / in press 1997). She also writes Transgender Tapestry's "Ask Gianna" column; is an AEGIS board member and HBIGDA member.She can be contacted at (415) 558-8058, at P.O. Box 424447 San Francisco, CA 94142, or via e-mail at Gianna@counselsuite.com.


Copyright © 2001 by Diane Wilson. All rights reserved.