Curing the Stockholm syndrome of “stealth”: ending sympathetic responses toward cis gatekeeping

Over at the Transadvocate, a commentary series is re-examining “stealth” as a way to exist as trans within structural cisnormativity. “Stealth” is a relic in which as a trans person, one must never mention their being trans to another person, including (implicitly heterosexual) cis partners. As “stealth”, one must be placed consistently as cis by cis people. As “stealth”, one must also be commissionable in producing a narrative which would be implausible for many trans people. “Stealth” is treated as a lifelong pact. As a prescriptive approach, “stealth” owes its long shelf life to women who are trans — that is, relative to others who are trans and gender non-conforming (GNC). Of those women, the staunchest advocates of “stealth” have tended to share both white and middle class intersectional experiences. It was not uncommon for these women to begin their transition during the 1960s, the 1980s, and even the 1990s.

How “stealth” is being addressed by the Transadvocate series predictably overlooks the core causes why the practice even gained traction in the first place. The first to promote “stealth” as a way to live were clinical gatekeepers. That is, the gatekeepers were disproportionately white cis men who developed gender clinics with procedural systems to make access to trans medicine a prohibitive, intimidating ordeal for even the most determined of trans people. The staunchest evangelists of “stealth” were the beneficiaries of those clinics.

What is predictably bothersome about Suzan Cooke’s essay, “The many shades of stealth,” is its conspicuous absence of intersectional consciousness. What is equally bothersome about Cristan Williams’s piece, “A rant about MTF stealth,” is its propensity for victim-blaming those who consented, some under institutional duress, to a “stealth” existence for their own lives as trans people, as a precondition for their welfare. It also blames by association any trans person who lacks the situational affordance to live openly as trans, where forcible disclosure can be extremely hazardous, and where involuntary disclosure can jeopardize other basic securities. Further, one’s personal decision to not live openly as a trans person is not a tacit endorsement of “stealth” prescriptivism — a distinction which isn’t made in Williams’s essay.

However unintended, neither writer tries to challenge the structures laid by cis gatekeepers which made “stealth” a practice in the first place. Neither essay entertains an intersectional lens to critically examine how “stealth” has structurally excluded trans people of colour, poorer trans people, trans people with disabilities, opaquely visible trans people, queer trans people, and trans people who experience several of these concurrently. Neither explores the kyriarchical relationship between the word “stealth” and militarism. Neither recognizes that the word descends from the Old English root for “steal”. When women who are trans use the word “stealth” to describe themselves, they are tacitly admitting a disbelief of themselves as legitimately women or being female. Itself a patriarchal idea, “stealth” proposes how being placed by anyone as a trans person implies some kind of failure as, say, a woman. In militaristic terms, compromising “stealth” means being spotted, then shot down (and either punished, interned, or killed) by a cissexist enemy who, likewise, is also a product of the same kyriarchy. A life of “living stealth successfully”, should all go well, might then emerge as a paranoid, isolating existence.

Intersectional consciousness is no longer a discursive indulgence. It is now a basic cornerstone when having any critical discussion on which kyriarchical conditions of institutional marginality and structural impediments are implicated in one’s social welfare (and the quality of one’s life experiences).

The absence of Cooke’s intersectional consciousness is striking. Her essay speaks on experiences of living in a social bell jar, bereft of acknowledging the systemic structures which enabled, even coerced her to frame her experiences as a white, middle-class trans woman who still leans against the word “stealth” seriously, even endearingly. Her classism bleeds through as she refers to service industry labour as “peons working the concrete floors in big box stores.” Consequently, Cooke laments how she fears a social isolation in her twilight years from her own (similarly isolated) peers who are now beginning to pass on. Cooke believes that reaching out and forming meaningful connections with people who share her life experiences as a trans person betrays her being placed by cis people as “ordinary” (read: cis): “We walled ourselves off from people who provide support networks of friends.” In so doing, she and her peers left in the dark many more trans people who would later find the path of transition, themselves often spatially and temporally isolated by the experience. Cooke sympathizes more deeply with the old gatekeepers who coerced her to divorce herself from her own experiences as a precondition for being a cisnormative participant. Cooke is struggling with her own internalized cissexism — a world view in which cis people are valued more than trans people.

Earnestly speaking, the mistrust which a great many trans people have felt for cis gatekeepers of the medical industrial complex (overrepresented by white cis men) is well placed. Our mistrust comes from countless narratives of being impeded, stalled, and even shut out from exercising agency over our own bodies. It’s of little wonder why we are frequently displeased with being clinically reducible by cis people who will never grasp the many obstacles we must endure in order to have our lives on our terms.

That our narratives share a basic theme of fear is also no coincidence. We know our human rights are dissolved when our medical care is withheld. Our quality of life suffers needlessly whenever gatekeepers deny our agency for seeking that care.

Regimes of systemically denying people from access to trans health care have come with a body count, too. Innumerable suicides have been completed after learning that one “failed” to clear the bar which was stacked as deeply misogynistic, racist, and ableist to begin with — not to mention kept arbitrarily in constant motion by a gatekeeper’s own cissexist capriciousness. This is what many trans and GNC people have come to know as “the gatekeepers moving the goalposts.”

And for those who are granted conditional access to health care, many trans people must still sacrifice some of their human rights as they are coerced to appease their gatekeepers by whatever means necessary. They know their gatekeepers have the power to suddenly revoke trans health access and do so without compunction. Trans people who have adopted a semblance of “stealth” living have learnt to manage these threats through preemptive means. Four tactics are stand-outs. One, they develop an acceptable boilerplate of a narrative to satisfy gatekeepers (at the sacrifice of one’s own lived narrative). Two, as proxies for gatekeepers, they learn to condemn other trans people who aren’t functioning under the same set of cissexist, misogynistic rules. Three, they live in fear of deviating from gatekeeper expectations of gender which could have their own continued care revoked without notice (such as a woman arriving to a clinical appointment in trousers or sans makeup). And four, they are discouraged from commingling with other trans and GNC people in all but clinically-controlled circumstances. Each is rooted in kyriarchical tactics for invoking fear, conquering by division, and quashing civil unrest by proxy.

Needing to excise such basic parts of oneself to win approval (or even an illusion of respect) from cis gatekeepers means learning to conform to normative expectations inside the examination or therapy room. It’s a compromise. This capture-bonding between cis gatekeepers and trans people who are “stealth advocates” has also meant having the latter “patrol” and voluntarily browbeat those antisocial conditions into people who are trans and GNC. Any trans person who rejects this browbeating, as “stealth” rationalizing goes, probably wouldn’t have much of a chance inside the cis gatekeeping culture anyway. They would be failures of the “real” thing — in which “real” amounts to a gatekeeper-certified, bona fide transsexual person, “person of transsexual history”, or “post-transsexual.” Anything less than that means they must not be very serious about being trans. Consequently, as intersectional life experiences are brought into the fold, each becomes substantive barriers to access when that experience is valued as non-normative — being fat, experiencing physical disability, having a limited education, being a victim of economic injustice, experiencing mental health issues, being a person of colour, and so on. Each of these experiences has been known as real barriers to trans health care when cis gatekeepers are given the power to control the welfare of trans and GNC people.

Sometimes compromise means one’s own sexuality as a trans person must be compartmentalized or suppressed if one hopes to obtain access to trans medical care. The history of lesbian women, gay men, and asexual people[1] having to feign heterosexuality as a precondition for access to EEI, or support for surgical intervention, dates back to Lili Elbe during the 1930s, and in the U.S., Avon Wilson during the 1960s. When adherence to heteronormative behaviour has meant putting one’s life into potential danger — even when a trans person is heterosexual — outcomes have (disproportionately greater than for cis people) spanned from assault and rape to murder.

Place all of these conditions together, and it becomes easier to understand how “stealth” emerged as a kind of Stockholm syndrome — in which trans people, held as captives of deeply cissexist gatekeepers, had to learn to sympathize with (and even respect) their cis clinicians if they ever hoped to obtain what they sought from the arrangement. They learnt to echo what their gatekeepers advocated and proscribed. They believed that criticism of the cis gatekeeping model by trans people was more of a threat to their welfare than anything cis people could do to them — even when cis people, not other trans people, were the ones who disproportionately did the most harm to people who were trans.

Eventually, “stealth” as a concept is destined to an ignominious fate, a historical dark age for our collective history as trans and GNC people. What Cooke called the “trailblazers” will probably be remembered for being early victims of this capture-bonding with cissexist clinicians. The dissolution of “stealth” does not amount to disclosing oneself as trans in all social transactions. Rather, as trans and GNC people continue working together toward building care-giving policy models built around informed consent and dignity in doctor-patient relationships, the fear of cis people lording that health care over our heads will continue to wane — especially as cis people themselves continue maturing with their understanding and compassion of trans people’s life experiences.

Ostensibly “stealth” trans people who are still around now will continue to uphold their social isolation from other peers. This is unfortunate, even a bit tragic. Practitioners of “stealth” impressed the idea that once clinical oversight of transition was over with, trans people who went “stealth” were to never have interactions with other trans people, as it would foil their effort to stay perfectly silent about their narrative of being trans. As we come to recognize how cis gatekeeping methodologies have advocated a kind of divide-and-conquer over trans people, we can begin undoing its social harm and cultural impoverishment from within the community.

Perhaps Cooke could reconsider how her intersectionally oblivious remark hurts also herself: “Mandatory political correctness has rankled, especially given the awareness of how wonderfully politically incorrect so many of my sisters and brothers are.” An admission of political correctness means that one does not feel obliged to assume responsibility for her racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, cissexism, transphobia, ableism, and so on. It means that Cooke doesn’t pay mind to how her behaviour upholds the structural oppressions which keep her isolated from her senescing contemporaries.

Learning to let go of the word “stealth” as a community cannot arrive soon enough. Learning to dissociate what Williams calls “lying” from institutional brainwashing by cis gatekeepers means hastening the end of victim-blaming for trans people. By relegating the use of “stealth” to a historical artefact, we may accelerate the healing of each other by learning to respect the individual life choices we make for ourselves — choices we make without institutional coercion. Our greatest strength becomes our ability to share our narratives and experiential knowledge with one another as trans and GNC people.

Empowering, emboldening, and enriching each other will undo our social isolation.

[1] This means lesbian women who are trans (not cis), gay men who are trans (not cis), and asexual people — women, men, and otherwise — who are trans (not cis). As if this needs to be spelled out — unfortunately for many, it probably still does.

18 thoughts on “Curing the Stockholm syndrome of “stealth”: ending sympathetic responses toward cis gatekeeping

  1. I agree with your assessment of gatekeeper induced deep stealth. But there is such a thing as semantic drift, and the term “stealth” has certainly gone through it. It’s a perfectly serviceable term to refer to the strategy of extremely selective disclosure of trans status, and gradations thereof. In none of the communities I’ve been in has stealth as a term merely equalled the oldschool Jurassic Clarke style deep stealth. Rather it describes a spectrum of non-disclosure. Yes, it is more than “privacy”, and yes it suggests that one pretend or imply a cis history. No, this is not always a bad thing. It can mean survival, and to some of us, thriving.

    I’m furthermore not feeling the love of “respect for the individual life choices” in almost any of this discussion, here or on the Transadvocate. This rhetoric being screamed by many trans activists against stealth, both the word and the choice of life, is completely patronizing. Stealth is a perfectly valid and even necessary decision, not merely a symptom of “false-consciousness”. There is a real tone of condescension in this piece, and not a little bit of presumption, that people in stealth are passive “victims” of the gatekeepers. People choose to be stealth for all sorts of reasons not having to do with oldschool gatekeeping, including the hard work of survival in hostile cis communities.

    In practical terms, it is a sad, but real, situation that no cis person will take you seriously unless you shine the gender on. As long as cis people view us with prurient, exploitative, voyeuristic lenses, then stealth will be a strategy some of us need to deploy. Keep it real: cis folks don’t get this stuff and probably will never get it. At best we will always just be freakshow tokens for them. Someone they can trot out in liberal company and say, “this is my friend X, and h…, um, SHE is a transgenderzorz!” Who really wants to be the token tranny in others’ eyes all the time?

    Furthermore, there ARE transsexual people whose experiences are much more neatly classical and clinical. Many of us don’t have much use for perpetually identifying as transgender, as that experience has no reason for pride, being one of suffering and bodily indignity. It’s easy to see why transgender (in the narrow sense) and genderqueer people are wont to enjoy a community based on transgressing binaries. More power to them! But transsexual people with high levels of bodily dysphoria? We don’t enjoy perpetually being teh trannies, on any level. Intrinsically it is no point of pride for us. If we have the opportunity to transition and be more or less finished with the hell of being trans, or even just set it aside for a while, to not have to perpetually “educate” people, then why the heck not? Who is anyone to gainsay that? If I say, “When I was a little girl…” and don’t disclose that I was a TRANSSEXUAL little girl, this omission still tells the truth. Most of the time it allows a cis listener to do just that: listen to me. Instead of running everything through the needless second-guessing and cissexist games they play when they have to actually confront a trans person’s reality.

    And on the subject of nomenclature, I am a (intersectionality: young and poor) transsexual woman. Not a “transwoman”. A trans*, comma, woman. And my gender is not “trans”. That is, my gender is woman; I also endure more or less classically described transsexuality, with a hellish level of innate dysphoria. As such, OF COURSE I wish I were born a cis woman, and will gladly accept being read as such. I know this is not a convenient estate of identities for most “gender euphoric” transgender activists these days, but we DO exist. We are not so constituted merely as victims of the gatekeepers. Some of us are tired of the erasure of our experiences as “institutional coercion” is now replaced by (yes, cultish!) peer brow-beating. Some of us go stealth and will keep going stealth because it is often (but not always) the best way to go for us. Sorry that doesn’t meet with some people’s approval!

    For transsexual people, going stealth can mean a dose of sanity, of quotidian peace, being taken simply for who we ARE instead of what we WERE. As such, the only thing being hidden in stealth is transsexual pain, allowing the wound to heal for a while. And the only thing being “stolen” is an opportunity to breathe, spread one’s wings, and actually live – apart from shrinks, quacks, titillated cis jerks, and drum beating trans activists.

    Of course oldschool deep stealth is a bad game. Of course stealth is not for everyone. But stealth in the modern sense is a just choice for many of us. I wish these articles would stop attacking our lives from the high horses activists often ride.

    • Yes and thank you for this very thoughtful response. I could have been that Cooke woman. But I was institutionalized and cured. A fancy way of saying I gave up and agreed I was a man. Much later in life, when presented with the chance, I changed.

      So, for some count of years I have lived as a female and that’s all people know. IT wasn’t a conscious decision or done to please anyone, it just best fit who I am and how I wanted my life to work.

      The very scholarly writing of whoever wrote this article is just another tactic to fragment transsexual people. You need a university degree just to understand it and it is written that way intentionally. I find that sad.

  2. Pingback: On “Stealth,” “Passing,” and other problematic phrases. | A Frightful Hobgoblin

  3. I think it’s important to distinguish between hatred of the term “stealth” (which I share with Patience) and hatred of the practice of non-disclosure, which is a deeply damaging and reactionary attitude (espoused recently by the much-diminished Riki Wilchins, sadly).

  4. I follow what you have to say, and I think that you have very good points, but if we are to excise the term “stealth” is there a word for “doesn’t tell most people” that would have less baggage? I really don’t care how other people live, I am just too emotionally sensitive to deal with yet another reason for people to reject me and be mean to me. I need a word for this, though, because I frankly don’t want to explain the why to every person my trans status becomes relevant to, just what it is.

  5. I disagree with a lot said here. How about those of us that choose not to be “loud Activates” because we was born not the correct sex and finally able to live our lives as we should have been born Female NOT trans. All the hardships I went through in my life I was not fighting to become known as a 3rd gender or trans – something I was fighting to become the Female I should have been born. I am sorry to those that think I am turning my back on everyone else but I just want to live my life as the female I should have been in the beginning and not live my life seen as trans.

    because of this I don’t live in “stealth” I live as I was supposed to be.

    Its also funny that a group of people that are trying to help push the thought of living life as you want and be who you are, here you are telling me I am wrong for living the way I want to?

    On just a side note I have tried to befriend other trans and be apart of trans groups but sadly all it ends of being is older ones telling you what you should do, then everyone complaining. Then you have click and people running groups that should not. It is a mess and I will just rather stay out of it and live my life as I want because it seems to be working out pretty well.

  6. I’m writing my piece for the series…I don’t make arguments against being stealth in my piece; instead I’m making arguments for being out.

    We get to choose how we live our individual lives. I’ve in the past described trans folk as belonging to the only subcommunity of the LGBTQIA community that folk graduate from. When one comes out as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, one generally comes out for life, but when one comes out as trans, trans*, transgender and/or transsexual, one doesn’t necessarily stay out.

    I can count on one hand all the trans people that I met in local San Diego trans community back in 2003 when I came out who are still out in San Diego trans community now. Some moved away, for sure, but many others just graduated out of community.

    Is being invisibly trans to not only community,but to society in general, bad? Well, being invisibly trans may be good for an individual for any number of reasons, but it’s not good for trans community when one considers that the multitudes of trans people that are no longer visible don’t move society towards the kind of acceptance that leads to regulatory and legislative changes that benefit a broad number of trans people. And, that’s why I advocate for being out — being out is something I believe is a tool for changing the world.

    And changing the subject a bit, one can be a black woman, one can be a white woman. One can be feminist woman, one can be a lesbian. One can be a woman veteran, one can be a disabled woman. I see trans woman as just one more intersectional kind of woman.

    With intersectional thoughts in mind, I primarily identify myself with being at the intersectional space where trans, disability, military veteran, queer, and woman overlap. And, I’m out and proud about all of these intersectional identities (although I still noticeably struggle with internalized ableism related to having a bipolar type II mental health condition).

    • I primarily identify myself with being at the intersectional space where trans, disability, military veteran, queer, and woman overlap.

      …in addition to intersectional experiences of being white and middle class.

      • My friend Allyson Robinson once told me that “The only ethical thing to do with privilege when you know you have it is to give it a way.”

        I know I have relative privilege because of the color of my skin and my socioeconomic status. I try to stay very conscious of those privileges, and act on the knowledge that if I don’t give my privilege away to better the lives of others I’m failing in life.

    • For many, many people, being “out” is a full time job. For many people, even if it isn’t, the added stressors are simply too much. I feel like, given the way things are in this country [ed. note: the U.S.] that there are probably more individuals who have something to lose (even if it’s only their peace of mind) by being out. Like… losing a needed job, or violence, social harassment, or any number of things. I realize that you’re stressing to the people who are in a position to be out (via happenstance or mental fortitude, whatever) but I would be willing to bet that those people are few and far between, and while, yes, advancement of acceptance to the general populace is very important I think it’s inappropriate to downplay the individual lives of those just trying to live – whether you intend to or not, the tone of the piece plays at that. Communication is a two-way street and you don’t get to throw words into the ether and then pretend it’s everybody else who is interpreting it a way you didn’t “mean”.

  7. I think a big part of the problem is the word pair trans/cis. After all, when you’re identified as trans – or cis – you’re identified in relation to the gender slapped on you at birth. It gives, IMO, a precendence to the gender assigned at birth. I, for one, find this completely unacceptable: identifying people based on the (kyriarchical) gender assigned to them at birth is just wrong. It may be that to some people trans functions as a word of power, a word associated with a rebellion against the shackles of cissexism, but the word trans has also power to put people down. There’s a very real pejorative power to it, due to the cissexism all around us. It may well be a powerful, good word to *you*, but in the larger society, I’ve experienced it as a term of harassment, a word that’s used to trip me over and over again, a word that keeps me from living my life on my own terms.

    Another problem stems, IMO, from applying the terms “out” and “stealth” (or closeted, if you like: it’s not like it hasn’t been used, too) to the trans/cis -pair.

    Firstly, the terms come from an understanding where (cissexist) trans/cis -status is more or less permanent. They imply “once trans, always trans”. I don’t find this to be the case. While people may well identify me as trans, I sure as hell am not trans in the same sense I was, say, twenty years ago. I don’t fulfill the clinical criteria any more. I don’t have any persistent “cross-gender desires”, whatever the fuck that may mean. I don’t wish to be taken for another gender. In a sentence: I am no longer trans in a clinical sense. I am trans in a sense, if “trans” is taken to mean “has rebelled/is rebelling against the gender assigned at birth”. But does the word “trans” mean that to average cis person? The heck it does. “Trans” still means anything from “perverted” to “sick” to “weird” to “ooh, interesting” to “may I see your crotch, no, really, what’ve you got in your pants” – all of which I find totally objectionable and objectifying.

    Secondly, since I am in the position to keep (uninteresting to me, but, it seems, very, VERY interesting to some people) bits and pieces of my past undisclosed, I do. Yes, this requires oodles of privilege. I’m white, professional middle-class, educated, live in a very well-off country in the EU and can afford some private health care (that’s the way you keep the public health from being too nosy, but even private health care can be bad). Yes, it sucks: that privilege is required to do this is wrong. Anyone should be able to access decent health care with no unnecessary prodding into one’s life. Anyone should be able to enjoy privacy, respect and peace – without the need to control what you say to whom about your gendered past, or present. But that’s not the way it works now, and you can’t live in the future. You and I live in the now, and now sucks badly.

    Thirdly, there’s the question of what to do about now. Cissexism needs to be fought, and dismantled, along with the rest of the kyriarchy. I’m questioning just how much just “being out” (as in, will wear the badge of trans voluntarily) helps. I fail to see how it changes anything much: the medical gatekeeping is still in place. Workplace discrimination is rife. Pity hasn’t built houses for the homeless. Many, many trans-identified people still eat or drink themselves into oblivion. This still isn’t a very nice world in which to rebel against the gender assigned to you at birth, and I don’t understand how painting a big bullseye onto my fat arse would help in any meaningful way. If I were to fall onto my figurative sword and come “out” and tell the cis-identified people that:

    – hey, your system is fucked and really, I’d rather see it all go. I demand you all relinquish all legal and medical and biological and what-have-you gender.
    – yes, I hate with a passion the things you bastards did to me – yes, including the Nice, Understanding Lefty Queer Feminist People who still wanted to put me in a neat, little gendered box of their choosing.

    …would it help? And how much of chance I’d have of making a difference? Fuck all of a chance. People don’t respond to hate well, and I hate this cissexist kyriarchy with a passion.

    On the other hand, I do chip away at the kyriarchy by telling my story to people I know, love and trust. There’s more of them every year. It’s slow, invisible work, but I work like the seasons – I gently (and sometimes not-so-gently) erode away the fear and maybe, just maybe make cis-identified people see the error of their ways. Some of them will probably repent, too, and start making amends. It just isn’t very visible, and neither is it “out” in any traditional sense. It sure isn’t “stealth” or “closeted”, either.

    In the end, seasons level mountains into plains.

  8. Your post was interesting. It would have been more so, I imagine, had I been certain I was understanding it. I hope that will come in the future.

    Geez, is there any possibility that writing could be returned to something concise, informative and accessible rather than a goobledy-gook of pseudo-sociological and pseudo-psychological catch phrases, internet-inspired “memes” and essays that appear to be paid for by the pound rather than by their ability to communicate important notions about life in these States?

    I think that all of us have what amount to upper-class, white, university-educated (somewhat) word-troves and severe infatuations with the meanderings of our own minds. (For instance, when one “analyzes” Suzan Cooke’s or Christan essays it’s perhaps better to analyze the writing than the deep psychological implications of her essay. In reading it struck me that the author was basically playing with her own reactions and hadn’t the self-awareness to see that.

    What does “situational affordance,” mean? Could it be “able to afford.” yeah, that’s what I thought. (That was simply the most egregious example of trying to heighten language that’s perfectly serviceable for communication without prolixity.)

    For our words to communicate we need to focus on communicating. Otherwise I am simply trying to baffle folks. I thought some of your ideas were useful for folks to discuss, but wasn’t sure I was understanding any of what you said.

    I used to teach grammar and writing to college freshmen. I value creativity and using language in striking ways, but “memetically-speaking” ;) the most creative uses I can make of language are enmeshed in others understanding and thinking about what I’ve written.

    All the newest catchphrases in Academe cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

    • Thank you for your candour with this.

      I write depending on venue, context, and audience. This piece is, as you felt, written in the context of an academic critical analysis. That is an important part of the work done for the Cisnormativity project.

      I am also aware of my audiences when I write in other capacities, and I accommodate for that. These have included advertising, technical copy, storytelling, and other means.

      In short, if I understand correctly, your grievance with this piece is its arguably bad form, not its function.

      • I was unclear then. I see them both as intimately connected, conjoined, in fact. Not so much bad form as just the ability to write simply and cogently. The largest problem with academic writing is its insistence on density and understanding the code-words of whichever area the writing’s targeting.

        I liked what you appeared to be driving at, but a lot of the people you are, in fact, aiming for do not have academic backgrounds. Our brothers and sisters (trans men, women, gnc persons) are often not the products of arcane courses of study. But, to reach them seems to me to be of great importance.

        I can’t imagine an urban, white trans woman who trades in her body in a cheap motel giving much time to your arguments. Yet, I can imagine that your arguments could be very important to her life and well being. See what I mean?

        One of my sheroes is Dorothy Parker. She was nothing if not educated. But, she was simple and concise. With remarkably little knowledge of her milieu a reader would be well aware that she had just skewered some pompous ass. H.L Mencken could do the same. Both used “big words.” But, occasionally, not one per sentence. Maybe four in 1000 words.

        You have important things to say. Things that can encourage others to talk to one another, and to you. You can still be academic when you wish without prolixity and being muddled.

        But, I’d simply encouraged you and your compatriot to remember that a writer’s job is, first, to communicate with her audience, or possible audience. Then she might look to impress.

        Best of fortune with the blog.

  9. Wow. You kinda strawmanned the hell out of me. You characterize what I wrote thusly:

    [What is equally bothersome about Cristan Williams’s piece, “A rant about MTF stealth,” is its propensity for victim-blaming those who consented, some under institutional duress, to a “stealth” existence for their own lives as trans people, as a precondition for their welfare. It also blames by association any trans person who lacks the situational affordance to live openly as trans, where forcible disclosure can be extremely hazardous, and where involuntary disclosure can jeopardize other basic securities. Further, one’s personal decision to not live openly as a trans person is not a tacit endorsement of “stealth” prescriptivism — a distinction which isn’t made in Williams’s essay.]

    First of all, you chose to not define what I meant when I used “stealth” to your readers. The piece makes it painfully clear that in the context of this piece “stealth” means 100% completely closeted. In this piece, the “stealth” I’m critiquing is the type where you lie to your husband, where you get your parents to lie for you and where you lie to all of your doctors. I am excruciatingly clear that I support privacy and controlling who has your information because it empowers you while positioning yourself in the closet takes that choice away from you. Once in the closet, you no longer have the option to give and withhold information; you must withhold it at all costs or risk the life you built upon the lies. You’re characterization of what I’m critiquing is false; you’re equivocating.

    How does your characterization square with the following quote taken directly from this piece?

    [Being completely closeted – being stealth – takes away your freedom of choice. After a while, you’ve constructed a life whereby you can no longer enjoy the freedom of sharing your history with the people you care about because to do so would risk the very relationships you so value. Choose to give yourself the power of choice. Be judicious about who you give this very important piece of yourself to. Privacy is a good thing in that it’s empowering; preserve your right to pick and choose who knows your history. Choose the power of choice and use it to give yourself the best possible shot at a happy life.]

    The piece is certainly a polemic against being closeted. You might take issue with this being a polemic instead of a academic refutation, but at least critique what I actually said instead of creating such a blatant misrepresentation to critique.

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