Some transsexual people never get “read” as transsexual. This is known as “Stealth”.

Stealth is a particularly poisonous version of the Beauty Myth, that beautiful people are better, and we should all strive to be beautiful- and our beauty is never enough. If “she looks like a man” is a particularly hurtful insult, how much more hurtful when I actually do. A bit. Not everyone reads me, but most people do, fairly quickly. Few comment on it: just as on meeting someone you do not comment on the purple birthmark half-covering her face, so people don’t usually say, “So you’re a tranny, then?”

Some people do not get read. One friend achieved stealth by changing job, city and friends when she transitioned. She retained one friend from Before, apart from her contacts in the “trans community”. She has a perfect right to get on with her life, and no obligation to campaign for other trans people, or to come out, and suffer bad consequences for doing so.

“My value as a human being does not depend on my physical appearance,” I declaim, portentously, and people who are pretty have life easier. Looking weird sucks. And- one gets on, as best one can, I suppose.

It is of more than academic interest to me that in April, Chris Wilson, a trans man, was convicted in Scotland of obtaining sexual intimacy by fraud, because he failed to disclose his trans history. He had casual sex. He had lied about his age, claiming that he was 16 rather than 22- with female bone structure, he looks younger- but the charge was that he had failed to disclose his trans status.

Why should I ask permission to be me? Pick someone up in a pub, go to a nice quiet place- hotel room, her house, the lavs- and then I have to say, by the way I am Trans. Is that OK with you? Some jurisdictions specify that recklessly infecting someone with an STD is a criminal offence, and Wilson’s case makes me equivalent. Someone might be happy to have casual sex with me, who would not be happy to have it with a trans woman.

It means that I am female by consent- not just of the Gender Recognition Panel, but of everyone, and anyone can withdraw that consent. I say I decide what sex I am, I decide how I should express myself, and while I want to be presentable, no-one gets a veto.

Trans women have objected to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill on the grounds that a person with a Gender Recognition Certificate has to disclose gender history to a prospective spouse, or that spouse can have the marriage declared void, later. However, the Bill will also reveal the person without a GRC. As same sex and opposite sex marriages are slightly different legal institutions, when the trans woman without a GRC marries she must be registered as the “husband”.

22 thoughts on “Stealth

  1. Oh dear. You have written too much and I can’t keep up with your past posts. Your post reminded me of the Crying Game

    sounds like more discrimination by the back door, if that is possible. If there is a sexual attraction isn’t that enough? or a romantic one, or personal one of whatever type?

    if a couple choose to marry, why isn’t that enough? who cares what certificates they need about their sexuality?

    this sounds like we’ll pretend there’s equality for everyone but we’ll just log their sexual status anyway so we can always point it out.



    • Go here, and read the posts where the first lines or the pictures jump out at you. A lot of my writing builds on thoughts I have expressed before, of course, but I try to keep each post meaningful in itself, without the need to read the rest.

      Oh, how the thought you would want to keep up, warms me! I produce a great amount, and reading half of it would show how you value it- and I respect your opinion. Sometimes I have not commented on your posts because what I think of saying seems plodding by comparison.

      We are moving towards equality. I would hate the law to define what consummation between lesbians consisted of. The alternative is to abolish nullity by reason of non-consummation- there are hardly any cases- and even adultery as a specific ground of divorce, and let the only ground be “unreasonable behaviour”, defined how any clever lawyer liked. The most striking inequality in the Bill is in pension rights: same sex couples only accrue rights from their partner’s pension from 2005, not from the inception of the pension. This is because Parliament avoids retrospective law, as injustice: arguments can be made on both sides.

      We will come to the Australian position of genders M, F and X- and Australia originally used X for particular disorders of sexual development, and now is expanding the category. Gender gets less important in law, and less constrictedly defined in society.


  2. Truth is, I have a lot of people who comment regularly and I try to keep up with their blogs. And when they post every day or so it is impossible. So I tend to visit them from day to day, and read back. I want to repay the courtesy, and like yours they are interesting. But I fall behind. I do have a life after all.

    I write very differently to you. I don’t write about trans or gay topics because it ain’t my subject. I don’t like reading posts about feminism by men, so I’m not going to write about something of which I have no experience. The only commonality is discrimination and empathy.

    Parlilament doesn’t avoid retrospective law when it comes to changing pension age though. Born in 1959, expect to get your pension at age 60. Oh no. We’ll just add on a few years. Pensions are big money and big legal issues. Avoid paying whatever you can, says the govt.

    Your comment about genders M, F, and X is interesting. One of the big discussions on a radfem forum was about dismissing gender. In retrospect I think they were right. But can you imagine the person in the street accepting that?

    By the way, I loathe those images. That goes without saying. Sexism in the extreme.


    • Dismissing gender would not mean everyone appearing androgynous, but the full rainbow of gender, from Frederic Chopin to Clint Eastwood, er, perfect Femme to perfect Butch, to interact and be.

      Images. See also here, and tomorrow. Well, they are designed to be beautiful, and I am interested in the photographs: lighting, etc, as well as illustrating the beauty myth. I doubt that dress is in my size, and if it were it would not suit me. I do find them beautiful: this is one way of being Female, and even though it is not really me I may still appreciate it. I distinguish the thought that this is an impossible ideal and I should aspire to it, and feel less because I do not attain it, from the thought that it is, well, beautiful.


      • I think the idea behind it, although not well expressed is simply not to judge people on gender or to discriminate. Sounds simple and obvious and therefore it doesn’t happen.

        You and I are subject to different forms of discrimination. You aspire (maybe) to what I find discriminatory and patriarchal. I appreciate good clothes, tailoring, I used to make my own suits. I don’t appreciate sex symbols. And denigrating women. The blue frock would probably suit me, not the other one though.


      • We are so much more free than we were, in the UK- Gibraltar too?- and we have culturally acceptable ideals of gender, with judgments keeping people in line.

        If I want to be high femme, and that is my choice, that is OK. If you want to be otherwise but feel judged as less than the “feminine” woman, then that is oppressive. It is that it is my choice that matters more than what I choose, though if you want to be (in the 1950s) a career woman and are surrounded by girligirls who seem happy being girly, being looked after by men, and being housewives I imagine that could be irritating. Some people fit the cultural norms better than others.


  3. I actually refuse to go stealth. I probably could, but I refuse to run away and hide from what, as well as who I am.

    I am female, a woman, but not natal. I’m a girl with a girlcock instead of a pussy. It doesn’t make me any less feminine. And I generally don’t feel the need to hide my true nature. (Aside from in crowds of total strangers, but even there if someone asked me politely, and or sincerely I would answer honestly)

    Why expend all the energy, and lose everything just to be stealth when my expression of my own female nature is just as valid as anyone elses?


    • A girlcock. Mmm. I have had the Op. I have, though, had too much experience of the oppressed’s argument- you are not proper trans, because you are not like me, often addressed to those with girlcocks. Instead, I think I celebrate your way of being, and am thereby enabled to celebrate my own better.

      Why be stealth? So you will not be beaten up. So you will not be dismissed, or refused a job after interview. So people will not abuse you in the street. It gets better. Again, I think self-acceptance is a good way to get accepted by others.

      And the bits which do not fit cliché femininity: why suppress them?


      • I’ve been beaten (well mostly I’ve had people try to, I’m surprisingly good at fighting back), I’ve been threatened, I’ve even had someone try to shove me under a tram. It’s never made me want to go stealth. It’s just made me square my shoulders and push harder. But I think whether you need to go stealth or not is a very personal thing. I don’t feel the need, nor do I want to. I like me. If others choose to look down on or dismiss me, well that’s their loss, not mine.

        Different folks, different strokes.


  4. I find the conviction of Chris Wilson in April barely credible. I hope he is appealing the judgement against him, or else how is anyone to be free to be themselves, if they have to preface every intimacy with, “Oh, btw, I’m really not really me, I’m really just a great pretender….”

    XX 🙂


  5. It’s sad and surprising that he was convicted for not disclosing that he was trans. It does seem as if the courts imply that one’s right to be who they choose to be may not be completely theirs. I’m curious as to why he was not charged with statutory rape rather..


    • I was going to say that Scottish criminal law is mostly common law, but it seems that is outdated. As we did not have our own parliament, the UK parliament did not give time for the creation of Scots criminal statutes. However, now we have our own parliament, and our braw Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009. The relevant section is s13. Free consent to sex is absent (d)where B agrees or submits to the conduct because B is mistaken, as a result of deception by A, as to the nature or purpose of the conduct.

      So there was an offence, sexual congress without free consent. I think sex with a male sexual organ is conduct of a different “nature” to sex with a female sexual organ. So it seems he still has a female sexual organ:

      Penetration of my vagina would be rape: by s1, “vagina” includes any surgically constructed vagina. But rape is penetration by a penis, including a surgically constructed penis. So he did not have one. No penis, no rape.

      Arguably, sexual congress with a penis has the same sort of “nature” whether the penis is surgically constructed or not. But it has to “form part of” the perpetrator, so a strap-on does not count.

      This is the way UK law works at the moment- proper transition, and I am legally protected, though not from a possible action for nullity of marriage. “Lesser” trans folks are fair game. More progress is needed.


  6. I know some folks who are stealth because they hated their lives prior to transition so much that they do everything possible to erase those lives. But I’ve also encountered those who are stealth because they’re so beautiful they can be stealth.

    I’m not stealth, and I choose to not be stealth. And it has cost me dating opportunities because I refuse to hide who I am.

    This was a great piece, Clare. Thank you for writing it. I’ll be reblogging it.



  7. Pingback: Reblogging: Stealth | doubleinvert

  8. I can say that 5 years into my new life, I am a happy butch girl “Berkeley-lesbian” for the most part. I had overdosed on where I thought I was supposed to be in the “extreme pink” as a woman, so to speak. I had thought that it was the furthest polar representation from my male self.

    I’m comfortable enough with “me” that I have even started exercising. Its not a matter of “what is stealth and what isn’t” for me because I discovered that people will think, do, and act on what they perceive to be true. My safety and expression do involve physical strength and stamina-more or less.

    I think ones own balance of expression free of fear is important.
    Personal choice wins for me.

    Thank you so much for posting Clare. ❤


    • I cannot get away from judging, eleven years on. Is this “feminine”, and how “feminine” is my response? Is it my attempt at conventionality, or “real me”? I reduce my judgments.

      I practice karate, and this morning wanted a moment of precise spiritual clarity hitting a man’s head. I would when practicing pull my punches, but in the moment I want to have the response, available within me at need, to be calm in purpose doing this, rather than held back by inhibitions.

      My process of relaxing judgment has taken so long!


  9. Hi Clare! In keeping with your theme of authenticity, self-acceptance, and integration regarding the topic of stealth, I thought that I would respond by saying that I genuinely wish I was as young and pretty as the girls in the pictures above. If I looked like them, then I would be stealth for all of the reasons previously mentioned. I think that this is the billion dollar experience that many of us wish for. Real life is more complicated than this and I realize that people are all vastly different from one another and yet I can’t help feeling deeply jealous that I don’t look like the girls in the pictures. I feel exhausted and frustrated as well as excited and hopeful in the realization that I must continue my own path of inner-work; so that I can live as authentic as possible, despite my own admittedly limited personal and spiritual awareness, I know that I need to be radically accepting of myself as a transwoman despite my station in life, physical form, personal limitations, and character defects. It is asking allot for anyone to be able to do all of this while keeping it from everyone by being stealth. It seems right that others should be able to benefit from the experience of the one who is successful at being stealth. It is ironic that disclosure tends to undermine living stealth.


    • Welcome, Molly. I am delighted you have found me. Thank you for commenting: and do write more on your own blog, you can articulate your own situation.

      Those models were photoshopped, and probably have anxieties about their own physical features. That is why it is the beauty myth: we feel if we looked the part, we would fit in, but however good you look it is never enough. So “true beauty comes from within”- that radical self-acceptance.

      It gives us a boost to know some people who are happy and successful in spite of being trans.


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