Current list of articles on this page:
Length and Gender
Fighting for Legitimacy
What Does Transgendered Really Mean?
The Pitfalls of Deep Stealth
There exists in the human world many varieties of sex chromosomes, contrary to the popular belief that it is an XX/XY world. In truth many variations exist to XX and XY, including XYY (super males), XXY (Klinefelter syndrome), XXXY, XXX, XXXX, XXXXX (super females), XO (Turner syndrome), and XY-XXY mosaicisism are all human variations. All of these genetic variations can create varying degrees of physiological and sexual variations. But there is also another factor that determines gender, and that is the hormonal triggers in utero. The presence and proportion of androgens, particularly testosterone, that the developing fetus is exposed to will either activate or suppress genes that determine sex.
It has been suggested by clinical studies that a pretty universal indicator of these in utero triggers on physiology is finger length ratio. Psychology Today had done an article in the July 2005 issue that outlines the theory here. In the article it states:
This was of particular interest
to myself as true to form my ring finger is foreshortened as would be typical
for a biological female. You can see in this pic of my right hand...
The FM Radio DJ years - Polaroid self portrait at age 25, 1993
It can very well be that the hardest thing for a transperson is the constant battle for legitimacy. It is one of the strongest motivations for deep stealth, and the bane of any transperson who chooses to live out in the open. The too often perceived ultimate weapon for those who wish to 'expose' an abhorrent transsexual is the symbolic hand grenade of an improper pronoun, or other derision of one's gender to belittle, usually lobbed in the transperson's absence amongst their peers.
Despite being a woman my entire adult life I still get hate mail at 44. I will not make references to specific insults, as that would only serve to add notches in the belts of my bullies, but it still astonishes me that I inspire the kind of anger that I do just by being who I am. In the past even those very close to me, long time friends, and yes - even transgendered partners, have desperately pulled the pin out of the gender slamming hand grenade to my shock. I have found that the worst derision has sometimes been volleyed by those closest to me when they are faced with the scrutiny of their own families and friends, and in defending their own virtue the result is that bomb of defamation being lobbed in my direction. It always catches me off guard, and I have found it to be a hard price to pay for having a public life.
In part I blame myself, and my community of transpeople, in that we have traditionally supported each other in being silent about it. Every transperson goes through a part of their life where they fear exposure and ridicule for being Trans. Everyone wants to be accepted universally for who they are, yet so few of us ever really demand it or fight for it. In truth, we don't want to have to fight for it, we just want to live our lives, but in this world that is not always an easy thing for a transgendered person to do. It is easy to be afraid and alone in the transgendered life, and easy to make enemies by being yourself. Not so easy to get respect.
So many transpeople who have lived in the past three decades are now deceased. At my age the peers are few. The number of transpeople who transitioned when I did in the 1980's that are still alive is quite small. So many fell to addiction, suicide, HIV, and other horrible fates. It is a sad legacy, driven by the derision of society, loneliness, and the unfortunate self loathing of those within our community.
Legitimacy is a right that we all have as human beings, but transgendered people have to really fight for it. We are perhaps the last minority, certainly the easiest to ridicule without consequence, and the least likely to be defended by others. As such it requires a very thick skin and a lot of resolve to live out our lives. Relationships are very difficult for us, and partners often lack the courage to stay by your side when others know who we are. Self sufficiency is the norm for the transgendered life. If you are fortunate as I am in having a family that supports you then you have a lot going for you. If not, then you need friends who believe in you. But most of all, you really just need to believe in yourself. If you can do that, then the slings and arrows of others will do less to deflate your spirit.
There are many positive things about the younger generation and how they deal with gender. I hope that the young people who face these issues get to mature into a different world than I did. Hopefully it will not only be more open to them, and offer them more opportunities, but I hope also more happiness and acceptance. I think that the more transpeople are open about who they are, the less that others will fear them, and the more that society will defend their rights. If transpeople want it, it can happen. And I hope that it will.
Retail management at age 22 - 1989
Because I am publicly open about being transgendered I am sometimes mistaken for something or someone that I am not, simply because of assumptions that people have made about me and what it means to be transgendered. People who do not know me or who have never met me sometimes assume erroneously just from what I write and post that perhaps I am a man, playing a role, living two lives, or pretending to be someone I am not. It is not always meant to be insulting, but sometimes it is. I am after all a transgendered woman, not a transvestite, but some people are still confused about what that could mean. Despite videos, photos, and life stories I have published about myself over the years for some reason I still manage to confound people. I have come to understand that for many of those who have never had anyone in their life with gender issues it may be confusing.
Despite what you may read or hear, not all transgendered people are of a certain biological configuration or lifestyle. The word today refers mostly to those who were born and raised in the male role and transition to the female role, but there are many females who transition to the full time male role as well. The definitions used to be more specific in the past. It used to be clearly defined that a transsexual is a person that transitions to live and work in the gender opposite that of their birth, and takes steps to permanently alter their body to meet the desired gender role. Transvestites or crossdressers were those who preferred wearing the clothes of the opposite gender or expressing some facets of themselves or their sexuality, but they never would change their body or social role in life. Drag queens were predominantly gay men who did female impersonation as an art form or crossdressed as part of their sexual lifestyle, the opposite being a Drag King - a woman who impersonates a man, but still they too would continue to live and identify as their born gender. These definitions are for some no longer politically correct and today are often seen as labeling or otherwise derogatory. So, the word Transgendered was introduced to cover many variations in the gender spectrum, and many use the term to define themselves, encompassing those classic definitions.
In proper parlance today transgendered really refers to what used to be called transsexual - a person who permanently changes themselves and their role in society to reflect their gender. Gender Float is a new term that describes those who may live androgynously, or present themselves as either male or female depending on the situation. Gender Float covers many of the newer social orders among transgendered people who may alter themselves physically to one degree or another, but who choose no specific full time social gender.
Many crossdressers today may also identify as transgendered to some extent, particularly if they have maintained that lifestyle for most of their life or if they sometimes present themselves socially in that role, but it is not meant in the same context as it is for a transsexual.
I have customers, friends, and former partners who are transgendered, and for all of them the definition of what it is to be "Trans" is different. Some live out in the open to some degree as Trans, but others keep it private. Some transgendered people live their lives in a state of "deep stealth" where there may be few if any people in their lives that are even aware that they are transgendered. Many straight laced people may feel very threatened by the idea of a deep stealth transwoman or transman; an individual that they would never even suspect as being Trans, but this is often a reality.
Deep stealth does not mean that the person has a secret persona or leads a double life, it means that they have transitioned to the new gender and have decided that they wish to be viewed by friends and lovers as having always been that gender and not as a transsexual. To do so is a brutal process with numerous implications, and I have another essay about my own experiences dealing with the realities of living with and knowing those who choose to live the deep stealth life.
An engineer in NYC at age 33 - July, 2000
In my adult life I have had a few partnerships with other transgendered people, and none of those relationships were either easy or stable. Transgendered people often have profound issues, many of them serious and sometimes life threatening. Feelings of self loathing, guilt, depression, narcissism, obsessiveness, detachment, vanity, addiction, fear of abandonment, or even unending quests for approval and vindication lead to desperate life paths that can sometimes be tragic.
Most of these serious issues I believe are the result of the conflicts and stress that come from the need for most successful transgendered people to completely bury their own reality in favor of one that will win them unquestioned approval and protect them from others discovering their past. In the present day lingo of the TG world this is known as 'deep stealth' and it has very serious consequences over time. Not only does it put the transgendered person in more jeopardy of retaliation by not being truthful with people close to them, but it also acts against the advancement of transgendered people as a whole in favor of the individual. The catch 22 being that in a future world where people of unusual or switched genders are accepted like anyone else there would be no need for deep stealth, everyone would just be individuals. But of course that world could never be so long as those who should best represent what it is to be transgendered hide in society instead of being out and talking about it.
The core of living deep stealth is deception. To do it right you have to create a complete fake life for yourself and stick to it. The idea being that if you say something often enough it becomes truth, and although this is a strategy used by unscrupulous politicians to much success, if you decide to live by it yourself then you create a life for yourself that may not work as well as you hope it will. The reality to the individual who decides to live this way is that they alone do know that their expounded life and identity is not their actual truth, and the very reason that they are believing it necessary to convince those around them that their constructed life is the truth is that those same people would most likely reject them otherwise. Which leads to my point that I cannot emphasize strongly enough that if anyone would be disapproving of you for who you really are, or worse, then the last thing you would ever really want is for that person to be close to you.
The individual who lives by deep stealth will invariably surround themselves with people in relationships both platonic and intimate that would otherwise be opposed to having this relationship with a transgendered person, or even worse, despise them if they knew the truth. If this person knew that the individual were transgendered the relationship may never have been allowed to begin with. But the motivation for some deep stealth people goes much further. For some it is not just to win approval, but the deep desire to be universally adored, and loved by everyone. The goal for such an individual is to be seen as the perfect person, not just the perfect woman. This is the most self serving and narcissistic faction, those who wish to win the admiration of those around them through deep stealth. These are all reasons why many live by deep stealth, but when this is the case then disclosure on any level can become a real danger and at some point the deep stealth person will either be compelled to end their relationships as they grow too close and seek out new ones, or they will have to constantly defer anything that might lead back to people or things in their pre transition life, including family and career.
These stresses of a deep stealth life are the same as those who live in witness protection programs or felons on the lam. Always watching your back, sleeping with one eye open, and staying mobile are all in your new deep stealth kit. People that live this way often have to pull up tent stakes and leave jobs or long relationships without warning when they feel that disclosure is close at hand, with either no explanation to the unsuspecting partner or employer or through some intentionally created irreconcilable rift. Then they are gone, inexplicably, to reemerge in some other place, in another relationship or another position to start all over again.
Many may feel that in their jobs or personal relationships that if those close to them really knew their true life path that they would be ostracized, and this may be true, but when you are outed in the middle of a life surrounded by those who are naturally opposed then you can imagine the situations that can follow. This kind of downfall is eventually inevitable in the modern world, but still people try to push the envelope with deep stealth.
The other part of deep stealth that poisons the individual from within is the necessary need for complete and total control of every aspect of their social and personal life. The deep stealth person cannot be passive in their relationships, they must lead them, even when doing all they can to appear in the passenger seat. In the BDSM world this is called "topping from the bottom", when the seemingly submissive one in the relationship is really the one in charge, in affront to all appearances. Manipulation becomes the standard regardless, and eventually this too destroys their relationships from the inside.
The undeniable truth is that no matter how well you bury your past and cover your tracks, if you live long enough and are out in the world enough it always comes out eventually. So why deep stealth? I see it as trying to have assured short term social gain in exchange for the potential for a truly content life. In truth the real battle for legitimacy is not with society, or gained by the winning of a trophy partner, or by being seen as having the ideal life by others. In the end, the battle is only with yourself. Lose sight of that, and you can lose everything.
Being transgendered is hard. It is undoubtedly one of the hardest life paths that an individual can have. The challenges are many, both personal and social. It is so tempting to find short cuts to success and happiness, but one really has to define what success and happiness really are. Ultimately what a deep stealth life gives you is escape and distraction, not happiness or success. If you view life as the road of personal evolution and growth then you will live on your own terms and be who you are. To live by deep stealth you have to view life as a game to be won at all cost and by any means, and a life lived that way can be a short thrilling one or a long and empty one, but it can never be one containing love or happiness. A happy life can only come from being true to yourself, and love comes from being open in sharing your life with those you care about.
Just be happy to be in this life, be yourself, and be proud to be who you are. If enough of us can do that then we would have the future that we all really want for ourselves. In that future there would no longer be transgendered people - we would all just be individuals.
- Fran Blanche
On a pony at age 7 - August, 1974
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