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February 2, 2008
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February 7, 2008

Can You Ever Leave Behind the Evil Twin?

Don’t you just love that phrase, “used to be a man?”

GARRICK Jacobson was in custody at Sydney’s Surry Hills police station when he apparently discovered his girlfriend used to be a man.

Within hours of being released on bail, he went to her apartment and started “belting the hell” out of her, Downing Centre Local Court heard yesterday.

In this case, told in The Daily Telegraph and the Courier Mail, the phrase came from two Australian police officers who had learned from police records that Brigette Fell had come to them for help previously as a victim of (assumedly, since she disclosed this information to them at the time) anti-transgender violence, and the phrase was told to someone in police custody, who had also been dating Fell. The fact that she was post-operative by eleven years was apparently irrelevant to her boyfriend, as he punched her repeatedly in the face. Ultimately, she fell off her balcony, suffered a concussion and woke up covered in blood.

I’m not one who believes that every transgender person should be an advocate. I think we go through so much overwhelming $#!t that if we ever get to the point that we want to simply be thought of as “woman” or “man,” instead of the “woman who used to be a man” or the “man who used to be a woman,” we deserve to be able to slip into that anonymity. “Stealth,” as we call it, is not the enemy. Although advocates are very badly needed, we pay our dues just in becoming ourselves (and to be honest, we don’t treat our advocates well enough to reward the unpaid, tireless work, either).

The trouble is, I’m not so sure that we can ever be certain that that hard-won stealth can ever be guaranteed. It worries me that post-operative women feel that surgery (or anything else) will assure them of all the same protections and respect of any other woman. It doesn’t (the same thought doesn’t often circulate among post-op transmen, unfortunately, because the surgery just isn’t that well-developed, yet). Precedents still sit in the lawbooks in which post-operative transwomen have had marriages (and spousal inheritance) ruled void on account of their birth gender, thus reverting their marriages to “same sex” status and therefore invalid in the eyes of the law. Nothing is certain.

This all comes to mind while someone who has helped myself and others on a mailing list has mused about the possibility of living as a “heterosexual” (as she terms it), in stealth, and leaving the community largely behind. My initial feeling is that she should follow her heart. Although I think we’d miss the advice as she drifts away, she needs to do what is right for her.

But news like this — or things like the various insults hurled at Calpernia Addams (also post-operative) as she prepares for the debut of Transamerican Love Story — always leaves a disquieting feeling over this debate. Can anyone ever be assured of reaching the “end” of that transgender journey? Maybe things will go well and no one will ever raise issue or even find out about that “evil twin” of the past. Maybe. And I don’t mean to hurl this at HBS women as an “I told you so,” because the fact is, when we reach the end of our journeys (wherever that is, as far as I’m concerned), we should have the right to be respected as the person we are, and not judged by a “used to be.” The “used to be” was never a fault of our choice or design.

But it is apparent that today, in 2008, in the shadow of the looming RealID, the backlash in Gainesville FL or Gaithersburg MD, and the story of an Australian transwoman who was seriously assaulted over a “used to be,” that we can’t expect GRS surgery or any other avenue toward stealth to provide any guarantee for our future.

For those who choose that path, I wish you the best of fortunes. In the meantime, those who remain behind still have work to do.

(to be crossposted later to DentedBlueMercedes)

17 Comments

  1. BEAR A-M Rodgers says:

    I am one of the “privileged” (quotations on purpose) few who is stealth without meaning to be. Yes, since FTM bottom surgery is seriously lacking, many of us assume our genitals will get us outed eventually. My privilege is in not having a previous name that people fall back to, not having a criminal past, having no connection to biological family that forget, having 2 previous marriages to females, and publicly having both the appearance and mannerisms of average natal-males. When I applied to work for Dept of Homeland Security, I chose to out myself on the application just in case. After my thorough background check, no records of my being female were ever found. Thankfully DD214s do not have gender markers, and past acquaintances remembered me as a guy back to 16 years old. However, I got big bonus points for my honesty and integrity. So, I really have no evil twin to leave behind. This probably sounds pretty weird, but my natal-twin dying after birth is what gave me my privilege, because I have lived his life all these years.

  2. BEAR A-M Rodgers says:

    I am one of the “privileged” (quotations on purpose) few who is stealth without meaning to be. Yes, since FTM bottom surgery is seriously lacking, many of us assume our genitals will get us outed eventually. My privilege is in not having a previous name that people fall back to, not having a criminal past, having no connection to biological family that forget, having 2 previous marriages to females, and publicly having both the appearance and mannerisms of average natal-males. When I applied to work for Dept of Homeland Security, I chose to out myself on the application just in case. After my thorough background check, no records of my being female were ever found. Thankfully DD214s do not have gender markers, and past acquaintances remembered me as a guy back to 16 years old. However, I got big bonus points for my honesty and integrity. So, I really have no evil twin to leave behind. This probably sounds pretty weird, but my natal-twin dying after birth is what gave me my privilege, because I have lived his life all these years.

  3. Danielle says:

    At the beginning of transition I hoped to be able to live a true “stealth” and I feared the possibility that others (employers, new friends, significant others) might know. As change unfolded and I became comfortable with me, I gradually realized that absolute stealth was unnecessary and an impractical reality. I found that people were almost universally OK with me so long as “I” was OK with me first. I did not lose a single family member, friend, and I had tremendous support in the workplace (in an environment that is very traditionally male / macho). Now, if there is a circumstance that requires reconciling names on documents (like when I registered my son for school and had to explain the different name for the father on the birth certificate) I treat it matter of factly and there has never ever been a problem – in fact, people have been overwhelmingly OK, sensitive, supportive. I’m in a now 5-year relationship with with a wonderful gentleman who I was honest with from the beginning. I was OK with myself, he is OK with me too. We’re lucky that we have more and more better examples of trans people in the media. Be OK with yourself. Be proud of the person you are. You don’t need to where a T-shirt saying “I’m Trans,” but in those moments where it is necessary to clarify, smile warmly and confidently and say, yes, that is me.

  4. Danielle says:

    At the beginning of transition I hoped to be able to live a true “stealth” and I feared the possibility that others (employers, new friends, significant others) might know. As change unfolded and I became comfortable with me, I gradually realized that absolute stealth was unnecessary and an impractical reality. I found that people were almost universally OK with me so long as “I” was OK with me first. I did not lose a single family member, friend, and I had tremendous support in the workplace (in an environment that is very traditionally male / macho). Now, if there is a circumstance that requires reconciling names on documents (like when I registered my son for school and had to explain the different name for the father on the birth certificate) I treat it matter of factly and there has never ever been a problem – in fact, people have been overwhelmingly OK, sensitive, supportive. I’m in a now 5-year relationship with with a wonderful gentleman who I was honest with from the beginning. I was OK with myself, he is OK with me too. We’re lucky that we have more and more better examples of trans people in the media. Be OK with yourself. Be proud of the person you are. You don’t need to where a T-shirt saying “I’m Trans,” but in those moments where it is necessary to clarify, smile warmly and confidently and say, yes, that is me.

  5. […] note of clarification:  When I originally posted this article on Transadvocate.com, I did not use quotation marks on the word “heterosexual” with the intent to question […]

  6. Mercedes says:

    A note of clarification: I did not use quotation marks on the word “heterosexual” with the intent to question anyone’s sexual orientation. I simply thought it was an interesting way of referring to stealth. As someone who is both trans and bisexual, I know full well how quotation marks can be used to question and undermine someone’s identity. My apologies if it sounded this way.

    Stellewriter: Thank you for that — I can empathize with some of that, although it has become better for me over time. I hope that tings improve to the point where they are no longer a fight. I’ve seen it happen for many folk.

    Polar Bear wrote:

    As for dating, good luck. We can change laws – and we will – but you can’t change minds as easily, particularly if the neck the mind is attached to is red.

    Very true.

    This article is timelier than I had expected. When I’d transferred to southern Alberta, I opted to not disclose that I’m trans to staff and instructed H.O. that only the store manager should know. But today, in walked a customer I knew from Edmonton, and who formerly spent a whole lot of time making a public spectacle of me in the store previously. He didn’t out me today, but will be working in the area for a week. Yay.

    I’m not that worried about it. I’ve always been of the attitude that if anyone ever asked, I’d be up-front with them. Anything else will make one lose sleep at night.

  7. Mercedes says:

    A note of clarification: I did not use quotation marks on the word “heterosexual” with the intent to question anyone’s sexual orientation. I simply thought it was an interesting way of referring to stealth. As someone who is both trans and bisexual, I know full well how quotation marks can be used to question and undermine someone’s identity. My apologies if it sounded this way.

    Stellewriter: Thank you for that — I can empathize with some of that, although it has become better for me over time. I hope that tings improve to the point where they are no longer a fight. I’ve seen it happen for many folk.

    Polar Bear wrote:

    As for dating, good luck. We can change laws – and we will – but you can’t change minds as easily, particularly if the neck the mind is attached to is red.

    Very true.

    This article is timelier than I had expected. When I’d transferred to southern Alberta, I opted to not disclose that I’m trans to staff and instructed H.O. that only the store manager should know. But today, in walked a customer I knew from Edmonton, and who formerly spent a whole lot of time making a public spectacle of me in the store previously. He didn’t out me today, but will be working in the area for a week. Yay.

    I’m not that worried about it. I’ve always been of the attitude that if anyone ever asked, I’d be up-front with them. Anything else will make one lose sleep at night.

  8. leigh says:

    yes you are….

  9. Kelli Busey says:

    Who we are is a sum of what we were and whom we have invisioned ourselfs to be today. Be proud of that addition/substraction. You are art in progress.

  10. Kelli Busey says:

    Who we are is a sum of what we were and whom we have invisioned ourselfs to be today. Be proud of that addition/substraction. You are art in progress.

  11. leigh says:

    “Stealth” .. in this context, is not about being invisible or undetectable. For a post op to be “stealthy” means not volunteering or divulging information pertinent to the former life.

    It does not mean to have the ability to never ever be clocked or discovered. Thats almost never going to happen even for the best.

    Laymans terms .. STFU .. don’t wear your trans status as a badge of honor – or – tell everyone the moment you meet them.

    Somehow, thats probably not gonna fly with you lot 😉

  12. leigh says:

    “Stealth” .. in this context, is not about being invisible or undetectable. For a post op to be “stealthy” means not volunteering or divulging information pertinent to the former life.

    It does not mean to have the ability to never ever be clocked or discovered. Thats almost never going to happen even for the best.

    Laymans terms .. STFU .. don’t wear your trans status as a badge of honor – or – tell everyone the moment you meet them.

    Somehow, thats probably not gonna fly with you lot 😉

  13. Polar Bear says:

    Stealth is largely an illusion, one that will probably become less illusionary when Real ID takes effect.

    I’ve been an employer, and trust me, even the most passable stealth TS can be discovered, if the employer wishes to dig. Your evil twin lurks on your credit report, in property files, on police reports if you’ve been arrested, on your driving record, on your social security report, on your unemployment insurance report. My state is instituting a federal pilot program aimed at the drivers license bureau being able to access your birth certificate files, regardless of state – and chances are, if you changed name and gender on that document, the state you were born in still has the old name and gender marker on file – will the clerk get that data when you renew your license?

    As for dating, good luck. We can change laws – and we will – but you can’t change minds as easily, particularly if the neck the mind is attached to is red.

    I hate to say it like this. I want nothing more than for people who transition to live in target gender, as they choose, in peace and acceptance. But let’s not kid ourselves. I witnessed a 30-year stealth postop who’d worked for a large company for 18 years get fired last year, because she was outed by a no-match SSA letter.
    Yes, it can happen to you. Accept it, deal with it. Do something to change it. It isn’t right to get yours, then slam the door on others after you.

  14. Polar Bear says:

    Stealth is largely an illusion, one that will probably become less illusionary when Real ID takes effect.

    I’ve been an employer, and trust me, even the most passable stealth TS can be discovered, if the employer wishes to dig. Your evil twin lurks on your credit report, in property files, on police reports if you’ve been arrested, on your driving record, on your social security report, on your unemployment insurance report. My state is instituting a federal pilot program aimed at the drivers license bureau being able to access your birth certificate files, regardless of state – and chances are, if you changed name and gender on that document, the state you were born in still has the old name and gender marker on file – will the clerk get that data when you renew your license?

    As for dating, good luck. We can change laws – and we will – but you can’t change minds as easily, particularly if the neck the mind is attached to is red.

    I hate to say it like this. I want nothing more than for people who transition to live in target gender, as they choose, in peace and acceptance. But let’s not kid ourselves. I witnessed a 30-year stealth postop who’d worked for a large company for 18 years get fired last year, because she was outed by a no-match SSA letter.
    Yes, it can happen to you. Accept it, deal with it. Do something to change it. It isn’t right to get yours, then slam the door on others after you.

  15. Stellewriter says:

    I am continually busted, in my job hunt I am outed at every turn. My past life had industry recognition, and now it haunts me. Even today, I was talking with an executive recruiter who said outright that being transitioned was a stopper, and even though they would be willing to assist, they felt that the cost of promoting me in the market would be much higher. Other recruiters smile and never call back, especially the ones who knew me. It never ends….

    My last doctor said that he was uncomfortable writing my prescriptions and that he could not find another physician in the city who would take me as a patient. His suggestion was for me to seek medical attention in another city. (I live in Atlanta) It never ends….

    The evil twin lurks in places never expected, and jumps out at the worst possible times. Recently, my brother accidently outed me in public. (I forgive him, but it was embarrassing.) Yet when you go to a restaurant and sense there is someone clocking you, can you enjoy your meal? Every bite is a question as to what may have taken place in the kitchen. It never ends…..

    I get kissed in public and the next time I vist the scene of the kiss, I sense the silence, ridicule, and disgusting awe. No need to ever return to that club, or expect a normal person to treat me normally. It never ends….

    Then on top of all that, we have thugs like Barney Frank and HRC smearing us badly in the public eye. It never ends…….

    I think about those, like myself, struggling to find meaningful work. Those who are on the street, who can find no safe shelter. Those who have been berated and demeaned before the public, and reduced to sub-human status. Those who are arrested for vagrancy, or something anyone else would be excused; being tossed into the bull pen and finding rape and assualt as the only justice found behind bars. I think hard about the matter of life and the value is has for some, and denied for others. I think hard.

    There was a time, like most of us have faced, where we want life to end, the pain to end, rejection to end, and just to not have to face one more day. Some of us manage to fight on, not surrender, and continue to struggle for the hope if not possibility of living a meaningful life. Others are not so fortunate, and some are cut short in bigoted rage and hate. Yet, it never ends….

    I have decided that I will never quit or give in… NEVER! There may come a time, where I pull the combat boots out of the closet, remember my special skills. In no way will I allow someone to harm me and not endow them with full measure of return. If we cannot find justice within the law, then as once proclaimed we are in fact “Gender Outlaws.” I however will never quit, or give in…. Never!

    If we cannot find justice, support, or equal access within the system, then perhaps it is time to gather and act outside of the system.

    If someone is beat up by a thug for their gender, than perhaps they need a hundred of us to visit them at their work place? Or if someone is fired for gender, a thousand of us gather to confront the business and their clients. If the system cannot assure equality, simple justice, then “all” of us should gather on the steps of legislation and not go home until we are recognized, served, or dead!

    If we cannot gather in a common cause, we will continue to be mocked, beaten, killed, and denied life. Anything less is already death….

    It will never end, unless we make it end!

  16. Stellewriter says:

    I am continually busted, in my job hunt I am outed at every turn. My past life had industry recognition, and now it haunts me. Even today, I was talking with an executive recruiter who said outright that being transitioned was a stopper, and even though they would be willing to assist, they felt that the cost of promoting me in the market would be much higher. Other recruiters smile and never call back, especially the ones who knew me. It never ends….

    My last doctor said that he was uncomfortable writing my prescriptions and that he could not find another physician in the city who would take me as a patient. His suggestion was for me to seek medical attention in another city. (I live in Atlanta) It never ends….

    The evil twin lurks in places never expected, and jumps out at the worst possible times. Recently, my brother accidently outed me in public. (I forgive him, but it was embarrassing.) Yet when you go to a restaurant and sense there is someone clocking you, can you enjoy your meal? Every bite is a question as to what may have taken place in the kitchen. It never ends…..

    I get kissed in public and the next time I vist the scene of the kiss, I sense the silence, ridicule, and disgusting awe. No need to ever return to that club, or expect a normal person to treat me normally. It never ends….

    Then on top of all that, we have thugs like Barney Frank and HRC smearing us badly in the public eye. It never ends…….

    I think about those, like myself, struggling to find meaningful work. Those who are on the street, who can find no safe shelter. Those who have been berated and demeaned before the public, and reduced to sub-human status. Those who are arrested for vagrancy, or something anyone else would be excused; being tossed into the bull pen and finding rape and assualt as the only justice found behind bars. I think hard about the matter of life and the value is has for some, and denied for others. I think hard.

    There was a time, like most of us have faced, where we want life to end, the pain to end, rejection to end, and just to not have to face one more day. Some of us manage to fight on, not surrender, and continue to struggle for the hope if not possibility of living a meaningful life. Others are not so fortunate, and some are cut short in bigoted rage and hate. Yet, it never ends….

    I have decided that I will never quit or give in… NEVER! There may come a time, where I pull the combat boots out of the closet, remember my special skills. In no way will I allow someone to harm me and not endow them with full measure of return. If we cannot find justice within the law, then as once proclaimed we are in fact “Gender Outlaws.” I however will never quit, or give in…. Never!

    If we cannot find justice, support, or equal access within the system, then perhaps it is time to gather and act outside of the system.

    If someone is beat up by a thug for their gender, than perhaps they need a hundred of us to visit them at their work place? Or if someone is fired for gender, a thousand of us gather to confront the business and their clients. If the system cannot assure equality, simple justice, then “all” of us should gather on the steps of legislation and not go home until we are recognized, served, or dead!

    If we cannot gather in a common cause, we will continue to be mocked, beaten, killed, and denied life. Anything less is already death….

    It will never end, unless we make it end!