To Be or Not to Be…Visibility or Stealth is the Question!

OutI borrowed this image from another blogger because it was perfect for what I want to discuss in this post.  Check out Kai’s page, if you’re so inclined.

As of late I’ve given thought to this topic quite a bit, and while not transgender myself, I am the parent of a young transgender girl who is not old enough to entirely make this decision for herself yet.  I know that there are parents who have allowed their children to make this call at such a young age, but I will disagree until the day I die that a seven year old has no way of understanding fully how such a decision may impact them for years into the future.

Last year, as a first grader, Fab decided to transition early in the school year, meaning that at school there was no choice but for her to be visible.  This was a choice that she made with us, but one that really wasn’t a choice.  If she was to live authentically as her self than her transition had to happen, and she had to be visible.  As such, we had the opportunity to observe a visible seven year old in the bubble of “school” and also observe her the rest of the time as just another little girl who was seen as a little girl by everyone who came into contact with her.

In the case of school, it was the only place that caused her anxiety and also roused her dysphoria.  Being the “girl who used to be a boy” or the “Tomgirl” didn’t seem to bother her on the surface initially, but it would creep up every now and then because it made her wonder if she still looked too much like a boy.  This wasn’t something she actively thought about, other than she wants her hair to grow longer, but when she heard the words, her mind was left wondering, “what do the other kids see?”

It was directly due to the anxiety she felt that her mother and I have decided to transfer her to a great school where she will be allowed to go “stealth,” meaning that no one but administration will know that Fab was assigned male at birth (AMAB).  Her mom and I are hoping that this will allow her to focus on school and not what other kids see because she gets to be just another 2nd grade girl.

From her daily life outside of school we know her to be sassy, outgoing, and non-stop in a world that sees her only as a girl.  When people hear “trans” they fixate on it, especially when “trans” has been so much in the spotlight as of late.  Yes, Fab is trans, but that is only a part of who she is.  Fab is a girl, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an athlete, a student, and an all-around great kid.  This is where the focus should be for her as a child.  There will be time enough for her to make adult decisions later in life, but for now we have decided to leave the adulting to us.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that another’s decision to have their child be visible is wrong, but I think it should be taken in context to their unique situation.  If fighting to get my kid what she wanted also made it necessary to have her visible, and if she was ok with it, she might end up visible and an advocate.  In our current situation, taking such a path is not necessary, nor do I believe a child should be outed by their parents for no reason…hence this blog is anonymous.

There will come a day when she gets up to her teen years and the decision to be visible or stealth will be heavily dependent upon what she wants.  Does she want to be visible, to advocate, to stand-up and fight for her rights?  At a certain point we won’t stop her from following the path she chooses, but that time will come when she is better equipped to understand all that being “visible” entails.

Visibility brings its own positives and negatives for a trans person.  I wrote about Athena Del Rosario in my last post, and her decision to out herself after four years of living stealth while playing college soccer.  She had been out before, but chose to go stealth so that she could focus on school, athletics, and just being a woman in college.  All of these can be positives for self-esteem, identification, and growth.  It was her personal choice to make.  Coming out has also had positives for her, and she can use her experiences as a platform to help trans youth and athletes gain access to opportunities she did not have growing up.  However, being out also makes her a target of transphobes, TERFs, and people who just don’t want to understand who she is and instead seek to tear her down.  Luckily, from what I can tell, her past (she’s in her early thirties) has strengthened her to have a “no fucks given” attitude when confronted by ugliness and hate.

Stealth and visibility also don’t just impact the child alone, but the decision will have implications for the entire family.  It is said that when a person transitions, the entire family transitions.  In our house we call it our new normal, but this decision also impacts Fab’s brother.  He is her biggest gender defender, but this can also be a negative for him in that a visible Fab means he feels the need to defend and protect her even more than he already feels the need to do so.  Going stealth will also allow him to stay a kid for a little while longer, and so such a decision is the right one for not just Fab, but for both of our children.

I strongly suspect that one day Fab will stand up in front of the world and shout “Here I Am!!!”  It’s in her nature, and she already has the freedom to share her truth with those she chooses to.  To date, she has made good decisions with who to share with, and I trust her instincts when it comes to who is safe to tell.  She seems to have this instinctual ability to sense affirming people.

If she decides to live out in the open as a teenager, then going stealth will also mean she has had several years to fully form her identity as a person and a young lady.  It is our hope that her stealth years will help equip her to deal with the ugliness that, unfortunately, the world might throw her way.

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