does stealth equal shame?
this point is moot where my daughter is concerned.
before i realized how badly she needed to live as
the girl she is, zeeona felt compelled to tell folk
who saw her as a boy, (she had short hair, didn’t wear
dresses) that she wasn’t really a boy. she called it
‘her secret’ but didn’t keep the secret very well.
one day, at the opening of a new lgbt community center
in a nearby town, the local tv news wanted to interview
me. because i am a queer woman who has adopted a child,
and the laws against this in our state had recently been
altho i had adopted zee long before moving to florida, i
agreed to speak on camera about my feelings and thoughts
since the repeal.
zeeona had already been living as a girl at this point,
and identified very much with this community of lgbt
people. she even initiated conversations with some of the
folk who were there about the fact that she wasn’t just
the adoptive child of a queer parent, that this was her
community in her own right as well.
i feared that the reporters would hear this and want to
interview us further about this other twist. it wasn’t
that i was ashamed, it was something else that i couldn’t
quite put my finger on.
fast forward a year, and once again because of a totally
different sort of news story, we find ourselves being
interviewed on camera for a tv story. it was one about the
toll of foreclosures on neighborhoods becoming veritable
ghost towns, with banks not taking responsibility for empty
property upkeep, and so many vacant homes.
zeeona drew me down to her and whispered in my ear that she
wanted to tell the newscaster about her “secret”. once
again i felt that uneasiness i’d felt at the lgbt community
center’s grand opening.
i told her that this story was about something else.
it isn’t that i have ever felt the slightest inkling of re-
gret for allowing my daughter to be who she is. it isn’t
that i have ever felt that her being transgender is a cause
for shame. it isn’t that i felt that the information is not
hers to share. or that the subject is too private for sharing
it was all about my fear that in this homophobic, transphobic
judgemental society the repercussions of this admission had
far more consequence than a young child could comprehend.
lately, especially since the high profile transitioning of
chaz bono, i have wondered about just how much more damaging
being stealth can be.
there can be no doubt whatsoever that in order for society to
come around, there must be exposure to the things it judges
and fears. the refusal of closets and subsequent visibilty of
the gay, lesbian and bisexual community has done much to win
long sought after rights and respect. quite probably then, a
similar time for visibility and pride need occur with regard
to trans-people in order for injustices to be identified and
in the queer community, there were always some who felt the
need for privacy as regards whom they chose for love and sex
partners. after all, what business is it of anyone else? do
heterosexual people have to declare themselves?
but there were far more of us that felt that the dominant
cultural paradigm had to be openly challenged if we were ever
to attain equal standing within society. that it was unfair
that blatant display of heterosexual love and intimacy was
okay but to walk down the street hand in hand with our lovers
i would never presume to tell the transgender community
that it perpetuates prejudice against them to be ‘stealth’,
that “secret” often translates “shame” in the minds of
“normal” society. because this allegedly normal society has
few qualms about discriminating against any and all that run
contrary to their established rules. just look at ‘dont ask –
dont tell’ or ‘defense of marriage’ legislation for proof of
this well known tendency.
but can i continue to tell zeeona when it is okay for her to
share ‘her story’? where does my protecting her against an
irrational society end? does my protection translate as shame
in her young mind? dare i impose my fears upon her young mind
by letting her know the horror stories of hate-crimes, of
things such as ostracism and discrimination?
she’s only eight!!!
so how can she make the decision to not to be “stealth” when
she’s scarcely old enough to understand the repercussions?
as with most things concerning her well-being and safety, i
find myself walking a tightrope between supporting her and
shielding her. tho as i said earlier, the stealth controversy
is a moot point with her. she has no hesitance to declare that
she is transgender.
so no matter what i feel, no matter my justified fears or my
feelings that society needs to be awakened to the presence of
people who are ‘other than’ in their midst, this is her story,
not mine, to tell or not to tell.