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Living as a cis man

July 25, 2011

I just finished my first university semester and, as of yet, I haven’t told any of my classmates that I’m trans. Though my name hasn’t been changed in the school’s system (and I haven’t changed it legally, either), I talked to all my teachers at the beginning of the year and managed to maneuver through tight situations without having to disclose my past.

This is the first time that I’ve been “stealth” –not openly trans– in my everyday life (though I have been stealth in one class or another for 2.5 years). It made me realize that, like teenage boys, I hadn’t yet formed an identity to go with the young (cis) man people were starting to see me as. In fact, I think I went through all the steps of teen male socialization in fast forward: I tried to be masculine at first and avoided physical contact with guys, fearing rejection; then I tested the waters to see if my new friends were ok with breaking gender rules; and finally I felt comfortable enough to let my guard down.

It’s been curious, seeing how the same parts of myself have different implications depending on whether I’m seen as trans or cis. If I talk about knitting or baking with my old friends, they know I learned these things because I was raised as a girl; if I talk about the same things with new buddies, they become markers of queerness or femme-ness. And, as I’ve discovered, I feel comfortable with being seen as a queer cis male. I thought that passing as cis might be sad because I’d have to hide cherished parts of my past, but I’m realizing that I don’t have to hide them; they just take on new meanings which are also acceptable to me.

I would like to disclose my past to some of my new friends, but the field in which I’m studying is really small (so my present classmates will be my future colleagues) and information like this gets around very fast. I never thought I’d be able to stay stealth for so long –I figured someone would see my student ID or find out through mutual acquaintances– so I didn’t think I’d even have this choice. I’m taking my time with this decision because it will have long-lasting consequences; though being open about my past would be rewarding for many reasons, disclosures can’t be undone.

Edited to add: a few months after writing this (11/11/11) I disclosed to one classmate whom I’d become very close with and who I trust completely. I’m glad I did it. We ended up becoming even closer friends — in fact, he came out to me as queer right after my disclosure!

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