Disclosure means revealing to someone that you are transgender. At some point in a transgender youth’s transition, they and their parents must decide how many people at school, if any, should know that they are transgender. This is a difficult decision for many families, and can require the family to move to a different town or state if their child does not want anyone to know their history as a different gender. There are risks and benefits whether you choose to tell everyone you are transgender, tell just a few people, or none at all. This decision should be made only after you have weighed all of your choices, so we will talk about them right now.
Stealth is when you don't tell anyone about your biological sex or anything about your transgender status. Deciding to be stealth or not is a personal decision and is different for everyone. This is a great topic to discuss with your family and your counselor if you have one.
“Being stealth is sometimes really hard because sometimes I’m not always being 100 percent truthful with my friends. Being stealth is also really good because it feels like I’m not really trans, like I have friends and they don’t know, and it feels like when I’m with them, I’m not trans, but when I’m not with them I am trans.”
- a transgender youth who has been stealth for 1 year
“Being stealth makes me feel like there is nothing wrong with me. I just feel like one of my biological guy friends and don’t worry about it like I did when I was younger. I think it would be terrible if my friends knew because I am very self-conscious and absolutely hate when my friend or other people talk behind my back or even at all. None of my friends know that I am trans and they treat me the same as any other boy. I hope they never will know, but if they found out, I would be strong and truthful and say, “Yeah, I am trans. You got a problem with that?”
- a transgender youth who has been stealth for 5 years
“I wasn’t sure about being stealth at first, because I wanted to know if my real friends would accept me as who I am but then when I go to school and they don’t know, I can just be a guy. I would be kind of relieved if people found out because people that would like me, are cool, so they won’t say anything mean, but most of my friends would still be my friend even if they found out.”
- a transgender youth who has been stealth for 3 years
You might want to tell some of your close friends that you are transgender, but keep it a secret from most of your school. This is sometimes called being “semi-stealth”. Some transgender youth like this because it means they don’t have to keep secrets from the people they trust. However, it can be risky because even friends can betray you and tell people that you don’t want to know. It only takes one friend to out you to your entire school.
You can be more open to people at school about your transgender history. You can even advocate for yourself by joining your school’s Gay Straight Trans Alliance (GSTA) or by educating your classmates about transgender youth. A lot of transgender youth like being out, it means they can be more honest with their friends, but many youth who are out wonder if people would treat them better if they were stealth.
“I think it would be very hard to be stealth. Almost everyone in my school is accepting, kids and teachers. I like having people know because it helps other people too. I have had people come up to me and hug me and saying things like, “You’re so brave.”
- a transgender youth who is not stealth
"Not being stealth, for me, is a big burden off my back. When I was stealth I felt like I had to keep a big secret that for me didn't feel like it should be a secret. I also felt like I didn't know if my friends would accept me for what I was. Now I know for sure that my friends accept me even though I'm trans."
- a transgender youth who was stealth but is now out
If you are an older teen or ready to start dating, we suggest you always tell your date about being trans in a public space, like a coffee shop, so you can discuss it, and if they become unpleasant or angry then you're in a safe place. You might think a person is open minded and cool but they might not be. A new date is someone you are just getting to know. You can also discuss it online or through the phone.