My fiancé is a stealth transgender guy, meaning he does not share his past gender status with people he meets. He passes as a guy 24/7 and nobody he has met since his transition over ten years ago knows of his background.
Except me! And a few keys friends and my closest relatives that I disclosed to before really understanding the meaning of stealth. Due to a miscommunication between us, I have not, however, told my parents yet.
As our wedding date quickly approaches, my anxiety grows that on that date, due to a mix of alcohol and a mingling of people from both of our long pasts, someone will slip and my family will find out he is FTM (Female-to-Male). This is not the way I want my parents to find out. It’s also not the way I want to spend my wedding day, mired in worry.
Darling Fiancé is hesitant to share his status with my parents because we have thus far received great emotional support from them that he fears will disappear once they learn about his medical history. This has happened to him in the past, and while my parents are quite liberal and intelligent people, this is a big deal that will probably shock them, at least initially.
I have also seen how people’s interest changes once they learn he is transgender, in titillating and honestly, humiliating ways. And I want to avoid that whenever possible. (This is a big part of his reason for being stealth, and I respect that.)
So what should I do? How can we compromise so I share the bare minimum of information that will help them understand his medical status, before the wedding date, so I’m not a big ball of nerves? While still respecting his autonomy and desire for control of what information is shared about his body parts?
—Quickly Understanding Everything involvEs Respect
First off, let me just say that this is super complicated. I totally wish I could say that your partner’s gender history is nobody’s business, case closed. But of course it’s not that simple. You’re juggling a lot of different people’s trust at the same time, and the number of people who will be at your wedding who are aware of your fiancé’s medical status means that your worries that someone will say something are not unfounded. If this information comes to light, it could very well ruin for both of you a day you’ve worked so hard to fill with joy. Plus, an accidental slip like that could cause a pretty serious rift with your parents—not because of their support of trans issues, but because they may feel lied to or otherwise betrayed themselves. Suffice it to say: I hear you when you say that this tension isn’t something you want to have as part of your wedding.
So what can you do?
It seems you want, very badly, to tell your parents everything and clear the air, but that accidentally outing your partner to relatives in the past has set a bad precedent (not to mention goes directly against his wishes to remain stealth). From what you’ve said, you really respect your parents, and—this is just a guess—you assume that after a bit of culture shock, they’ll go back to being the badass, supportive parents you, and your fiancé, know and love. Of course, you never know how someone is going to react to anything, but it seems to me, you expect them to (ultimately) be okay with this news.
I’m assuming you’ve already told your fiancé the full extent of your feelings regarding keeping this important information from your parents. If you haven’t, now is the time. This is about more than just your wedding; it’s about the long game. Have you discussed how long can you truly expect to keep this a secret (especially since some family members know)? Or what will happen when your parents ask about your plans for children, or, heck, just want to see some childhood photos of your partner? You’re going to have to put a lot of work and effort into protecting the experience of your parents and even still, there’s no guarantee they won’t find out from someone else. It’s for you and your fiancé to decide how that balances out against his (highly understandable) need for privacy. And you both have to be ready for the possible worst scenario: your parents find out by accident, and they are hurt you didn’t trust them enough to tell them and went out of your way to keep it from them. While yes, true, it’s totally not information they need to know, I’m just going to go out on a limb and say: they want to be there for you. If you don’t lose them on trans issue, you might lose them on the trust issue. Ultimately there is no right objective answer here. The two of you need to figure out if there’s a middle ground that respects both your need to be honest with your parents, and your fiancé’s need for discretion.
If a compromise can’t be reached before the wedding (this might be a longer conversation than you realize) you have some serious work ahead of you. At first I was stumped about how to even tackle this logistically: partially, because this a sticky situation full of “what if” and partially, because as non-FTM person who’s never had a wedding, I didn’t want to make assumptions about what’s possible.
To that end, I figured a trans person might have a bit more insight having, perhaps, faced a similar situation. So, my first suggested plan of action comes from a fabulous (very out) FTM trans friend. He suggested you and your fiancé co-write an email to everyone attending who already knows that he is trans, and explain the delicacy of the situation in full. Ask them to not share stories of the past that might accidentally out your fiancé. Basically, give them a heads up about what’s going on so they can be more mindful, and perhaps even cover for one another. In an ideal world, this is all that’s necessary. However this isn’t foolproof, because alcohol mixed with people who are a little less familiar with trans issues could still result in outing.
Option two is to find another family member to help (perhaps one who already knows). Nobody wants to spend their whole wedding holding their breath, and waiting for the other shoe to drop. Having one person who knows the whole story and is on your side in the inner family circle feels very much like a spy movie tactic, but also, practical. They can help laugh off or distract if something slips nearby. They can divert questions. But again, this plan is subject to human failing (and alcohol), and is putting a great deal of responsibility in another’s hands.
I can’t tell you what to do, QUEER, but I can say that, ultimately, you’re going to have to figure out a compromise that involves asking somebody to step up: either friends, relatives, your parents, or your fiancé. But that just takes care of the wedding. Your fiancé is joining your family, and you are partners, so this decision goes way beyond just a one-day celebration. How long can you keep a secret? Forever? There’s a lot of work ahead, no matter what you choose.
APW, tell us: do you have any private histories you didn’t want shared at your wedding? What secrets have you kept from your immediate family? How did you do it?
If you would like to ask APW a question please don’t be shy! You can email: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!