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I have a layer in GIMP, but I can only see it when I hide all others. They are transparent backgrounds, something as simple as stroke on a selection. I added alpha channels.

Here's both layers shown:
Both layer's visible, transparent area mask the one on top

Here's when I hide it. I want a purple outline inside a green border:
transparency masks what's below it

I'm running this on opensuse leap, I think. That or tumbleweed.

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In your screenshot, the layer is in "Multiply" mode (selector at top of Layers list, which is hardly visible given your color scheme). In most modes (except "Normal") the layer is only perceptible by the effect it has on the non-transparent pixels of the image it is composed with (ie, the layers below it, in most cases)[*]. So just change your layer(s) to "Normal" mode. You see it when you hide the rest because when there is nothing to blend in the blend mode is "Normal"

[*] To put it in more precise terms: if you have a pixel L from the layer with a blend mode B over a pixel S from the layer stack below:

  • Gimp removes the alpha from the pixel S
  • Gimp computes the blending B of pixel L over pixel S
  • Gimp applies back the alpha of pixel S to the result

So transparent layers at the bottom remain transparent

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