Question Fourteen: When should trans people disclose?

April 12, 2013 § 5 Comments

A particularly serious question today – in light of recent legal cases in the UK, I’d urge everyone to read Christine Burns’ fantastic article on the issue. Panel bios here.



Question Fourteen

When should trans* people disclose? When they sleep with someone, if they take part in BDSM play, on a first date? I think sleeping with someone who didn’t tell me would really disturb me.



Naith: Whenever the hell they like. Never, if they don’t want to. I would usually disclose before sleeping with someone, since my face doesn’t exactly match what people might be expecting in my pants. But people have many reasons for not disclosing, and they are all valid. Someone’s private medical history isn’t the business of casual hook up. I think the thing to ask yourself is why would it disturb you to sleep with someone without knowing? Is there something inherently disturbing about sleeping with a trans person? What it is about their gender history that’s different from any other aspect of their personal life that makes you feel like it’s something you need to know?



Roz: I think that’s their decision – I tend to make sure people know if it looks like we might end up in bed, and assume they know already up to that point.



Maeve: In light of the really disturbing case of Chris Wilson, who has now been placed on the sex offenders register for not disclosing their trans status, I’ll start by saying that this is absolutely up to the individuals involved, and should definitely not be a legal matter. That being said, I’ll admit that I have heard about people having sex without disclosing their trans status, and have been somewhat taken aback by it. One particular story did disturb me, and I’ve spent a while trying to pinpoint what in particular troubled me. I think I pinned it down to toys/aids being used during sex, without the ignorant party’s knowledge. In other cases, where I’ve heard about casual sex, and where the ignorant party’s experience was identical to how it would have been if the trans person had in fact been cis, I don’t really see it as much of an issue.

I would never make such a sweeping statement as “all trans people should disclose their status at x time”, however, I am uncomfortable personally with the idea of being intimate with someone without knowing what to expect of their body. And I will add that in my experience, there was pure joy and wonder at mutual exploration of exciting new bodies (as I guess there is for any new partner who you’re enthusiastic about being naked with!).



Natacha: This is a question which is largely up to the individual and in different circumstances. If you enjoyed a relationship with someone, including sex but did not know they were trans, would any of that be changed if you later found out that they were trans? Why should trans people always have to disclose anything? Why shouldn’t cisgender people have to disclose that they are cisgender? Or that they have a criminal record or that they are a Tory, a vegetarian, a bloodsports enthusiast, older or younger than they look, an illegal immigrant, a police officer or a spy? If you are the sort of person who would enjoy sex with a trans person and then subsequently decide it was horrible on finding out they were trans, you are the problem not us. Perhaps transphobic bigots should be forced to disclose they are transphobes on the first date.



CN: Why would it disturb you to sleep with someone you assumed to be cis but who turned out to be trans? I think that’s the real question to be answered here. Personally, I don’t like being intimate with people I don’t know well – but, still, there are things you learn about each other gradually, over time. I think I would be upset at the thought that someone didn’t trust me enough to tell me – but then would have to realise that it’s not all about me, and that if someone has had bad reactions from the world at large then it’s up to me to prove that I’m trustworthy. I don’t think there’s any ‘should’ about it – we get to know people in stages, and aren’t first dates usually about being as witty and sexy as possible over drinks? Frankly, I’ve had too many experiences of cis people pretending to be cool about me being trans until they’ve gotten what they wanted – and then, suddenly, not being able to cope – that’s a pretty common experience for trans people. If cis people could disclose their bigotry from the start that would be grand.



§ 5 Responses to Question Fourteen: When should trans people disclose?

  • My own thoughts on this are by necessity skewed by my viewing things as a grey-A asexual. My default response to this issue of sex is “no thanks”, so the contents of someone’s pants is irrelevant to me.

    However, sometimes I do draw close enough to someone that sex does become a vague possibility, in the context of a longterm relationship. At that point then yes, I’d expect a partner to have disclosed they’re trans, because the entire relationship would have reached a certain level of intimacy and close trust as a whole. Failing to disclose trans at that point would be on a par with not having mentioned having a child and/or being married after several months/years of a relationship; rather than being trans being an issue, it would simply be an indication of far greater trust issues in general.

    What is actually in someone’s pants is not the issue; the fact that they didn’t trust me enough to confide in me before we got to that point – when it takes a hell of a lot of trust and emotional involvement for me to be willing to reach that point – is the issue.

  • pasupatidasi says:

    as the mother of a transgender girl, age 10, i have wondered what sort of advice i might give her on this subject.

    altho my think was that it wasn’t anyone’s business what one’s medical history or distant past might hold, i wondered if i were being cis-centric in my thinking.

    it hasn’t mattered to me what someone’s history is. i would never require such disclosure. but the couple of times a transgender woman wanted to ‘hook up’ with me they right away told me…
    i, being bi-sexual, could not have cared less,

    the question and answers series you post is awesome… i lurk and learn!

  • Ashe says:

    I’d feel vulnerable NOT disclosing if I was perceived as my gender [not sex] because I am self-conscious, but this doesn’t mean disclosing as trans* or any other label. It would be as if I would be in a relationship with a [breast] cancer survivor and ask if she still has any breast tissue or nipples. It doesn’t matter, aside from making sure that both parties are comfortable. Discussions need to be had REGARDLESS of identity/orientation, especially if there’s some self-consciousness or feelings of shortcomings [such as in my case], but this does not mean specifically coming out as trans*. The label says almost nothing about the person, their identity, or their orientation, and should only disclosed if necessary, or if the individual in question feels the desire to share such information.

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