Question Fourteen: When should trans people disclose?
April 12, 2013 § 5 Comments
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.