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The “Ethical Imperative” Of Disclosure, or: How To Believe Your Victim Owes You An Opportunity For Abuse

Another sad and tired cliché of the trans discourse. Another offensive question that cis people consistently ask us so as to assert their privilege. Another way they seize control of the discourse to subtly remind us who’s boss. Something I’ve been skirting the edges of for quite a while but haven’t yet dealt with directly.

Ahhh, “It’s Unethical To Not Disclose”, at last we meet. This battle has long been our destiny.

*activates lightsaber- FWOOOMSHzzzz-*

For those who aren’t clear, the ethics-of-disclosure thing is the argument that a trans woman (and yeah, it’s pretty much always framed as a trans woman because women, under normative sexual dynamics, are regarded as the object of pursuit and men the pursuers and sexual agents) is ethically obliged to inform a potential partner of her trans status (or “true gender”, as the conversation is often framed) prior to sexual intimacy, and that to do otherwise is deceitful and immoral, perhaps “deserving of punishment”.

This argument is so compelling to cisgender sensibilities that it is not only used as a means of informally justifying both hypothetical and actual violence, hatred or abuse against trans women, but has even successfully been used as a legal defense for murder.

But more than being used as a justification for the (very real) violence inflicted upon trans women under comparable circumstances, it is one of the primary grounds on which cis-supremacy is enacted. Even those cis people who would be supportive of trans rights, and opposed to overt cissexism, in most circumstances will come down on the side of agreeing with the notion that a trans person does indeed “owe” her partner to be “honest” about her sex (as though presenting herself as a woman was dishonest?!)… or at best will find themselves on the fence about the issue. Many feminists have even gone so far as to state trans lesbians are committing “rape by deception” if they do not disclose their trans status to female partners.

But what is the most powerful and subtle aspect of this discussion is how it frames cisgender identity, experience and perspective as not only supremely and infallibly normative, but also as the yardstick by which ethics and morality themselves are determined. It extends cis privilege into the concepts of “right” and “wrong” itself, determining morality primarily by how it relates to a cis person’s experience of a conflict, cis perceptions of identity, cis perceptions of “truth” and “falsehood”, cis perceptions of what are the salient issues in identity and sexual interaction, etc. If these are the laws of morality, then God is definitely a heterosexual cisgender man.

I don’t buy it. We don’t owe anyone our histories or gender assignments.

The concept is typically framed with a hypothetical. An attractive straight trans woman is read as a cis female by an interested straight cis man. He approaches her, they flirt for a while, eventually they end up in bed together. He’s attracted to her, she’s attracted to him, they consent to sex. Afterwards, she discloses that she is a trans woman. He freaks out and is angry. He was “deceived”, and it was “unethical”, because if he’d known she was trans, he would not have consented to sex, and she likely waited until after sex to disclose because she knew of that risk.

But let’s look at this carefully…

A lot of it hinges on the idea that the man would not have slept with her if he knew she was trans. A lot of the justifications that are made for this are things like “I’m sorry, it’s nothing personal, but I just find trans people kind of icky” or “It’s just my sexual orientation. I’m not attracted to trans women. I can’t help that. Are you going to blame me for my sexual orientation?” or whatever. This is utterly disingenuous, because the hypothetical is entirely hinged on the idea of him being attracted to her and consenting.

I’ve said it at least three times over the last four months, but really, it bears repeating: if you are attracted to a woman one moment, and repulsed by her the next, when all that has changed is her informing you of an invisible aspect of herself that does not affect you in any way and that you would not have ever been aware of if she hadn’t told you, then the problem is with your perceptions, not her body. It’s not trans women you aren’t attracted to (you clearly are), it’s women you know are trans. Therefore it’s the idea of transsexuality that creeps you out. It’s a conceptual issue, and based on socio-cultural messages, not on anything related to your actual sexuality (which was more than happy to fuck her when this concept hadn’t entered into things).

You’d have the exact same reaction of repulsion and anger if a cis woman told you she was trans after having sex with you. So if you can swap out a cis woman for a trans woman in this equation with the same results, THAT’S not the important, consistent variable. You are.

It’s in your head.

Now… why is it her obligation to tell you, and not your obligation to ask? Here we encounter several layers of cisnormativity and privilege. There is, for instance, how you’re walking around simply assuming that everyone ever is cisgender. Then furthermore expecting us to offer deference to that problematic, selfish assumption, and take it on as somehow our responsibility to deal with the fact that you forgot we exist and never thought about how to negotiate a world where we do. I’m sorry, but if the realization that some women are trans is something so far out of your mind that you can’t even be bothered to take into consideration and be responsible for your own feelings about that, we’re not going to hold your hand and take special care to remind you of this.

Then we have the idea that although it’s your hang-up that is generating the potential conflict, we have to predict that possibility, account for it, and take it on as our own ethical responsibility. This is unbelievably privileged and selfish. If the issue of a partner’s gender status is important to you, and you consider it a potential deal-breaker, then like all potential deal-breakers, it’s your responsibility to both of us to ask beforehand. After all, my being trans is not something that is of some huge concern for me in terms of pursuing our relationship, so why should I have to be the one to bring it up? If smoking is a deal-breaker, you ask potential partners if they smoke (or you smell it on them) or make it overt that that’s a deal-breaker and you’re not interested in smokers. If you don’t make that clear, it’s not a smokers fault that they dated you. If someone having once been a stripper is a deal-breaker for you, it’s your job to ask. If someone having a promiscuous sexual history is a deal-breaker for you, it’s your job to ask. If you’re not okay with dating Jewish women, it’s your job to ask.

It is NOT an ethical imperative for smokers, ex-strippers, people who’ve had lots of sex partners, or Jewish women to ASSUME that you have a big problem with cigarettes, or have a bunch of hang-ups about “sluts”, or are a neo-nazi. It may be a COURTESY for a smoker to let a partner know before making out, sure, but she doesn’t deserve to be punished if she doesn’t. And yeah, an ex-stripper or someone whose had a lot of partners may want to eventually let their partner know about that side of themselves once they become emotionally intimate and start trusting one another with personal information, but it isn’t necessary for a hook-up.

And why didn’t you inform us you were a transphobe, huh? Isn’t it your ethical responsibility to disclose to a potential partner that you have majour hang-ups about transgenderism prior to hooking up? After all, if I’d known you were a transphobe I wouldn’t have consented to sleeping with you! It’s rape by deception! :p

Now, some cis people who haven’t quite gotten the picture here may bring up things like HIV, being married or bisexuality or whatever. In the case of HIV, yes, absolutely, you do have an ethical obligation to inform your partner. But that’s because it has a direct and real risk for the other partner, and not informing them is to put them in jeopardy. It is a horrible, awful, incredibly shitty thing to do to someone, putting them at risk like that just for the sake of a hook-up. But transsexuality is not contagious. It won’t hurt you. It doesn’t really affect you at all. In the case of marriage? Yes, I’d say again that’s a situation where you do indeed owe it to someone to be honest and upfront, because that is again putting them at risk, and entangling them in a complex, emotionally harmful and even potentially dangerous situation, and also pulls them unknowingly into a situation that is potentially hurting a third party (though still not nearly as much of a shitty thing to do as sleeping with  someone without telling them you’re HIV positive). Being trans does not directly involve casual partners in anything that complicated or emotionally fraught, and doesn’t involve hurting a third party. But bisexuality? No. They don’t need to tell you that. That’s another thing that they’re perfectly entitled to keep to themselves until you’ve reached a trusting point in your relationship and are becoming more emotionally intimate.

Now, emotional intimacy is a different matter. When a long-term relationship is placed on the table, yeah, it behooves partners to begin opening up, trusting each other with the intimate details of themselves and their history, and things that may be of consequence down the road. This is the point at which it starts becoming the right thing to do for a trans person to tell you her status (since it involves and affects you in terms of things like the potential for marriage, children, potential social stigma, etc.), but it’s still not any more a moral imperative for her to tell you that, she still has the right to keep it to herself (or simply say “I’m infertile” or something and leave it that) if she chooses, and if it’s really super-duper important to you, you can always ask. If, for instance, having children someday is important to you, make that clear. It’s only if you ask and she lies that she has crossed the threshold into deceit.

But for hook-ups? Dating? No. If it’s important to you, it’s your job to deal with that, not going around applying your cissexist assumptions and standards to everything, and not go boo-hooing when your precious cisnormativity comes crashing to pieces around you.

It is not deceit for a trans woman to present as a woman, because (surprise!) trans women are women. Dishonesty is when we present ourselves as men… which does of course happen, and many hearts have been broken because of it. But this is due to things like denial, coercive gender assignment, the intense social pressures to remain closeted or delay transition, etc. It’s what we often need to do to survive. But yeah… a trans woman presenting as female is completely honest. And if you gender her female, and are attracted to her as a woman, and consent to sexual intimacy with her, nothing unethical or deceitful has occurred. Two adults who were attracted to one another had harmless consensual sexual intercourse. End of story.

Another principle dimension of privilege here is the assumed primacy of the cis person’s feelings. The entire situation is interpreted in terms of how the cis person is affected. The discomfort he has with the “deceit” outweighs how she is affected (or hurt… often literally) by his reaction. It is considered unethical for her not to have told him earlier (even though, if this were a one-off thing, the “harm” originates from her having told him at all and if she hadn’t offered him the respect of disclosing he would have gone on his happy, merry way), but the relative morality of him shaming her, treating her body as revolting, her identity as invalid and dishonest and a “lie”, her identified gender as illegitimate in comparison to her assigned sex, and so on is given no consideration at all, even though the relative harm being dealt is significantly greater and significantly more accountability rests on his shoulders for this harm than the dubious “harm” that she can’t even definitively be said to have “caused” simply by consenting to sex. And further than that, his wounded ego and threatened masculinity and sexual security is given so much privilege in how this scenario is interpreted that this is used even as justification for him inflicting “punishment” upon her, up to and including physical violence or even murder.

That is how deep cis privilege runs. That is how much more important a cis person is considered, and that is the degree to which a trans woman is barely considered human. It is the same brand of “justice” of a rapist and his victim being made to marry and demonstrates just as profound an inequality in who we see as counting in our interpretations of morality.

What else is almost never given consideration here is why we don’t disclose. The truth is not that we try to pass ourselves off as cis women just because we get a kick out of that. It’s because we pretty much have to; in order to be accepted as women at all, in order to be treated as valid, in order to be offered basic respect and dignity and human rights, in order to go to the bathroom, in order to not be treated as jokes or freaks or pariahs, in order to avoid bigotry, in order to be safe, in order to avoid violence, in order to not be instantly discounted (or fetishized) for what we are before anyone bothers trying to understand us as who we are, in order to simply provide ourselves a chance at simple love and intimacy, a chance to have it be simple before it becomes complicated by our gender and the cultural baggage surrounding it …including the potential that you’ll hate us for it.

Don’t blame us for “deceiving” you by not disclosing. Blame the conditions that made it impossible for us to feel safe doing so. Including the way this very question is treated. Including the consequences you dish out or threaten. Every time a trans woman is “punished” (or threatened with punishment) for the “transgression” of non-disclosure, you reinforce the conditions that led to that non-disclosure.

And don’t we deserve a chance at love and sex and intimacy? Isn’t that a basic human right? Don’t we deserve giving people a chance to get to know us as a human being before discounting us as a freak, a “shim”, a “shemale”, a “thing”? Can you blame us for just trying to give you enough time to realize we’re human and potentially wonderful partners with whom a rewarding sexual or romantic relationship could be pursued before we provide you an easy excuse for your prejudices to decide we aren’t?

And why do we owe you the opportunity to hurt us? We’re aware of the statistics. We know what often happens to girls like us, especially when intimacy is involved. How the fuck is it our job to help our oppressors inflict our oppression upon us? How is it our responsibility to enable and encourage our abusers, by alerting them to why they should hurt us? Why should we voluntarily pin the equivalent of a yellow star to our coats if we needn’t do so?

Sometimes it seems like the whole question, the whole construct, is simply a way to believe that we not only deserve our victimization, but that it is the right thing to do, that it is only natural to want to hurt us if we don’t voluntarily submit to that victimization. Another catch-22. Disclose, and be victimized for being trans. Don’t disclose, and be victimized later for being trans and a “liar”.

The construct is so audacious in its scope, so entrenched in its underlying assumptions, and so backed by the mentalities of an enormously vast and enormously privileged majority, that it has succeeded in the most perfect and deeply believed act of victim-blaming still functioning flawlessly and virtually unquestioned in our culture.

At this point, we owe you fuck all. You owe us an apology, and returns on thousands of stolen lives.

And you damn well owe it to us to not bring up this horrible question.

 

 

Comments

  1. Anders says

    You realize that if you continue writing posts like this, you won’t get any comments except “I agree.”, don’t you? I mean, all that can be said has been said.

    I agree.

  2. Sas says

    Thank you so much for this. Every bit is gold.

    In particular, I’ve argued the point before, but the thought of using a cis woman who says she’s trans as a counter-example never occured to me, probably because it’s so unthinkable to me that a cis woman would do that. It so cleanly illustrates the problem though, and I’m definitely keeping it in mind next time someone brings this issue up to me.

    • Megan says

      It’s happened. Back when I was experimenting with kink, I walked out of a presentation at a kink event when the presenter told a hee-larious story about how she went to a bar for anonymous sex and told a guy that she was a “chick with a dick” after she gave him a blowjob in the men’s bathroom. I pretty much spent the rest of the event hiding in my room.

        • Megan says

          Well, according to her story, the guy didn’t really believe her (maybe he was enlightened enough to know that actual trans women don’t go around calling themselves “chicks with dicks”?), and that she told him that she was just yanking his chain about five seconds after she said it anyway. But like Miri says, the possibility of violence probably never even occurred to her.

      • Sas says

        Right, I mean, I didn’t think it was impossible, just that the idea didn’t even occur to me because I couldn’t think of a possible benefit.

        And sorry you had your time at the event ruined like that. It would take a truly clueless idiot to make a joke like that in the first place, much less proudly repeat it to an audience. :P

  3. Aliasalpha says

    I’ve neaver encountered the term shim before (aside from those little metal spacer things), what is it exactly? A mashing together of ‘she’ and ‘him’?

    • Anders says

      Wiktionary gives this:

      From she + him
      1. (informal, often derogatory) a person characterised by both male and female traits, or by ambiguous male-female traits, also called a he-she; transsexual.
      2. (informal, often derogatory) hermaphrodite.

      Oh dear. *waits for explosion*

      • Aliasalpha says

        Ugh, its he/she or him/her, they can’t just combine them in any way their tiny brains see fit! Its not only an abuse of trans people but its also an abuse of language. I’m definitely punching anyone I hear using that one.

        • Anders says

          They conflate trans women with intersex people and your gripe is about subject-object distinction?

          Your devotion to grammar is admirable.

          • Aliasalpha says

            Oh don’t get me wrong, the insult is a classic example of reprehensible bigotry but people getting the easy parts of english wong has always been something that shits me, I think its why my high school english teacher liked me

          • Aliasalpha says

            And how bloody typical is it that I miss a typo when talking about getting english wrong?

  4. says

    I think there are two issues at work here: I take it you think deceiving someone to obtain consent is unethical, but them making an assumption of their own volition is on them, not deception on your part.

    So if a trans person were asked if asked if they were trans an said “no” or something that was meant to be interpreted as a “no,” but technically wasn’t, that would be unethical. Also, lying to either hide or make excuses for non-cis anatomy would be unethical.

    To put it in a cis analogy, if you have have sex with someone and they think this means you’re going steady, this isn’t your fault. If you tell them you love them and you want them to move in when you’re really just trying to get in their pants, this is a shitty move.

    • Rasmus says

      I think it’s generally okay to lie if you have reason to think that your life or health is in danger. It is, unfortunately, easy to imagine situations where that would be the case for trans women who have sex with men.

      What if the man has expressed some transphobic sentiments, but the trans woman still wants to have sex with him? I think it would be perfectly okay (although not great or commendable) for the trans woman to lie if he then asked her in a space that he controls, like in his home. The best thing to do would of course be to not have sex with him, but things are often not that simple. People have sex with people they shouldn’t have sex with all the time and we shouldn’t hold trans people to higher standards than cis people.

      • says

        I think that’s really dicey. Lying to protect one’s self is fine, but I think saying it’s OK to lie so someone will consent to sex is a very bad precedent. That’s exactly what the “rape by deception” claim is about. Saying “No deception was involved on my part. I can’t help what you assumed” is one thing. Saying “I had to deceive you or wouldn’t have wanted sex” is another. Keep in mind this isn’t just about cis men and trans women, but all kinds of combinations.

        • regrobson says

          Also, bigots don’t deserve the sex, no matter how hot said bigot is. To argue that some people are so hot that it doesn’t matter what their opinions are is kinda like the thing that we are trying to stop.

        • says

          The mistake you are making here is by framing the question as one of “lying”, when that term cannot be rationally applied to a coercive situation. This is kind of the whole point of Natalie’s article.

          • says

            I don’t think so. Natalie specifically deals with the case where no one asks if you are trans and you don’t claim not to be. Falsely claiming not to be trans under perceived coercion would be a different situation and require different justifications.

            For instance, let’s say a pre-op trans lesbian picks up a butch lesbian in a bar, then goes back to her place. Said butch tries to remove her underwear. Is it okay to for her to claim to have a yeast infection, so her underwear has to stay on because it’s gross based on a feeling the butch would not be OK with her penis, then have sex with her anyway? Let’s say the butch lesbian hasn’t said anything particularly transphobic, but fits the general stereotype of an outlaw biker or someone else you might expect to get violent.

          • Rasmus says

            It would be okay if she has a reason to believe that it would be dangerous to disclose that she has a penis.

            The problem with your example is that it’s not really realistic. She’d need more than just panties to hide her penis, so she’s already exposed herself to being detected and in that situation she might as well say it, in fact that would almost certainly be safer for her than to go on and hope her partner doesn’t notice.

          • Rasmus says

            Yes, but there are other senses than sight…

            I don’t know the finer details of lesbian sex practices, but I’d imagine it’s not necessarily out of the question to touch your partner on the outside of her panties even if she’s made it clear they’re going to stay on.

            It doesn’t really have anything to do with what I’m trying to say. All I’m saying is that it’s okay to lie whenever you have good reason to believe that the lie you’re telling is protecting you from violence by the person you’re lying to.

          • Anders says

            I mean, haven’t you seen Ace Ventura: Pet Detective? That’s as realistic a portrait of a trans woman you’ll ever get from a Jim Carrey movie.

            If you haven’t, do yourself a favor and stay away from it.

          • Rasmus says

            Ohhh. Silly me. First law of the universe… There’s nothing that can’t be accomplished with sufficient amounts of tape. :)

            Fair point.

            I don’t know enough about butch lesbian bikers to say if the trans woman is in a dangerous situation or not, but if she is I think she has a right to lie if she thinks that the lie would protect her.

        • says

          The thing is, what is the nature of the “deception” here? Yes, the hypothetical trans woman is denying that she is trans, but it’s not that simple. If someone where to pose the question “are you trans?” (or whatever), in the context of it being a deal breaker (for sex, for a date, or what have you), then we have to consider what is really being asked here. Which is, “are you a man?” Let’s be quite clear, that is what the objections of cis people in this context hinge on, it is the subtext when they are said to have been deceived: deceived into having sex with a man. In this context, to answer “yes” would not be an honest answer, and would actually be an attempt (conscious or not, it doesn’t matter) on the part of the cis person to coerce this woman into “admitting” to the falsehood of her gender, that she is in fact a man. Which, in itself would be a lie.

          This is at the heart of Natalie’s post: trans women are women. No cis woman needs to disclose parts of her history that effect no one but herself to hook up, or to go on a date, nor would any reasonable person honestly think they’d be obligated to do so, even if directly asked. Rather than consider the motivation to deny her trans status, consider the motivation of the one posing the question: why does this matter at all?

          • says

            The “rape by deception” thing made me think of this case. A Palestinian man claimed to be Jewish in order to have sex with a Jewish woman. She wouldn’t have consented if she knew he was an Arab. Her refusal would have based on racism, but that doesn’t make his behavior OK. I’m not saying the rape prosecution was justified, but this was definitely unethical behavior on his part.

            I don’t think the motivation for asking matters. It’s not up to us to decide whether other people have good reasons to consenting to or refusing sex and deceive them if their reasons aren’t good enough.

          • says

            But we don’t go around saying “I’m a cis woman!”. We simply present ourselves as women.

            Like, if this man hadn’t SAID he was Jewish, she had simply made an UNSPOKEN ASSUMPTION that he was Jewish, and didn’t bother to ask, and didn’t clarify she was unwilling to sleep with an Arab, THEN would it have been deception? To get all uppity because he didn’t wear his ethnicity on his sleave? FFS. Because that’s the comparable scenario.

          • Miri says

            Your counter example is not comparing like with like. An Arab man is an Arab man, and pretending to be of a different ethnicity to obtain sex is definitely deception. But a trans woman is a woman, she is not pretending to be anything. She is not being deceptive by claiming womanhood. The motivation for asking is important because of this distinction. The racist would not deny that the Arab man it’s Arab on discovering that he is Arab, but the transphobe would deny that the woman it’s a woman on discovering that she is trans.

          • says

            I disagree. An Arab man is just a man. Jew and Arab aren’t things some people get worked up about, but they don’t have any sort of ethical status.

            There seems to some confusion as to what I’m arguing. I’ll lay it out. It is OK for a trans woman to say she’s a woman and get sexual consent predicated on this. She is a woman, so this isn’t deceptive. It is not okay for a trans woman to get someone to consent to sex by claiming to be a cis woman by either answering “no” when asked if she is trans. It is also not okay for a pre-op trans woman to claim to have a vagina and make excuses as to why you aren’t allowed to see it in order to get someone to consent to sex. These are dishonest. Whether it’s valid for your partner to care is immaterial.

          • says

            Wait… so it’s not okay for people to have hang-ups about ethnicity, but it IS okay for people to have hang-ups about transness? Transphobia is inherently more “ethical” and “understandable” than racism???

            Nobody is really saying it’s “okay” for a trans woman to definitively present herself as cis. But given the cultural conditions, she has a right to protect her safety.

          • says

            Wait… so it’s not okay for people to have hang-ups about ethnicity, but it IS okay for people to have hang-ups about transness? Transphobia is inherently more “ethical” and “understandable” than racism???

            I’m saying it doesn’t matter. Whether it’s understandable is beside the point. People have the right to refuse sex partners for whatever reason they wish.

            Nobody is really saying it’s “okay” for a trans woman to definitively present herself as cis. But given the cultural conditions, she has a right to protect her safety.

            You may not be saying that, but Rasmus seems to be and possibly also Miri and Gemma.

          • Anders says

            So it depends on context, then. If she’s asked while in his house (risk for physical assault high) I agree that it’s definitely ok to lie. Hell, she has the right to brain him with a baseball bat if he tries anything in that situation. Over the phone? Maybe not.

          • Rasmus says

            I’m actually saying that I think it’s permissible for anyone (cis, trans, you name it) to tell almost any lie in any situation where they have good reason to believe that the person they’re lying to could become violent if they tell the truth.

            If you want people to be honest about who they are you’re going to have to take care to always express yourself respectfully whenever you’re talking about a group of people.

          • says

            An Arab man is just a man. Jew and Arab aren’t things some people get worked up about, but they don’t have any sort of ethical status.

            An trans woman is just a woman. Cis and trans aren’t things some people get worked up about, but they don’t have any sort of ethical status.
            See how that works?

            You’re implying that there is some special distinction involved here. When someone asks if you are trans, there is often a disconnect between the truth of, on the one hand, the trans person, and the cis person on the other. My truth is that trans is just one of many adjectives that can describe me, but it’s not something so fundamental that it always bears mentioning: unlike being a woman, which is a fundamental part of who I am. The cis-normative “truth” about being trans is very different. It becomes the core of who I am, it overrides my gender, so that I am not truly female, I am at best “transfemale” or, at worst, simply a man, and therefore not the target of a gynephilic person’s sexuality. By answering “yes” to this question, what am I saying? For me, I would be saying next to nothing, disclosing a piece of personal trivia, but for the recipient, my answer could mean something wholly different from my understanding. Is this the truth? If I answer “yes”, am I not lying, because given that meaning, it certainly feels like I would be.

            I never suggested that I would claim to be cis, or that people should go about doing this. I know that I’m not, and I never will be. But, in the same way, I know that I am not a man, nor will I ever be, or have ever been. This is why, to me, the motivation behind the question is so important. If it is simply a case of wanting to have everything open, and I’m assured that the relationship is safe and that the recipient will not make assumptions about me based on my answer, then there’s no problem. If the purpose is to be able to define me as something other than my own identity, and then to use this new definition as a justification for vilification and violence, then there very much is a problem, and I see lying as a far lesser evil, and a perfectly acceptable response in this situation.

          • says

            I’m actually saying that I think it’s permissible for anyone (cis, trans, you name it) to tell almost any lie in any situation where they have good reason to believe that the person they’re lying to could become violent if they tell the truth.

            I don’t disagree about this. I don’t get how you get from here to it being okay to have sex anyway. This would seem to go against the idea of informed consent, which is the root of sex-positive feminism.

          • says

            I never suggested that I would claim to be cis, or that people should go about doing this.

            Oh. That’s what I was asking. This was a misunderstanding then. I apologize if I was unclear.

          • Rasmus says

            I don’t disagree about this. I don’t get how you get from here to it being okay to have sex anyway. This would seem to go against the idea of informed consent, which is the root of sex-positive feminism.

            Oh, I get it. I realize that I was vague about the potentially self-serving aspect of it, partially because I don’t find that aspect very realistic. (I could be wrong, of course.) The premise is that the trans person is perceiving a threat.

            Ideally the trans person would answer truthfully and then leave (or have the other person leave). “Yes, I’m trans and I’m leaving now.”

            If that’s not perceived as safe by the trans person then the second best option would be to lie and then leave. “No, I’m not trans and I’m leaving now.”

            If that’s not perceived as safe then the last resort would be to lie and then have sex and then leave. “No, I’m not trans and let’s go on with the sex.”

            I don’t think it’s okay to lie and then have sex if you feel that it would be safe to leave. I think that would be a form of sexual misconduct. But that feels extremely hypothetical. Would anyone ever do that, realistically speaking? Keep in mind that the premise is that the trans person is genuinely too frightened to tell the truth. Would ze be able to enjoy sex right after that?

            Actually, maybe that could happen. I don’t know.

    • says

      no, it doesn’t work like that. there is such a thing as lying by omission. for example, if my boyfriend had a twin whom I couldn’t tell apart from my bf, and he initiated sex but never actually claimed to be my bf, then the resulting sex would still be non-consensual; in that scenario, I didn’t consent to cheating on my boyfriend with his twin, regardless of whether he lied or simply let me assume.

      the point is that the above scenario is going to be rape by deception either way, while sex with a trans woman wouldn’t be either way, because presenting as a woman is not a lie

  5. says

    I think the underlying problem with the whole “you should tell me you’re trans” is a hidden bit of fear of the “trap.” IE, the transgendered woman who presents outwards as being a woman, who lives as a woman, who is a woman – yet has not undergone SRS. It’s the fear that “trans” means “still has a penis.”

    I’m in that kind of boat right now. I’m not going out with anyone because I’m still working on even getting a therapist, let alone anything following that. If I start dating, identifying as female, and find a really sweet person who likes me for who I am – I’m naturally terrified that they’ll hurt me or leave me because I’ve not started transitioning yet.

    What do I disclose? Do I just remain abstinent until I’ve successfully maneuvered the whole landscape of transgenderism? Do I only look for bisexual paterners who don’t mind the fact I’ve got breastforms? Do I say straight out “I’m a woman” and be hurt by people who say “no you’re not?”

    It’s hard…

    • embertine says

      I’ve wondered about the bisexual partners issue as well. I am bi and would be happy to date a trans person if I met the right guy/gal and that was their status. Wouldn’t mind pre-op, post-op or non-op, but I would be scared of them leaving me because they wanted a straight girlfriend (in the case of a trans man) or a gay girlfriend (in the case of a trans woman). You know, like they thought I was only comfortable being with them because I didn’t see them as a “real” [member of identified sex], which wouldn’t be the case.

      Oh, the knots we get ourselves into when trying to navigate the kitten-infested ball of thread known as love!

      • daenyx says

        I’m also bi (and female). I feel… silly for feeling this way, but I really worry about the issue of disclosure with respect to dating women, because I have encountered a significant amount of hostility and/or bi-erasure from the monosexual part of the LGBTQ community. And at the same time, I’m aware of my privilege (and horrified that it is a vector of privilege) that this fear is only of being emotionally hurt, rather than physically attacked.

        @ Katherine – if it helps, I am in the same boat as embertine with regards to who I’ll date, and I have a sizeable handful of acquaintances who also identify as bi- or pansexual and would be similarly unconcerned about your transition status. So that’s… at least a little data, I guess? (The catch is, possibly unfortunately depending on your sexuality, that they’re all women. I’m perpetually discouraged and disgusted by the transphobia I see in otherwise LGBQ-accepting men. YMMV; this is anecdotal, but I see it a LOT.)

        • embertine says

          daenyx, I agree. I have had quite a few gay women tell me that they would never date a bi woman because apparently we’re all feckless cocksluts! Hey, at least I’m not trans, then I’d be a secret rapist too!*

          *not actually my opinion, in case sarcasm doesn’t travel well through the Intertubes

          Sorry for the bi takeover. ;)

        • Dalillama says

          …if it helps, I am in the same boat as embertine with regards to who I’ll date, and I have a sizeable handful of acquaintances who also identify as bi- or pansexual and would be similarly unconcerned about your transition status. So that’s… at least a little data, I guess? (The catch is, possibly unfortunately depending on your sexuality, that they’re all women.

          I can’t speak for all bi cis men, only myself, but I’ll third this from a male perspective.
          @embertine and Miri
          Once again, I can only speak to my own experience, but I’ve dated/hooked up with both cis and trans people of multiple genders, and none of them have ever expressed to me any issues regarding my bisexuality. @Miri particularly, if it helps, for me personally there has never been any confusion in my mind about the gender of a given partner, regardless of their cis/trans status.

      • says

        You know, like they thought I was only comfortable being with them because I didn’t see them as a “real” [member of identified sex]
        Sadly, this concern has crossed my mind in regard to the prospect of being in a relationship with a bisexual person (although, it’s only hypothetical, it may turn out to be a non-issue in a real life situation). This is quite difficult thing, especially since I have heard it said numerous times, the idea that a bisexual person would be a trans person’s “ideal partner” (the assumption being that they would be liked, however they’re seen, which is clearly missing the point). It’s obviously an outgrowth of my own insecurity, but it still concerns me… which in turn concerns me…

    • Aliasalpha says

      Have you considered saying “I’m a woman” and then punching in the face the people who say “No you’re not”? Not only would they be the ones hurt but you’d get the added benefit of some cardio workout from the punching

        • embertine says

          I’m all in favour of getting across the message that this person is an infernal, irredeemable douchenozzle through the medium of interpretive dance.

          But then I think almost anything is better when communicated through the medium of interpretive dance.

          • Anders says

            I live for the day when parliament enacts a rule that says all debates should be conducted via interpretative dance.

        • Josh says

          You could always find a nice larger specimen of homo sapiens who is on your side in this and would do the punching FOR you.

          I’ve made this offer to my transitioning friend after she was threatened rather violently on a subway by a guy who insisted he knew she was “really a man”. I AM a violent person, and frankly I wish someone would say that kind of foul shit in front of me so I could just forget all those anger management classes for a few glorious minutes of righteous beatdown.

          On the dating note, I’m vaguely sad that she’s not polyamorous–so I’m at least one example of a cis male who’s perfectly fine with dating a transgendered woman at any stage of transition. There have got to be more of us out there, right?

  6. embertine says

    *applause* The only circumstance other than childbearing where I can see it would be necessary to bring it up is actually before sex, if you haven’t had the lower surgery. Don’t know if this was what you were referring to, but it seems good sense to disclose this in a public setting before going back to someone’s place where you might be vulnerable to violence if they take it amiss?

    • says

      Whether it’s a good idea and whether it’s an ethical imperative are separate issues, though. For instance, it’s a good idea not to leave your car unlocked with the keys on the seat, but there’s nothing unethical about it.

      • embertine says

        Ah yes, I see what you mean. And either way it would not even slightly excuse a violent reaction on the part of the potential partner.

    • Anders says

      That would seem to be the prudent course, yes. The only ethical imperative in that situation is “If it turns out that a woman you’ve slept with once had a penis you may break off the relationship, but you may not beat her into a pulp. If you feel unable to comply with this, stop dating.”

      • embertine says

        Yeah. “If violence is your solution to something in the relationship that shocks or upsets you, please stop dating so that the rest of us don’t have to deal with you. You ass.”

  7. Vivien says

    Unfortunately, as a lesbian trans woman who has just started transition and doesn’t plan on ever having SRS, non-disclosure isn’t really an option once things get sexual. Although at least I would think I’m not THAT likely to get beaten to a pulp when disclosing.

    Take that along with the fact that lesbian generally have this extremely cissexist “penises disgust me” thing… yeah, grim dating prospects.

    But I guess I could always have a bit more luck with bi or pansexuals.

    • says

      “lesbian generally have this extremely cissexist “penises disgust me” thing… ”

      I felt like that, but from bad experiences with guys; I didn’t know the differences between “penis” and “penis on a cis guy”. Then I learned. I suspect other lesbians can get over that too, if they’re decent people. I mean many lesbians use dildos, right? Maybe I’m seeing simple ignorance/naïveté where there is real active transphobia though.

  8. Sebor says

    Hmmmm, it could be a good thing for cisgendered people to ask potential partners beforehand if they are transphobes.
    I mean, I would not want to have sex with a Nazi, nor with a conservative christian (ok, conservative christians would not want to have sex with me), but a potential partner being a transphobe is kind of a dealbreaker too. So maybe ask beforehand and save yourself some dignity.
    This might be an especially interesting consideration for ciswomen, if you believe that both rape culture and transphobia play out along the axis of male entitlement (or the belief therein), there could be a correlation and a common goal to strive for.
    But considering your own safety comes first, it should ultimately be your call if and when to bring up this question and not some sense of obligation to potential allies.

    • daenyx says

      This might be an especially interesting consideration for ciswomen, if you believe that both rape culture and transphobia play out along the axis of male entitlement (or the belief therein), there could be a correlation and a common goal to strive for.

      I have truly, seriously considered making a physical checklist for shit like that. Because in my repeated, frustrated experience, it DOES play out that way.

      (I’ve also considered giving up on cisgendered, heterosexual white males as potential romantic partners entirely. It’s a LITTLE more drastic than I’m actually likely to go for right now, because I can think of a couple of shining counterexamples, but I’m not terribly far from it.)

      • embertine says

        I’ve also considered giving up on cisgendered, heterosexual white males as potential romantic partners entirely Oh god, I know, right? The crashing sense of entitlement and total obliviousness to their own privilege makes me wonder if we’re even the same species.

        ARGH and now I’m stereotyping. Sorry, cis white straight guys who are reading this and are not at all like that.

        • daenyx says

          Heh. There’s a difference (or I see one, at any rate) between assuming all [insert privileged group here] are going to treat you poorly and being statistically wary that they will. The latter isn’t usually a matter of physical safety for me, but it certainly is for trans* people.

        • Sebor says

          No apology necessary. The statistics speak volumes and your safety should always trump my desire not to be considered a potential rapist or otherwise entitled asshole.
          I realize that the burden of proof lies with me and I have privileged cis white straight guys to thank for it even though or precisely because I am one of them.

          • embertine says

            Well, I’m happy to say I have not got to the stage of thinking all men are potential rapists, although I’ve had a few close calls. It’s great that your reaction to that wariness is not to blame the women for it though. ARGH, listen to me being all pat-on-the-head, I hate how I sound in discussions like this! Still, better to make a fool of myself than not take part at all. At least I’m learning something.

          • jolo5309 says

            Funny, I was just about to post this. After all, far to many of us stereotype you.

            Natalie’s blog has been an eyeopener for me.

          • Sebor says

            @embertime I know you meant well but complimenting me for something that really should be basic human decency shows how fucked up the situation really is. I appreciate your sentiment but please keep in mind that this is something you have every right to demand from everyone.

  9. says

    “It is NOT an ethical imperative for smokers, ex-strippers, people who’ve had lots of sex partners, or Jewish women to ASSUME that you have a big problem with cigarettes, or have a bunch of hang-ups about “sluts”, or are a neo-nazi.”

    There’s just one thing I would add in there – in terms of things like being an ex-stripper (or just a stripper, for that matter), or jewish, or even smoking, for a hookup, sure – it’s not a problem. If you get tested regularly, “lots of sex partners” isn’t so much a problem either, but if you don’t, then you’re exposing your partner to a whole slew of nasty bugs. I generally make it MY responsibility to say, before it gets to the bedroom, “I know I’m not putting you at risk here, is there anything I should know about?”, but if there IS a risk factor that’s not disclosed, there’s a different level of irresponsibility.

    That makes absolutely no difference where the point of this piece is concerned – it is, as always, brilliant, and spot on, but I just found it odd that STD exposure was lumped in with beliefs and lifestyle choices that aren’t communicable.

    • says

      It’s because not disclosing one’s trans status has frequently been compared to non-disclosure of STDs, it’s viewed by some (arseholes, mainly) as just as large a betrayal. As opposed to, you know, not one at all…

  10. Erin W says

    Thank you. For reasons of both comfort (not comfortable with my body in its current configuration) and internalised bullshit I haven’t dated in close to a decade and I really regret it. The former I’m getting fixed in September, but I don’t know what to do with the latter. Thanks for giving me a new way to think about it.

    On a lighter note, what colour is your lightsaber?

  11. says

    Well said!

    If, However the goal is to get those who have not been thinking about these issues thinking about them, I would respectfully suggest removing the “four letter words”. It is hard enough getting the wider community to engage in this issue without triggering them over something as unneeded and “four letter words”.

  12. Brynn says

    Someone around here needs to be the voice of reason about this. Again, Natalie, I love your logic, writing, style, and yet completely disagree with it based on the difference in philosophy of how the world should work, and how it actually does.

    Succinctly:

    1. Can cis people murder you for failure to disclose that you are trans? Yes.

    2. Will they probably get away with it? Yes.

    3. Are the answers to either 1 or 2 likely to change anytime between now and when we’re both too old to enjoy sex anymore? Not really.

    It may not be your duty to reveal being trans in an ethical sense, but from a common sense standpoint you have to. To do otherwise is just playing russian roulette.

    • says

      But then you come up against other problems – you’re STILL disclosing something very personal about yourself to somebody you don’t know very well (in the context of a hookup), and probably in a public place where other people will overhear the conversation. If you’re NOT in a public place, then you’re entirely at their mercy if you’ve misjudged them.

      And again – up until that point, they’ve been attracted to you, and you’re in the position of presenting who you are as a potentially bad thing to somebody you’re attracted to. Basically by virtue of your birth, every time you’re in a situation like that, you have to open yourself up to emotional trauma, physical violence, and whole slew of dangers.

      It reminds me a little bit of the case that you should disclose the race of your parents before hooking up in case the other person discovers that you’re not “pure”, and flips out about it…

    • says

      Brynn, you don’t actually disagree with any of Natalie’s points. The question of prudence is a completely separate question from when or not a moral imperative exists to disclose. Your point of view may bring you temporary safety, but it will not bring you Liberty, and that is what this conversation is about. It’s not about practicality, it’s about demolishing the societal frameworks which force that practicality upon us. I wish you understood this better.

      • Brynn says

        Gemma,

        And you fail to see my point too. Things will not change enough in our lifetimes to make a difference. We can argue about the moral thing to do till we’re blue in the face, with all the Philosophy PhDs we want, and no one in the cis community gives a ****. What Natalie proposes is purely hypothetical, because those three basic assumptions I listed are inviolable. You only need one person in 12 to hopelessly deadlock a jury with a trans-panic defense.

        Congratulations, you can feel as moral as you want, and stand by your well thought out principles steadfastly, but it doesn’t change the fact that the idiot who beat you to death will walk, and you’re dead.

        Is it unjust? Is it unfair? Is it immoral? Absolutely. Can we do anything about it? No. Then find a way to work around the problem. It’s like having an artificial limb. Is it right or is it fair that you get the TSA pat down every time you fly? No. But it’s what you have to do if you want to fly and do it safely.

        • Setar, too lazy to log in on his blackberry says

          Two things that I do not understand:

          1. How do you know that we won’t see any noticeable changes in our lifetime? Last time I checked, clairvoyance is nothing more than pure petty fraud.

          2. How do you expect anything to change if your solution is simply to do nothing? It seems to me more like you are either too lazy to make an effort (in which case you forfeit any claim of being a responsible adult citizen) — or, possibly, that you stand to benefit from the status quo and don’t want to lose privileges (you would probably call them rights) at all if possible (in which case you forfeit any claim of being a decent person).

          • says

            Whoa whoa whoa… kind of crossing the line into hostility there. Please dial that back a bit. And Brynn is absolutely NOT in the privileged-by-status-quo camp here. Not an okay assumption to make.

          • says

            That was uncalled for, Setar, as was your later comment, below.

            Brynn and I are friends, and we have had similar disagreements before, and will continue to have them in the future, because they result from fundamental personality differences in the way we approach our very similar problems.

            Natalie’s blog site is not what we would call “safe space”, being open to the public, and if it were not the fact that certain disclosures have already been implied in the responses to your posts already, I would not now be offering this information, but because it is not a safe space, I am not necessarily going to provide information about other people which they have not explicitly stated is for public consumption.

            When it comes to participating in discussion such as this one, you would do better to tread more carefully.

        • says

          What concerns me, Brynn, is that you seem too easily to discard the usefulness of defining the scope of the problem, to paint such efforts as useless or pointless, wimply because the conclusions that we come too do not reflect current reality. How can we expect to change anything if we cannot articulate what “ought” to be?

          This is exactly the kind of argument that has frustrated me my entire life, and is a perfect example of the differences between what I call “goal-oriented” people and “process-oriented” people, categories which more or less correspond to the Myers-Briggs/Keirsey “Probing v. Judging” personality types.

          If we don’t/can’t define where we want to go, then how can we possibly determine the best way to get there? Your arguments are process-oriented, and we are having a goal-forming discussion. This is not the time and place to care about or account for what cis people think of the ethicality or morality of our equal standing.

          Also, the idea that nothing will significantly change in our lifetimes is not only wildly pessimistic, but flies in the face of the reality of the past 20 years of progress in the equal protection of the rights of trans people. I say “20 years”, because these past 20 years have seen *dramatic changes* in the standing of trans people in our society, and there is no reason to expect that the pace of change is anything but increasing.

          I understand your points quite well, but I would rather, since you clearly *agree* with the bulk of what is being discussed, see you deploy your more process-oriented approach to figuring out how we get there, rather than dismissing our destination out of hand.

    • Anders says

      Well, not if you are reasonably certain you won’t get clocked during sex. Then it’s better to just shut up, have sex and walk away. Or am I missing something?

      Do trans men have similar problems? It’s not like women lack the capacity for violence, and they may be carrying firearms.

      • embertine says

        Plus, not all trans people are straight of course. From what I understand (which may well be very little), trans women who are post-operative are likely to find it easier to pass, even when unclothed, than trans men?

        • says

          No, that’s not really true. A neo-vagina tends to look more like a cis woman’s vagina then a neo-phallus tends to look like a cis man’s penis, but beyond that, trans men often have better chances of being read as cis.

          • says

            A trans friend of mine once mentioned this to me, and he theorized that it’s because people in general tend to be more attuned to and critical of a woman’s appearance than they are of a man’s. Basically because women are so chronically objectified and evaluated for attractiveness, people are more likely to try and find flaws and things that stand out. It makes sense to me, but do you think there’s more to it than that?

          • embertine says

            Yes, that’s what I meant about the SRS but certainly I agree that trans men tend to pass more easily in general. And as someone in the thread stated further up, some people have sex in the dark. ;)

    • daenyx says

      I’m hoping the condescension I’m seeing in your post is incidental – prudence and ethics are a completely separate discussion, and in this case, communicating the ethics of the scenario is a necessary path to changing the state of the prudence debate. (In concrete terms, the danger of disclosure/nondisclosure – since both are dangerous – cannot be changed without communicating the understanding that trans* people are not ethically required to present people with a chance to revile them!)

      Your argument is the equivalent of dismissing a discussion about how women shouldn’t have to take extra steps to prevent their own rapes on the grounds that the reality is that rape culture causes public intoxication to be a risk factor. I don’t drink with people I don’t know/trust because I worry about being assaulted (among other things), but I damned well am going to make some noise about how “she was drunk” isn’t a justification for rape. They’re not mutually exclusive.

    • says

      The choices you make about your own safety have nothing to do with “ethical imperatives”. This article was only about the latter issue. Breaking apart the attitudes that frame ethics themselves in terms of cisnormativity is one of the steps towards eliminating your first and sex conditions, and making it so that we no longer have to fear for our lives and can make this decision on our own. Besides, as I said, them enforcing these conditions of danger and fear is precisely one of the things that leads to people not feeling safe disclosing in the first place.

      In short, safety is an entirely separate issue. This post is about ethics.

      • Anders says

        Here we differ slightly. I would say that it is perfectly ethical, and even ethically commanded in many situations to act to preserve oneself. But that is a side issue.

  13. Icaarus says

    Okay Natalie, after months of reading your blog, I think this is something that I should place my opinion on.

    Firstly – I like feminine girls. If you’re my friend I don’t care whether you are male, female, androgynous, black, white, green, and/or tentacle (hi ho pz). You are my friend. But when it comes to partners, my preference is to vagina’s and soft faces. Okay disclosure out of the way.

    If a one night stand/short fling turns out to be a undisclosed post-op, then why would I care. Two people letting off some steam and all that.

    If, however I am heading down the road to SO’ness with someone, disclosure is a must. This goes in the same pile as, I’ve had an abortion/given a baby to adoption, spent two summers doing sex work, travelled the world as a carney, had serious surgery, watched a friend die… This does not imply that those are things that are wrong/ change who she is. They are just, on their own, really big things that should come up long before there is any kind of need for them to. I have my own list of things that she would need to hear too. so it’s not a one way street.

    So yea, it’s her job to tell me, it’s my job to make her feel safe enough to do so. The basic rules of logic tell me I must succeed first before she can.

    Finally – human beings, all human beings, deserve dignity and safety. You have to earn my respect, as I yours, but no person has to earn the right to not be abused. Abuse is unacceptable. To anyone.

    @Sebor My list of instant disqualifiers No: bigots, racists, sexists, transphobes, homophobes, or biphobes, and they have to be okay with me being Atheist. Oh and I include all people who have any “choice” opinion about being gay in the homophobe category.

    • says

      But those are your personal preferences for who you would be willing to pursue a long-term relationship with. That’s not the same thing as “ethical imperative” or being definitively “her job to tell you”. Again, is it inherently an “ethical imperative” for a bigot, racist, sexist, transphobe, homophobe, biphobe or…um…religionist to disclose before intimacy? What else should go on that list of information someone “owes” their partner? Anything anyone ever could consider a deal-breaker?

      And besides, I did say that in the case of pursuing an LTR the situation becomes different and a level of trust should be involved.

      • says

        —“ethical imperative” for a bigot, racist, sexist, transphobe, homophobe, biphobe or…um…religionist to disclose before intimacy? —

        Maybe it should be? I wish bigots wore signs identifying themselves so they were easier to avoid having to deal with.

        It’s kind of a catch-22 though. You should disclose, but you shouldn’t be treated badly for disclosing, but the folks who are most adamant about wanting the disclosure are the ones most likely to treat you badly for disclosing.

        In an ideal world, you should disclose. We don’t live in an ideal world. Your safety is at stake, therefore, if you don’t feel comfortable disclosing, don’t.

        In an ideal world, I should be able to schedule my college courses at night without worrying about walking through a parking lot in the dark. But we don’t live in that ideal world.

        Privileged folks don’t really get that because their world is closer to the ideal, so they don’t see the problem.

    • daenyx says

      So, Natalie already replied with most of what I was thinking, but… why, exactly, is there an ‘ethical imperative’ for a woman in a potentially LTR to disclose if she’s had an abortion at some point in the past? If you think that’s ethically required, you’re missing a lot of the point of the post.

    • says

      This goes in the same pile as, I’ve had an abortion/given a baby to adoption, spent two summers doing sex work, travelled the world as a carney, had serious surgery, watched a friend die…

      Why are these in the “must disclose” list (the sex work thing is possibly reasonable, but still questionable)? Do you need to know these things before you can commit to a relationship with someone? If so, why? If not, then why is it relevant? You don’t need to know everything about the person you’re in a relationship with. How does your potential partner not disclosing they traveled the world as a carney, or had an appendectomy, effect you in any way whatsoever? Of course, if you had expressed right-to-life views, for example, then the abortion would be an issue (but then, it could possibly be a deal breaker on her part). And of course, it’s nice to learn interesting parts of your partner’s history, when they are volunteered. But there is never any obligation to disclose, unless by non-disclosure you are put at risk.

      • Icaarus says

        Right to life views aside (for the record, I am very pro choice), your LTR should be aware of critical medically relevant history. Allergies, world travels, past abortions, past births, vaccines manufactured in other countries, genetic concerns from say Jewish heritage (Tay Sachs), appendectomies, all fall into this category. So do personal views on invalidity/euthanasia. Why, because your partner can’t get this information when they need to. If you trust your partner enough to share the rent and the fridge, you should be able to trust them with this list.

        • says

          considering that many can’t or don’t marry, their partners won’t be the ones doing the medical decisions for them anyway, so whether they should be able to trust their partners with this and whether they decide to do so are two completely different kettle of fish. and end-of-life decisions belong on paper, anyway.

    • Icaarus says

      This needs a little clarification

      My test for ethical disclosure in the case of hookup “Would not disclosing put my partner in danger?” If yes, then it is necessary to disclose, if no then not. And yes if I woke up next to a hate filled bigot one morning, it would quickly become my biggest regret ever.

      My test for ethical disclosure in the case of LTR “Would not disclosing from my partner:
      – damage irreparably the trust of the LTR
      – or would the lack of knowledge potentially introduce unnecessary danger, when it finally comes to light? (a.k.a. I dated a drug lord a couple of years back)
      – or would the news be so surprising as to be potential blackmail material (carney, stripper, etc)
      – or withhold necessary medical information that my partner might need in time of crisis?” (past abortions do hold medical relevance to emergency room scenarios, especially when they were “mostly successful”)
      If yes, then it is necessary to disclose, if no then not. It is on the onus of any partner to disclose their list (I have one and it is not short).

      So yes, Natalie it is an ethical imperative to disclose to ltr’s. It is a much stronger ethical imperative to be a decent human being. The general failure society to fulfill of the second does not devalue the morality of the first.

      • Anders says

        Then I suggest you make up a checklist and ask your partners. It may break the romantic spell a bit, but that’s your choice.

        • Icaarus says

          I have one. And stimulating conversation does not compromise the romance. The trick is to discuss these topics without judgement, something which we all fail at to varying degrees.

      • says

        yeah, no. this might be your personal deal-breaker list, but my boyfriend is absolutely not entitled to my confidential medical history or a list of all the things I’ve done that might potentially be embarrassing should they ever be made public. “trust” doesn’t mean having a full profile on someone.

    • says

      This goes in the same pile as, I’ve had an abortion/given a baby to adoption, spent two summers doing sex work, travelled the world as a carney, had serious surgery, watched a friend die…

      wait, what? how exactly would any woman be obligated to disclose any of these things?!

    • Blue says

      “Firstly – I like feminine girls. If you’re my friend I don’t care whether you are male, female, androgynous, black, white, green, and/or tentacle (hi ho pz). You are my friend. But when it comes to partners, my preference is to vagina’s and soft faces. Okay disclosure out of the way. ”

      Soft face + vagina ≠ feminine girl, or even girl.

  14. says

    Natalie, I find this section highly problematic:

    “Dishonesty is when we present ourselves as men… which does of course happen, and many hearts have been broken because of it. But this is due to things like denial, coercive gender assignment, the intense social pressures to remain closeted or delay transition, etc. It’s what we often need to do to survive. But yeah… a trans woman presenting as female is completely honest.”

    This is exactly the opposite of the thesis of your article. The term “dishonest” simply does not apply to many situations involving trans women living ostensibly as men, because the strictures which force such “dishonesty” from us are non-consensually forced upon us, upon our bodies, upon our realities.

    I was going to comment on my Share of this article on Facebook and ponder whether or not any of the women with whom I have enjoyed intimate, sexual relationships now suddenly feel as if they were deceived by me, whether they feel their sexuality as heterosexual women has been compromised in some way by finding out that I was always and ever really a girl.

    Of course, we understand that some people are going to inevitably claim to have been deceived, operating as they do within the bounds of their cis-centric indoctrination. My ex-wife said exactly this, that our whole 20 year relationship was nothing but a lie, despite the fact that she was unaware of my transsexuality until more than 6 months after our divorce, which she pursued for reasons entirely unrelated to my gender identity. This, however, does not make them justified in their claims of deceit and dishonesty, nor should we accept and promulgate their definitions thereof.

    • says

      Well that’s exactly my point. That “dishonesty” is forced upon us by cultural conditions, and is not a deliberate deception. But just because we were ALSO lying to ourselves doesn’t mean we weren’t lying. And not all lies are unethical or malicious.

      • says

        I have a very deep distrust of the application of the word “lie” to this situation. IMO, that word implies a certain (and possibly premeditated) willfulness *and* maliciousness.

        In my own example, to say that I was “lying” to myself when living as a man until the age of 40, when there were many clear indications throughout my teenage years and adult life that I was, in fact, not a man, is an inaccurate representation of reality and very misleading. It would be much closer to the truth to say that I just didn’t *grok* my own nature, that I acted only insofar as I understood myself, and that I was acting in earnest to the best of my ability to give others a complete picture of my nature.

        Why is it that all of this seemed like such an insurmountable obstacle to happiness 20 years ago? It seems so ridiculous now to think that I ever feared to be other than who I am, now. This is, of course, a rhetorical question. Such thoughts can only be encompassed from the other side of the event horizon.

    • says

      I am trans. I am a woman. I dress and present as a man because of personal and professional relationships. I am lying to my friends, family, and co-workers every day I see them. I am lying to my employer and to my superiors. I am lying to people on the street. If I were a braver soul, I would be able to honestly speak and tell the truth that I am a woman. The truth is that I am a woman, the lie is that I’m a man.

      That’s why it’s dishonest. Someone said the cruel statement that when I put on a dress I’m only pretending to be a woman. The truth is that every day I wake up and put on a man’s suit, I’m pretending to be a man. When I get home from work, hang up my suit, toss my shirt into the laundry, and put on my skirt and breastforms, that is when I’m truly me.

  15. Rosmairta says

    “Another principle dimension of privilege here is the assumed primacy of the cis person’s feelings.” I read that and I admit I thought – nah, pretty much of a male person’s feelings.

    Maybe it is just me being yet another of those bisexual ciswomen who cares waaaay more about personality than plumbing; but aren’t we mostly talking about how men react to transpartners? At least in the dating/sex party circles I hang out I have never seen a transwoman rejected by a ciswoman for being trans. (Though I am aware of the Michigan Women’s Music Festival and other venues that have been stupid about it… but I have never attended them for that very reason.) But then I’m lucky enough to have lived in progressive places. When I listen to the republicrats at their campaigning I despair for all of us. I cannot imagine living in Santorum’s America.

    But anyway, really great article that unpacks a lot of thoughtless cisprivilege and I’m totes saving the link!

    • says

      “At least in the dating/sex party circles I hang out I have never seen a transwoman rejected by a ciswoman for being trans.”

      Yeah… um… your circle is rather particular then. Trans women are often treated VERY poorly within queer women’s communities, and are basically held to be somehow fundamentally undesirable / unfuckable. “The Cotton Ceiling”. I’ll write about this some time.

      • Erin W says

        Ugh. I tried googling ‘Cotton Ceiling’ as it’s an unfamiliar term for me and all I came across were nasty transphobic radfem sites. I hope your future post buries them in the depths of the slor rankings.

        • says

          I actually just had someone tell me that the lack of trans woman voices opposed to the entitled nature of the Cotton Ceiling is somehow implying that trans women actually are trying to trick their way into “real” lesbian panties PUA-style.

          Blink.

      • Rosmairta says

        I’m really sorry to hear that. I was rather afraid it might be the case, as I am ware that I have been blessed with a really lovely community of sex positive, inclusive friends. I hadn’t heard “cotton ceiling” before either. Time for more learning.

    • says

      I know the personality/plumbing phrase is catchy, but could you please not use it to explain bi identities, especially when speaking of trans people? Let me clarify: the idea that bi people are the right partners for trans people, as discussed above, is rather essentialist, and this phrase in this context carries that implication. The reality is that many, I would guess most by far, gynophilic people like women who are cis or trans, probably regardless of plumbing except inasmuch as it affects how to do sex. The problem is when, for example, cis straight men question their sexuality because they like trans women, then they freak out. That’s their neurosis, their problem, as Natalie said.

      • daenyx says

        I haven’t seen anyone here (doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, but I’ve been following the thread pretty closely) who’s bi stating that they are “the right partners for trans people” because of their bisexuality; it was originally brought up in the context of bi people being a better bet to avoid revulsion and/or violence… which doesn’t say anything about the bisexual in question’s correct or incorrect perception of trans* identity.

        That said, I see the potential issue with the “personality over plumbing” statement of bisexuality as pertaining to transpeople, and it’s an interesting one (interesting in the sense of “I hadn’t heard this objection before”). I will apply it to my way of speaking about my identity in the future.

        “The reality is that many, I would guess most by far, gynophilic people like women who are cis or trans, probably regardless of plumbing except inasmuch as it affects how to do sex.”

        This is a *terrible* assumption, if I understand it correctly. O.o Yes, transphobia is a neurosis and (it should be) entirely the problem of the transphobe, but it’s hardly uncommon.

        • says

          I was unclear again: I used “like” to mean “are attracted to”. People cam be X-phobic and still attracted to X people. In fact, IMO the worse transphobes are people who are atttacted to trans people and can’t deal with that.

      • Rosmairta says

        Hmm. Okay. I didn’t made up the thing about plumbing to offend. It really does describe the way I feel about love and intimacy. In high school I was questioning, in 1970 I came out as a lesbian. Did the whole fesbian lemonist radical collective thing for a couple years. Got trashed. Hung out with my drag queen brothers for a couple years (I use the term for a particular subset within the gay community who identify as such, I’m a theatre geek and it was a good fit helping with drag shows).

        As the decades have passed I have dated, loved and lived with a spectrum of truly lovely people who have identified with a variety of orientations and genders. FOR ME plumbing isn’t really an issue. Magical, caring, self-aware, sex positive and loving are the values I find attractive and I have been lucky enough to have found those values and a community that embraces them.

        I’m not saying that transwomen who like women (of whatever sort) should seek out biwomen (of whatever sort). I know it isn’t that simple. But several woman here expressed that they felt like there was no-one out there for them, especially in transition. I hope for them that they find otherwise. I believe most everyone needs loving community and to have sweetness in their lives.

        • says

          I feel similarly, as a bi woman. For me, a penis is not a dealbreaker on a woman, nor is a vagina on a man. Almost the opposite – androgyny=awesome. But there is still one issue with that for trans people. Katherine Lorraine pointed out that while she hates her penis, her former beau was really into it. That clash of attitudes made sex quite difficult to negotiate.

          It’s obviously pretty tricky if one person loves X while the other hates X, regardless of what X is. But it’s much more so if X is something pretty fundamental to your identity. So yeah, just bi per se isn’t necessarily guaranteed to be ok.

        • says

          My point is this: for example, I’m lesbian and (as some people are probably tired of hearing me say) plumbing isn’t an issue for me either. I’m suggesting that your comment implies that one must be bi in order to be attracted to both cis women and trans women (who haven’t had SRS I guess), for example. Not that you actually meant this, but that it’s the obvious implication. Do you see?

          • says

            I once had a lesbian take me to task for saying “I don’t see gender”. I get what she was saying, and yes, I do respect people’s genders. But my sexuality doesn’t take it into account before deciding whether I’m attracted to someone. Rather, I see it as a beautiful part of the person I am attracted to. Being genderqueer myself, I sometimes wonder whether there’s like a gender-deficient part of me that I can’t experience a personal binary gender, that I can’t have a preference a binary gender (over a non-binary one) romantically or sexually. Maybe one day we’ll find a “gender” part of the brain and mine will be broken? In the meanwhile, I try to view it as an asset.

          • says

            Yeah, but then aren’t you still SEEING it, but just not seeing it as a primary determining factor in attraction or a relationship?

            Like, I find men from a variety of ethnicities to be attractive. No race or ethnic background is a “deal-breaker” for me, and I consider them all potentially beautiful (albeit aesthetically distinct; beautiful in different ways). But that doesn’t mean I’m unaware of it, or that I “don’t see race”. And I think I’d deserve to be taken to task if I claimed as such. It would be silly to say that the fact that I don’t give any special primacy to ethnicity in terms of who I find sexually/romantically attractive or beautiful means I’m somehow “beyond” the issue of race.

          • Pteryxx says

            I’d guess that most bi people (like most het/homo people) don’t know much about trans ness and haven’t given much thought to the distinction between being attracted to men versus women and being interested in male or female genitalia.

            The Nerd: I dunno that I’d call simply having no preference for one gender over the other, “broken”. For comparison, I have a difficult time determining, or even remembering, what gender someone is. I’d definitely call my gender-sensor “broken” since most people do NOT forget or overlook that characteristic of someone else.

          • embertine says

            Personally I’m all about the plumbing (*waggles eyebrows*), I just don’t care which gender has which set, or anything in between. I can safely say that if I was, say, dating a trans man, and he hadn’t had SRS, I would not think, “Oh, a vagina, then she’s totally a chick” because that simply would not be true.

            What I meant about bi people being more accepting of trans partners had nothing whatsoever to do with our perception of that person’s gender. It was just whether we were OK with the genitals or not. That’s just my take on it.

          • Anders says

            So we’ll need four new labels. *sigh*

            pneuma = soul, used here for those who place more importance on a person’s gender identity than a person’s body
            soma = body, used here for those who place more importance on a person’s body than a person’s gender identity

            1. heteropneumatikosexual
            2. heterosomatosexual
            3. homopneumatikosexual
            4. homosomatosexual

            I looked at incorporating bisexuality into this scheme and gave up. Let other’s do that, I have pointed out the way.

            *facedesk*

          • says

            Or, you know, people could just like who they like, inform the objects of their attraction on a case by case basis, and not bother with an endless ream of minutiae driven labels…

    • says

      —At least in the dating/sex party circles I hang out I have never seen a transwoman rejected by a ciswoman for being trans.—

      The othering can be fairly subtle and disguised as a ‘complement’. At one get together another woman was complaining about her menstrual cramps and kept telling Biya how lucky she was not to have to experience such things. She thought she was being nice/funny, but all she was really doing was telling Biya ‘you aren’t a real woman’. And then when Biya got tired of it and walked out of the room, ye ol ‘oversensitive’ and ‘looking for offense’ lines got pulled out.

  16. Sebor says

    One question keeps troubling me though, the “rape by deception” issue with trans lesbians.
    This probably stems from the misandry that can sometimes be found in second wave feminism – I remember Alice Schwarzer saying that the penis is a weapon – and while I disagree with her on most issues that particular one has always felt valid to me. Add a little gender essentialism to that and you have yourself a situation.
    In this hypothetical situation of a cis lesbian finding out the trans status of her female partner I think that dismissing her feeling of violation would be playing oppression olympics.

    I really don’t know what to make of this particular issue, and since I’m engaging in hypotheticals here I’m at a loss. Does this even happen? And hypothecical or not, what do you think about it?

    • says

      Violation in what way though? Presumably not by the nature of the sex itself, but more by not knowing her partner as well as she thought she did. Or, she feels violated by her own internalized sexism.

      I’ve never been raped, but I do have an ex I wish I’d never slept with as he’s transphobic and some other things that are deal-breakers. That’s not like rape.

    • Brittany says

      I know of at least two instances myself where a Lesbian has dated a TS and did not find out until much later that was the case. In the first case it was a long-term relationship that continued after the disclosure. In the second case, it was early on in the relationship after intimacy had taken place. The Lesbian WAS upset and felt she had been “deceived”…

      The fact of the matter is that everything that Natalie said applies in this case as well — there is no difference between a male partner “finding out” vs. a Lesbian partner — other than there is less of a chance of the Lesbian trying to harm the TS person after she finds out.

      The fact that she is female and a Lesbian certainly gives her no more right (“Cis-privilege”) to know that her partner is TS than if she were male…

  17. noastronomer says

    In keeping with Anders #1 : I agree.

    I am curious though. Natalie, when you say (my bold):

    An attractive straight trans woman is read as a cis female by an interested straight cis man. He approaches her, they flirt for a while, eventually they end up in bed together. He’s attracted to her, she’s attracted to him, they consent to sex. Afterwards, she discloses that she is a trans woman.

    Is that likely/possible? Since I have no experience with a trans-woman’s genitals after SRS, I honestly have idea how they would compare to a cis-womans’s. My expectation was that there would be quite noticeable differences and any sexual partner who was paying attention wouldn’t have to be told.

    Mike.

    • says

      I’ll step up for this one. No. You would not know the difference. In most cases, even gynecologists don’t know the difference until they take a look inside or they are told. The state of the art in genital reconstruction is thoroughly amazing.

      • Anders says

        The state of the art in genital reconstruction is thoroughly amazing.

        As I understand it, that is true of a neovagina but not for a neophallus? Is that the word?

        • Dalillama says

          That is correct. The state of the art for a neophallus looks only marginally similar to a cis man’s genitals, and is entirely sexually nonresponsive.

          • says

            From what I understand, though, there are devices that can be used to allow a neophallus to become erect. I’ve heard of a sort of “button” being installed.

          • Pteryxx says

            Re devices, that’s correct – there are implants that can be incorporated into a neophallus to allow erection. Either solid-core implants, so the neophallus is more or less rigid all the time (less complicated, cheaper, sturdier) or a fluid reservoir with a valve to which an external source of liquid can be attached, usually a bag of saline or some such, IIRC.

          • says

            I take it it wouldn’t be sexually responsive, though? A constructed phallus would allow you to have sex, but it wouldn’t be sexually stimulating?

          • Pteryxx says

            replying to Ace of Sevens: Not if by “sexually responsive” you mean expecting the neophallus to become more engorged or rigid as a direct response to sexual stimulation (unless its owner’s got a great touch with the external pump…) but if I may be so bold, who cares? That’s a very narrow view of sexual capability, to focus just on “natural” erection. While it’d be great for phalloplasty to advance that far, plenty of people have fulfilling sex with penises that don’t get or stay erect, or who’ve had reconstructive genital surgery for other reasons than being trans; or even with bodies that are paralyzed below the waist or chest. Strap-ons and dildos aren’t “sexually responsive” either, nor are hands, tongues or lips. Yet they’re all more than sufficiently “sexually stimulating”.

            Anyway, while phalloplasty can’t make a neophallus that replicates an expected, fully erectile, normal-looking penis, lots of real-life penises can’t meet that standard either. I think it’s a bit much to expect, and it certainly isn’t a prerequisite for sexual stimulation. And I say that as a dedicated phallophile.

          • Pteryxx says

            Ace of Sevens: Don’t be so sure. A well-constructed neophallus should be capable of sensing touch over most or all of its surface; but more to the point, there are people who can have orgasms from simulating stimulation of a strap-on, or from imagination and play alone. I’ve personally given someone an orgasm from “stimulation” of a couple of rubber balloons. I’m telling you, expecting full penis-style functionality is setting the bar higher than necessary; higher than many cis men can reach.

            Further reading (even more NSFW):

            Sex in Cyborg Land

          • says

            In my case, the feeling of a mouth or vagina on my fingers is enough to drive my senses wild. Always remember: the brain is the body’s largest sex organ.

  18. Anders says

    Sweden 1975, Cornelis Vreeswijk – one of our greater troubadours – gets two girls to follow him home. Only to discover a surprise when clothes are being removed. According to Wikipedia, the girls were transvestites but this being the 70s when distinctions weren’t made they might well have been trans women. He threatens them both with a kitchen knife and ‘tells them to go away.’ Somehow I doubt that that was how he phrased it.

    Anyway, he is sentenced to 1 month in jail for assault and having threatened them. I have no idea whether this was lenient or not. He later writes a song about the whole affair and probably makes a fair bit of money off of it. Scandals always sell.

    What makes me hopeful is that I don’t think he would have gotten away with it that easily today. He was the great troubadour of the political left and I think they might have at least made him issue an apology – however insincere – before he was asked to perform at political rallies again.

    This hasn’t happened, and I must say the way our leftist intelligentia leapt to the defense of a rapper who called upon his audience to go gang-rape Princess Madeleine (but it was only a joke!) sometimes makes me pessimistic. But I think he would have had a harder time coming back today.

  19. Icaarus says

    Reading over my comments, my point got lost, sorry, I really should edit before I post

    Thesis 1:
    – We all need to be better human beings, hatred and violence for the purposes of hatred should be stopped.

    Thesis 2:
    – It is an ethical imperative to disclose to ltr’s. It is a much stronger ethical imperative to be a decent human being. The general failure society to fulfill the second does not devalue the morality of the first.

  20. says

    This argument is so compelling to cisgender sensibilities that it is not only used as a means of informally justifying both hypothetical and actual violence, hatred or abuse against trans women, but has even successfully been used as a legal defense for murder.

    I don’t think this part is really fair. It makes it sound like you either say there is no obligation for disclosure or you support violence against people who don’t disclose. This is a false dichotomy.

    This may sound like nitpicking, but the link isn’t just about people who failed to disclose. This was the case with Angie Zapata, who said she was trans when asked, then was murdered for it. Brandon Teena hadn’t even had sex with his murderers. Gwen Araujo said that no one could touch or see her genitals because she was on her period. I think it’s quite possible to say this was unethical on her part without excusing her murders.

    • says

      Oh come on. That sentence your quoting is CLEARLY just describing HOW the argument gets used (and that it gets used as a justification), and the degree to which cis people will weight it so strongly that it WILL effectively excuse murder. Whatever “unethical” thing Gwen Araujo did, it utterly and completely pales in comparison to her murderers, and the fact that the “trans panic defense” was met by the court with anything other than appalled incredulity is a deeply disturbing sign. As is your eagerness to swing this back in the direction of the “wrong-doing” of trans women.

      And frankly, I do NOT trust Gwen’s murderers’ account of what happened.

      • says

        You don’t trust an eyewitness account of a murder, by the murderer? Jeez, what’s wrong with you? In all the murder mysteries, they always say exactly what happened after they’re found out. (this comment is entirely facetious)

        • says

          “Why are you telling me all this now?”

          “It’s simple Mr. Holmes. Of course, you could go tell your pet Lestrade why I killed the young Ms. Reed, but it doesn’t matter, because you’re never going to leave this room alive. I guess you’re not much of a oenophile, are you Mr. Holmes?”

          “What do you mean?”

          “You didn’t detect what was off about the bouquet?”

      • says

        Oh come on. That sentence your quoting is CLEARLY just describing HOW the argument gets used (and that it gets used as a justification), and the degree to which cis people will weight it so strongly that it WILL effectively excuse murder.

        I don’t think that was clear. I took you to mean that duty to disclose inherently excused murder of anyone who breached said duty. This would only be true if we assume that is excusable to murder people if they behave in an unethical manner toward you, which I think is wrong and dangerous. This is why I objected.

        I now see you meant it’s wrong because it can potentially be used to excuse wrong actions. I still don’t think that’s valid as it’s an argument from consequences. Plenty of perfectly true ideas get misused. For instance, you probably believe that cheating on one’s spouse is wrong, even though that idea has been used to excuse murder. I don’t disagree with your conclusion here, I just think this is a bad argument and an unfair frame.

        Whatever “unethical” thing Gwen Araujo did, it utterly and completely pales in comparison to murderers, and the fact that the “trans panic defense” was met by the court with anything other than appalled incredulity is a deeply disturbing sign. As is your eagerness to swing this back in the direction of the “wrong-doing” of trans women.

        I expressed myself badly. That was certainly not my intention. My point was that your link of how the idea of a duty to disclose can get used was actually three examples. Angie Zapata is a good example of this fact. If you were only thinking of her, I apologize for sidetracking. Brandon Teena isn’t. Seeing as he did not have a sexual relationship with his murders, he’s kind of beside the point. I’m not just trying to being nitpicky or trap you into contradictory yourself or something. I think you know me better than that. I brought up Gwen Araujo because you seemed to be using her as an example of someone who had behaved ethically. Here’s why that case bugs me:

        Many feminists have even gone so far as to state trans lesbians are committing “rape by deception” if they do not disclose their trans status to female partners.

        Another principle dimension of privilege here is the assumed primacy of the cis person’s feelings.

        Everyone’s feelings about who they are willing to have sex with have primacy. I think it is sometimes valid to tell people who believe themselves to have been raped that they weren’t, but it’s not something you should do lightly. We can tell them they are bigoted or missing out or otherwise object to their sexual preferences, but what we can’t do is decide that our objections to their reasons override their right to refuse. That is straight-up rape apologetics. I understand that’s not what you are saying, but several parts of your argument could be used that way, so I thought it was very important to clarify.

        Here’s how I take your argument, with which I agree. It is not reasonable to assume any given person is cis. Therefore, a trans person has no presumptive duty to disclose their trans status. It is not a trans person’s duty to assume that everyone is a transphobe.

        It is NOT an ethical imperative for smokers, ex-strippers, people who’ve had lots of sex partners, or Jewish women to ASSUME that you have a big problem with cigarettes, or have a bunch of hang-ups about “sluts”, or are a neo-nazi.

        Can you clarify this part, though? This is a good argument as to why you aren’t obligated to assume someone is a transphobe. However, what if you do think they are a transphobe for whatever reason? Are you obligated to disclose then?

      • says

        And your point that the murderer’s account of Araujo has likely been massaged to make him more sympathetic is well taken. My point was that the wrongness of killing her doesn’t hinge on whether she did anything unethical, which I inadvisably conflated with another point where I should have found a different example.

  21. says

    I think this relates to (hear me out, I’ll be brief) where I think homophobia and transphobia overlap the most. People attracted to gay people may question and hate their own sexuality, then blame it on the gay people for existing. The same happens if they’re attracted to trans people, except this plays out really differently due to passing. And of course, in the first care the homophobe isn’t straight, in the second case they usually are. But they can have the same problematic mentality, is what I’m saying.

  22. Anders says

    If I was in a long-term relationship (say, more than 2 years, living together, etc.) and I discovered my partner was a trans woman I would probably be incredibly hurt. Because she didn’t trust me. Because she kept something that was very important in her life from me. And I probably couldn’t help but wonder if there were other things she didn’t tell me about. That would be a wound that would take a long time to heal. Would it cause a break-up? I don’t know, but it would hurt the relationship badly.

  23. Steve Schuler says

    I’d like to make one minor correction to your article.

    You provided a link to an article on the Angie Zappata murder case using it as an example of ‘trans panic defense’ as having “successfully been used as a legal defense for murder.”

    In fact Allen Andrade, the defendant, was convicted of first-degree murder and also committing a bias-motivated crime after the jury deliberated for two hours. This particular case also had the distinction of being the first in the nation to get a conviction for a hate crime involving a transgender victim.

    In a brief internet search I was not able to find a case in which a ‘trans panic defense’ has been successful, but you are probably familiar with other cases where it has been sucessfully used.

    • says

      That wasn’t meant as an example of the trans panic defense being used successfully, just as a link that describes what the trans panic defense is, and a bit of its history.

  24. Sofie says

    Wow, thank you Natalie. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I saw an argument on reddit where everyone generally agreed that a trans woman *should* disclose, and sooner rather than later. I wasn’t sure where I stood. At first I felt that I was being dishonest if I didn’t explain my past eventually but immediately after was like, Wait, how is it deceit at all since I AM a woman!

    This post just clarified everything. Once again most amazing perspective, I feel a strong need to just reread all your arguments in most submissions so I can use them whenever I encounter trolls online and especially in real life. Grrrrr why can’t I have instant downloadable access to your brain whenever I need it?! =)

  25. Eris says

    I’m having a really hard time understanding the logistics of some of this. For example, you assert that it is alright for a trans woman to never tell her spouse that she is a trans woman, that she can limit her statements to things like “I’m infertile.” You make this statement in the middle of a bunch of discussion about trans violence and trans phobia.

    So, here’s my question: Why would any person want to get married to an individual that they believed might harm/reject them if they told said individual that they were trans? I understand not telling your boss, your coworker, your casual sex partner, your friends, all that (both for safety and because it really isn’t their business a chunk of the time). But someone you plan to spend the rest of your life with? I would think that “not tranphobic, not going to hurt me, not going to leave me for being trans” would be one of those high priority deal breakers. How could anyone feel safe being married to a person they worried would harm them if said person found out they were trans?

    It’s like . . . I would never want to be with someone who would leave me because I was sexually abused as a child. I haven’t told everyone I know that I was sexually abused, I have no intention of doing so, and I would be angry at anyone who insisted I had an obligation to tell everyone (or everyone I was going to go on a date with) that I had been sexually abused. But if I was going to settle down with someone, I would require that they be alright with the fact that I was sexually abused. If they were the kind of person that would reject me because of my sexual abuse, I would want to break it off as soon as possible. I would bring it up, even if they did not, because it is an issue that is important to me. And if someone other than me who had been sexually abused was with someone but not disclosing because they were afraid of how their partner would react, I would be deeply concerned.

    • Setar, too lazy to log in on his blackberry says

      I hereby award you the “Not Fucking Getting It At The Fuck All” Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as the silver medal in Absurdly Unreasonable Comparisons, in this installment of the Privilege Denialympics.

      • Eris says

        You know what? I’m not emotionally up to this kind of interaction. At all. I shouldn’t even be posting at all if I’m going to start crying because someone on the internet says something like this.

        So, Jadehawk, I’ll try to come back and read your comment later (when I’ve stopped crying), but right now I really can’t. I don’t know what the fuck is going on with me right now. Sorry.

        • says

          I’m sorry for Setar’s level of hostility. That’s NOT the kind of tone I’d like to have here. I’d like people to feel free to engage in discussion, and to disagree with things, without being attacked. I’m really sorry you had to deal with that.

          Also, Setar, between this and the totally needlessly hostile statement to Brynn, yeah: consider yourself officially warned. We NEED to be able to nurture a safe space for people to have and discuss differing opinions. I am NOT down with my blog being a Pharyngula-esque shark pool.

          Also, in both statements, you seemed to just jump to the conclusion that they have cis privilege. I know for a fact that is not the case with Brynn, and I think it is not the case with Eris either. Assuming that everyone is “cis until proven trans” is one of the problematic mentalities I pointed out in this article. And assuming they must be cis if they hold a different attitude towards this issue than you do? Even more problematic.

          I don’t know what it is I did to ever give the impression that such attacks are okay here, even if you’re “on my side”, but they’re not. And the fact that I’ve seen this kind of thing happening a lot more often lately (also with Ms. Daisy Cutter and Happiestsadist) I’m beginning to get worried.

          • says

            I’ve never seen an environment so good as your blog for *discussion* of trans misogyny and related issues. It actually gives me hope for the Internet. :) I read your blog for the writing, but I read and keep adding to the comments because people are so willing to engage and are mostly not hostile. I think it’s really hard to do that, to make sure that people are called out for cissexist and _ist BS but also toning down the hostility.

          • says

            Well, I’m glad you feel that way about this blog, and thank you for saying so. But right now, Eris clearly doesn’t feel like it’s a safe space, and I have to take some of the responsibility for that. Letting down just one reader like that is already too many by my standards.

          • Eris says

            Ok! It took me a bit of girding my loins to come back here and read the comments (I was afraid people would sneer at me for crying) and I want to really, truly thank you for this response. I’m not sure why that comment upset me the way it did, other than I seem to be emotionally fragile right now. Your response made me feel better, so thank you.

    • says

      sort of guessing here, but I’m under the impression that some trans* folk want their trans-ness to fade as much into the background of their life as possible once they’ve fully transitioned, and that would include not having to talk about it. with emphasis on not having to. kind of like I wouldn’t want to be in a long term relationship with a slut-shamer, but that still means I don’t have to tell my boyfriend about what my sexlife was like before he showed up. And I don’t need to tell him about that to know that he’s not a slut-shamer, either.

      so, i guess those would be three separate issues: having to tell vs. wanting to tell vs. needing to tell to know the person you’re with is not a bigot

    • Cassandra Caligaria (Cipher), OM says

      Another thing to probably keep in mind is that a lot of people just aren’t in the kinds of relationships you (or I or they) would consider ideal or okay. Sometimes feeling unsafe in a relationship just isn’t the dealbreaker we’d want it to be. :/ I’m definitely not saying people should be in these situations, or should feel the need to behave “ethically” toward a partner who doesn’t respect them instead of breaking up with that partner and finding one who will, but the fact is that sometimes people are and they do feel that need. We can and should be concerned, but the reality of the matter is complicated and difficult. And we have to work from reality first, so talking about potential responses to these situations doesn’t necessarily imply we approve of them.
      Another thing is that people who have been in abusive relationships, even those who have already left them, often sort of look for things to blame themselves about. Maybe saying “it’s okay not to disclose” can take some of the burden off someone who would otherwise blame themselves for not having done so. And Natalie’s recentering the issue of disclosure where it should be centered – it’s about your own body, your own history, and your own safety, not about your responsibility to your partner.

    • Brittany says

      Eris,

      I’m sorry you were attacked and I have to say that I completely understand and agree with you – at least for the most part. I would want a long-term partner to know EVERYTHING about me – just like I would want to know EVERYTHING about her(/him). We have been through so much to get where we are (GRS, FFS, Electrolysis,…) and to have to hide any part of our history would be very difficult if not next to impossible (from a mental standpoint anyway).

      On the other hand, I have known women who were married to men who died never knowing that they were TS. I know people today who are in long-term relationships with men who have no idea they are TS. And, I can fully understand WHY they never disclosed their past to their partners.

      The reality is that if you want to date (and this goes for men or women) at all — you are wise to NOT disclose your past. Almost all straight men are transphobic and the chance of finding one who is not is next to impossible. I have found that the same thing applies to dating Lesbian women — while the majority of them will “say” that they are not transphobic, the reality is that MOST ALL of that majority would never actually consider dating a TS.

      I agree with Natalie — if you want a chance to actually get to know a person and have them get to know you, it is best NOT to disclose — especially in the first stages of a relationship. Once you have gotten to know them (and vice-versa), you can then decide if you want to disclose (or not) and when the time is right to do that. Hopefully by that time you will have figured out if the person you are with is transphobic or not… Unfortunately, it has been my experience that they most likely will be…

      I have tried telling people (Lesbians in my case) my background “right up front” and that quickly ended any chance of ever developing a relationship. The level of ignorance/hate/bigotry in society (including the Gay community) is just too high at this point. It is very disheartening to say the least.

      In a nutshell, unless you fully pass and keep your mouth shut about your past history, the chances of ever finding anyone is next to impossible — at least that is the situation where I live (Dallas, TX area). Maybe things are a little better in places like San Francisco or New York City, but I wouldn’t hold my breath…

  26. Chirico says

    I know this article is specifically on the ethics of the issue, which I agree with you on, but because they’re so caught up in the practical reality, I can’t help but comment on that. Now, I have several biases working against me, such as that I’m a virgin so I can’t relate to specifics, so if I’m completely wrong feel free to correct me.
    It seems that the safest thing to do is just to not have sex with people unless you know they’re not transphobic. Having sex with strangers or even casual acquaintances carries a risk whether you’re trans or not, by putting your trust in someone who could have any number of malicious intentions. By no means am I trying to engage in victim blaming by saying those that have been the victim of violence or have even lost their lives at the hands of sick fucks are the ones at fault. The only ones at fault at the perpetrators of that barbarism. But just as it’s likewise not your fault that someone breaks into your house, even if you left the door unlocked, the best course of action to ensure your safety is to lock up, to protect yourself however you can. As you say, it is not a trans person’s responsibility to put themselves in danger by disclosing to relatively unknown people, but in a matter of life and death, why is that unknown person a potential sex partner with so little to put your trust in? Why take that risk? It’s not your fault that there are people out there that will kill you for perceived “deceit” on your part, but if that’s the reality, then it’s against your best interests to be intimate in lieu of evidence against bigotry on their part.
    I feel like this is going to be read(if it is at all) as the most obvious advice in the world from a privileged idiot who thinks he’s come to a novel conclusion. And you may be right. But with all the references to hook ups and casual sex in the same breath as the dire consequences of putting your life in the hands of an unknown variable I can’t help but feel it needs to be said. Everyone has a right to pursue sex and intimacy, but if the conditions of society are such that without the proper degree of prudence you risk serious harm or worse, then you have a responsibility first to your own well being.

    • says

      Well it’s a question of options, isn’t it? That is, a question of how many of the potential partners one meets will be transphobic enough to make one feel unsafe disclosing. And if cis people maintain transphobic standards like the “ethical imperative of disclosure”, the options always seem bad.

      Not that that’s the only bad option; there’s also the guys who want to sleep with trans women but not respect them, want to keep it a secret affair rather than meaningful relationship. My ex told me when a strange guy hits on her, if she’s interested she’s always wondering if she’s passing and he’d freak out if she told him, or he knows she’s trans but is fetishizing and not going to respect her. As if it’s not even likely that he won’t be transphobic. That’s sad.

      • says

        Yeah, there’s almost echoes of “Schroedinger’s Rapist” here. We can’t necessarily tell beforehand which guys are or aren’t going to be transphobes. And lots of them are. Which puts us straight trans girls in a rather terrible situation… do I be totally out, and therefore cut my dating options to the tiny little sliver of men who don’t have negative (or “positive” but sexually objectifying) preconceptions about trans women? Do I go ahead and date without disclosing at first (saving it for fourth date or whatever), so that I can see if its worth pursuing, and give them a chance to get to know me before writing me off, but seriously risk my safety in the process? Or do I just cut myself off from dating entirely, and consign myself to a life of loneliness?

        It’s a sucky situation to be in. And makes me a tad resentful of trans lesbians who imply I have some kind of definitive, sweeping, non-conditional “straight privilege”.

        And I’m also all kinds of lonely tonight for some reason. *sigh*

        • Chirico says

          I would think there are ways you can get a feel for how bigoted someone is without coming right out and disclosing. Like mentioning your interest in feminist/queer/trans* rights activism, which, assuming you’re clocked as a cis woman shouldn’t be too far-fetched, or making up a hypothetical trans friend, or even in passing say you saw a trans person on the way to ___, and gauge their response. I don’t know. I’m not good at the whole “social interaction” thing. But my point is if you’re observant enough you can pick up on all kinds of little things about a person. I don’t think you need to throw all your eggs in one basket or the other.

          • Pteryxx says

            honestly, that’s another reason trans people need massive allies – so that enough people are interested in, and discussing, trans issues that it’s not assumed anyone who cares about such things must be trans themselves, let the hunt begin. It’s starting to work for gay people that way.

        • Anders says

          And I’m also all kinds of lonely tonight for some reason. *sigh*

          It’s been 14 years since I had someone to hold like that. It gets better. You get used to it. The pain becomes a dull ache and longing turns into resignation.

          And then one day you find
          ten years have got behind you
          No one told you when to run,
          you missed the starting gun

          • says

            I suppose, given enough time, you can get used to anything…

            I’m sort of resigned (already, I know…) to a rather lonely future, standing as I do at an intersection of several identities that don’t really make for the most marketable of relationship material…

            Loneliness sucks, especially when it’s a constant companion, but I guess I can fill that hole with friends and hobbies…

          • embertine says

            Ten for me. I tried dating recently and remembered why I HAAAAAAAATE relationships. I guess not all the animals are meant to march in two by two after all.

      • Anders says

        It’s all a matter of Hegelian dialectical procession. My beating her forms an antithesis to her innocence as the thesis. The result will be a synthesis – a happy, stable and equal relationship.

        Maybe I missed a career as a hipster.

        • Megan says

          Reading that, I’m convinced you could have been the most über of Überhipsters. Normally, I’d think that wasting talent like that was a sad thing, but I think you made the right decision not pursuing that career. :)

          • Anders says

            I love Hegelian dialectics. They’re so vague that they can justify practically anything. :)

  27. Jeni Marcus says

    Good, well thought out, and articulated article,Natalie.I especially liked your insights on cisgender privilege.I think these ethical questions and their resolution turn on each set of facts i.e. “one size does not fit all!” I am not necessarily advocating “situation ethics” here, but all people are unique and our emotional and intimate responses to them will usually vary and adjust depending on the person we decide to “hook up” with or seriously decide to partner.The bottom line is we must ultimately look at, and ask ourselves ,”what is the most loving thing I can do not only for myself, but my partner by engaging in this relationship?” This question is universal and therefore applies to all people entering into any type of relationship otherwise we dehumanize ourselves and become mere objects of our ego driven desires.

  28. says

    I have been guilty of this. (Although I never thought it a justification for violence and murder)

    I just want to say, I’m Sorry. Reading this post made me understand a bit more, even though I suppose I never will fully understand, I will try.

    Thank you for the post, and once again I am sorry. I will never argue from that perspective again.

  29. Jian says

    I really doubt that this is such a big issue for trans folk. The simple truth is, trans folk do not “pass” and couldn’t “deceive” anyone even if they wanted to. There are exceptions of course, but they are very few in number.

    As to those few trans folk who might be in a position to do this, I think that it would be prudent for states to consider imposing criminal and civil sanctions on those who actively deceive their partners. This is especially important where individuals believe that they have an entitlement to deceive. There needs to be a deterrent. It is a closer question when you talk about trans folk who simply fail to disclose, but each state could determine for itself where criminal or civil liability could be triggered.

    Anyway, it is an interesting essay Natalie. Thanks for giving us something to think about.

    • says

      Approving this staggeringly ignorant and not only offensive but terrifying comment only to provide people a reminder of what overt cis-supremacism looks like.

      I would strongly hope people would realize how incredibly unconstitutional and unethical it would be to actually have the State begin imposing such laws, but here we are. Apparently my yellow star analogy wasn’t as much of a hyperbole as I thought it was. There are apparently people who would, knowing full well the level of violent bigotry that exists against trans people, wish to impose such laws, imposing specifically targeted discriminatory laws designed to create a state-sanctioned status as second-class citizens and ensure we’re visible targets for bigotry and discrimination.

      I wish I could say “unbelievable” and mean it.

      But the value of this comment here? Reminding us why we should NEVER let our guard down. If we stopped fighting for our rights, there are people who would happily see us wiped out.

    • Rasmus says

      Yeah, I know. It’s a dangerous world out there for a straight cis man…

      Fingers crossed that you and I make it through this week without being raped by a trans woman, or beaten to the ground by a gang of indoctrinated lobbyist radfems on their way home from a law-writing session with the liberal establishment.

      I’ve heard you can build a DNA analysis lab in your home for cheap nowadays. You might want to look into that. And lots of canned food, I guess.

      • Jian says

        I am not sure why you think this would be a greater danger for straight cis folk than gay cis folk. It seems to me that the danger would be equal for gay and straight.

        Although I don’t think that the danger is great for either group due to the inability of trans folk to “pass,” to the extent that the danger exists at all, it is appropriate for the state to respond to curb this misconduct and to protect those who would be misled. Obviously, we are talking here only about disclosure for intended sexual partners, not for everyone. Disclosure can take place in safe or public spaces under reasonable circumstances. Making clear this duty to disclose or to refrain from deceit would prevent the kind of violence that seems to erupt when deceit of this nature is practiced.

        • says

          Jian,

          there’s no deceit involved by trans people being themselves and going around in society as they feel free to.

          Who appointed you the gender police? By the way, you almost certainly have met some trans people that you failed to read as trans. Scares you, doesn’t it?

          Natalie,

          ban-hammer time yet, or can we play with this troll some more?

        • Rasmus says

          That reads to me like victim blaming / murder cheer leading in it’s purest and most obvious form.

          It might have occurred somewhere sometime that a trans person has lied when asked about being trans in order to get laid, and that’s not good. I’d compare it to lying about your age, or lying about where you work in order to get laid. That’s not okay.

          Now, if every person who ever lied about something in order to get laid could be murdered freely we would have one hell of a murder rate. I’m afraid I don’t know any non-virgin who couldn’t be murdered if that rule was enforced.

          Of course I realize that you just want that rule to apply to disprivileged groups who you don’t think can fight back against your bigotry. You wouldn’t for example want to insist that people with black or Jewish heritage disclose lest they want to risk murder, would you?

          • says

            I think the ethical question is separate here. For instance, plenty of people have been murdered for sleeping with someone else’s spouse, yet it’s pretty much agreed that you have to disclose marital status.

          • Rasmus says

            That really depends on the situation. I don’t think it’s agreed that you have to disclose marital status if you’re engaging in a superficial extra-marital relationship. It’s good if you do that. I think most married people want to disclose for their own sake if for no other reason, regardless of whether they’re cheating on their spouse or are having sex legitimately while separated.

            You should always answer all questions truthfully, including any questions that you think the other person implies without asking explicitly, and you should never lie to get sex, but people are really really bad at following those ‘shoulds’ in practice.

          • Jian says

            I am afraid I do not understand your argument. You are addressing a specific scenario in which a trans person is about to bed a potential murderer? In that case, the trans person has the absolute right and ability to not proceed with the sexual encounter and to make no disclosure. If this is a forced or coerced sexual encounter, then obviously the whole issue of disclosure and deceit would not apply.

            I thought that Natalie was addressing not a rape or coerced situation, but rather a situation where deceit and nondisclosure are used in order to procure sex. This is what needs to be addressed in state penal codes and civil liability systems. I know some folks who work at the American Law Institute, which works on revising and updating the state model penal codes. I will ask them whether this is on their radar screen for the next revision. Anyway, I apologize if I did not understand your argument correctly.

          • Cassandra Caligaria (Cipher), OM says

            “a potential murderer”
            Everyone’s a potential murderer, jian.
            I’m wondering what your insistence that nondisclosure constitutes deceit is based on. Do you have an actual argument for that, (preferably one which takes into account the post which you probably should have read before commenting on it) or is it just “IT IS TOO”? I do not think that at any point any of the people I have had sex with thought they knew my complete medical history. Were they deceived because I didn’t tell them I had a tonsillectomy when I was eight?

        • Brittany says

          Jian,

          You are such an insulting little bigot. You love to dehumnanize TS people as much as you can just so feel more powerful and less scared of us than you are now. You keep saying that we can’t “pass” because you are terrified that we do — and that terrifies you. Maybe the “state” should pass legislation to tattoo the letter “T” on our foreheads to warn bigots like you that we are those FREAKS that you are so scared of — that would also make us much easier to spot so we could be more easily killed as well…

          Please do us all a big favor and take your time machine back to 1930!

    • Brittany says

      Yes, it’s always nice when a very ignorant bigot stops by to make a complete ASS of himself… It is really funny that he/she actually believes that few TS people could actually “pass” – this shows just how inexperienced he/she is with TS people and is a window into the overall ignorance of many people in society today. His/her attitude is one that not only demonstrates his total ignorance and bigotry, but is also one which promotes the demonization of and violence towards TS people. I’m glad that there ARE laws in place to help protect us from people like this moron!

    • Cassandra Caligaria (Cipher), OM says

      You appear to have decided that trans people can’t pass based on the fact that all the trans people you noticed were trans weren’t passing.
      I trust you recognize the flaw in that logic now that I have bolded and italicized for you. Otherwise I may need to draw a flowchart.

  30. Steve says

    Yeah, I get it – but – if you are going to do something as intimate as sex with someone, surely you should make them aware, in advance, of things that you know might be an issue for them, and thereby let them make an informed decision prior to the act. Sure, I take the point about being a smoker, or a Jewish woman or whatever, and it isn’t possible to disclose every last details about ourselves. However, if one is aware that that this could be a contentious issue, which the author of this piece clearly does, otherwise she wouldn’t have written such a lengthy article – then out of respect for a potential partner, it might be something you’d raise beforehand.

    I fully agree that everyone is entitled to be who they want to be, and that any kind of judgement of a person because of their gender or sexuality is repugnant, but this respect for each other has to extend both ways – and by not disclosing something that you know damn well might be an issue you are not showing that person the respect that you are asking for yourself. A right that is won by taking it away from someone else is worthless.

    • says

      I’m left wondering how carefully you read the article, Steve. Sure there are things that are important to disclose before you have sex. Whether you have a sexually communicable disease seems to me to be probably the top priority item to disclose prior to a casual hook-up. A post-op trans person disclosing that they were born with different genitalia does not seem to be something a casual sex partner needs to know, ethically. The way you put “by not disclosing something that you know damn well might be an issue” sounds like the exact framing Natalie pointed which reduces trans people to second-class citizens and is a smoke screen for homophobia (or its analogues). Lastly, a trans person is put in a horribly invidious position that you don’t really seem to have given any appreciation to: either they disclose beforehand (and puts themself at risk of “trans panic” violence), or disclose later and in addition to risk of violence, be viewed as a liar. It’s a neat catch 22.

  31. Steve says

    Maybe, in a perfect world, none of this should matter – any kind of encounter between people could and should be perfectly natural, and how it all works out is down to the individuals concerned. Trouble is, we don’t live in the perfect world yet, although I believe we are a damn sight closer than we were. In my parent’s youth, homosexuality was a crime, yet I have had the privilege of attending two civil ceremonies, just one generation later.

    Like it or loathe it, the fact of the matter is that there is still huge amounts of prejudice out there, none of it rational, and my personal feeling is that not disclosing one’s transgender status in the circumstances under discussion are more likely to give rise to a stronger negative reaction – the person that finds out after the event might have had some vague opinions and feelings about trans-gender people that he/she could have worked through, but finding out after the event has made this very personal, and their reaction is likely to be more intense, subjective and less rational – which, overall, puts more negative into a situation that can only be made better by a lot of objective, positive input.

    I get the point about early disclosure leading to “trans-panic”, but surely we have to hope that the world is generally, however slowly, moving towards a place where acceptance is the norm. One hopes that more and more people will lose their prejudices, that issues such as this will no longer be regarded as unusual in any way, but people don’t lose their prejudices simply by being told to, however unreasonable and hypocritical they be – look at the church’s views on homosexuality, for example.

    With no first-hand experience of this at all, I can only guess, but it seems to me that early disclosure just might help society at large take one tiny step in the right direction; late disclosure will not, and is therefore counter to the desired objectives.

    • Brittany says

      Steve,
      Like you I wish that it was a different world and that we didn’t have to deal with prejudice from society, but unfortunately we do. I don’t think you are quite grasping some of the main points Natalie made — probably because you are not TS and cannot relate.

      What people need to understand is that we were born TS because we had a female mind/soul but had a male body — this is not something that we “chose” or “decided” to do later in life. We were BORN female and have always been female — even though our bodies were “male”!!

      Eventually we reach the point where we either have to “transition or die” – that is the only “choice” we actually get to make. Many DO choose death, but some of us choose the hardest road of all — transition. We transitioned so that we could finally LIVE as the TRUE people we have always been — WOMEN. We did NOT transition to live our lives or be known as “transsexuals!” Like Natalie said, we ARE women!!!!!

      After fully transitioning (including having Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS) and Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS)) we finally have the body that matches the mind we have always had. People in society have NO IDEA of all we have gone through to get where we are — electrolysis, FFS and GRS are all very painful. My FFS lasted 11-hours alone. Both FFS and GRS take a full year to recover from — it is NOT like having your appendix or tonsils removed — it is a VERY long, very involved recovery process. There IS a lot of pain involved, but it is NOT even a factor. People would have a whole new respect for post-op TS people if they had any idea of all we have been through… We go through all those things not as a “choice” but because we HAVE to in order to finally become who we really are.

      Again, we ARE and have always been women — and now we have the bodies we should have been born with. We may not have all the female parts we wish we could have had (ovaries, womb, etc.), but many other naturally born women don’t have those things when they are older either. My vagina and clitoris looks like and functions the same as any other woman’s. I have been in Korean spas completely naked surrounded by tens of other naked women and girls and no one has given me so much as a second look (so much for Jian’s “can’t pass” BS…).

      I have learned the hard way that the ONLY way for a TS person to live her life and be accepted as a woman is to be ‘stealth.’ Before I fully transitioned I was very naive and thought that I wouldn’t care who knew I was TS, but experience has taught me that if you disclose your past to ANYONE those people will NEVER look at you the same way again and will NOT view you as a woman. If you disclose your past to someone you want to date — you will NEVER date them. When Natalie says:

      “And don’t we deserve a chance at love and sex and intimacy? Isn’t that a basic human right? Don’t we deserve giving people a chance to get to know us as a human being before discounting us as a freak, a “shim”, a “shemale”, a “thing”? Can you blame us for just trying to give you enough time to realize we’re human and potentially wonderful partners with whom a rewarding sexual or romantic relationship could be pursued before we provide you an easy excuse for your prejudices to decide we aren’t?”

      She is EXACTLY right! I have found that if you disclose your past to someone before you start really dating them — you will NEVER date that person. The chances that someone is educated enough on Transsexualism beforehand to fully accept you is pretty much “nil.” I am Lesbian and I have YET to find a Lesbian who would knowingly date a TS person “right off the bat”. They may exist, but they are EXTREMELY rare. I have known Lesbians who lost friends BECAUSE those friends found out that they had dated a TS person before — that is how extreme the bigotry is in the Lesbian community alone.

      And if you are “straight” and date men this problem is even worse! If you meet a man somewhere who is attracted to you as a woman and you both really ‘hit it off’ — as soon as tell him your past he will not only have nothing to do with you, but he could possibly harm you, or ‘out’ you to other people who could possibly eventually harm you as well.

      I know women right now who are in (sexual/long-term) relationships with men who do NOT know their past. I have known women who were married to men who died NEVER KNOWING their past. I can now completely understand WHY they never disclosed their pasts — and I know how difficult it is for them to have to live in that kind of situation. Try to imagine how hard that would be!

      I understand how and why they can do it, but I simply could NOT live that way myself. IF I ever do get in a LTR I WILL disclose my past to my partner. It would simply be too hard on ME not to tell! I have been through far too much, and to never be able to discuss my past with someone I love would be impossible for me. I will want my partner to know EVERYTHING about me – just like I want to know EVERYTHING about her!

      But… that does NOT mean that I will disclose my past to someone I just met or barely know either, because the fact is — if I did that, they would NEVER take the time to get to know me and they would NOT view, treat, or accept me as the true woman I am. WHY would I so quickly DESTROY what I have worked so hard to achieve?

      Re-read what Natalie wrote — everything she wrote was perfect! After you read it, try to imagine it from OUR perspective — and our REALITY…

      • Miri says

        Exactly right. What Steve doesn’t seem to grasping here (not that I blame him, it’s not something I would a cis person with little or no experience with trans passes to get right away) is that acceptance of trans people, in the sense of not being discriminatory, not enough. What needs to accepted is not simply our existence, but reality of our identified genders. And this acceptance needs to be unequivocal. We simply are women and and men, regardless of our birth assignment. There it’s no reason, beyond non-acceptance of our gender identities, for anyone to feel squeamish or disgusted about being in a relationship with a trans person.

    • Rasmus says

      I think your opinion and Natalie’s opinion are essentially the same.

      My understanding is that an ethical imperative is something that you must always follow. The lack of an ethical imperative doesn’t mean that there isn’t a “best practice” or at least “it would be really good if”.

      • Brittany says

        You are right – I do agree exactly with everything Natalie has said, but I still don’t think you quite understand — and maybe it is impossible for you to do so since you are not a post-op TS woman. What I am saying is that there IS NOTHING “unethical” about it at all to us — WE ARE WOMEN — and we are just LIVING OUR LIVES as women! Therefore, we are NOT being unethical by not disclosing our “past” history because that has absolutely NO affect on YOU at all, does it?

        The ONLY reason this is an issue with you at all is because of the “ick factor” due to your own transsphobia. This is a perfect example of WHY we cannot “disclose” our pasts — even IF it WAS any of your business.

        Would you think it would be “unethical” if you had sex with a woman and she didn’t disclose her past as a prostitute (considering she was perfectly healthy), or had a couple of abortions, or a string of failed marriages? If you found out about those things AFTER you had sex with her would you think she had been “unethical” by not telling you about them beforehand? Probably not — even though she CHOSE to become a prostitute or to have abortions or to marry a bunch of idiots…

        But yet you WOULD think she was “unethical” if you found out later she was BORN TS — something she had NO CHOICE over at all! And WHY is that? In a nutshell — Transphobia…

        • Rasmus says

          My post was a reply to Steve’s post – in case you thought it was to yours. I think it sounds like he agrees with Natalie, except he thinks the blog post is about the best real-life strategy for trans people, when in fact it’s about the basic ethics.

          My opinion is that your status is ethically (not practically of course) comparable to things like age. You might want to tell people your age, but you’re not a bad person if you don’t.

          • Brittany says

            Sorry – I did think you were replying to me and I misunderstood what you were trying to say. I do think that what I said about the “ethics” involved needed to be said based on many other previous comments though.

            Natalie wrote this piece when it when it was very “fresh” to me because I have recently been dealing with all of these issues. The level of bigotry we have to contend with is still really shocking and can be very disheartening — especially when it comes to relationships.

            I was never able to have relationships BEFORE I transitioned because my life depended on me hiding who I really was. Now that I finally AM my ‘true self,’ I find that I have to “hide” my past in order to even have the HOPE of developing a relationship with someone…

            Believe me, I am VERY proud of who I am, but I am also a realist. The reality is that in order to be accepted as the woman you are by ANYONE you cannot disclose your past history to them — because people just cannot seem to ‘wrap their minds around it.’ I WISH this wasn’t the case, but it is the reality we are forced to deal with.

          • Rasmus says

            No harm done. Feel free to bite again. :)

            I should also say that I’m not going to try to talk about the actual practical issues that trans people face, because as you point out I don’t know much about them.

            I have been saying that I don’t think it’s acceptable to use outright lies in order to get laid, regardless of what those lies are about. Now, people do that anyway and we should not judge trans people harder. I think that a hypothetical trans person (again, I don’t know if this would ever happen in practice) who is lying about his or her trans status in order to get laid is about as bad as a cis person who is lying about his or her age to get laid.

          • Brittany says

            I agree with you about lying to “get laid.” However, you are not “lying” if you are never asked the question… Would I disclose my status if someone did ask me the question? Yes — and I HAVE actually done that – even before we ever met face-to-face. She had recently had an experience with someone who was TS who did NOT disclose and found out about it later — and felt like she had been “misled.” She only asked me because I listed my height as 5’10” – and because of her recent experience. In that particular case, the relationship never went anywhere but I have to say I don’t think it was because she knew I was TS. She was an extremely intelligent, very rare, wonderful woman, but we just didn’t really seem to really ‘click’ once we were together — but at least she gave me a chance. We are still friends today as well…

          • Rasmus says

            Yes, that’s what I mean by lying.

            And before anyone points it out to me, I meant to say that I think it ought to be no more serious than lying about your age. I realize that it is really a lot more serious than that because of people’s attitudes and the way society works.

        • Rasmus says

          Just for the record I would not find any of those scenarios unethical, because none of those scenarios puts me in any sort of danger.

          It would be nice if I could know about the history of those women before the relationship got serious, but I think that the way that a relationship typically gets serious is by learning more about the other person and I think that in practice that happens gradually.

  32. Steve says

    Fair point – this is an article about ethics, and my reply has been more about “best practice”, I suppose. As a heterosexual, white man, it is pretty difficult for me to really empathise, but I think I kind of understand the issues from a broader viewpoint.

    Most of the straight men I know are, on the surface, fairly cool about homosexuality, but once you start picking under the skin, it’s true that many prejudices are still there. Sadly, one of the worst insults to a straight man is to suggest he is gay, to the point that he will quickly resort to physical violence to prove otherwise.

    I strongly suspect that this is the root of the problem, the perception that transgender women were/are really gay men who have undergone re-alignment in order to trick straight men into having sex with them, and that, by “falling for the trick” these straight men have been tricked into becoming homosexual – the worst thing that can happen to them. (I realise I’m using some fairly loaded words like “straight”, but I so as a sort of shorthand, not in a judgemental way).

    It is a sad fact that most people do latch onto a set of opinions, and don’t let facts get in the way, whether it is to do with gender, religion, politics or whatever. I am heartened by the fact that society does now recognise gay partnerships, but I also recognise that there is a long, long way to go, and I have no clear idea of the ethics involved at all.

    I wish you the very best of luck.

  33. says

    Oh god! So true, my toughts!

    I had a fight with a guy about that. He need to know “I am a freak” to feel his “natural repulsion”, blargh! (I would not even date that ugly monster, I am actually commited and still need to have this kind of conversation? Cis people are highly insane …)

  34. cami says

    Picture this: I meet a cute guy. I like him and he likes me. we have a few drinks and then he invites me to his place…yada, yada, yada…we end up in his bedroom. I acted all insecure and I say, “um,last week I totally forgot to take my birth control pills like two days in a row but you can fuck me in the ass if you want.” and then I add, “um, I’m like totally insecure about my body, can we leave the lights out?”. Then, when he is fucking me, I cup my junk and keep my hands down there, pretending to be fracking myself. He fucks me for like 30 seconds (it feels like 30 minutes to him),cums, and then falls asleep. I mean that’s what guys do, right? fuck, bust a nut, and then fall asleep? I simply wait for him to fall asleep (it takes like 10.5 seconds) and then dress and leave. So, have I done anything wrong? Is this a deception? I don’t think so. I mean, did I realy do anything wrong? has anyone been harmed? I got laid and so did he. Hell, he probably bragged to his homeboys about how some hot six fgoot blond begged for him to fuck her in the ass.His friends are probably all like “High five, bro.”

  35. RBS says

    I am going to respectfully disagree about the ethics of disclosure. I think that in addition to being prudent as a matter of personal safety disclosing before sexual or emotional intimacy is necessary from an ethical standpoint. I’m trans and before I met my fiance (whose e-mail I’m using to post) I dated quite a bit. At first I did not disclose until very late in the game. A number of the men I dated were very hurt when I did tell them. Some were upset because I hadn’t trusted them enough to tell them earlier but most were upset because they believed that being intimate with a transperson was wrong and it made them very uncomfortable and very upset.

    While their extreme negative reactions were and are to me illogical, repugnant, and bigoted they still are powerful emotions that impacted them greatly. I didn’t disclose because I feared that might be the case and in doing so I knowingly put those men in a situation where they developed a strong emotional bond and engaged in physical intimacy without knowing something that when they found out made them feel violated and upset and had they know would have changed their decision about being with me.

    Seeing the pain I caused them I cannot say that what I did was ethical. In fact, it was very unethical. It was unethical for the same reason it would be unethical for a divorced person to not disclose that to someone they’re dating who they suspect or know might disapprove or divorce and/or have religious beliefs that being with a divorced person is committing adultery. While I might not believe that the other person does and keeping the fact from them to get them to engage in an activity and/or a relationship they would not do otherwise is very hurtful.

    My point is that in both scenarios not disclosing causes the other person a lot of pain and doesn’t respect their right to chose who they are involved with and what type of relationship they are comfortable with. That they treat us badly and have bigoted opinions is not a valid excuse to inflict that kind of pain on them. The pain of disclosing and risking rejection is very real but in the end its better than putting someone else through that and in the end not disclosing in most cases only puts off rejection if indeed your partner is going to reject you. Finally, aside from the ethical issues disclosing early can help weed out people who won’t make good partners because their transphobic.

  36. ik says

    I’m afraid this may not be reducible beyond ‘ a thorny issue’.

    I would hope that people having sex would trust each other enough to DISCLOSE ALL THE THINGS but that’s not happening for a long time.

  37. hecatehecate says

    That’s very insightful! Thanks for sharing! I only disagree where you claim that HIV positive persons “do have an ethical obligation to inform [their] partner[s].” Health status is a personal information and an HIV person does not have any obligation (ethical or otherwise) to disclose it to anybody. They do have an ethical obligation to always make sure they have protected sex, so as not to put their sexual partner(s) into potential health risks. But, no, they are not and they should not, by any means, be obliged to disclose such personal information. And such a suggestion could be dangerous as far as human rights of HIV positive persons are concerned.

  38. DrewF says

    I have (fortunately) only had this conversation once. It ended when I said “If you are absolutely repulsed by the thought of having sex with a trans* person then it’s your responsibility to ask and if you feel that asking would offend your potential partner or paint you in a negative light then perhaps you should reevaluate your reasons for needing to ask.”

  39. counterPoint says

    Ok all of your arguments in this article are very valid and really can’t disagree with them. And I absolutely agree that a man who gets violent or even angry after discovering the women he just slept with is not cis would be unjustified. However, please try to consider my point fairly.

    I think a straight man who might inadvertently sleep with a transgender person might be extremely psychologically damaged by it.There is no arguing of this fact.For the Allen Andrades of this world I have to imagine there are many more guys that would turn that rage inwards and self destruct. He might now see himself as a homosexual and he might now question his entire identity. His ego might be irreparably damaged.

    Now you might discount this man as a stupid homophobe and deserves his mental turmoil. Or as stupid enough not to ask about your past before getting intimate with you. Or just a plain loser.

    But I wouldn’t see that person as such, he might have been a perfectly tolerant person. And sure he made a mistake of engaging with someone before he knew them. But this man has not done anything wrong but still his suffering would be immense. And NO ONE deserves mental turmoil unless they have hurt someone else.

    I was born in Nebraska, and if the I hear that a even a tiny portion of the society would not want to be with a man born in Nebraska. Furthermore, if they found out about my Nebraskan roots they would be traumatized. I would make sure to mention this information to everyone I might even have the most casual sex with. Why? Because I want to make sure I do not hurt other people. Never want to inflict pain on others. No matter how much I disagree with them. I don’t know about you but the thought of hurting someone else (a human being who hasn’t done you any wrong) to that level is terrifying.

    So given the context of the world we live in, it is immoral to not disclose knowing the damage you could do to others.

    • says

      We also have a right to protect ourselves from damage.

      Sure, maybe sleeping with a trans women might hurt a cis person’s feelings or trigger some kind of internalized homophobic angst or something. But does that outweigh the feelings of the trans woman? Of her being made to feel disgusting and loathsome and horrifying? That simply consenting to sleeping with her could be such a horrible tragic event for someone? That this aspect of her history is going to perpetually dictate her relationships? That she has to subject herself to always being judged for by that aspect of herself, at the expense of everything else? That she should accept the possibility of perpetual, bigoted, knee-jerk rejection just because it would be “unethical” to expect someone else to take responsibility for their own feelings about transgenderism? Have you considered the kind of self-hatred and suffering and hurt that she might experience?

      Yes, maybe some cis guy might get hurt because his transphobic biases cause him to feel awful about having slept with a trans woman. But those kinds of feelings are still his responsibility, and cis people’s feelings aren’t more important than trans women’s feelings.

      • counterPoint says

        Of course those feelings are his responsibility, I agree.

        And this cis man would not have to think that the transperson is horrible or disgusting.

        For instance, I do not find any of my sisters horrible or disgusting. In fact, I love and respect them tremendously. But if I inadvertently sleep with one of them (I can’t even come up with a situation where this crazyness might happen :) ). It would be a tremendous tragedy in my life. Simple.

        My point is simple. There are many cis men who would react in an extremely negative way by an even where they sleep with a trans person unknowingly.

        When black people were comming out of oppression in the 60s there would have been some white people who might have been traumatized with sleeping with a black person unknowingly. Today we would see these white people are plainly stupid. But their suffering would have still been real in their context.

        Trans people should not be made to feel disgusting or inhumane and their struggles are real. But by not disclosing your status you might be causing pain on an unsuspecting and individual who is not ready to face this in his bedroom. Sure society is to blame for trans-peoples struggle and we should work on that.

        I don’t care what sort of struggle I am going through in my life but I would never want to hurt someone to protect myself. I would rather carry my struggles with myself and fight for myself.

        • says

          Okay, so… you agree with my points and think they’re valid, except you don’t get my point at all and fundamentally disagree with me about the ethical obligation to disclose, you respect trans women and don’t think they’re disgusting, except that it’d be a “tremendous tragedy” to sleep with a trans woman and can’t even conceive of that “craziness” ever happening, and you think that people’s transphobic hang-ups are their own responsibility, except that you think they’re a trans woman’s responsibility. Got it. You’re not a transphobe, you agree with me that no one “owes” disclosure, you love and respect trans women, and you think cis people need to handle they’re own issues with trans women… except that you’re a transphobe, you think it’s unethical to not disclose, you’re horrified by the thought of sleeping with a trans woman simply due to her trans-ness itself, and you think trans women should take responsibility for cis people’s issues with them. Understood.

          Seriously, though? At least fucking own up to the fact that you’re carrying around a bunch of transphobic hang-ups. Jesus Christ.

          P.S. Black people didn’t “come out of their oppression” in the 60s. Racism is still alive and well. FFS.

          P.P.S. I think I used to have some fucks lying around somewhere that I would give for the “real suffering” of racists and transphobes as a consequence of their racism or transphobia, but I’m afraid I must have run out.

          • counterPoint says

            You missunderstood my point. I was talking about inardventantly sleeping with my actual sisters. Like my actual mother and fathers daughters. I know it was a stupid example. But i was trying to make the point that a person does not need to find you disgusting to not want to sleep with you.
            You are asking society to accept you for your prefered gender. You should respect other individuals chosen sex partners.

          • says

            No, we’re expecting society to accept our actual gender. There is no “preference” here.

            You whole point is contradictory. If someone wants to sleep with a woman, does so, and then is traumatised because she is trans, what caused this trauma? If he has no issues with trans women, considers them to be women, just like any other, and is not disgusted by them, then what exactly is traumatic about this revelation. It’s like discovering you girlfriend had cancer when they were young or something. If you’re don’t have issues with trans women, then a women you slept with being trans wouldn’t be an issue. The only possible reason it could be traumatic is that you do in fact find the idea of sleeping with a trans woman disgusting. Now, why would that be? You find sleeping with your sister to be disgusting because she is your sister, that makes sense. But, to find that the women you were attracted to and slept with is trans… the only reason this would disgust you is because you find trans women disgusting. I’m sorry, no matter how you spin this, there is no other possible interpretation. Don’t try and make bigotry seem reasonable. At least be honest about your prejudices.

    • Rasmus says

      If I were one of these hypothetical* men who’s self identity stands to be permanently and irreparably destroyed by a single sex act I would make damn sure to investigate every woman that I would like to have sex with as thoroughly as I would deem necessary, like for example by asking her to show me a baby photo of her without clothes on so that I could ascertain that her original genital configuration did not include a penis. (I don’t know how I would make sure that she wasn’t born intersex and had SRS as an infant, but there’s always permanent celibacy as a last resort…)

      Think this sounds shitty? Well, that’s the sort of life you often have to lead if you have an unusual and debilitating mental condition. You have to take responsibility for you needs and your issues. There is no other person or institution that can do that for you. Even if there was an outright law that trans women (what about men? haha who cares, right?) would have to disclose before sex I wouldn’t trust the rest of my life on that, because trans women could still break the law either on purpose or by being negligent. There can never be a replacement for you seizing control of your own needs and your own life.

      *And that’s me being charitable. I don’t suppose you have an anecdote, let alone any data, so we’re really talking fictional men, aren’t we? Allen Andrade almost certainly committed his crime to preserve an abstract social and cultural concept that some people refer to as honor. If you are a person who believes in honor and is unable to unlearn that stupid concept you should probably stick to celibacy.

  40. counterPoint says

    If a gay guy hates himself because he is gay. I do not judge that person because he is afraid of the homophobia around the world. He is afraid of being condemned by society, by his parents, by his friends etc… He is only human and needs to feel like he is accepted. But he is bearing a heavy cross.

    Or do you hold the opinion that that person should get over his internal homophobia and his hate of himself is due to his bigorty and hate of homosexuals??? And his hate of himself is just unjustified.

    Similarly, a person who unknowingly sleep with a trans person might feel that he has now become gay (and this is how a lot (most?) straight men would feel). So he hates himself, he is afraid of condemnation from his society.

    So how is this man different from the gay guy above? Or do you just not “give a fuck”? If you don’t, that’s fine.

    But for it is unethical to knowingly risk causing pain on other people. Simple as that.

    • says

      Because it doesn’t occur in a vacuum.

      In the first example, there isn’t SOMEONE ELSE BEING HARMED too.

      Again, you’re asking me to care more about the poor tortured transphobe / homophobe than about trans women. And I don’t.

      Besides, thinking you’re gay because you slept with a trans women is much much much more foolish and ignorant than simply internalizing homophobia. Especially since your scenario requires both.

      You seriously need to be more honest with yourself about your cissexism and transphobia. You CLEARLY think the feelings and suffering of cis men, however wildly irrational, are of a higher priority than the personal choices of trans women and their right to privacy and ownership of their own lives.

    • says

      Oh, for fuck’s sake! If a straight guy sleeps with a trans woman and then worries this makes him gay, I have no sympathy for this person. Hi worry is based on the assumption that a trans woman is actually a man. This is simply not the case. A straight guy who sleeps with a trans woman is still straight: he slept with a WOMAN.

      The difference between this guy and the closeted gay guy is that the latter is suffering from self-hate due to how his own identity is viewed by society. The former is “suffering” due to his own transphobic belief that trans women are actually men. The latter deserves sympathy (to an extent, if he acts out his self hate on others, that’s a problem). The former deserves to be told he needs to get over himself and fuck off. They are not in any way comparable.

      • says

        Not to mention we’re to imagine that this “victim” of a trans woman’s “unethical” failure to disclose has to be BOTH someone who internalizes homophobia AND someone who thinks sleeping with a trans woman makes him gay. So they’re not even two comparable kinds of suffering. It’s one kind of suffering-from-internalized-homphobia, and then someone with suffering-from-internalized-homophobia AND suffering-because-of-really-stupid-transphobia.

        Counterpoint is just a fucking cissexist transphobe who really really really doesn’t want to admit he’s a cissexist transphobe, and is bending over backwards into intensely illogical conclusions to intensely bizarre hypotheticals to avoid the simple truth: he’s so cissexist he thinks cis men’s petty and bigoted insecurities are more important than trans women’s rights and safety.

  41. Sagredo says

    “And don’t we deserve a chance at love and sex and intimacy? Isn’t that a basic human right?”

    No, you really don’t. No, it’s really not. The great mass of other people are not obligated to provide you with love and sex and intimacy. That’s some serious entitlement right there…

    Nobody is entitled to love, sex, or intimacy with another person. That other person always has the right to say “no”, and their “no” always takes priority over your entitlement, no matter how “wrong” their reasons are. You don’t get to override someone’s “no” because you feel they’re being transphobic about you. Instead you should probably avoid them.

    Here’s a general rule: if there’s anything you happen to know that you believe would possibly cause the other person to reject you, it’s unethical not to disclose it. If you are a smoker, ex-stripper, person who’s had lots of sex partners, or Jewish, and you believe that could be a deal-breaker no matter what the reason, it’s unethical not to disclose that.

    • says

      “Deserve a chance at love and intimacy” is something very very different from “deserve to sleep with exactly who I want, regardless of their feelings”. Reading the former as the latter is blatantly disingenuous.

      The way you people contort this shit to not only justify your backwards, cissexist ethics but paint us as though we’re rapists just for thinking “Hey, it’s a bit shitty to reject someone just because they happen to be trans” is fucking ridiculous.

      Did you even read the essay? Or did you just skim through to find a quote you could completely misread and mangle to justify your preexisting position?

      And where are all you fools coming from all of a sudden anyway?

      • Sagredo says

        Whose obligation is it to provide you with this chance at love and intimacy?

        “Hey, it’s a bit shitty to reject someone just because they happen to be trans”

        That’s an interesting question. Would you, for instance, say it is shitty or not shitty to reject a woman because she happens to have a penis?

        • says

          It’s society’s collective obligation not to desexualize an entire category of human beings as unfuckable, or only fuckable as desperate, dehumanized, kinky objects.

          As for your “interesting question”: No, I’m not getting into that debate with you here, right now. I’ve written plenty on the subject. If you want my perspectives, go into my archives and read.

          • Sagredo says

            “It’s society’s collective obligation not to desexualize an entire category of human beings as unfuckable, or only fuckable as desperate, dehumanized, kinky objects.”

            It depends. If one is “desexualized” simply because nobody wants to fuck you, society does not have any collective obligation to fix that.

        • says

          Would you, for instance, say it is shitty or not shitty to reject a woman because she happens to have a penis?

          It’s shitty. Seriously, if you’re into her, and it’s her penis that causes you to reject her, despite all the other things about her that attracted you in the first place, you’ve got a bit of a problem. People are more than their genitalia, and sex is more than penis-in-vagina. Grow up, realise that penis != man != gay, and use your imagination a bit.

          • Sagredo says

            People are more than their genitalia, and sex is more than penis-in-vagina. But on the other hand, genitalia are part of a person, and penis-in-vagina is sometimes part of sex.

            Is it shitty or not shitty to have any preferences concerning one’s partners’ bodies?

          • says

            It’s not shitty to have preferences. It is shitty to let one thing that isn’t exactly what you prefer cause you to totally write someone off.

            But this debate, as said, has been EXTENSIVELY dealt with elsewhere on this blog. I’d request that any such discussions take place in THOSE relevant comment threads. Sagredo, please stop banging on about this without doing some reading first. Everyone else, please stop humouring Sagredo here.

          • Sagredo says

            “It’s not shitty to have preferences. It is shitty to let one thing that isn’t exactly what you prefer cause you to totally write someone off.”

            I agree, but for many people, genitalia is more than a matter of “not exactly what one prefers”, it’s a significant part of their preferences.

            “But this debate, as said, has been EXTENSIVELY dealt with elsewhere on this blog. I’d request that any such discussions take place in THOSE relevant comment threads.”

            Sure, just link me to those.

    • Rasmus says

      Here’s a general rule: if there’s anything you happen to know that you believe would possibly cause the other person to reject you, it’s unethical not to disclose it. If you are a smoker, ex-stripper, person who’s had lots of sex partners, or Jewish, and you believe that could be a deal-breaker no matter what the reason, it’s unethical not to disclose that.

      Okay, let’s grant you that principle for the sake of argument.

      How do you establish your prior beliefs about which of the millions and millions of your own personal traits that you think might be grounds for rejection by any given person? Forgive me if I’m wrong, but it sounds to me that the method you implicitly propose is to chose our priors to be the things that the folks at stormfront.org whine about. Here’s your understatement of the week: that is not an completely objective and neutral method of establishing priors.

      If we’re going to be objective and neutral we’re going to have to assume a priory that any fact about ourselves could be grounds for rejection. It’s going to take a long time to disclose all facts about ourselves.

      For example I for one don’t want to have sex with anyone who is friends with you, but how are your friends suppose to know that unless I tell them?

      • Sagredo says

        “How do you establish your prior beliefs about which of the millions and millions of your own personal traits that you think might be grounds for rejection by any given person?”

        You don’t need to do that. It’s only if you already suspect that someone would choose not to sleep with you if they knew something about you, that you ought to raise the issue. But if you have no reason to think that someone would care, then there’s no obligation.

        This is entirely in the interest of having an encounter which neither person is going to regret later. Really this is ethics 101 here.

        • Rasmus says

          I would agree with you if you were talking about things where you could make a nearly universal argument that there is an a priory reason to not want to have sex. Someone who has an STD will often have good reason to think that a sex partner could want to reject them for sex based on that. People with STDs should probably try to be a little perceptive to signals that a prospective sex partner wants to reject them based on having an STD. There are situations where the only right thing to do is to disclose. Some countries even have disclosure laws and I think you can make the argument that that’s a good thing…

          But being trans or Jewish is not like having an STD. If a person sends vague and ambiguous signals that indicate that he or she might not want to have sex with trans people or with Jewish people and then proceed to initiate sex with a trans person or a Jew, then that person is sending mixed signals. What is the trans person or Jewish person suppose to think? (I guess most trans people or Jewish people would want to get the hell away for their own sake more than out of respect for the other person’s mixed signals.)

          I understand that there can be serious and grave reasons to not want to have sex with trans people, or with Jewish people, like for example if a man has a boss who would fire him if he found out that he had sex with a trans woman or a Jewish woman. If you are in any situation where there is a group that you seriously don’t want to have sex with or can’t have sex with, then you need to take care to communicate clearly and take whatever measures you think you need to take to make sure that you don’t have sex with a person from that group. You should not expect a prospective sex partner take responsibility for your problems based on vague and mixed signals.

          The same principle should apply to when you’re entering into some long term relationship. There are some things that are almost universally considered problematic, like which city you plan to live and work in, or how many children you want to have (if any). You pretty much have to agree on a city and a number of children if you’re going to have a long term relationship. I don’t know if being a trans person is always one of those universally problematic things.

          • Sagredo says

            “I would agree with you if you were talking about things where you could make a nearly universal argument that there is an a priory reason to not want to have sex.”

            No, you don’t get to determine the validity of someone else’s reason to reject someone sexually. People get to say “no” for the most trivial, ridiculous and unfair reasons, they don’t need to make any kind of arguments for it, and their “no” is never unjust or problematic or subject to others’ critical examination.

            Consent to sex is never deserved. It’s a kind of grace that a person may grant or withhold at an absolute whim.

            By extension, if you think someone would say “no” if only they knew something about you, it’s unethical not to raise the issue.

            “If a person sends vague and ambiguous signals that indicate that he or she might not want to have sex with trans people or with Jewish people and then proceed to initiate sex with a trans person or a Jew, then that person is sending mixed signals. What is the trans person or Jewish person suppose to think?”

            Well, they could ask. That’s what most people do if they’re unsure about consent.

            “I guess most trans people or Jewish people would want to get the hell away for their own sake more than out of respect for the other person’s mixed signals.”

            This is also very reasonable. It’s a much better choice than ignoring the issue.

    • says

      “If you are a smoker, ex-stripper, person who’s had lots of sex partners, or Jewish”

      Wow. Let’s just collect the whole list of things that people have given on this one post as “reasons to reject someone” and/or “reasons not to have sex with someone”, whether they support those reasons themselves or not.

      The only “entitlement” here is the one from the commenters explicitly and implicitly reinforcing social judgments on who is worth loving and who isn’t, and what we should all say about it. As a friend of mine put it, being transgender is not contagious!! That goes for the cis men worried about “catching teh Queer” by sleeping with a trans woman, too–or a cis queer woman, I actually did get that reaction.

      You might catch queer liberationist thinking if you hang around too many critical-thinking queers, but I promise that’s not so bad.

  42. George says

    Another principle dimension of privilege here is the assumed primacy of the cis person’s feelings. The entire situation is interpreted in terms of how the cis person is affected. The discomfort he has with the “deceit” outweighs how she is affected (or hurt… often literally) by his reaction.

    So I always assumed that the argument was from the perspective of someone who is trans, the cis person’s feelings are primary, because putting other people before yourself is something we are told that everyone should aspire to do. So sure from the perspective of the cis, he should ask, but from the perspective of the cis, they should tell.

    This argument is entirely independent of the cis faulty reasoning, if the trans realises that the cis may feel negativley after the reveal of information, in order to minimise the negative impact, this should be done before any emotional bond is formed, DESPITE the faulty reasoning of the cis.

  43. Average SAWCSM says

    This post has been very interesting to me – I’m starting to see the cissexism of the position I previously espoused. Thanks for the well written, well organized argument. As someone who doesn’t have a lot of knowledge about these topics but wants to learn more, it was both very approachable and very even in terms of tone (though I can’t say I would be chuffed if this was written in an angry tone – anybody being forced to endure this kind of oppression has a right to be mad). I will be sure to bookmark it. Thanks for writing it!

  44. Timothy H. says

    I have no desire to have sex with someone who started out life with a penis.

    I respect a woman’s right to consent. I respect her right to rescind consent. If I were to find out after sleeping with her that she had one, I would consider it rape and I would press charges.

    If she confided to me before, there would be no hard feelings from me. I would not threaten her. I would not attack her. I’d understand, and wish her the best.

    I’ve been rejected by women for a multitude of reasons– and no matter how unreasonable or unfair I felt they were– I respected them all.

    Deceit, no matter how justified you feel it is, is a form of coercion.

    I wouldn’t do it to you, you have no right to do it to me.

    From what I’ve seen, there are plenty of men of all orientations who are actively interested in finding a trans-gender, inter-sex person. Find one of them.

    • says

      I love how that “IF she confided to me before…” implies that you WOULD threaten or attack her and be an asshole if she didn’t disclose. So… um… fuck YOU, basically, given that you’re justifying trans-misogynistic violent beneath bullshit veneer of “respect”.

      It’s not deceit just because I didn’t read your mind and then clarify YOUR mistaken assumptions.

      Go away.

      • Timothy H. says

        No. You’re the one who wrote this whole article saying that you have no problem in justifying “lying” to your partners, because you feel that your reasons are better than their reasons.

        So you don’t get to play the implied card– you’re the liar. You’ve already established that. I say what I mean, you don’t.

        I would be angry. I would be hurt. I wouldn’t hurt her. I’d walk away from the situation. I’m sorry that other people don’t, and that they choose to hurt transgender people. That’s not okay.

        However, if someone is pre-op and they don’t tell me they have a penis before something happens, and I have to find out during heavy petting. That is not okay. Some people don’t enjoy fucking people with penises, and you can’t change that.

        If I were to get into a relationship with a woman– one where I hope to someday have children, I’d hope she’d tell me that she couldn’t have children. I also would hope, since I would be revealing myself to her too, that she would be honest enough to tell me of what was a major period of transition in her life.

        So yes, I would feel raped. You can’t change that. You can’t tell me what I can and can’t feel. That isn’t your right, that isn’t your place. If you want to enter into a relationship with people, you have to risk being rejected. I risk being rejected all the time– but I’m blunt. I tell people about myself. Yes, I never had to worry about having my body and my gender match up.

        However, as someone with a mental illness, whenever I confide it in someone, or they find out– I have to deal with scorn and rejection. That’s a reality I’m prepared to deal with. I myself am open about my diagnosis– she’ll find out far sooner than before the time we’re intimate.

        Because I’d want her to know if she’d have a problem with someone like that.

        I have to risk being rejected by someone with ableist privilege. That sucks, that’s life, that’s relationships.

        Also– the term “buyers remorse” is a term used to justify rape.

        But you know what? You bring up a great point. I’ll bring up my frustration with this to every new female partner before I sleep with them. I’ll take upon myself to let them know that I am interested in sexual partners without a penis. They’ll probably look at me as if I’m nuts, some might look at me as if I’m a bigot. But you know what? In a world where people like you feel that entitled to deceive someone just because you’re afraid they might reject you, I’ll be willing to be the one with the guts to ask.

        You’re welcome.

    • says

      You’re skimmign over an important point here: People have the right to withdraw consent, but they don’t have the right to withdraw consent after the fact. Buyer’s remorse leading to retroactive rape is a common feature of MRA fantasy land, but not something anyone supports as a legal principle. I doubt you do, either, unless you are really arguing that if anyone who’s ever consented to have sex with later decides they wouldn’t have had they known what they know now, they shoudl be able to charge you with rape.

      • Timothy H. says

        And you’re right. Sleeping on it– I wouldn’t charge them with rape. That’s extreme. It would feel like rape to me, that’s how strongly I would feel about it, but people have to protect themselves.

        But that’s the thing, about consent after the fact.

        If I meet someone online, and I convince them that I have a ten inch dick, or that I can last for hours and hours in bed, or that I would get up after the sex was over and make them a 5 course meal, or that I’m a Rhode Scholar, when I really graduated from Devry University. I convince them all of these things that aren’t really true, and we get together, we have a relationship and she finds out after the fact– fuck, she finds out the first time we have sex.

        So, yeah– I deceived the fuck out of her. Does she have a right to feel violated? I think so. The relationship was started under false pretenses.

        And let’s get real here– I’m pretty sure, no matter how acclimated someone is after gender reassignment surgery– they don’t just forget that they had a penis, or that they still have one. That’s disingenuous.

        This whole,”Well, fuck you for being attracted to me too!” is crap.

        People are attracted to people all the time that turn out to not be who they thought they were– to have things that they find untenable.

        I’m not sure what I would find more objectionable– that the woman I was sleeping with was born with a penis, or that she didn’t trust me enough to give me the right to consent to that.

        I think that transgender people have every right to do what they need to do to be happy, to be successful, to be free from violence and discrimination. I think they should have a right to date and find happy relationships. However, when their right to have a happy relationship conflicts with my right to know if the partner I’m sleeping with was born with a penis, then I have conflict with that.

        But it’s probably just easier to make me into some violent angry transphobe, so you don’t have to deal with the idea that someone can be both accepting of you and not want to fuck you. That’s cool if someone has passing privilege. That’s wonderful– but like it or not, not everyone wants to sleep with a transgender woman.

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