Dating And “Disclosure”


Crossposted to The Spectrum Cafe.

There’s a funny thing in the United States (and in a few other places too). It’s called a right to privacy. It isn’t perfect. After all, any right will have some limitations to account for clashes of rights. But for the most part, we all have a right to not disclose medical history, personal info or anything that would not threaten the life or health of someone to people we meet and know. Even in ethics, privacy is considered a major necessity and was the original basis behind abortion option rights (before bodily domain became a major player through McFall v Shimp), the basis behind many of the laws regulating police activity and governmental monitoring and a huge number of laws related to people’s information, companies and the internet. Even now, ethics forbids sharing information about people that is considered private (or coercing them to share it), even in situations where the law does not back such protections. We like our privacy. And we seem to mostly support the privacy of others.

Yanno, as long as they’re cis.

Enter the raging fuckery storm that is “dating and disclosure”, an ethics farce perpetrated by a cissexist, homophobic world bound and determined to dehumanize the fuck out of those scary trans people.

Now, I won’t mince words. The New York Times is a shitrag on a good day and a transphobic as fuck one in all zones of evaluation. And Randy Cohen is not only a stupid fuckjob, but one who has written for the notoriously cissexist David Letterman show, something that no doubt raises some concerns about his position as an “ethicist” writer on this topic. But it isn’t just the maelstrom of fail that is NYT or writers for the Letterman Combine of Uselessness. This is a common problem.

Let’s give you a rundown of how this works:

  1. Fuckhead cisgender person is afraid of trans people/being thought of as gay/magically becoming gay/having sex with a trans person.
  2. Fuckhead cis person discovers that their vaunted ability to detect trans folk is in fact a myth and that we come in all shapes and sizes
  3. Fuckhead cis person panics.
  4. Fuckhead cis person forgets about right to privacy for anyone of transsexual variety (medical records privacy, bodily privacy) and transgender cissexual people (bodily privacy) through selective memory
  5. Fuckhead cis person demands all trans people of any stripe disclose our birth sex assignment (often referred to by said fuckhead as our “real” sex/”true” sex/”actual” gender/”our gender”/”our sex”/etc)

See? Very easy to summarize. Because you see, it is a very simple inclination. And no matter how much concern troll bullshit a given cis person (or collaborator douchebag double agent trans person) coats it in, it comes to the exact same thing. People don’t fucking understand how sexuality works, won’t fucking accept that we are, fully, completely, genuinely and totally the gender AND sex (since sex is broken cissexist language) that we say we are and feel that their personal discomfort/gay and trans panic/bigoted bullshit (as the case may be) that arises from these two previous failures of their comprehension outweighs not only our right to privacy but our safety and well being.

So it isn’t hard to see that this is total bullshit, totally and completely.

So do we wanna talk about real ethics when it comes to dating and disclosure? Let’s use that STI analogy in a more proper fashion. STIs are dangerous to the health of an individual you’re going to sleep with. Guess what else is dangerous to health of a trans person you may be trying to sleep with, cis people? Your bigotry. That’s right, many trans people are murdered, harassed, assaulted and mistreated after a cis person finds out we’re trans in a dating or sexual involvement. Which means that cissexism is a very real and serious danger to trans folk in general (and even more dangerous to trans folk with other intersections of kyriarchy, like race or disability).

So, much like disclosing that you have a sexually transmitted infection to your possible partners, cis people (not trans people) should disclose to anyone they’re about to sleep with or date if they have any sort of cissexist issues with trans people in any way shape or form. Just in case they’re about to sleep with a trans person who could be endangered by their views. This rule applies to any and all cis people. It is simply the most ethically sound option. In fact, it should apply to every branching axis of kyriarchy. Are you racist? You need to share that fact with anyone you date in case your racism would affect them (even people who appear white since after all, many folks may appear white without being white). Are you prone to ableism? Share that fact with anyone you date before you date them, as per proper ethics, because you never know if someone has a less apparent disability or if the person with disabilities you’re about to date may be hurt by your bigotry. Got classism? Homophobia/biphobia? Sexist views? Oh well, you have to disclose that because well, you could end up harming someone, much like if you hide an STI from a potential partner.

That is the sort of disclosure that should be in place for dating and sex. Cis people, white people, abled people, thin people, middle class to rich people, ANYONE WITH A PRIVILEGE AXIS AND BIGOTRY ON THAT AXIS should disclose that bigotry to anyone before you date them. After all, if privacy can be dropped for just discomfort, the truly harmful aspects of your bigotry make it far more viable and ethical for you to disclose then for us. So get to it cis people. Start disclosing. We deserve to know and you don’t deserve to hide it.

It’s the ethical thing to do.

28 Responses to “Dating And “Disclosure””

  1. 1 xMech

    Since reading that article, I’d been spluttering with incoherance about how to express my feelings about it… so thank you for doing such an excellent job of it and so much more.

    “So get to it cis people. Start disclosing. We deserve to know and you don’t deserve to hide it.” yes.

  2. 2 chartreuseflamethrower

    It would be so awesome if people were forced to admit their privileges and bigot-ness the way they “demand” things of us.

    Honestly, that whole excerpt was bogus. It’s okay not to disclose that you’re already planning names for children you haven’t had because the person might reject you (so clearly you think it’s pertinent as you withheld it)- but you HAVE to tell that you are trans? Right. No double standard there.

  3. 3 Sindee

    Again you nailed it. this is the biggest reason I avoid dating. its hard enough dealing with my own fears and inadequecies (sp ?) let alone having to deal with someone elses on top of it all. thanks again

  4. great discussion, thankyou, also their seems to be a fear of magically becoming straightI know gay guys who freak out at the idea that their trans guys partner might make them dig the girls and I know a cis dyke who was hassled for being straight having gotten involved with a trans women.

    Being jerks, not just for straights.

  5. This is actually some of what I try to discover about someone before I consider them for any sort of encounter. I want to find out if they are bigoted in anyway, not just what might harm me physically or mentally, but what might be something that would get in the way of our relationship. I have only dated people I have had the opportunity to suss out their feelings in advance. This does limit my dating possibilities, but it does keep me safe.

    While I think full disclosure of personal bigotry up front would be a great thing in general, it’s not really very practical suggestion.

    The NY Times Ethicist piece was just plain hogwash; it was the complete antithesis of ethical behavior, and completely disregards the safety and privacy concerns of the people he wants to force to disclose. I do not have to pander to someone else’s bigotry and childishness based on ignorance and fear.

  6. Hi GB!
    I think GenderBitch is One Lovely Blog, and to prove it I’d like to pass the One Lovely Blog Award on to you. Will you accept this honor? Read about it here:
    Sharon at After Gadget

  7. 7 gunk

    Thanks for this post. It reminded me of an argument I had with someone recently who was trying to suggest that trans people should always disclose their trans status to their potential (assumed to be cis) partners because it wasn’t fair to “lead them on” with regards to potential babymaking possibilities (assuming this was a heterosexual relationship). Um, what? So, by that train of thought, everyone who is considering getting into a relationship/sleeping with someone should have fertility tests to determine whether or not they are able to get pregnant/impregnate someone, and then disclose this to someone on the first date? How is that even appropriate? These sorts of double standards make me sick, and I definitely agree that it’s cis people who need to be disclosing their prejudices to us, not the other way round. It’s the only way to be safe.

  8. Hey, I know I haven’t responded yet. I’m still figuring out if I wanna do the passing along thing.

  9. OK, I understand.

  10. 10 chartreuseflamethrower

    You can bring up fertility without outing yourself as trans- I’m pretty sure when the relationship gets to the point where fertility matters, trans people explain that they can’t have children. And that point is NOT on the first date.

    By that logic you’d have to be ready to discuss your entire life plans with a person before you could even go out for coffee- because what if you want a different number of kids or have different parenting styles? Fertile cis people don’t agree on everything- and what if someone’s childfree? Do they have to disclose THAT, too? There are a MILLION things that effect whether or not you can/should/will want to have kids with someone.

  11. 11 snappy crayon

    The dating and disclosure debate if you read around on the internet seems to center around “should a transsexual wait until they’ve said what their first name is before disclosing, or would it be gross if they waited that long”. Dating is always a process of back and forth and disclosure where you learn about the other person, and start learning who they are and becoming comfortable with each other. If someone told me their innermost personal life the second i met them (and it had nothing to do with transsexuality), red flags would go up. “Hey, back off, kid, i dont know you that well. Let’s start off with first names and what you do for a living.” When it comes to transsexuals, though, a cacophany of shrill voices goes straight to “and that’s true in general, except for transsexuals, who have so dark and horrible a secret that they should disclose before they really even know what a person is all about.”. The direction the conversation goes when cissexism or transphobia enter the dating and disclosure debate is truly epically [ridiculous] [edited for ableist slurs ~KH].

  12. Pretty much. Also, I edited your comment for ableist language.

  13. 13 gfwe

    “we are, fully, completely, genuinely and totally the gender AND sex”

    And how dare those cisgender fuckheads act as though it’s right not to be attracted to a transgender person! It’s not as if people have their right to their own sexual preferences after all!

  14. How dare I criticize those poor entitled people for stereotyping and bigotry as though preferences and attractions weren’t completely immune to bigotry! And as though trans people didn’t all look exactly the same!

    What a bitch I am for expecting people not to operate under broken stereotypes like ignorant pieces of shit! You helped me see the light <3

  15. 15 P_Q

    Cisgender fuckhead here.
    Once, a long time ago, I asked a lovely young woman out to dinner and shortly after I ask (just before the date) she discloses to me. Both of us being very young and very new to dating I said the first thing that came to my mind (with no stop in between) “So… does this mean you don’t want to go out?” I was more worried she was blowing me off than anything else (she was that cute and I’m that geeky). That added knowledge didn’t change how awesome she was or change the fact I had the undying hots for her.
    It pisses me off, really pisses me off that we (cisgender fuckheads) act like we have some exclusive right to say what is “normal” or “deviant”. If I were to go on a date, with someone new, and announce what I have going on in my pants the best I could hope for is a slap in the face. That’s just not something that is socially acceptable. Then why do we (cisgender fuckheads) expect an entirly different set of social norms. Really, to have an expectation of discloser is really fucking rude and IMHO disrespectful.
    It bothers me more if someone dyes their hair or is wearing color changing contact lens. Especially the contact lens, then I feel like I’m being led on and lied to. I don’t know why, I guess that is my bigotry.

  16. 16 anonymous

    So let me get this straight(pun intended). Your saying that anyone who refuses to accept your world view is a “fuckhead”. Just because *you* identify as a woman/man doesn’t mean that person has too also. To call someone a bigot because they are only attracted to the opposite sex is [edited for ableist slurs ~KH]. Also changing their hair color or wearing contacts aint the same thing as someone having/had a penis.

  17. @Anon:

    You know that thing people do where they make shit up and replace what someone actually said with the bullshit they created? Stop that.

    Also if someone doesn’t see me or another trans person as our gender, they’re a bigot. Plain and simple. Attraction doesn’t really come into it.

  18. 18 P_Q

    No, people who have a diffrent opinion as me aren’t fuckheads. The use of fuckhead in my original post was half because I really liked gfwe’s post and I like the word “fuckhead”.
    Why the fuck are you assuming that all trans are Male to Female or that gender lies solely in what you have between your legs, you ignorant fuck.
    Every trans I have met has had this steel rod of strength that runs through them, and are a hell of a lot more true to themselves than most people are in thier life. Getting up and navigating a fucked up society that we (cisgendered WASP fuckheads) impose on the rest of the world and not go bat shit crazy if admirable. Again IMHO, it’s very hot.
    The only person I called a bigot in my other post was myself. However, since we are on the subject. Anon, you’re a fucking bigot. Not because of our differing world views but because you get on this board twist words, show your ass, and embarass yourself.
    So from one fuckhead to another, shut the fuck up; you don’t get what it’s like to be transgendered and I don’t get it either. We will never be able to get it and therefore don’t get to weigh in an opinion on it.
    The only thing I was saying, is that if the person you meet is awesome then nothing else matters. Oh yeah and colored contacts are fucking evil.

  19. 19 anonymous

    @genderbitch what angers me is this steady and slow indoctrination of society by gays and transgensder. It went from giving them equal rights to now if a straight man does not want to date a transgender or be friends with gays he is now being called a bigot, homophobic and that cisgender f*ckhead. What happened to personal choice? it’s your right to identify yourself and do what you want to your body, but it is not your right to force that on anyone else and a straight person. They had a recent TV show in my country were straight men were tricked by transgender in a candid camera type show and when the ruse was shown they were beyond upset that they were being flirted by a transgender. The host then proceeded to label them transphobes and close-minded.

  20. @Anon:

    Hating gay people or even just not wanting to be around any of them is pretty bigoted. I mean, come on. And not wanting to date all transgender people (when trans people come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, forms, genital formats and looks) is stereotyping too and also pretty bigoted.

    It’s just calling a spade a spade. Personal choice still exists. You’re just making the personal choice of a bigot. And no one is gonna spare your precious feelings about that fact. Get the fuck over it.

  21. 21 P_Q

    Indoctrination of society? Yeah, the whole life, liberty, and pursute of happiness is such a bitch. It’s funny how being GLBT is talked about like it a disease. Like there is a plague that we need to try to find a cure for. “I’m sorry but Johnny can’t come to school today, he’s a lesbian right now. The doctor said it’s been making its way around the schools and should clear up in a few days.” Please.
    Interesting how the anons are throwing the word forced around. Unless someone is physically throwing themselves on you and making you have sex with them, you aren’t being forced. Flirting across the bar isn’t forced.
    If you invite someone back to your house and find something unattractive about them as the clothes come off (not limited to genitals, too many tattoos, not enough tattoos, anything, or nothing and you are just having second thoughts; isn’t that what consent is all about), stop what you are doing. Thank them for a wonderful eveining, and make sure your date gets home safely. Personal choice still intact and so is your date’s dignity.
    Exercising personal choich isn’t a ticket to be a total bastard to other people.

  22. 22 Xtreme Kool Letterz

    @Genderbitch (do you prefer a different name?): I would date a transsexual happily, but I would not date a transgender unlessthey weren’t into sex (which from what I’ve read of your blog is certainly not always the case!) because although I would happily have a relationship with such a person, I am just not interested in having sex with someone with male genitals. If I was not aware that my date was physically the opposite gender, I wouldn’t dump them, just explain to them that I was not interested in sex – I don’t expect full discloser of anyone’s history by any account; I’m quite happy with whatever people are willing to tell me. I’m just not interested in having sex with a woman whose form is physically male anymore than I am interested in sex with a man whose form is female – I have no problem with platonic relationships or nonsexual romantic ones, it’s just that attraction is attraction and for me that’s women. Even though transgender women are women, they’re physically male unless they’re transsexual as well, and so though their personality might be attractive, their physical sex wouldn’t be. On that note, I’m not a particularally sexual person, so I would be fine in a sex-free relationship.

    So although I agree that refusing relationships with transgenders is to an extent bigoted, sex with those who are physically different than they are mentally is just not appealing for some.

  23. @Xtreme:
    Although some of the language you used was problematic (male body is kind of iffy cuz of how problematic the word male is, I often use the words “male associated parts” and referring to your attractions as woman based when they’re actually “female associated parts” based is problematic too, plus transsexual/transgender as terms don’t guarantee certain bodies, the words are a bit more squishy than you’re treating them) your overall point isn’t and I agree.

    Some people have certain physical attractions that are simply immutable and not based on gender. If you can’t be sexual with someone with a penis and no breasts that’s not bigoted at all, it’s merely what your physical attractions are. And honestly, your approach of simply notifying your partner that you can’t have sex with her if/when you find out is probably one of the best approaches out there. The fact that you’re also willing to date in a nonsexual relationship with a trans woman who has male associated anatomy is also pretty awesome.

    So yeah, you’re good, all I wish is that you’d use some slightly less problematic terms for stuff since most of the words you used come from a cissupremacist society or are distorted by it.

  24. 24 Jen

    Erm, actually as someone who doesn’t want kids, I DO disclose that immediately when dating. Because that’s really important to some people.

    But a better question is this: do you want to date someone you think is a bigot? Probably not, right? I mean, if you get into a serious relationship with someone and are sharing all of your secrets, your childhood, your inner workings…you are eventually going to probably tell them that you’re trans, yes? I mean, you could hide this huge part of who you are from the love of your life indefinitely if you really wanted to (and don’t kid yourself, it IS a huge part of who you are- not the fact that you used to be of the other sex, so much as the fact that you went through this really pretty major life experience that is BOUND to shape who you are in some ways, just like any other.) But that sounds difficult and awful.

    And man, I don’t know about you guys, but I’d rather write off a bigot up front than get my heart completely broken by them later. I totally agree that it would make it 1000x easier if assholes just came out and said it up front. I may be white, cis, and mostly date the opposite sex, but I want to know if you’re rascist, transphobic or homophobic up front… but that’s probably not going to happen unless you bring it up, since -ists and -phobes tend not to be forthcoming.

    I suppose there are subtler ways to bring it up (mention an article you just read on trans rights, maybe, and see how they react?) but I certainly wouldn’t sit on this information long enough to get your heart tangled up in hopes that their feelings for you will outweigh their feelings about dating a trans person.

  25. @Jen: You do realize trans women face violence risks from disclosing right? It’s not only not your business but it’s dangerous for us to allow you to know.

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