Trans Segment #24: Disclosure, dating, sex, and relationships
It seems like the most contentious part of the stealth “debate” involves dating, sex, and relationships. This is, without a doubt, where I come across the most scare tactics, righteous finger-wagging, and moral panics. This is directly tied in with “trans panic” murder defenses, which I will discuss in more detail in another segment, and sadly, I even see other trans people propagating this one. Everything from Segment #23 applies here as well, but I do have some additional thoughts on the matter of relationships:
1. There are no formulas about when or how to disclose, much like there are very few universals for any relationship advice. Disclosure is always a balancing act of vulnerability and openness.
2. People still have a right to privacy in intimate relationships. Anybody who says you need to be 100 percent open and honest about everything is setting up an abusive dynamic.
3. Forming relationships is a slow, gradual process that involves building trust and intimacy. I personally believe that people should, for the sakes of self-preservation and mutuality, only reveal themselves as trust is earned. You can’t unring the bell, and I don’t think it’s prudent to disclose when you don’t reasonably know how this person is likely to react. A person must demonstrate that they are worthy of trust before it is reasonable that we trust them with very sensitive personal information. Once someone else has access to your information, you have no way of controlling what they do with it. Even if your date doesn’t become violent, there’s always the possibility of them spreading your business all over town, which can cost you your privacy, your job, or your life if other people besides your date decide to become violent.
4. Disclosing one’s trans status does not guarantee safety, and I think we unintentionally set people up for dangerous situations by pressuring them to do things our personally preferred way. In many cases where the assailant uses the “trans panic” defense, there is sufficient and undeniable evidence that they already knew the victim’s trans status before they killed them. Trans women, the ones who bear the overwhelming brunt of the violence, don’t ever have to do anything sexual with a guy (cases where the assailant was female are extremely rare) for him to flip out and be violent.
5. If the “logic” is that one knows something will cause a cissexist, homophobic thug to have an identity crisis and act violently, one could argue that trans people should never try to look good, sexy, cute, or desirable in any way whatsoever at all. Is this really a fair proposition? I think not.
6. “Well, the reality is……” Seriously, stop with all these half-baked arguments about how “reality” is such and such. Can you imagine where humanity would be if we just accepted things for “the way they are”? Sorry, no fire. We can’t magically produce it; that’s just the way it is. Sorry, no airplanes. Humans can’t fly; that’s just reality.
When did any trans person ever get anywhere by accepting “reality,” by just rolling over and passively resigning themselves to the idea that things are just “the way they are”? If we really believed that, none of us would have transitioned in the first place because remember: “reality” was that you were the sex you were assigned at birth, “reality” was that you were a delusional freak, “reality” was that you were going to be what everybody else told you you had to be, “reality” was that other people knew better than you. Why are you going to start letting all that stop you now? Why let other people’s misguided perceptions dictate your life?
7. Consenting adults, by definition, are not coerced into sex. If people have anxieties about their partners, they need to have enough maturity to ask the questions they need to ask and say the things they need to say. We each have the responsibility to be clear about our own boundaries and to enforce them ourselves. If being trans is a dealbreaker for someone, they have the obligation to disclose that.
8. Why is there no expectation that a cis person should disclose that they’re cis? Or better yet, why aren’t they supposed to disclose that they are likely to be violent? That should be a necessary disclosure all the time, and god knows it’d be helpful for everybody, not just trans people.
9. Yes, it is wise for trans people to consider when and how to disclose, but we are still not responsible for the other person’s reaction. To say anything else is nothing more than patently cissexist victim blaming. It is no different from saying women shouldn’t wear short skirts, men of color shouldn’t wear hoodies, immigrants should just learn to speak English, homeless people just need to get a job, or that gays just need to stop being so flamboyant.
Natalie Reed wrote a great article on this subject as well: