On Disclosure… Should Trans People Tell Sexual Partners Their Status?

10 Mar

Being trans is a scary thing to most. And, not just because we’ve starred in horror films. Oh, we’ve done that, too. From Psycho to Silence of the Lambs, Don’t Open the Door! to Unhinged, we’re a scary lot at least in the popular psyche. The only thing more terrifying than a tranny with a knife is probably the prospect of having sex with one. A knife, I mean.

Why is having sex with a trans person scary? Maybe it’s because we live in a homophobic or transphobic society. Maybe. Let’s look into that a bit.

Our culture isn’t big on dudes hooking up with dudes. I think that’s pretty well summarized by “no homo.” That little phrase saves everything, right? “Bro, I was playing tummy sticks with a frat bro. No homo.” Playing tummy sticks is a gay act, and if no homo saves that, it’s the true panacea from homosity. It’s humor, but it speaks to fear; many don’t want to be considered gay, including some gay persons. Let’s take the local LGBT center’s word for it that being gay in society at large isn’t all that awesome. We’re no longer defending DOMA. That’s good, right? But, in most states, it’s still legal to fire someone solely on the basis of their sexuality. How out would you be in that circumstance? Some Tea Party members want to repeal the ADA, making it legal to fire someone for being otherly abled. Think it’s gonna get better any time soon for the LGBT community? Doubt that.

Really, having to say no homo after banging the bejesus out of a trans person has a lot to do with not seeing a trans woman as a woman. You don’t say no homo after having sex with a girl, you say it after having sex with a guy. So, the prospect of having sex with a trans person is scary, so long as it’s not followed by no homo. No homo. I’m going to list this under transphobia.

I think that’s why disclosure is such a big deal to many in the the straight and LGB communities. People tend to think that trans people should announce their status to, at least, their prospective sexual partners. Despite what the porn sites say, most people don’t like to be “tricked” into having sex with a trans person. So, we’re supposed to announce that we’re trans sooner than later, lest we fool someone into what they might feel is a gay experience. I’m gonna list this under homophobia.

There are a few problems with disclosure, though…

Apple) A lot of this deals in normative “shoulds” rather than reality. The reality is that– however it ought to be– telling a partner/prospective partner sucks. It might even end in violence. The murder rate is ridiculously high. And, because of can’t win situations like this– lie, neglect to share the truth, or face ostracism– it’s probably not surprising that when you add in the social transphobia the suicide rate for trans people is also ridiculously high. But, maybe not telling, however understandable, isn’t fair to their partner.

Banana) If you think your partner, or anyone, discloses most or all of their past to you, you’re nuts. It doesn’t mean people are immoral, just that we all feel entitled to our secrets. “Radical honesty” is neither common nor a reasonable expectation. The number of guys a girl has slept with? Don’t expect an honest answer. Cosmo says 64% of guys have had gay experiences, and you’re wondering if your guy has? Don’t expect an honest answer. Most everyone has issues in their past they don’t discuss. And, bigger issues than you think. Issues large enough that, had you known them, may have precluded you from dating the person. Again, the only difference I see with this one? Needing a retroactive no homo. That is, it boils down to a bit of homo/transphobia.

Carrot) Trans people get crap when transitioning. Most lose at least some family and friends, get regular s–tty comments on the street, and have a hard time finding gainful employment. So, coming home from a day of that, they want to feel loved, and they’re liable to be pretty desperate to find someone. Even better if it’s someone who sees them as they see themselves. And, yeah, after enough partners leave after disclosure, they’ll probably be less forthcoming. It’s a world of what is, not what should be. If you don’t think under the same circumstances you’d do the same thing, I think you’re funny.

Date) Once they disclose, people don’t treat them the same as a “real” man/woman. It’s the simple truth. We can’t unknow stuff. And, once we know, it forever colors how we treat the person. Subconsciously if not consciously. The problem? Being treated as fake is anathema to how (many) trans people identify and wish to live.

So, that’s what I think. Personally, I told my partner before we got too too serious. I just don’t judge those who don’t disclose.

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Posted by on March 10, 2011 in Uncategorized


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