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One of the hardest things to decide when trying to romantically connect with someone new is how much, how soon — meaning should you be a complete open book from the get go or leave some things to the imagination. As Meek Mill might say at this point, there’s levels to this thing. If someone asks if you have children or have been divorced, you need to be up front from the outset. On the other hand, an incurable STD or a past felony are things you might want to wait to divulge until someone actually likes you enough to potentially see past those drawbacks. But which category does being transgender fall in?

I’ve always been amazed by Janet Mock’s story. Four years ago the gorgeous transgender journalist wrote a piece for the HuffPost in which she detailed the moment she told her now-fiance “I was born a boy” and he responded with, “Can I hug you?” Most trans women aren’t so lucky. Raquel Willis chronicled a recent experience of hers on Buzzfeed, writing:

“I imagined the worst, but I said it anyway. ‘I’m a transgender woman.’ I emphasized the woman part. That didn’t stop the intense expression of confusion that spread across his face.

‘So you’re a man?’ he asked. ‘Do you know how lucky you are that I’m not, like, crazy? Because I know plenty of guys who would really do some sh-t to you.’

‘No, I’m a woman, a transgender woman,’ I answered, trying to make him understand.

But I knew it didn’t matter what I said. His entire view of me had changed and there was no going back.”

While the feelings of the non-trans mate are usually the center of these types of debates, Willis spoke to the increasing danger trans women put themselves in the later they wait to disclose their background.

“Having to constantly define and explain myself is both exhausting and unfair,”she wrote. “I feel like I have to share my entire life story early on — a situation in dating that we’re often told to avoid at the risk of being too overwhelming. After a number of dates and situations not too unlike the interaction with the MMA fighter, I had to take a serious look at the risk involved with not disclosing my trans status. I found early disclosure necessary because we live in a world where trans panic is still justification for devaluing and even harming trans women.”

Trans women not only have to think about not hurting a potential partner but also not putting themselves in harm’s way while still maintaining the boundaries of self-disclosure we all cling to as we become increasingly vulnerable. Is there a concrete time one can put on that, a three-date rule so to speak? Or is this something best disclosed on a need to know basis. For instance, I decided I now like you so you need to know, versus telling every man who crosses your path.

A the end of her Buzzfeed piece, Willis wrote “No one should have to live or love in the dark,” but how long is it OK to keep potential partners in the dark about your sexual identity?


Image Credit: BuzzFeed Screenshot

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  • Rastaman

    “The truth shall set you free” is a philosophy best applied to one’s gender status, marital status, children status and STD status especially when you are dating. All parties involved are provided with the information to make their own choices. Withholding that information is to my mind selfish and irresponsible. It may make for less opportunities but the quality of those opportunities will be increasingly better.

  • Yurilyte

    I’m not really concerned about being PC here, but if you are trans you are not biologically the same as a person born as the gender you’ve chosen to identify with and you need to freaking understand that. Stop acting like you are or like you should be treated as if you are if you are in a situation where your biology matters. In most social situations it won’t, but when it comes to anything concerning relationships, esp long term ones, it’s important. If you’re a transwoman, you are not biologically a woman and that’s crucial to an overwhelming number of men when selecting a romantic partner (not a f*** buddy or friend with benefits), especially if he wants to eventually start a family in the future. A hetero man might explore his sexuality with you, have sex with you, befriend you even, but if he wants to ‘settle down’ with a woman then you as a transwoman are highly unlikely to be the one he does it with.

  • PrimmestPlum

    I may have an unpopular opinion here. Although I definitely agree that disclosure early on can definitely have its benefits, it also has its serious pitfalls. Because if you’re a transwoman and a man is interested in you romantically in the beginning stages, you really don’t know this man from poo. You don’t know how homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic or toxically masculine he may be.

    I say “toxically masculine” because there are men out here who will absolutely consensually approach an attractive woman, (by THEIR OWN assessments) and when they find out that she was not what they thought she was, they get violent. Very violent. What I think is that they feel that their masculinity is somehow threatened and they take it out on her. When she was just minding her business walking down the street, just existing in her own skin. I’ve known transwomen to get pummeled to a pulp after a man felt he’s been “duped”. I’ve also had conversations with men who feel that they’ve been “duped” and that’s what I’ve gathered.

    At the end of the day I look at it in terms of, a man’s feelings vs a transwoman’s life. Yes, it’s important to disclose but it’s also important to keep yourself safe. I would suggest vetting the man or individual out FIRST. Seeing if they have violent, homophobic, transphobic etc tendencies and if they do, just leave them alone. You’re not obligated to disclose anything because you’re not involved with them. If they seem open minded enough and you feel comfortable with taking the risk then go for it. But it’s still a risk.

    • Mico

      Amen. I was just about to say something similar. Both you and Truth emphasized the fact that they do need to be concerned about their safety as well. Yes these things should be disclosed, however too many men, as you said, think they have dominion over women and their bodies. The same mentality that tells them its ok to put their hands on or be upset about a woman rejecting them when engaging in street harassment is the same mentality that tells them its ok to get physical with or even kill or rape a transgendered person whom THEY approached. Many times it does not even get to the point of dating before they get violent, and are simply strangers to each other. Until a man has shown that he is not transphobic, I would warn against disclosing, however it should be disclosed before physical or emotional intimacy occurs. And maybe have supportive friends or family around to help with any verbal abuse or violence as well. There are plenty of people who are open and who don’t care. There are also those who would consensually and knowingly have sex with trans women (including seeking out prostitutes), and either use them just for sex or afterwards verbally or physically abuses them. This is kind of similar to what happens with men who engage in sex acts with gay men and then their masculinity is threatened so they think its ok to abuse them. It’s a shame and its so sad and more awareness to be spread about how transgender people are treated and also murdered. And I would also like to hear and see more transmen and their stories talked about too. We as human beings should just respect each other as humans.

  • Ocean

    Before planning the 1st date/physical contact. That seems fair to me. Tell the other person and be honest so there’s no wasted time for either person. Get used to it if you’re transgender, because it comes with the territory.

  • Jcole132

    That is information you disclose as soon as possible in my most honest opinion. There have been people who didn’t tell someone that they were transgendered and they lost their life because of it when the truth came out in a horrible way (for example: there was a transgendered girl who met a cis heterosexual male who they were about to sleep with when the guy discovered that the victim still hadn’t had their penis removed, and therefore, killed them for it. It was on an episode of Fatal Attraction though I don’t know the name of the episode.) if you are afraid of what may happen when you make the big reveal, then have someone with you who you feel safe with. But not disclosing that information to someone who doesn’t know isn’t right, that person does have a right to know who they’re dating and should have the right to choose what they’ll do after finding out. Better to get it out of the way early than when you and them have already caught feelings. Just be honest.