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Trans Disclosure: Everyone Loves Surprises, Right?

How many bar pick up anecdotal horror stories have we all heard that ended with the lovely lady Frat Boy Frank brought home really being a dude? I’m pretty sure every male reading this, as well as every trans woman, has heard this one more than once, even if you spend Saturday nights playing a dreary Dungeon’s and Dragons derivative. I know I’ve heard it, and I ran with the uber-geek D&D playing crowd, even though every moment hearing about the imaginary exploits of a fricking wizard named Pantsoff filled me with despondent melancholy. How true is this sort of thing anyway? And even if so, what’s there to talk about?

Before we start getting nickpicky and drill down into the fine details, I have to wonder what the actual incidence rate is of a skanky bar pick-up really being a man in drag. I made a very half-assed attempt on pulling up some statistics on this, but came up with nothing. I’m not sure why this isn’t one of the census questions, but that just goes to show how closed our society really is. I would guess that the majority are either urban legends, or outright lies started by other men who are using the unsavory sounding allegation to engage in ball busting when the victim doesn’t provide them with enough ammunition. It wouldn’t surprise me though if this did happen occasionally.

I’m going to take a moment to wade into uncomfortable territory for some of you. No, no, not you; I’m talking about one of the other readers, so relax. It is my understanding that some cross-dressers engage in these activities for sexual reasons. This bums some of us out because even up close, cross-dressers and transsexuals look a lot alike. Go look at my FAQs if you don’t know the difference. This isn’t an activity I really have any negative feelings about, although it does sound inherently dangerous to me. Some men can react very badly, especially if they are under the impression they are “being tricked into being gay”. Things can get violent from there, and honestly, no one really likes a ‘Crying Game’ surprise, especially after their 243rd attempt with their foolproof ‘tired, ‘cause you’ve been running through my mind all night’ line finally paid off. It probably does happen from time to time, though I doubt the man in question is doing much recounting of his conquest to his buddies after.

When it comes to folks who are in the process of, or who have transitioned, the issue gets stickier. There are two schools of thought on the matter. The first is that successfully addressing a medical condition is really nobody’s business and therefore if they can’t tell otherwise, there is no need to disclose. The other is that intimate partners are due by common courtesy to be given information they might consider critical. “Do you have AIDS or any other STD? Are you going to tape this or wearing a wire? Have you lived part or most of your life as a male who was indistinguishable from other males for all intents and purposes?” Let’s look at each for a second.

I think the tell or not tell question really only applies to those who are post-operative. Having a penis is just a little hard to hide in an intimate situation, whether it’s a one night stand or longer term relationship. I suppose pulling a Tobias Fünke might work for a bit, but not long because nothing looks worse under a slinky negligee than cutoff jeans shorts. The feeling behind not telling is that it falls in line with medical procedures people don’t need to know about. Having an artificial hip, part of your colon removed, or even a nose job are not considered to be ‘need to know’ information when dating. If a person is self-conscious or embarrassed about their medical history, it should be their business if it doesn’t impact the other person. Our condition is not communicable, and therefore no one’s business unless we choose to disclose. If fully passing, the desire to do so can shrink faster than the genitalia of the Polar Bear Club.

True as that may all be, the opposing argument is that one should really disclose if about to get intimate with someone. There are a few arguments for this view. Remember the whole deception thing I went on about? People get really upset, and potentially vindictive, in situation where they feel they have been fooled and may have made different decisions in light of that knowledge. Explaining our pasts is not always comfortable, but it’s less uncomfortable than harsh recrimination, agitated rejection, and potential violence when the other person invariably finds out. Even if we do achieve 100% passability, it’s going to come out at some point given a long enough timeline.

Arguing that it is no one’s business is fine, but there are a lot of lines when it comes to intimacy. If you perceive that the other person will not care, it’s a good idea to say something now and avoid bad feelings later. This is far better when it comes to establishing any kind of relationship. I think most of us have already learned this lesson the hard way. If you think they would care, not disclosing transitions right into the territory of non-consent, or as people like to call it, rape. There is never a good reason to have sex with someone and have them feel violated after the fact. This is a big red line that may be legally vague, but kind of makes you a shitty person if you cross it.

Yes, none of this is at all easy. It does suck that we have yet another source of humiliation and possible rejection on top of all the others. In the end though it’s far better to take the moral high ground and live with another aspect of this condition than risking not only our own self worth and safety, but the emotional well being of someone else as well.

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