Is There a Moral Duty to Disclose That You’re Transgender to a Potential Partner?

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Recently, I was listening to a podcast, and a caller asked the following question of the hosts: Does a transgender person have an ethical or moral obligation to inform a potential sex partner of his or her transgender status before the two people have sexual relations? The hosts both responded “no” to this question but added that given the prevalence of transphobia in the population (and the associated violence), prior disclosure would probably maximize the safety of the transgender person. This safety concern is particularly acute for straight-identified transgender women of color.

I informally surveyed about nine of my colleagues at Cornell by posing the same question and found the group about evenly split on the answer, though everyone agreed that disclosure would constitute a “best practice” in terms of safety and all-around satisfaction. The conversation that followed was subtle and interesting. In this column, I will discuss the different answers I heard as well as the sorts of reasons people gave (along with other reasons that people could have given) to support their responses.

Posing the Question

When I first posed my question, only one colleague (“Colleague 1”) was sitting in the faculty lounge. This colleague’s answer to the question was that yes, a transgender person does have a duty to disclose this fact to a potential sexual partner before there is any intimacy. At the same time, Colleague 1 voiced the concern that answering in this way required some courage, given the potential accusations of being transphobic (or a “prude,” as later turned out to be the accusation by another colleague), suggesting a bigotry on the part of anyone believing that there might be an ethical duty to disclose in the situation.

As several more colleagues entered the faculty lounge (which is where a number of faculty convene informally for lunch each day), I posed the question to each of them. This made for a somewhat unusual discussion format, since our lunch-time conversations are typically free floating, and I had hijacked the ordinary spontaneity of the lounge to gather information. In my defense, though, people seemed interested in the question and willing to play along, a testament to the friendly and supportive nature of my colleagues.

The two following people who entered the lounge, Colleagues 2 and 3, both indicated that they believed the transgender person lacks any moral duty to disclose his or her status. All three colleagues agreed, by contrast, that a person who has HIV or another sexually transmitted infection (“STI”), such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, does have a duty to disclose this fact to a potential sexual partner, and all of the colleagues who followed them into the lounge agreed as to the STI question, as well. Because of the physical harm that can result from exposure to an STI, everyone maintained, it would be unethical to have sexual relations without first warning a partner about this risk of contagion.

I asked whether perhaps some people might feel traumatized by having had sex, unwittingly, with a person of the same gender assigned at birth (or perhaps, if gay or lesbian, with a person of the opposite gender assigned at birth) and whether that trauma ought to count as a “harm.” One of my colleagues, Colleague 5, who had said “no” to the initial question (about whether there is a disclosure duty) and who had followed Colleague 4, who had said “yes” to the initial question, responded to my query by saying “I don’t care about people [who would be traumatized by learning that they had been sexually intimate with someone of the same sex or of the same gender assigned at birth.]”

Colleague 5’s reaction indicated to me that the question I presented might have at least two features. The first is the question whether non-disclosure truly hurts anyone. When we change the facts to someone having gonorrhea, the answer is plainly yes, and everyone (at least among those of my colleagues who entered the lounge) agreed—under those circumstances—that there is a moral duty to disclose. The second feature of the question is what subset of harms ought to “qualify,” since nondisclosure of just about any fact could, in some cases, cause foreseeable psychological harm to some partners. To distinguish between the two features, Colleague 5 seemed to be saying that some suffering experienced by people as a result of nondisclosure (including those who would feel traumatized by learning that they had had a same-gender-assigned-at-birth encounter) should not count.

To distinguish between the harms that do and do not count for purposes of designating a disclosure duty, we must classify the potential partner’s reaction of suffering as objectively reasonable or unreasonable. If we decide that it is unreasonable to be upset, then we might conclude that the harm that would have been avoided by disclosure does not qualify as the sort of harm with which ethics or morality should concern itself. Colleague 6, who had weighed in with a “yes” response, observed that in Israel, the crime of “rape by deception” (discussed at greater length in my columns here and here) looks to whether the potential partner himself or herself would consider the information to be disclosed material to the decision whether or not to have sex with the non-discloser, though the law also has an objective element that allows a court to consider the desire for some types of material information to be objectively unreasonable.

An objectively unreasonable category of information that came to my mind and that I voiced at the time was the fact that a person was “one quarter” African American. If the potential partner was a racist, he or she might consider the fact extremely important to the decision whether to have sexual relations, but all but one of my colleagues in the lounge appeared to agree that notwithstanding the materiality of the information to the particular partner, ethics and morality imposed no duty to disclose one’s racial ancestry.

One colleague, Colleague 7, indicated her belief that there is a moral duty to disclose anything that one can anticipate will matter to the potential partner in making a decision whether or not to consent to sex. This approach would mean that even the racist is entitled to learn that he or she is about to have sexual relations with someone who is “one quarter” black. Colleague 7’s view was that it is not our place to judge the motivations of the partner. Just as a person has the right to refuse consent to sex for any reason at all, no matter how offensive, a person similarly has the right to the disclosure of the facts that would—if known—trigger that refusal, if the potential partner can anticipate what facts would matter to this person. Colleague 7’s approach is elegant, in a way, because it applies the same criteria to “informed consent” as it does to “consent” itself.

My reaction, however, was to want to distinguish between “reasonable” and “unreasonable” bases for objecting to sex. Of course, if a person knows already of the fact (say, of racial ancestry), I support her unfettered right to refuse to consent to sex and would regard it unambiguously as rape for the potential partner to override that refusal of consent. People, in other words, have a bodily integrity right to say “no” to sex, no matter how ugly or offensive their reason for doing so might be, from the point of view of society’s evolved norms. However, omitting some information (where society regards that information as morally irrelevant to the decision to have sex) might nonetheless be justified. I have, for similar reasons, proposed that rather than prohibiting sex-selection abortion (which forces women who have learned the sex of their babies and want to terminate, into reproductive servitude), it is preferable simply to refuse, in places where sex-selective abortion is a problem, to disclose the sex of the fetus to pregnant women. That way, no one forces them to remain pregnant against their will, but they lack the information that would enable a sex-based abortion.

Is It Reasonable to Regard Transgender Status as Material?

One argument on the “no” side of the debate is that that there is plenty of information that people might prefer to know in advance about a potential sexual partner, but that fact does not elevate disclosure to a moral obligation. As Colleague 5 put it, when a person chooses to have a sexual relationship with another person, each “assumes the risk” that the facts might not be as they seem. Indeed, much of dating involves deception by omission and even some overt deception (e.g., exaggerating one’s accomplishments, coloring one’s hair, wearing makeup to look younger, wearing cologne). Why should we consider one’s transgender status so much more important than all of the other material facts that people routinely conceal from a potential partner, such that the partner’s “preference” to know about this fact rises to the level of a moral entitlement?

This is, I think, the central question about disclosing one’s status as a transgender person. Since few people (other than Colleague 7), believe that we have a moral obligation to disclose everything foreseeably material to our potential partners, we inevitably must weigh the “legitimacy” of a potential partner’s desire to know a particular sort of information in determining whether there is a moral or ethical duty to disclose it.

In thinking about this issue, on which I have yet to “disclose” my own view, it occurs to me that the sex of one’s partner matters a great deal to an overwhelming majority of people. That is, few of us, including straight people, gay men, and lesbians, would be indifferent to the sex of a potential partner. In going on a blind date, most of us would want to ensure that the other person on the date is of a particular sex, rather than just leaving it up to the matchmaker and saying “surprise me.”

We recognize the importance of this common desire to be with a particular sex when we extend the right to marry to same-sex couples. People used to make the argument that there is no discrimination in limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples because gay men and lesbians can marry any adult of the opposite sex, just as straight men and women can. Over time, people have come to understand that this argument is unconvincing, because for someone who is oriented only toward the same sex, the right to marry opposite-sex partners is effectively no right at all (and thus completely distinct from a straight person’s right to marry opposite-sex partners). By acknowledging the legitimacy of same-sex attraction in this way, the right to same-sex marriage affirms the validity of each individual’s sexual orientation, one that is often exclusive to the same or the opposite sex.

Cutting back to our question about disclosure, we see that most people seeking a partner would consider the fact that a potential partner is of the “wrong” sex for the seeker to be a “deal-breaker.” For a straight man, knowing that the potential partner is a man would preclude a relationship, and the converse would be true for a gay man learning that his potential partner is female. Bisexual people may feel differently (or may not, depending on the individual). Other than knowing that one’s partner has an STI, there are probably few other facts (besides the sex of one’s partner) that nearly everyone has a strong desire to have before embarking on a sexual relationship. Perhaps that should count toward the “yes” side of the balance.

On the other hand, one of the transgender movement’s goals has been to allow each individual to decide for him- or herself whether he or she is male or female or somewhere along the androgynous spectrum. For a transgender person to have a moral duty to “disclose” his or her status to a potential partner is, in a way, to prioritize the partner’s conception of the transgender person’s gender identity (for example, as a man, because she was assigned male at birth) over the transgender person’s own conception of his or her gender identity (for instance, as a woman). In insisting on knowing that the transgender person was assigned male at birth, society is essentially defining a self-identified woman as a man, much as it does when it excludes her from venues in which only women are permitted entry (such as a ladies’ bathroom), a definition that disrespects the rights of transgender persons.

One response to this objection that may or may not be adequate is to observe that in sexual intimacy, the right not to associate trumps the right to associate (and is most heightened in the context of forcible sex). Therefore, the person who wants to avoid having sex with someone of the same sex or someone of the opposite sex can—for purposes of deciding on consenting to intimacy—make his or her own judgment about whether the partner “counts” as a woman or as a man, and to do that, he or she would likely want to know what the genitals of the person are at this time and maybe what gender was assigned at birth. In less intimate settings, such as the workplace, school, or even the bathroom, the interest in non-association is far less pressing and the competing interest in self-definition correspondingly more likely to be dispositive.

One additional complication in the discussion came up when the issue of “discoverability” emerged. Will the ignorant partner discover the fact that the other person is transgender during the sexual encounter (e.g., because the other person has not had gender confirmation surgery—a surgery that would give him or her the genitals that correspond to the gender with which he or she identifies), after the sexual encounter (because either the other person or a third party tells him or her), or not at all? Presumably, even if the ignorant partner will suffer cognizable harm from learning (either during or after the encounter) that he or she was intimate with a transgender person, he or she suffers no harm if this fact never comes to light. Nonetheless, some of the people whom I asked about this moral question felt that certain harms (such as an invasion of privacy or the harm of having had sex with someone of the “wrong” sex, from one’s own perspective) may “count” even if the victim never subjectively experiences the harm. This approach holds similarly that reading another person’s diary or cheating on one’s spouse is a harmful and profound betrayal even if the other person or spouse does not learn of the betrayal.

It is also true that the transgender person who is able to “pass” as cisgender (someone who is not transgender) under close scrutiny is likely a person of means, because the intensive surgical interventions required for an undiscoverable outcome are very expensive. As a result, making the duty to disclose turn on whether one’s status is “discoverable” might have a disparate impact on poor or middle-class transgender people, who may choose, for this and other reasons, to avoid the surgeries that would enable them to “pass” successfully.

My View

One reason I have not discussed my view up until now is that I find the arguments in favor of and against a moral duty to disclose far more interesting than my own particular position on the moral duty. Another reason is that I go back and forth on the question, identifying, by turns, with the transgender person who wants a complete right to identify and project an authentic identity, whether as a male or as a female or as someone in between, and with the partner who might feel very strongly about having sexual relations only with people who are both cisgender and the “correct” gender for that partner. We might consider this strong feeling to be either a form of homophobia, a form of transphobia, or both of the above and not worthy of respect. Yet in intimate relations, we could choose to treat these “hang-ups” as part of a person’s own identity and not rightly subject to invalidation or dismissal. Then again, I would not support a duty to disclose one’s race (such as “one quarter” African American) to people who would consider this information material, so I am plainly prepared to judge some hang-ups as less valid than others. I am thus left undecided but moved by many of the arguments articulated (by my colleagues and by me) in favor of both positions.

Posted in: Philosophy and Ethics

Tags: Ethics, LGBT

  • Kelly M. Haggar

    “. . . given the prevalence
    of transphobia in the population (and the associated violence), . . .”
    As evidenced by ________ ?

  • evilunderlord

    Thanks for this article. Helped me think through the issues in just the way that Ms. Colb seems to have done.

  • JamieSays

    This article strikes me as being of the premise and mindset that trans women are not really women.

    If I have state ID and a birth certificate that says I am female, but was incorrectly assigned male at birth: does that mean I am not really a female and I’m pretending to be one?

    • OMGLOL

      Well, do you have a vagina that looks exactly like a woman’s vagina? Then maybe I don’t need you telling me. But if I am expecting to have sex with a woman (and fyi I am a woman) and you take your skirt off and I find a penis… you should’ve said something before.

      • Stephen Dorian Dorshorst

        Well an argument could be made for even if they are fully transitioned. I mean, I have nothing against transgenders of either persuasion, but the even the thought of being with someone who had a penis at one point is unattractive to me. I get that they consider themselves fully “women” and all, but for a straight guy it just seems wrong to me that they’d want to be with someone that wouldn’t want to be with them if they were being honest.

      • I agree.

    • pacificsharp

      Is your DNA male or female? No amount of makeup, surgery or clothing will change that.

  • JamieSays

    Unless I missed them, there’s also another couple of issues. The first being transgender children who received medical intervention such as puberty blockers which prevented them from ever developing into the sex assigned birth. That is fairly common nowadays and that generation has now matured into adults. How does the little group view these folks? Are they perpetrating a fraud? The next issue is an elephant in the room: what about partners going into a relationship expecting to have children? Transgender women clearly can never bear children, so that is a very necessary disclosure if that is the other partner’s interest. Or is this whole thing just about sex?

  • LizMarie

    The question itself contains an implicit assumption that automatically demeans the transgender person, trans man or trans woman. Would you ask a natal male or female to disclose that they are male or female to a partner? Yet we’re going to ask this question of transgender persons?

    Modern medicine and psychiatry agree that trans women are women and trans men are men. To insert that question is to automatically qualify their status as male or female with a large asterisk, as if they aren’t female enough or male enough, or are somehow fake.

    Why are trans people subjected to this? Should blacks be subjected to this? Forced to disclose even if they look white? Should Jews be forced to tell a sex partner they are Jewish? Do these questions sound absurd yet? That’s how absurd even asking the question about whether trans people should inform a partner sounds.

    If a partner has issues, it is THEIR responsibility to ask questions, not mine to disclose. I’ll answer questions truthfully if asked, but I should not be the sole exception here that has to walk around with a billboard attached to me screaming I am trans so some jerk can continue to be a jerk. If that jerk wants to ask me, fine, and we can get that out of the way, and he can go take a hike.

    But I and no other trans person is under any obligation to tell someone that we are trans. We might choose to do so but that’s a choice, not a moral obligation.

    Hence the entire basis of your article starts from a bad assumption, that trans people aren’t “real enough” and therefore do they need to disclose this lack of “realness”.

    I hope you reconsider what you’ve said here, but my experience tells me that almost never happens, and that when I see language like this that betrays hidden biases, those biases are beyond rational challenge.

    • Cathie2027

      No dear you are wrong. Yes they had surgery but they were borna certain sex therefore tey should disclose that they are an imitation male or female.

      The potential partner who expect a true born female in a relationship should not have to question every female if they are a born female the fake should disclose this info- come you really expect all men going around asking every woman for a genetic test?

      I completely understand the violence though of the betrayed partner. Being duped into thinking one is having sex with a partner of the oposite def creates psychological trauma esp for men and is pretty fucked up on the false gender’s part.

      • Stephen Dorian Dorshorst

        I wouldn’t really go so far as understanding the violence, nothing makes it right. Though really, they don’t want the possibility of it happening, they should have been up front with their partners in the first place.
        That’s not even counting the people being labelled bigots, etc. simply because they want to be with someone that’s still their original sex. I mean really, if they have to hide the truth, should they really be surprised that when a person finds out they get left? Anything expected beyond a one night stand, can’t really last if a person is up front about their sexuality, what they want, and then their partner isn’t what they want and isn’t up front about the fact, can’t last when started with a lie, even if by omission.

    • OMGLOL

      Really? The only reason I don’t go around asking what they were at birth is because I already assume it from their looks. If you think the person won’t have sex with you after you tell them you are trans, then YOU SHOULD DISCLOSE. Period. Why is it that your feelings matter more than mine? What if I have anxiety attacks at the sight of a penis after being raped, and you give me one because you failed to disclose you have a penis even though you identify as a woman?

      • Stephen Dorian Dorshorst

        Exactly. I mean, I have no problem with trans, they want to be considered the sex they think they are, cool that’s their preference, etc. except, at the same time, the people they want to be with have a right to be with who they want to be with, whether the trans is that or not. To say that that they “don’t disclose out of fear,” or just because they consider themselves that sex is wrong. If you feel it necessary to not disclose, then you are essentially starting things off with a lie if your partner states they are only interested in CISgender.
        That goes beyond just possible anxiety, etc. but would also not be a good foundation for anything beyond a one night stand.

    • Elijah Marshall

      Not everyone has the same views. Some classify male/female by the determination of each and every cell in that persons body. Males have XY chromosomes in their DNA and females have XX chromosomes in their DNA.I read a post online asking about this topic, and a person said that if they weren’t told before sex they would become really sad, depressed, and probably commit suicide. Just goes to show the magnitude of impact this has.You can’t abuse other people’s moral code’s like that.

    • Some points:
      1- “Would you ask a natal male or female to disclose that they are male or female to a partner?” Doesn’t that question ignore the obvious?
      2- “Should blacks be subjected to this?” You are comparing apples and oranges. Gender can be changed, race cannot. No one can hide their race. People can hide their natal gender.
      3- “If a partner has issues, it is THEIR responsiblity to ask questions, not mine to disclose.” What kind of relationship is that if only one person has the responsibility of being open and the other doesn’t have to?
      4- Yes, I agree that in public or in other interactions, there should be no pressure. But we are talking about relationships where trust is required. Some partners might have no issue with it. But some might prefer someone born as the gender they present. I would not be happy if someone presenting as a man didn’t tell me they had a vagina before we had sex. I would see that as unfair.

  • Wendy Lev

    Having a sexual orientation is not transphobic in any way. It isnt transphobic for homosexual people to not want to date with opposite sex people. Its what homosexuality means. Currently lesbians especially are under attack from trans activists, most often transwomen, demanding we see them as sexual partners (or we are bigots). But lesbian sexual orientation rules out by its very definition male bodied, penised individuals. Its a form of discrimination to tell an entire group of oppressed and already discriminated against women, our sexual orientation is somehow bigoted against transwomen. It is not.

    I also believe transwomen and transmen have the duty to be open about their transness to potential sexual partners. Informed consent is key. I would consider not doing so a violation of consent. It is deceit. I do not consent to sleeping with a male bodied person. In the UK,a transman was sentenced to jail b/c of him not disclosing he was really a woman. The young women didnt consent to this.

    What strikes me in the quest for, mostly by transwomen, sex and love, other people’s sexual orientations are ignored, taken for granted, even shamed as transphobic and should be somehow modified. For homosexual people this is homophobia 101. People have sexual and bodily autonomy, which means no one has the right to coerce anyone else into dates, sex by shaming them. Homosexuals have fought for these rights for a very long time, and still do in many parts of the world.

    • As a straight women open to experiences with women, I agree with your comment. I think it is important to hear viewpoints from gay women on this issue. I would definitely want to know either from a man or a woman what their gender status is if I was curious about the issue.

  • Anon Amiss

    I don’t see any reason why a person’s sex assigned at birth should matter or why a trans person should have to reveal that before a sexual encounter. A sexual partner should know what genitalia to expect heading into said encounter.

    I don’t think this means a trans-woman for example should have to say to a potential partner “hey I’m really male” just because she hasn’t had the surgeries needed to transform said genitalia, and thus deny her own identity. However, she needs to say at some point before they have sex, “I am a woman who has a penis.”

    That said though, I don’t think it is anyone’s business except in the case of a potential sexual partner.

    • Well that is precisely the issue. If I wanted to have sex with a woman, then I would not expect to see a penis. I would not want that. So if I had reason to ask, then I would.

  • Disclosing can get you killed. Not disclosing can get you killed.

    The most dangerous situation is disclosing while refusing advances. A transphobe who finds himself attracted to a trans woman, then finds out she’s trans, even if he hasn’t said a word to her, may feel compelled to commit extreme violence lest his manhood be slighted before others.

    Intersex people face the same issue too.

    Under these circumstances, I’m not sure the usual ethical principles can apply. The closest analogy I can make is not the “one quarter black” in 2015 USA, but “one quarter black” in 1920 Alabama, or even “Jewish” in 1935 Berlin.

    It is getting better though – we’re down to only one or two such murders every month in the US. That are reported by the press, anyway.

    Police in George County, Mississippi, have charged a suspect with murder
    in the death of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson, whose killing marks
    the ninth confirmed homicide of a transgender person in the United
    States this year.

    • Well there is never any justification for murdering someone based on disclosure. That does not mean that disclosure is wrong. Intimacy requires honesty. If someone doesn’t ask, then there is no need to disclose. If they do, I would expect the truth, as would many others.

  • Dianna Davids

    As a transwoman (and Cornell grad – yes there are many of us), I find this analysis lacked real substance because no trans people participated in the discussion (I am assuming this is true as I am not aware of any openly trans faculty). I assume if we were talking about race, religion, or other minorities, you would want to get at least one person from that group to weigh in.

    Specifically, everyone treated the violence towards us as a minor issue, but it is a major issue to us! You don’t seem to understand that the murder rate for trans people, trans women, and trans women of color is extraordinarily high. Plus any arguments about perceived “harm” to the other party is all in their head: ingrained by society that it is bad to be intimate with a person of the same sex or with a trans person.

    I would also caution your colleagues to think about their analysis before speaking, talking about whether we “count” as a man or a woman, whether our discoverability or passing really matter, and comparing our decision on disclosure with cheating on a spouse is downright insulting. Maybe I’m being too sensitive here, but I imagine any another minority group (fill in the blank) would feel the same way if outsiders were opining on whether they were real or not.

    Maybe from a theoretical legal standpoint this is an interesting thought experiment. From our standpoint, the analysis is simple: disclosure has a very high probability of getting us killed, we have a moral obligation to ourselves and loved ones to stay alive. End of discussion.

    • Cathie2027

      It’s not “bad to have se with the person of the same sex” IF YOU ARE A LESBIAN OR GAY.

      It’s fucked up not telling a straight male or female that you’re really a male or female that is living as the opposite sex.

      I’m sorry but what does your genetic test say? You can change your outward appearance all you want but you are what you were born.

  • Legal Novice

    I’m a physician. A number of years ago I assisted on a plastic surgery, the procedure was unfamiliar: revision of vaginal skin tag. Before I met the patient, the surgeon pulled me aside, pinned me against the wall, and sternly cautioned that I would learn certain facts during the course of the case that I must never disclose to anyone and that if I did he would see to it that I lost my medical license. I had no idea what he was talking about but said yeah, sure, okay fine. I went to meet the patient and her husband. Nothing unusual, 30 something, married for four years, hysterectomy in the past for something or other, nice husband….

    Well, the big secret was she was transgender, her husband had not been so informed, and she believed that should he learn he would divorce her. So, I was to play along. My duty was to her, so I did. But I wondered about that. I thought about how lousy she must feel having to hide this secret from her partner. And I thought about how I would feel if my wife hid that from me. I would feel…pretty weird.

    I think the reality is that if you are a transgender woman, that is who you are…a transgender woman…whether you have had a bunch of plastic surgery or not. If I was a transgender woman I would want a partner who accepted who I really was not who I appeared to be. That, for me anyway, is one of the things intimacy is about…truth. All human beings deserve that.

    • Samantha

      Well said.

    • Elijah Marshall

      What would you have said if he said he wanted to have kids with you??!! How would he have felt. I would consider what you did extremely inconsiderate. I view trans people with this view to be extremely selfish

  • Abby Louise Jensen

    It is not my duty to protect someone else against their discomfort. If having sex with a trans woman is a boundary issue for someone, then it their duty to ask whether their prospective partner is trans. It is no one’s fault but their own if they later discover they have violated their own boundary because they didn’t bother to ask.

    • Cathie2027

      Right so now all of us born the sex we wanted to stat have to go on a mission and get genetic tests from every possible partner?

      F you! If you want to be true to yourself tell it like it is… You’re a male or female living as the opposite sex.

  • Legal Novice

    “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in a 21st century context should include the right of self-identification. But when a person brings to self-identification an element of deception the rights of others are infringed. All people have the right to know the truth, whatever it is. The movie line “You can’t handle the truth!!” is not justification.

    A psychiatric expert opinion that, for example, a transgender woman is “really” a woman is contextual to the psychiatric treatment of that person and does not address that person’s relationships with others. The larger truth is that a transgender woman is exactly that, a transgender woman. She may elect to undergo the very substantial pain, risk, and expense of sexual reassignment surgery but that surgery will only change her appearance, not who she is.
    And who she is matters.

    Of course, being “out” as transgender, phenotypically reassigned or not, will bring challenges. But those challenges will be based on truth and the relationship experiences, sexual and otherwise, that will flow from overcoming those challenges will be enduring and meaningful.

    Narcissism is visited upon us all.

  • Michael85

    Trans people that don’t disclose that they’re trans to potential partners are rapists since their partner didn’t consent to sex with a trans person.

  • Nyisha

    Disclosure is absolutely necessary. How one identifies is just that. A natural born women doesn’t say I identify as a woman therefore I am a woman, she is just a woman. It is selfish and deceitful to keep something as major as gender reassignment from someone. Forget transgender, male, or female, but as a Person, a Human Being, are you honestly saying it is irrelevant to know whether someone identifies as the opposite of their birth gender? I am heterosexual and the main way I determine who I would be interested in is by the way they present themselves on the outside (I don’t check genitals and ask if they are natural born) If they have changed or altered their appearance to portray themselves as a man, that does not mean I would not find them attractive it just means I would never act on that attraction, which is my choice, deceit nullifies my decision making capacity. If it is likely or probable that someone would not engage in a certain act such as sex or marriage if you disclose certain information I believe it is essential that information is disclosed otherwise you are just being a deceitful, self centered, and unreasonable individual. Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you are transgender and find that your spouse or partner is actually the opposite sex for which they appear, you cannot say you would not feel deceived, especially if you had not kept that information from them. There is a distinction between those who identify and those who are natural born and I think just like we all should be accepting of how one decides to identify, we should all accept that there are people who would not want to be involved in a relationship with those whose perceived gender is the opposite of their birth gender. You get the right to decide if you want to identify as woman and man and we get to decide if we want to be with someone who identifies as woman or man. Now maybe things have changed and now between getting a name and phone number should be the question are you, “natural born or transgender” If that is going to be the new standard then fine, I am okay asking and answering that question but I think transgenders would still have an issue answering that question honestly and if/when that proves to be the case it will validate that not disclosing is both deceitful and selfish. So my question for anyone who believes there is not a moral, ethical, or just common sense obligation to disclose that a person is transgender before engaging in sex or getting involved in a relationship, do you believe if they are asked that they have a obligation to be honest? My fear is that people may ask, “are you a real woman/man” and they would say, yes of course, despite knowing that someone wants to know if they are natural born. Its is all about choice and having the ability to make a choice free from lies and deception.

  • Samantha

    Personally,
    Complete honesty is required for the possibility of anything worthwhile.
    Your potential partner has the right to know who you are. Isn’t it better to know from the beginning?
    I understand if someone believes that their life is in danger that the correct course to take is, of course, omission. But there are always ways of keeping yourself from bad situations.
    Always, we should still love the individual, granting all respects. God knows best, and in the end, only He knows.
    It’s easy to feel threatened by things, and yes, I find myself intimidated by transgender women/men and hold certain barriers. Like Lauryn Hill says though: “You can be right, or you can be righteous.”
    You should never attack anyone verbally or otherwise, the loss is always great on both sides. The person reading this could be transgender themselves, seeking validation of others or simply something to fuel themselves for one reason or another. (I hope you are doing well, and smile today. :)
    But honestly, we are people just going along this road trying to find ourselves, and this life is very temporary. But always respect others, and no matter what, always tell the truth.
    Never be afraid to talk…i because in the end, we are all dust anyway.

  • Saharri

    It might not matter to some and to others, it is a big deal. Both groups MUST be respectful of each others boundaries. If the transgender community does not feel safe disclosing this information to a potential life partner/sex partner (which I would deem as pertinent information) then yes I will ask each and every person I date myself. I simply do not wish to end up in a sexual relationship with a transgender person. That is MY right as a human, as a woman and as a woman who identifies as heterosexual. I understand the psychology behind it–I respect and hope all the best for the transgender community but the rights of a transgender person end where my rights are now becoming compromised. As in, if I am religious and my faith teaches me that homosexuality is wrong. Same as if I were about to being a romantic relationship with a married man. NO THANK YOU. I do not wish to compromise my morality for your sexual pleasure. If you choose to hold that very important detail back from me then yes, I will feel it was deceitful, yes this does affect me on a psychological level and a spiritual one. It it my right to not want to have a sexual relationship with am already legally committed person and to withhold that information for whatever reason is wrong. So my resolution is now to simply ask.

  • Tessa

    Well I was searching for a good interesting read but this is written horribly and she lost me when she asked about disclosing race as if it’s the same as being transgender….that’s like comparing apples and tacos, black ppl can’t transition to white. We are “literrally” born black. Not something psychological that we knew, but something physical everyone can see. You can’t be born black then say oh I feel white I’m going to transition to white and live happily ever after.

  • I personally would want to know. I generally view myself as being straight, and though occasionally attracted to women, I don’t yet see myself having sex with a woman. So I can’t see myself having sex with someone who still has feminine features or presents as a man but still has female genitalia. And if I ever did have sex with a woman, again, the above situation would probably apply. In many cases, given gender norms, I can usually tell if someone is transgender, so I might not even need to ask. I think if the question is posed, it should be answered truthfully. If the question is not posed, then that is fine. I would not say that transgender people are trying to “trick” cisgender people. That being said, there are valid reasons why there should be full disclosure, especially if the relationship grows beyond sex. What if the partner wants children? What if the partner notices that you don’t seem to have periods? What if the partner wants to know more about you? All relationships require honesty, so not divulging birth gender may not always be an option. I know that many straight men strongly tend to prefer cisgender women. Some don’t mind, however. The question does not have to feature, but if it does, then it is understandable to want an honest response. Murder and violence based on disclosure are NEVER EVER justifiable though.

    • Nic

      I agree with you and I would want to know because it’s a deal breaker for me. I don’t care if people see my opinion as transphobic- I am a cisgender, straight female and I want to date a cisgender, straight male. I have no issues sharing bathrooms with trans people, locker rooms, hanging out with them, shopping with them, addressing them by their preferred pronoun, etc., but I don’t have any interest in dating them. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve had the surgery. This is just the way it is. I will only be in a relationship with a biological male. A biological penis is not the same as a surgically created penis. If you don’t have a penis you will not catch my interest. I don’t want to have sex with toys, I want a penis attached to the person. And in regards to surgery, I am not interested in my partner having to pump up a penis in the middle of sexual activity to have sex (which is what currently happens with transman sex) . That would be a turn off to me. I actually love the physical bone structure of men- larger hands, height, weight, etc. I desire biological children. I don’t want to deal with the psychological issues caused by dysphoria. I would prefer to be in a relationship with someone who is comfortable in the skin they were born in. I want someone who always identified with their gender growing up because it does affect people
      psychologically when they don’t. The list goes on and on but I have valid reasons for my preferences.

      I understand this could be hurtful to a trans person, but that is how I feel and it is unlikely that it will change (though I won’t say it’s impossible).

      No one is entitled to date another person. I’m a black female and I have encountered guys who I have been interested in who weren’t interested in me because they were not into black women. It sucked, but I moved on. You can’t force someone to be or stay attracted to you.

  • I require honesty. I would want to know.