Something I seem to see to be being discussed frequently around the interwebs these days is difficulty of when a trans person is -ethically or otherwise- obligated to disclose their “trans status” to someone else. And it seems like a lot of cis-folks seem to have an awful lot of opinions about who is entitled to information about trans people’s junk. So, I’m just going to make this very, very blunt. NO ONE has any RIGHT to know ANYTHING about ANYONE else’s genitals. Sorry, but the fact that I was unlucky enough to be born with a brain that doesn’t match up with my body does not give people special privilege to details of whatever is, was, or may ever be in my pants. Now, I will grant one VERY VERY small caveat…but it’s with a great deal of reluctance. Trans folks who have not had GRS should think about disclosing to partners before everyone starts to get naked, but only because it’s a matter safety. It upsets me to make this recommendation, but the world is still a hostile place for trans people, and we still get beaten or murdered because someone isn’t happy with what they see when our clothes come off. But this SHOULDN’T be the case, and there is still no obligation to disclose. Still with me? Good, let’s go deeper (no pun intended).
So let’s get this out of the way…I’m not necessarily talking about being “stealth”. Some of this discussion may apply to those choosing to live stealth, but that’s a subject that can be a post all of its own. We’ll take this step-by-step. An individual’s right to privacy is well established in our country, even if it’s not necessarily always respected by our government or the corporations around us. Nonetheless, people are not required to spill the personal details of our identities to every friend, acquaintance or stranger we happen across. We do not have personal data sheets stapled to our shirts detailing who and what we are to anyone who cares to look. Furthermore, the even greater degree of privacy for our personal medical information is enshrined in law and common politeness. Both HIPAA and your parent’s admonishments that’s not polite to ask “what’s wrong with your _____” are testaments to this fact. Being trans is definitely a medical issue; we’re required to be under a mental health professional’s care for transition, and doctors and surgeons are folks involved in helping us change our bodies to match our brains. Sounds awfully medical to me. What makes being trans different? Why are those pieces of medical information somehow less worthy of privacy than others? Well, some might say, people who have STIs are obligated to share this information with potential partners. Yes, I agree, they absolutely are. However, that’s a matter of risk awareness. A person with an STI has the potential to do harm to others if they do not disclose. I don’t see any way that my choosing not to disclose my birth gender to someone has the potential to harm others.
Well, you might say, I have the right to know who I am having sex with! Sure, but hear me out. Let’s say you meet a woman, and you find her attractive, and you find that the two of you have chemistry and enjoy each other’s company. Eventually, you find yourselves about to get down, and the clothes start coming off. During the course of this encounter, you find that your lovely lady happens to no longer have functioning genitals. She was born female, but due to cancer or misadventure, her genitals were so badly damaged that she was left with essentially nothing functional. I would be a little offended by anyone who wanted to argue that she was required to disclose this beforehand. Furthermore, at no point do you have any obligation to continue a sexual encounter. If you find that whatever your potential partner is working with doesn’t rock your boat, then sail on my friend. Now if we take this a step further with the same situation…you do find a functioning set of genitals, and your encounter continues through whatever constitutes completion. Now, it happened to be that those genitals used to be shaped a bit differently, say…a penis…why should that make a difference? You still saw what was down there, and found it pleasing enough to keep going. Where is the difference between these two situations? Oh right, there isn’t one. But wait, you say, she didn’t used to be a woman! SO EFFING WHAT. She’s had GRS, so she’s almost certain also had her legal gender marker changed on all her government documents. So, she is legally female. Her hormone profile and genitals mark her as female, medically. You found her attractive enough to have intimate interest, so clearly you identify her as female. Hmm…if it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, and quacks like a duck…well, you might just be looking at an animal of the Anatidae family (you know…ducks). There is no logical reason to demand to know about her genital surgery, any more than it would make sense to demand to know if she had had a tonsillectomy.
Disclosure of one’s trans status is an intensely personal decision. It’s up to us to decide if or when to share this information with you. Period.