“When you have the surgery, will you tell future partners that you’re trans?”
As my surgery date (March 24, 2021) draws nearer people have more and more questions about what life looks like for me as a post-op, fully blending (passing), trans woman. I am, to so many people, the fabled “trap.” When people ask me this question, they’re asking what I plan to do to navigate something they would feel concerned about. When people ask me this question, they’re asking me not to contribute to a world where their assumptions don’t work.
The question comes in different sizes and shapes, always with that core idea that some people have some amount of right to know that I am trans. The phrasing may be different, they may swaddle this concern in a worry that my partners could expect me to be able to carry children, for instance. Again I point out that this worry is entirely for the cisgender person in the equation.
The question ultimately comes to this: is it ethical for me to withhold information that potential partners might have an issue with? And my answer to that is a resounding yes. It is entirely ethical for me, or for any trans woman, to not announce that we are trans. It is not ethical, to hold me or any trans woman, accountable for other humans’ hangups about trans people, their homophobia, or their long-term desires for pregnancy. It is not on any person to announce everything about them a person may find disagreeable preemptively, so that other people can make what amounts to an “informed buying decision” for their genitals.
The entire premise that we are somehow deceptive or even malicious for not announcing this information relies on an underlying assumption that we are an “acquired taste” of sorts. They would have us believe that people need to opt into the experience of being with a trans woman — and that trans women should accept this branding as “nominally a woman, except for when people need a real woman” as facts by which we live our lives. And you can see this in dating apps: there are tick boxes for “women” and then a different tick box for “transgender women.”
Much of this comes down to the packaging and labeling of humans to sort them carefully into different experiences. Many dating apps take clear cues from porn apps that human bodies fit into neat boxes and that I can shop for people according to that — and that I have the right to be upset when I cannot simply filter out people who do not satisfy my ingrained beliefs and urges. And in this dynamic, trans people earn their own special tick boxes. Those tick boxes all say the same thing, “You don’t belong with the rest of us.” Do you know how that feels? To be told you’re not to be seen, nor heard, unless someone deliberately wants to speak to you? That the most important thing about you is your genitals, and yours are wrong? To be told you exist to satisfy cravings and nothing more?
That dynamic sets us up not only to be preemptively rejected, but it is also part of the larger dynamic of romantic abuse and violence dedicated towards trans women. Disclosure makes it easy to filter us, and sort for us, and so men select us when we suit their cravings and much like their browsing history, they shamefully attempt to delete any record of having enjoyed our bodies. Those deletions are often murderous. This dynamic of disclosure creates an environment where chasers (people who fetishize trans people) can find us more easily. Disclosure turns us into targets.
And people treat us differently when they know we’re trans. They just do. I can see it on the faces of people I talk to, and in the conversations I have. When I’m just any other woman to them, they are more relaxed with me because the conversation is in patterns they already know — a song they know how to tap to. But my transness is a record scratch, and you can see it in their eyes. They start taking longer to respond because they’re carefully considering their words. They get almost ravenous with fetishization: five minutes ago, I was a human woman to this person, and now I’m a glorified sex toy with an inconvenient human personality. Men suddenly find the need to tell me they’re bicurious or bisexual, as though any of that mattered because they would still be having a straight relationship with me if they slept with me.
All of this brings us to the singular conclusion that you don’t really think we’re women. You might perform like we’re women in spaces that don’t impact you. There’s no consequence to acknowledging my womanhood in a public forum, but in private you run us through different scripts. Many of you run us through scripts of trauma, you will say that you were traumatized by men and now fear penises. Many of you will run us through trans scripts: viewing me as a delicacy or a special experience. Many of you will run us through your porn scripts, and you will say “I’m not into that kind of thing.” Many of you will run us through your attitudes about gay men, and you will call us a trick, trap, or deception. None of these scripts are scripts you use for women. And if you think we don’t notice that you’ve suddenly decided our womanhood stops at the bedsheets, we do. It hurts.
So, will I disclose my trans identity in the future? No, but also yes. Let me explain.
I have absolutely zero ethical need to operate my life as though I’m undesirable. I am desirable. I refuse to be ashamed of my transness or to treat it as the most important thing about me. My transness is not who I am. Nobody needs to know about that any more than they need to know about my heritage, stuffed animal collection, my birthmarks, weird food cravings, childhood trauma, or any of it. That’s stuff about me, I choose to share when I am good and ready, and if I am just casually sleeping with someone I may never feel it’s necessary to offer that.
There’s no need to treat myself as anything other than a woman for the sake of someone else’s hangups about who I am. On dating apps, I say that I am a woman. When I speak, I say that I am a woman. When I talk about my past, I talk about “that little girl.” That I am trans sits next to my heritage in information that matters if you really want to get to know me and my life.
In most cases, though, I probably will tell my partners. Maybe not totally upfront, but I will tell them all the same. And the reason I will tell them has nothing to do with shame or trying to navigate their potential feelings about me and my body. The reason I will tell them is that I want to feel closer to them. The truth of the matter is I’m not super huge on casual hookups. I have sexual trauma and I don’t know that I would enjoy just casually sleeping with someone I didn’t feel trust and closeness with. I don’t think I would want to sleep with someone I didn’t trust with my transness, and again I have no obligation to tell them before we sleep together, but I would talk to them about it — eventually.
The “what if they expect you to be able to get pregnant” question is interesting, but that’s their expectation, and they should lead with that if it’s a nonstarter for them. Otherwise, eventually, a person would find out I’m trans. Even before then, I might be open about the fact I can’t carry children.
When you’re tempted to ask trans women about if they would disclose their bodies preemptively to potential partners, please remember that those questions are about you and something YOU feel nervous about. If you have hangups about sleeping with someone who has or used to have a penis, then you should make your expectations known. It is irresponsible and dangerous to hold trans women responsible for your unvoiced expectations. If you’re afraid of being thought a bigot for saying so, imagine how scared we are of having to assume everyone’s a bigot.
So please, don’t put the burden on trans women to navigate this. If you have hang-ups about trans bodies, you should disclose those. If you think that sounds scary, welcome to our world.
You can learn more about transfeminine bottom surgery in this group: Evey’s Affirming Surgeries