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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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