When to disclose your trans status is a very complicated issue indeed, and is a topic that has been under hot debate for a while in the trans community. When dating someone who is not transgender and is not aware of your trans status, the matter can become very tricky with a variety of views about how one should proceed. At the end of the debate, the answer seems to stay the same; “it depends.”
Dating, in and of itself, is tricky business. There are no hard and fast rules that can be applied to all situations. Where to go for a first date, how long to wait before calling them again – it all depends. And in the same way, so does disclosing your trans status.
In some cases you could have disclosed on the first date, whereas in another case disclosing when you met would have been better. It isn’t only about what feels comfortable for you either, you need to take into account how your potential partner will react. There are a variety of things to consider when deciding how and when to disclose your trans status.
As an aside, one also needs to discuss this idea of ‘disclosure’. For many trans people, their gender expression is their true expression and the very act of having to disclose may imply that this expression is in fact fake and needs disclosing. In some ways, the act of disclosing, feels very much like “coming out” and can be quite dis-empowering. Yet, there is a very real concern here. On the one hand, it is necessary to disclose one’s trans status for safety reasons as there have been cases where trans people have been injured, hurt or killed when their partner discovered their trans status. This is by no means the norm, but it is something to consider.
Furthermore, many non-trans people will argue that it is their right to know if they are dating someone transgender. Again, the debate continues – perhaps disclosing trans gender is akin to disclosing religion, or political orientation; none of which we will agree to being necessary so why disclose trans status. But there will always be opposing views and, perhaps in consideration for the potential partner’s preference, and the trans persons’ own safety, it is necessary to disclose.
Some practical precautions needs to be considered to reduce any risks associated with disclosing in the dating situation. Of course you want to be safe. In a ‘normal’ dating scenario you would ensure safety by meeting in a public place for the first time, letting friends know where you are or even having a friend call in on you at a certain time to ensure things are going well. It is the same here. It is also a good idea to decide ahead of time whether you are planning to disclose as this will also affect where and when you meet.
Disclosure will largely depend on the type of relationship you are forming and the likelihood of this becoming a long term relationship or not. One may question how likely this person is to find out on their own and what their potential reaction may be. If your trans status is particularly important in your life, then disclosing may be a priority for you, whereas for others this may not be important at all. Most importantly, test the waters with this person before disclosing. It is always wise to get an idea of what their reaction may be before actually disclosing your status.
Delaney is a senior registered psychologist working with people of all backgrounds and with a special interest in LGBTI+ people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and Indigenous people.