Columns Apr 2, 2014 at 4:00 am



Someone whose penis has had to be amputated, is not the same as a woman who has had a hysterectomy .. I mean, she still has a vagina, no?
Of course, if one is desperate to have babies, with this woman- then yes, yes.. She should have disclosed this ..
The amputee( of penis), well.. I for one, as a woman- would be mighty cross(but very sympathetic), To be ready for a little action- and well.
But Marcus. To you. Be proud of who you are.
I disagree with what seems to be the prevailing opinion here that Marcus had an obligation to disclose his trans status. Of course, there is a difference between what he ought to have done perhaps and what he was obligated, in a moral sense, to do. But basically, his trans status had NO potential repercussions for the LW (in the way that a person's positive HIV or herpes status might). He is a man--she is woman who dates men--there was no trickery there! To suggest otherwise would, IMO, invalidate Marcus's gender identity.

For his own self-esteem, it might have been better to have told the LW first--if, by becoming sexually involved with her, his feelings or attachment to her increased, making the rejection worse in the end.

But morally? He had no obligation to disclose. I think a lot of people are being complete hypocrites about this. Nobody knows exactly what would be a dealbreaker for a potential partner: so to say you, personally, always disclose is a bit meaningless, because you don't know what the other party considers a dealbreaker... until it's revealed to be one. The only thing we can know are our own dealbreakers, hence it is much more reasonable to expect that people will ask about anything that they consider a dealbreaker than to expect that people be mindreaders who disclose everything, however unflattering or personal or private, that might be a dealbreaker--even if that disclosure could endanger their safety or job security.

(I also think it's a bit toxic to imply that most people would consider being trans a dealbreaker, and to make trans people feel like they should assume that!)
I would be pretty upset, too, like NCA, and agree with nocutename @4 and @7 nanoboy that what happened was indeed, a trust violation.
However, I also agree with LavaGirl @102: Marcus: Be yourself and be proud. But it's a good idea to also be up front.
For NCA,

I think your trust was broken, partly, by his non-disclosure before sex.

I'm poz so I have to disclose before sex but I also don't like to disclose too early myself because I want to know if it's worth it before we even go there. I generally disclose on about the third date. By then I know if I want to pursue anything further (whether that's just sex or FWB or a full-on relationship), but I don't tell everyone around me because I grew up during the whole crisis. I saw my friends litterally being kicke out of their jobs and homes when they got sick, and then of course most of them died 6 months or less later. That scarred me. I've personally experienced all kinds of discrimination being poz (even today) and even when I date someone for 3 dates, then tell them I'm poz I've been rejected for that reason sometimes. It hurts every time. I don't blame them, they have a right to their preference and opinions and the right to make decisions about their own safety and I wouldn't take any of that away from them even if I could, but it still hurts, every single time. Because there's nothing I can do about it, and that's definitely NOT all there is to me. I can be, and have been, a wonderful boyfriend in the past. I know that. I can be one again for the right person.

I think you should take some time and sort out your feelings. Maybe even take a short break (no more than a few weeks, tops) and think deeply about what you really feel about Marcus, about yourself, about what your issues are around sex with one (and, yes, we all have issues around sex somewhere or Dan would be out of a job). No judgement, just get to the bottom of your feelings and trust your gut. But be not only true to yourself but fearless as well. Don't let social pressure and expectations get in the way of your real self and your real feelings whatever they are. If you love Marcus, and I suspect you do, then decide if that love can be sexual with him or not. If not, let him down easy and be his friend instead.

Good luck whatever you decide.
re: @104: I'll rephrase that: good to be reasonably up front--even within the first three months of a developing intimate relationship, without scaring one's love interest off (i.e: on the first date, don't casually mention the uncle in prison for committing a gruesome ax murder). I like EricaP's approach on asking about why NCA's BF of three months "wasn't comfortable letting [her] see [his] genitals. Can [we] talk about that?" I feel some things do need to be communicated clearly at the beginning; otherwise, big misunderstandings like NCA's situation can ensue.
I can see how NCA would at least be surprised, after three months into their relationship, to learn a really intimate detail like that under a false pretense.
I didn't read all of the thread but wanted to share my personal experiences. If I just into bed with a guy and he has a small dick, or is missing a testicle, and they pretend like nothing is different, it is super uncomfortable. For me, the conversation has to be had in a trusting environment or I am going to start having a panic attack. If this happened and the guy had a vagina, I would similarly freak out. I can hold my own with a vagina, but I would still need to make a connection with what that means to the owner. I wouldn't want to pretend that it was a dick.

This situation would be unbearably uncomfortable for me. I would feel an enormous amount of stress and anxiety followed feelings of shame for not dealing with it in the most kind and appropriate manner. I would feel painfully shy and betrayed by the person I was building trust and intimacy with. I would feel bitter that my partner did not see me as a person to safely disclose these things.
@93 Marcus had no reason to believe that the letter writer wasn't attracted to trans men. And I see no reason to believe that it makes sense to assume that if someone says they are attracted to men and seem attracted to a particular man that that man should assume that they care whether or not he is trans. While some people will have a sexual preference that is limited, most people won't even know what their orientation is with regards to transgender people, due to small sample size to see whether or not they tend to be attracted to them. And it strikes me as assuming people are bigoted to assume that they care. Yes, some people care about what genitalia someone has (and we don't even know the details of what Marcus has, so we can't make any judgements about whether or not he had reason to think that relevant). But really, if this is something you care about either get to know somebody well enough to know this about them or don't have sex with them. Ask about your deal-breakers. If I were dying my hair, I wouldn't necessarily mention it. And I certainly wouldn't assume that the attraction to me was dependent upon my hair color. I really don't think most people's orientation is divided up into four categories like that, and I think it's pretty transphobic to assume that it is without data. Again, it's fine if you are attracted to a particular type of person. But why should we assume that's generally true? Why should Marcus assume it is true of the LW?
@94 lolorhone: BRAVO! I agree with @98 Marisheba: yours is the best said comment on CNA's letter to Dan in the entire thread!
Good grief, Charlie Brown! How did I miss that?
@93, "If you accept that trans-women, cis-women, trans-men and cis-men, are four distinct categories"'

I don't accept that those are the obvious categories people need to use to describe themselves.

@95, ok, thanks for explaining.

@100, agreed, not the LW.
When did dating someone become the equivalent of a glory hole?
I kind of think gender or past gender should be disclosed by the 3rd date maybe? Definitely before anything intimate happens. It's inappropriate not to. And it's selfish to think that you should be able to disclose after the fact. I think everyone is entitled to love, but they are also entitled to honesty. I would hate to be this girl. I am very straight, and I would really rather have nothing to do with a vagina that is not my own. I would much rather make out with and have sex with someone attached to a natural penis than anything else. Personal preference doesn't make me homophobic. It's ridiculous to think otherwise.
The LW has the right to feel however she wants about this interaction and deal with the relationship in the manner of her choosing as long as she doesn't out her ex or further harm his self image. People rule out people before and after the fact for all kinds of reasons, just because this situation happens to include a sexual minority doesn't make it an exception. Imagine if the LW's boyfriend had instead confessed to belonging to some kind of quiverfull church after three months of dating. How sympathetic would you be then?
Marisheba @98 and Auntie Griz @109: Aw shucks. :)
@sixteen: If you are talking about the increase in awkwardness, then sure, a 50% or 200% increase makes sense. But Dan is talking about the increase in the probability of feeling awkward. Suppose the probability of someone feeling awkward with two people were 90%. If you added a third person, you wouldn't expect the probability to increase by 50% or 200% - that's impossible. Instead, we could assume the probability is 90% for each pair, meaning the probability of NOT awkward is 10% for each pair, meaning the probability of NOT awkward for all three pairs is .1%, making the probability of awkwardness 99.9% (an increase of around 11%).

So Dan's 33% figure is plausible, provided he started with the appropriate value for awkwardness. If we let P(awk) = X, then P(not awk) = 1-X. So for three people the probability of no awkwardness is (1-X)^3, and Dan tells us that this represents a 33% increase over X. Solving the cubic equation (1-x)^3/x = 1.33 gives us a real root close to 28%. So, thanks to Dan, we now know that is the true probability of awkwardness between any two people.
EricaP: No one said "horrified." No one said "outraged." "A violation of trust" is not the same thing as being violated. A uterus isn't the same thing as a penis. (Neither is a knee, Ricaroo @68). A uterus is necessary if you want to have children, and so the withhholding the disclosure that you don't have one is similar only if the couple are beginning to talk about marriage and children.
I'm not a bigot for having preferences about whom I want to sleep with and what genitals I want them to have. It's not that I don't see transmen as really men, but I want any man I'm dating to have a human penis that works. I'm kind of repulsed by any vagina that's not my own. I don't want to have to get my partner off my fingering or eating a pussy, and I want to be able to get my partner off.

The analogies people are throwing around are pretty ridiculous. Genitals aren't the equivalent of hair color. But if you must, Marisheba @93, red hair, dyed or natural, is still red hair. A man with a vagina instead of a penis may still be the same man he was before that reveal, but if the person he's dating doesn't want to have any dealings with a vagina and does want to have sex with penis, that difference is important.

As for my saying I would be "pissed," EricaP (not the same as outraged, btw, but in the neighborhood), it has less to do with the specific genitalia, and less still to do with my definitions of gender and how it is constructed, and much, much more to do with the fact that I was deceived about something essential and important for three months. Three months of intimacy, of feelings developing, of letting my own guard down. Being lied to for three months about almost anything of importance, relationship-wise would piss me off: "oh I didn't tell you, but I'm married."

In fact, when I was 19, I began dating a man who disclosed much sooner than 3 months in, but still after we'd started having sex, that he was married. I was pissed. He had taken away my right to make a moral decision--would I have sex with a married man--and turned me into an unwitting adulteress (is the unmarried partner of an adulterer an adulteress? I don't know--maybe that's not the right definition. But I had become a party to cheating and I wouldn't have had I been given the information needed to make an informed choice.) Even though we had only been dating 3 weeks, a lot less of a time investment than 3 months, I had started to fall big-time for that guy, and I was faced with the decision to break off something I really liked or to continue doing something that made me uncomfortable. I was mad that he hadn't told me before we first took our clothes off what his status was, because the act of sleeping with him violated my own moral and ethical code. And he knew that it would, which was why he withheld the information. He was hoping to do just what Marcus was: waiting to hook me before revealing something he had high expectations would have kept me from being with him had I known in beforehand.

What Marcus did is more similar to the whole "Catfish" phenomenon than any other analogy that's been offered. When people have fallen for someone they haven't met in person yet and find out that person misrepresented him/herself in a vital way having to do (usually) with age or looks, or body type, they (the misled people) generally react by feeling betrayed. And yet, the argument goes, isn't Miss X in all other respects the same person Mr. Y fell for though their conversations? Isn't he being shallow for no longer feeling the same way about her now that he sees she weighs 300 pounds? Shouldn't that not matter since they have such a good solid connection and everything she said in those phone calls was true and revealed the real her--the inner her? He's not still interested now that he knows her real body type? Well then, he's a bigot, a shallow, sexist asshole.

I understand why Marcus did what he did. I understand why people put photos that are 15 years or 45 pounds out of date on dating website profiles: they are afraid of the rejection that will come before they are given a chance. They are sure that if someone just got the chance to really get to know them, a real relationship can be forged and once that has happened, they can reveal the little lie of omission and by then, the good things established will outweigh the negative information just revealed. (I know that in Marcus' case there's more to it than that. He is afraid of more than just romantic rejection. But the rest of the point still stands) Sometimes, sure, the person says perhaps I wouldn't have given Miss X a chance if she'd been upfront about her age/weight/whatever. But now that I've come to know her for the wonderful person she is, those things no longer matter as much. But those things matter--quite a lot to a lot of people, and in a way they have little conscious control over. That's why people get so angry when they have been duped in this way: they are angry at the deception, they are angry at the attempt to manipulate them.

Now add in an attempt to manipulate lasting for 3 months during which time you were sexually intimate with someone you probably wouldn't have wanted to be sexually intimate with if you had known the truth (which is what the lw says). If "pissed" isn't the right word, perhaps you can at least relate to the feeling of having been deliberately manipulated into doing something you wouldn't have done given the free choice.

And then Marcus is trying to guilt her into continuing. She is questioning whether or not she is a bigot, which is always a valuable thing to do. But Marcus' saying "let's still date and have sex and see if you don't come around" when she's not only faced with the fact that sex with Marcus means sex with someone with a vagina, which may not be her thing (I mean good god, someone upthread broke up with a woman because her bloody knees were "weird!"), but also with the fact that she is likely and correctly feeling misled, betrayed, and manipulated, is a further attempt at manipulation. The poor kid is questioning her right to not want to continue sleeping with someone based on not wanting to be considered a bigot!

I'm a big believer in full and upfront disclosure. I am dating and on OkCupid: I am overweight (size 14) and 51 years old--things that limit my dating pool considerably. I know that a lot of men won't be interested in me, would rule me out because of those two things. And yet they would like my personality, my sense of humor, my kindness, my beautiful eyes, my sexual voracity and general ggg-ness. If they would give me a chance, if they would be willing to look past those shallow attributes, I think many would find me a very desirable partner. But I describe my body accurately, and give my real age. I have lots of recent photos that give an accurate representation of what I look like. I don't do that just because I'm trying to do the right thing and let potential dates make the decision to ask me out with all the information they might want to have, I do that selfishly, for my own sake, because I don't want to waste my time or energy or heaven forbid, my emotions on someone who isn't going to want to be with me once he sees/encounters the physicality of the real old, overweight me. I don't want to set myself up for that rejection, which I think is much worse than the rejection of someone who I barely know or don't know at all. That is the benefit of early disclosure--it protects the person who needs to disclose much more that the person who is hearing the disclosure.

I don't mean that people should disclose every single thing before the first date, but the time to disclose that what's under the clothes isn't what you would expect to find should be before anyone's hands go near anyone's genitals, and certainly well before three months have passed.
Crap: the carpel tunnel let a couple of typos creep in: Instead of saying " I don't want to have to get my partner off my fingering" at the end of the first paragraph @116, it should have said: " I don't want to have to get my partner off by fingering."

And there's an additional and unnecessary and confusing "I" somewhere too.

Also, EricaP: your argument that she was perfectly happy with the sex she was getting so she doesn't have the right to complain now is disingenuous.
If a woman was assaulted, say by her dentist as she sat in the chair, without giving her consent, but orgasmed anyway (which has happened), would you say: "she didn't complain when she was coming; why should she object now?"

If a woman gave "consent" because she was too drunk to really give consent, and later said "that was rape," would you say "she enjoyed it, so she can't call it rape?"

No, of course you wouldn't. Neither does the law.

The lw has every right to be upset that she was intimate with someone, that she gave consent to something she wouldn't have consented to had she been given more information. Whether or not she enjoyed the sex in the moment has nothing to do with her not wanting to continue having sex with this person.

So please.
I went out with this Asian woman in my 20's and she was lovely. She wanted to get serious, but I had a vision of white anglo saxon blonde wife and I couldn't get past it, so I ended it before it got too far along. I don't think that makes me a bigot, anymore than preferring big breasts, or small breasts, or redheads, or being turned off by a Trans does. No value judgement implied. I'm 5'6" and bald, I'm probably a turn off to many women for these reasons alone. Fair enough.
I haven't got time to read all the comments, but my $.02: Yeah, sorry, Marcus kind of earned being dumped, and not even nicely. Fine if NCA isn't so upset she wants to dump him but that's serious false advertising.
Wow, LW1 could've been me ten years ago, when I was in college. I had a long-distance relationship with someone who turned out to be trans. After the initial HUGE feeling of betrayal, all the attraction instantly died. It wasn't even the fact that he was trans that did it - it was the fact that those months of deception-by-omission meant that the person I thought he was (honest, trustworthy, caring, etc) didn't really exist, and it made me wonder what else he had been hiding. I tried to let him down gently and even tried to be friends again, but in the end it didn't work out because he thought "friendship" meant he had license to try to convince me that my sexual preferences didn't matter and isolate me from any potential rivals in the mean time.

I am not sexually attracted to the female body in any way, so I can see why the LW is so upset about this. The thought of myself being intimate with a woman is, frankly, kind of icky, in the same way the thought of being intimate with a close family member is icky (disclaimer: I don't think lesbians are icky or equate homosexuality with incest, I'm just not into either of those). I had the same worries as LW1 ("am I a bigot for this? Does this mean I somehow love my gay friends less?"), but eventually came to the conclusion that advocating for gay rights doesn't mean that I'm obligated to suppress my own desires and stay with someone I was no longer attracted to and didn't trust. From my point of view, it seems a lot like telling a gay person that he/she must stay in the closet and have a heterosexual life for the sake of appearances.

To the people who think Marcus did nothing wrong, how would you feel if you found out that the person you just had sex with is actually your long-lost brother/sister? And on top of that, he/she knew and didn't tell you, because, hey, you never know, you might be into it, right?

(please, no strawman arguments about "homosexuality/transgenderism isn't the same as incest, how dare you compare them you bigot," because that's not what I believe, nor is it my point)
@23 - I'm sorry, but no, you're not comparing apples-to-apples. This is not a "medical issue" like a working vs. non-working uterus. This is "has a vagina or doesn't have a vagina" which you will find out the first time you go to penetrate that vagina, unavoidably. Being outraged at such a blatant deception is a perfectly reasonable response.

Your "broken uterus" analogy is more akin to Marcus having a penis, expecting it to work and discovering that he had ED - yes, in that case, outrage is inappropriate.
Not being interested in dating someone doesn't make you a bigot, it means you weren't actually compatible. There are many super wonderful people who are interested and willing to date trans people, Marcus shouldn't feel like he has to settle for this one girl he likes when she's not totally into him.
My ex girlfriend is now a transman and invented a fully functioning penis that can go from flaccid to hard, pees and actually squirts cum (not sure where the cum comes from - haha!)... but any trans men who what to go stealth can check it out, there's a very informative video -

But yeah you should totally tell people that you bought your penis, sorry but any other way is just a lie period. I mean what if you get married to that person, how do you explain the lack of baby pictures! lol
People may have already said this above, but the mind experiment that is relevant is this: if the guy has an especially bad case of having a micropenis (let's say due to a botched circumcision as a baby), would we fault him for behaving how Marcus did? If not, people need to look inside themselves to see why they think this situation is any different (he has a medical background that is complicated, and genitals that may be initially off putting to a typical straight girl). I think if the only answer you can give is "it's just different" or "but the guy with the micropenis is a different kind of guy", for the purposes of this situation, yep, you're kind of transphobic. This is a dude. Full stop. He has junk that is unusual. It makes sense that he doesn't want to trust any random person with such private and potentially socially ruining info (though I do hope that he can find his way post college to a community where he can feel more free to not have to hide this much).
116-Nocute-- Nice essay. Thanks. And one that leads to a general question.

Does anyone out there have any examples of being glad they were deceived about pretty much anything?

Leave aside trans for a moment. Can anyone give an example of a situation where they were certain they would never date someone who was X, got to know the person online or in person without knowing the person they were dating was X, then learned, and was fine with it, even glad of it.

Let X be any dealbreaker.
Also, I doubt anyone is saying he shouldn't ever tell her. At some point of course she has a right to know and decide that maybe she wants a big bio dick and it's non negotiable. I'm saying 3 months is a totally reasonable time to wait before presenting her with the details. And sex that she consented to, independent of his genitals, is not a violation.
Crinoline @126, see Alice R. @54, and for a different perspective, see JunieGirl @69.
nocute @118 "Whether or not she enjoyed the sex in the moment has nothing to do with her not wanting to continue having sex with this person. So please."

So please what?

I agree that NCA is right to walk away if she wants to. If you're interested in how my thinking has shifted, see @79.
@125 "if the guy has an especially bad case of having a micropenis (let's say due to a botched circumcision as a baby), would we fault him for behaving how Marcus did?"

Yes, in fact, the answer would be PRECISELY the same. The first time they went to get it on, do some heavy petting/frottage/grinding...he would need to disclose "hey, not sure what you're expecting from sex, but here's what I can and cannot offer".

Yes, it sucks. Life is not fair. Most guys would (foolishly) prefer a much larger penis.

However, if the guy is presenting as a regular guy, with a non-obvious difference, then unless he discloses, she's going to assume the default - and that's perfectly reasonable for her to do. It's on him - trans or not - to explain, once it got to sex, not before, that he didn't have the default expected equipment. The minute she agreed to show him hers, he ought to have "showed her his". This is not complicated by gender identity politics - it's basic human being 101 mutual respect.

It's nice that Dan and Dru want her, having fallen this far in love already with a misrepresentation, not the real person, to consider giving the misrepresentation a second chance, but that doesn't mean there was no mis-representation.

Here's a thought challenge for you: closet smoker claims to be a non-smoker, you meet, go on dates, hook up, fall in love, and after six or seven months you catch them smoking...what do you do?
When I see these conversations it actually makes me stop caring.

In every day life I try to treat everyone equal. I make an active effort to not let race, gender identity, sexuality, whatever influence how I treat people.

But in dating / romance even the suggestion that I can't feel how I feel pisses me off, and when I get told I shouldn't feel a certain way, or can't like what I like and not like what I don't like without being a bigot of some kind my reaction is not to justify but to say, fine, I'm a bigot.

If not being a bigot means having to lie about how I feel then call me a bigot because I'm not dating someone I don't want to just the same, and I am going to feel about people and my interactions with them how I feel.

If I dated a person who identifies as male for months, and engaged in some kind of sexual activity, and found out afterwards that they didn't have a penis but had a vagina, I would be pissed off. Because it is not unreasonable to assume that a person who identifies as male, and is persuing a romantic and sexual relationship with you, has all the commonly expected "male" stuff. If they don't, be they trans or a cis male, then they are intentionally withholding something that is typically seen as important in such a relationship.

And that is manipulation. Someone said the trans guy in the letter wasn't mainpulating. Of course he was. He intentionally withheld information in the hopes that the LW would eventually deveop feelings and decide to stay with him regardless.

That's pretty much the definition of manipulation, to not be honest in order to get someone to do what you want them to do.

The trans guy may not have some kind of a legal obligation to reveal, but that doesn't mean the person on the recieving end doesn't have a right to be pissed off at not being told. There are lots of things people don't have an obligation to tell, but not telling will piss other people off.

If that makes me transphobic then so be it. If the fact that I would never refuse to hire someone for being trans, that I would never refuse to be friends with someone just for being trans, that I would jump in to defend a trans person being persecuted or attacked... if all of that doesn't define my attitude about trans people more than the fact that I would feel betrayed if someone let me think they had a dick when they didn't and felt led on if that went on for months, then fine.

I'm a transphobe. A transphobe who defends, sticks up for, and would never harm or put down a trans person just for being trans.

What discussions like this and others like it have taught me is simply not to be honest. If you aren't interested in someone due to some basic aspect of them that doesn't do it for you don't tell them. Just say it isn't working. If they do something that pisses you off don't tell them and try to work through it so you can be friends. Pretend it is all find and then just cut them out of your life so you don't have to deal with them.

Because I feel how I feel and being told that feeling how I feel makes me a bigot doesn't change how I feel. So be it then. But throwing the bigot label at someone who doesn't harm anyone and would otherwise stand up for you only looses you allies.

As a gay person I figured that out and cringe when ever gay people go overboard over a misstatement or poorly chosen word by someone who is otherwise shown to be a supporter of gay people. That kind of reaction doesn't inspire people from outside the group to want to stick up for the group.
I want to explore what EricaP wrote much earlier in the thread, that due to growing up in our culture, we are *all* a little racist, sexist, anti-trans, what have you. I'm a white woman; despite my efforts, I probably hold some racial biases that are not a good look for anyone. Like most decent people, I work to both challenge my inner assumptions *and* to not let them affect my behaviors.

So, let's imagine a 1-10 ratings scale or racism. Jimmy Carter, say, is maybe a 0.5 and I may be around a 2. A KKKer who has lynched a black man would be a 10.

Similarly, a scale like that for trans might have Gwen Arujo's killers at a 10, people who aren't violent but say 'thing' or 'it' might be an 8. It's my belief that someone in LW's situation who gets angry at being deceived, feels that their trust is violated, but does NOT out Marcus, insult him, or otherwise trash him, would be maybe a 2 or 3.

To me, the question becomes: Is this a level of transphobia that we are comfortable with? Does that reaction fall into the gap between EricaP's definition of transphobia, and a more standard definition? I think it does; I may very well be wrong.
@83 - I've decided from now on that I get much better clarity and rhythm from your comments when I read them in Nathan Lane's voice in my head. Cheers.
@133: I've been using Ian McKellan's voice for venn's comments for a while now.
@132 - here's the thing: human beings are where we are by being good at detecting patterns and making predictions based on those. That mental ability, the knowledge of cooking, and the ability to pass along knowledge encoded on paper and not just in our genes, is what makes us "human". And from this springs "stereotypes".

This is a little like Dan saying, hey sure, there are real bisexuals out there, but a lot, lot, lot of the guys saying "I'm bi" are really just biding their time before saying, uh, yeah, I'm gay. No, it's not some irrevocable law of nature, but odds are, it's valid. There's a rational, empirical, objective basis for at least some of it.

Bigotry, on he other hand, is irrational and baseless hatred. The key here is: it's got no empirical basis. Indeed, this very question - vis-a-vis childrearing - is at the heart of the rejection of the state's compelling interest in the gender and orientation of marriage partners.

Attitudes on hot-button issues of "race" or "orientation" have lots of overlap, but I think this can be parsed pretty neatly: she's not into him because he actually, factually, is lacking a penis and testicles. Things she wants. She's not rejecting him because she thinks trans people are icky human beings who ought to be shunned if not loaded into rail cars and shipped off. In short: neither phobia or bigotry are at play here, and on top of it, LW was lied to, about a deal-breaker.

So, no level of trans-phobia need be tolerated. What I really think is that NCA would have said "nope, I want a penis (and probably matching testicles, but not a sperm count)" after an early disclosure and that would have been the end of that. What a head-job has been done on her to twist this around so that she feels like somehow it might be her own fault she was lied to.

This is not about an acceptable level of trans-phobia. Unfortunately for Marcus, as he is well aware, he is not, objectively, exactly the same as any other man. And he's kind of in the same boat as the guys who are too short, or too bald, or whatever happens to be the deal breaker of choice for the woman he wants to pursue.

I want to welcome Marcus to being a (straight?) man: get used to making a lot of shots and getting shot down a bunch, for seemingly random minor 'flaws' which we don't feel are flaws. And don't beat yourself up; you're trying to get a camel through the eye of the needle, no wonder you''re looking for shortcuts.
@134 - good one! I'll try that one too.
Fortunate @131, can you imagine dating a guy for months without seeing his penis? The penis is important to you, and you're not a teenager, so you see it or touch it by date 2 or 3 at the latest, right?

Suppose you kissed a hot guy at a bar, and it was fun, and he went down on you later that evening, and that was fun, and then in the morning you tried to reciprocate only to discover that his equipment wasn't what you were expecting. I appreciate that you would no longer be interested in him. But would it make you angry? Angry enough to tell everyone what he did? (See @42, who recommends "social ostracizing" as the appropriate punishment for trans people who don't reveal before sex.)
@135: Oh, I agree with you. She's perfectly within her rights to not want to date a transdude, and she's certainly justified in being pissed about the deception--although she does not say that she is.

I'm trying to place EricaP's arguments into context. I've heard the 'everyone is racist' trope before, and I buy into it. I'm trying to say that, when talking about sex and attraction, there's a amount of bias (not bigotry) that's acceptable. It's the one time when you can turn someone down simply for being blonde/trans/short/One Direction Fan, and it's perfectly acceptable.
EricaP @129: Ooops. Not only did part of my sentence get cut off, but in looking at it and then back over the thread to see the post I was responding to, I realize that I made a mistake. I was responding to the point made by Texans @38: I don't think you ever have the right to be mad at somebody that went down on you unrecipated (sic) if they turn out to be not what you expected.

You agreed with this @40, and I must have conflated your response with the original comment.

As to what the rest of my comment following "please" was supposed to be, I can't begin to remember!

I apologize for my error.
@116 nocutename

Thank you. This discussion had become a parody.

Nobody is entitled to anyone. I don't want a youngish woman to ever feel that she just can't say NO to being manipulated into a relationship.
Yeah, EricaP @137 I think is the first one to mention what jumped out at me right away. The LW has had her pants off, possibly more than once, and her partner has not. Seems like to me that in a three-month relationship between adults, even making allowances for not wanting to rush into penetrative sex, if one partner is significantly less willing to let the other partner see/play with their equipment, that's a red flag, regardless of the reason or the equipment.

genitals that may be initially off putting to a typical straight girl

I'd call that an understatement. From what I've read, a penis even approaching what would be considered sexually 'functional' on the level of a cis man is the exception, not the rule, with trans men.

Would I want to be with a genetically male person without a penis, or with a micropenis? Nope.

Sidenote though: unless I'm deeply confused about where we are medically at this point in time, trans men can't ejaculate, and they don't produce sperm.

That might be a bit of an issue for your average woman.

That was my first thought. If I'm dating a guy, it's give me the d or get lost. Takes all kinds.
I would want a transman to disclose to me his status before getting intimate with him. That way, I could give him the fair warning that should intimacy happen, he may have to teach this old dog some new tricks.
@138 - yes, sorry, I slipped back off into my annoyance at the original issue, without really fully answering the question about racism.

I do believe we are all a little bit racist...and other kinds of -ist where we pre-judge based on predictable patterns. I do not agree that this is all a matter of cultural conditioning. Some of it is, and some of it (and people will scream confirmation bias here; I'm sure there's some validity to that) is grounded in the objective reality as we experience it empirically.

The relativists who reject the notion of empiricism out of hand will insist that cultural conditioning makes this impossible, that culture and language inherently impose a structural bias or framework on how we synthesize and connect data, but I think that's pure BS: some 'prejudices' are developed out of first hand experience: this is why I alluded to Dan's personal bete-noir, male bisexuality.

So, what is 'trans-phobic'? Fear of trans people? Fear it's 'catching'? Irrational, yes, but NCA doesn't mention this. Fear of being labeled a freak? maybe not such an irrational fear given the setting, but even then, she doesn't mention this either.

All she mentions is 'he doesn't have a penis, lied about it and so I have lost all my feelings for him'. Neither of these things are imaginary or irrational. Unless one concedes/argues that attraction a matter of cultural conditioning, in which case, the pray-away-the-gay crowd will rejoice at your confession of a lifestyle choice, then her desire for a genetic male is hard coded to some extent. As Dan would say: when did you choose to be straight?

But back to your question. I disagree with your premise; that she is angry (or not) and rejecting him for misleading her, feels her trust is violated and does not out or otherwise seek to harm him, does not make her even slightly trans-phobic. She's not a 2 on some scale. She wants a genetic male and insisting on that does not make her trans-phobic. That's the nub of it. There's no collective cultural guilt.
@116 - I just read the whole thing. Perfect. Well done.
@145: I see your point, and even agree with it to an extent. However, there are some who say that "He is a man, he is a real man, his equipment doesn't define who he is!" There's one or two in this thread, I believe.

As to nature vs. nurture, I used to think that it was probably a mix--the ratio would depend on which variable was under discussion. I've since learned a little about brain plasticity, and am starting to swing back toward much of this stuff being a lot more culturally-based. After all, very few things in human culture and behaviors are universal.
@147 - Well, the definition of "Real Man" is a pretty...elastic thing. Lots of people define it lots of ways. However, trans man and genetic man are pretty objective (and I am avoiding 'cis' because it is deliberately vague). He may be a "real man" but he's not a genetic man. And I'm not really ready to re-open the nature/nurture on sexual attraction; I'm persuaded that however plastic our brains are that's hard coded.

In fact, I think the LW illustrates this very nicely: she fell for him because he fit a lot of the other cultural cues, but when the lack of penis was a concrete thing, it killed the relationship for her. Basically, it is the hardwired and not the cultural parts which ar at issue. Though honestly, I'm with 137, 141 and 143: how'd they get that far along without her ever even feeling him up? Or was he packing a prosthetic?
@19 Erica P, I'm outraged, not because of the trans issue, but because of the "being deliberately deceptive in order to get into her pants" issue. This is more than a lie-by-omission. This is a lie-by-obfuscation.

Read this part of the letter again:

"...but he never let me reciprocate and told me he didn’t want to have penis-in-vagina sex yet BECAUSE to him that was a large commitment."

Marcus had three perfectly honest ways to respond to the offers to reciprocate oral sex or have PIV:
(1) "Not yet," full stop, because doesn't owe her an explanation.
(2) "Not yet, because..." and then explain the real reason.
(3) "Okay" and unzip his fly.

Instead, Marcus clouded the issue by giving some evasive bullcrap about "a large commitment." Why? Marcus likely realized that NCA would react differently if she knew the truth, and decided that continuing to have pussy-licking privileges was more important than being honest so she could make an informed decision.

This assessment of Marcus is buttressed by this part of the letter:

"Marcus wants to continue to date AND TO HAVE SEX to see if my feelings can change."

So basically, we have one of those men who feels entitled to sex because he's already invested in getting it from her, regardless of her feelings. This "you owe me a chance, PLUS sex" attitude is manipulative, creepy, and incredibly insensitive. Marcus NEEDS to recognize it is totally, completely, 110% within the letter writer's rights to cut off sex at any time, for any reason whatsoever.

It seems to me Marcus is more concerned about getting some than NCA's feelings. That is what makes me outraged.

@101 & @14: YEAH, what they said!
@137, Erica: "can you imagine dating a guy for months without seeing his penis? The penis is important to you, and you're not a teenager, so you see it or touch it by date 2 or 3 at the latest, right?"


I probably wouldn't wait three months personally, but the idea that everyone jumps into sex within a few dates is not true. When my partner and I started dating it was probably over a month before we checked out each other's equipment.

It's important to me in the big picture. That doesn't mean I can't help going for their joystick after just a few dates.

"But would it make you angry?"

Yes. Because when you make out with a guy the default assumption is that they are cis unless clearly not so or told not so. Sorry if that is transphobic, but it is just the way it is. Most people aren't even thinking of the possibility that the guy they are making out with may have been born in a woman's body.

Knowing that is the default assumption, letting things go that far without saying something is an intentional withholding of information that, sorry, any reasonable person would expect would at least be something a person would weigh when deciding what they are going to do with a particular person.

It is dishonest to get physical knowing that the assumption most are going to have doesn't match reality.

So yes, that would make me angry.

"Angry enough to tell everyone what he did? (See @42, who recommends "social ostracizing" as the appropriate punishment for trans people who don't reveal before sex.)"

No. I wouldn't tell anyone, but I would tell them I was pissed and why, and explain to them if they do that to others they should expect at least some people to get pissed as well.

I don't just being pissed at someone as justification for messing with their lives. But at the same time someone who does that is eventually going to run into someone who will. Just a fact. If they are so concerned for their own well being it's better not to be deceptive with people.
Okay, so I have an idea: I'm going to turn NCA's situation on its head to perhaps help tease out friction points or possible inconsistencies both EricaP and the many people who disagree with zir may be running into with all of your thinking. How about a situation where NCA was dating someone exactly like her boyfriend who later revealed she was actually a trans woman who was not taking hormones and who had not had any surgeries? So, a male-bodied person who later revealed she identified as a woman, and NCA is uncomfortable with her social gender identity instead of his genitals? Is your response the same? And if it's not, why are you treating an unexpected social gender reveal differently than a biological gender/body composition reveal? Do you think social gender or biological gender is more important, both to you and to most people, when it comes to sexual activity?

Personally, I don't really identify as a gender, though I'm typically read as a cis-male man (and what I mean by this is I'm not the slightest bit bothered by someone gendering me as something other than "man" or "male" and never really understood the perceived threat of attacks on "masculinity" including being called "gay" or "fag", which happened a bit back in middle school and high school). I don't care much about the social gender categorization of my partners, though I tend to get along with and thus date people who tend toward the masculine/butch arena, but genital configuration is absolutely important. I'd happily date a transman with a born-with-it vulva, and I tend to date female-bodied people who exhibit various masculine-gendered characteristics. Social gender identity isn't important to me in the slightest, but as my favorite sex acts all involve vulva/vagina, genital configuration is. It's constantly fascinating to me that many, many people seem to be much more concerned with the social genders of their partners than biological genders, down to defining 'sexual orientation' (though what that's ultimately supposed to mean or why it's predicated primarily on gender I don't know) almost exclusively in terms of social gender/gender identity, despite the fact that, as far as I can tell, what's most relevant to sexual activity is bodies. I also have no idea how to describe my orientation as someone who doesn't care about gender identity and who would be totally happy to have sex with people who identified as men, women, both, or neither as long as they have the sort of physical equipment I like.

Ultimately, NCA was making a mistake assuming the genital configuration of her boyfriend, and Marcus was also making a mistake in assuming that social gender identity/presentation is more important to most people (and his girlfriend in particular) in terms of sexual partners than genital configuration and not disclosing sooner (alternatively, he was intentionally being deceitful, but as I don't actually think non-disclosure of transgender status is intrinsically deceitful, I'm assuming simple ignorance/mistake). He revealed himself to be an asshole in pushing NCA to keep having sex when she doesn't want to, however, so I vote for DTMFA (yes, it's very sad trans people have a hard time dating, and can and do even face violence; this still doesn't justify sexual pressure/coercion, as no one actually has a right to a sexual partner).
@148: You're just plain wrong about sexual orientation being hard-coded. I'm not even sure I buy that it's partly biological, as we have any number of cases of people CHANGING orientations. At the very least, it's ALL heavily culturally mediated. The very most that could be biological is something along the lines of "in this particular culture, someone with this biological profile is more likely to be this orientation than someone with a different profile." If what defines "food" isn't hard-coded (and it's not - things that might make you or I vomit, like roasted spiders, are common foods or delicacies elsewhere), I'm not about to accept something as complex as human sexuality (You think centaur fetishism is biologically hard-coded? Latex fetishism? How, when these are culturally-specific memes?) as being anywhere near primarily defined by biology. Or are you only arguing that it's socially determined, but once it's determined, it's permanent?
I'm almost kicking myself already for beginning to type this, but I'll go ahead and offer my opinion anyway:

I, too, am a college aged transman, and I think LW has every right to be outraged. Not because Marcus is trans, and not because he didn't disclose that information immediately. But because he let the relationship become sexual before he disclosed. That, to me, is pretty much where you draw the line. If you're developing a relationship with someone and it starts to get kind of serious, you need to tell them you're trans - because they deserve to make informed decisions, and you deserve to know you're with someone who wants all of you.

I do, however, disagree with the people saying LW should feel free to talk to her friends about this. One or two friends, yes - the kind of friends you know can and will keep their mouths shut. But you shouldn't risk letting Marcus's trans status be spread around because there are some serious risks involved when that happens. The obvious ones you've all heard before - violence against trans people is ridiculously high. But people rarely consider what outing a trans person will do to them on an emotional scale. A lot of us are very unhappy around people who know we're trans. Speaking from experience, I'd rather have people verbally abuse me about my trans status than try and fail to accept me. Some people will tell you it doesn't matter to them that you're trans, but they'll still treat you differently. Not maliciously, just because they've never been faced with an out trans person before and they don't know how to treat you (the correct answer is like any other man - or woman, if the person in question is male to female). I hide my trans status from people because I don't want them trying to work out how to treat me now they know. If everyone in my life found out, I'm willing to bet I'd sink straight back into the depression that plagued my late adolescence. I barely functioned then, I wouldn't be able to handle it a second time. Outing a trans person might mean causing them to become part of the ridiculously high suicide statistic for trans people and it's not worth doing that to vent at a bunch of people you could avoid venting at.

If LW is reading this far into the comments, my advice would be this: tell him you have absolutely nothing against trans people, but you're not attracted to him anymore and even if you were, you wouldn't pursue a relationship with someone who was dishonest. You don't have to be guilt tripped into ignoring the dishonesty.
@152: Very interesting points regarding the primacy of social gender over biological or physical gender (or at least genitalia).

@152, per my revised viewpoint, expressed @79, no, there's no difference if Marcus reveals after they've had sex that he's really a woman.

In both cases, I'm sad for the probable sexual incompatibility between these two people who get along well. And I appreciate that both people are in difficult situations. Marcus due to being trans, and NCA because now she's emotionally attached and faces a painful decision.

Also, I don't see Marcus "pushing" NCA to have sex now (per 149 & 152). He told her he wants to keep having sex. Isn't that what adults do, when they would prefer to keep having sex?
@154: No one's suggesting she send an e-mail to everyone on campus outing him. But the impression she seems to have - and that is probably part of his generally crappy, manipulative behavior toward her - is that she can't get emotional support from any of her friends about this because that would be potentially negative for him.
If the prospect of being outed on campus is life-destroying, you're not in a position where it's safe for you to date. That's the decision you get to make: you do not get to make the decision for your girlfriend/ex-girlfriend that she must not tell anyone about this because it could hurt you. Saying she shouldn't confide in friends because he might kill himself would be like saying she shouldn't break up with him because he might kill himself - the causal relationship there is pretty tenuous, but even if it's true, it's not her responsibility.
@153 - a fetish is not an orientation.

I do not believe people change orientations; I believe some people are inherently (latently) one way or the other (or bi and both) and are coerced into particular behaviors through social conditioning. Ie, they are forced into closets.

You are making an argument for pathologizing same-sex attraction and forcing people into socially conforming roles by denying their inherent individual characteristics. When did you choose to be gay? or straight? I don't really know what you identify as.
Oh, and by the way, yes, there is a hard, objective biological definition for what food is: something that's non-toxic and provides nutrition. Plenty of arachnids, insects and other things we might consider revolting (I personally feel sea weed is revolting and it interferes with my enjoyment of otherwise delicious sashimi) are indeed nutritious and non-toxic. Pick another analogy.
@157 Which is why I said she should feel free to tell one or two friends, whose silence she can expect. It's like when a friend tells you something and asks you not to tell anyone else - when you agree not to tell anyone else, what you really mean is "I'll tell my best friend and maybe my mother, but that's it" and the person sharing information with you knows that's what you mean. Bearing in mind, LW is college age and so am I. I don't know if people grow out of that sort of thing. :) I just wanted to make the distinction between confiding in close friends and talking openly to a group of friends. The latter does pose a risk to Marcus's privacy. Someone's trans status is not something anyone - ANYONE - has the right to talk about openly.
EricaP @137 "can you imagine dating a guy for months without seeing his penis? The penis is important to you, and you're not a teenager, so you see it or touch it by date 2 or 3 at the latest, right?"

She's a college student. She may well be a teenager. Even if she's not, I certainly went a lot more than 3 college dates before I got my first sight of a date's genitals.
GrizWatch Update for anyone interested (otherwise, feel free to skip this post and go to the next one): Today's follow-up appointment with my gynecologist has officially revealed, despite the forewarned post-op aftereffects from the anesthesia and surgery (i.e.: lightheadedness, vomiting), a SUCCESS! Nothing malignant was discovered.
I gratefully thank my ob-gyn, who kindly gave me a photo summary of the procedure for my own FYI of the process and its results, my amazing naturopath for recommending my incredible new ob-gyn, all the good folks at the outpatient surgical center--who likely won't forget this crazy lady any time soon!--and Dan and all of you for putting up with me!

@23 EricaP: I don't think this is exactly what you meant in your original comment about a "working uterus", but luckily I finally have one now, after almost 4 decades of dealing with a defective one. The reference, although not quite the same thing, made me smile. Thank you and everyone concerned about my procedure and updates, and bless you all. :)
I have a working uterus!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYY!!!
Okay, now Griz and the love of her life are hitting the beaches when the warmer weather comes!!
aunt griz @162 - big smile - thanks for letting us know!

Congrats! Reminding me why I chose my career.
@154: Thank you for posting. Someone speaking from a position of experience is good, and that sounds like a very fair assessment.

You mentioned violence against trans people. For what it's worth, I tried Googling for stats about violence against trans people, and didn't find any, except that apparently a couple of studies (I didn't find the original of either) found that 98% of the hate crime against trans people that they found was against MtF trans people. I don't know whether that's accurate at all, and it certainly doesn't help with the suicide issue, but it may be worth your checking out.
my two cents, as a not-particularly-gendered person....
1: i try not to get at all intimate with anyone, without knowing that they understand how i relate to the whole gender thing. this is partly because even though i look female, anyone who gets sexual with me understands pretty quickly that that's not my gender; and partly because i want connection, and to be wanted for myself as a person, and that requires being understood.
i got sick of being hit on by straight girls and gay guys who then got very confused, and sometimes a bit toxic. so i've become very cautious about people knowing what they are getting themselves in for.
2: if someone only wants to be with females(and therefore needs me to be 'a girl'), i'm not interested. if someone can't handle being with a female, i'm not interested. in fact, if gender is the most important defining factor for you in picking partners, i'm not interested. because it's not my job to wear your existential crisis.
3: why the hell does 3 months even count as a 'relationship'?!? surely once you are over 15, you get a bit more perspective than that? they hardly even know each other!
4: i'd say 3 months is pretty early to be having that kind of conversation, unless they are living in each other's pockets, in which case, maybe it's about right. they are just getting to know each other...
having said that, yes, he should totally have disclosed before sexual contact, including kissing. just because... dude! you are worth more than that! either you are honest about who you are, or you will end up wearing other people's confusion, and the chaos caused by their discomfort with their own attractions.
I think a lot of people are missing the LW's question. She doesn't seem to be outraged at all or feel particularly betrayed, at least she makes no mention of it. Her biggest concern from what I gather is that no longer being attracted to Marcus makes her a bigot. She feels guilty that something she thinks shouldn't bother her does. Does it make her a bigot? I don't think so. A little transphobic? Maybe, but the solution is to try and learn and grow as a person, make friends with other trans people, join a campus advocacy group, try to change your perspective a little. It is certainly not to continue dating someone you are no longer attracted to or to feel like a bad person. A bad person would never have written this letter in the first place.

It's called transmisogyny.

And yeah transwomen get a lot more shit than transmen. A lot of transman read as men completely at least while clothed - this means that they have the option (whether they choose to use it or not) only disclose this part of their identity to their close friends, family, and sex partners (typically straight/bi women if I'm not mistaken - not groups known for their violence towards sexual/romantic partners).
@Lil Scrapper That's the way I see it too. I don't think she's a bigot, but she's definitely confused and trying to sort out her feelings, rather than just succumbing to a knee-jerk "I was betrayed" reaction.

As for the people debating how soon into a relationship is it comfortable to have sex: NCA and Marcus were already engaging in sexual activities. Since they were already in a sexual relationship (regardless of PIV intercourse), I don't think it's unreasonable of Marcus to assume the sexual aspect of the relationship could continue. But it should raise a red flag for NCA if you're in a sexual relationship, but it's entirely one-sided. If she's getting something out of it, she seems to be happy, but I would have wanted to know why I wouldn't be able to reciprocate.
Auntie Griz: Great news. I am happy things are progressing so smoothly.

@156: Honestly, EricaP I have to wonder if you're getting something out of being what appears to be deliberately obtuse. Or maybe this is an "I'll be damned if I'll give in now, so I'll defend this all the way to absurdity" kind of thing for you, but your statements are getting more and more absurd.

You wonder why some of us see Marcus as trying to manipulate NCA into having sex. ("Also, I don't see Marcus "pushing" NCA to have sex now (per 149 & 152). He told her he wants to keep having sex. Isn't that what adults do, when they would prefer to keep having sex?") you wrote. Well, yes, if you're going to be absolutely literal in the narrowest possible way, that's what adults who want to keep having sex do: they tell the objects of their desires that they want to have sex.

Now maybe you should go back and reread NCA's letter. I'm copying the relevant middle part--not the part where she feels guilty for caring if the man she dates has the genitals she wants and has a right to expect he has unless told otherwise, not the part where Marcus lied about the reason for not letting her see him naked or including his penis in any sex they were having, not the part where he has made her feel that she can't even talk about this with a close friend for fear that he will suffer physical abuse. But this part:

Truthfully, had I known, I don’t think I would have had sex with Marcus. Before I found out he was trans, I was deeply attracted to him and was falling for him. Now, I no longer feel either of those things and do not know if I can continue dating him. I feel like a small-minded bigot that my romantic feelings about Marcus are based on something as randomly distributed as a penis. Marcus wants to continue to date and to have sex to see if my feelings can change. I don’t think they will.

NCA is clear. She's no longer attracted to him; she knows that had she known what kind of genitals he has beforehand, she would not have chosen either to date or have sex with him; she doesn't think her feelings will change. Marcus is preying on her fear of being seen as a bigot--worse still, of being a bigot in order to guilt her into continuing to date and have sex with him. This kind of manipulation, of exploiting her desire to be a good person, is absolutely consistent with the kind of selfish, douchey do-whatever-it-takes-to-get-what-you-want,-other-person's-feelings/desires-be-damned behavior Marcus has shown all along.

That you can either really find this acceptable or pretend that it isn't manipulative and jerky speaks volumes.

@166 (sappho): why the hell does 3 months even count as a 'relationship'?!? surely once you are over 15, you get a bit more perspective than that? they hardly even know each other!
. . . i'd say 3 months is pretty early to be having that kind of conversation

Some people know each other for less than 3 months when they get married. Some people are well into a committed relationship at less than 3 months. Just because you don't consider 3 months to qualify as a period of time in which two people can even know each other, doesn't mean that everyone else follows your timetable. Obviously, for this lw, 3 months is a significant enough amount of time for her to expect not to have to learn that her boyfriend has a vagina instead of a penis. And what did you mean when you said "i'd say 3 months is pretty early to be having that kind of conversation?" What "kind of conversation" is it pretty early to be having? The kind where one person says, "hey, I really want to have penetrative sex. Why don't you?" and the other one answers, "the reason I haven't fucked you yet is because I don't have a penis." Exactly when should this conversation take place? A year into the relationship? And then would you be questioning what kind of "relationship" this could really be, if they hadn't had intercourse yet?
@170 Hunter78, of course not. I'm just suggesting those things as ways a person could broaden their horizons a bit if they are concerned with being phobic or closed minded.
Let's count the ways Marcus has deceived or manipulated NCA.

1. Marcus told NCA that he didn't want to have PIV sex with her because that was a large commitment. That turned out not to be the reason.

2. Marcus didn't disclose that he was trans until after he'd fingered her and performed oral sex on her, things NCA says she wouldn't have allowed if she'd known.

3. Somehow he's implied or allowed NCA to lay a guilt trip on herself that she's a small minded bigot if she's not attracted to a trans man.

4. He's implied that if she talks about this with her friends, people who know her, she's outing him, therefore putting him in danger, therefore at fault if someone should hurt him. 'Nother big guilt trip there.

5. She's left with dealing with this on her own or with strangers on the internet, people who don't know her, people she has no prior experience with and therefore no way of judging for herself if their advice is good for her. The end result is isolating her.

I'm liking this guy less and less the more I think about it.
@Crinoline: Me, too. I can't understand why EricaP feels the need to defend him so strongly.
Congratulations, Auntie Griz!
@nocute - and I can't understand how little compassion you have for this guy. How many people do you know who are trans, and how many have you seen go through the painful process of accepting that? In my intimate BDSM circle of play partners (a dozen people) there are two or three trans people, and I hang out online with other trans folk, and I've seen how much my friends' lives suck. Do you know that it's very common for them to wish they had terminal cancer, so they could die without destroying every relationship they've ever known?
@EricaP If I'd had my penis and testicles pulled off by a donkey (or something) and I started a dating a straight woman then I ABSOLUTELY would let her know before any sexual activity happened. The first time she reached for my penis and I shied away so she wouldn't discover what was in my pants then I would be lying to her which would be deception and from the letter she obviously had asked to see/touch/suck on/be penetrated by his penis. If someone asks you a question and they look you in your eyes and flat out lie then, yes, I think you have a right to be pissed regardless of what you were lied to about.

I get that Marcus had real, legitimate, very serious reasons to lie and those could very well be used to mitigate her response and I'm even willing to chalk this up as an inexperienced young man who acted inappropriately and should be cut a little slack but that doesn't change the fact that he lied so let's just call it what it is.

@173 "He's implied that if she talks about this with her friends, people who know her, she's outing him,...."

I hadn't clued in on this but absolutely. Trying to isolate someone from their support network with guilt is one of the most manipulative things that someone can do and it's a big red flag. And to follow this whole thing up with suggesting they continue to have sex to see if maybe she could get into it? You obviously don't have to be born with a penis to have a frat guy mentality.
@173, PIV sex is a huge commitment to Marcus. To get there, he has to trust her with a terrible secret which has lost him friends & family. That's a bigger commitment than most of us ever make to anyone.

I disagree with the rest of your points too (except #2), but that one is too egregious to let stand.
Re outing -- some of you are old enough to remember when gay people couldn't be out. When they faced violence and would lose their jobs, homes, and families if anyone thought they were gay.

In those days, decent people didn't out their gay friends who came on to them. Because outing your gay friend meant ruining his life. Instead you could just stop hanging out with him.

This idea that such people were being "isolated" and "manipulated" by their closeted gay friend because he asked them not to ruin his life -- that's twisted.
Most trans people still spend most of their lives closeted: first, for all the years they appear as their birth-sex, and later, post-social-transition, when they hide their past from the people they know now.

Read @154, on how awful it is when people around you know you're trans and start treating you that way. A transperson doesn't want to be treated as a transperson, but that's inevitably what happens if the secret gets out, given how uninformed most of the population is.
"Because outing your gay friend meant ruining his life."

Talking to a trusted confidant (best friend, family, etc.) is not "outing" anyone it is a psychological necessity. And you're analogy doesn't quite work because your gay friend would have had to have started a relationship with you under false pretenses and then asked that you not tell anyone or discuss the details of your relationship with all the people you normally talk to for emotional support. But if that scenario had actually happened then your gay friend would just have to accept the fact that you need to talk to your support network. Anything short of that would be twisted indeed.
If that is your reason for defending Marcus, you should have been up front with it from the get-go, rather than manufacturing increasingly ridiculous justifications, analogies, arguments.
You could have said, "maybe Marcus didn't handle this as well as he could have or should have, but we should consider how difficult it is for him. I have several trans friends and I hang out online with other trans folk, and I've seen how much my friends' lives suck. Do you know that it's very common for them to wish they had terminal cancer, so they could die without destroying every relationship they've ever known? . . ."

And you're still doing it, projecting. We don't know if Marcus has wished he had terminal cancer. We don't know if his "terrible secret . . . has lost him friends and family" (you to Crinoline @178). Perhaps those things have happened and perhaps they haven't.

Believe it or not, I actually have a lot of sympathy if not for Marcus himself, because he's undermined it by his behavior, then for his predicament. Especially for his predicament coupled with his youth and the fact that that he is living in a conservative environment.

But that doesn't excuse the really shitty way he's treated NCA. It doesn't, it can't, justify his trying to make her sleep with him though guilt. Read that girl's letter again; I would hope you'd find a little compassion for her. She's been lied to and manipulated, and now she's feeling coerced.

When I was a young woman, about 22, a much older man (about 50) hit on me aggressively. I was uninterested, and tried to dodge and politely decline his advances (the situation was delicate). Rather than take my respectful refusal graciously, he pulled the race card--I am white and he was black. It was a cheap shot, and I was delighted to be able to tell him truthfully that my objection wasn't due to race, as I was currently sleeping with a black man--one who was much closer, at 25, to my own age, and who was furthermore sitting right next to me at the time. That man was willing to use anything he could--including preying on what he assumed would be white liberal guilt--to get in the pants of a girl less than half his age.
Marcus' technique seems similar to me.

I understand that this is an issue that's personal to you because you have many trans friends and are intimate with the trans community. I appreciate your heart being with them, and have no doubt that Marcus and all other young (or not so young) transpeople face rejection on a scale I can not imagine. But Marcus is not a good poster boy for trans-sympathy. Choose someone else to make your point with. His behavior, understandable as it is (and I do understand it, as I said @116) is still wrong. One's actions can be understandable and still be inexcusable.

I've been a juvenile probation officer for 27 years and can understand the fear the Marcus had at disclosing his status. How scary when he couldn't be that his partner sure that his partner would protect his interest in a conservative community. He's young, alone, and just branching out into what will probably be a more difficult life that many of us have had.

Yet I still think that he should have disclosed his status to NCA before having any sexual contact with her. She clearly feels betrayed and possibly embarrassed she didn't see what she now knows were signs of something amiss.

He needs to back off and allow her to just be a friend. God knows he could use a friend and her feeling may (albeit unlikely) come back. My guess ours that he wants to continue this relationship with her because she is one of the only people who knows of his transgendered status.

Really; don't we all want the comfort of being known?
@154 "I do, however, disagree with the people saying LW should feel free to talk to her friends about this. One or two friends, yes - the kind of friends you know can and will keep their mouths shut."

I agree completely. Talking all of her friends would definitely be "outing" and would most definitely be damaging but she says at the end that she has no one to talk to about this. She definitely has the right to talk to the people she trusts with emotional issues.
The unregistered post @183 is worth reading.

Of course NAC should be able to talk about this with one or two close and trusted friends. She can ask them not to gossip. This isn't a question of outing Marcus, which isn't her right or her job, and which only he should do and only when he is ready. But she deserves to be able to talk about an experience which has been unnerving and probably embarrassing for her.
@182 "Marcus is not a good poster boy for trans-sympathy."

Yeah, I'm not a good poster child for open marriages, either (I won't rehash the details). None of my trans friends would make a good poster child for trans-sympathy. They're human, and they've made mistakes and hurt people along the way.

NCA has a lot more compassion for Marcus than you do, and she knows him. I'll take her side any day.
@186: I fail to see, through any of your posts in this conversation, how you're "tak[ing NCA's] side" in any way.
I didn't claim to have compassion for Marcus; I said I had compassion for his predicament. Even cutting him slack for that and his age, he's been a jerk where NAC is concerned. That she still wants to be his friend and is considering continuing to date him says more about her essential goodness than his essential rightness.
Never said he was "right". He made poor choices. You and I don't disagree about anything these young people should have done or should be doing. We just disagree about whether Marcus is himself more worthy of pity or scorn. Good night.

Things don't have to be as simple as that. Marcus can be worthy of pity while his actions are worthy of scorn which is what pretty much everyone here has been saying.
I read Dan's column because I want to educate myself, and I want to ensure I'm a caring person towards others who I may otherwise not have understood or related to.

I read the comments section for the same reason - multiple perspectives and opinions are important, that's what it's all about.

But this week's comments mean I will never read the comments section again, because this is obviously a microcosm of supposedly 'accepting and inclusive' people being the bigots they say they hate. Sexual preferences are NOT prejudices. Arguing semantics DOESN'T HELP SOCIETY AT LARGE BE MORE ACCEPTING AND OPEN!!!!! Now I'm suppose to believe I'm a transphobe because I'd also be angry that someone I was seriously dating withheld that information from me??? Check your heads, folks. You're not helping your own cause by being militant about this. Each and every one of you has a list of sexual preferences and sexual dealbreakers.
The woman in the first story is not being "prejudiced". There was a HUGE issue that wasn't disclosed. What if she were expecting to have kids with "him"?? Isn't that a reasonable assumption when you're dating a man, that he has a functioning penis with sperm, and instead you find out you're dating some Frankenstein monster with body parts lopped off and pasted on, pretending to be something that s/he is not! I tell you, I'm gay and I hate being lumped in with "trans" types. It's a TOTALLY different issue, and the doctors who perform these surgeries, and then give their patients massive doses of wrong hormones so that they "feel" like they're in the "right" body should be prosecuted and jailed for malpractice. Who of us hasn't felt like we were in the wrong body at some point? So black people who feel like they are in the "wrong" body should ungergo surgeries to make them look white?? Now that's crazy, right? But lop off your dick and inject foreign objects in to your chest, and all of a sudden you're now an oppressed minority. I can't stand this crap!!
Nca, I feel your pain. I was in the same circumstances in a long term LD relationship with an individual who claimed to be a man. I only discovered after several years and multiple failed attempts to meet that the person I thought I was in love with was actually a woman. I had been lied to innumerable times, manipulated and emotionally abused by someone who was acting out of pure self-interest. She knew from the beginning that I am a het woman, and that I would only be in romantic relationships with csi men. There was NO question that my abusive ex knew her actual gender (csiwoman) would be a dealbreaker for me before she pursued me romantically.

I cannot begin to relate the amount of anguish I felt, believing I wasn't good enough to meet the man I loved. It wasn't until I was ready to loose the relationship altogether and force the issue of meeting in person that the truth of her gender came to light. This was one of the most devastating moments of my life. The person I thought I was going to marry and grow old with wasn't real, and had never existed.

I believe NCA, that you should take a step back and closely examine why "Marcus" choose to become seriously involved without disclosing his gender status to you. It isn't bigoted to feel that a profound violation of trust is a dealbreaker, if you cannot continue in a relationship with someone who choose to abuse your faith in their basic honesty. You are under no obligation to "fix" or "help" Marcus, you should do what is right and healthy for yourself now.

I have a direct message for M. Dru Levasseur:

Sovereign rights stop at the border, for human beings as well as countries. I understand that gendertransitional people have faced extreme prejudice and harassment. This DOES NOT preempt or excuse a moral obligation to disclose gender status BEFORE embarking in a sexual relationship.
You do your community a great disservice by encouraging lies of omission in the name of "we have been oppressed/victimized". One of the overarching fears about the community you represent is exactly the behavior you are encouraging.
If you want respect and support you have to prove yourself worthy of it. If you want to be loved, you must be a loveable person, and that very much includes having the integrity and personal honor to respect the person whose love you desire. Trust is essential in all human relationships, and it is a most precious and fragile commodity. Once broken trust is nearly impossible to regain. Please remember that lies and deceit, even done in the name of "but I love you and I didn't want to loose you", DAMAGE the person that is being lied to. Willfully harming another person is the trait of an abuser, not a lover.

For the record: I tried to remain a friend to my ex,specifically to support her thru transitioning, but she was irrationally possessive and jealous of my time. Soon enough she was lying to me again to try to play on my sympathies, while doing nothing to improve the circumstances of her own life. I had to cut this toxic person out of my life altogether, and I am much better off for that.

Hopefully acceptance will someday win out of fear and ignorance, and this whole discussion will be moot.
@171 - sure, everyone has their own rhythm and timing, but they clearly don't know each other well. if you sleep with strangers, sometimes it's going to be strange.
i'm not taking any sides here specifically because i think the whole thing is ridiculous. but for what it's worth, as i said above, i would disclose all that stuff before even considering a sexual connection. (disclaimer: for me that would usually be at least a few years into a friendship)
I'm not suggesting that Marcus sat down and planned from the start how he could get sex from NCA and put her in the most awful position possible. I am suggesting that he acted in a way in which he thought through the implications for himself while not thinking through the implications for her. I'm sure he didn't decide to ask, practically demand, secrecy for the purpose of isolating her. It's pretty obvious that he asked for secrecy for the reason he stated. But the net effect is isolating her from her support group.

Could I change the subject? I'm seeing this devolve into repetition of the same points without bringing up anything new.

When breaking up with someone for reasons of non-attraction after disclosure, should the reasons be spelled out, or is that causing unnecessary hurt feelings?

A man has an unusually small penis, well on the smaller side of average. Everything else about his physique is well within average. She discovers the penis size after oral and fingering on her. Should she tell him that's the reason she doesn't want to continue the relationship?

A young man is unable to get hard due to complications of diabetes. He doesn't tell her until after necking and petting, him on her. Should she tell him that's the reason? What if he told her before?

A young man knows he has a medical problem that has left him infertile. He brings this up as a reason for birth control being unnecessary. Should she tell him this is the reason she doesn't want to let the relationship progress?

A young man has extreme premature ejaculation. He's so inexperienced he doesn't seem to recognize it as a problem. She thinks it's obvious or should be. Should she bring this up as the reason she's breaking up with him?
When I was a young transman away at college--my first chance to be *me*, without everybody in town knowing what I was expected to be, and thus, my first chance to actually date anybody, ever--I fell hard for a girl. We went on four or five dates before I managed to nerve myself up to tell her. She freaked out, told all her friends; one of the male friends beat me and raped me. Could have been worse, I guess; a transwoman friend of mine was killed for the terrible crime of going out dancing at the local watering hole after she was outed.

So, yeah, I have sympathy for Marcus. I have sympathy for the fear he no doubt feels. I have sympathy for how hard it is to find the right time, or the right words, that won't make even people who love you treat you like a freak; I have sympathy for the fact that there *is* no perfect time or way to say it that will guarantee the other person will accept it--accept *you*--and not feel like you've lied, if only by omission.

But I also have great sympathy for NCA. Her feelings are what her feelings are. She shouldn't feel ashamed about them, or fear she's a bigot, and she definitely shouldn't allow Marcus to pressure her into doing things she's not comfortable with. Her safety and mental health are every bit as important as his.

Besides, if the bits and pieces weren't intensely important to transpeople, there wouldn't be so many of us going through surgeries and hormone therapy and the whole nine yards to try to get the *right* ones. So it shouldn't be a huge surprise when the bits and pieces turn out to be important to potential lovers as well.

(My dog, I've gone and written a book. Sorry about that.)
On Ms Erica's objection to Ms Crinoline's point 1, I am reminded of the Poirot story "Problem at Sea" and the difference between a complaint that someone won't play bridge and the usual phrasing that he can't.

I can accept Marcus' *won't* as phrased by Ms Erica; it appears that Ms Crinoline thinks *can't* far more applicable, but point 1 can also be taken that to imply the reason is entirely *won't* when it's actually *won't PLUS can't* (at least to what one might - reasonably? - assume to be a general cisgender presumption of capacity before informed otherwise) is enough of a case of suppressio veri to amount to suggestio falsi.

Sorry; I know I'm not particularly coherent. I may try more later if I'm up to it.
@195 -No need to apologize, a very helpful and useful "book". I particularly like your last paragraph:

Besides, if the bits and pieces weren't intensely important to transpeople, there wouldn't be so many of us going through surgeries and hormone therapy and the whole nine yards to try to get the *right* ones. So it shouldn't be a huge surprise when the bits and pieces turn out to be important to potential lovers as well.

Thanks for posting.

@194 - I think the rule with breaking up with someone is to be gracious and minimize the hurt. That doesn't mean a slow fade, or other avoidance of hurt, but instead, inflicting the least harm absolutely required to get the job done. Leaving someone wondering - particularly holding out the possibility that they might somehow do something (and here we circle back to the fundamental issue of this letter) to change being dumped - is not acceptable. At the same time, piling insult onto injury is also unacceptable. So, I think those the the forces governing the ethics.

In nearly every example you've given, the disclose happens pretty early on - before much physical intimacy - and likely before much emotional intimacy. The latter - the strength of the personal emotional bond - is what governs above all else.

In the circumstance it's early, you almost never have to give an in-depth reason beyond, "I'm sorry, I'm not feeling it". Sure, that's a case of "it's not you, it's me", but if no in-depth relationship has developed, there's neither the trust or depth to carry the weight of that kind of honesty, nor the obligation to offer it. If you have a deeper bond, and your break up is causing them more pain, then yeah, likely you do owe them a little more explanation.

So then, the second heuristic I'd fall back on is: can they do anything about it, either with you, or with a future partner; this goes back to the 'holding out hope'. The premature guy and the diabetic might be able to do something about it, but the small and infertile guys can't change that about themselves. No matter which case applies, I'd own it (your preference) and make it clear it's not really negotiable. But if they really wanted to know, then I think the ones they can't change (perversely) are the ones I'd tell them first.

I think a dumper in these circumstances has to be prepared to take a few emotional hits as a 'bad guy'. That's your penance for hurting someone else, so if you have guilt about being a dumper, take that as absolution.

For every one of your examples, there is a way of doing it while being honest that makes it clear you own it - that it is your (maybe superficial) judgment/prejudice/preference and as much a reflection on you as them. Because that's what this really all hinges on: the ego injury of being judged inadequate (too short, too fat, too bald, too small, too fast, too limp, infertile, too skinny, not blonde, unshaved, bad kisser)...etc. So, in some sense, by owning the preference, you are kind of mitigating the 'badness': "I'm sorry, I know it's shallow, but I am a size queen even though most [wo]men aren't. "

I'm actually dying to know if: gay men dump each other over size and how often women do (I'm sure some do, despite the chorus of protestations that "it's the motion of the ocean, not the size of the wave").
@195(strangeway): Thank you for your post (but lord, if yours is a book, most of mine are 7-volume series!). I'm sorry that you were raped and beaten just for trying to find love (or like). That's awful, and I do understand what Marcus' fears are and how real they are.

Mr. Ven: I like your configuration of *won't PLUS can't*, and think it applies. I also hope you are feeling better. If we lived close by (I have no idea where you live, but judging from the time stamps on your posts, I think it's not likely to be close to me) I'd bring you soup.

AFinch @199: Well done. I agree with everything you say except for a few quibbles, some having to do with Crinoline's original list of reasons. I don't think "I'm not feeling it (INFI)" is really the same as "it's not you, it's me (INY,IM)." Although in a sense every, every breakup is always a variant of I find you inadequate, INFI is somehow more truthful, acknowledging that the person being dumped is somehow not meeting the dumper's needs, but also just chalking things up to the elusive and chimerical quality of attraction (INFI seems to be about not being attracted enough, after all). Even though INFI suggests that the dumpee isn't doing it for the dumper, it lets the dumper take the blame. The message is not that you're not good enough in the abstract, but that for whatever reason, no matter how irrational or how much I wish it weren't the case, even though I want to like/love you and you're such a great person, I'm just not able to feel it for you--I wish I did.
INY,IM, on the other hand, is understood to be shorthand for "it's not me, it's very much you. It has the connotation of "I'm not even going to make the effort to try and explain--I just want to say the most expedient thing possible." It's such a cliché of a crummy breakup, that I think it's almost insulting.

The only point of Crinoline's I think is otherwise different, in which an explanation can be given without fear that it's too cruel, is the infertility. In fact, I've known several people who have either broken up with someone or been broken up with after that revelation. Unlike genital size or performance, the dissatisfaction with which can make the dissatisfied person seem shallow, superficial, and sex-focused (which in our culture still gets qualified as a slightly immature, or less-worthy priority, even if we know better), the desire to have children is culturally prioritized; furthermore, fertility or its obverse is somehow distanced from a quality that makes someone prized or valued as a partner, in day-to-day life. I think the message in "I really like you but I want to have children someday--and I want them to be my and my partner's biological children" is understood to be less a personal rejection. Of course many people don't find out about their or their partner's infertility until much later, when they are married, and they often find lots of ways to work around that. But if the relationship is still quite new and people aren't yet all that invested, people may not want to start thinking about going down the various roads to having children that infertility entail.
@197: "This was his private political stance (not to be confused with a "wide stance"), and it wasn't explicitly anti-gay."

Sorry, but the moment he actively worked to deny someone else equal rights it stoped being a private political stance and became a public action that caused harm to others.

And yes, it is explicitly anti-gay. Anti = against / oposite of.

If you are against gay equality you are, by definition, anti gay rights. To say someone is anti gay rights but not anti gay is just silly. If you are against a person's rights you are against them.
@200 - I don't have a problem with the quibble - INFI is definitely much gentler than INYIM in common usage. I also lump infertility in with too small a size because it is a condition often already very emotionally painful to the sufferer over which they have no control and which the dumper is hitting.

I really vacillate on my second heuristic: telling someone you're dumping them for something they can do nothing about might be seen as pointless cruelty (nothing of benefit comes from the experience), while telling them about something they might improve on in future relationships is helpful to them. Conversely, telling them it's something they might change is possibly manipulative and intentionally or not, may work to 'string them along' while something they can't change might help them accept that it's over more quickly and completely.

Where is the NYT's Randy Cohen when we need him! His recent lovecast appearance was fantastic!
@197 - @201 covers most of it nicely; on the final point: there have been plenty of backlashes against people for promoting equal civil rights, throughout the entire civil rights era, up to the present. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

He didn't need to make "speech" ('cause political donations are 'speech') to publicly announce his privately held views. He could have kept them to himself and only expressed them inside the anonymous ballot-booth.

Also: that's the most pathetically flimsy fig leaf I've seen in a long long while: the author of ECMAScript was fooled by that crafty Frank Luntz and the Conservatives who are winning the war on language. That's right up there with the meaning of the word "is".
There's a right time to disclose anything that may be odd or a deal breaker, and it's before the underwear comes off. I'm a gay man and have a FWB who only has one testicle (high school wresting accident... yikes). The first time we were about to get naked he whispered in my ear "don't freak out when you find my sack only has one nut..". So I stopped and translated, no big deal. He said he'd found that if he didn't say something until it was discovered it really broke the mood.

So if someone is going through life dressed and passing as having one set of junk, they really need to be honest before anyone's naked. Remember "The Crying Game"?
And, as a gay man, I'll weigh in on the currently popularity of "trans". It's odd that suddenly there is a conversation about them everywhere. How many are there really? Anyone have a good number?

I'm also confused by them. Absent a few really rare cases, they're born with gender parts that match their chromosomes. So they cannot possibly be "misassigned" at birth. Even after surgery they still need hormones to "reassign" themselves.

So why do they get lumped in with us homos who are our natural gender but just want same sex??

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