Columns Apr 2, 2014 at 4:00 am



Good letters this week :)
It seems a violation of trust that a boyfriend of three months would just get around to the "oh, by the way, I don't have OEM equipment that you might expect from a boyfriend". This is a pretty significant matter. In just about every other case where one partner has something different going on - preferences, kinks, desires - you generally come down on the side of disclosure.

So does political correctness trump honesty in this situation because the boyfriend is trans? What if he were a (gasp) Republican - would you say that should be disclosed before any touching takes place, to protect the unwary? Live and let live, but dishonesty on any significant issue should lead to a DTMFA response, no?
Mo partners Mo problems.
I'm a big believer of disclosing everything right up front. Give your date the opportunity to make an informed decision, don't try to trick her/him into falling for you and then springing the surprise, like a novelty store snake-in-the-can-of-nuts.

Because even if one can be talked into falling for someone s/he wouldn't have gone out with if s/he had known the information that was withheld, doing that to someone is a pretty crappy, cowardly, and essentially unfair thing to do. And no matter how much I was falling for someone, if I had been lied to (whether by omission or outright and explicitly) so as to be manipulated into liking him, that knowledge would be the death of the burgeoning relationship and my good will.

If I was this lw, I'd be so pissed right now.
There's a lot of tension between the two ideas--on the one hand, people deserve to be allowed to make informed decisions, but on the other hand, it's not fair that some people get turned down just because of other people's unsupportable prejudices.

Because sometimes people do fall in love, and realize that some newly-revealed flaws aren't the dealbreakers they used to think they were. Dealbreaker lists grow and shrink.

But if I were the LW #1, I'd be so pissed right now too. Nobody gets to decide for me which dealbreaker is legitimate. Even if it means they get fewer dates.
Of course LW1 can talk to her friends about this if she wants to. She has her own feelings about both him being trans and how he disclosed that. Those aren't his issues to decide whether to keep secret, they're hers. You don't get to demand someone else be in your closet with you - you can make it a condition of dating you, but you shouldn't expect that if you say to a boyfriend or girlfriend "I'm trans and you can never tell any your support network" that your request will be respected.
Yeah, I'm in the violation of trust camp with the trans-guy. I would have been very upset if I seriously dated a trans-woman under the pretense that she was a cis-woman (as a scientist, I really don't like the whole "cis" gendered thing, but I guess that's the terminology that's settled in.) I mean, I'm attracted to the whole set of female equipment and don't even like hetero-porn, since I don't like seeing men and male parts in erotic contexts. I can sympathize with the letter writer here. There is a right kind of girl for the trans-guy, and that girl would be easier to find for him if he was up-front in the dating scene.
No one discloses everything up front -- their crazy relatives, their weird bodily habits, their most outrageous fantasies. In my view, Marcus hasn't behaved badly.

They're just three months in, and for some time he has been going down on her but not letting her near his genitals. Clearly there was an issue of some kind. She could have initiated the conversation after the first time they had sex: "So, I noticed you weren't comfortable letting me see your genitals, even though you were up close and personal with mine. Can we talk about that?"

She didn't start that conversation with him, maybe because she enjoyed the sex and part of her knew there was a possibly-relationship-ending reason why he wasn't letting her reciprocate.

If Marcus revealed his past to every first-date, some of them are likely to spread the word around campus. That's a real risk.

So it's totally reasonable for Marcus to hold off on the full story until he got to know the character of the person he's dating. Maybe he shouldn't have touched her sexually until that point, but I'm willing to cut him slack there. If she only wanted to have sex with men whose genitals match her standards, then she should take responsibility for evaluating those genitals before agreeing to sex.

I think this is different from not revealing an STI, since he wasn't imposing a health risk on her; and I think it's different from not revealing another relationship, because that might make her breach her own ethics unintentionally. Bottom line: I don't see how she was harmed by this situation, and I can easily see the harm that he was risking if he told her too early on.
And I think getting upset that you were attracted to someone until you learned about their genitals reveals a certain degree of homophobia.

I've never heard of a straight woman saying: "I found myself attracted to a woman for the first time, and then I was distressed to learn that she was born with male equipment."

Likewise, I've never heard of a lesbian saying: "I found myself attracted to a man for the first time, and then I was distressed to learn he was born with female equipment."
As a hetero woman, I'd like to know if my partner was a trans man before we got down to it. That way I can at least think about how I feel - maybe this guy is the most awesome dude ever and I really like him, which means that I'd probably be all for continuing the relationship & DTF. But I'd like to go into the bedroom experience with my eyes open, not discover halfway through that things aren't what I expected.
This is simply The Emperor's New Clothes and no-one in this ridiculous era will admit the real situation. A butch lesbian has tricked a heterosexual woman into having sex with her. It's unethical.
@8 Now, hang on, Erica. If I'd been with someone for three months, had sexual interactions of ANY nature, and then get this sprung on me, I'd feel betrayed. How does her understandable withdrawal after that betrayal make her a homophobe? And how can you think the onus was on HER to somehow intuit that he's hiding something about his genitals? SHE should have initiated that conversation? I think you're indulging in PC thinking gone wrong.
Crazy relatives, fantasies and and strange body habits are personal quirks, private until willingly shared. Genitals, however, when shared, are no longer private. He should have disclosed up front. She might have thought that was cool, sexy even, but waiting until after sexual contact to reveal it is a form of violation, so I get why she's no longer attracted. Three months is WAY too long to wait.
No way, Marcus was in the wrong here. Even the response from the Trans activist Dan reached out to had the feel of a rebuke to it, and I don't think that was the correct response for that woman.

While trans people are not obligated to disclose that part of themselves with whoever they date initially, they certainly need to tell the other person if it's going to go somewhere, and LONG before anything physical happens.

The fact that Marcus had sex with her without telling her is a total violation of that woman's boundaries; and to me he is NOT justified in keeping that to himself just because he was afraid of the consequences.

Aren't healthy relationships built upon honesty and trust in the first place?
"Marcus wants to continue to date and to have sex to see if my feelings can change."

This makes me feel uncomfortable. I'll give Marcus the benefit of the doubt that he's a dumb college kid and doesn't realize how bad "let's keep fucking and hope it gets better" sounds, but it's still not a good situation for NCA to be in.

I'm getting an undertone here that this is one of the few times Marcus has felt safe in being open about his identity, and quite possibly the first time he felt attractive/validated as a man. It's good form on NCA's part to stay on friendly terms (dropping all contact would be sending horrible messages to him), and agree to keep his secret.

As for the relationship, at the bare minimum she's allowed some time to take everything in. What she's going through right now might just be shock, it might be that she honestly can't get past the lack of cock. What's more important is Marcus' reaction. If he keep pressing, that belies issues that will torpedo the relationship anyways.

(In either case, though, going off the dumb college kid assumption, direct him here. It's easy for a guy going through his stuff to see you as his one shining shot at a relationship, and get stupid overbearing as a result. He needs to know that putting pressure on the friendship by trying to pressure you into a relationship will turn out poorly for everyone involved.)
EricaP, I have to disagree with you. First of all, disclosing your difficult relatives or "weird bodily habits" (like what--that you floss your teeth with strands of your own hair? That you wait to clip your toenails until your bare feet click when you walk on tile floors?)or your preferences for unpopular music or what-have-you is not the same as saying: "hey, the genitals that you assume I have? I don't have them" or "I'm a man, but until recently, the rest of the world saw me as female."

That's big. As is an incurable STI or the fact that you're in fact poly, when the man you're dating might not want to be part of a triad, and had no reasonable expectation that you are already involved with a primary partner.

That's not insignificant--it addresses issues of identity for both parties.

I agree with Eudaemonic when he said: "sometimes people do fall in love, and realize that some newly-revealed flaws aren't the dealbreakers they used to think they were. Dealbreaker lists grow and shrink," but there's a vast difference between finding out someone I like is a smoker (a deal-breaker of mine) and deciding to either date him anyway or to continue dating him if he's hidden his smoking from me for a few dates, and finding out months in that he's literally not the person--or at least wasn't born the person--I thought he was.

Three months is not an insignificant amount of time. How did you feel about the man you eventually married when you had "only" been dating him for three months? If someone wants to wait to disclose something he fears--correctly, in this case--will be the death of the relationship until some deeper level of acquaintance has been achieved, there's a lot of space between before the first date and celebrating a three month mark.

These two had sex. Now the woman feels betrayed. I don't blame her. And who knows what she thought was the reason he wouldn't let her near his genitals? Maybe she was raised in some church that values virginity until marriage and she thought he was trying to adhere to that? Maybe she's young and fairly inexperienced and thought he was being considerate or a "gentleman" not forcing himself and his desires on her.

As to your point about the relative unimportance about factory-issued genitals, for a lot of straight women and gay men, real, human, working pensises matter. A lot.
If one replaces the word "transman" with man-who-had-complicated-medical-history-with-his-genitals, you wouldn't feel the same way.

Those of you who are outraged on her behalf, you don't see Marcus as a man.
I agree with EricaP. This is a personal medical issue that he disclosed. When to disclose your medical history and medical problems is very tricky and very variable. What if it were some other problem. What if he had burn scars and damage that he was hiding? Would you feel the same way? The usual assumptions still might not hold for what his genitals look like, but wouldn't that be an extremely personal thing to share? Personally, I don't care for casual sex, so I would expect it to be disclosed to me before sex, but I also wouldn't be having sex with somebody I didn't already know a whole lot better than this. For people who do like to have sex with people they don't yet know well, learning big things you may or may not be comfortable with just goes with the territory. Waiting until you are much closer before sex has pros and cons, and I don't think it's always the right answer. But yeah, either come to terms with surprises and enjoy sex with people you know less well or wait until you have been close friends for a couple of years, gotten to know their friends and family, etc. and you are unlikely to have many large surprises. Or do a mix, take chances sometimes when you decide it's worth it to you. But I just don't see how choosing to have sex with someone you don't know as well entitles you to the closeness and information that is earned over a longer period of trusting friendship.
@EricaP--baloney. I'm queer, but a particular kind of queer. I date crossdressers with original equipment intact. I know of quite a few women who were married to crossdressers who then realized they were trans women and had corrective surgery and their wives stayed with them, so I've thought about that scenario quite a bit. Liking penis doesn't make me a homophobe. Marcus should have disclosed before they had sex.
"Liking penis doesn't make me a homophobe."

Agreed. Feeling disappointed to learn that this attractive man has no penis would be an appropriate response. Ending the relationship is an appropriate response.

But feeling outraged means that one doesn't see him as a guy-with-a-complicated-medical-history. One sees him as a woman, and one is upset to hear that one had sex with a woman. (A "butch lesbian," to quote the troll at 11.)
@16: I think we should all be much less eager to try to use transphobia as a bludgeon against other people's right to have preferences and orientations.
@Eudaemonic, everyone gets to have preferences. You can be disappointed to learn that the beautiful woman has a penis. You can choose not to see a future with that person.

But if you're outraged, that's transphobia and homophobia.

NCA, you feel how you feel. If how you feel isn't attracted, then best to let the man down gently.

If you're not ready to break up with him, for whatever reason, then try to simplify: Do things that sound fun to you right now with him, even if that's easing off sex for a little while, and focusing on the non-sex things you were enjoying the last three months. Gently (or firmly, as appropriate) say no to things you are not enjoying. Give yourself time to get used to this, for you, new aspect of your guy.

Good luck to you!
If a working uterus is important to you, then ask about a working uterus before you have sex with an attractive woman. But if you have sex first, and then find out she doesn't have a working uterus (whether because she was born without a uterus or because it was removed for medical reasons), then you don't get to be outraged that she didn't announce her uterine status before you had sex.
@21: Are you under the mistaken assumption that I would be interested in a relationship with a pre-op transman, or are you in fact attempting to bludgeon me?

It can't be neither of these. One is very stupid, and the other is dishonest. Please knock it off.

A lack of the expected genitals is not a "complicated medical history with his genitals." A lack of lawnmowers at a lawnmower store is not a "complicated relationship with lawnmowers." I can't imagine that you don't know this.

I also can't imagine that you don't understand the difference between being disappointed that a beautiful woman has a penis, and being angry that a prospective partner deceiving me about her lack of interesting genitals even after leading me to think we'd become intimate. I know you know what deception is, and I know you know that people don't like it. When you see someone upset at deception, I therefore know that if you're reaching for the "transphobia" bludgeon, you're doing it deliberately. And that you don't have to.
@statsgirl- "You don't get to demand someone else be in your closet with you"- true but if you do out someone and they get the shit kicked out of them that's on you or in this case NCA and since she specifically mentioned they live in a conservative part of the county perhaps she's just trying to not be an asshole
(For the record, I'm one of those liberals who thinks our culture makes us all racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc., and we have to struggle to treat everyone with humanity, despite our cultural training.)
@24, huh? First off, at 21 I didn't mean you specifically, I meant a rhetorical 'you'. Second of all, I was describing a beautiful woman with a penis (hence a pre-op transwoman), not a transman.

Genitals aren't lawnmowers. If a man knows he is a man, then it's not dishonest for him to present himself as a man.

Would you see a cisguy who had a terrible accident that amputated his penis as similarly deceptive for going down on NCA without disclosing his amputated penis?
Oh for fuck's sake, who you are physically/intimately attracted to has nothing to do with whatever degree of bigotry you might hold. I'm perfectly fine being friends with, working for, hiring, supporting, living with, etc., gay people, trans-people, bisexual people, pansexual people, asexual people, etc. I am tolerant, supportive, and accepting. I will go to bat for sexual minorities when it's called for. I think that there is nothing immoral about people who identify in those ways. I am just not interested in having a sexual or romantic relationship with someone who is not a cis-gendered woman. I am not a bigot. I'm just a straight dude with that particular taste.

If you cannot understand that some people have a sexuality like mine or feel that such sexual predilections are immoral, then I have to ask if you are indeed the bigot. I don't mean that in the stupid conservative you're-bigoted-against-bigots way. I mean that in that you disrespect people's legitimate sexual feelings and instincts.
I am not a fan of automatic and immediate disclosure of anything that could put anybody's life or privacy, career or social status at risk.

It is very hard to 'come out' as anything non-ordinary to people you don't yet know. Trust has to be earned, because you're putting yourself at huge risk, and not just of rejection, sometimes career and physical safety, too.

Trust can take a while, and even then, the person you 'come out' to, isn't who you thought they were, either! It's a 2 way street.

I get the risk involved, and why people would not immediately want to share such intensely personal information with a relative stranger.

Trans (or any 'non-ordinary' -is there a better term than that? non-mainstream?-) folk, it's ok to protect yourself from that. Be safe. Don't let anybody push you into disclosing anything before you're ready.

I notice there's a lot of pressure to do so, but even in supposedly 'liberal' Seattle, there are still some people you think are cool, who can act like assholes, and who just can't handle the truth.

There is a balance there somewhere, and I am really not sure 1st, 2nd or even 3rd date is it.
@27: Would you see a cisguy who had a terrible accident that amputated his penis as similarly deceptive for going down on NCA without disclosing his amputated penis?

Yes. Obviously.

Second of all, I was describing a beautiful woman with a penis (hence a pre-op transwoman), not a transman.

If you're being sincere in accusing me of seeing pre-op transwomen as men, you'd have to also believe that I'd see pre-op transmen as women, and therefore be interested in having sex with them. Do you?

huh? First off, at 21 I didn't mean you specifically, I meant a rhetorical 'you'. Second of all, I was describing a beautiful woman with a penis (hence a pre-op transwoman), not a transman.

The category you're attempting to bludgeon into agreeing that they don't have the right to choose with whom they have sex with and with whom they don't is broad enough to include me. If I said "women are bitches" or "people who accuse other people of transphobia are bitches," would you not assume that I was including you?

Accordingly, when you say that those of us who like to have sex with one gender and not the other (and with the parts that correspond to that gender and not to the other) forfeit our right to decline sex or to feel tricked when we have in fact been tricked into having sex, you are telling me that either I'm a transphobe, or that I must agree to an abridgement of my right to decline sex with whoever I want.

You're also doing it in an environment where you know being labeled a transphobe is not seen positively. And I know you know the connotations of saying "have sex with people you don't want to have sex with, or else I'll do something to you that you don't want done."

If it seems like I'm displaying unwarranted hostility, it's because your line of reasoning, if applied with any consistency, is very rapey.
@28, if Straight Dude (SD) isn't attracted to Beautiful Woman (BW) then he doesn't end up on a date with BW. If SD does go on a date with BW, then he is attracted to BW.

At the end of the date, SD and BW kiss. BW goes down on SD. Later BW sends SD an email saying that BW was born with a penis, and only had that fixed as an adult, a few years ago.

Has BW betrayed SD?
@30, "you'd have to also believe that I'd see pre-op transmen as women, and therefore be interested in having sex with them. Do you?"

Are you interested in having sex with all women?

I don't see how seeing someone as a woman means being interested in having sex with them.
I just don't think we're entitled to a life of never having sex with someone who is attractive to us but in a category we wouldn't knowingly have sex with. I wouldn't knowingly have sex with an asshole, but, amazingly, many assholes don't reveal that they're assholes until after we've had sex.
@31: I see you just switched from "did not have it fixed" to "had it fixed a few years ago."
It seems that you're trying to obfuscate this switch.
Did you make this switch because the facts we were discussing did not support your position, or have you changed topics while neglecting to mention that we're changing topics? It's fine if it's the latter, as long as you're not pretending that the same topic is being discussed.
@Eudaemonic, I'm interested in all angles of this topic. @31, I was speaking to nanoboy@28, not to you, so I chose to explore a different angle.

per you @30, a cis-man whose dick was amputated has the same duty to reveal his amputation to a date before going down on her as a transman does. Is that right?

Then how do you feel about women with hysterectomies not revealing their hysterectomies before they go down on a man?
@31, in short, yes. I'm not saying that I would hate the person, and it's certainly not the biggest transgression in the world, but yes. I am not the right person for her, and someone else is.
@33: Asshole isn't a category. It's a subjective judgment. Trans and cis are not. Male and female are not. Are you seriously claiming not to understand the distinction?

Are you interested in having sex with all women?

I don't see how seeing someone as a woman means being interested in having sex with them.

If I see transwomen as men, then I'll presumably see transmen as women. If I won't date a transwomen because she's "really a man," then presumably a a pre-op transman is "really a woman" to me, and therefore not in a category I won't date. Do you actually believe this to be the case, regarding the people you're so oddly eager to accuse of transphobia?

I can't tell if you don't understand this, or are just pretending not to so as to try to support the argument that who I do and don't have sex with shouldn't be up to me.

If it bothers you that I think who I do or don't have sex with should be up to me, and that you shouldn't try to punish anyone for deciding not to have sex with someone, that means you've got some stuff to work on. It does not mean you should insult the rest of us.
While Marcus maybe should have disclosed, I don't think you ever have the right to be mad at somebody that went down on you unrecipated if they turn out to be not what you expected.

You roll the dice, you takes your chances.
@37, I assume people who view pre-op transmen as women view them as "non-attractive women" (a category they won't date). I don't really understand this part of our conversation, though.

Since you don't like my asshole comparison, I'll say that I won't knowingly have sex with a gun-owner. But I might accidentally have sex with an attractive gun-owner. Later, after I learned about the gun, I would be disappointed and annoyed. But I wouldn't be outraged.

If Marcus came up with a whole fake testosterone-laden story about how he had been captain of the football team and had lots of girlfriends and couldn't wait to see her suck his dick... that would be deceptive and NCA can be outraged.

In fact, NCA doesn't sound outraged. NCA knows Marcus, and sees him as a guy, and just doesn't want to continue dating. Absolutely reasonable.

What got me started was posters at 2 & 7 ("violation of trust") and 4 & 5 ("so pissed"). NCA didn't use that kind of language, and I don't see why it's called for.
@38 Yes!
I would like to add a point about the legal thing. In the UK, trans people have to legally disclose now prior to marriage, and I have several TS girlfriends there who are very concerned about the civil rights issues around that. It's a big deal.

We should be thankful, I think, that our TS people are legally free to make that possibly life-threatening decision for themselves, in their own good time. I know that there's a 'before marriage' in there, but the point still stands, I feel.

Our TS friend is still within his legal rights to disclose or not.

@33, EricaP, yes, to the assholes comment, indeed. I would rather find out my partner was TS than an asshole, any day. NCA has landed herself the former, not the latter.
Transmen and transwomen are within their rights not to disclose their trans status before they get naked with other people, but I'm also within my rights to think that not disclosing is creepy and even a little predatory, especially in a situation where the transman or transwoman is pre- or non-op and is doing everything he/she can to hide his/her genitals from the other party.

The crimes committed against Gwen Araujo were unspeakably vicious, but I still think that her having anal sex with cisgendered men who assumed she was a cisgendered woman while simultaneously trying to keep them from seeing/feeling her penis was really creepy and unacceptable. But, I hope we eventually reach a point in our culture when that kind of behavior is seen as an excuse for social ostracizing and not violence, let alone murder.
Having sex in the context of a several-months dating relationship creates an intimacy which leads to expectation of trust. In a similar situation, I'd want to know the big issues in someone's life before I slept with them, and I'd expect them to understand that. For example, I'd be outraged if I'd had sex with someone I was dating, and then they told me that they had a different job to what they'd initially said.

This guy encouraged the LW to assume something that wasn't the case, after they had been intimate. That's taking a big risk that she wouldn't be able to trust him afterwards. Not having sex with the LW until disclosure would have been a safer way to go about it.
@16: "If one replaces the word "transman" with man-who-had-complicated-medical-history-with-his-genitals, you wouldn't feel the same way."

Would one?

I don't know how I'd react in this sort of situation, but your analogy falls flat.
Ugh, this conversation makes my head hurt.

LW #1: Marcus should've told NCA what was up. I can't say when the right time would have been; IDK how safe he felt with NCA. Had I been in his shoes, likely I would've made that disclosure pre-physical-intimacy. Not because there would've been anything wrong with *me*, but I'd wanna make sure all was good with *them*. People are allowed their reactions.

@35, EricaP, someone being trans isn't the same as someone having a hysterectomy. A lack of womb is a conversation that should be had when a more serious relationship is brewing, in case the other partner wants to have children. But a hysterectomy is not something that's physically obvious once trousers are dropped, y'know? What NCA was saying was that because Marcus is trans, his genitalia aren't what she expected, & also there's the whole, he held out this substantial piece of information about himself. I think those feelings of being betrayed are natural, & given that she's pretty young, NCA's response is honest, & not unkind.

I was out to dinner with a guy once; he & I had been flirting for months. It was our second actual date after months of running into each other at things. & my being bi came up right after our order was taken. We were talking about our exes & I named some of my ex-GF's as well as ex-BF's. & my date got pretty upset, said he couldn't handle or "compete" with that. He called for our check & got the waiter to doggy-bag our food! It hurt my feelings badly at the time..he was handsome, seemed really into me, I was hopeful..but looking back, I'm glad I was disappointed early & saved some heartache later. Who wants to be w/ someone that hung up?

Best of luck to both NCA & Marcus. I kinda hope they work things out. It may be too much for them to get past, but she sounds open-minded - & if not, I hope they break up as gently as possible.
@33: "I just don't think we're entitled to a life of never having sex with someone who is attractive to us but in a category we wouldn't knowingly have sex with."
What?? We're not ENTITLED? Don't you mean we're not free to? Again, this is PC blathering gone wrong. You're saying if she's not turned on by idea of surgically placed bodyparts, she's bigoted in some way. This is simply not true. If she broke off the relationship because she prefers big penises and his is small, would you give her a pass? Just as the heart wants what the heart wants, so goes the twat.

But honestly, I believe her change of heart has less to do with the trans thing that the bait-and-switch thing.

+1 @ 11.

Yes, LW sees Marcus as a woman. So?

Dan took proper care in his response, but you can bet he and his brethren won't be hitting on f2t any time soon.
@42, would you find it "really creepy and unacceptable" if Gwen Araujo went on a date and kissed a guy without mentioning her penis? And if she later told him, do you think he would be justified in sharing that news with everyone in town ("social ostracization")? If so, I disagree. I think he would be justified in being disappointed, and not dating her or being her friend. But I don't see why she would deserve to be "socially ostracized."

@43, would you be outraged or just disappointed if it turned out your dating partner was unemployed (but they hadn't explicitly lied, just hadn't mentioned that fact)?
EricaP has a relationship with deception not at all unlike a color blind person's relationship with the colors red and green.
Two issues that are being elided over by Marcus' critics:

1) It's staggeringly naive to assume that there is not some degree of transphobia at play here. Hell, even the LW is worried she may be a bigot! Just as the outrage over Bill Clinton's alleged perjury was really about the sex, a lot of the outrage over Marcus' "deception" is really about how squicky many people feel about transsexuality.

2) For Marcus to tell someone about his trans status risks exposing himself to discrimination, social rejection, and even violence. It makes perfect sense for him to be extraordinarily cautious about revealing this.

How much you open yourself up to another person as your relationship progresses is a tremendously complicated issue. The LW seems to have healthy appreciation of that. Pity so many of the commenters don't.
So much crazy has been injected into the debate it isn't even funny.

" I feel like a small-minded bigot that my romantic feelings about Marcus are based on something as randomly distributed as a penis."

Someone needs a detox from their Gender Studies class. Christ. Under that rubric, everybody is a bigot merely for having an orientation that comes with a (mostly hardwired) sexual response.

"But messing around with someone you wouldn’t have if you had known [insert relevant detail here] is a pretty common experience, NCA, and one most people bounce back from."

Except that bouncing back from it usually doesn't involve continued contact. "I never would have fucked you if I had known" usually means, "So don't expect me to keep doing it now." And there is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling that way yourself, LW.
@48 "would you be outraged or just disappointed if it turned out your dating partner was unemployed (but they hadn't explicitly lied, just hadn't mentioned that fact)?"

I'll chime in... .I don't know if I'd go as far as outraged, but I'd be pissed. Getting bent at a boy/girlfriend of 3 months who withholds pertinent information, such as job status, marital status, STI status, felony status... put it this way. If you're trying to hide it, perhaps you should wait on sex if you're looking for a LTR with this person. That way, you can determine if they're worthy of trust with your most closely guarded secrets. Cause if you don't disclose before sex, and allow the SO to make her own decision having all the facts, then YOU'RE not worthy of trust. And a lying POS.
Troll, am I, EricaP? If I self-identify as Napoleon and you don't agree with that, which of us is crazy?
I'm a straight woman who, a few years ago, had a trans boyfriend with the original equipment downstairs. I am extremely glad he did not disclose his trans status on the first date. Why? Because after just one date, my internalized transphobia would have talked me into dismissing him. I would have decided that lack of a penis would mean I couldn't be into the sex.

Boy was I wrong. The sex was great and we had a good relationship. Straight ladies: Trans guys are just regular guys, with a different physical history, and if you find yourself attracted to him, you may just find that his different parts have no bearing on your level of attraction and enjoyment. Be open to the possibility.

The fact that he waited till the third date to tell me he was trans, meant that I was able to get attracted to him first, then process my feelings. After a few days of confusion, I came out the other end willing to be open to the idea of being with him, because, well, there was attraction at that point.

So that was about the right timing for disclosure: After attraction has developed, but before sex. Also, the disclosure took place at a public place, where we were out having fun on our date, not at home, where we might have already fooled around. That might have made me uncomfortable.

Failure to disclose, say, that you have another relationship, or an STI, or what have you, is a MUCH MORE EGREGIOUS ACT.
@46 " You're saying if she's not turned on by idea of surgically placed bodyparts, she's bigoted in some way. "

No, I'm saying posters are homophobic if they're outraged (or "pissed" or feel "violated") at the idea of an attractive person consensually going down on them, and later finding out that person was trans.
@53 thanks for registering!
@54 please register -- your post is important for this discussion.
I think that Marcus' failure to disclose his trans status prior to the relationship becoming sexual is unacceptable. Like it or not, most people care about birth gender when it comes to romantic, especially sexual partners.

It is not a perfect comparison and it assumes a hetero couple, but imagine you meet someone, date, and get married. After you are married they disclose that they are sterile and it will not be possible for the two of you to have biological children together. Yes, you could adopt or have a child via invitro/surrogacy, but the bottom line is that information was held past the point of reasonable disclosure.

And keep in mind, dating someone who is sterile, just like dating someone who is trans, is an idea that can grow on an individual.
Analogies fail because when it comes to sexual attraction, EVERYTHING is a matter of prejudice; NOTHING is fair.

I'm a heterosexual female who's attracted to men who are taller than I am. (I'm short.) I guess you could say that makes me shallow and bigoted against short men. I'd accept that accusation with a shrug. I'd also be weirded out if I learned that a man I was dating had been born with female genitalia. Again, if that makes me bigoted or transphobic, I accept the appellation/ accusation with a shrug.

It's not like refusing to hire a fully qualified Latina dentist because of a preference for white men. Doing so would make me bigoted in a way I'd be ashamed of because hiring someone for a job and seeking a sexual/ romantic partner ARE NOT THE SAME THING. I don't know why people are talking about them like they are. The analogy doesn't work because I'm allowed to attracted to anyone I want, and I don't even have to be consistent about it.

The trouble that I see is that the situation has devolved into a false binary choice: Either NCA is bigoted and the boyfriend is blameless, or Marcus was deceptive and the LW is blameless. Why can't we chalk this one up to a sad situation all around and have some sympathy for both of them? Surely NCA deserves some sympathy. She's young (college age), sounds relatively inexperienced, faced with some difficult feelings without a lot of people she can talk it out with. Similarly, Marcus deserves sympathy too. He's faced feelings and rejections from a young age that most of can't even fathom. Add the business about going to college in a conservative part of the country, and I could weep for them.

Which is all to say that Levasseur's advice is compassionate and correct. NCA needs to explore her feelings in a safe space. She needs to feel free to continue the relationship or not based on how she feels and without fear of outside judgment or inner. Surely Marcus loses some points for being deceptive, but it's not like I can see that his alternatives were good ones. The big thing for him is going to be getting out of that conservative college town and into the big wide world where he'll be able to advertise his unique and wonderful qualities to people who are looking for exactly that.
@50. Does Marcus have the right to wait as long as he likes to disclose? Yes. Does NCA have the right to know if she is about to embark on an existential sexual crisis? Yes.

Long story short, Marcus should have done nothing beyond kissing until he was ready to disclose that he is a transman.

I know to most people here the idea that people define their sexuality by the genitals they prefer is philistine in the extreme but it does happen and can be an extreme source of trauma when that is questioned.

Also, would you like someone to ask you if you have a penis if you present as a woman? I know if a woman asked me if I had a vagina before I went down on her I would be super offended and end things right then and there and would expect any woman to feel the same way.

@50, "It's staggeringly naive to assume that there is not some degree of transphobia at play here."

Bullshit. Not being sexually attracted to a man who used to be a woman is not the same as transphobia. And again, we don't know if the change of heart came from knowing that the genitals didn't used to be there, or the fact that she was hoodwinked for THREE MONTHS.
Why the fuck does she have to feel guilty for not wanting him anymore?
@55: It's not consent if it's not obtained honestly. Objecting to being deceived doesn't mean you are transphobic, it means you have self-respect.
@54, Nobody said a transgender person should disclose on the first date. Just don't have sex on the first date if you don't share your vital statistics.
Crinoline @58, no one says NCA is bigoted. She reacted totally reasonably. I'm saying people who think NCA was "violated" are (a bit) bigoted.

GhostDog @59, people usually use their bodies to find out about each other's bodies -- a woman usually feels the guy's dick with her fingers before he goes down on her.
@63, I saw commenters saying Marcus was guilty of a "violation of trust" not that NCA was "violated."
@60 she doesn't have to feel guilty. But Marcus didn't do something terrible to her. I agree that he would have been wiser to reveal his situation before sex, but I don't think his failure to do so makes the sex non-consensual.
@64, what's the difference? I'm not seeing your point. And how does that relate to Chase's statement @61 that the sex wasn't consensual if you didn't know the person's trans status?
I agree with 54 up there. Taking the time to get to know someone, but disclosing before getting physically intimate is probably a good guideline. But I think we're also missing the fact that these two are in their late teens and/or early twenties, and Marcus is only just learning to navigate these waters. How many of us haven't fumbled and flubbed their way through their first break up, awkward disclosure, or embarrassments during sexcapades?

Let's hope that no matter what the outcome, both Marcus and his possible ex learn something from this.
Seems like this discussion is ignoring the "I really like cock" angle. Neither NCA or Marcus sound like bad people to me. I don't think NCA is necessarily a bigot for no longer finding Marcus attractive, but I do wonder just why a natural born penis partner is important to her if she was with the guy for three months without any access to it.

I dated a guy in college who had similarly lame excuses for why I couldn't go near his penis and all our sexual activity was limited to kissing and him performing (really good) oral sex on me. The relationship did not last three months because... I really like cock. Not just, yes, he's got one tucked away somewhere I'm not allowed to go. I really wanted to touch it and be involved with it and being denied that was beyond what I was willing to put up with even though he was really beautiful and gave great head. So I pushed the issue until I got answers (he already had a girlfriend who for reasons 19 yo me could not begin to understand was totally cool with me being deceived about their relationship as long as his penis was not involved in ours).

Maybe the relationship between NCA and Marcus was the kind where they had no genital contact for a long time and the period between first genital contact and disclosure was short, but that's not my impression. It sounds more like she was pretty cool with it being all about her genitals and his (presumed) cock was ceremonial. In which case, maybe not bigoted, but definitely something for her to think about why having a cock around is so important to her.
@16 EricaP-I disagree. My husband has ED issues and waited until we had been together for a while and I was starting to get concerned about how he was "weird" about me touching or seeing him before he finally confessed.

Although I ended up dealing with it, I was really frustrated and felt betrayed that he had kept it from me for so long. He specifically did it because he knew he had trouble getting women interested if they knew their sexual activity was going to be "hampered" in some of these ways. He pulled the same stunt that this kid did, and got me to care about him and involved sexually with him before disclosing his medical issues. Not cool.
EricaP's hypothetical have glossed over this was a 3 month relationship. Getting surprised by the genital status of someone you've recently met is really different than being being betrayed by someone in whom you've invested 90 days of intimacy.
@69, thanks for that data point. Duly noted.
EricaP: thanks for fighting the good fight here.

Marcus didn't do anything wrong, but it's not crazy for NCA to feel the way she does. Yeah, there's transphobia there, but there's nobody free of that. The question is whether it's a dealbreaker for her. If it is, Marcus is better off finding someone else, and everybody goes on with their lives.
EricaP, I've also seen a letter from a woman declaring she'd been raped because the fellow in question, a long-term partner purposely slipped off the condom during consensual intercourse, and another from a woman who was ready to charge her own husband with rape because he'd woken her by making love to her and she was furious she'd enjoyed it. As usual with some brainwashed types, Political Correctness trumps logic- I was flabbergasted when I read that black-on-white rape was excusable because race trumps gender politics. So what's your own status? Are you trans yourself- arguing generalities with a hidden agenda is also dishonest. and as far as I'm concerned telling us it's none of our business indicates you are.
@EricaP: Your analogy is flawed. A hysterectomy is equivalent to a vasectomy (or to some other form of male sterility), not to a penis. The issues raised by a hysterectomy involve biological reproduction, not sexual intercourse.
if i'm not attracted to somebody anymore because of what they tell me about their gender, then i'm not attracted to them anymore. i would break up with them in a heartbeat and i don't have to be nice about it. whether it was because they lied or because they have different genitalia than i thought wouldn't matter to me at all. i wouldn't waste my time examining something that i have no control over; my preferences. some men like blondes, some women like to get spanked and some people don't like being lied to, apparently regardless of the circumstances. on a side note, pretty good letters this week.
Wow, so glad we could all have a conversation about what Gwen Araujo did wrong, and about how it's a real bummer that trans people die all the time from actual physical attacks from people who hold ideas like the ones I read here, but the real bludgeoning victims are cis people! Bigoted cis people, feel free to refuse to date poor people or trans* people or Asian people, but you absolutely don't have any right not to be called what you are. Meanwhile, all my trans* folk, you keep doing exactly what makes you safer. It's your lives that are at risk, not theirs. They call us rapey just for walking down the street in our own clothes, but they are awfully murder-y, all the time.

(Thanks, Erica P!)

@EricaP, once again I'm in complete agreement with you, and I'm somewhat shocked we're in the minority. Love (and attraction) are perfectly acceptable no matter what gender, sex, label, or whatever someone describes themselves as. In Marcus' case, disclosure could actually lead to physical violence, loss of job (depending on the state), or at the very least harmful and misleading rumours. NCA found a human being she was willing to enter into a relationship with, and she should at least try to discover what truly bothers her about the deception. In the end, she may have been deceived, but not because Marcus was actively manipulating her or trying to betray her trust maliciously.

@Hunter78 In this day and age, with trans people still struggling to be accepted, there will be people who have issues with this. I do believe they have the right to say they don't feel comfortable in such a relationship without being judged. I hope they can have an open, honest discussion about it.

@reality That's a not a comparable argument at all. In those case someone's health and safety was at risk. In this case, the health and safety at risk is Marcus'.
JunieGirl@70, I meant to address my post @71 to you, not to 69.

@76 "i would break up with them in a heartbeat"

Sure, except that as NCA, AliceR@54, and JunieGirl @70 have said, it's not so easy to walk away once you know and care about this person.

There's no fault attached to walking away, but it turns out that's hard to do, which I guess can lead to bad feelings. I appreciate the posts above which show compassion for both Marcus and NCA.
@66: Saying that she was violated implies some degree of physical force, which was not the case. Saying that her trust was violated is absolutely the case. For understandable reasons, but not ethical reasons. Bait and switch is not just unethical, it's a terrible strategy for social acceptance.

@77: So you have no preferences at all about who your partners are, right? Because if you do, then you're not only a bigot but a hypocrite.
@73: Your username and content makes me wonder how many times you've been banned before.
@78: "In Marcus' case, disclosure could actually lead to physical violence"

If that was seriously the concern, waiting until after taking the relationship sexual is even more mind-boggling.
I have seen a lot of thoughts on disclosure from all sides in other venues, and get a headache from how this tends to resolve into Informed Consent vs Legitimate Safety Issues.

I'm a little surprised that Ms Crinoline didn't see Mr Savage's finger on the scale. As for the guest expert's advice (which was far more directed to the non-letter-writing party than to the LW, which is not a fault in and of itself, but is worth observing), one could call it compassionate and correct, but it was about as disingenuous as Miss Brodie telling more than just her set as they prepared to leave the Junior School that the Modern side of the Senior School was the equal of the Classical. Given that the guest expert practically came out and told Marcus to DTMFA (which I am not about to condemn; I can make allowances for liberality in playing the scarlet B when it is basically one's only weapon), it might have been nice of Mr Savage (and I want to go on the record as saying that he is by no means gayest - pushing people towards Sondheim, that pawn of the heterarchy, of all things! As for who might qualify for such a superlative, I couldn't possibly comment.) to have provided a little balance in the form of a second guest who would put LW first.

And the guest expert is patently wrong in one major respect. We are all loved for a combination of "because"s and "although"s and it is just a question of what we want to be the Bs and what we want to be the As lining up well with the preferences of those who make the assessments. If young Mr Marcus wants his trans status to be a B instead of an A, that's his preference.
First question: if someone essentially told me that my brain was too small to handle the truth, yeah id be turned off too

Second question: this isn't black and white, yes or no. You can meet, talk, think about it.
Cheese and crackers people! Calm down. These are just a couple of nice, awkward college kids in a typically fumbling and overthought college sexual dynamic.

They'll both turn out just fine. Marcus will learn to disclose better. LW will either never date a transman again, or become a lifelong fan.
It isn't deceiving anyone for a man (trans or otherwise) to present himself as a man. And obviously, this woman was attracted to him - she stayed with him for three months and was happy to accept some sexual intimacy. Since there was no penis in play so far, there weren't any promises made about the status of his cock (flesh or synthetic, big or small or optional). She is totally allowed to say "Huh, not what I pictured. Sorry," and move on - jut like people could be turned off by scarring or tattoos or even just noticing someone's knees are "weird". No one is saying you're not allowed to change your mind when new body parts are revealed. Did the girl with weird knees deceive me by failing to disclose that her knees were weird? Of course not. It just wasn't something I thought about until her pants came off and I just wasn't into her anymore. (And no, I didn't tell her that her knees were weird - I'm not cruel and it's my problem, not hers, that I didn't like them.) Likewise with the genitalia - it's perfectly normal to assume that you won't mind whatever's down there and it can feel awkward when you are disappointed and that's legitimate. But it is in no way a betrayal, because transmen aren't lying when they call themselves men. The only difference between his atypical genitals and her atypical knees is that we worry SO FREAKING MUCH about penises and who has a "real" one and how big it is. Because of that, when we *are* disappointed by someone's genitalia, we owe it to our partners to examine our chain of thought and determine how deep-seated the preference really is. Then, regardless of whether or not their genitalia are ultimately a dealbreaker, it's still totally reasonable to wonder how much of your preference came from transphobic cultural programming - but it's not a question anyone can answer until we at least start getting to a place where people stop thinking that pussy=woman and cock=man.

Lastly, stop saying "I'm not transphobic." If you had enough damage to your brain to erase your transphobia, you probably wouldn't actually be able to say "I'm not transphobic" anymore. Even if you "know" some trans people and you aren't terrible to them and you *totally* see them as the gender they identify with, and would at least consider dating one, you are still very probably transphobic. My own half-sisters are mixed race while I am white and that doesn't make me not racist - it makes me all the more aware of how racist we all really are, and it makes me think twice about racial context much more often than most white people. But if you live in a prejudiced culture and claim not to have that prejudice, you are lazily deceiving yourself rather than exercising vigilance. Your prejudice isn't your fault, but it *is* your problem and if you don't own it then you are contributing to it, no matter how nice you are to trans people.

Pro tip: NEVER EVER SAY "I'm not [insert prejudice]." It is a lie. It will always be a lie. You will never ever not be prejudiced. The only good and decent and responsible thing to do is accept that policing your prejudice is a lifelong commitment and accept that you will fuck it up. A lot. And that's totally awesome - seriously, gold stars! - as long as you never make the mistake of thinking you are done, either with the policing or with the fucking up.
@ 82: Exactly. You'd think that would be obvious.

@ 86: Genitals are a much bigger deal than knees, and it's laughable to attempt to equate them.

Choosing not to date trans people isn't transphobic, just as choosing not to date gay people isn't homophobic. No one is entitled to a relationship.

Pro tip: stop judging other people for not sharing your preferences.
@ 52. I'm with you- all major details should be divulged before becoming sexually involved. The reason to disclose is for yourself and not the other person- it's better to find out up front if they can deal with your shit, rather than try to sneak in on a lie by omission.

Example: I went out on several dates with a guy in my senior year of college before telling him I had a sexually promiscuous past. He flipped out and couldn't deal, then broke my heart during finals week at school. I was such a mess-chain smoking, going on long drives to clear my head, pulling all-nighters b/c I thought I was going to fail a class.
> Choosing not to date trans people isn't transphobic

But being horrified if someone who went down on you didn't tell you they were trans: that's transphobic.
I appreciate how everybody else is dealing with the tricky and technical discussions of gender identity and disclosure, and leaving the obvious and fun math/stats issues for me:

I don't see how Dan is getting 33% for the increase in awkwardness probability going from a twosome to a threesome. Even if you count people, you get a 50% increase, and if you do the more sensible thing and count pairwise interactions, you get a 200% increase! I think that's still an underestimate, but even if you think that it's an overestimate (due to interpersonal correlations, the probability saturating, etc) I don't see any plausible way to get it to come out at 33%.
Have we, finally, not learned the lesson from The Crying Game?
I'm not going to say that Marcus did something wrong by waiting. However, the flip side of that is that Marcus needs to be prepared that the big reveal might turn out to be a dealbreaker, and accept it graciously when it happens. If delaying the big reveal makes the dealbreaker that much harder for Marcus to take, then maybe Marcus had better start disclosing to his partners earlier, before heavier emotional investment has had a chance to set in.
For Erica P:
Let's say you have a known fetish for natural redheads. You are only attracted to natural redheads, to the point that it's actually an orientation, and the idea of having sex with a non-redhead gives you the same reaction that Dan has when he thinks about having sex with a vagina--you like and respect blonds and brunettes, but have absolutely zero interest in having sex with one.

So what if someone else who knew all of this, died their hair red, dated you for several months, had sex with you, and only then revealed that in fact they died their hair red, but hoped you would come around to liking died redheads in time. Would it not be reasonable to feel that your trust had been severely violated, and also to feel outrage? Without being bigoted against natural blondes and brunettes?

If you accept that trans-women, cis-women, trans-men and cis-men, are four distinct categories to which the majority of people will categorically be uninterested in sex with any one, two, three or all four categories--ie that from a sexuality standpoint, cis-men and trans-man aren't equivalent--then it's unethical to lie, including by omission, about which group you belong to to someone you have sex with.
Despite the various sociopolitical landmines to navigate through here, the situation isn't difficult to parse. Marcus should have disclosed his trans status to the LW before they had any sexual contact. There are infinitely understandable reasons as to why he didn't (rejection not so much [that's a risk everyone takes to be with another], however malicious exposure and threat of violence absolutely), but nonetheless he should have told her. It does not make the LW a bigot if she does not wish to continue having sex with Marcus- there was both a shift in perspective on her part (from "I am dating a cis man" to "I am dating a trans man") and a breach of trust on his part here, if, again, for understandable reasons. But understanding one's motives does not absolve one of wrongdoing- and Marcus unequivocally lied to the LW by omission.
63EricaP-- From the original letter:

"I feel like a small minded bigot."
"Am I being a bigot?"

That's what I was referring to in my comments on whether it's fair to call NCA a bigot.
For the most part a lot of good points are being made.

I'm totally on the fence about EricaP's proposition that if it quacked like a duck during a sexual encounter you enjoyed then don't be upset if it turned out not to be a duck later on.

While I can see the point that it shouldn't matter if the person I slept with turned out not to be cis-female, I have to admit that I it still probably would matter.

How that "matter" manifests itself is probably the bigger question. Would I be angry or feel violated somehow or just surprised, possibly accepting or disappointed? I really don't know how much it would bother me.

There's acceptance from a social standpoint but you can't fight nature and hard-wiring.

Unless you think being FTM means someone's not a "real man", or that being MTF means they're not a "real woman", why would you care how they got to be their current gender?

If you do think that how they got to be that gender is an issue, how is that free of transphobia?

If it's a matter of not liking a particular person's genitals, once you get to them (IIRC phalloplasty still has difficulties, especially), then that might be no different to getting with a cisgender person and finding their genitals aren't what you need to continue a sexual relationship.

But if the HISTORY of someone's genitals is the crucial thing for you, then yeah, that does sound like it would be kind of what-should-we-call-it - cissexist?
@94 Best answer here. Well put.
@66, Erica, there's a huge difference between being violated and having your trust violated. I think you know that. NCA experienced the latter, obviously. There was no sexual assault here, just bad personal policy. Hopefully Marcus will figure it out the next time.

If Marcus really felt that NCA might be the type of person who might run her mouth around town, or call the cops,isn't the danger much greater after having sex with her without the disclosure?

I'm not saying Marcus is a bad person for his ill-advised actions, but I do think transgender folks need to be more careful than others, and not just regarding himself, but with her feelings. It is dangerous out there. Sounds like he might live in the south, god help him. He should move to Seattle.
@89, Erica,

"Choosing not to date trans people isn't transphobic.But being horrified if someone who went down on you didn't tell you they were trans: that's transphobic."

Who said they were horrified? Certainly not the LW.
Of course she should DTMFA. He's lying and manipulative. Nothing in this letter indicates that HE cares about HER. If he did, he'd be making it clear to her that it's about her enthusiastic consent, instead of trying to guilt her into having sex with him. I've met cis guys like this, totally concerned with themselves getting laid and not caring at all about the lies and manipulation they do in order to get laid. Being trans doesn't make it OK.

If you're a het male, odds are you're not going to get nearly as much sex as you'd like. It is, in fact, quite possible that you won't get any until after college. Welcome to being a het male. It's not a justification for trying to manipulate women into having reluctant sex with you.

"If one replaces the word "transman" with man-who-had-complicated-medical-history-with-his-genitals, you wouldn't feel the same way.
"Those of you who are outraged on her behalf, you don't see Marcus as a man."

If, when I was in my twenties or thirties, I'd been dating a woman for three months before she told me she'd had her tubes tied, I'd have been pretty pissed off at her. Not because I "wouldn't see her as a woman". Because of the three months of lies.

"He's at risk if he comes out." If it's really that much of a risk, then he shouldn't be dating at all: it's only a matter of time until he gets outed. If dating is that important to him, and the college he's at is that scary, he should transfer to one that's not so scary, or give up on dating for the time being. As above, he'd hardly be the only guy not getting lucky. Sorry, I really have no patience for guys who claim that lying to and manipulating women to get laid is OK because otherwise they won't get laid.

"I don't see how seeing someone as a woman means being interested in having sex with them."
All this time and you still don't understand het men ;)

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