Love and Disclosure as a Trans Woman
Allison Washington

Thank you for this beautiful and open, honest look into your mind and your lived experience. I have to say that I do find some of the themes here a bit challenging for me, and I want to understand better so if you feel open to putting some time and energy into this discussion, I would appreciate your insights.

I’ll start with what I do understand, which is that 1) trans women are women, 2) our society is extremely transphobic, too often homicidally so, and 3) trans women have a right to intimate, loving connection and partnership just as much as anyone.

Here is where I get caught up: As a 3rd wave feminist, I am very sex positive, which in large part informs my ideas around consent. In any other context, I would insist that consent must be given freely and it must be fully informed, or else it is not consent. Also, I have spent much of my life trying to have as much integrity with my word as possible, which means that I consider a lie by omission to be a lie nonetheless, and I don’t allow myself that luxury .

So now there’s this conundrum: I want you and all trans women to have the opportunity of intimate partnership, and I want you to be safe and free from fear of bodily harm. At the same time, I feel that everyone has a right to refuse sexual contact with anyone, for any reason. Even if it’s a bad reason. Even if it’s a terrible reason. That’s just what it means to me to advocate for bodily and sexual autonomy.

So then how do we reconcile these two realities — your absolute right to safety and intimacy, and any potential partner’s absolute right to sexual autonomy and informed consent? Given the underlying and unfortunate reality that is the basis around possibly not disclosing — that most cishet men are not open to dating trans women — it can be assumed that not disclosing before sexual contact omits a piece of information that would cause most cishet men not to engage sexually with a trans woman. Therefore, by not disclosing, a trans woman is crippling a key component of informed consent.

What is your reaction to this line of thinking? Is there something I’m not seeing as clearly as I could or should?

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