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April 2, 2014

Advice: Savage Love

Disclosing

Q: My boyfriend of three months, “Marcus,” told me last week that he is a trans man. He has performed oral sex on me and fingered me, but he never let me reciprocate and told me he didn’t want to have penis-in-vagina sex yet because that was a large commitment. We go to college in a conservative part of the country, and almost no one here knows. He worried that if I found out, I would expose him to our friends and peers and perhaps even press charges (because we had sex when I did not know he was trans). 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. 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. Am I being a bigot? Do you have any advice?
No Clever Acronym

A: “NCA is clearly struggling,” said M. Dru Levasseur, a trans activist, attorney and cofounder of the Jim Collins Foundation, an organization that funds gender-confirming surgeries for trans people. “She met a guy, she’s deeply attracted to him and is falling for him, and then she finds out something she didn’t expect. He’s trans.”

Before you dump Marcus — if you dump Marcus — Levasseur recommends exploring your feelings.

“Does NCA not see Marcus as a man now? Is she sure he doesn’t have a penis? Trans guys have amazing dicks that are different from cis guys’ dicks (surgery or no surgery) — how does she know she won’t like it or even prefer it? Is she afraid of social rejection if people were to find out she was dating a trans person? If she really wants to explore this, she could talk to a therapist, read some books or join a support group online. Who knows, Marcus could be the best sex and biggest love of her life.”

My two cents: You’re also struggling with the fact that you had sex — oral and fingering count — with someone you might not have had sex with if you had known this particular detail in advance. I believe Marcus should have told you he was trans before you hooked up, NCA, and disclosing was in his own self-interest. 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. And there are far worse forms of nondisclosure. While trans, poly, kinky and poz folks are all pressured to disclose, the world would be a much happier place if abusers, users, assholes and Fox News “personalities” were the ones who had to disclose before sex.

“There is absolutely no legal duty to disclose trans status,” added Levasseur. “A person’s trans status is ‘excruciatingly private’ and constitutionally protected information. There are lots of reasons why trans people might be stealth (or not out) like Marcus — for example, the terrifying rate of violence against trans people or the overwhelming statistics of discrimination. But I think disclosure is a good idea early on because it allows people to love you for who you are. Why not know that the person you are getting close to wants you? All of you.”

OK, let’s say you’ve explored your feelings and decided you don’t want to keep seeing Marcus. Does that make you a bigot?

“It’s OK to have a preference — no judgment there,” said Levasseur. “If trans guys are not her thing, no harm done. I would just hope she is kind when she lets Marcus go. From what she says, it sounds like he wants to convince her to want him or love him, and no one should be in the business of doing that. Everyone deserves to be loved because, not although.”

Levasseur wanted to close with a message to any trans men reading this:

“To the Marcuses of the world who will read NCA’s letter and think, ‘Oh no, who will love me, who will want me?’ and see it as just another message of rejection to add to a daily list of transphobia, body shame and internalized self-loathing that fuels the staggering trans suicide attempt rate: Don’t go there. Trans men are hot and deserve to be loved for the amazing men they are. They did not have their masculinity handed to them. They earned it. And we deserve not to settle for someone who doesn’t appreciate our bodies or our histories. Find someone who wants the full you.”

Follow M. Dru Levasseur on Twitter @DruLawyer. Learn more about the Jim Collins Foundation at jimcollinsfoundation.org.

This week on the “Lovecast,” how to come out as polyamorous to your children: savagelovecast.com.