The Politics of Transgender Disclosure

There is a lot of talk in transgender communities, in politics, in medicine, in academia, and in activist circles about transgender disclosure. You’ve probably heard some of it, and might wonder what it’s all about.

The questions and controversies surround whether a T-girl needs to tell people she is transgender. And if so, to who? And if so, when and why? If you’re not sure where you stand on this issue, here are the basics.

Should a transgender woman disclose to others that she is transgender?

Some say no, absolutely not.

Trans activist Galen Mitchell writes on her blog, “Trans folks, regardless of their gender, are under no obligation to disclose their trans status in any circumstance.”

But others say yes, of course she needs to say she is transgender, not cis.

This group includes men who date women, who feel they have the right to know who they are intimate with.

It also includes transgender women, who say there is nothing to hide, and being honest about who you are when presenting to other people is just part of normal communication.

Both yes and no groups can point to equality.

Those in favor of the right to privacy for trans people say it’s about equality, but so do some yes folks. There is nothing wrong with being transgender, and honesty and visibility mean better medical and health care, and a broader acceptance in society.

Both yes and no teams can point to safety issues.

What is between a woman’s legs is her own business, and her medical history privacy is a matter of safety, say those who don’t believe trans women need to disclose their trans status. Since trans women are at a high risk for violence in dating as well as random violence, their secrets are best kept to themselves.

But team yes points out that full disclosure protects transgender women from violence. Many transphobic murders occur when a man flies into a rage upon discovering the woman he’s intimate with or planning to be was born a man. A trans woman can make sure to date trans-positive men by being out in the first place.

Team yes says medical science, censuses, and studies need to know in order to efficiently observe relevant historical phenomenon.

Crime statistics, medical funding, sports scores, and infertility studies are just a few areas that can become skewed over time if people just check the gender they identity as without specifying being trans on everyday forms and communications.

Pro disclosure advocates point out that seeing a rise in murder and knife violence rates by women in some cities is misleading, because it is not due to an increase among women but a change in labeling the gender of perpetrators. Identifying biologically born men who identify as women would give a more honest assessment of crime stats than simply switching them to women.

Other misleading areas would be health related—are certain cancers that predominantly affect male or female bodies really rising or going down? Subjects like this require accurate information, because the outcome affects everyone.

Confused yet? Me too. I think both team yes and team no for transgender disclosure have important viewpoints and considerations.

Some of you are wondering if I’m team yes or no. I’m not a trans woman, so I can’t speak for her and impose my view. To me it makes common sense that disclosure on any topic is always the private decision of the person until that particular information might impact someone else. So, basically, none of anyone’s business, unless it is their business.

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