Ms. Behavior©: When Should I Tell People I’m Trans?

Dear Ms. Behavior:

I’m in my 20s, and formerly identified as lesbian, but now, I’m trans (FtM). I have had top surgery, and started taking testosterone nearly a year ago. I definitely pass as a guy. I haven’t had bottom surgery, and never may do it. I don’t even think genital gender (as opposed to gender identity) really matters, but that’s another discussion.

I need advice about when I need to tell people that I am trans.

When should I tell a (female) date? Before we go out? Before we kiss? Once we hook up?

I don’t have any trans friends, and I don’t know whom to ask.

—Lenny

Dear Lenny:

Ms. Behavior’s trans friend, Mike, puts it simply: “Tell your date before you go to third base.” Although he is being slightly funny, you’d be wise to have the gender discussion with a date before anything sexual happens, including kissing. As you probably know, kissing leads to humping way quicker than pot smoking leads to heroin abuse.

Basically, it’s important to reveal your personal info once you want to take the relationship to a deeper or more intimate level. Indeed, most people are stuck in the “gender binary” way of thinking. So, waiting to have the conversation until you’re about to drop your trousers does seem risky.

Obviously, you’re in a tricky spot, because you want to get to know your date a bit, and see if you really like each other before you disclose, but you have to weigh it against the risk that she’ll feel you’ve deceived her if you wait too long.

If you meet people in a GLBT environment—particularly if you live in a hip urban area—it will be easier to be out as trans (and get to know more people who want to date a trans man).

Many old-fashioned lesbians, of course, will find you to be “too much man” for them—but you may take that as a compliment.

Dear Ms. Behavior:

My older gay brother, Tony, moved to New York City a couple of years ago, leaving me alone here in a small town with our mother. Our sister has special needs, and goes to boarding school. I’m in my last year of high school.

For some reason, I’m the only one in the family who knows that Tony is gay. He is coming for a visit next month, and plans to come out to our Mom.

I have a few problems with this. First, he intends to come out at the only restaurant in town, which is where we always eat. Mom tends to be very dramatic, so I’m sure that after Tony comes out to her, she will have a negative association to the restaurant, and will refuse ever to eat there again. Second, once Tony goes back to NYC, I’m the one who will have to deal with our mother’s big feelings about having a gay son.

How can I convince my brother not to come out?

—Tony’s Brother

Dear Tony’s Brother:

If you think Tony’s coming out really will destroy your family’s chances of ever again eating out in Mayberry, you could offer to cook dinner at home for Tony’s big gay moment.

But if your mother is as large a Drama Queen as you suggest, she also may develop a negative association to her own kitchen.

Or, what if you serve pork chops, she develops an aversion to the meal, and thereafter she is forced to decline any and all invitations to pig roasts, forever and ever?

Perhaps the best strategy would be for you to organize an unappealing picnic on a disposable blanket in an ugly public park that you never wish to see again. After Tony comes out to your mother, you can wad up the picnic blanket like a dirty diaper, and you and Mommy can forget the whole thing ever happened.

In all seriousness, it’s not your job to protect your mother from Tony’s news, or to control her reaction. She’s an adult. If she needs help sorting out her feelings, she can go to PFLAG meetings or a therapist.

Try to remember that coming out really isn’t really a crisis, even in the families initially acting like it is.

It also sounds like you need to graduate from high school, and fly away from Mommy’s little nest and your little town—ASAP.


© 2010 Meryl Cohn. Address questions and correspondence to <msbehavior@aol.com>. She is the author of Do What I Say: Ms. Behavior’s Guide to Gay and Lesbian Etiquette (Houghton Mifflin). Signed copies are available directly from the author.

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