Ethic Pathetic

Whoa! Hey! I'm back on Below the Belt? You're back on Below the Belt too? Gosh howdy! And wait til you see the new set!

Right. When last we left off, I, the transfeminist known as C. L. Minou was ranting about...something. Can't remember now, and the archives are too far away. But. I've never yet run out of something to rant about! Howabout...sharing personal information that could get a person killed! That sounds like a worthy rant! But that could never be defensible, right? I mean, that would be totally unethical.

What. Huh? RandyCohensaidwhat?

Yes, folks, the New York Times has taken one of its occasional glances at trans folk and returned to tell the world to not worry, we really are all freaks. Yes indeedy! This time the vessel of righteousness was Randy Cohen, the, um, ethicist of the Times Magazine's column...The Ethicist.

Let's take a looksy, eh?

"I am a straight woman, and I was set up on a date with a man. We got along well initially, but I grew concerned about how evasive he was about his past. I did some sophisticated checking online — I do research professionally — and discovered that he is a female-to-male transgendered individual. I then ended our relationship. He and I live in Orthodox Jewish communities. (I believe he converted shortly after he became a man.) I think he continues to date women within our group. Should I urge our rabbi to out this person? NAME WITHHELD, N.Y."

Whoa hoa, there, sister! I can't blame you for doing a little research on someone you're dating--I mean, it's scary out there, ain't it? And hey, no particular hard feelings about you breaking it off--most people cannot handle the innate and acquired fabulousness of the trans individual, and oh by the way we're better off not dating bigots, mmmkay? But...out this guy to the community? WTF? Since when is it any business of yours, madam? I mean, you wouldn't even have known had you not done some "sophisticated checking" (i.e. in depth invasion of this guy's privacy), so clearly this wasn't information to be shared at random.

And Randy Cohen agrees! "You should not prompt a public announcement about his being transgendered."

But...oh God he didn't stop there:

"Changed religion and sex? I feel emotionally exhausted if I get a new sport coat. But although this person behaved badly by not being more forthcoming with you, he is still entitled to some privacy."

Behaved badly?


Hola, Randy. Sit down with me at the kitchen table...er, I don't have one, just the desk I keep in the kitchen. Let's sit on the couch. Comfy? Great. Okay, here's the deal: why the hell do I have to tell someone about the most heart-wrenching, difficult thing I've ever done, on the first freaking date?

Oh, right. To protect your precious straight selves.

Hey, Randy: did you know that some people don't like trans people? And that sometimes they react badly to it? Like, you know, beating the tar out of them? Or raping them? Or killing them? Or that delightful combination of all three? Do you think that maybe there's a reason trans folks aren't always forthcoming?

And also: I bet you've been on more than one first date in your life. Yes? More than a few? How many of those went to a second date. Not as many, right? And a third? And a year-long relationship? Yeah, those are hard to find, especially in New York. I know. No, it is tough. Um. Hey, don't cry, kid. Let me get you a cup of coffee.

So, right, where were we? Geez, don't mist up again. My point was that not too many first dates ever grow into anything other than a cup of coffee--don't get that look in your eyes, this is an intervention, not a date--or a glass of wine in a noisy and soulless bĂ´ite. So again: why should I tell all about C. L., any more than you're going to tell about the time you couldn't get a condom on in time and ruined a perfectly good evening?

Um, hypothetically speaking, that is.

Wait, you disagree? You compare being trans to having a STD? WTF, Randy:

"But as partners cultivate romance, and particularly as they move toward erotic involvement, there are things each should reveal, things they would not mention to a casual acquaintance — any history of S.T.D.’s, for example, or the existence of any current spouse. Even before a first kiss, this person should have told you those things that you would regard as germane to this phase of your evolving relationship, including his being transgendered. Clearly he thought you’d find it pertinent; that’s why he discreditably withheld it, lest you reject him."

Fercryin' out loud. If this was about a straight man not talking about, say, his horrendous divorce twenty years ago on the first date, I'll betcha you'd be okay. But it's those freaky trans folk that have to brand themselves with a scarlet T lest some poor straight person ever accidentally like us.

Look, I'm generally free with disclosure--this girl I'm dating? I told her before our first date. But that's me. I'm an internet trans legend. OK, an unknown blogger! Sheesh! Your ethics kick in at weird places, Randy! Anyway, other times I haven't. I don't tell anyone at my new job, cause it's none of their business. And whether I disclose or not to an intimate partner is my business too. Your judgment really doesn't matter, does it?

Oh, and one last thing, Randy? Before you go? (Sorry--didn't know you were allergic to the Army of Household Cats I have.) The -feminist part of being a transfeminist notes that you gave this advice, I bet, because you didn't consider it possible for a straight woman to hurt a man, even a trans man. Oh yes you did. Would you tell a trans woman to always out herself? Even if doing so might mean that soon everyone in her community might know? And that might get her raped, killed, or rapednkilled? I mean damn, it's bad enough that you think it's totes okay for this woman to share this with her friends, some who are undoubtedly in this guy's congregation, and therefore put him at extreme risk of being outed. Would you out a gay person like that? The atheist spouse of a regular synagogue-goer? Someone who has had plastic surgery?

Just how much personal information is cool for the world to know, Randy?

What's...ethical here?

Or are there two sets of ethics, one for trans folks and one for the norms...er, cis people?

Don't worry about getting back to me. I don't read your column anyway.

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