"Hello! I’m sort of in the early stages of transitioning from male to female. I know that’s going to matter to people I meet, and particularly people I date. I don’t want to be stealth at all, but I also don’t want anyone’s first impression of me to be entirely dominated by my gender. So when would be a good time to tell people?"
Gurl, I feel you. I’ve been living as Erika Lynn for over three years (which, granted, is not a very long time) but I keep on running into the same problem—how do I tell people I’m trans* without that coming to dominate their view of me? You’re right—it’s not about being stealth, it’s finding a happy balance between discreet disclosure and one-dimensionality.
I prefer to tell people I meet in non-romantic/sexual contexts whenever there’s a good segue to my childhood/adolescence. For example, a year ago a co-worker and I were riding the bus home, and she was talking about all the dolls she used to play with and asked me what my favorite dolls were. I answered honestly: “Well, I was actually born Erik, and the only dolls I ever played with were my sisters Barbies when no one was looking.” She got it pretty quickly, and asked if she could ask some questions, and, being in a good mood, I said sure. After that bus ride, we didn’t talk about it all that much. But it was great, because she knew about me being trans*, and that informed her view of who I am, but it didn’t dominate it.
For people I meet in romantic/sexual contexts, it’s a totally different ball park. I’ve had great experiences where I’ve hooked up with people at parties, letting them know a few minutes before that I’m pre-op trans*. I’ve also had some really bad experiences— some lose complete sight of how attracted they were to me 5 minutes ago and don’t want to talk with me again…others I felt physically unsafe around.
My own “rule” is that before I go on a first date with someone, or before any clothes come off if I want to hook up with them, I tell them. But that’s me. You should feel free to explore and think of what would make you feel most comfortable, and what method of disclosure would make you feel most authentic.
Also, I’ve come to learn not everyone needs to know you’re trans* immediately. There are times when I’m in the mood to tell people and other time were I so don’t want to deal with the shock, the prodding questions, the “gee, you’re so inspirational!”
Ultimately, make sure you feel safe it you want to tell someone, and never pressure yourself into disclosing. Don’t ever feel guilty about not telling someone your status, or for telling them only part of your story. It’s your body, your story, your life, and your power after all. You don’t NEED to tell anyone, and you especially don’t OWE anyone an explanation.