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Advice, Features

Ask A Sexologist: Gender expression and disclosing history to partners

Pink Advocate’s sexologist Richelle Menzies answers more of your questions about relationships, gender, and sex. 

Dating and disclosure

I’m just beginning to try meeting people again after a long time between first dates – probably like a lot of people are, following lockdowns.

I have a handful of issues that will be important to get into with a potential partner, mostly a significant mental health condition that people in my life need to be aware of.

I’m not sure about when to broach these things with someone when we start dating. I don’t want to dump it all on them right away and scare them off!

Last time I saw a new guy, he volunteered that the worst date of his life had been because the person disclosed having been in a psychiatric hospital… like I have. Needless to say, I didn’t tell him.

Do you have any advice about what kind of timing might be suitable and even how to go about bringing up this kind of history?

– Baggage Handler

Dear Baggage Handler,

This is a very personal choice. As you say, you don’t want to scare anyone off by disclosing too much too soon, but it is important to be honest and transparent.

You can disclose early that you have an experience of a mental health condition and what you do about treatment or maintenance – you don’t need to disclose all the details such as hospitalisation.

Just like a lot of things in life, it is important for the people we are dating to be able to make an informed decision for themselves about whether they want to date us.

This means disclosing about what we are wanting in a partner and relationship and the things that we may be expecting of them, just as we need to know the same about them.

So, I would suggest you don’t need to disclose much on the first date, but once you decide that you want to get to know each other better, then more disclosure is important.

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Gender agenda

I’m a gay trans man who’s never really considered myself gender non-conforming. Since fairly early in transition, I’ve always been read as male, and I’ve always been happy about that.

Lately, seeing other people in my life exploring their gender has prompted me to start thinking about how I want to present.

I’ve kind of back and forthed – maybe for longer than I’ve realised – about whether I might think of myself as non-binary.

I’m starting to play around with things like makeup that I haven’t been into for years.

I’ve noticed especially that I’m pretty uncomfortable with gendered titles – I’d rather just be called by my name than be a Mr.

Overall, I’m still working it all out. I’m not sure if I want to consider myself non-binary, or gender non-conforming, or nothing in particular. 

Maybe I don’t even need to bring labels into it and I’m just a guy who likes eyeliner and pink underwear.

Is this kind of thinking typical for someone who’s transitioned, and can you offer any advice?

– Mister Resister

Dear Mister Resister,

This is not unusual and often based in the fact that you are living authentically so it feels safer to explore what gender and gender presentation mean to you.

You are correct that you don’t necessarily need a term to describe your gender. Some people like to identify with one, and others don’t. 

As ever-evolving humans, exploring many aspects of our lives is natural. It may be sexuality, gender, expression, attraction, spirituality… all the things that make us who we are.

My advice is to have fun exploring who you are today – it is okay.

You may or may not find a new identity, or as you say, you might be a guy who is comfortable to like things that society tells us are feminine.

Send your anonymous questions about sex, gender, and relationships to Richelle at Ask a Sexologist.

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