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TLDR:

The person I started dating is/might be trans, but never told me and I'm not supposed to know.

  • How can I approach the matter with her?
  • What is the best way to do it without causing her discomfort or worse?

Details:

I've been on dates a few times with an amazing woman (that I'll call Alice) lately, and she never revealed or mention or hinted to me that she is trans.

A coworker (Bob) who happens to be a close friend of hers, told me that she is trans. Bob wasn't supposed to tell me and asked me not to tell Alice that he told me. I didn't investigate or ask anything to Bob, Alice told him (as a friend) we had a date, and he came to me out of the blue to tell me about her being trans. I told Bob that it was a breach of Alice's privacy, and he shouldn't be telling me, but he said he did that because "If it were me, I'd rather be 'warned'".

Assuming he's telling the truth, I'd like to bring up the subject with Alice for the following reasons:

  • I'm concerned about Bob "outing" her without her consent, especially in the workplace where it may hurt her both personally and professionally.

  • As a cis person, there is a lot I ignore about being trans that impacts her and may impact our relationship, but I have no clue of what it implies and what the impact might be for us. I don't see it as a big deal, but I'd like to discuss it with her because I have never been in this kind of situation before, and self-education from the Internet can only go so far...

Notes that may be relevant:

  • We're both women (25/30 y.o.)
  • We met through work even though we don't work together. Bob and I work for company A (but not in the same team/projects), Alice works for company B. Our companies sometimes do events in our joint buildings where everybody is welcome, that's how we first met before our first date a while later.
  • We're in France where gay relationships and being trans are legal but still marginalized (a LOT) and potentially dangerous depending on where you live and how open you are about it. That being said, I'm interested in more generic answers.

Eventually it boils down to:

  • How can I confess that Bob told me about her being trans and how can I express my concerns about his attitude and my lack of experience? And how can I do this tactfully?

Edit: I'm editing to clear things up. If I'm hurting anyone with my wording know that I'm sorry, and feel free to edit again to express things better.

Alice is a woman and goes by she/her, has a "womanly" name (as in no man ever had that name in France). What Bob told me boils down to she "was a man before" and I "may have 'surprises'"; he also mentioned a deadname but I won't use/mention it with Alice.

What I want to highlight is that what Bob meant is that she's a trans woman, i.e. she was probably assigned male at birth and raised as a boy for the first part of her life (until she socially transitioned).


Edit 2:

I'm accepting @IMightBeAmelia's answer because I've done as suggested.

I'd like to highlight a few key things so here is the end of the story for context.

What I did:

  • Texted Alice this morning asking if we could meet for lunch because I needed to talk to her (she agreed)
  • Waited until we bought our food and were settled somewhere calm and alone.

  • Told her that:

    • I've had a hard time deciding whether I should bring "this" up to you or not.

    • "This" is "Bob told me you're trans".

    • I don't care if it's true or not and you don't need to confirm/deny, but if true, I'm worried that it may hurt you and/or be dangerous, that's why I decided to tell you and not pretend as if Bob never told me.

    • I'm here for you if you want me to talk to Bob so that you don't have to deal with him directly

  • Shut down for a moment to give her time to think/respond to my "speech"

What happened next, but may differ with someone else:

  • She is angry/upset about the outing, but angry at Bob, not me.

  • She appreciates that I didn't choose to pretend not to know

The key things I'd like to highlight:

  • Texting her telling that I needed to tell her something without any details freaked her out because she (rightly) guessed that it may have something to do with her transsexuality but had no clue what it was since I was not supposed to know. Something more gentle would be better.

  • She made it clear to me (but it may differ with someone else) that she would have been very disappointed if after deciding to tell me about her being trans she were to learn that not only I already knew but also I never told her someone outed her.

  • She also told me that if I had had the information (or uncertainty) not from someone but from a context (from seeing her in a trans support group is the example Alice used) it would be OK not to bring it up and let her decide if/when she wants to share it.

  • @avazula's advice is great, and even if (due to the context of a third party outing Alice) I didn't follow this answer, questioning why I wanted to tell her helped me decide. I told Alice because her safety comes first. I didn't mention my lack of experience, because it's up to me to solve it.

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    Hello network visitors! Please note that IPS is fairly strict about using comments as intended. Comments are only for clarifying and improving the question. Partial answers or general thoughts about the situation may be deleted without notice. If you'd like to write an answer, make sure to check out our posts on How do I write a good answer? and citation expectations first. Thanks! – Ael Mar 2 at 19:44
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Trans woman here, so this is entirely how I would handle it from my perspective.

First, I like the inclination that you have to tell her that someone is outing her. That is dangerous. People lose jobs and get assaulted for being trans so if someone who knew my secret went around telling people I was trans, I would want to know. Please tell me so I can act accordingly. I can't stress this enough. This is a very serious violation.

But there is another complication to deal with. Once you tell her what Bob said then things get awkward about her identity. You probably can't make that awkwardness vanish entirely but you can take some of the pressure off. Make it clear from the get-go that your intention is Not to dig into her personal life but to inform her of what is going on that she needs to deal with.

Something like:

Hey, I need to tell you something. I want to be clear there is no need for you to tell me if it is true or not. That is your business. You need to know that Bob told me you were trans. It seems obvious to me that he should not be telling people that. Whether it is true or not is irrelevant. What he is doing is wrong and you need to know.

This would indicate to her that you are on her side no matter what and possibly even indicate that you can be trusted, but moreover, it will take some of the pressure off of her to talk about it then and there. It will require you to leave the matter be until she brings it up again.

The way I see it this is a chance for you to establish early in the relationship that trust is an important foundation to you. But even if things go sideways for you, it is very important for Alice to know this is happening. And waiting might make things worse.


I just noticed in a reread that you said Bob told you her deadname. That also shows a severe lack of respect on Bob's part. If Bob was a friend and was only telling you because of the circumstances, there is still no reason to further compound the insult by sharing her deadname. Bob IS NOT a friend to Alice.

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    Another trans woman here, I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of this answer. A trans person's ability to control who knows this is the first, and often only, line of defense against so many who would seek to harm them. She needs to know if someone is outing her. On OP's end, revealing this to her when it may be easier to stay quiet demonstrates a level of trustworthiness, that not all people would demonstrate. – redbow_kimee Mar 3 at 17:08
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This kind of stuff makes me incredibly paranoid---if someone went around gossiping about my transgender status (particularly in the workplace), I wouldn't handle it well; it's the kind of thing I think about when making suicide attempts.

There's always the idea that, behind my back, people I trust are deadnaming me, and only use my correct name when I'm around; that my whole world is a fake Truman Show. And now... it seems you're unfairly forced to decide whether or not to tell your own Truman about the Truman Show.

I don't expect there's anything you can do except just simply tell her directly, e.g.:

You need to know something: Bob told me you're transgender.

If you don't tell her, it's as if you're playing a part in the conspiracy.

From here, it's basically up to Alice how to proceed, but I expect it'll take time to process (she may act paranoid and irrational afterwards). Since Bob is a close friend, this may be seen as anything from a massive betrayal to a forgivable slip-up. Most likely the former, but it's not absolutely certain.

For example, similar things have happened to me (but nothing that severe), and I'm willing to forgive a small number of my close long-term friends; the ones that have forgiven me for the many stupid things I've said and done over the years, so I should do the same in return. However, deliberately sabotaging a chance at happiness like this, would be pretty hard to forgive.

On the plus side, you'll probably be seen as trustworthy in the future. And it seems there's an already established non-heteronormativity, which I expect would make discussing "outing" people and transgender topics easier.

And, to be honest, the fact that you actually care is a big deal.

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TL;DR: Maybe don't tell her right away, and make sure she knows she can trust you and confide in you before you do

You said Bob is a close friend of hers and that you've only recently began dating. You can't know for sure who's Alice more likely to believe and if she'd rather trust Bob, she might dismiss what you told her and Bob might do it again. Moreover, gender is a very personal information that she's not obliged to share with anyone. If you confront her right away, it might feel very awkward and ruin your chances of building a trustful relationship. I'm not saying you should rather try to save your couple than letting her know the truth, but as I said before, she's less likely to trust you if you haven't gotten to know each other a bit before you do.

1. Nothing obliges her to come out to anyone

I wouldn't try to approach the subject with her. You said she haven't told you yet, and living in France, I agree it's still largely marginalized and most people don't know (much) about trans issues. Some of my close friends are non-binary and it tears me apart, the way they're mocked/disrespected on a regular basis.
Moreover, gender identity is a very personal thing. Some people wouldn't want to share this information on a first date and would prefer to wait to know the person better before. H Paradoxæ, a French trans youtuber, made a great series of videos on trans awareness. This one, called "Should I tell them I'm trans?" does a great job at explaining why coming out is a personal choice and that nothing ever obliges you to share this information. This video is very interesting because it makes us question our need to know this about our date. There is no definite answer on this (and maybe that's what Bob very clumsily suggested when he said he'd rather warn you), but you need to know what's your answer to this question, or else you can't be honest to yourself and to your romantic interests.

2. Show her she can trust you and share intimate information with you

Now. She might want to come out to you eventually. Chances are she'll only do if she trusts you and knows she can share this information with you without having to face discrimination or transphobia. Trust is the concrete of relationships. If you need to, make sure to eliminate transphobic jokes and sentences from your vocabulary. It'll help in creating a safe space.

I'm disabled and most of the time people don't see my handicap. Sometimes I'd like to share this information people because I may need help or because that's part of who I am and I want to get closer to them. I never do with people who make ableist* jokes though, because what tells me they won't question my diagnosis/tell me it's nothing/that I'm just lazy or tired or that I'm brave to be? Trans and non-binary people are at risk of hearing those kinds of sentences too. "It's just a phase/you're just confused/you're brave to be out/...". That's not something pleasant to hear, is it? Which is why it's crucial to guarantee a safe space so that she can confide in you. Don't feel bad if she doesn't though: once again, no one is ever obliged to tell others about their gender identity, sexual orientation, disabilities, ...

3. Educate yourself

Bob had no right to out her the way he did. If she indeed is trans and comes out to you at some point, I'd warn her about what he told you, because he needs to learn that it's not okay to out people and that he's not being a good friend in any way by doing so. Now, I'd suggest you try to find resources on trans issues for several reasons. First of all, I think it's important to be aware of the discriminations some of us face on a regular, if not daily basis. Secondly, you'll learn about what it means to being trans (you admitted your knowledge on the topic to be limited). It also helps in adjusting your speech (if needed) to remove any transphobic sentence or joke it may contain, so that not only your date, but everyone feels safe when talking to you.

Shouldn't Alice know what Bob did to her?

You might be afraid that the subject never comes up, yet you feel Alice should know about Bob's behaviour. I'd really advise you to wait a bit (trust comes with time) and tell her what happened without implying you'd have preferred she told you or that you're bothered she didn't:

Hey Alice, I think you should know that early on, Bob told me you were trans and that I'd better be warned. I didn't tell you before because that's none of my business, but I thought you might want to know what he did.

Be prepared to have a difficult conversation, as she might feel betrayed by what he did to her. Having worked on a safe space will help in reassuring her that it doesn't matter to you whether she's cis and that you love her the way she is. The phrasing proposed should help emphasizing that you're rather concerned about her "friend's" behaviour.

There might not be a reasonable amount of time to wait before you tell her (I have been told months is too long), so I'd just make sure she trusts you and know you're an ally and won't treat her differently if she indeed is trans.

*ableism: the act of discriminating people because of their disabilities and/or handicaps.

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Or should I let her tell me, then confess that Bob told me and express my concerns about his attitude

My answer is based on a similar experience of "friend Bob" outing my date to me "in secret". My Bob didn't know I'm bi so I did't care. Bob did this as he was previously trying to date the same girl and he was actively trying shoot down any "competition".

I would do that for two reasons:

  1. Not letting Alice talk about it take away from her power to decide to whom and when (if at all) she want to talk about it.
  2. It might not be true

There are few things above that. Bob did it because "if it was me". I assume that Bob is a male and HE would like to know if the women he's dating was born as a female.

That's 100% his problem. But he decided for BOTH of you how to distribute this information.

Your concern about him "outing" Alice (again, we don't know if it's really true) is very toxic. I think so much toxic that if you outed Alice to herself you might be associated with the distaste Alice might have.

So I would wait for Alice to talk about it (if there is anything to talk about) and then say something like

Thank you for telling me. I don't see it as a big deal, but I'd like to discuss it with her because I have never been in this kind of situation before.

and then when you explain some things more crucial to this relationship I would end with

Bob told me about this some time ago. I didn't wanted to take from you the ability to choose when to talk about it.

I've talked with my date about this in a manner of talking about LGBTQ rights and one of the topic I proposed was "fake outing / fake accusation". First reason I suggest is the point of view of my date about such things.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – avazula Mar 3 at 15:02

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