Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The Ethicality of the Demand for (Trans)Parency in Sexual Relations

Sharpe, Alex


Alex Sharpe


This article considers what we owe to each other by way of information disclosure prior to sexual intimacy. It does so in one specific context, namely sexual relations between cisgender and transgender people. In recent years, the UK has witnessed a spate of sexual offence prosecutions brought against young transgender and other gender non-conforming people. The article does not deal with questions of criminal law, at least not directly. Rather, it aims to challenge the dominant cisnormative view that non-disclosure of (trans)gender history is unethical. The article contains four parts. First, it will issue an important caveat concerning complainant claims of ignorance of defendant gender identity. This is important because without the caveat, the analysis might be viewed as reinforcing the transgender/deception coupling. Second, the article will delineate the relevant ‘facts’ about gender in relation to which ethical conclusions might appropriately be drawn. This section will highlight how problematisation of (trans)gender identity is an effect of cisnormative power and privilege. Third, the article engages with arguments derived from normative ethics, ones which accept gender identity claims, at least nominally, but nevertheless view non-disclosure of gender history to be unethical. It will do so in order to highlight how, even when issues of ideology, power and privilege are ignored or suspended, the view that an ethical obligation to disclose ought to exist will not necessarily win the day. Finally, the article returns to issues of cisnormative power and privilege and considers what it might mean to be ‘ethically gendered,’ and the implications of being so for the way we think and feel about sexual encounters in a world characterised by gender variance.

Acceptance Date Jul 14, 2017
Online Publication Date Oct 12, 2017
Publicly Available Date May 26, 2023
Journal Australian Feminist Law Journal
Print ISSN 1320-0968
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Issue 2
Pages 161-183
Publisher URL


Downloadable Citations